We boarded our C-87 plane1 and were given goodbyes by the officers in charge and also were issued tickets to Guadalcanal. Hamilton Field supplied us with a lunch. In addition to that, we were loaded down with our purchases of sandwiches and Hershey bars. We taxied out on the runway as our feelings rose in our throats and became unbearable with the heartfelt emotions people have when they leave a place they love dearly. However we were delayed by some difficulty with engine #3 and therefore taxied back to operations which made our takeoff an anticlimax.
We’d bid our country adieu that morning and now we went through it all again.2 It was terribly saddening leaving San Francisco, all its panorama spreading below with its promise was not for us now. Not for us until we return home again. But all was not sorrow; there was exhalation in the roar of the engines. We were going out to fight a battle for a thing we believed in. We intended to fight that battle as clearly as the destroyer below, sliced the water of the Pacific. There was not hate at the time just the idea that there was a job to do. So we flew on over the ocean and through a cumuli studded sky. Day waned and night came.
We landed at Hickam Field3 at 11:30 that night, ate our dinner and noticed the left over damage from the day of the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor. Here in the door was a bullet hole, size 7.9. In a drainpipe was another. Most of the evidence was given by lip to us by the boys stationed there at that time. It was matter of fact and it was hair-raising.
At midnight, I called a friend of my wife by telephone, a nurse at Queen’s Hospital.4 She was asleep so I left a message. Shortly afterwards we boarded the plane which had changed crews in the meantime. Promptly went to sleep before we took off on the second leg of our journey to Guadalcanal.
Notes & Commentary:
1 The C-87, known as Liberator Express, was a B-24 bomber built for transport service. It could carry between 20 and 25 passengers or 12,000 lbs. of cargo. The C-87s were operated by the U.S. Air Transport Command and usually crewed by civilians from commercial airlines.
2 A retired trans-Pacific airline pilot who is a docent at the Museum of Flight in Seattle has suggested that the flight from Hamilton Field to Hickam in Hawaii probably took 10 to 11 hours. Given the time Wayne reports that he landed at Hickam, 11:30 p.m., the estimated time that they finally took off from Hamilton must have been between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. The nearly six hour wait while the C-87’s engines were checked out and repaired must must have been very trying.
During the flight from Hamilton to Hickam, the C-87s navigator would have received navigation support from an ocean weather ship maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard at Ocean Station November, 30N 140W, halfway between the West Coast and Hawaii. See http://www.uscg.mil/history/webcutters/rpdinsmore_oceanstations.asp.
3 Hickam Field at Honolulu, Hawaii was one of the bases attacked by Japanese Naval aircraft on December 7, 1941.
4 Queen’s Hospital is now called Queen’s Medical Center.