Saturday, October 29, 2011


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What could possibly force a crew of nearly 1,500 sailors and marines on a United States Amphibious vessel to crawl around on their hands and knees while being subjected to numerous disgusting humiliations? Is this Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) punishment at its worst? A strange chemical weapon drill? The cause of this seemingly absurd behavior is an ancient naval ritual known as crossing the line better known as wog day. It is performed when a United States ship crosses the equator; this ceremony has a rich and varied history. Crossing the line is nearly as old as seafaring itself and the most humorous ritual I’ve ever participated in.

Wog Day is made up of many different navy beliefs, legends, and characters. Starting with King Neptune. King Neptune is the roman God of fresh water but sometimes he is associated with Poseidon. Poseidon had a kingdom in the sea and put King Neptune in charge of it. “King Neptune sometimes appears with his trident and his wife Queen Amphitrite. (” Another character associated with wog day is Davey Jones. Davey Jones has a number of stories concerning his origin. “The Australians tell a tale of a fearsome pirate who sank to the bottom of the sea when crossing the equator and now patrols the equator on his killer whale boarding any vessel that dares to pass waters of the King’s Majestic Realm. (CDR McComas United States Navy)” Some ceremonies list Davey Jones as King Neptune’s Royal Scribe, who makes sure each wog has crossed the line. Another characters that make up wog day are Wogs and Shellbacks. A wog is a sailor or marine that has not been a cross the equator. And a shellback is a Sailor or Marine that has been across the equator.

Being a shellback carries a special meaning. It’s a name that explains your shipboard experience. Everyone that joins the navy does not have the chance to carry the name shellback. However there are an abundance amount of sailors that carry the name wog. A shellback is someone to look up to to junior sailors that are new on board. Being a shellback not only means that you’ve had the chance to part take in the wog day celebration. It also means you’ve had the chance to visit the Navy’s best port. Australia.

I can remember my first crossing the line experience as if it was yesterday. The morning of February 5th 18 at 18 am the USS Dubuque LPD-8 officially crossed the equator (0th parallel). After reveille, the wogs were woken up very rudely and abruptly by the shellbacks. We were told to put on clothes that only slimy wogs deserved to wear. Our attire for the wog day celebration was our daily working uniform. However everything had to be turned inside or worn backwards. We were advised to wear only uniforms we planned on throwing away because things were going to get pretty messy. The wogs who wished to participate in the celebration duck walked to the mess decks being led by our honorable trusty shellbacks to consume a hearty breakfast. The hearty breakfast consisted of green eggs and noodles. Everything associated with us slimy wogs was green. While we feasted on our delightful green meal, the trusty shellbacks were raising the Jolly Rogers pennant to signify to passers that there were slimy wogs aboard. When breakfast had ended, all the slimy wogs assembled on the flight deck where the trusty shellbacks led us to the beginning of the rigorous obstacle course. They did there best to cleanse us by washing us down with refreshing, cold, salty seawater. Your wog day went well depending on your ship social status. If a sailor was well liked, disliked or very popular his or her wog day was very long and problematical. However if a Sailor was one that usually kept to him or her self, the wog day was quick and painless because no one knew enough about that sailor to give them a hard time. I was known as a pretty boy on board the USS Dubuque with a great deal of arrogance and conceit in my blood. So my wog day went by extremely slow. At one point in time it seemed as if everyone attention was on me. After my salt water wash down. I found myself blowing bubbles in pad eyes with my hands tied behind my back with at the same time having hot sauce poured down my buttocks and having peanut butter smeared in my hair, face, and ears. The slimy wogs went from station to station on the obstacle course participating in many ridiculous acts such as kick lines, and singing songs. We were constantly asked to repeat different things to our honorable shellbacks. Such as “I’m a slimy wog and I deserve to be punishment. Please honorable trusty shellbacks punish me.” After completing the obstacle course that was designed for us slimy wogs, I reached the end just for one my honorable shellbacks to tell me to go to the very beginning of the obstacle course. I was pretty upset. I already had a burning sensation in my eyes from all of the salt water and a feverish sensation in my buttocks from the hot sauce. And to top it all off I could hardly hear from all the peanut butter in my ears. However I swallowed my pride and obeyed my trusty shellback and proceeded to the beginning of the obstacle course. Again I went through every station and endured all the humiliations to reach the end and again was told to go back to the beginning. This time they felt sorry for me. Instead of making me go back to the beginning, the decided to take me to the focastle and have me call for Flipper. Flipper was a well know television dolphin that did not exist in real life. I can remember calling Flipper’s name as if he was really going appear at the top of salty deep blue ocean. My honorable shellbacks thought it was so humorous. I was happy they found it funny. As long as they were laughing they couldn’t have me doing anything else. However soon the laughing had ceased and I was lead back to the beginning of the obstacle course. This time when I reach the end I was allowed to finish. In front of me was a large tub of salty emerald water. It was used to simulate the final cleansing of the slimy wog. I jumped in with a sigh of relief and stayed down at the bottom for what seemed like a lifetime. When I emerged Master Chief Lloyd who was playing the part of King Neptune ask me what was I. I proudly held my head up high and said “King Neptune I am an Honorable trusty Shellback.”

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After the wog day celebration everyone was off for the rest of the day. There was a big bar-b-queue on the flight deck. And later that night we had cinema at sea. To some wog day may be dumb and a waste of time. I felt the same way at first. But once I became a trusty shellback I was able to torture the other slimy wogs in the years that followed.

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