Sunday, August 31, 2014

52 Ancestors #35: Crossing the Line Ceremony

Ancestor Name: Albert Paul DAGUTIS

My husband's uncle, Albert Paul Dagutis, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He enlisted on 14 February 1942 in Baltimore, Maryland, and served on the repair ship USS Alcor and an attack transport USS Harry Lee before being transferred to the destroyer USS Blue in time for its commissioning ceremony on 20 March 1944.

On the way to the Pacific Fleet, the sailors aboard the USS Blue crossed the Equator on 1 September 1944 at 165 degrees longitude.

The USS Blue crossed the equator at 00000.0N 1650000.0W; map
courtesy of Google Maps

Albert must have participated in a Crossing the Line ceremony because he received a certificate from that ceremony and kept it until he died in 1987. It's in our personal collection now.

The Royal Court of Neptunus Rex receiving lowly pollywogs of the Blue
into his domain and duly initiating them into the Royal Order of
Trusty Shellbacks; photograph courtesy of War Diary of USS Blue
Destroyer 744

For those landlubbers reading along today, the Crossing the Line Ceremony is a maritime tradition that is so old, according to Captain Bob Allan, "that no accurate assessment of its origins" can be determined.

It is a rite that commemorates a sailor's first crossing of the Equator. Ceremonies vary a quite bit but usually King Neptune presides, wearing a gold crown and holding a trident. The cast usually includes Queen Amphitrite and Davey Jones as well as many others. At the end of the ceremony pollywogs and tadpoles -- those who have never previously crossed the Equator -- become Shellbacks.

A pollywog sentenced to the stocks by the Royal Court; photograph
courtesy of War Diary of USS Blue Destroyer 744

In the War Diary of the USS Blue Destroyer 744, crossing the Equator was described as follows:

"Three days after Task Force 58 sortied from Eniwetok, it crossed the Equator. Neputunus Rex and his trusty shellbacks initiated many lowly pollywogs while the ship was in his royal domain of latitude 00-00 degrees. 

Thus, it was a salty group which turned northward the next day to launch the initial assaults on Palau and the Philippines. The opening of the Philippines Campaign in September 1944 was the beginning of combat experience for the Blue."

Newly initiated shellbacks display the unmerciful work of the Royal
Barber; photograph courtesy of War Diary of USS Blue
Destroyer 744

I am a little puzzled, though. His previous ship was the USS Harry Lee. After supporting the North African and Sicily invasions, the USS Harry Lee set sail for Wellington, New Zealand, on 12 October 1943 from Norfolk, Virginia, via the Panama Canal and San Franscisco. I cannot figure out how a ship sails to Wellington from San Francisco without crossing the equator. The Navy muster rolls indicated he didn't leave that ship until some time after 16 December 1943.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge.

Albert Paul Dagutis was the youngest son of Adam Peter and Cecelia (Klimasansluski) Dagutis and was born on 18 March 1920 in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. His father died when he was five years old. His mother moved with several of her sons to Hamtramck, Michigan, in time for the 1930 census to be enumerated, but by 1935, they were back in West Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Albert was the only child to graduate from high school.  He enlisted in the Navy on 14 February 1942, just two short months after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, at the age of 21. He served with the Navy as a Fireman until 20 November 1945 when he was discharged. He settled in Michigan where at least two of his brothers were living with their wives and children. According to my husband, he never owned a car and took the bus everywhere. He died in Traverse City, Michigan, on 16 February 1987, the year before my husband and I were married. So I never got to meet Uncle Al.

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