Toward the end of 1943 our troops had taken the Nadzab/Lae area from the Japanese. Again as the war front moved forward, our headquarters followed. In one day's time, we moved from Port Moresby to Nadzab. It was an easy move as everything, yes, everything was ready for us. The Army Engineers had several months to clear the area and build our Wing Headquarters buildings.
Nadzab was a beautiful place. Truly, it was a tropical paradise. Each evening we had a gentle breeze made our nights very comfortable. Our camp was built right in the center of a beautiful coconut grove owned by the Palmolive Company. The trees were planted in straight rows for easy cultivation and harvesting.
A Beautiful Palm Tree Grove in Nadzab
Our Tents under the Palm Trees
At Work or Just Loafing on the Job
Just Back from Mess
First, We Washed our Mess Kits with Very Hot Water; Next, We Hung Them on a Line to Dry
The coconut trees were very tall. I guessed them to be about 40 feet high. How long they had been growing I didn't know. There was no one to give me much of the history of that grove where we camped. Although they made a beautiful sight waving in the breeze, there were several hazards associated with living around them. One was the danger of having one of those big coconuts falling on your head. A coconut, unshucked, can weigh several pounds and when dropped from the top of one of those trees, can make a real dent in the ground. We always wondered what one would do to our heads. I never did know of anyone being banged on the head with one, but I did know of some close calls.
Stosic, our barber, had his tent pitched under a beautiful coconut tree. One noon after mess, Lock, Stosic and I were walking together back to our tents. When we got to Stosic's tent, we were surprised to find a large hole in his tent right above the spot where he stood to barber. That hole was about ten to twelve inches across. When we looked into his tent, there, right on the floor where he normally stood to cut a person's hair, was a large coconut.
"Wow!" I said. "What a break you were at chow!"
We all had a good laugh over that incident. He had such a nice tent for a barbershop. It had a square wooden floor, and the framing had a pyramidal tent tightly stretched over it. No wonder that coconut went right through it. If the canvass had been loose on the tent frame, the coconut would probably have just bounced off.
I remember another time when several of us guys were walking along and we heard a thump right behind us. Looking around, we saw a big fat coconut on the ground. Sometimes we felt as if looking out for falling coconuts was about as dangerous as dodging shrapnel during an air raid.
The coconut meat was great to eat, green or dried. I didn't care for the milk. One day I asked a native worker for a demonstration of how they harvested the coconuts. Quickly, he found a hemp rope about three feet long and made a loop of it. Then, he slipped the rope around his ankles and grabbed hold of the coconut tree with both hands. That rope kept his feet from slipping.
What a sight! That native, nearly naked, looked like a jumping jack going up that very tall coconut tree. I never saw anything like that before and I've never seen anything like it since. He got to the top in no time and twisted several large coconuts loose, causing them to fall to the ground.
A Native Climbing a Coconut Tree to get Fresh Coconuts for Me
Natives with Coconuts for Stosic, Lockman and Me
All water had to be hauled in from mountain springs and streams. Naturally, we had to conserve our water. We noticed the water shortage most when taking showers. Our outdoor showers were very simple. There were three or four faucets in a row rigged on a framework high enough that we could stand under them. The water truck would fill the main tank that supplied the faucets. These weren't much like regular faucets. To turn them on, we had to pull down on a wire that released the water. Of course, the water wasn't heated. It had come from a spring or running stream and was very cold. Since a full day of sun would warm the water, we liked taking our showers about dusk.
Pat Soriano and Friend Going to Take Their Showers. I Had Already Taken Mine
We didn't worry so much about the water temperature as about the water supply. The procedure was to pull down on the wire long enough to get wet, then let up on the wire and soap quickly. You hurried so you could pull down again and get water enough to wash off the soap before the supply ran out. It was each man for himself, and he who got first chance at the water had a better chance of finishing his shower. And, the water did run out from time to time.
"Hurry guys, the water's running out," some guy might say.
"Oh no, I just got soaped up!" another would complain.
There was a lot of cussing and swearing about that time, all directed at the water truck drivers.
Getting that soap off quickly, using the "pull on the wire" and "strip-the-soap-off quickly" technique, had a circus atmosphere about it. Too often I remember getting just enough water to wash the soap off my face and head before the water ran out. That left the rest of my body covered with soap. What a disgusting situation! I'd have to do what I could to get the remaining soap off with my dry towel. Sometimes, if we were lucky, another water truck would arrive in time to replenish our supply as we were all trying to finish our showers. If not, we'd get along as best we could until the next day. Before the flight nurses arrived, we would take off our clothes, grab a towel and a bar of soap, and head for the open-air showers. After their arrival, several things changed. Likewise, using the slit- trench in the near nude had to stop. As soon as females joined us, the showers and toilets had to be enclosed. Furthermore, we no longer could dash here and there in the nude.
During the rainy season we would use a 55-gallon barrel to catch the rainwater that ran off one corner of our tent. Before the nurses arrived, I enjoyed stripping naked near the water barrel to wash myself. Using my helmet as a dipper, I would pour that nice soft water all over my head and body. What a wonderful feeling!
One nice afternoon while taking such a "wet-down," two of my tent- mates slipped up on me, pulled my arms behind me and raised me right off the ground. With my butt thrust up and out and with my feet spread apart, another guy snapped a picture of me. Imagine the pose I was in at that particular moment. Those guys thought they had pulled a great joke on me.
"We really caught you that time, Mac," laughed Lock, my close buddy. I laughed right along him. Frankly, it hadn't bothered me at the time.
"Here it is," Lock said showing me the picture some weeks later. "Now you can send this picture to Darlene."
I can't really remember for sure, but I thought I did send the picture
home. However, no one at home admitted that it arrived. What happened to
it, I guess I'll never know. Maybe the censor kept it for laughs, or I
might have sent the picture to Mom and she confiscated it right on the
An Earthquake and Volcano Eruption
While at Nadzab, we experienced an earthquake as well as a volcano eruption. I don't remember which came first, but the earthquake was something to remember. It always seemed that when anything unusual happened I would be outdoors walking to the office, the mess hall or the latrine. Anyway, this particular day I was walking along the coconut- lined path leading to one of those places when all of the sudden the ground began to wave like water. Actually, it reminded me of waves made when a rock is thrown into water. The waves made me slightly dizzy, but didn't throw me to the ground. They were going ahead of me. It was quite an experience. Those waves seemed to be at least a foot or more high. Even the coconut trees moved. It was a mystic experience and I will never forget it!
My volcano experience lasted several days. I couldn't see the actual
eruption, but I certainly saw the results. A brown ash settled over the
entire area. It was a weird sight. There was no wind or noise. It was as
though tons of that ash had been slowly sprinkled over us. One day I put
some sheets of typing paper on the ground, and within a few moments they
were covered with the brown ash. I folded the paper together and sent it
home to Darlene. For some reason or other, that little packet of ash has
disappeared. Perhaps some day someone will find it and think that it is
dust from a Kansas dust storm.
An Air Raid in Lae?
Although Lae was only a few miles from Nadzab, for some reason, unknown to me, we were suddenly ordered to move there. Our forces were moving ahead fast at this time and all kinds of rumors floated around.
We moved quickly and set up camp. Usually the headquarters tent was some distance away from the revetments, which protected the planes. However, in Lae we were very close to the planes.
One morning shortly after we arrived we heard a terrible noise. The entire area seemed to shake.
"Was that an air raid?" I asked. "Did any of you guys hear an air raid warning?"
Immediately we ran to see what had caused that explosion!
What I saw was impossible to believe. One B-25 was completely demolished. What was left was a very large hole about 30 feet wide and nearly as deep. The two engines were some 30 feet from the hole. The frame of the plane was scattered all over the area. Two or three adjacent planes were damaged.
There hadn't been an air raid, however. One of the crewmembers was loading
his B-25 bomb bay with a live bomb and accidentally bumped the firing pin.
He knew that bomb was going to go off in a few minutes and warned the other
crewmen to run for their lives. Luckily, no one was injured. We had plenty
to talk about the rest of that morning. That's for sure! We were glad the
bomb was one of ours and not from an enemy plane.
Five days after our troops hit the beach at Wakde Island in May, 1944, I was there. One of the pilots in our headquarters invited me to go with him for some reason. That island was all runway from one end to the other, from sea to sea. When we hit that coral runway, we barely missed the sea. The island was wide enough to park a lot of C-47's though. It was an important supply base on our way to Biak.
While on Wakde I saw a dead Japanese soldier still lying where he had fallen. He was the only dead enemy soldier I saw during all my three years in the Southwest Pacific. One was enough for me. The live Japanese had been cleared from the island, but not all of the dead ones had been buried yet. My pacifist feelings, learned from the folks at Bethel College, flashed before my eyes. Killing another human being wasn't in my agenda and seeing that boy made me feel very sorry.
Standing on the Barrel of an Abandoned Japanese Gun
Those palm and coconut trees were in shreds from the naval bombardments
and air raids. It was difficult to see a single tree untouched by bullets
and shells. What a sorry sight! I kept remembering how beautiful Nadzab
was with its stately palm and coconut trees, and I imagined what Wakde
Island must have been like before we got there. Ah, the destruction war
BIAK, NETHERLANDS, EAST INDIES
Jap Planes and the Surprise Raid!
By October, 1944, we were already planning to leave Nadzab/Lae area. I had received my master sergeant rating and was happy about that.
My New Master Sergeant Rating
However, I was really disappointed that we were to leave so soon. If we hadn't been in a wartime situation, it would have been a wonderful place to live. I remember writing to my folks and Darlene that if they could just come here to be with me, I wouldn't mind staying here. The climate was perfect and the scenery was beautiful. However, as our forces advanced, we had to move the 54th Wing closer to the front to serve the squadrons more effectively.
The rotation quotas had been published and I figured that I didn't have
a chance to go home even for a 30-day temporary leave. In any event I certainly
didn't want to go if I had to return. I had been overseas since September,
1942. Being in charge of the personnel records and the keeper of the points
that each soldier acquired was demoralizing. Some of the men had been in
the SWPA since early in 1941, even before Pearl Harbor. They had escaped
from the Philippines in front of the invading Japanese in broken down planes
that barely made it to Australia. Certainly they should be given the opportunity
to go home. By this time I had 113 or 114 points, but many had more than
that. However, the orders came saying there was to be no more rotation
at this time unless there was a new man to take his place.
The Near Crash at Biak
We were to move to Biak next. Since we didn't have planes at Wing Headquarters, one of the squadrons had to move us. The C-46 troop carrier plane we were to use was new to the pilots. Our pilot had been checked out on it, but had never flown it loaded.
A New C-46 Transport Plane Moved Us to Biak
That C-46 plane reminded me of an overgrown cigar. Its front end was covered with plastic so the pilots could have a wider view from all angles. That must have been an advantage. I believe it was also better equipped to haul cargo than the C-47.
On October 4, 1944, we got our orders to load up. Everything was hauled from the buildings and jammed into that C-46. There must have been 10,000 pounds of stuff. Of course, all headquarters personnel had to crawl in also.
Frankly, I was concerned about how well we had secured all that office furniture. Sure enough, when the pilot gunned the engines and started down the runway, the cargo started to move toward the back of the plane. Several of the guys tried to tighten the ropes, but they didn't have much luck. Soon the prop wash lifted the tail so that the cargo settled back. What a relief!
We headed northwest over the New Guinea mainland. In a few hours we got to Biak and the pilot was over the landing strip. He cut the throttles and expected that C-46 to glide in, just as his C-47 would have done. Instead, that plane dropped like a rock. He couldn't control what was happening. The left landing gear hit the strip with a sideways thud and bounced back into the air. As the pilot was trying with all his might to straighten the plane, the right landing gear hit the strip. He continued to try to straighten the plane on the strip, and it kept bouncing around from wheel to wheel. I was sure that one of those tires was going to pop. We all were holding our breath!
After what seemed an eternity, both wheels hit the ground together, the pilot applied the brakes, and the tail slowly lowered to the ground.
That pilot learned a lesson that day on how not to land the C-46 fully
loaded. I'm certain he told the story of his exciting flight to Biak over
and over to any who would listen. I know those of us on that flight did
Camp at Biak
I'd have to admit that Biak wasn't such a great place to be at first, but later the engineers had done a good job clearing the area for our camp.
What a Messy Place to Camp
Washing Clothes the Hard Way
No doubt they had to destroy some native "stake villages," and relocate the natives to make a place for us. They also had to hack away at the surrounding jungle.
The Kind of Native Village on Stakes the Engineers Moved
Native Fishermen at Biak
Natives Would Sometimes Come Around Our Camp
Lockman, my tent mate for many months and even years, and I selected a place for our new tent. By this time we had so much experience in putting up our pyramidal tent that we were experts. In fact, I was in charge of setting up the tents for our group. I had the "taking-down-and-setting-up" procedure well organized. Organization was, and still is, my forte. Ha!
The island of Biak wasn't such a safe place when we first got there. Our guards killed several of the enemy. I remember seeing a couple Japanese soldiers captured and sent to a prison camp. One just wandered into camp on his own and gave himself up. The poor guy was tired of fighting and simply quit. The Japanese who had not been captured or killed had been pushed back into the hills. Occasionally one would slip down and cause trouble.
One day one of our men was driving a 6x6 and saw what he thought was one of our guys hitchhiking a ride. The minute he stopped the truck he found out too late that the hitchhiker was an enemy in American khakis. The Jap stepped onto the fender and quickly slit the throat of the unfortunate G.I. Horrible!
Boredom always sets in when there is little action for too long a period of time. For some excitement, groups of guys would go out "Jap hunting" in the hill above camp. We all knew there were isolated pockets of the enemy around. It would have been better had they been left alone.
The most hideous story was about the sergeant that killed a Japanese soldier, cut off his head, and carried it back to camp in a gunnysack. Needless to say, he was promptly court martialled, broken in rank to a private and shipped to another outfit. The MP's promptly buried the head in the ocean.
One time a group of hunters set out not knowing that another group had preceded them on the same trail. They found some enemy soldiers, but, during the shooting, one of the men from the first group was shot by one from the second group.
Needless to say, orders went out that there would be no more hunting escapades. The stories of why there were so few enemy prisoners were not always the nicest.
"We never take prisoners. The only good Jap is a dead one," was a common explanation.
"Sure, we picked up a plane load of prisoners and headed back with them. However, they were so afraid that they were going to get killed when they landed, they all jumped out of the plane."
"Oh, yes, they jumped by themselves."
Such war stories don't make pleasant reading, so enough. "Kill or be killed," was the motto of all soldiers, and it was legal to do it. The minute the war was over it was murder to kill someone, even an enemy. All of us wished many times we had never gotten into a "killing" situation. As time goes on, life seems to lose its value.
Not all our tragedies were caused by the enemy, however. Once two of our own guys got into an argument and shot it out. One was shot in the stomach and killed. What happened to the remaining guy I never found out.
One of our guys was run over by a 6x6 truck. I found him all stretched out on the wood sidewalk with his head smashed. It wasn't a pretty picture, to say the least.
Back to some more mundane happenings.
When we first arrived at Biak, we didn't have lumber to make tent floors. Some lumber was being shipped in, but it wasn't for us enlisted guys to use.
Some of the guys had been helping themselves and already had nice wooden floors in their tents. They just waited until dark and helped themselves. It was called "midnight requisitioning."
I noticed a nice pile of lumber not too far from my tent one day. I figured it was my turn to swipe some. I waited until dark and started to pick up some nice pieces.
"Just what do you think you are going to do with that wood, sergeant?" someone barked.
"I'm going to use it for my tent floor," I replied.
"Don't you know that you have no right to that wood? It is to be used on the officers' new quarters," he explained.
He made me carry that lumber back to the pile. I was humiliated. I knew that master sergeants were supposed to be held to higher standards than others are. I'm not sure how they all got away with it, but some enlisted men continued their "midnight requisitioning," and I soon had a nice wooden floor in my tent also. You know, all good things come to those who wait (without stealing). Ahem!
I have already explained about the enemy troops still left in the jungles around our camp. An infantry platoon was assigned the job of protecting us. Still there were lots of anxious moments. I could hear guns firing almost every night. Later, I found that we had a lot of trigger-happy guys and when they would get bored on guard duty they would break the monotony by shooting at anything they made a sound or moved. "Spray it! Spray it!"
That meant fire your gun at something whether it is an enemy, or just a leaf or some moving insect or animal. I suppose it gets boring walking a beat or just sitting and staring into the dark.
I wondered many times what I would do if a Jap came at me. I didn't have a weapon of any kind to protect myself, and even if I had one, I wouldn't have known how to use it. Of course, I knew how to aim and pull a trigger. Although I had shot many rabbits in western Kansas, the military guns were different and I had been given no formal lessons on how to use one.
We had a terrific beach at Biak. It extended several hundred feet from the shore. Our camp was on a plateau about 75 feet up from the beach. It was great to go down to the beach early in the morning. The water close to the shore was beautiful and quiet. Lockman and I would wade into the water trying not to make waves. After carefully getting around the large smooth rocks, we had easy going. It was lots of fun to see how far out we could wade. Many times we would go until the water was deep enough to strike us just below our noses.
The real fairyland was in the deeper water. It was like swimming in a large fish bowl with tropical fish in it. What a sight! The closer we looked the more of them we saw. They were about one inch long and very colorful.
The shore was protected by a coral reef about a quarter of a mile out. That's why the water was so still in the morning. Many times I would swim to the reef during low tide. When I reached it, I could walk on it.
One day I swam across the reef and headed towards the open sea. When I opened my eyes and looked beneath me, what I saw terrified me. It was so dark there that I almost had a heart attack trying to get back to that reef. I didn't like that at all. After resting on the reef a moment, I floated back to the shore. No more of that for me.
One of the Chinese cooks would swim out a mile or so every day. I could see him bobbing in the waves and finally going out of sight. Minutes later, there he was coming back. Although we were assured there were no sharks in the area, I still didn't take any chances going on a swim that far out!
Our Headquarters Squadron commander was great. He knew how to get things done. Under his command, we eventually got lots of the niceties of home. We had cement floors in the showers and mess hall. We had a PX with Coca-Cola and an ice-cream machine. That machine didn't work all the time, but when it did work, the ice cream was great.
54th Troop Carrier Wing A-1 Personnel
Capt. Henry R. Malmquist, lst Lt. W. M. Avery, Maj. Ralph Osborne, Cpl. Ralph A. Sandt, Pfc. Carl W. Schneider, M/Sgt. Glenn D. McMurry, Sgt. Cuthbert J. Scott, Sgt. Jack E. Miller (seated)
Staff Sergeant Geer, My Message Center Chief (Right), Had His Own Jeep to Deliver Messages to All the Offices
Great Guys - Levy, McConkey, Owen, Lockman, Duffy, Mandolia and Me, July, 1944
Dressed for Guard Duty
Reading Messages on the Bulletin Board (Note Mailbox at Left)
Steel Barrels Held Our Water Supply
Helmets Were Handy for Washing, Shaving, Etc.
One of the Guys Preparing to do His Wash
We Had a Good Clothesline; We Even Had Clothes Pins
We had a piano, and did I ever enjoy that! There were quite a few nurses at Biak by this time. I organized a choir and we put on a nice Christmas program.
We had a generator large enough to furnish lights for night ball games. The headquarters public relations officer always tried to have sporting equipment available for us, such as baseball, softball, horseshoes and volleyball. Volleyball was my favorite way to work out frustrations. All that was needed were a couple coconut palm trees, appropriately spaced, a net and a ball. The volleyball court was simple to make. A flat place of ground either sand or dirt worked just fine.
Lockman and I Playing Badminton
I Had No Regular Shorts, So What!
The medics instructed us always to wear substantial shoes to protect our feet from all kinds of hazardous rocks, sticks or whatever. I remember when I was first inducted how much attention was paid to proper shoes, and how the sergeant kept saying that an army moves on its feet.
Actually, we in the troop carrier operations were more worried about the fitness of our planes than the condition of our feet. And in my case, sitting in front of the typewriter everyday, my hands were more important than my feet.
I am reminded of the time I got a fungus on my hands. It was related
to the type of fungus commonly called athlete's foot. The medics treated
my hands with the same type medicine used on feet. The cure was worse than
the fungus. Actually, the medic later admitted he had given me too strong
a dose and apologized for it. The burning sensation caused by the medicine
was terrible. The medic kept my fingers wrapped individually so you can
imagine how comfortable that was. Naturally I couldn't type, and my paper
work really piled up on me!
Jap Planes and the Surprise Raid
One night most of our guys decided to go to a movie at an adjacent camp. Luckily, I was tired and decided to go to bed.
Our radar, or whatever it was called then, couldn't differentiate one plane from the other when they were in a row. Knowing this, several Japanese planes had just joined in with ours as they were returning to camp. As our planes started to land, they pealed off and continued to fly only about 100 feet above the ground. They dropped their bombs one by one and roared off.
There had been no time to start the searchlights or get any fighters off the ground before it was all over. One of our guys was killed and several were injured. They had stayed in their tents instead of going to the movie. Several in that camp who had been at the show had holes in their tents and even in their cots. They felt lucky they had gone to the movie.
I felt lucky I had stayed in my own camp that night. My friends who were at the movie told how scary the experience had been. Of course, the next morning we all had to go over and see what damage had been done.
A new C-54 transport with four engines and a tricycle landing system
had just landed in camp the day before. One of those bombs hit it and set
it on fire. Its wings were just a powder on the ground. The only part of
the plane left was the motors.
This is a good place to insert part of my diary. I started it when I
got on the ship at San Francisco in September, 1942. It ends just before
I went to the Philippines, got sick, and was sent home on a 45-day leave.
As you will see, at the beginning I wrote more details. Soon I got over
that. I guess I got tired, and I know I was busier all those months after
landing in Australia than I was on that long trip across the Pacific.
Excerpts from my diary from September 1, 1942,
when I left the USA; to December 31, 1944, six months before I got to come home:
There are some RAAF boys on the ship. Some Australian fliers. The officers have bunks similar to ours. The officers have staterooms. All current is 220v. The floors in the center are removable so they can load the bottom of the ship. The cranes are all electrical operated. The ship was built in 1939 and was a cargo ship.
WEDNESDAY, September 2, 1942. About 7 oíclock we got up for breakfast. Had boiled eggs, etc. Regular army style eating. About 9:30am we shoved off and left American soil. We pulled away and it was a beautiful sight. San Francisco Golden Bridge. Saw the Golden Gate, blimps and coast guard cutter. Went under the Oakland Bridge and dropped anchor in the bay awaiting a convoy of ships to gather.
Took a nap. Cloudy outside. Saw old-fashioned steamboat with rocker arm in the middle. Shaved up in latrine in front end of ship. Cold salt water. Ouch! Just found out we will have two meals per day. I eat at 7am and 5pm. There are 4 good-sized ships now. 12noon. I have fatigues on. Clipper ships flying over.
I volunteered for typing. I typed one stencil. There are supposed to be five ships in the convoy. Well, while I was typing, the boat started to move and was under the Oakland Bridge. Then we passed under the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a beautiful sight. The city of San Francisco all outlined on the side of the mountain. The two bridges spanning the water. A Navy blimp zigzagging around over head. Coast guard cutters all around. This was about 4:30pm. Then out into the Pacific Ocean at 6pm I saw my last of America. How grateful I will be when I see it again. The ocean is great. I love to watch it. It is rolling quite a bit. One man has been too sick, he threw up.
We have had supper. During that I lost my flight cap. I hope I find it. Napped a little. Orders are that if a man goes over he is given a lifesaver and lift for the next ship. Boat will not stop.
THURSDAY, September 3, 1942. Got up about 7 oíclock then they said set your clocks back one hour. We had passed another time zone. I went to chow and then went up to help the Chaplain with the library books. It was on the upper part of the boat, center. They have a lot of materials there. I got quite dizzy up there and finally had to go below and lie down. Had a look at the passenger quarters. They are swell. I never dreamed that the ocean was so beautiful and peaceful. It is the most beautiful blue you ever saw.
FRIDAY, September 4, 1942. Time changed another hour. What next. I wonder if it will change again. I had chow early in the afternoon and went to work in the library. I never saw so many magazines and playing cards. New and used. In the afternoon they fired the guns. Boy of boy! They do make noise. I have never heard anything like it before. Helped fold letters later. We to PX the first time today. They had a sing after dark on the deck. It was fun. I have not been nearly so dizzy today.
SATURDAY, September 5, 1942. Up on good time. Had early chow and went to work. Just took care of library and started to read a book. "Terror Keeps" by Wallace. The ocean shows white caps later on this afternoon. News states a couple of ships sunk in Southern Pacific. (Found later that one of the ships sank with almost 4,000 troops. Most went down with the ship.) The ship did a lot of zigzagging today. Why? I practiced for a song this afternoon. Iíll say more about this later. We met up on sports deck and finally found our way to the officers' lounge where we sang for them. The colonel treated us with drinks and then dismissed us from all detail for practice. It was fun. It was surely dark on deck last night.
SUNDAY, September 6, 1942. Another day. Up at 6:15am and ate breakfast at 7:30am. Washed shaved and bathed. I help in the library. Ocean rough this morning. High waves and breakers. The cruiser circled around again with planes making their usual run. A boy named Rife left 2 books on the rail and they went overboard! The glee club met in the Chaplain's office and then we gave our first service in the officers' quarters. It was a very effective service. The first time on sea. It made one feel the importance of God and his watchful hands. After the service there we gave a service on the fore upper deck. The main thing I remember is the Christian Indian who came to the foot of the stairs to listen to Godís word and to worship. May I never forget the bright face that shown up to me as I handled him a song book. We moved the organ out here. The sea is rather quiet today. Sun shining. Definitely tropical weather, ĎI think.'
In the afternoon we sang songs fore. Then the rest of the afternoon was spent in the library. In the evening we sang for the officers again. We were treated to orange drinks. They were very good, too. Played chess until time to go. The sea got plenty rough, too.
MONDAY, September 7, 1942. School starts back in Kansas. Boy, oh boy! How Iíd like to be on the job there. Well, I slept on deck last night. It was swell. Iíll do it again tonight too. Got up. Went to library and worked. Then I ate and shaved and bathed. We practiced sing along at 11am. Then at 1:30pm the library opened again. I am in charge of library definitely now. I have a chow pass, too. I saw my first flying fish this am. Hundreds of them. Oh yes, I saw one or two yesterday, but today was a sight. They were in droves it seems. They are firing the guns now. Limbering them up I guess. Sure fun to listen to Aussies play Bingo! I hope folks donít worry about me!
It started to rain and continued most of the evening and night. I slept out on deck. We sang for officers again. Also shipís electrician sang three numbers. We also had a drink of Coke. Saw lots of phosphorous in the water. Marvelous to see. Big waves.
TUESDAY, September 8, 1942. Up at 6am. Washed and ate breakfast. I have a pass now. Can eat as I please. Library opens at 7am. Sea has calmed down a lot. I had a lot of work to do. I made 2 stencils for the song sheet, ran them in record time. Pvt. Wade accused me of being too hard on typewriter. Lt. Col. Hunnington asked me to type menus too. He said it was an order from top officials. Also I was to type all his material and was to learn the military way of typing letters.
In evening we sang again for the officers. Then an Aussie gave a lecture on the Bombing of Cologne. 1000 aircraft. A mammoth affair. 7 days of smoke. Planes like a highway to and from there. Had coke after singing. After a lot of searching, I finally found a place to sleep on the poop deck. Right on the tail end. It was beautiful.
WEDNESDAY, September 9, 1942. Up because of rain. Very light. Showered and shaved. Went to work as usual. The water was very calm. All these days and not a thing but water. It finally clouded up and got windy and showered. Also sea got pretty rough. Had practice drill. It went a lot better today. About 4 ½ minutes to clear holds of men. Worked in library. Wrote words of songs. We practiced at 12 noon. Will sing tonight again. Cleaned out desk and found books with music in them. Mannix got sick and I had to play for the singing. Whew! It was not a good night for singing. We had good drinks. I slept on the poop deck. Up in good time. Compass shows course about due south but some west.
THURSDAY, September 10, 1942. Up as I said, in good time. Headed south. Windy today. Showered and shaved, etc. Will do some confidential typing for Colonel today so I was notified! Went to choir early and was to work in good time. There are certainly plenty men using books. There are a lot of overdue books too. 2 cents per day. I spent a lot of time fixing things up.
They initiated officers for King Neptune at dinner. They had painted some sailors with ink and made them look like pirates.
Was notified again of confidential typing which the Col had ordered me to do for him. We practiced singing at 12 noon. Practiced my song "Freedom Forever." Mannix likes it. I typed more words for the glee club. At 3pm we had a sing. At night we sang a new program. We got along fine. The boys were determined to make it this time. Also ships electrician sang three numbers. He forgot the words to "Sleepy Lagoon:" and he made a real show out of it. Also "White Cliffs of Dover" with humming background. We were treated to coke. Slept on Poop deck again. Woke up to find Smith and several other sleeping next to me. Also had hillbilly band. An officer called a square dance. The boat left a white bar of light on the water. It glowed with phosphorus. A beautiful night. Clear as a bell. Weíre supposed to cross the equator tomorrow sometime. Someone took my steel helmet cover!
FRIDAY, September 11, 1942. Time changed 5 hours. Up at 5am. The little Christian Indian woke us with his "Good morning, sir! Deck wash." Real cute. He is a good little guy too. He tried so hard to tell that boys he was a Christian. Of course they laughed at him because of his inability to explain himself.
Had time to run over my "Freedom Forever" with Mannix. We had a good rehearsal at noon. I was given some confidential material to type for the Colonel. I spoiled one stencil. I forgot to take into consideration the length of those pages.
We crossed the equator. They had a Neptune initiation for officers and sergeants. They had all them strip to shorts and then they forced charges against them that were, of course, ridiculous. They then smeared garbage on them, faces and all and threw them in a large vat of water. After that they proceeded to turn the hose on the privates standing around. Really a wet bunch too.
We sang a program again. My "Freedom Forever" was a big hit. The chorus sang with the last repeat. I was forced to repeat it and then the officers joined in on the final chorus. I got so many wonderful compliments. Both from Australian officers and Americans. Both want copies of the song. I introduced it by saying I had written it as a civilian for my people and my country. They really applauded.
We had cokes again. I slept on poop deck. Really good. Boys practicing on my "Stars in the Night."
SATURDAY, September 12, 1942. Up by the little Indian again. Cleaned up and ate. Was up to work in good time. Well, it was not long before I found out that I had typed the wrong material and I had to retype all the material. Then to top it all off with, I had an accident. The correction fluid spilled over the Lt's desk. I was very glad my stencils were good. The boys all like my numbers and are planning to sing them. "Blue Mists" is liked much. Had a nice program. Repeated "Freedom Forever." Had swell cokes. Then afterwards had grapefruit.
Link told me how they loaded ships and how he had to keep track of what was used out of the ship's supplies.
SUNDAY, September 13, 1942. Another Sunday is here. Well, I suppose father and mother are at home now, wondering about me. Wish I could let them know. Got up and cleaned up. Practiced music. Ran the copies from the stencils I made. They are perfect in every respect. Ha! Went to 3 church services. Played organ for 2 outside ones. Chaplain Evans gave such a swell talk. The sea is rough but beautiful. White breakers. It does not bother me in the least any more. Saw a bird yesterday. Thereís Fiji talk. Guess my khaki clothing is getting laundered ok. They took it in last night.
The Colonel said all men must have haircuts before leaving boat on shore leave. That must mean land soon. Some say Tuesday. Oh me. Time flies.
MONDAY, September 14, 1942. Up early. Did quite a bit of music writing. Did some typing for the Colonel today. Confidential material. They are using one of my numbers tonight. "Blue Mists." I hope they like it. Pearce does it right well. (Trouble with chow. Colonel got busy.) I got terribly hungry before supper. I hope I do not have to get as hungry again. The sea is very rough and the waves are spraying.
There is much talk of docking sometime tomorrow night. I wonder what Fiji is like. I must write a "V" letter home tomorrow to make sure something starts back towards Hutchinson. Gee, Iíll bet Mom is worried about me. We gave our program. It was a fine one too. We were complimented very highly.
TUESDAY, September 15, 1942. Up as usual. Did not shave. Sighted land (11:05am). An island of Port. It has habitants on it. Saw buildings on it. It was soon in the distance, aft. I did a lot of typing for the Col Cook. Ate my supper at 4:20pm. Good too. Had a nice visit with the Australian Warrant Officer.
WEDNESDAY, September 16, 1942. Up on good time. Ate my breakfast after cleaning up. Went to work. Typed the narrative report of the trip. Took usual letters for Colonel Cook. Ran mimeograph on "Freedom Forever" for Col Huntington. Also fixed his map. Wrote folks today. They caught one of the boys with a camera with films in it. Probably will be too bad for him. There is to be a time change tonight and then we are to be a day ahead.
The International date line. Colonel White is giving a series of lectures on Iraq. Evidently they are pretty good. It is windy out. Boat rocks quite a bit.
THURSDAY, September 17, 1942. This day just went into thin air. We skipped it because of passing the International dateline.
FRIDAY, September 18, 1942. Sure enough it is Friday. We had gone ahead one whole day. At home it is yesterday. I got up on time and went to work typing for the Col. Then I typed songs for the program tonight. At 3pm the convoy split up. The cruiser and two ships went off port and we two took out alone. The glee club was given special shore leave. About 6 hours. Had a farewell for those leaving us at Fiji.
SATURDAY, September 19, 1942. This is the day we are supposed to hit Fiji. I have finished cleaning up. And when I got on deck, I saw a land plane escorting us into port. Of course, we can see no land as yet, but we expect to before long. We seem to be moving pretty good lick.
It was certainly no hoax. At 8:10am we sighted a 5 ship convoy off starboard fore. At 8:20am we sighted the first land. I typed a stencil for Silverman for the Jewish service tomorrow and when I came back I saw plenty of land. Small islands. They are covered with some kind of a flat-topped tree. Also good sized mountains. It is very hazy and cloudy or we could see more. Seems to be just islands because I do not see habitation. The shoreline has tide rolling upon it. They are getting ready to unload things, already working with the cranes. Well, at 10am we went through the submarine gate into the harbor. We dropped anchor and now it is 1:20pm and we have not moved. All leave has been canceled. We do not know what is to happen now. There were native fishermen out on the beach. Iíve seen pictures of them in the National Geographic magazines. Their hair is real bushy. It is a real pretty little city. They say about 300 years behind US.
SUNDAY, September 20, 1942. Up at 8am. I had breakfast and shaved. Ran the stencil of "Maori Farewell." Then we sang a little. At 12:10pm. the boat cast off anchor. And to the tunes of "Marching Alone," "Maori Farewell" and "Tipperary" we docked.
Supposed to go shore after the officers. It began to shower on us so we had to dodge from roof to roof. Our first stop was at a place where we had a dish of ice cream. It was good. With chocolate, 20 cents. We had some cookies too. Then we had our dinner, 50 cents for a good steak with French fried sweet potatoes. Some kind of beans and bread, butter and tea. It was a backward place. The table was dirty. The silverware was Sheffield English. Magazines have Australian and English touch.
The natives at Fiji have a very bushy hair that stood up at least 6 inches all over his head. The common men wear a dress arrangement. Sorong. Sure looks odd. To see a man with dress coat shirt and tie and then no pants or shoes on. "Boolah" evidently means hello. At least there were plenty of them. We purchased candy and more ice cream.
The plant life is simply grand. Poinsettias were beautiful and wild. Begonia plants. Magnolia tree, Banana trees, Coconut trees, ferns and lovely birds that sing like those in the St Louis Zoo. Lots of vines covering ground.
MONDAY, 21 Sep, 1942. Shore leave. Big meal at Grand Pacific Hotel.
TUESDAY, 22 Sep, 1942. Shore leave again. Suva is seeing quite a bit of us. Saw a man who had both arms taken off by a shark when he dived into the water after money that was thrown overboard by tourists. Ugh!
WEDNESDAY, 23 Sep, 1942. Shore leave again but were told that we were leaving. We were pretty well ready to leave at 3 p.m. Our glee club had our picture taken while in Suva. Weíre off.
THURSDAY, 24 Sep, 1942. Saw my first albatross. It landed on the mast. Good omen.
SATURDAY, 26 Sep, 1942. Sick today. Ugh!
TUESDAY, 29 Sep, 1942. Exciting day. We are supposed to dock sometime today. We did too, at 4 oíclock. Where? Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. At Camp Dooben.
FRIDAY, 9 Oct, 1942. Got first mail from home.
TUESDAY, 13 Oct, 1942. Moved from Ascot Park to Camp Muckley. Close to Archer Field.
FRIDAY, 27 Nov, 1942. Big brawl in Brisbane last night. Aussies and the Yanks got into it. Just letting off steam.
SATURDAY, 28 Nov, 1942. French fleet scuttled. Running moves now. Working in orderly room.
TUESDAY, 23 Dec, 1942. Found out I am leaving for an assignment. Good.
THURSDAY, 24 Dec, 1942. Lt. King is going with me. We have been assigned to the 374th Troop Transport, with the advance Echelon at Port Moresby. In a B-24. Christmas evening in Townsville. Hot as sin.
FRIDAY, 25 Dec, 1942. Flying again, landed at Iron Range and had dinner. Bully beef, tomatoes, corn and peas. Very flat but good food. This is quite a place. Cut right out of the jungle. Landed at Moresby about 4 p.m. Chow at 5 oíclock over at arcadia. Spent Christmas night in a slit trench. Ugh!
SATURDAY, 26 Dec, 1942. They are picking out a camp for us. It looks like it will be on the side of a large hill on an old ack-ack installation. There is a ship in the harbor that was sunk five or six years ago. They use it for bombing practice.
MONDAY, 28 Dec, 1942. Things are kinda rough. 33rd Squadron came in today.
TUESDAY, 29 Dec, 1942. Saw my fast wallaby today. Staying in a grass hut. It leaks too.
THURSDAY, 31 Dec, 1942. Last day of year. Eventful too. Cpl. Lockman and I are alone here in a tent. The Japs are trying to hit this place. At one time it caused them quite some trouble they say.
FRIDAY, 1 Jan, 1943. Made a few little private resolutions today. Sgt. Cosgriff will move in tomorrow. One other guy by the name of Roberts.
SUNDAY 3, Jan, 1943. Sgt. White got his commission. He is a 2nd Lt. now. Boy is he tickled.
WEDNESDAY, 2, Jan, 1943. Evening paper is encouraging. It says the war will be over in 1943 for sure. Hope so. Paper is called "The Guinea Gold". Owen Stanleys are beautiful this morning. Wish I had a camera. Natives are going to build a grass hut for an office. Boy, do those natives stink! Ugh!
SUNDAY, 10 Jan, 1943. Air raid! One of my first this year. Colonel Prentiss coming back from Brisbane. Things will snap now.
WEDNESDAY, 13 Jan, 1943. Lockman cracked a rib somehow. He is laid up. Soriano supposed to come in a few days.
THURSDAY, 14 Jan, 1943. Had a darn good raid tonight. They are coming pretty regular now-a-days. Gee those Japs are bum shots.
FRIDAY, 15 Jan, 1943. Not much work. Hope I can sleep tonight. Sleep? I should say not. I did for awhile and the shots were fired. I had to go to the latrine and between the G.I.ís and the bombs I was in a dither. I made it back to the slit trench in nothing flat. Was I ever scared! Iíve never been scared like that before.
SATURDAY, 16 Jan, 1943. Another good raid tonight. When are going to get some sleep? Issue of cigs and things tomorrow.
SATURDAY, 23 Jan, 1943. Captured Sanananda. Raids and more raids. The Buna campaign is now over.
SUNDAY, 24 Jan, 1943. Raid again! Boy, Iím hitting the trench every time. It is good life insurance. They got lucky tonight and got planes in their sights. Been cutting hair here of late. Lt. King, Major Imparato, Lockman, Hampton, White and McCartney. Should see the scissors and comb I use. Ha!
TUESDAY, 26 Jan, 1943. Lt. White wanted to cut my hair in exchange today and it took Lockman about an hour to get it fixed up. Several raids again tonight. They got some of the boys over near Wardís.
SATURDAY, 30 Jan, 1943. Pushing the Japs back at Wau now. Good. Cut Col. Prentissí hair. I talked a streak all the while. Got a new niece.
SATURDAY, 4 Feb, 1943. Caught a parrot today. He bit h-- out of my hand.
TUESDAY, 9 Feb, 1943. Wish they could get the mess hall done. Get tired standing up to eat. Major Hampton is a colonel now, as of 31 Jan. Played hearts a while. Air raids still coming.
SUNDAY, 14 Feb, 1943. Got our special service phonograph today. Boy, was that music ever good. Lots of work now. Typed 43 endorsements, 10 full letters and several stencils. Raids are beginning to come during the day now. Several alerts.
THURSDAY, 25 Feb, 1943. Finally getting acquainted with Sgt. Drahos. Saw a Jap motorcycle. Rugged, trying to drive on the wrong side of the road here.
MONDAY, 1 Mar, 1943. Lt. King is on a 1st Lt. Big raid on Rabaul and Lae this morning. Lights for the first time. They are still writing of the big Bismarck Sea battle. There is talk about furloughs. Wonder where. Typed over 30 stencils today.
WEDNESDAY, 7 Apr, 1943. Had a 100 plane raid today. That was the last straw. They did plenty of damage too. I hope they donít do that very often. The raids are getting fewer and fewer lately. This was a dilly though.
THURSDAY, 1 Jul, 1943. Made staff sergeant today.
THURSDAY, 2 Sep, 1943. One year has passed since coming overseas. I am still in New Guinea. I am now in the 54th Troop Carrier Wing. Have had two leaves to Mackay. I am in good health. Have floor in tent now. Playing volley ball. Seen first glidersóparachutes. Saw a plane explode in the air. Varney all tanked up. Cosgriff lost front teeth. Got hit in mouth by washing machine crank. Made me a ring of a florin.
SUNDAY, 5 Sep, 1943. Saw large-scale airborne operations. Saw first glimpse of General MacArthur. Col. Prentiss led the flight. Got up at five to watch. Took a trip to a native village.
TUESDAY, 26 Oct, 1943. 374th Group went to mainland. Prentiss now a Brigadier General.
WEDNESDAY, 1 Dec, 1943. Went with Maj. Jacobs on a trip to Nadzab, Gusap and back to Dobodura. Saw a lot of interesting things. Lucky I did not get mixed in a raid. Went swimming in a fresh-water river. O.C.S staring me in the face. Donít really care to go though.
MONDAY, 27 Dec, 1943. I am a T/Sgt. now. Got to go on furlough to Sydney for 15 days.
WEDNESDAY, 15 Mar, 1944. Rotation started. Drahos, Varney and Warren gone on 28 Feb. My buddy Kuhn dead from a B-19 crash over England. Col. Lackey going to Staff School at Ft. Leavenworth. Mom got Darlene a string of pearls for Xmas.
MONDAY, 20 Mar, 1944. New rotation setup now. It will go by points. Three for New Guinea, one for Australia. I have quite a figure. I wonder if that will hold up.
FRIDAY, 31 Mar, 1944. General Prentiss, Capt. White and Lt. Malmquist all gone to Brisbane, V AFSC. Maj. Beck to Advance Echelon, Fifth Air force.
TUESDAY, 18 Apr, 1944. Moved to Nadzab. We had to move all over in one day and had one of the best dinners Iíve eaten. We are situated in a beautiful coconut grove.
MONDAY, 1 May, 1944. Made a nice trip to Wakde and saw real dead Japs. It was D plus 5. Took a trip into a native village through the jungles. It was an interesting trip. I will never forget it. The natives are really a lazy dirty bunch.
TUESDAY, 6 Jun, 1944. Invasion of France. What we have really been waiting for.
FRIDAY, 4 Aug, 1944. Rain. Troop Carrier Command in process now. Everything going good. Folks are fine and so am I. War going good, collapse on all fronts.
WEDNESDAY, 16 Aug, 1944. My birthday, Iím 27. Left for Mackay on leave, via food ship. Lockman went with me. Had to sleep in recreation hall the first night. Got to stay there20 days because the transportation setup was bad.
MONDAY, 4 Sep, 1944. Arrived back at Moresby. Boy what a deserted place. When I finally got back to Nadzab, I found out that I had been promoted to Master. Was I ever surprised. That was on the 28th of Aug. I am very happy.
FRIDAY, 15 Sep, 1944. Invasion of Palau. Maj. Smith is due to go home on a medical.
SATURDAY, 16 Sep, 1944. Rotation quotas show that I havenít a chance. Ugh!
WEDNESDAY, 20 Sep, 1944. Bought a Parker 51.
WEDNESDAY, 4 Oct, 1944. Packing up to move to Biak. Loading in a C-46, my first. Must have on 10,000 pounds.
THURSDAY, 5 Oct, 1944. Off at 7 a.m. Swell take-off. Arrived at 11 a.m. Some place this. Hot, etc. Office is all set up so we just moved in.
FRIDAY, 6 Oct, 1944. In business at 9.30 a.m. Swimming good on beach. Lt. Washburn and Capt. Iverson are out of the squadron now.
THURSDAY, 12 Oct, 1944. Tent about up. Michael J. Stosic, Lockman and myself so far. Rocco next. Alert on 10th but nothing happened. No Japs as yet. A Negro boy was killed in an auto accident the other day. Col. Hurst new A-1 reported. He is an all right guy, too.
FRIDAY, 20 Oct, 1944. Another friend, Warren Smothers, killed in France. Too bad. Philippines attacked. Leyte. Had 15 men for T.D. to States for Nov. Have been hunting cat eyes. Swimming fine. Palms, sea, etc. very beautiful.
FRIDAY, 27 Oct, 1944. Jap hunting spree became too realistic with one fatality to our side and four to theirs.
FRIDAY, 10 Nov, 1944. General Prentiss coming back. Surprise. Having a Christmas choir. Had 15 the first night. Played host to one of 6 U.S.O. girls. Had cake and coffee after the show. One, Nan Shannon, gave me some music. Nice of her.
FRIDAY, 17 Nov, 1944. Have about 15 rolls of film. Also one roll of color.
WEDNESDAY, 29 Nov, 1944. White is home on T.D. right now. Rain. Am an uncle again General Prentiss is back about a week now. Malmquist and White too. Capt now. Thatís two Iíve missed. Had Thanksgiving dinner and all the boys got G.I. over the meat. What a night. Me too!
TUESDAY, 12 Dec, 1944.Japs slapped a bunch of the 317th boys at Leyte. Bad. Cpl. Kruch got burned badly. In the hospital. One of the cooks got a couple of fingers blown off when playing with a cap. Loach and Scott left for T.D. Having ice cream now. That is swell.
MONDAY, 25 Dec, 1944. My thirdChristmas overseas. Choir gave concert this evening. It all went fine. It was the best singing Iíve heard since being out of college. They did swell. War in Europe not so good. Been going backward lately. Terrible losses. Swell Xmas dinner.
SUNDAY, 31 Dec, 1944. Last day of the year. Oh me! Just looking over my old diary. Some stuff. Hot today. Rotation a joke. Saving quite a wad of money.
Biak was a beautiful place to be, even in wartime, and I was sorry when we were told to leave. However, our forces were getting closer and closer to the Philippine Islands, and it was obvious that soon we in the Wing Headquarters would get orders to move forward also. Our next stop would be Dulag on Leyte Island.
Our orders said we would refuel on Palau Island. I remembered when our troops captured that island I wondered why they had bothered. It was just a tiny spot out there among so many islands between the Philippines and us.
"Do you mean we must refuel on that tiny island?" I asked Major Smith, our operations officer.
I certainly didn't like the idea of trying to land on Palau as we were running out of gas. The navigator might miss that island by a few miles and that would be the end of us. I could just see us circling around trying to find a place to land.
Earlier, we had lost a C-47 full of boys from our office. For some reason they couldn't find Palau, had run out of gas and crashed at sea. I remembered seeing those letters of condolence being sent out to their next of kin. Now we were going to try the same route. Not a very comforting thought!
We were assured that refueling at Palau was much safer than flying over
enemy territory. Because I knew our planes couldn't fly very high and were
fair game for enemy guns, I had to accept the Palau plan as best. As it
turned out, although the entire trip was an anxious one, we made our refueling
stop and arrived at Dulag.
Our Wing Headquarters didn't stay long in Dulag. It had been occupied on October 20, '44, and the first week in February our forces were in Manila. General MacArthur had fulfilled his famous promise, "We shall return to the Philippines."
A Temporary Office for our Troop Carriers,
Left by the Japanese Forces
Philippine Money Found When U. S. Forces Landed
Clark Field, about fifty miles from Manila, was my next stop. I hadn't been there long before I found myself in the field hospital.
As Weese, our medic, and I were showering one day, he suddenly demanded I stand still so he could look into my eyes.
"Hey, Mac, I don't like what I see," he said. "You have yellow jaundice."
It was his job to be alert at all times to any diseases we might be picking up here in the tropics.
"As soon as you get dressed, report to sick call. You will have to be sent to the hospital for treatment."
"I don't want to be stuck into a some dumb field hospital somewhere!" I said.
"It doesn't really make any difference what you want. You must get to the hospital. OK?"
I had never been sick since coming overseas, and I figured what I had wouldn't amount to much anyway. I had work to do so I figured I'd just take my time going to sick call. I dressed and went back to my desk.
About an hour later, as I was typing away, I looked up and saw the captain of the medical group looking me directly in the eye.
"Sergeant," he demanded, "didn't Sergeant Weese tell you to report to sick call? Why didn't you do as you were told?"
"Well, captain, I didn't think I'd have to be in such a hurry about it."
"Sergeant, you are a sick man. I order you to leave your desk and pack your bags now. All you'll need are your toilet articles."
I had barely arrived at Clark Field. Now this!
I had no idea where the hospital was, but all I could do was get ready. I got the point that he was dead serious about my going--right now.
The 116th Station Hospital was nothing more than a long row of tents. When I got checked in, I was assigned a canvas cot. There were at least thirty sick or wounded guys in the tent.
The seven weeks that I was in the hospital, I saw every kind of illness one could think of. I, too, caught about everything possible to catch.
Jaundice turned out to be infectious hepatitis! Then next they discovered that I had amoebic dysentery.
The yellow in my eyes, Weese had seen, indicated that my liver had been infected. If it wasn't treated, it could eventually kill me. Where I picked that up, God only knows. I suppose by osmosis from being in the area so long. The amoebic dysentery, I was told, was rampant in the area.
The pills that the doctor gave me for the hepatitis were so large I had trouble swallowing them. I forget how many of them I took each day, but plenty.
"All you have to do is get bed rest. You can go to mess and go to the latrine and washroom," the doctor who looked me over said. "I've ordered that you be moved from here to the main hospital area. I'll see you in the morning."
Then came those daily punches to my belly to examine my liver. I had to admit that it hurt when he did it.
At least I was now in a real hospital bed with springs and a good mattress. Except when I was on R&R leave, I hadn't slept in such luxury since I arrived in the South Pacific. I tried to follow instructions to a "T" because I certainly didn't want to stay here any longer than necessary.
After they discovered the amoebic dysentery, they moved me to an isolated section of the hospital. Then the daily poking of cotton swabs around my anus began. On top of all this, I also had diarrhea. That was quite an ordeal as well.
In isolation, I met a number of guys who had been struck down with the same thing. Later, I was told by one of the male nurses that about all the guys got the dysentery after arriving in the hospital.
Pills and more pills were the daily routine. When I developed severe cramps in my abdomen, they gave me more pills for that. Naturally, I began to lose weight.
One day after I had been sick for about seven weeks, the doctor said, "Unless you get out of here, you're going to die in this place. I'm giving you a pass to go back to your outfit. I'll bet they'll send you home. If I could send you directly to the states, I would do it, but I can't do that. I can only issue passes. Do you want to take a three-day pass and see what happens?"
"I'd love to go," I said quivering with excitement. Of course, I'd love to go home, but I was very skeptical about the chance of that happening.
"When you get back to your outfit, tell the general that you am still a sick man and should be sent home to the states. If you get to go to the states, will you promise that you will check into the hospital when you get there?"
I didn't have any problem agreeing to that! I'd agree to anything to get out of that place. When I got back to the Wing Headquarters I went right to the office. The general was surprised to see me.
"Where in hell have you been? I thought I sent you home weeks ago."
Now General Prentiss knew I couldn't send myself home. I was in charge of the roster listing who was to go home next. He promptly gave orders that my name be given priority on the rotation list.
"I don't want to go home on a 30-day rotation program, general, if it means I will have to return."
"Don't worry," he said. "They won't send you back here. You've had enough."
Can you imagine how elated I was when he said that! Of course, I would have to wait for the next ship headed for the states. During the wait I was able to do lots of resting. I also watched movies each evening.
Long before it was dark enough for the outdoor show to begin, the Filipino townspeople, especially women and kids, were sitting on the ground waiting. Regardless of the audience, the first film was usually a sex education film. We had seen lots of those in the states, but for a long time now there hadn't been women where we were. From New Guinea on we had been in camps which were isolated from the native peoples.
Now, here in the Philippines, it was different. I am sorry to report that too many of our guys "used" the Filipino girls. As for me, since I didn't mess around with any women during all those years, I didn't have to worry about catching any of those diseases. I held the principle that sex came after marriage, something that today seems to be an old- fashioned idea.
While waiting for the ship, I decided I would really like to see Manila. After all, for years, Manila had been a goal we had been striving for. The general gave me a pass and I waited my chance to get a jeep ride.
There had not been time yet to clear away the damaged buildings and
pile of debris. There was much to remind me of the terrible price our guys
had paid over three years earlier when the Japs had conquered the place.
One day there was really enough for me.
The routine for getting checked out to go home was almost as bad as all the regulations at induction time. Getting my personnel and pay records in order was a hassle. Packing was no fun, and waiting around for the ship to come in was even worse. The last thing I checked in was my air mattress. The minute the guys found out I was going home, everyone wanted it. Actually I didn't have any say about who got it because I had to turn it in to the supply office when I left.
Finally, we were notified that we should get on our ship. A truck came to get us and we packed in that truck like livestock. If we all hadn't been so happy to be going home, we would really have been griping about that. We were ushered on board and assigned the usual canvas bunks below water line. Then, much to our frustration, we had to wait another day for the ship to be loaded with fuel and supplies.
Finally we were on our way. I supposed that we'd head straight east for San Francisco, but no! We had to go back the way we came. First to Port Moresby, to Brisbane, to Fiji and then to San Francisco.
Fortunately, the food on the ship was much better than we had been used
to having. I don't know whether the fact that it was a navy ship had anything
to do with that. Because the war was going our way, I suppose all supplies,
including food, were easier to get. Good food helped some, but I was just
plain bored. I know all of us who had been away from home so long were
so eager to get home that nothing would have made us very happy.
San Francisco, at Last
Back in the Good Old USA
I was disgusted when I awoke one morning to find that our ship had passed under the Golden Gate without my knowing it. I was so disappointed. I had waited years for that thrill. I knew the day before we were getting close, but I thought since it was such an important moment for us the pilot or someone would warn us. Why didn't he blow the foghorn? That would have been an appropriate greeting. But no, I had to see the bridge from the rear that morning. Well, I was one of the fortunate guys that got to return home safely. Why should I gripe?
I had assumed that the ship would dock at the same San Francisco pier from which I had left. However, they had to take us to Angel Island to have a big enough place to house us overnight. They also provided us with clothes, transportation tickets and money we needed to get home. Best of all was the food! Each meal was like a banquet to us who hadn't had real American food for so long.
Soon, but not soon enough for me, I was on the train headed for Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. It was there I would have to check in before actually going home. I knew that my orders officially said I was on a 45-day leave and I was to return to the Philippines. Considering my health and the points I had accumulated during my stay in the Pacific, I couldn't believe they would send me back. However, there was still that element of uncertainty in my mind.
All of us on the train shared the pictures of our girls or wives, and families. We all wondered, "Will they have changed? Three years is a long time."
For sure, I knew I had changed. All those experiences over there had
changed all of us. Besides the emotional changes, in my case, I knew I
also looked different. After all, I had lost lots of weight in the last
BACK IN KANSAS
That awful train ride from San Francisco to Ft. Leavenworth was very, very boring. It took almost five days to get there and there was nothing to do. I remember how bored I got on that ship going across the Pacific, but it was a different boredom. The anticipations were entirely different. Going over to somewhere, none of us knew where, was frightening. Coming back, I was very eager to get where I was going. There was really not much to do except sit, look out of my window, walk down the aisles from car to car and return to my seat, eat, and go to bed in one of those dumb train bunks.
At first I wondered why they couldn't have sent us back home by air? Didn't we deserve better treatment after being overseas so long? Then, I realized that the war was not over and the guys on the way over or still over there needed the airplanes. At least I was a master sergeant this time and I didn't have to do KP on the train. That was nice.
Finally, the train pulled into the Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, station. I was almost home now. It took a couple days to get my orders, with all the paperwork involved, and my issue of new clothing. Although I was so anxious to get home that I didn't care if I got any new clothes, that little "Ike" jacket they gave me was nice.
I had sent a telegram home when I got to San Francisco, and when I knew just when I would get to Hutchinson, I called to let them know. I called Darlene and made plans to have her meet me at the train stop in Newton, Kansas. That way we could have some time together before I met the family.
I knew I had to change trains at Kansas City, and I had a plan. I had been saving my money for just this time. There were taxis at the station and I grabbed one. I told the driver that I was in a hurry and needed to find a good jewelry store where I could get a diamond ring for my girl. He was sensitive to my need and sent me directly to a good place. Maybe he'd done the same thing for other guys. He certainly knew right where to take me, and he waited for me at the curb.
The trip from Kansas City to Newton was only about 180 miles, but it seemed an eternity. The train stopped at every little town. It was a Santa Fe steamer, and the sound of that steam whistle was a thrill to me. I hadn't heard such a nice sound for years. The Australian train whistles were so thin and effeminate. Here in the states train whistles were real ones.
Frankly, I forgot all about the doctor's orders about checking into
the hospital. Knowing I was getting home made me feel so good I forgot
how sick I had been. Later when I had an attack of malaria, and when the
amoebic dysentery started causing me trouble, I realized that I would probably
have been better off if I had taken time to check into the hospital at
Stop at Newton
Finally, we came into the train station at Newton. There was a big crowd of people there. I stared through the windows to see if I could see Darlene. Finally, I saw her even before the train had come to a stop. The conductor wouldn't let us out until the steps were down. Why it took so long for him to get those steps down, I don't know, but soon I was on the steps of the train. She had seen me stepping down about the same time that I saw her, and then we were in each other's arms. What a meeting that was! It had been such a long time!
Next I saw my Bethel College friends, the Bargen's and Rich's. What wonderful people! They had been so faithful in writing to me all those years.
Darlene had taken the bus to Newton and bought a train ticket back so
we could ride back together. After those wonderful few minutes of meeting
with Darlene and my friends, it was time to get back on the train to finish
the ride to Hutchinson.
"All aboard!" the conductor called.
Darlene showed her ticket and was motioned toward her car. I started to follow.
"Just a minute, soldier, you are to go that way," the conductor said pointing to his right.
"What do you mean. I'm going to be with my girl and she is going the other way," I said.
That stupid conductor started to push me around, and my anger built up in a hurry!
"Take your hands off me!" I said.
He continued to push me and this time I said, "Did you hear me?" I said, "Take your hands off me!"
He saw I meant it and I was going to create a real ruckus if he'd didn't
let go where Darlene was. He did! I was shaking a little by that time.
After I walked down the aisle, sat down by Darlene and told her about that
experience with the conductor, I began to become calmer. Soon a wonderful
feeling came over me. I was finally with my girl, and I knew I would never,
never leave her again. I'd have her as my life-long partner. How comforting.
She soon was wearing my ring and all seemed right with the world again.
The days of separation and letter writing were over for now.
Home at Last
After the thirty-mile ride from Newton to Hutchinson, I had a wonderful reunion with my family who was waiting at the depot. How good to see them all.
Words can never express my feelings of thanks that night. I was home and all in one piece. True, I was a skeleton to look at in the mirror, but I weathered the nearly three years in the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA) much better than many. Countless numbers of people had been wounded or had lost their lives, both those on our side and those who were our enemies. Except for some health problems, I came home in fairly good shape. I'm certain I was scarred emotionally. I've yet to meet a veteran who wasn't adversely affected by life in combat areas.
My first goal was to forget about the vicious war in which I had been involved. Basically, I think I won the peace within myself, but how my body and mind lasted over the long haul might be debatable. The fact I am here in my seventh decade of life, and hopefully planning to celebrate the year 2,000, speaks something of my endurance and success.
As soon as I knew I'd be sent overseas and I had no choice in the matter, I had decided to make the most of my time and try to find some positive things to do. As I've already told, whenever the opportunity came, I traveled to see the people and country around the camps where I was stationed. I also drew pictures, whittled and even planted a garden and nurtured it. It wasn't a very big garden, of course, but I was proud of it. I have to admit that the watermelon I grew really didn't amount to much. It was about the size of a six-inch rubber ball when I decided it had done all the growing it was going to do. When I pulled it, I found that it was ripe and suitable for eating. It was nothing like the melons that my dad grew, but I felt like a successful farmer anyway.
Another activity that kept me alive was my dedication to my work at the office. Benny Bargen had taught me many, many things about running an office. Being an expert typist and acquainted with paper work in general, I was well suited to be in charge of the 54th Wing Headquarters personnel section. I felt lucky to be given a job I enjoyed and could do well.
The faithfulness of my girl, and of my family and many friends in writing to me and sending packages from home helped more than anyone will ever be able to realize.
My Christian faith, nurtured by the United Methodist Church since birth and added to by my Mennonite friends at Hanston and Bethel College, did much to get me through the hard times of the war. I kept up my church activities and shared my music talents whenever I had the opportunity. I played the pump organ for the chaplains, directed their choirs, and even organized a musical group to perform a Christmas program while I was in Biak. I kept up my Bible reading and my daily prayers.
Now that I was home, I was truly thankful for many things that had seen me through three and one-half years in Uncle Sam's Army.
My "Sketch Book" covered some three years of my life in World War II. I didn't start sketching scenes until I was on leave in MacKay, Australia. I noticed a sketch pad in a little store and bought it for a couple shillings. I didn't use that pad until I noticed a fantastic scene near the ocean. When I found these sketches in my stuff over fifty years later, I realized that they were really pretty good. As I looked over the sketches, they brought back some long-forgotten scenes from my years in the South Pacific.
Contemplating on a Log near the Ocean
The Following Sketches Were Made of My Camps in Port Moresby, Nadzab, Lae, and Biak:
Another Tropical Plant
Our Supply Tent
Headquarters Office Complex
Our Camp - Note the Clothes Line
My Cherished Cap
Looking Out Our Tent Door
Inside Our Tent
War Damage Along the Beach
Inside Seiter's Tent - Always a Mess
Drilling with Theatre in Background
Native Couple Working
Life Guard Station
When I arrived at Clark Field, near Manila, Philippine Islands, I was found to have a serious liver ailment. These sketches were made while I was in the hospital.
End of Chapter Six