CHAPTER I

ABOUT FOUR-THIRTY IN THE AFTERNOON OF NOVEMBER
2, 1942, a fast Dutch luxury liner with clean, nice
lines, was torpedoed and sunk some few hundred
miles off the coast of South America. Only a few of
the more than four hundred persons on the ship
survived, and three of them, Basil Dominic Izzi, a
second class seaman of the United States Navy;
Cornelius van der Slot and Nicko Hoogendam,
Dutch merchant marine sailors, drifted in a raft for
eighty-three days, a day short of twelve weeks, be-
fore they were picked up a United States Navy PC
(Patrol Craft) boat.

In the months that followed that rescue on Janu-
ary 24, 1943, Seaman Izzi-a small, husky boy of
twenty-recovered completely, and spent some time
telling people in factories all over the United States
the story of his horrible adventure. I was with him
much of the time on these trips, and he talked to me
on several occasions in my home. He seems in no
way affected, mentally or physically, by the ordeal.

9

In that: respect, he is rather puzzling, being some-
how one of the few people in the world whose mind
and body at the particular time that two torpedoes
hit the port side of the ship was in such good shape
that he was ready for the test to follow. He is a
highly intelligent young man, and a remarkable
physical specimen, with the quick movements and
swaying carriage of a good infielder, which he is.
This, then, is pretty much the story of Seaman Izzi
as he told it to me and his friend, Ensign Robert
Mallett, over a period of several weeks.

Izzi was a member of the United States Navy's
armed guard assigned to the ship. The crew, made
up of hard young men from all parts of the United
States, was an efficient and slighfiy obstreperous
one, and was in the charge of Ensign James Shaw
Maddox, a sensitive, scholarly young man who had
taught speech at Purdue University. Maddox was a
good officer, imposed sufficient discipline on his
crew and represented them well in their complaints
about their life on the Dutch ship.
It is a fairly true axiom that all young men in a
military unit gripe, complaining bitterly and un-
fruitfully, this being, perhaps, an antidote against

10

the tiring, deadening effects of discipline. The gun
crew of the ship griped; members, as they met gun
crews of other ships in ports in Africa, complained
about their ship, its officers and especially about
much of the food served them, which was more in
the Dutch manner than the American. The vessel
was a beautiful ship; its own crew and officers were
proud of her. She still retained the luxurious ap-
pointments with which she had been fitted in peace-
time days, and although she was a dead gray on the
outside, she was scrubbed and shining inside. Her
officers imposed the stern, rigid discipline which has
kept the Dutch merchant marine great since the
sixteenth century. Izzi, however, remembers the
ship with some bitterness, and, of oourse, with pride.

The Captain and all the officers were strict as
hell," Izzi said one day. "The Captain was a big,
heavy-set man. Sometimes he'd walk along and stick
his head in our quarters. If we'd play the victrola,
he'd squawk because there was too much noise.
We were made to clean up the saloon, and so we
ate in the crew's mess. Every morning, cheese, cof-
fee, and jelly. We were a week out of the harbor on
the way to Africa, when we were served pie. That
was the only pie we got until we reached Egypt.
We kicked and kicked to Ensign Maddox, our gun-
 
11

nery oificer, and he kicked to the Captain, but we
didn't get anywhere."

The ship, loaded with ammunition, food supplies,
and equipment for overseas work, put out from an
East Coast port in July, 1942. She stopped in Recife
for water and food, and set out for Africa. Off
Africa, she picked up a British convoy. On a Friday,
Izzi and his companions were shining their equip-
ment.

"The fellows had no shoes on," Izzi said. "We
were working over the equipment when boom!
'What was that?' a fellow yells, and then another
guy says, 'Ooh, a torpedo!' We get our shoes on and
head for the guns, although one watch was already
at them. A ship in the convoy started to list, and
then went down, bow first. The rest of the convoy
kept right on going, and destroyers and escorts
picked up the men of the torpedoed ship, and left a
lot of depth charges where they thought the sub-
marine was. The next day, destroyers found the
submarine, dropped charges, and wham they got
her. She came up sort of whoosh, her bow broke
water and then went right on down."

The ship put in at a South African port for a cou-
ple of days, and then set out for the Red Sea. The
convoy broke up there, and the Dutch ship made

12

a run to Egypt alone. She unloaded there and came
back to South Africa, where she stayed for three
days. Izzi and a few friends got leave there. Izzi
shopped for presents for his family: some painted
silk pillow cases for his mother; bracelets in ivory
for his sisters; ivory-handled knives for his younger
brothers; and an English pipe with a huge bowl for 
his father.

Izzi was walking along the streets when he met
a friend, a kid named Charles Italiano, of New
Rochelle, who had done Izzi a favor in boot camp,
where Navy recruits are first taught the rigid Navy
life. The favor had come about when Izzi got into
considerable trouble over some oranges. The boys
were forbidden to eat oranges in any place but the.
mess hall of the camp, but Izzi had sneaked four
or five in his jumper and tried to leave the mess hall.
A messman caught him, grabbed his cap and told
him to give the oranges back. Izzi handed them over
one by one, and angered by the time he got to the
last one, he threw it at the messman, who had
smeared Izzi's white cap with grease. The messman
left with Izzi's cap, and gave it to his chief officer.
Izzi, short a cap, was caught red-handed, and his
boss said Izzi would have to go either to the brig or face 
the consequences. Izzi chose consequences and 
 
13

spent a whole day picking up ten buckets of ciga-
rette butts from over the huge camp grounds. Feel-
ing that the messman had squealed on him over a
wholly personal affair, Izzi had confided his trou-
bles to Italiano who was to box the messman in
some camp games a few days later. I'll take care of
him," Italiano had said, and he did, lacing the
squealer to ribbons.

Italiano, who was on the gun crew of an Ameri-
can freighter, pounded Izzi on the back, and said
immediately, "I want you to take home a present
to my folks for me. I got six butterfly trays in Rio,
and your ship makes twenty-three knots, and ours
only makes ten, so I want you to take them."

"Look," Izzi said, "we may never get home,"

Italiano insisted Izzi had a better chance than he,
and eventually Izzi consented. Then, having gotten
what he wanted, Italiano told Izzi that Rosario
Mastronado, called Bucky, was in the American
freighter's crew and was right then asleep in the
quarters of the ship. Bucky had been one of Izzi's
closest friends in South Barre, Massachusetts; they
had gone to Springfield and enlisted together, had
gone through boot camp and gunnery school to-
gether, had tried to finagle things so they would be
on the same gun crew but had failed in the project.

14 



Izzi and Italiano visited the American ship, and
Italiano awakened Bucky, saying, "Izzi's here."
Bucky, sleepily, said, "Don't give me that," and
turned over and went back to sleep. When awak-
ened finally, and after some pounding of backs,
Bucky pounced on Izzi. Bucky had a big doll he
had bought in Rio and he wanted Izzi to take it
home for him, using the same argument as Italiano
about how Izzi's ship was faster and safer than
theirs. Izzi demurred, pointing out that with his
own purchases, and with Italiano's six butterfly
trays, he was already loaded down. The boys talked
then a while of boot camp, of gunnery school, and
of home, and more about the qualities of their re-
spective ships, and then split up. Izzi is still both-
ered about Italiano's trays, reposing now in a ship
at the bottom of the South Atlantic.

In Africa, the ship loaded ore, hemp and flax, and
took on more than two hundred passengers. Most
of them were survivors of torpedoed ships, Navy
and merchant marine officers, Navy gun-crew mem-
bers, and merchant marine seamen. A lot of them
were scared to sleep in their cabins, having the fear
of being below decks which commonly attacks men
who have been on ships which were torpedoed.
Izzi's gun crew began to eat in the saloon, and the

15

food improved. Izzi thinks that the status of his
crew was raised, because Navy officers were present
as passengers and would have forced the Dutch
Captain to feed the boys American food, anyway.
By this time, the gun-crew members had developed
a saying that the Germans would never torpedo
their ship as it was too valuable to them because
of the effect it had on the American sailors' morale.
On the return trip, the boys were told not to mingle
with passengers, but they got around this rule by
having the passengers, many of them also gun-crew
men, visit them in their quarters.

The ship carried three Navy guns; a big fellow
and two anti-aircraft guns. There were also two
anti-aircraft guns which were handled by the Dutch
crew, and four thirty-calibre Marlin rifles, which no
one ever used. Izzi was gun pointer on the big gun,
a responsible job.

The ship was three days out of Capetown, when
at night its funnel started shooting sparks. At mid-
night, she was challenged by a ship which blinked
signals at her. The crew manned the guns, and sud-
denly out of the dark loomed two warships in front
of the ship, one on each side, and one in back. They.
turned floodlights on the Dutch ship, and the boys
were frightened. A boat was lowered from one of

16

the warships, and it approached the merchant ship.
An officer called to the vessel to raise its flag. An
excitable member of the crew ran the flag upside
down, causing it to look like the old German ensign.
The Captain roared, and the flag was lowered and
put up right. By this time, every one on the ship was
a pale green. "We had our guns loaded, and our
shells on deck, and were ready to blast the first
ship," Izzi said, "but when we saw five warships we
sure changed our mind." Izzi couldn't hear what the
officer in the ship's boat said, but it seemed to have
worked all right, because the warships disappeared
into the night, and the ship went on its way.

On November 1, the boys reckoned they were
thirteen days out of New York and conversations
were beginning to start up about shore leave. On
that day, an airplane circled high above the ship.
The boys couldn't identify it, but thought it was a
friendly one and that the next day they would prob-
ably meet and join a convoy. The following day, a
bright pleasant one, the boys spent cleaning and
painting the ship's guns.

"I was on a detail on the port side, painting the
Dutch guns," Izzi said. "Me and three other fellows
got finished painting them about three-thirty in the
afternoon, and we thought we'd go back aft where

17

another detail was working on the others. They had
got the gun scraped and were putting red lead on
her when we went to look at them. We razzed them
for a while, and they threw a wrench at us, and so
me, and Jensen, Joudy, Labe, and Satterwhite, fel-
lows in my detail, went back to our quarters to play
some five hundred rummy before we went to chow.

"Joudy went in to take a shower, and Norman
Labe, a kid from Fall River, Massachusetts, and I
were partners against Jensen and Satterwhite. Labe
wasn't much good, but we weren't playing for
money, and so it didn't matter much. We played
about three hands and a radio man named Lorenz
came in. He said we were three or four hundred
miles off the coast of Brazil, and then he lit a ciga-
rette and started talking about things in general,
We told him to scram, that we didn't want to listen
to his stuff while we were trying to play cards.

"Now it's about four-fifteen, or four-thirty, and
so he walks out, and we play a few hands more.
Jensen is dealing, and bam! and we get hit. I holler,
'Jeez, right under us!'"

18

CHAPTER II

FOR SOME REASON OR OTHER, THE WORD "TORPEDOED,"
to most civilians, is too ambiguous a term. The word
does not get across the terrific blast with which a
torpedo strikes, the blinding sheet of flame, the
shattered bulkheads, twisted girders, the mangled
men it makes in an awful explosion.

"We all rushed out of the cabin," Izzi said, "leav-
ing Joudy in the shower. We forgot all about him.
It was just around the corner from our quarters to
the main deck, and the first fellow I bump into is
my gun captain, John Crum, a boatswain's mate,
second class. He had his hands over his head, and
I looked up and water and wreckage was falling
down over him and us. The hallway filled with
water and wreckage, and we couldn't get out. So we
hollered 'Everybody back and through the lounge.'
There were about five of us and we shoved through
to get to the guns. Some people were hollering and
screaming, scared as hell, but most of us were calm.

19

The whole place had a horrible smell, and it filled
up with smoke. We got outside and were running
to the guns, and I noticed the ship's crew letting go
the rafts, and the ship was still going, making head-
way.

"We got to the guns; they were in order, and I
went back to get my life jacket. I got into our cabin,
and looked and found that Joudy had gotten out,
so I grabbed my jacket and went back to the gun.
Our room was a wreck, chairs broken, pictures
down, everything in pieces.

"Ensign Maddox, our gunnery officer, was on the
bridge, and he gave us a range of 2,000, figuring, I
suppose, that that would be about where a sub-
marine would fire from. The gun captain and the
rest of the crew were working; I was at my position,
and the talker-he's the fellow with the things on his
head who talks to the bridge-said to Maddox,
'loaded and ready, sir.'

"We were loaded and ready, and I was set to pull
the trigger, but there wasn't any submarine that we
could see. Joudy came up to the gun deck, and said
that the Captain had told his men that it was only
an explosion in the engine room. We told Joudy that
the Captain was full of apples, that it must be a tor-
pedo, because an engine room explosion wouldn't

20

do that kind of damage. Then bam! another one hit
us, hit us again right on the port side.

"This knocked out the communications between
the gun and Maddox, who was on the bridge. That
second one shook hell out of us. Men were trying
on deck to get the lifeboats loose, and they did get
the ones on the starboard side down, but the ones
on the port side were damaged by the explosions.
An officer came by and said 'Don't get nervous
boys.' It sounded funny to me."

The gun deck on a merchant ship is high above
the deck at the stem of the ship, and Izzi and his
companions stayed there for a while. The ship, her
once sleek structure twisted and awry, began to
sink, bow first. As the bow sank, the stern raised,
and soon the gun was useless, pointing up in the
air. One of the boys said, "Let's get out of here,"
and they dropped down to the deck.

Izzi had on only a pair of dungarees, and so he
ducked into the ship's laundry which was right be-
low the gun's small deck, and grabbed the first shirt
he saw. It was the Captain's, as Izzi found out later.
He put the shirt on, not bothering to tuck it in
under his trousers.

"Jensen and Joudy, my best pals," Izzi said, "were
standing on the stern, and it was raising up higher

21

all the time. Men and wreckage were in the water,
and now and then you could hear a fellow scream.
I couldn't figure whether to jump from right where
I was, or move thirty or forty feet forward, and walk
right into the water. I decided I'd better get out of
there quick, and I looked down and yelled to fel-
lows swimming below me to get out of the way.
They cleared a space, and I grabbed the top of
my life jacket with both hands so when I hit the
water it wouldn't come up and break my neck,
and I jumped. A fellow came right behind me, and
landed on top of me, and I thought I never would
come up.

"The old ship was going fast, and I swam as hard
as I could to get away from her. She was a beautiful
ship, and I was sorry to see her go, even though I
had griped to beat hell about her. I looked back at
her, and I saw a friend of mine, a kid from Chicago,
grabbing the rail, frozen there, scared stiff, I guess.
I yelled at him to jump, but he didn't seem to hear
me, or if he did, he just couldn't let go anyway. I
guess he was still frozen to that rail when the ship
went down. I saw the gun pointing straight up in
the air, and the last thing I ever saw of the ship
was her twin screws sticking out of the water. There
was a lifeboat right near her. When the ship went

22

under, bow first, like she was diving, she made a
noise like a waterfall, you know, and a great big
wave. The wave lifted the lifeboat up against the
sky, and I could see her and everybody in her.

"There were a lot of bamboo rafts floating
around, and pieces of hatch covers that had been
blown out in the water by the explosions, and
people were hanging on to the rafts and to the hatch
covers and to any piece of wreckage they could find.
I came across Jensen in the water and we grabbed
a piece of wreckage, and began to kick it along in
the water."

Two of the three lifeboats on the starboard side
of the ship got safely into the water. The third had
capsized after it had been launched. The two up-
right boats were overcrowded, and about sixty men,
far more than capacity, were trying to right the cap-
sized boat. The submarine which had sunk the ship
surfaced, and five men came out of her and watched
the men struggling in the water.

"Four of the German guys stayed in the conning
tower where they had a machine gun, and I thought
for a minute they might be going to use it on us.
The other guy walked out on the deck and yelled
something at the two lifeboats that were right side
up and pointed at the horizon. I guess he was telling

23

them which Way to find land, because they set out
in the direction he pointed. The submarine hung
around fifteen minutes or so, while a fellow in the
tower looked around with a pair of binoculars, and
then it submerged. It was kind of tough to see the
lifeboats put up sail and go away, but they were
overloaded as it was and they couldn't have done
anything for us. You couldn't help but think,
though, about how with a little luck you might have
been one of the guys in those boats that were going
some place."

Clinging to their little bamboo raft, which was
constructed to give a man some support but not to
carry him, Jensen and Izzi stayed in the vicinity of
the capsized lifeboat for a while. They watched the
men turn the boat over, and search for the hole
that was in it. They watched while the men found
the hole and began to plug it up. Ensign Maddox
floated by, and Izzi and Jensen yelled to him. 'He
reached out from a bamboo support he was hold-
ing to, and grabbed the boys' raft. The three of
them tried to tie the two rafts together with pieces
of rope on the rafts, but couldn't make it. Maddox
yelled to a Dutch officer who was trying to fix the
lifeboat for a line, but the officer didn't hear him.

Maddox asked Izzi and Jensen if they had seen

24

the other boys of the gun crew, and they reported
the names of a few men they had seen drifting with
wreckage. The open and swelling sea makes for
loneliness, for a man might be ten feet from another
and not see him. If he calls, he is likely to swallow
salt water, and men near him cannot tell from what
direction he is shouting. Hundreds of men were
struggling, floating and dying in the water that
warm afternoon, and yet only a few saw each other.
The men seemed to drift in little currents, like
eddies of flotsam, and a group of ten or so might
have knowledge of one another until the last was
dead.

In an odd accident of times like this one, all the
cork insulation of the engine rooms had been
blasted loose by the torpedoes, and waves of cork
fragments floated like a sheet toward the men. In
the growing dusk, the cork looked black, and a man
cried desperately, "My God, fellows, here comes the
oil." With horror the men watched the stuff come
on them, until, like a happy twist in a shabby melo-
drama, it was revealed for what it was. The men
were relieved, but the stuff got in their eyes, mouths
and hair, and plagued them for hours and hours.
Men swallowed it and were sick, and the cork be-
came a desperate, ragging annoyance.

25

At length the third lifeboat was fixed and righted.
In it were placed a couple of men who had been
wounded in other sinkings and were being shipped
home on the ship. The boat stayed around for a
while, as men arranged themselves and counted
each other. Izzi watched while a man was lifted
from the boat and let slide into the water. He had
died in his few moments of safety. Other wounded
men were in the water, beyond help, and others
who had only recently recovered from illness and
operations groaned and cried as they struggled in
the sea. And then the third lifeboat, also over-
loaded, sailed away.

Jensen swam away from Izzi toward a piece of
wreckage that looked somehow safer, and Izzi with
some instinct stayed with Maddox. Then he and
Maddox came upon a larger bamboo raft on which
two men, unable to swim, without life jackets and
frightened, were lying. Joudy, Satterwhite and
Autripp, other gunners, showed up at the big raft,
and all clung there. Then they were joined by two
Dutch merchantmen. Desperately, the men tried
to gather other wreckage and tie it all together to
give them some haven for the approaching night.
The two men would not move from their positions
on the light raft because if they fell in the water

26

it meant death, and so Izzy borrowed a clasp knife
with a long, single blade from one of them, to cut
rope from some of the smaller rafts, for attempts
at binding other rafts together with the rope. He
kept the knife.

"It started to get dark," Izzi said, "and then you
started to hear the hollering and the cries. A fellow
would yell, 'I'm over here,' and another would cry
back, 'I can't see you.' It was not so cold, not so
warm, and the sunset was red in the sky, and then
a wave would lift you high and you could see the
sun setting in the horizon."

The few pitifully mismated pieces of wreckage,
flimsy bamboo rafts and ungainly hatch covers the
men were able to gather together broke apart con-
stantly, and each time the men tried to bring them
together again. Most of the men wore life jackets,
and many of them, as Izzi had done, had taken off
their shoes and dungarees in the water. Many were
shocked from the explosion and their jumps into the
water, and all had swallowed at least a little salt
water in the choppy sea. The life jackets became
hard and uncomfortable, and now and then a sharp,
choppy wave would drive the jacket against a man's
neck or chin, giving him sharp pain to add to his
weariness and water sickness.

27

"Every time a wave hit, it seemed," Izzi said, "a
guy would drift away. Maybe he would think of a
better place to go, or maybe he would be tired
and quit, or maybe he would just go to sleep. Then
you would hear guys hollering for help, screaming
that sharks were attacking them, and there was
nothing you could do, and then maybe they would
stop screaming, and you wouldn't hear them after
that, or maybe a guy would stop right in the middle
of a yell, and you would know that something cer-
tainly got him.

"Pretty soon, there was left just me, and Joudy,
Satterwhite, Autripp, the two men on top of the
raft, and my gunnery officer, Mr. Maddox. We
struggled in the water, hanging on to the big bam-
boo raft. Our life jackets got heavy, even if they
were good for seventy-two hours.

"And then about midnight, things began to hap-
pen to me."

28

CHAPTER III

ABOUT MIDNIGHT THERE BEGAN FOR IZZI AND SOME OF
the men with him a species of delirium which had
all the qualities of the will-o'-the-wisp, or the
Lorelei, fantasies of pleasure that, for many men
with Izzi and probably for many men wrecked at
sea for centuries, ended in death.

"I swallowed so much salt water, although I tried
not to," Izzi said, "that things around me began to
change. I was hanging on the raft, and I looked over
to the left and there was a wall, a fairly tall, stone-
wall, and I could hear the water lapping against it.
I knew that if there was a wall over there, there was
sure to be land behind it, and so I started to swim
over to it.

"Joudy left the raft and pulled me back, and I
hung on for a while longer while I drifted. Then
about half an hour later I looked over to the left
again, and there was the wall and behind it were
some big towers for high-tension wires, and so I
knew that this must be near civilization, and so I

29

started for the wall again, and Joudy brought me
back again, although I could hear the water lapping
against the wall and I knew that it was there.

"It was really there. I could see the wail, and see
the waves hit against it and bounce right back. And
each time I started out for it, Joudy brought me
back."

Then Izzi began thinking about Coca-Cola, and
he began talking about it, and then he could feel .
it going down his throat. "I thought I was on a
motor boat," he went on, "going a mile a minute, it
was so fast. There was a driver up front, and I
asked him 'where are you taking me?' He didn't say
anything, but kept driving fast in the water, and
pretty soon I got the idea of where we were going.
We were going to a night club across the lake.

"And the stars were big and close, and they
looked like the lights on a ship, and they blinked like
the blinking lights on a ship, and I was sure there
were ships around us. Then I smelled some smoke,
and I noticed a big hole near me, where guys were
going down for a cigarette. I felt awfully much like
a cigarette, and I said to Joudy, 'Johnny, I'm going
down for a smoke, down to where ail those guys are
coming up from smoking.' Joudy hauled me back to
the raft again."

30

Joudy-Emile Joudy, of Lawrence, Massachusetts
-saved his friend's life many times that night. Later
he was to die, exhausted, sick, and alone.

Izzi saw the wall again, and behind it were the
high,, electrical towers, just like the ones that run
through the woods behind his home in South Barre,
and this time there was a lunchroom behind the
wall, too. It was a white one, the sort of place that 
sells mainly hamburgers, pie, doughnuts and coffee.
Izzi could see fellows coming in and out of the
lunchroom, and now and then a truck would stop,
the driver would get out, go in and hunch over a
stool. Izzi wanted some coffee, and he set out for
the stand. Joudy hauled him back. "You can't go
there now," Joudy said. "You got to stay here. It's
orders. We'll all go over there in the morning."

Then Izzi looked back, and he saw the stern of
the ship rise out of the sea, clearly outlined in the
bright, starry tropical night. The back half of the
ship rose out of the water, and leveled nicely. Izzi
watched and he saw men go over to the ship, climb
a ladder up to her deck, and there he could see the
cook giving them bacon and eggs.

"I thought we were on a detail," Izzi said. "I
thought we were out here in the water doing some
sort of a job, and I could see these other fellows

31

going in and getting something to eat. I saw the
bread on the mess tables, and the cook and the
messmen handing out the food, and fellows going
and sitting down.

"And so I called over to Mr. Maddox, my gunnery
officer, who was still hanging on the raft, and asked
him if we all couldn't go in and get somethihg to
eat, and change our clothes, smoke a cigarette, and
then we would all come back out here. He said
he didn't think we had better go, and then I asked
him how about my cup of coffee. Couldn't we have
some messman bring us out one, like he would do
if we were out a cold night on watch. Mr. Maddox
said, 'Tomorrow morning, Izzi, we will all have eggs
and coffee. I couldn't see why we shouldn't all go
in and get some rest and come back tomorrow and
finish the job. Joudy kept me at the raft, holding on
to the top of my life jacket and pulling me back
whenever I left."

Through that night Izzi saw his wall, rode in the
motor boat, and pleaded to go back to the ship for
some coffee. He was not the only one to suffer from
hallucinations. Albert Satterwhite, a North Carolina
boy who once had auctioned tobacco, suffered from
an illusion which seems to have been fostered by
much attendance at movies.

32

"Satterwhite got to talking," Izzi said, "about a
hill. The swells really made you think there were
hills near-by. He said, 'Come on, we'll go over that
hill, and I know some German spies who have a
place over there, and I know them pretty well, and
they will treat us swell. We'll get us plenty to eat
from them, all fixed up.' He convinced Autripp that
there was something over the hill, and both started
to leave.

"I yelled at Satterwhite and Autripp, 'Are you
crazy?' and that made Satterwhite mad, and he
swore at me, and he and Autripp swam away."
Izzi started talking to Joudy about Coca-Cola,
and the wall, the motor boat, the power lines, the
lunch-room, and the ship. Joudy, at intervals, hold-
ing firmly to Izzi's life jacket, would reply, "Stick
with us, and tomorrow we'll get all we want." Then
Izzi started hearing a man yell "balance it, balance
it!" This quite possibly could have been some man
yelling instructions to another on a raft, but to Izzi
it had an uncanny, authoritative note. He couldn't
understand what the voice meant, what he was sup-
posed to do when the man called for him to balance
whatever it was. Then he saw a man writing figures
in a book, and he was puzzled.

"This sort of thing went on all night," Izzi said.

33

 "The wall, and then the power lines, and then the
hamburger stand, and then the ship, and then this
guy writing the figures down, two columns, fast as
hell, in that book he had. Once in a while the other
guys would see a ship, or a fellow would yell for
coffee and butts. Now and then a guy would bump
into you on a hatch cover and stick around for a
while. A small moon came up, and the phosphorus
in the water was like stars, and the stars in the sky
were beating down on you, all different colors, like
spotlights, and that's what happened all that night,
and some time before sunup I came back and I was
all right again."

Madness had not yet left the men who. bobbed
the night through in the choppy, tropical sea.
Shortly before dawn, a star fell, like a ship shooting
a flare, and men yelled that a ship had come and
was going to save them. Off in the distances, a few
men were raving and their wails added a demonic,
unreal quality to the night.

"Just before the sun came up," Izzi said, "we
bumped into another gun crew officer, Ensign
Fawks, who had been torpedoed in the Red Sea
and was coming home on the ship. He was sitting
on a hatch cover, riding it like a horse. He had a
bamboo pole in his hand, and he stayed close to

34

us on the bamboo raft. If we started to drift apart,
one of us would grab the pole and pull him along, or
he'd pull us along, I don't know which.

"Then the sharks began coming around, and
Fawks would watch for them, and when one got
close he would give it a whack on the nose with
his pole and drive it away. He'd say, 'Look out, here
comes one! Watch!' and then he'd whack it. The
sharks would go off for a while, and then they'd
come back, and Mr. Fawks would hit them with his
pole and drive them away again.

"All that day the sun was very strong. It was
cloudy, but every few minutes the sun would come
out and burn you. I was hungry as the devil, and
sleepy, and thirsty, and all around us was all this
cork and wreckage and guys doubled up over pieces
of wood. We kept trying to pull in wreckage, but
waves would take it away from us. Once in a while
we could see a bird, and the day seemed to go like
that. We were awfully tired, and it was hard keep-
ing to the bamboo raft, and the fellows who were
on top wouldn't get off, and we kept asking them
to get off and hang on a while, so one of us could
rest, but they were too scared.

"Then night came, and the moon was high, and
the waves were choppy, and a wave would hit you,

35

and you would swallow salt water and puke. That
night went on. I would doze off and then wake up
and I would still be hanging to the raft, and the life
jacket was getting hard around the edges and it
cut into my belly."

Few men survive a day and two nights in water
with only life jackets and a flimsy hand-hold on a
light raft to keep them alive. With only their heads
out of water, their arms wracked with fatigue, these
men somehow stayed alive, helpless, unable to see
more than a few feet, with waves washing over
them.

Shortly before the sunrise that followed the sec-
ond night, Ensign Maddox succumbed to illusions,
and his particularly able description, helped pos-
sibly by his being an experienced speaker and voice
teacher, swayed the men with him.

"Mr. Maddox, my gunnery officer," Izzi recalled,
"said he had noticed a hatch cover near us with
some beer in it. All we had to do was find this par-
ticular cover, lift it up, and there were three or four
cases of beer. Well, Labe and Joudy, and Mr. Mad-
dox and me, all separate, leave the bamboo raft and
go looking for the beer. Jeez, there I was swimming
around, puking once in a while, and trying to find

36

this hatch cover where you could go down below
and get some beer.

"Then daylight came, and I could see that wall
again, and the high tension wire, and I heard a cry,
'Help, help. I can't make it!' I saw a sailor trying to
make the raft. He was off another crew, one of the
torpedoed fellows who had been a passenger." Izzi
went to the fellow, and took him by an arm. The
man had cramps, and Izzi told him to kick and
somehow they made it to the raft which Izzi had
left to search for beer. Joudy had gotten back to it.
The two men were still there, lying on top; Ensign
Fawks was riding his hatch cover, staying by the
raft, and another member of Izzi's gun crew, and
a roommate named Kacevitch, had joined the raft.
Maddox and Labe were gone. Somehow, notwith-
standing that there were about three hundred men
in the water after the lifeboats had sailed away, the
men stayed in groups, subject to some selective
caprice of currents.

"And there we were, busy hanging on to the raft
again," Izzi continued. "Kacevitch was pretty bad,
and he kept saying, 'I got to get back to my father.
I got a book for him, and I can't let it sink, because
I got to get it back to my father.' We couldn't see

37

any book. Joudy and I got Kacevitch between us
and tried to help him. We tried to get the guys on
the raft to come over the side and hang on, so we
could get Kacevitch up on it so he could rest, but
they wouldn't get off."

Then Izzi saw a raft, a heavy wooden one with
four men on it. Most of the ones of this kind had
been tossed off the ship before she came to a stop
after the first torpedo struck her, and had been
lost to the men.

"I thought Lorenz, the radio man, was on it," Izzi
said, "and I told Joudy I would swim over there and
get them to come back and help Kacevitch. I started
out, and Jeez, it felt like a year. At first I swam
directly toward it, and saw I couldn't make it be-
cause it was drifting. Then I swam to get in front
of it, and figured the current would bring it down
to me. There were sharks around, and my legs
ached, and my life jacket was heavy and hard and
giving me cramps, and I never thought I would
make it."

The raft finally drifted to where Izzi bobbed,
half-exhansted, in the water. A man stuck a paddle
toward him to help, but Izzi climbed unaided on to
the raft and fell across it. On the raft were Ensign
Maddox, George Beezley, another American sailor;

38

Cornelius van der Slot, an oiler on the ship; and
Nicko Hoogendam. Beezley and Hoogendam had
been torpedoed once before and had been passen-
gers on the vessel.

Izzi was to spend months with these four men on
that raft. Izzi explained the plight of the men on the
bamboo raft, and for a few hours the men tried to
paddle the ungainly, rectangular raft toward the
bamboo square, but the current forced them apart,
and soon the men whom Izzi had left in an attempt
to save them were out of sight, among them Emile
Joudy, who many times had saved Izzi's life, and
Ensign Fawks, who, gaily riding a hatch cover like
a horse and wielding a bamboo pole like a lance,
had driven sharks away from the men clinging
desperately to the frail bamboo.

39

CHAPTER IV

THE ONLY MAN ON THE RAFT THAT IZZI KNEW AT ALL
well was Ensign Maddox, his gunnery officer. Izzi
was acquainted with van der Slot, having made the
voyage to Egypt and part way back with him. He
had seen Beezley and Hoogendam on shipboard but
didn't know their names. Hoogendam he remem-
bered particularly, because the Dutch boy had tried
to come on ship one night with a bottle of beer
while Izzi was standing gangway watch. Izzi had
refused to let the young man on board, and Hoo-
gendam had become quite angry. They were an
oddly assorted quintet. Maddox was sensitive, some-
thing of an intellectual; Izzi was a husky, intelli-
gent, athletic kid; Beezley was a rough and tumble
sailor from Hannibal, Missouri, a roisterer; van der
Slot was an experienced seaman, of thirty-seven;
and Hoogendam was a seventeen-year-old Dutch
boy who had escaped from the Nazis and had been
a fisherman from the time he was thirteen or four-

40

teen and had only recently become a merchant sea-
man.

Beezley was the first to speak to Izzi, having of-
fered him the paddle. Nothing much was said at
first, and it is possible that there was a slight tinge
of annoyance--nothing stronger-on the part of
some of the men at having to thin out the not very
apparent comforts of the raft from a four- to a five-
way division of food and room.

When it was obvious that the men on the raft
could not get it over to help any of the men with
whom Izzi had spent nearly three days in the water,
Izzi and Maddox talked quietly for a while. Mad-
dox, who was not clear on the night's events, asked
Izzi, "Where were you all night?"

Izzi, startled because he had been with Maddox
until that morning, said, "I went after that beer you
had us all looking for." Maddox could not remember
anything about the night and morning. He had been
dragged on to the raft a couple of hours before Izzi
had reached it. The other three men had been on
the raft for more than a day, and were in better
shape than either Maddox or Izzi, who, for the first
few hours, lay in a half-sleep of exhaustion.

The four men broke out some rations for Izzi-
a tiny piece of chocolate, a sip of tinned milk, a sea

41

biscuit, and a cup full of water. The raft was about
as navigable as a wash tub, yet it was durable and
well suited to the purpose for which it was built.
It was a crate, eight feet by nine, and built over two,
big steel, watertight drums on either end. It was
built the same on the bottom as on the top, so that no
matter how it was thrown from a ship, it landed right
side up. There were ledges about two feet wide on
the four sides, and in the center was a lower deck
space, about five by four feet. In the center of the
five-by-four deck was a small hatch which opened
into the water below. No part of the raft was solid
wood; it was all in slats, but its construction was
such that water seldom came up through the bot-
tom, although many times it came over the side.
The raft rode well in the water, and the men could
reach their hands between the slats of the deck and
touch water, and if the hatch were open they could
put their feet in water. Food and water containers
had been stored in the hatch, which could have
been reached from either the top or the bottom of
the crate, top and bottom being arbitrary terms.

An inventory showed that on the raft were two
flashlights, a larger light which could be used for a
running light, a big yellow canvas covering, a
smaller piece of cloth, one can of matches, a medical

42

kit with bandages, a bottle of iodine, a tweezer and
a pair of scissors; nine cans of milk, a few dozen
hardtack biscuits, ten gallons of water and a two-
pound can of chocolate. The chocolate came in
inch-and-a-half squares. After a conference led by
Maddox, the only commissioned officer aboard (a
point still important with the men), it was decided
what each man's rations would be for a day: a cup
of water in the morning with a piece of cracker; a
half cup in the afternoon with a little milk and
a piece of cracker, and at night, a cup of water, a
piece of hardtack, and a fifth of a piece of chocolate
which was about enough to cover a thumbnail.

All this having been decided, Izzi slept a while,
curled on a ledge of the raft. His exhaustion dulled
the pain and shock of leaving his companions on the
bamboo raft, men with whom he had spent two
nights and days of misery which had been height-
ened by a strong will and desire to live, a will and
wish which was to be destroyed by water and sun
for Labe, Kacevitch, Ensign Fawks, and Joudy. Izzi
had pleaded that the men on the raft try to reach
the bamboo raft. At first some of them demurred,
pointing out that there was neither room nor provi-
sions for the other men. Then they decided to tow
the other raft with a rope, and the five men, ex-

43

hausted as they were, tried frantically to paddle to
the men clinging on the flimsy bamboo raft. They
were unable to make headway, and Izzi knew that
Joudy and Fawks, who had saved his life many times
in a few hours, were to lose their own.

"We decided to pull watches day and night," Izzi
said. "During the day, about fifteen or twenty min-
utes was all a man could stand looking into the
water and sun. At night the watch was one to two
hours; we didn't have any watches that were going,
and so we figured that as long as a fellow could
keep looking around at night, that was two hours.
At night the fellow on watch, about every hour or
so, would make a couple of swings with one of the
flashlights, so that if any ship was around the people
on it could see the light.

"At first it didn't seem so bad, especially after
those days in the water. You know what it was like
when you were a kid and you used to think about
floating down a river or out to sea, all alone on a
raft? It seemed kind of like that, with beautiful
days, wonderful sunsets and nights with the stars
close.

"There were hundreds of birds, most of them
black with white spots on their heads, in size a little

44

smaller than a robin. On the second day we fed
them cracker crumbs, we were that sure of being
picked up soon. We thought we were close to land-
or else why should all the birds be out there? Espe-
cially the little birds. Other birds were white like
small sea gulls. Sometimes a bird would rest on the
raft and we wouldn't even bother it. We thought it
would probably bring us bad luck if we killed and
ate them." Izzi does not recall ever reading The An-
cient Mariner.

Except for Maddox, the men on the raft had been
workmen, and they observed the courtesy that men
in road gangs, factories, mills and on ships show
each other. They were helpful, co-operative, and
they restrained any curiosity they might feel about
the others. No man thought to introduce himself to
the others, and it was several days before Izzi knew
the names of all of his companions. Names were to
cause the five men some trouble.

"Like van der Slot," Izzi said once. "He told us
finally that his name was Cornelius van der Slot.
You couldn't call a fellow Cornelius all the time.
Van der Slot didn't speak English as well as the
kid, Hoogendam, and so we asked Hoogendam to
ask van der Slot what to call him. The kid talked to

45

Cornelius, and he said we should call van der Slot
'Case,' which is a word the Dutch use for Cor-
nelius.

"Then there was the kid. His name was Nicko
Hoogendam. You couldn't call him Nicko; it
sounded funny. Beezley started calling him 'Jun-
ior,' and that stuck for a while but Hoogendam
didn't like it. He got the idea of it, and he didn't like
it. One day he said, 'Why do you always call me
Junior? I've got a name, haven't I?' We asked him
what he wanted us to call him, and he said, 'Nick,'
and that's what it was.

"The rest of us, Maddox, Beezley and me, went
by our last names. I'm always called Izzi anyway.
Somebody asks me my name and I say 'Izzi' and
they usually say 'Izzi what?' and I have to go through
explaining how Izzi is my last name."

For several weeks Izzi always addressed Maddox
as "sir," a habit he couldn't get out of, especially
during the short period that the five men stood
watches. After the watches were abandoned, Izzi
fell into addressing Maddox as Maddox, which
made the Ensign feel more comfortable. Eventually
Izzi called Maddox "Jimmy,'' as a fine, understand-
ing friendship developed between the two men.
Van der Slot, Beezley and Hoogendam for a while

46

called Maddox "Mr. Maddox," but after a while
they, too, forsook formality.

The sun beat unmercifully upon the raft. Izzi is
naturally dark, and a person who under normal cir-
cumstances is not burned by the sun. But he had
been days in the water, and his skin had been soft-
ened and bleached in it. He had on only a shirt.
Van der Slot had a shirt, dungarees, and shorts
underneath. Hoogendam had a shirt, a pair of dress
pants, stockings and shoes. Beezley wore a shirt, a
pair of shorts, and dungarees. Maddox wore only a
pair of shorts and a shirt.

"The afternoons felt like a year," Izzi said. "The
guys were bleeding. We started bandaging the
worst part of our skins. My legs and feet were open
sores, and when we'd take the bandages off after a
couple of days, they would take holes out of our
skin. We put iodine on the worst parts, and then
one day I spilled the iodine and it was gone. Pus
would come out of the holes that got burned in our
legs and feet, and our skin would peel and peel un-
til the bottom of the raft looked like a chicken coop.
That lasted a month and a half until we just sort of
dried up."

Izzi still has ugly scars on his legs and feet where
there had been deep festering wounds caused by

47

sun and bumpings on the raft. Izzi and van der Slot
suffered most from sunburn. Beezley and Hoogen-
dam were fully clothed and had not been in the
water as long as Maddox and Izzi. Maddox, who
had a bad pneumonia record and a horror of damp-
ness, had appropriated a cloth that was on the raft,
sufficient to cover most of him. This cloth was to be
a continual source of irritation to some of the others
on the raft, especially van der Slot.

"And there were the kid's shoes," Izzi said. "Hoo-
gendam bought a pair of shoes in Africa for seven
bucks, and they dried all out and hurt the hell out
of him. He'd wear them anyway, and we'd tell him
to throw them away. He'd say, 'These are a good
pair of shoes, cost seven bucks. I can wear them in
New York.' Then he would move around the raft
and step on your feet and it would hurt you so much
it would make you cry. It was two weeks before we
got rid of those shoes for him. We threw them over-
board."

The raft was not built for any comfort, only for
safety. The rather high ledges made it impossible
to lie down on the deck, and at night, the five men
had to work out a formal arrangement of how they
would huddle together. One man would get down
first, place his back and neck against one ledge, his



feet against the opposite, and since the space was
so short, his knees would be high. The second man
would get in a similar position facing him, and so
on. If any man moved in the night, all were hurt.
Izzi, months after the raft, still sleeps in a huddled
position, unable to straighten himself out at night.

And so it was that five relative strangers faced,
although they did not know it then, months to-
gether at sea. There were to be some bitter quarrels,
and two deaths. An odd chance had placed the raft
in an ocean current that leads into the Gulf Stream,
and as Izzi was told once by Dr. Samuel van Valken-
burg, noted geographer of Clark University, that
North Equatorial Drift into which the raft had been
swept would eventually have taken it to Europe.

49

CHAPTER V

THE FIRST FEW WEEKS ON THE RAFT WERE DAYS OF
hunger and pain for the men. Although van der
Slot and Izzi were most seriously affected by sun-
burn, all the men suffered the extreme pain that it
brings. Hoogendam had been wounded when the
ship was torpedoed. He did not know quite how it
happened. He had been on the main deck watching
some men playing shuffleboard when the first tor-
pedo struck and knocked him clear into the water.
He got an ugly, deep gash on the knee. He band-
aged this every day, but it festered. The men were
taking dips in the water during the days on the raft,
and advised Hoogendam not to, but one day he did
anyway, and after that the knee began to heal. The
other men had somehow forgotten that salt water
is usually healing for open wounds.

Those first few days, although days of pain, were
ones of rather high hope. The food and water were
rationed so that the men were continually hungry
and thirsty, especially during the first days, yet it

50

was an imposed self-discipline that would lead, they
hoped, to rescue. The watches were pulled regu-
larly, and each day a notch was made on an oar to
tell the lapse of time.

"The days were funny," Izzi. said. The mornings
went by so quick, and the afternoons like years. We
all waited for night to come so we could get our
little piece of chocolate. The meals seemed like big
ones, and we would try to make them last a long
time, but they were usually over in two minutes."

At night the men covered themselves with the
canvas tarpaulin, doubling it under and over them
so as to secure it safely. The last man to lie down
had the duty of tying it, one that became painful as
each movement cracked blisters and tore at unused
muscles. Izzi, Maddox and van der Slot had life
jackets, and Izzi and Maddox ripped theirs up, mak-
ing pillows out of the kapok backs and sides. Izzi,
with the help of van der Slot, made a pair of shorts
out of the cloth on his jacket. "With a fly and every-
thing," Izzi says.

The men took stock of their equipment, and tried
carefully to preserve it. There were a few sticks on
board, two paddles, the lights, and two knives. The
knives were the single-blade that Izzi had borrowed
from one of the men who did not get off the bamboo

51

raft, and the second was Beezley's. Beezley was
rather proud of having his jackknife with him, say-
ing, "By God, it pays to carry a jackknife. On the
other torpedoing, I was the only fellow to carry a
knife, and it sure came in handy." The men saved
the milk cans as they were used until everyone had
a drinking cup. Izzi somehow was assigned the
drinking cup that came with the raft's provisions,
and he still treasures it, keeping it stored safely in
his home at South Barre.

The food ran out on November 18, the sixteenth
day, and the men began looking wistfully at the
birds which flew over them. Maddox insisted that it
would be bad luck to grab one of the birds. "Wait
until tomorrow," he would say whenever anyone
spoke hungrily of fowl. This particular aversion of
Maddox caused him probably to carry out an ex-
ploit which has been given considerable attention
in the press.

Sharks were always somewhere in the vicinity of
the raft. Every day each of the men spent a little
time in the water with a rope around him which
was held by the others. The men holding the rope
kept a lookout for sharks, and when they saw a
quick gray form approaching, they would jerk their
companion back on the raft. Quite often the shark

52

would then continue his way on under the raft and
out the other side. Maddox thought of making a
lasso with the rope, dangling the noose in the water,
and attempting to catch one that way.

"We watched him for a couple of hours," Izzi
said. "We told him, 'You won't get a shark that
way.' We dangled our feet over the ledge of the
raft, and a shark came by, and Maddox got him
with the lasso. I don't think I intended using my
feet as bait, like people said. It just sort of happened
that way.

"How we got that shark was a miracle. It was a
big one, three feet long at least, and Maddox pulled
the rope tight around his fins. It took all five of us
to bring him in. We were scared he would bite one
of us, and we shoved the handle of a paddle in his
mouth. He flopped and fought, and we couldn't get
a knife into him. His back was like rock. Finally we
turned him over, and ripped him open with a knife,
down the soft white belly he had. When we took
the paddle out of his mouth, he had bitten off the
end of it.

"My gunnery officer said, I caught the shark,
how about letting me have the heart?' We said
okay, and took it out and gave it to him. The heart
continued pulsing for minutes after it was removed,

53

and everybody waited for it to stop beating before
piling in. We took the liver out for ourselves be-
cause we had heard somewhere that it was good for
you. It didn't look good, all gray with red spots, and
we didn't know whether to eat it or not, but finally
we cut it up, and some of the white meat in the kind
of muscles in the liver was all right, tough but not
so bad. Maddox held the heart for a long time.
He said he had read somewhere of a man eating a
heart while it was beating.

"Then we cut off two big chunks of meat from the
sides, and put them in the old food container for
the next day. The next day came, and we looked at
the shark. A beautiful aroma. The meat had turned
color, and the smell was awful, like pork chops that
are so old and rotten they change color. We tossed
the stuff overboard, and just like the other fish did
when we threw the entrails over the day before,
the live sharks all grabbed the shark meat, like can-
nibals.''

That was not to be the only disappointment that
day. Ensign Maddox, of all the men on the raft,
seemed to have been affected the most emotionally
by the predicament they were in. He continually
watched the horizon, and now and then would
strike the ledges of the raft nervously with his fist,

54

like a man waiting for an overdue telephone call.
The spoiling of the food this day seemed to heighten
his impatience.

He sat on the ledge of the raft, with the yellow
cloth wrapped about him, his hand slapping rhyth-
mically at the ledge. He stood suddenly, stared at
the horizon for almost a full minute, and turned to
the others and asked, "Am I going crazy, fellows? I
think I see something."

The others crowded to where he was. In the dis-
tance was a speck, a ship. Maddox waved the yel-
low cloth around his shoulder. He tired, and another
man took his place, and when that one tired, an-
other stood and waved the cloth. There were some
flares aboard, and although it was daylight, they
burned the flares, hoping the smoke and the strange
red light might attract the lookout on the ship.
"It looked as though it was turning around, as if
to come toward us," Izzi said. "A guy would wave
the flag, get tired, sit down, and begin to cry. We
were sure the ship had turned around, but then we
might have turned around and didn't notice it. But
it went on, and on, and we could see it was a big
freighter, and then it disappeared.

"It didn't make us feel so terribly bad, though, be-
cause we knew then we were in a shipping lane.

55

Maybe, we said, the ship will radio and a plane will
come out and pick us up. We felt good and we
prayed and talked about how if that ship had picked
us up, right now we'd be warm and all dressed up."

The men looked hopefully at the sea and sky
the rest of that day, and as they crammed them-
selves that night, five of them, in a space smaller
than a single bed, they talked of how they would
soon be in New York.

The next day all the men kept watch. They had
been out three weeks, had had no food in two days,
and little food before that. They were weak, and
yet buoyed by a hope that kept them moving rest-
lessly. "Late that afternoon, Maddox saw another
thing and it was a ship," Izzi said. "We brought out
flares and the yellow cloth and a Dutch flag we had
and waved. 'Take it easy, take it easy, don't get
nervous,' we'd tell each other. This one was not as
close as the other one, but we could see big boxes
on deck, and parts of the ship painted with red lead.

"Just like the other one, she kept right on going,
and we guys sat down and cried. We were dis-
gusted. 'How can they miss us?' we asked. 'If they
had a good watch on that ship they certainly would
see us. What the hell kind of a crew have they got
on that ship?'

56

"One of the guys said, 'Maybe they think we are
a submarine.' We answered him, 'What the hell,
does this look like a submarine?'"

The disappointment gave way to anger, and then
the anger gave way to disappointment. The water
was low, and there was no food. The five men had
spent three weeks on a rocking, pitching raft, made
of slats and sharp ledges that cut and bruised the
bones already showing in the men.

The day after the disappointment of the second
ship, the men began talking of Thanksgiving, which
would come the following day. "We talked about
Thanksgiving in the States," Izzi said. "The day be-
fore, we prayed at least give us rain or something
to eat.

"Thanksgiving Day, we couldn't keep our mind
off it. At noon, we talked about people in the States
sitting down for some turkey and some fruit. And
then at about two o'clock, we talked about now the
people in the States have finished eating, and are
sitting around, all full of food, and are smoking and
talking.

"Then, I was the first to notice it, a big bird came
flying around the raft. I grabbed for it and missed,
and then it rested in the water right near us. The
kid, Hoogendam, wanted to dive over after it, but

57

we were afraid sharks would get him. He kept talk-
ing, and so we held him by the ankles, and he
jumped and grabbed it, and he fell half way out of
the raft. It made a squawk, and we had it. It pecked
at Hoogendam's hands but he held on, and we
dragged him and the bird into the raft.

"It was just about the size of a chicken. It was
a brown bird, and we wrung its neck, pulled the
feathers out, and divided it up into five parts. It
was the biggest bird we ever did get, and it came
on Thanksgiving. Maddox said, 'The Lord is still
with us.' The bird had red meat, just like a chicken,
and it tasted wonderful. We felt a lot better after
that.

"Other times we caught several birds, but none of
them as big as that first one. Most of the birds
would fish all day, and at night they would be tired,
and sometimes they would rest in the water just like
a duck, and sometimes they'd even make a noise,
wrack, wrack, just like a duck. At night, sometimes,
a bird would light on the canvas, and the fellow
the closest to the outside would whisper, 'There's a
bird.' He'd sneak out from under the canvas, and
crawl across the rest of us, reach out, and wham!
he'd usually have him. The most we got that way
was two one night, and we got about twenty-five

58

in all. They were about the size of sparrows, and
each one was divided five ways, even if it meant
that the piece you got was about the size of a
quarter.

"If we got the bird at night, we'd save it for
breakfast, and if we got it in the daytime we'd usu-
ally divide it up and eat it right then."

They saved intestines from the birds, on Izzfs
suggestion, and used them for fishing. They would
dangle an innard until a fish had swallowed part of
it, jerk it, and bring the fish into the raft. Most of
the catch were about the size of small sardines, and
one day Izzi and Hoogendam got nearly eighty of
the tiny fish that way. Occasionally sharks would
drive schools of tiny fish under the raft, and the men
would reach between the slats on the bottom and
snatch the fish.

"Me and the two Dutchmen," Izzi said, "got so
we ate the fish, bones and all, but Beezley and my
gunnery officer wouldn't eat the bones, and some-
times they would give the bones to us, and we
would chew on them at night. That was my idea,
and I found that when I couldn't sleep, it felt kind
of good to chew on the bones; made saliva come. It
was something like the peanuts and pretzels they
give you in a beer parlor."

59

CHAPTER VI

THE DAYS WENT ON. THE MEN WERE OUT SUCH AN
incredible time that the chronology of their ad-
venture seems of no importance. Izzi speaks of cer-
tain events as happening "a couple of weeks before
we were picked up," or "about a month and a half
after we got on the raft." One of the few tales com-
parable to that of Izzi's raft was that of Tapscott
and Widdicombe, two British boys, who spent
seventy-three days in a long boat, and thought they
had been out fifty days. When Izzi and his remain-
ing companions were picked up, it was found they
had estimated their time almost accurately.

Sometimes the men talked, and much of the time
they sat silently, looking at the bottom of the raft,
or out to sea. Izzi says there was much to admire
in the South Atlantic. "Sometimes you would see
fish fighting, great green fish that looked like drag-
ons. Sometimes the sharks would fight the dragons,
and it was wonderful to watch. Once a great big
blue fish jumped twenty feet out of the water.

60

"I'll never forget, either, a bird on a piece of cork
that drifted along in the current with us for a while.
This bird, about the size of a blue jay, landed on
the piece of cork about the second week, and tagged
along with us for a couple of days. The cork would
bob up and down and the bird with it. A shark got
its eye on the bird, and would come up after it,
flipping over on his back with his mouth open. The
bird would just flutter up a couple of feet and after
the shark was gone, would come down on the cork
again. I watched it for a hell of a time. It was fun
to watch. If it had come close to the raft, we'd have
grabbed the bird, instead of the shark.

"The sunsets and sunrises were the most beautiful
you have ever seen, red and purple and all the
colors in the world. I never did get tired of those
sunsets, even if it did mean night and cold was com-
ing. At night, there'd be phosphorescent fish around
us, making streaks and flashes. I remember the first
time I'd ever seen it. I was on watch on the ship,
and I saw those flashes in the water, and I got wor-
ried, and so I called for my officer. He was down
eating and talking with the purser and the Chinese
doctor he always ate with, and he didn't come up,
and so I called down again for him. 'Look at those
lights, sir,' I told him. 'Oh, that's phosphorus,' he

61

said. He never did kid me about it, though, but if
some of the other seamen had heard about it, they
probably would have razzed hell out of me."

At night there were stars, and it seemed to Izzi
that they followed one big star most of the time.
None of the men, strangely, knew much about stars,
and Maddox kept saying that when he got back on
shore he was going to study astronomy and
geography.

"We always tried to head west, or toward what
we thought was west," Izzi said, "although you
couldn't head that raft much of any place. We had
a sort of sail, that piece of yellow cloth, and some-
times we'd put it up on sticks, but my gunnery of-
ficer would take it down and wrap up in it.

"A lot of the time we would argue about where
we were and where we were heading, and one fel-
low would say we were going into the South Amer-
ican shore, and another would say we were headed
for the Caribbean, but I usually didn't give a damn.
I wanted to get picked up."

And then, about the second month, they hit the
rainy season. Squalls and storms would strike them,
pitch the raft, and leave the men in sodden misery.
They would huddle under the canvas, argue bitterly
about who had the driest spot, and each shift a

62

man made would cause pain or acute discomfort to
the others. The rain brought on more arguments
about which part of the world they were in. Izzi in-
sists he wasn't particularly interested, living only for
the hope of rescue, and having a slightly cynical
belief that they were heading back to Africa.

Actually, they were drifting northeast a few hun-
dred miles off and almost parallel to the ellipsoidal
coast of South America. At one time or another they
quite possibly drifted across the outflux of the
Amazon, where fresh water is carried hundreds of
miles out to sea. If they did, they did not know it.
Not one of the men, once he had gotten on the raft,
ever made an attempt to drink sea-water. As far as
the Amazon's fresh water goes, Dr. van Valkenburg
told Izzi that he would have found the water
brackish and unhealthful anyway.

It is probably true that only a naturalist should
have anything to do with birds as far as empiric
judgments are concerned. Naturalists, who are great
producers of odd facts, tell of slight, slim-muscled
birds flying ten thousand miles or so come spring,
merely to make love. Birds continually caused op-
timism among the five men on the raft. A tiny bird,
with no web feet at all, would come twittering along
in search of microscopic fish, and Izzi and his

63

friends would be positive they were near land. "The
birds would come out in the morning opposite from
the sun," Izzi said, "and they would go back with
the sun at night, the same way they came from,
you see, and we would kill ourselves trying to pad-
die after them. You can't paddle a raft. You got to
put one leg on the ledge, one leg in the water, and
paddle it like it was a canoe." An eight-by-nine raft
is quite unlike a canoe.

The small birds caused false optimism because of
the natural assumption of most men that small
things cannot do much. "We used to say to each
other," Izzi continued, "how can a little bird like
that fly very far? We must be near land.

"And another thing, even a medium-sized bird,
once you get the feathers off, is a little bit of a thing.
Once we caught a bird the size of a robin, and we
all got pieces about the size of a quarter out of it,
same around, same thickness. Maddox got an idea.
We had matches, and he never did like the idea of
eating things raw, and so he decided to cook it. He
took a match, and we were all interested. The old
man, van der Slot, put his arms around him so the
match wouldn't go out, and Maddox lit one. It went
out, and then another. He lit another match and it

64


stayed lit, and he held it under the little piece of
bird he had until the meat was black. Then he
chewed at it. 'How is it?' we asked him. 'Pretty
good, he said taking a tiny bite with the front of
his teeth. 'Let's have some of it,' We asked him; we
had already eaten our shares raw. 'It's so little,' he
said, and ate it. He never tried it again, and we
didn't either."
 
The matches the men found in the provisions
were-probably the source of one of their most bit-
ter disappointments. One watertight can of matches
was among the food and water in the hatch. There
was also another watertight can which had an al-
most irremovable cover. "We thought," Izzi said,
"that there must be cigarettes in this can. Else why
would they put matches on the raft? The cover on
this can had one of those little tiny handles that you
can only get two fingers on. Our hands were soft
and weak from the water, and we hit the handle
with sticks and everything we could find. We finally
get it open, and what do we find? Flares. I suppose
we needed flares, but we were sure disappointed
there wasn't any cigarettes."

There was a pair of scissors in the first-aid kit of
the raft, and for some time this was used to trim

65

beards. Seventeen-year-old Hoogendam, who re-
sented his youth in the manner that only a boy do-
ing a man's work can, for once hid his pride and
acted as barber. Van der Slot grew a luxuriant beard
of which he was proud. Maddox, one of the fortu-
nate men whose beard grows fully, closely and
without aberrations, had the handsomest one on the
raft. Izzi and Beezley grew whiskers, but not ex-
ceptional ones. Izzi suffered the hirsute caprice of
youth. He grew a beard, but practically no mus-
tache. As the months went by, the men paid less and
less attention to their beards and hair, and eventu-
ally used their hair as pillows and protection against
the sun.

One of the reasons for giving up attention to
beard and hair was their needing the scissors for
more important uses than vanity. There were sev-
eral sticks on board, put there for use as guys should
the men want to use a canvas as a shade, and it was
decided to break the scissors, tie a blade to a stick,
and use it as a spear for fish. This idea, as were most
of the good ones, was that of Maddox. Hoogendam
was the best man with the spears, and got several
flat fish that appeared near the raft. "The kid was
damn good at spearing fish," Izzi said, "but he
couldn't tell us much about them, even though he

66

had been a fisherman." As it happened, there were
few ichthyological discussions on the raft, the men
feeling, rightly, that the main thing about a fish was
to get it so it could be eaten.

67

CHAPTER VII

THE MEN ON THE RAFT TALKED QUITE A LOT OF THEIR
past lives, especially of the things they had eaten
at one time or another. Sometimes the discussion
had a rapt, descriptive quality, and sometimes it
fell off into argument, especially when a man would
tell of what he was going to eat the first time he hit
shore after he was rescued. Much of the time these
talks took on a lyricism, evocated not only by din-
ners but by the circumstances surrounding them, of
traditions, and of the events leading to meals.

Beezley used to talk about Missouri. He was from
Hannibal, and it seems that there the hardier boys
were trained in the tradition of the town's great
citizens, Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.
In any case, Beezley would tell of sneaking out of
school, robbing a garden, sliding down to a thicket
on the Mississippi and putting into a rowboat.
Sometimes he would do this alone, but quite often
he would have along some hearty companions of
about his own age at that time-twelve or thirteen.

68

They would get into a rowboat and row out into
the river, drop lines and hope for a channel catfish,
a fish that is looked down upon in the East but hap-
pens to be one o the most succulent in the world.
Sometimes, after catching a measly pickerel,
Beezley and his friends would come ashore and find
a chicken somewhere. They would boil it in a pot
with vegetables, and have a meal.

Beezley would tell about this as an introduction
to a point. That, he would say, was life in Missouri
and it was a fine life. However, he supposed, if he
were put ashore the next day, he would walk into
a good restaurant and get some southern fried
chicken. Or, maybe, he would find himself a Chi-
nese joint, say in San Francisco, and have some
chow mein. Beezley changed his mind from day to
day. Chow mein one day, southern fried chicken
the next.

Van der Slot and Hoogendam, with perverse
Dutch humor perhaps, talked of horse meat. Horse
meat, van der Slot told Izzi, is the finest dish a man
can get in Holland. Beef is all right, and so is lamb
and pork (van der Slot was talking about a time
before the tragic days of 1940), but horse meat is
really delicious. Izzi dismissed most of this talk as
frivolous, although he still thinks van der Slot likes

69

horse meat, and wonders if he got any after he was
rescued.

Maddox, a man from the Middle West, gave his
tradition of meat and potatoes away to poetry. He
talked about Smorgasbord. Izzi had never eaten at
a Smorgasbord. "He told me," Izzi said, "that it goes
round and round, and there is fish, all kinds, and
cheese, all kinds, and all kinds of meat, like salami,
liverwurst, and bologna, and you keep going back
to it until you got all you want, and you heap your
plate high with all you want, bread and stuff, even
salads."

Izzi, however, with a brisk Italian-American ap-
petite, discussed what he was going to do in a fine
free verse. He remembers what he said. It was
about how to make good spaghetti.

"Well, you can have spaghetti with either chicken
or with pork chops for the meat sauce," he told
Maddox. "If you go in to a store and buy five or
six pork chops, don't let him cut it in pieces, but let
him cut it so it hangs together, just cut it part way
down, you see. You take the pork chops home, and
you tie them together, but before you tie them to-
gether you stuff in cheese, celery, spices, onions,
garlic, bread crumbs, parsley, and then you tie it
so the stuffing won't fall out. You put this in a pan,

70

and then you get a couple of jars of tomatoes, and
you throw it in with the meat and maybe you might
add a little water. You let it simmer on the fire, and
you taste it once in a while and you add salt and
pepper. All right, with you and your wife, and your
mother and father, that will be four, and so maybe
two quarts, three quarts of tomatoes, so the pan's
half full, and if it doesn't get dark red in a couple
of hours or so, good and blood red, you take down
some tomato paste off the shelf and you put that
in. By this time it ought to be red from the blood
in the meat and red from the tomatoes. You taste
and you put in a little salt, and when that's done,
you put it to one side. Then you get a pan of water
and a half or a whole pound of spaghetti, and when
the water is boiling you put in the spaghetti and
you stir it so it won't stick together, but don't you
cook it too long or it gets too soft and slimy. Then
you strain the water off the spaghetti, and you take
the meat out of the other pan and put it aside.
Then you put the spaghetti in a big spaghetti bowl,
and then you pour the sauce from the meat over
it, and if you have enough, you leave a little of the
sauce to pour over the pork chops, which you serve
separately. It goes the same for chicken."

Izzi's description won his friends to the admission

71

that the first thing they Would have when they all
got back was a dinner party with spaghetti the first
night, with Izzi going into the kitchen with in-
structions; the second night they would find a
Smorgasbord place and end up with filet mignon
on Maddox's suggestion; the third night they would
have either chicken or chow mein, and on the re-
maining evenings, go with the Dutchmen to some
place where there was meat and potatoes and much
butter cake.

The above decision, a true one, was arrived at
after weeks of discussion, and before it was made,
was put to a vote.

Izzi usually makes a distinction between the talk
of meals and things to eat. The long passages, such
as Izzi's discourse on spaghetti, were on meals and
primarily philosophic exercises, distinguished from
burning issues which are best described as things
I would like to have right now. Beezley, speaking of
his immediate impulse, said he would like to have
an Oh Henry bar, with nuts, nougat, and chocolate.
Maddox wanted chocolate cake, precisely as his
young wife baked it and preferably by her hand.
Hoogendam wanted any form of candy. Van der
Slot dreamed of apple pie, or, sharing his vision
somewhat with Izzi, chocolate cream pie. Some-

72

times van der Slot would talk for almost an hour
about the kind of cookies which were made in Hol-
land. Izzi wanted a Milky Way, a chewy candy bar
of chocolate and caramel. All of these men, even
young Hoogendam and the rather intellectual En-
sign Maddox, were lusty, convivial fellows, and
their dreams were not of beer or a short whiskey,
but of sweets.

"That talking about food was good," Izzi says.
"You talk about it, and you think about it, and your
mouth gets watery, and Jeez, it helps!"

There was also a competitive feeling about food.
"I talked one day to the kid," Izzi said, "about
eclairs. He didn't know what an eclair was. I ex-
plained it to him; an eclair is a great long bun, and
on top of it is all chocolate and inside of it is all cream.
He didn't get me on what I meant by cream, and so
I explained to him it was custard. The kid was crazy
for custard; he always talked about custard. Then I
tell him about my folks going into town, say on a
Saturday, and they gave me a dime when I was a kid,
and I spent it on two eclairs. Well, Hoogendam chal-
lenged me to a race, after he figured out what I
meant. We go into New York, and we see who can eat
the most eclairs. Whoever loses would pay.

 "I said when we got to New York we would go

73

into a five-and-dime and get some fig squares. In a
five-and-dime they are always most fresh, and we
will walk down Broadway, I said, and eat them in
front of everybody. My gunnery officer couldn't
quite recall what fig squares were, but after a while
he said they called them Newtons out where he
used to live, Lafayette, Indiana.

"We didn't talk much about drinks. Once in a
while we did, but it was mainly just talking. I said
once when I get to my home town I am going over
to my cousin's barroom-Martone's-and line up all
the drinks I would ever want, from water down to
whiskey, and drink them all. I haven't done that yet.
We didn't talk much about girls, either. I thought
a lot about my sisters, and my gunnery officer talked
a lot about his wife, but that wasn't the same as
talking about women in general.

 "The one thing I resolved on that raft was that
if I ever got back I never would be without a choco-
late bar."

When Izzi said this, he patted his pockets. There
wasn't any candy bar. He wears the tight jumper
and pants of a United States seaman. A Milky Way
might bulge, and quite possibly melt.

They never stopped thinking about food. Even

74

when their conversations were on some other topic,
their minds were on food and gave their talk an
absent-minded quality. When they were silent, they
were usually thinking about food in all its forms.

Izzi's twentieth birthday fell on December 8,
1942, and for a week before it occurred he thought
about it. "I told them I never had been missing
from home on my birthday, and here I am out on
a raft," Izzi said. "I used to always get a cake and
gifts, and people would drop into the house and
my old man would serve wine and beer, and my
mom would always have a big feed.

"The whole four of them came over and cheered
me up, and put their hands on my shoulder, and
said, 'Never worry, Izzi, we'll be in New York or
Brazil for your birthday, and you can send a tele-
gram home, or maybe even a phone call.'

"'How are we going to be picked up in one day?'
I'd say, and they would tell me, 'Never forget it
takes a Ship only half an hour to cross over the
horizon and come over and pick us up. We were
always saying that 'it takes only half an hour for a
boat to cross that horizon and come to us.' They
kept cheering me up. 'When the boat rescues us to-
morrow,' they'd say, 'we'll tell the ship's cook it's

75

your birthday and he'll bake you a cake. If they pick
us up today, we'll tell him tomorrow's your birthday
and he'll bake a cake anyway.'

"The next day was my birthday. We were in the
rainy season, and it was dark, and cloudy, and cold,
and it started raining. We all went under the can-
vas, and I took the outside position so I could watch
out and see if a ship was coming. Hours went by
and we still talked about my birthday and it rained
and rained. It rained the hardest on my birthday
that it ever did when we were out there. They tried
to cheer me, and van der Slot said, 'Well, we'll be
picked up tomorrow, and we'll tell the ship's cook
that yesterday was your birthday.'

"In the afternoon it rained so hard I couldn't see
more than a few feet in front of me, and I cried, my
head out in the rain, and tears rolling down out of
my eyes because I knew if a ship came by they
couldn't see us."

Ensign Maddox, the day after Izzi's birthday, an-
nounced his thirtieth birthday as December 12.
"Maddox said to van der Slot," Izzi said, "that if
we get picked up on his birthday, December 12,
and that if van der Slot smokes a pipe, he will buy
him the most expensive pipe he could find. I told
Hoogendam that if we get picked up that day I will

76

buy him a ring, and he said he would buy me a
ring, too.

"December 12 came, and we were still on the raft,
pouring rain, not quite as hard as on my birthday,
but pouring just the same. Maddox said he had
never missed a birthday either with his family or
with his wife. His wife always gave him something,
some kind of a present that day, he said. We tried
to cheer him up, but he felt very bad about it, and
a lot of the time he would just look out to sea, and
hit his hand against the ledge like he was waiting
for something.

"Then when we were still trying to cheer up my
gunnery officer, he kind of laughed, and said that
before he sailed he had gone to a fortune teller and
she had told him that he would never live to see his
thirtieth birthday. 'When I get back,' he told us, 'I
am going to go and see that old witch and tell her
how wrong she was.' My gunnery officer was so dis-
couraged we had to sit beside him all the time and
pat him on the shoulder and say how nice it would
be if he was picked up tomorrow. At least, we told
him, we got water."

It rained all the month of December, and though
the weather was relatively warm, the men were
chilled all the time. Some of them had bad colds,

77

and Beezley was becoming very ill. The canvas
rotted, and when the men huddled under it, water
would drip in on them. They had rigged up a sys-
tem whereby water drained off the canvas into the
water container, but knowing that the rain might stop
at any moment, the water rations were continued.

The men were gaunt, and their bones stuck out
grotesquely, and they ached in the bones. They
would give each other rub-downs to try and keep
their emaciated muscles functioning. There would
be days when a man might spend hours preoccu-
pied, feeling the muscles of his leg. When rub-
downs were given, the men had to do it in shifts
because no man was strong enough to work his
hands for more than a minute or a minute and a
half.

Then, about the middle of December, they
spotted a third ship. "It was a cloudy day and my
gunnery officer saw it first; he was always first to
see the ships," Izzi said. "We saw smoke at first and
then the ship; it must have been an old coal burner.
We had only one flare left, and it was wet and we
couldn't use it. We waved our flag and they didn't
see us. We took turns waving the flag, and we were
so weak that when a guy stood up it took two of us
to hold him, and the guy would only wave the flag

78

two or three times and then he would have to get
down again.

"When that third ship disappeared, it was awful.
We all slumped down and cried. We had always
said the third ship wouldn't pass us up, and here
this one had gone right on by, away out there in
the distance. We didn't talk much about it, we just
cried and sobbed, and we were very discouraged."

79

CHAPTER VIII

THE NEXT HOLIDAY WAS CHRlSTMAS. THE CANVAS ON
the raft was rotten. Beezley was getting sicker, and
he had to be moved by the men, and they were so
weak it was a fearful, painful task for the four com-
paratively well men and for Beezley.

The thought of Christmas was probably more de-
pressing for Izzi than it was for the others. Basil,
christened Biagio Dominic Izzi, had grown up in
South Barre, Massachusetts, in a lovely old New
England section of colonial architecture and woods
and hills. The entire community consisted of Barre,
Barre Plains, and South Barre, with the Italians liv-
ing mostly in South Barre, and Poles and old New
Englanders living in other sections.

South Barre is owned by the Barre Wool Comb-
ing Company, Ltd., and most of the Italians worked
there. Like most Italians, these people are friendly,
healthy persons, and the life Izzi led in South Barre
was a pretty fine one. He hunted in the hills, got in
fights and was nicknamed "Tuffy," had dates, and

80

tried, often, to sneak out with his father's car.

"When I thought of Christmas, I was very sad,"
he said. "We always had a big celebration at our
house on Christmas. The table would be piled high
with food, and there would be wine, beer, cordials
and whiskey, and no matter what time of night you
came in on Christmas Eve, there Would be my dad
and mom at the table, talking to each other. They
would talk to each other all through the night, and
people would drop in and talk, and there would be
presents for the kids.

"I could see this Christmas at home. It would be
different. There hadn't been any deaths in our fam-
ily around Barre for years, and with Italian people a
death in the family is a very sad thing; they seem to
feel it awfully deep. I could see there wouldn't be
any celebration at home. Everybody would be in
black, and the kids would be quiet, and my mom
would be crying. The Forgnolis and the Whighams,
and the Martones would all be trying to comfort
them, but I could see my family, all in black."

As it happened, Izzi was right, and Christmas at
the Izzis' was even more bleak than he had pic-
tured. His uncle, Dominic Martone, Mrs. Izzi's
brother, had died in November. Basil had worked
for Mr. Martone in his filling station, and helped

81

Mrs. Martone around the house, and had fed the
Martone chickens and pigs when the Martone boys
weren't at home. With a capacity for grief as great
as for joy, Izzi's many relatives in South Barre were
struck hard by the death of Martone. The day after
his funeral, Mrs. Izzi received a formal telegram
from the Navy: "We regret to inform you that your
son, Seaman Second Class Basil Dominic Izzi, is
missing in action."

The following two months his mother spent are
days that Izzi does not like to think about. Mrs. Izzi
is a plump, tiny little woman, with an unlined round
face, and a gay, shy smile. She normally spends
twelve or sixteen hours a day in her kitchen, where
she has two stoves, and where the life of her large
family centers. There are six other children in the
family: Mary and Angelina, who are married; Car-
melIa and Mamie, and Santo and Kenneth.

Izzi's father, Dominic, is a small man who man-
ages to combine a sternness of disposition with a
liking for people. He and Basil used to hunt to-
gether, and he used to strap his children when they
didn't behave, and dangled the strap in front of
them when they threatened to disobey. "I like the
life I had," Izzi said once. "I started to work when
I was nine, cutting wood for my father. He'd give

82

me fifteen cents, and I'd spend five of it for candy
and a dime for a movie. I liked being outdoors, and
after I quit high school and went to work, I used
to get up early so I could go hunting for a while in
the morning."

Izzi had a great reputation among his family and
friends for his ability to sleep any time and any
place. When he was a child, he would disappear
for several hours, and his mother would turn the
town upside down looking for him, have searching
parties out, and likely as not, he would be found
sound asleep under his bed. The Izzi house is on a
hill above Power Mill Pond, and Izzi had a spot
near it where he used to sleep of an afternoon and
evening.

Izzi was a good ball player, playing at shortstop
and second, and ending up as catcher on the local
team. He still has his uniform which, when on leave,
he looks at wistfully as he does a camel's hair coat
he bought shortly before enlisting in the Navy.
After Izzi's second year in high school, he went to
work, when his father, who is in charge of a group
in the combing mill, became ill from a back ail-
ment which still plagues him. Izzi worked for a
while inside, asked to be transferred outside, and
then quit when he was asked to clean a sewer.

83

After he left the combing mill, he went over to
Barre and got a job with Charles G. Allen & Com-
pany, a foundry and machine shop which makes
high-speed drills. Izzi, who is only five feet five,
and then weighed 145 pounds, got a job breaking
up pig iron with a sixteen-pound sledge. Having an
amazing strength and co-ordination, he rather liked
this job. "Fair wages," he says.

He thought of getting in the Marines, and think-
ing he wasn't tall enough, he joined the Navy, going
over to the enlistment center in Springfield with his
friend, Rosario Mastronado, whom he was to meet
in Africa. "All our friends were going in the draft,
and so we thought we'd try the Navy," Izzi says.

Izzi thought of all these things while he was on
the raft. One night he dreamed of pine trees, of the
kind of pine trees that stretch from the back yard
of his home over the hills of Massachusetts. "I was
sad to think of them, even in my dreams," he said.
"That's the most beautiful country in the world, and
there are bass and horn pout in the ponds, and
rabbits, grouse, squirrel, and even some deer in
the woods."

Izzi thought about a lot of things on Christmas
Eve, the fifty-second day on the raft. "I thought of
that pipe I had got my dad, and those pillow cases

84

for Mother, and the bracelets for the girls and the
knives for the boys," he said, "and I wondered
about those butterfly trays I had taken for Italiano.

"Christmas Eve we all got to talking about
Christmas, and I told about how for a couple of
weeks before Christmas every year we'd roam all
over the hills looking for just the right tree to put
up, and then how either Dad or I would cut it
down, bring it into the house, and the whole family
would help decorate the tree, and eat big bowls
of figs and dates and nuts that Mom would put on
the living room table.

"My gunnery officer led Christmas carols that
night. He knew all the words, and Beezley and I
knew most of them. The Dutchmen knew the tunes,
and sometimes they would use the Dutch words.
We sang Silent Night, Little Town of Bethlehem,
Adeste Fidelis, and ones like those. It sounded kind
of nice, with the stars shining bright as hell, and
the water was calm and reflected back the stars.

"Nick and the old man told us about Christmas in
Holland, where they celebrate two days. We
thought that was a swell idea, and we said if we
were picked up Christmas Day we sure would cele-
brate both the twenty-fifth and the twenty-sixth.
Christmas Day was all right, although it rained a lit-

85

tle, and all of us were sad and pretty quiet. Mad-
dox just looked out toward the horizon, and now
and then he'd hit the ledge with his hand. The next
holiday was New Year's, and we prayed we would
be picked up by then."

There were no discoveries or rediscoveries of God
on this raft. Izzi was a Catholic and the others were
Protestants, and all of them prayed. Maddox had
studied for the ministry for a while before deciding
to become a teacher, and when this was learned,
the men asked him to lead prayers. He prayed aloud
each evening for several weeks in a sort of formal
prayer service, and then gave it up. Maddox ex-
plained he didn't like to lead prayers, and everyone
was a little relieved, feeling that the prayers un-
masked too greatly the hopes and fears that were in
all their hearts.

After that they each prayed their own way. Some-
times a man would say aloud, "Oh God, help us
tomorrow." If he caught a fish the next day he prob-
ably felt his prayers had been answered. They be-
lieved in God, and their belief was no stronger or
weaker as the days went by. Izzi would say an Our
Father and two or three Hail Marys each evening,
and the others also said the Lord's Prayer or ones
of their own devising.

86

In addition to prayers, Ensign Maddox conducted
a rather odd story hour for Nicko Hoogendam for
a few evenings. Hoogendam had a liking for, of
all things, bedtime stories. Maddox told Nicko
about the Three Bears, the Three Little Pigs, Red
Riding Hood, and others. Nick, who normally acted
like a young man of the world, asked for more. Mad-
dox tried to think of all he could and finally said
he would be damned if he would tell any more kid
stories.

Nick and Case van der Slot quite often talked
in Dutch to each other, and sometimes quarreled
bitterly in the language, somewhat mystifying the
others. Izzi said that one argument came up, he
thinks, over Nick's saying he wished he were an
American and that he was going to be one after
the war. This hurt van der Slot, a proud Hollander.
The Dutchmen, too, would argue over the merits of
their homes. Van der Slot was from Rotterdam and
Hoogendam was from Vlaardingen. Van der Slot, be-
fore the war, had sailed a lot in Dutch luxury ships,
and he talked sometimes of places all over the world
-in Java, Australia, India, China and Europe,

87

CHAPTER IX

ABOUT THE END OF THE FIRST MONTH, ENSIGN MAD-
dox, who had read considerably, thought all the
men on the raft should write their names on the out-
side of the flare can, and the date they were tor-
pedoed, November 2. "He said that then in case
we died," Izzi explained, "our names would be on
the can, and if the raft were ever found, or if it
drifted ashore some place, why then our names
would be there, and our families would know what
became of us.

"My gunnery officer put his name and address
down; Hoogendam put his name and address down,
and Beezley put his down. Then only me and Case
were left. We were scratching the names on the
can with a knife, and Beezley handed the knife to
me, and I handed it to Case. I didn't want to write
my name down on that flare can. I wasn't going to
die. I didn't want to die, and I didn't want to think
of dying! I wanted to live, and I wanted to think
about that.

88

"I didn't want these other guys to see how I felt,
though. I didn't want to admit to them that I was
afraid to admit I was going to die. Well, van der
Slot sliced his name into the can, and when he fin-
ished, I said, 'There isn't any more room,' and I
never did write my name down on that can. After
a few weeks, the salt water washed off the names
on the can, anyway, but I was always glad my name
wasn't there."

Beezley was the first man to become seriously ill.
From the beginning, both he and Maddox had
bloody urine, which seemed to be the first sign that
all was not well with a man. As a rule, the men re-
lieved themselves of urine about twice a day, but
each of them had only two bowel movements the
entire twelve weeks.

Beezley began weakening after the third week on
the raft. The raw birds and the fish seemed to upset
him, and he would gag, try to vomit and couldn't,
and would hiccough and retch for an entire day.
Sometimes he would lie in one cramped position for
days, and the men would have to move him, help
him relieve himself. Then he would rally, and speak
feebly and logically to his companions. After six
weeks or so, he became blind in one eye, and later
began to lose his hearing and the sight of the other

89

eye. "We would hold up four fingers in front of
him," Izzi said, "and say, 'How many fingers I got
up, Beezley?' and he'd say 'two.' During the day
he tried to keep his eyes covered all the time, and
it hurt him terribly to open his eyes.

"He had high cheek bones, and his face just sunk,
just fell away until it looked awful. When the third
ship spoiled, when it didn't stop, then he began to
just fall away. If we caught a bird or a fish and
gave him a piece, he would spit it out. The last
two or three weeks he never moved, and at night
when we wanted to put him under the canvas, we
would have to pick him up, and we were weak too.
It gave him awful pain. We'd say, 'Come on, Beez-
ley, let's get under the canvas.' He'd scream, 'Don't
touch me. You are trying to hurt me! Let me alone,
please! What are you trying to do, kill me? When I
get you guys on shore, I'll kill you!'

"It went on like that, and then he was almost
blind and deaf, and he started talking about people
we didn't know, and asking for cigarettes and
candy. He'd say, 'I know there are some Lucky
Strikes on the shelf, and you guys are hiding them
from me.' And then he'd go on about Harry, and
other people we didn't know. 'Why don't you help
me, Harry?' Or he'd say, 'Please, Alice, why don't

90

you help me? I'm over here.' And then he'd say he
didn't want to die, he didn't want to die.

"On the sixty-sixth morning, when we woke up,
the old man asked me how Beezley was. He'd been
groaning all day before and most of the night-
mmmmm mmmmm, like that. He was next to me,
and I looked at him, and his hands were out in front
of him, clutched like he was grabbing for some-
thing, and his teeth were all showing, and the
whites of his eyes. He was stiff, and there was a
funny smell.

"We knew he was dead, but we watched him for
a couple of hours, kind of hoping, I guess, that
maybe he would move, and then we were sure he
was dead and we took off his dungarees. He hadn't
been able to control his urine the last few days, and
they were filthy. We wanted to wait until night to
bury him, but then, after looking at him just lying
there for a few more hours, we decided not to wait.

"I am a Catholic, the only one on board, and I
said prayers to myself, and the others said some
prayers aloud. Maddox said the main prayer. He
said, 'He is probably going to a better spot, may he
rest in peace.'

"And we buried him at sea. It took the four of us
to roll him overboard, and after he had splashed

91

in, we didn't look at him, but just sat and waited
and looked out to sea away from him."

Izzi took Beezley's wallet to return to his family,
and a cameo ring his girl had given him six years
before. In the wallet were some American bills,
some foreign coins, and Beezley's dog tag. "I put
the wallet with the ring inside it in the flare can so
it wouldn't be washed overboard," Izzi said. "Then
we tied his dungarees to a rope and le{t them out
in the water to wash all night. The next morning
the dungarees were hung up on a paddle and dried,
and then they were given to Maddox, who had
no trousers, and by this time was beginning to be ill,
too."

Beezley's death was not unexpected, because he
had been ill since the early weeks of the journey,
but it was a shock. The men were so weak they
could hardly stand unaided, and then for no longer
than a few seconds. They had talked about death,
usually dispassionately, but always with an edge of
fear: Beezley's death brought death home to them,
and it showed them how they, too, would die, not
quickly, but slowly, in a half-delirious coma, in their
own filth, and not knowing what was happening
to them.

On the sixty-seventh day, van der Slot and Mad-

92

dox quarreled, as they had been doing for many
weeks. Maddox, when he came on the raft, had
taken the small piece of cloth which was intended
as a sail or for making a sunshade or windbreak on
the raft. He was dressed no worse than Izzi, but
he did not have the younger man's physique, and,
too, he had his bad pneumonia record. When
Beezley's dungarees were handed over to Maddox,
van der Slot said, "All right, now you have the
dungarees, why not let us have the sail?"

"Maddox argued a little bit about it," Izzi said,
"telling us he was cold, but the old man said he'd
either have to give up the dungarees or the sail, and
so he gave us the sail and we slept under it at night."

The argument about the piece of sail cloth had
gone on for weeks, and there were days when van
der Slot would sit and glare at Maddox for hours.
Some of the times, especially when it wasn't raining,
Maddox was given his choice o giving up the cloth,
or of sleeping on the ledge of the raft exposed to
the weather and sea. He would choose the ledge.

Another source of bitterness was the positions
the men would take each night when they went to
sleep. They were supposed to rotate each evening,
no man having the same place in the raft two nights
in a row. They called the positions by numbers from

93

one to five, and one, at the back of the raft, was
the favored one, being driest. Izzi and Hoogendam,
one day in the rainy season of the second month,
got in a fight about it. "The kid said it was his turn
to have the dry spot," Izzi says, "and I said it was
my turn and that he had had it the night before. He
said I was lying and that he wouldn't move from it.
I drew back to hit him, but Maddox and the old
man grabbed me, and so the kid and I said we
would fight it out the first thing when we got on
land. If there weren't any boxing gloves around,
we'd settle it with our bare fists."

Beezley, in the two months before he sank into
unconsciousness, almost drove lzzi insane. Beezley,
because he came from Hannibal, Missouri, where
the talk is Middle Western with a faint tinge of the
South, used the form "thataway." "He used that-
away all the time," Izzi said, "until I thought I'd go
nuts. He would say something was 'over thataway,'
or he'd say, 'don't shove me thataway,' and it got on
my nerves."

The organization on the raft eventually became
communal with no one person having any particular
authority over the others, nor any one person lead-
ing the others through innate qualities of leadership
which are supposed to reveal themselves in some

94

men in such circumstances. It is well that this was
true. The raft could not be sailed or guided; it had
to drift with ocean currents, and a too forceful char-
acter in such a situation might have caused his com-
panions to die from sheer irritation. For a while
Maddox, a commissioned officer and by rules of
the sea a person to respect, was looked upon as boss,
and that in time stopped, not through any weaken-
ing on Maddox's part or any lack of discipline in the
others, but merely because it was inconvenient.

Beezley, Hoogendam, and van der Slot spent so
much time contending with one another about who
found the raft that Izzi is not yet quite clear who
did. The feeling was that if any one man could
prove he was first to find the raft, he would have a
little more authority because of prior ownership, a
sort of fief based not on legal papers but on the
fact of a man's being there first. Izzi thinks that
Hoogendam, van der Slot and Beezley were to-
gether in the water, and that Beezley swam to the
raft and was holding it while the others climbed
on and then helped him over on to it. In any case,
the three men spent hours talking about it. Maddox,
in this, sided with Beezley and called him "skipper."

Beezley's, van der Slot's and Hoogendam's being
on the raft before Maddox and Izzi gave them a

95

vague priority over the other two men. Maddox for
a long time, though, seemed one of the dominant
men because of his alertness and the ideas he had.
He thought of lassoing the shark, of making a trough-
in the canvas covering so that water ran into the
container, thus saving the unpleasant job one man
had had to take before that of bailing water from
the canvas into the water can, and he thought, too,
of making fish spears from the two halves of the scis-
sors that were in the first-aid kit.

There were two knives on hoard at the time the
journey on the raft began-Beezley's and the one
Izzi had borrowed from the man on the bamboo
raft. There were also two flashlights, and a running
light. Beezley lost the first flashlight overboard. He
didn't know quite how he did it; it slipped out of his
hand. "We didn't bawl him out," Izzi says. The run-
ning light, a bigger lamp, wore out, and eventually"
the second flashlight gave out. The men put it aside,
thinking it would be useful some day.

One day towards the end of the second month,
Hoogendam and van der Slot were pulling the feath-
ers out of a bird when they saw a large wave com-
ing. They jumped down to the deck of the raft,
and pulled the canvas over them just as the wave
struck. Izzi's long clasp knife was washed off.

96


"Then two or three weeks before we were picked
up," Izzi says, "Hoogendam and I were reaching
down through the cracks in the raft after little fish,
and as we caught them, we would throw them to
Maddox and the old man who were cutting their
heads off and cleaning them. Beezley was too sick
to do anything. He couldn't even wash a fish, he was
so sick. Beezley's knife was lying on the canvas.
The kid and I were so anxious to get the fish we
were grabbing them and throwing them, splashing
sort of careless, I guess, and van der Slot said, 'Take
it easy.' Beezley was watching and he said, 'Why
don't you push the canvas back so you won't get it
wet with your splashing. Hoogendam didn't know
the knife was on the canvas, and he pushed it back
and the knife fell through into the water."

They speared fish with the scissor halves on sticks
for some time, Hoogendam being the most able at
this sport. They got a few small, flat fish that way.
One day, however, Hoogendam hit a fish, Izzi re-
lates, that was too tough and the scissor broke. The
spear with the other half of the scissors was washed
overboard one day.

With all tools gone, the men took the remaining
burnt-out flashlight, removed the glass from it and
tried to break it so they could have something to

97

cut birds and fish with. They tried for hours to
break the glass, and finally Hoogendam broke it by
slamming it against the outer edge of a slat. It was
found that the glass had broken rather cleanly and
was not much use for cutting anything, and so they
took the reflector and bent it until it resembled a
cookie cutter and sliced fish with it.

Only once did the men play any kind of game,
and it did not come off very successfully. "Hoogen-
dam and Maddox started a checker game," Izzi said.
"Hoogendam, I don't think, ever played checkers
and Maddox said he would teach him. 'Get the first-
aid kit,' Maddox told him, 'and scratch some squares
on it with a knife.' We had a hell of a time explain-
ing to Hoogendam what he meant by squares, but
the kid finally got it.

"They didn't have room for a full board, about
four lines one way and five squares another. They
took some matches, broke them in two, and used
the ends with the heads for red checkers and the
other ends for black ones. Hoogendam and my gun-
nery officer played for a while, and Nick beat Mad-
dox, and Maddox didn't want to play any more.
Maddox told me to play with Nick, and Nick kept
asking me, and finally I played but I didn't like it.
You couldn't tell which match was which, and you

98

moved twice and you were on his side. I got fed up.
It was silly. It only lasted for a couple of days.

"Beezley and my gunnery officer used to sing a
lot at first. They were from the West, you know,
Indiana and Missouri, and they knew a lot of the
same kind of songs, slow songs like cowboy songs.
They had good voices, and sometimes they would
hum. I never sang much. I wasn't in the mood."

99

CHAPTER X

FIVE STRANGERS PLACED FOR WEEKS IN THE HIDEOUS
confines of a raft meant to succor at the most three
men for a few days are not likely to become close
friends. Should a man be rescued, the sight of one
of his companions later brings back to his mind the
horrible days, the bickerings and the quarrelings,
and he does not like it. Izzi, in the weeks I talked to
him, had not yet met the men with whom he was
found, and he had only a casual interest in doing so.
He would like to say hello; that is about all.

With two of the five men on the raft more happy
speaking their native Dutch than English, it seemed
inevitable that there would be a split among the
survivors. It was not as wide as it could have been
had not van der Slot and Hoogendam been of di-
verse temperaments. Van der Slot, except for his
dislike of Maddox's appropriation of the sail, was
usually a calm, taciturn man, helpful to the others,
never given to tantrums--what most people
consider a typical Hollander. Hoogendam, only seventeen,

100

was somewhat of a cocky kid, as well he might be,
having started a man's life at fourteen-the life of
a man in a world of war. He sometimes bickered
with the others, and was loud in his bickerings, yet
his very volatility, Izzi says, was rather cheering.
Sometimes, though, it was annoying and once Mad-
dox said to Hoogendam, "I guess they didn't bring
you up right, back home."

Many persons have said that no man with much
imagination could live the weeks Izzi spent on that
raft without going insane. Izzi is completely un-
neurotic, and his friends in South Barre who have
seen him since his return say he is unchanged, still
the pleasant, affable young man he was when he left
the town. Izzi, however, lacks neither intelligence
nor imagination. He has almost a poet's feeling for
description, and no man who ever said "the phos-
phorescent fish in the sea were like stars, and the
stars in the sky were like ship's lights," can ever be
accused of lacking imagination. Izzi, although not
given to introspection, tends to regard himself de-
tachedly. "I got it quick," he says, laughing, when
some one remarks in his presence that his first voy-
age was certainly a tough one. "Italian people are
wonderful and funny people; they are crazy," he
says of his family. "When something happens to

101

you, they want to give you everything they have.
There is a funeral in your home, the people come
over to the house and leave money, and you have
enough to care for expenses and a litte left over
so you can pick up where you left off." The atten-
tion he has received since his return has not changed
him; he thinks there is a little too much attention,
and he doesn't get enough time for himself.

Maddox, of the five men on the raft, was probably
least suited for the adventure. Of sufficient physical
well being to pass the Navy tests, he nevertheless
was no match physically with the others. He was a
student, a teacher, and had been lifted from his
rather sedentary life as an instructor and placed
among men who had worked physically most of
their lives. Maddox had exercised, but games and
sports do not make for the same conditioning as
daily physical labor. Beezley, Izzi feels, had
knocked around too much on his shore leaves to be
in top physical condition.

As the days wore on, a curious change in their
relationship took place with Izzi and Maddox. Izzi
still speaks of the Ensign as "my gunnery officer,"
and yet in the final days, as Maddox became
progressively weaker, the officer would turn to the
seaman for help and for consolation. In the final

102

quarrels over the sail cloth and Beezley's dungarees,
Maddox would turn from van der Slot and say to
Izzi, Tell him, Izzi, explain to him.

"Right after we buried Beezley at sea, my gun-
nery officer said to me, 'Izzi, I think I'm going next.'
I told him nobody is going next," Izzi said, "and that
if anyone is going to die, we'll all go together. He
patted me on the shoulder and said, 'Izzi, you are a
brave man.' He always was saying I was a brave
man. I didn't get it.

"Maddox used to tell me about how his mother
had wanted him to be a minister, and how his father
had wanted him to be a lawyer, and finally how he
had become a teacher. He was a good-looking, very
sociable guy, with light brown hair. He had gotten
married, and he built a little house on a hill in
Lafayette, Indiana, and he would talk about that,
and how when we all got back he wanted me to
come visit him and we would go horseback riding.
See, his family had been over here for a long, long
time, and 'whenever there was a war, some of his
family would be in the cavalry. His family couldn't
understand why he didn't join the cavalry, and why
he picked the Navy. He was just different, I guess.

"He talked a lot about books. He used to read all
the time on shipboard. I can remember going out

103

on watch, and coming back in at, say, two in the
morning, and he would still be in his cabin, reading.
Some nights he must have got only three or four
hours' sleep, he read so much. There were a lot
of books the Navy had given us when we left Brook-
lyn, and he read a lot of those, and then he had a
big red book he was always reading. I don't remem-
ber what it was."

Both Maddox and Beezley had had bloody urine
since the start of the days on the raft, and shortly
after Beezley's death, Maddox, who had been ex-
tremely weak, became ill. For weeks, each day, he
had been pounding the ledge impatiently until the
men would ask him to stop. The next day he would
twist a gold wedding ring on his finger, and tell Izzi
about it. "My wife," Maddox told Izzi, "told me not
to come back without this ring. It is good luck."
Often at these times, Izzi would put his arm around
the Ensign's shoulders.

As with Beezley, Maddox began to lose his sight,
and as his sight left, he became more nervous and
the three other men would try to calm him. Finally,
as they passed the seventieth day on the raft, Mad-
dox had the same symptoms of blindness that Beezley
had had. The other men would hold up four fingers,

104

and ask, "How fingers am I holding up, Jimmy?"
and Maddox would reply, "Two."

On the seventy-sixth day, they ran out of water.
They had run out of water several times before that,
but this time, when all were emaciated and hardly
able to move, the situation was more serious than
it had been before, and it had never been anything
but critical. Maddox was having long spells of
delirium, and would talk of his wife, of fellow in-
structors at Purdue, of his family, of horses, of
books, and of people he had known in his childhood.
Sometimes the talk would fall off to a mutter, and
the men could not understand him.

The men wrapped him in the sailcloth, and laid
him on a ledge where he could lie stretched out and
more comfortable than in the impossibly cramped
confines of the "deck." The sea was calm, and there
was a hot sun. Maddox was unable to control him-
self, and several times he relieved himself directly
on Hoogendam.

"We'd tell him what he just did," Izzi said, "and
he would start to laugh. 'That's not a thing for a
man your age to do,' we'd tell him, and he'd say,
'What's that? What's that? I didn't do anything.'
He had been coughing up blood, and we couldn't

105

tell whether it was from his lungs or from his
stomach.

"We were out of water, and he would keep ask-
ing for a drink. He'd say we had water but were
keeping it from him. He couldn't see, and he could
hardly hear, and he would beg us for water, and
we would say, 'But, Jimmy, there isn't any water.
We haven't got any water either.'

"That night, the seventy-sixth night, he was
groaning away all night-oooooh, ooooh, like that,
most of the night. Now and then one of the Dutch-.
men would feel him to make sure he was all right.
"The next morning, the seventy-seventh day,.
when I woke up, the kid said to me, 'You'd better
look at your officer.'
 
"There he was, one hand trailing in the water, his
teeth showing, and a half smile on his face as though
he felt good, and he was looking right at me. He.
looked kind of like he was laughing, you know, and
it made you shake. I felt his pulse, and I found out
he was dead, all right.

"I cracked down and bawled, right there. He was
my gunnery offleer, and we got along swell aboard
ship, and I got to like him awful much on the raft.
"The other boys tried to comfort me. They both
crawled over and put their hands on my shoulder,

106

and van der Slot said, 'Have courage.' But I cried
most of that day.

"We straightened Maddox out, and I remembered
him saying his wife said to be sure he came back
with that ring. He said he wanted to go down with
the ring, but I remembered what his wife said, and
I took it off his hand and put it in Beezley's wallet
with the other stuff. It's a wonder the ring didn't
slide off my gunnery officer's hand. It was trailing in
the water, and we wondered why the sharks didn't
get his hand.

"We took off his dungarees, and we said some
prayers about may he rest in peace. I said, 'If there is
anybody else going to die, let the Lord take all three
of us.' The Dutchmen agreed to that, and they
prayed and I prayed.

"Van der Slot asked, 'Shall we wait until tonight?'
I said no, and so we said another prayer, and we
rolled him over and shoved him over the side and
buried him at sea.

 "This time we watched. His hair was awful long,
and it floated out in the water, and we would see
him drift past us, and back, back fifty feet or so,
his hair floating out in the water. Then something
jarred him, and the hair fluttered in the water, and
then we could see him no more.

107

"We sat back in our places, and van der Slot said,
'Well, that's two out of five, three left.' Hoogendam
said, 'Well, now we're the Three Musketeers.' Then
I remembered there used to be a Three Musketeers'
chocolate bar in the States, and I told them about
that, and said, 'When we get back I'll buy you a
case of them.' I told them again that I would never
be without a candy bar, and that I would always
have four cases of Milky Ways in my cabin.

 "But most of that day I cried. We washed Mad-
dox's dungarees and the next day I put them on."

108

CHAPTER XI

THUS IT WAS THAT THREE MEN, A THIRTY-SEVEN-YEAR-
old oiler who had visited the ports of the world in
his lifetime; a seventeen-year-old boy who had fled
in a fishing boat from the Nazis; and a twenty-year-
old baseball player from central Massachusetts,
moved into the last days of one of the most incredible
adventures of the sea. When the five were living,
Hoogendam had sometimes crawled over to where
Izzi lay and whispered, "These other fellows may
give up hope, but we won't."

In those last days, the three men grew closer in
silent understanding. They were carried on by an
instinct to live, and a full will to make themselves
live. Unknown men have probably fished, caught
birds, trapped drinking water for as long a time as
Izzi, van der Slot and Hoogendam, and died any-
way, after untold months on a raft or rudderless
boat, but no men ever tried harder than these three
to live.

109

"Right after Maddox's death," said Izzi, "some-
thing happened for us. Back months ago we had put
the remains of that first shark in the food container,
and it had spoiled and made a terrible, rotten stink,
and we had dumped the stuff out, and never used
the food container again. We put the container at
one end of the raft and never looked at it. Well, the
day after my gunnery officer died, the old man put
his hand in the container for no reason at all and
felt water. He put his fingers to his lips, and it was
sweet water. He jumped and reached over and
shook our hands, 'I've found water; I've found
water!' he said. We strained the water with a hand-
kerchief and there were two cups full, and we each
had a sip. It saved us, I think, and maybe if we
had found it before we could have helped Maddox.
I don't know how it got there."

Izzi said that although he never admitted aloud
that he might be giving up hope, that some of the
days before Maddox's death he was almost despair-
ing. "I didn't think that we'd get out," he said. "It
rained so much some of those days. About the only
time it didn't rain were those few days before Mad-
dox died when we ran out of water. God, it doesn't
rain this much, I used to think. If you are going to
get rescued it might be, at least, good weather. But

110

we didn't talk about that. We'd only make each
other feel worse."

And so in the days after Ensign Maddox had been
shoved into the sea which had destroyed him, there
was little talking. The men lay on the bottom of the
raft and tried to catch fish with their hands. They
helped one another up when a man had to urinate.
Most incredibly, they would tie a rope around one
man, let him off into the water, and weak, emaci-
ated, he would nevertheless go under the raft and
hunt for snails. They did this each day toward the
last, taking turns at going under.

Van der Slot was the man who discovered the
snails when taking a bath one day. He had pried a
snail off the bottom of the raft, brought it on board
with him, picked the gastropod out of its shell,
tasted it gingerly, and announced it was good to eat.
Finally all the men were eating the snails, shells and
all. It may be pointed out that Izzi, van der Slot,
and Hoogendam, the survivors on the raft, were the
men who could eat best. Beezley had trouble eating
either raw fish or raw bird's meat. Maddox had to
force himself to eat raw fish, and then it had to be
cleaned and boned. Izzi was the first to eat fish
bones as well as the meat, and the other two men
soon followed him in doing this.

111

The two cups of water van der Slot found in the
food container had to last the men for three more
days. They had been out of water for two days
before the discovery.

By this time their hair was so long they used it
for pillows at night, and Hoogendam even devised 
a headband out of a handkerchief to keep his hair 
from falling over his face in the daytime. Their 
clothes were in rags, although Izzi, who had had
no covering for his legs for months, was happy to
have the hand-me-down dungarees they had taken
off Maddox, who in turn had gotten them from
Beezley.

On the eighty-first day it rained, and-the men
caught some water in a remnant of leaky canvas and
stored it carefully in the water can after each man
had a sip as his ration. They were too weak to snatch
fish through the slats on the bottom of the raft,
and existed on one or two snails which they were
able to get off the bottom of their craft.

"On the eighty-second night, just before we got
under the canvas," Izzi said, "we heard a rumble,
and there above us, away high, was an airplane. I
held my right arm up with my left arm and waved.
The other two fellows waved too. The plane, away
up there, went right across the sky above us. It

112


didn't slow down or circle, but it made us feel good
to know we were some place near where airplanes
were. We went to bed so happy, and we thought
of the things we were going to do when we got
picked up.

"The next day van der Slot heard another rumble
very early in the morning. He shook us and woke us
up, and said, 'Listen.' We looked out and there was
some sort of a plane, a big four-motor job, which
went out past us, and after a while it came back
from the way it went. Each time we lay back on the
raft and waved. Then after that a seaplane flew by
and it looked like it was scouting, not looking for us,
but just scouting.

"Then early in the afternoon, van der Slot, the
Dutchman, saw some smoke. He rubbed his eyes,
and he said, 'I don't know, but I think I see some-
thing on the horizon.' We couldn't see anything,
but later on we saw it.

"Then we saw one ship, then two ships, then four
ships, a convoy. We hardly dared to say anything
to each other. We just looked, and then van der
Slot said, 'If this misses us today, I am going to jump
overboard.'

"The convoy didn't come toward us, but just
went along the horizon. There were planes flying

113

around the convoy, and the first ship was a de-
stroyer. We wanted to try and stand up, but we
would fall down. The destroyer kept going fast
around the convoy, and then we noticed some
smaller ships, some PC boats.

"Then a PC boat seemed headed right for us."

A Dutch flag had been tied to a stick on the raft,
and the men, who had thrown their canvas sail
away, tried to loosen it. It was tied tightly and they
struggled frantically to untie it so they would have
something to wave. A raft is hardly visible at sea,
and it seemed now that fate was deliberately put-
ting the odds against them in what was probably
their last chance for rescue. Finally they found a
piece of the glass from the flashlight they had
broken weeks before, and they hacked and hacked,
their fingers hardly able to hold the glass, until
the flag was torn from the stick.

"We told van der Slot to stand up and wave the
flag, and me and the kid would hold him," Izzi
said. "We each held him by the ankle with one
hand and braced his knees with our other hands.
We were lying down holding him and we couldn't
see what was going on. 'They're coming closer,' he
told us.

"The kid and I were awfully nervous, and scared.

114

'What are they doing? What are they doing?' we'd
keep yelling at van der Slot.

"And he'd say, 'Shut up! Shut up!' and we'd get
more nervous and try to lift our heads to look out
and see what was happening, and we'd forget and
let go of the old man and he would start to fall
down, and we'd grab him again, and it would start
all over. 'What's happening? What's happening.
we'd ask, and he was just as nervous and scared as
we were and he'd say, 'Shut up! Shut up! They're
coming closer!'

"Then it came right over toward us full speed,
and even the kid and I could see it. The first man
I saw was a fellow on the bow beside a gun that was
pointed right at us. He had a shell in his hand, and
I said, 'Holy Mackerel, are they going to shoot us?'
Then I saw the American flag on the boat, but still
I was scared the way that guy was looking at us that
had the three-inch shell in his hands."

Van der Slot said, "They're going to torpedo us."

The PC escort boat came up close to the raft, and
the three men tried to climb up by themselves the
rope ladders thrown down, but their knees buckled.
Van der Slot was the only man who did not have
to be carried on board. Somehow, with high Dutch
pride, he managed to stand up and be assisted, not

115

carried, to the PC's deck. For a while the men on
the PC boat thought there was a woman on the raft,
because of Hoogendam's not having a beard.

The men on the PC boat asked Izzi, van der Slot
and Hoogendam how long they had been out, and
the three men said, "Eighty-two days." They had
missed count by only one day, thought it was Satur-
day instead of Sunday. They had kept no record of
the days past the forty-fifth day when the marks
they had been putting on a paddle made them too
discouraged. "It was easy to keep track of the days,
though, after that," Izzi explains. "You know, to-
day's Monday, tomorrow's Tuesday."

Once they had known the boat was coming to
them, Hoogendam and van der Slot had gone for
the water can and started drinking the last of their
water. They asked Izzi to join them, but he said
he'd wait until he got on board. Van der Slot took
the Dutch flag with him, and Izzi and Hoogendam
took their drinking cups.

The men on the United States PC, an escort boat,
wrapped the three men in blankets, and gave them
each a bowl of peach juice. Izzi asked for a ciga-
rette, was given one, and it tasted, he said, terrible.
The men lay on the deck, wrapped in blankets, and
watched the men on the PC boat try to sink the raft

116

which, if left to drift, might be a menace to navi-
gation and might attract the attention of some other
ships, causing them to swing over toward it and
possibly into a trap.

"They put a lot of twenty-millimeter shells into
our old raft," Izzi said, "but the shells they did hit her
with wouldn't sink her. I was kind of glad of it. She
was a pretty good old raft, but I was damn glad to
be off from her."

The Navy, in some of the stories it has released
about Izzi and his companions, has said that the
men called the raft "The Shark's Pit." Izzi insists
that the punctuation and the spelling are wrong,
and that the men referred to their craft as "Shark
Spit," which has an entirely different connotation.

117

CHAPTER XII

THE MEN ON THE PC BOAT SEEMED ODD TO IZZI. "THEY
looked like big, fat fellows," he said. "I told one of
them, 'You guys sure must eat on this boat,' and he
looked at me like I was crazy.'

Izzi, Hoogendam and van der Slot were merely
bones and stringy, helpless muscles. Izzi had
dropped from 145 to 80 pounds, and his two com-
panions were even more emaciated. They were al-
most completely dehydrated; their stomachs were
shrunken into knots, and other parts of their diges-
tive apparatus were almost atrophied.

Raymond Buckley, then a pharmacist's mate, first
class, was the highest ranking and trained Medical
Corps man aboard, and he gave the men tender,
skillful care, and later he was promoted to chief
pharmacist in recognition of his work with Hoogen-
dam, van der Slot and Izzi. "He gave us a bowl of
peaches the first thing," Izzi said, "and then another
bowl. I copped a candy bar off his desk, and it made
me sicker than a dog."

118

Buckley had the men placed in beds, and for
nights and days they slept only fitfully because the
beds were soft, and the action of the boat was not
that of the raft, and in the survivors' exhausted, hy-
persensitive state, all comfort was strange and un-
comfortable. The slight amount of fluids they were
given started their body processes again, and Izzi
would have to get up hourly to urinate.

The PC boat was heading toward South America,
when the ship, commanded by Lieutenant Gifford
C. Ewig, found the raft which had been spotted
by Earl T. Carpenter, seaman second class like Izzi.
It was suggested that the three men be transferred
to a destroyer escorting the convoy because it had
a physician on board, but Izzi, Hoogendam and van
der Slot had become so attached to Buckley that
they said they preferred to stay with him.

The three men had a quick recovery on the PC
boat, a false one something like the sudden, un-
healthy growth of some dank weed. Before they
reached shore, they were walking a few steps, al-
though always under the eyes of seamen on the ship
who were ready to catch a man should a sudden
movement of the deck throw his knees from under
him. When they got ashore, they were placed in a
small naval dispensary where they were thoroughly

119

examined and placed in beds for several weeks.
They again lost their ability to walk, and had to
learn to walk again. One of the doctors who treated
Izzi had met him before, although he did not recall
the young sailor. When Izzi's ship had put in there
on the way out, lzzi stood gangway watch one day
when the doctor came on board. For some reason,
Izzi, who is a good sailor, forgot his salute. The doc-
tor reprimanded him rather severely with a "Don't
you salute officers on this ship?" Izzi said he started
once to remind the doctor of this. "He didn't hear
me, I guess, when I began to tell him, or maybe he
wasn't paying attention," Izzi said, "and so I just
decided to let it go."

The men gradually got better, and by March, Izzi,
whose recovery was quickest, was tossing a ball to
children who hung around the naval station. Much
of his weight was back, and he was sleeping better,
although always in a curled position, as he used to
sleep on the raft. He turned Beezley's ring and wal-
let and Maddox's wedding ring over to a naval ob-
server who sent them to the families of the two men.
Later, Mrs. Maddox, at her home in Washington,
gave to Izzi a small gold knife which had belonged
to her husband. He treasures it.

Izzi learned that the three lifeboats, bearing prob-

120

ably a third of the people on the ship when she was
struck, had made land. Two were out five days, and
the third eight. They had made the South American
coast, had been cared for and sent home. Nearly all
of the men rescued went back to sea again, and
some of them, probably, have died since then in
other sinkings.

Late in March, Izzi was well enough to be sent
home, and he said good-bye to Hoogendam and van
der Slot who were hardly speaking to one another
but would each talk to Izzi, and took a plane to
Washington. Again Izzi was put in a hospital, this
time at Bethesda, Maryland, where he was an object
of scientific curiosity.

"There were reporters, admirals, captains, all
kinds of doctors, and everybody around all the
time," Izzi said. "I hardly got any rest at all, and I
only got one night's liberty by myself, and I went
to a movie. The day I was supposed to get out they
got a new bunch of doctors and they wanted to ex-
amine me all over again and I saw some of the head
officers of the hospital and said I didn't want any
more of that, and so they called these doctors off

For some months, Izzi traveled about the country
with Ensign Mallett, then of the Navy's Industrial

121

Incentive Division, talking to workers in war plants.
He was an inspiring sight, small, with heavy shoul-
ders, and the quick, swaying walk of a boxer or in-
fielder, with a dark face, dark eyes and a sudden,
charming smile. Under questioning by Mallett, he
would tell his story quickly and well, and by the
time he had been at the business a few weeks, he
had managed to develop a routine something like a
vaudeville player, with timing for laughs. This was
not caused by any histrionic desires of Izzi or any
swelling of conceit, but rather by his bringing the
job down to its essentials and doing it well.

One Sunday he went home to South Barre. Hun-
dreds of townspeople in cars covered with signs
reading "Welcome Home Basil Izzi-Eighty-three
Days on a Raft," met him at the station in Worces-
ter; Massachusetts, drove him in state in an open
car to South Barre where there were speeches by
townspeople and Senator Walsh and a naval attache
of the Dutch embassy in Washington, and from
there to Barre for more speeches. That night there
was a dance, and Izzi was presented with a water-
proof watch by the proud people of his town.

His mother stayed beside him, and his father hov-
ered near. At the meeting in Barre, when all were
tired, and it was growing cold at dusk, Mr. Izzi was

122

caIIed upon to make a speech. He said, in broken
English, "Fine, fine, all come up to our house. Lotsa
wine and beer."

People crowded into the house, bringing presents
and carton after carton of cigarettes. Izzi was home,
and once he broke away and went for a walk
through the woods skirting Power Mill Pond, and
he asked his father about rabbits, and other young
men home for the week end in the uniforms of their
services talked with Izzi, and their conversation was
about girls and leaves and various camps and sta-
tions. Izzi's sisters grew disturbed, because when-
ever he got permission to come home in later weeks,
he dated a girl in the Polish community, and he tried
to quiet them by saying it wasn't serious.

All of Izzi's friends said he hadn't changed much.
He still talked the same, looked the same, even if
he had put on a little weight. He looked over his
father's car, and was tempted to take the cylinder
head off just for the fun of it. When older members
of the Italian group around Barre came to the house,
he spoke to them in Italian and he consented to have
his picture taken with anyone who wanted it. In
times such as these, it is very apparent that nearly
every family in America has a camera of some sort.

There was something honest and wonderful about

123

all of those reunion scenes, with people of the old
and the new countries gathering in the Massachu-
setts countryside to honor an American kid, who is
typically American in the best sense-a good ath-
lete, skilled mechanically, and with just the right
amount of self-assurance.

There are few men in the world who could have
come through Izzi's experience, and even less who
could come through as unmarked mentally and
physically as Seaman Izzi. He may be back at sea
duty by the time this reaches print, or he may be,
as he hopes, learning to become an airplane me-
chanic. Mallett, who was an official of Lockheed be-
fore he went into the Navy, says that Izzi, after the
war, can always get a job there. Both young men,
at the time I talked to them, had their dreams. Mal-
lett was hoping to get into the Navy's air forces, and
Izzi was hoping for his mechanic's training. "I'll fix
your plane for you, Mr. Mallett," Izzi would say.
"Yes, you will," Mallett would reply, and they would
go off on a long, ragging conversation.

Izzi says he would not mind sea duty again. "I
kind of like the sea," he said one day. "But I would
kind of hate to go back on a merchant ship again.
I want my next ship to be able to take it and to hand
it out."

124

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