Ray was a Navy pilot, but from what I could glean from our rare discussions, not a combat one. He flew PBYs, a large plane equipped to land and take off on water. He visited all the hot spots, including Guadalcanal, but always after the islands were secured by Marines and Army units.
He had a Navy friend, Frank Ferguson who used to stop by our house in La Crescenta and they would talk about their war experiences. I was always fascinated by their talks. But one place they talked about that stuck with me was Funafuti.
Funafuti, the capital city of the Tuvalu atoll, was a small Navy base that both Frank and my stepfather had visited. When they spoke of Funafuti they would light up. It was obviously a place of fond memories.
When my stepfather would become frustrated with the routine and not-so-routine challenges of life he would often say: "God, I wish I was back on Funafuti."
For some reason I woke up thinking about those discussions between Frank and Ray in our living room in the early 1960s (Frank died of cancer in the 1960s). So thanks to Google I found out a little about the island nation.
According to the Funafuti travel website, (the chart for population and acreage is reversed) the island nation, one of the newest members of the United Nations, has a population of a little over 9,000 (as of 2002 census). Half of the population of the country lives in the capital city of Funafuti. The group of small islands are a part of a former volcano rim in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and it looks like it is only a couple city blocks wide in many places.
You can't find flights on Expedia, Priceline or any of the usual travel sites and it appears only Air Pacific flies there and only a couple days a week. I couldn't find a price or even an airport to fly from (there are no flights from any American airport to Funafuti listed on any travel site I checked).
There are 5-6 hotels, with the largest having 12 rooms. One motel has three rooms and a daily rate of $80 (Australian). There are wonderful excursions for the few travelers who do come there.
God, I wish I was on Funafuti, and I've never been there.