Eugene V. Pfeifer

Radioman Second Class, U.S.S. Makassar Strait, CVE-91.

Picture of Mr. Pfeifer Gene boarded the U.S.S. Makassar Strait in May of 1944.  The U.S.S. Makassar Strait was an escort aircraft carrier, which had recently been built by the Kaiser Shipyards at Vancouver, Washington.  After the shakedown cruise on the west coast, steamed via Pearl Harbor to the Marshalls carrying replacement aircraft and personnel. She served in various capacities in the Pacific until the end of the Second World War, including support against enemy targets from Iwo Jima (Bonins Islands)  to Okinawa (Ryukyus Islands), air operations in the drive to capture Okinawa, and providing refresher training for carrier pilots between Guam and Saipan.  She had over 15,500 landings on her flight deck during the war.  At wars end, she began “Magic Carpet” duty, transporting veterans back to the States.  The Makassar Strait received two battle stars for World War Two service.

Gene related an interesting event as the ship was going to cross the equator.  Those who had never crossed the equator were to be initiated into the domain of Neptunus Rex.  The following are excerpts by Gene about the initiation.  “The origin of the ceremony of crossing the Equator is lost in antiquity.  We know that the Vikings had a ceremony of some kind in crossing certain parallels and it is probable that they passed on the custom to the Anglo-Saxons and other sea-going nations.  The bluejackets finally gave up their belief in Neptune, but they kept the ‘propitiation’ and turned it into something like a cross between an Odd Fellows initiation and the Second Battle of the Marne.  Today, the ceremony is simply and initiation of men who have not crossed the line, by men who have, thus the ‘Pollywog’ becomes a “Shellback.’   Contrary to supposition, the ceremony is not brutal.  The worst a man may get out of it is a goods dunking, a well-placed paddling and perhaps a slight injury to his personal pride by having most of his hair removed by a Royal Barber.”

Gene received a summons o appear before the Royal Supreme Court of the raging main to answer the charges brought against him.  The charges were: “Charge I – did, hitherto, willfully and with intention to evade the rigors of the sea, by devious chiseling and ear-flopping means contrive these many years to remain in snug harbor and on the beach, thereby failing in allegiance and reverence to our Royal Person, Nexpuntus Rex, Supreme Ruler of the Seven Seas.  Chare II – Earbanger, fugitive of field day, chow hound, sheik of the radio gang, disrespect to all Loyal Shellbacks – BEARING THE TITLE OF H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D BECAUSE OF HIS BEAUTIFUL H-A-I-R- (REPEAT) H-A-I-R.   Over 600 of us were issued Shellback cards plus the ship had printed a 38 page booklet for every crew member with pictures and the story of our crossing.”  Gene was honorably discharged from the Navy on March 9, 1946.  
In January 1947, he joined the Naval Reserve Unit in Fargo, met the girl he was going to marry, and a few years later found himself on the USS Haven (AH-12) off of  Inchon, South Korea, but that’s another story and another war.

University Archives, 701-231-8914
Published by the University Archives, NDSU
Last Updated: 8/27/04