November 1935

When the transport ship USS Henderson crossed the International Date Line on November 6th, 1935, a ceremony was conducted that earned each 'neophyte' (anyone that hasn't crossed the date line) his coveted Dragonback Certificate. This part of the Pacific Ocean is known to be the "Domain of the Golden Dragon, Ruler of the 180th Meridian." US Marines being initiated into the Silent Mysteries of the Far East involved the Henderson coming to a standstill on the high sea. What followed started innocently enough. Flung Dung, the interpreter for His August Highness, Golden Dragon, addressed the neophyte Marines with a long monologue that started with: "You are about to enter the limits of the August Dwelling of His Excellency, Golden Dragon, Ruler of the 180th Meridian....." Then the humiliation began.
dragonback certificate

The Henderson (AP-1) and the USS Chaumont (AP-5) weren't cruise boats. There was a dry dock at the Mare Island Naval Base, and the lower grade enlisted Marines scraped barnacles off the hull when necessary. Barnacles that attach themselves to a ship's hull are alive, and it's a dirty, stinking job cleaning them off. Having to sally one of these big transports was another crummy job, and when you had to do it at 3am in freezing weather, it was downright miserable. The Chaumont grounded on a Chinwangtao sandbar the morning of 16 December, 1936. The Marines on board had to get up, and then run from one side of the ship to the other, over and over, trying to rock it free. This went on for the next ten days. Christmas was spent carrying ship stores from aft to the front of the ship, then, with the help of five tugboats, the transport was sallied free on the 26th.

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