Ordeal At Vella Lavella


As senior officer, Chew was the last to go. He conveyed his thanks to Josselyn, whom he had just met, and turned to Silvester. It was hard to find the right words, and maybe a small gesture conveyed his gratitude better than anything he could say. Jack Chew, that most superstitious of old sailors, handed Bish his most prized talisman of all, his lucky silver dollar.

The Higgins boats got under way; Silvester and Josselyn gave a final wave and faded into the bush.

On the Dent and Waters the rescued men swarmed below to rediscover a host of basic pleasures—good chow, cigarettes, hot water, soap, clean underwear. In the wardroom of the Waters Jack Chew downed five bowls of pea soup, then enjoyed the luxury of a real shower. He was too excited to sleep; so he wandered into the wardroom again and talked the rest of the night away.

Daylight, July 16, and American fighters from New Georgia appeared overhead. The rescue fleet pounded on toward Tulagi, out of harm’s way at last. On the bridge of the Dent Commander Sweeney wondered what sort of men did the things Henry Josselyn did. Their parting gave him little clue. Sweeney had offered to take Josselyn to Tulagi, but he said no, there was still work to be done. Then Sweeney offered him some cases of canned food, but Josselyn again said no: the natives might leave the empty cans around, giving away his position.

“Can’t we do anything for you?” Sweeney asked.

“Yes,” said Josselyn, “I could use a couple of pairs of black socks, some Worcestershire sauce, and a few bars of candy.”