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II stood on a wide and desolate shore

And the night was dismal and cold.

I watched the weary rise, –

And the moon was a riband of gold.

Far off I heard the trumpet sound,

Calling the quick and the dead,

The long and rumbling roll of drums,

And the moon was a riband of red.

Dead sailors rose from out of the deep,

Nor looked not left or right,

But shoreward marched upon the sea,

And the moon was a riband of white.

A hundred ghosts stood on the shore

At the turn of the midnight flood,

They beckoned me with spectral hands,

And the moon was a riband of blood.

Slowly I walked to the waters edge,

And never once looked back

Till the waters swirled about my feet,

And the moon was a riband of black.

I woke alone on a desolate shore

From a dream not sound or sweet,

For there in the sands in the moonlight

Were the marks of phantom feet.

“Iron Bottom Bay” by

Walter A. Mahler, chaplain, USS Astoria

Crew of the USS Astoria

Crew of the USS Astoria

This is not the first time I wrote about events that were the Battles of Guadalcanal.  You can read this post HERE. I also highly recommend a post on Pacificparatrooper


naval-en-04-10Ironbottom Sound is the name given by Allied sailors to Savo Sound, the stretch of water at the southern end of The Slot between Guadalcanal, Savo Island, and Florida Island of the Solomon Islands, because of the dozens of ships and planes that sank there during the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942-43. Prior to the war, it was called Sealark Channel. Every year on the battle’s anniversary, a US ship in the area cruises into the waters and drops a wreath to commemorate those who lost their lives. For many Navy sailors, and those who served in the area during that time, the waters in this area are considered sacred, and strict silence is observed as ships cruise through.



40 responses

  1. gpcox says:

    It truly bothers me that you did all this work on a magnificent post and there are only 4 viewers. I’ll be reblogging this tomorrow morning. You really need to get on the reader and search for bloggers with similar interests.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks I do but I should comment more. I get very few comments and people clicking like but I get 150+ views/ visits daily and have 500 followers. Thanks for the reblog I appreciate it.


  2. Have never read this poem. It is haunting and wonderful. Another post that never fails to be of interest. SO WELL DONE.


    • Interesting story about that poem. I was listening to an audiobook of Neptune’s Inferno The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal by James D. Hornfischer. The poem was read at the beginning of one of the chapters but I wondered if it was the entire poem or abridged. At the library I looked at the actual book and it was the same. On the internet there were indications that there was more but I couldn’t find anything. With the aid of a reference librarian who tracked it down for me, I received an email a week or so later with the full text.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. a gray says:

    I wonder how many lives were lost, on both sides, in these naval battles around Guadalcanal. Any idea?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Arlee Bird says:

    I’ve always liked those big posed group photos like the one with the ship crew.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out


  5. Birgit says:

    This is one of the most heart wrenching poems I have ever read. This is a great tribute to the men who died here and great information. I agree with GP Pox and I feel more people should look at your site. If you don’t mind, when I discuss the A to Z after the challenge I am going to mention a couple of sites and I would like to mention yours. You might like Sharon Himsl blog-she is talking about women inventors and I think you would appreciate that site


  6. gpcox says:

    Reblogged this on pacificparatrooper and commented:
    IRONBOTTOM SOUND is an area that Pacific Paratrooper will be mentioning for a few months. Maryann has also created a view of the area.


  7. Pierre Lagacé says:

    Reblogged this on Lest We Forget and commented:
    A blog worth visiting


  8. Gallivanta says:

    Very sad. I only got about 2 minutes into the video and couldn’t watch anymore because of the deep sadness it brought to me.


  9. Amazing post. I wish my grandfather was still alive to share it, he served in the US Navy in the Pacific. Gorgeous poem, a suiting memorial.


  10. jfwknifton says:

    A great blog post, congratulations. It is a wonderful gesture to drop that wreath every year. I hope that the British Navy does this. It is a good way to remember those without a known grave.


  11. colonialist says:

    What a great post.


  12. Gypsy Bev says:

    Thanks for including a map of the area. It always makes it clearer in my mind.


  13. Mustang.Koji says:

    Without good posts such as this one, the young of America will never know.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. A beautiful poem, visually graphic, the story that accompanies it is great piece of maritime war history, I now understand more about Ironbottom Sound and Guadalcanal.
    Excellent post.


  15. There are some very moving poems originating during the second (and First World War) this has to be amongst one of the best. The war in the Pacific is often overshadowed by the European theatre and it shouldn’t be. Fabulous.


  16. rolandclarke says:

    A decisive but costly battle that we learnt very little about in the UK. Thanks Maryann for all the information.


  17. It is a tragedy when old men can no longer negotiate then must send their young sons to war. Your blogs tell that story so subtly; they also tell the story of what happened – history. But old men don’t learn from that either.