USS Belleau Wood assaults DOD Web site boilerplate

Charts graphs ponderous policy documents and photos of gear predominate on many a federal World Wide Web site especially in the Defense Department. Rarely does one find carefully crafted prose.

But check out the home page of the USS Belleau Wood (www.c7f.yokipc.navy.mil/bwood.html) which offers up some truly creative writing by the ship's crew.

Just click on the Pacific Prose button on the Belleau Wood's main page and up pops a table of contents that leads to an eclectic assortment of short stories essays and poetry. This grab bag offers compositions such as "The Social Commentary in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein " by Blake Stern and the poem "Play It Again " by Parachute Rigger 2 Daniel Rhoades which manages to evoke Kurt Vonnegut and Humphrey Bogart in a short 20 lines (see box page 28).

Rhoades was the moving force behind the Pacific Prose effort according to Ensign Susan Fallon the Belleau Wood's public affairs officer. Before joining the Navy Rhoades and a friend started a publishing company that printed book-length collections of poetry and short stories. After joining Rhoades earned two college degrees: one in history and another in literature. He arrived on the Belleau Wood shortly after completing his last degree and came up with the idea of putting together a shipboard publishing operation Fallon said. Rhoades who left the Belleau Wood earlier this month for Officers Candidate School would like to see the project expanded Navywide. Until then the Belleau Wood stands out as the only Navy ship with poetry on its Web page.

The Belleau Wood Web site offers another innovative feature: an on-line Ship's Store accessed by clicking the Shop Net button. The virtual store displays a printable order form that users can fill out to order a variety of products emblazoned with the ship's seal. Items range from T-shirts to an "Insulator Koozie " whatever that may be. Orders must be mailed to the store which uses profits for the Morale Welfare and Recreation fund.

Regular Links Offered as Well

The well-designed if a bit busy Belleau Wood site offers browsers a number of other more conventional links including a concise description of the vessel - a Tarawa-class Amphibious Assault Ship - and its characteristics and functions. This includes the capability to embark an entire battalion of Marines and their equipment including helicopters and Harrier jump jets.

The page also offers a Photo Gallery and access to a site called "Bois de Belleau " which provides the history of the World War I battle after which the ship is named and where the Marines received their Teufelhound or "Devil Dog " nickname.

Though the Belleau Wood is home-ported in Sasebo Japan and its Web page is hosted on a computer in that country you would not know it from the access speed. The ship's home page pops up faster than some domestic sites - either a fluke or a testimony to the speed of the trans-Pacific Defense Information Systems Network circuits.

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