Ceramics in Cebu

I was, during the Second World War, a Naval Officer in the Pacific serving on a 4000-ton transport, delivering troops to battlegrounds. The ship was furnished with two dozen landing boats, the ones with the ramp in front. The ramps would be lowered onto a beach to permit the soldiers and their vehicles to go ashore where there were no docks or piers. The landings we made in Cebu were in an established port city but with undamaged infrastructure. We were tied up at a pier and so didn’t need the landing boats. Man and material got on land without any help from our boats. So, for me as a landing boat officer as one might expect, I was on holiday. But no, over the shipboard public address system the watch officer announced that the presence of Mr. Roberts was required in the captain’s cabin. Generally, he called me because his toilet was plugged up or because he needed another mahogany sea chest to ship home some souvenirs to his family.

So, I appeared at his cabin, was let in by the Marine guard and then the Captain seated me and shut the door and told me in all confidence that I was from a ceramic college and that Portland cement was a ceramic product and that there was a whole silo of the stuff only two blocks from our ship and that the just-departed Japs told the Filipino stevedores that the silo of cement was laced with explosives – enough to blow up the entire city of Cebu if they so much as touched it.

I listened, enthralled, until he said, “Now, you go to that silo and you tell those [deleted to be politically correct] that you are from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred and you know that the cement will not blow up and further, if they don’t move that stuff right now, all of them will be promptly either shot or hung.”

Well, the cement was promptly moved and it did not explode. Apparently, someone lied a little. That’s how wars are won. Soon afterward, General Douglas MacArthur returned – just like he said he would.

Mervin (Hat) Roberts
AU ’47, Glass Technology

Leave a Reply