Thursday & Friday
After thousands of miles of oceans and islands, we came into our destination. Eyes strained through the windows of the aircraft, watching the ships riding at anchor, the lean sleek destroyers patrolling, back and forth, endlessly moving to protect our supply ships, members of the lifeline of our nation.
Past the famous Marine Field, Henderson, we landed at Koli Field.1 Pulled luggage from the huge transport, loaded it into trucks and set out for the bivouac area. We were deposited before a bridge over a river, which as yet, seems to have no name. Little suspension affair of a bridge, that rocked and swayed under our feet. That bridge was the most hazardous obstacle of our entire air voyage.
If you’ve ever seen a mile of canvas, you saw it at Carney Field.2 Everywhere, crowded together, were tents, row upon row of them.
We drew our beds, mosquito netting, and candles3 at the Supply section. We spent several hours erecting our beds and building platforms for them. All around was a sea of mud. Twenty three days of rain in a row. The fox holes where brimming over. The previous occupants of our tent had dug a ditch around it, and therefore kept it dry. They were still there Smitty, Doc and Dean of New Jersey. They kindly shifted their effects around and we moved in with a will.
The very first thing unpacked was our mess kits. We went to chow in a hurry. Those K rations given to us for breakfast that morning hadn’t gone down very well.4 Being new to us, they tasted rotten and no mistake about it. Concentrated foods and those kind of crackers included just don’t agree with me.
After noon chow we set off for the beach a mile and one quarter down the road. There we found excellent swimming and the results of the Guadalcanal invasion, which took place in ’42 on the barges with cannons shell holes in them and their wreckage littering the beach.5 Gone, however, where the marks of our naval bombardment upon the shores of the ‘Canal. Some of the fellows found what they thought to be a Jap skull, gleaming on the beach, cast there by the unappreciative sea.
Several hours and a sunburn later, we returned to the encampment ate our dinner and crossed the tipsy bridge to watch the natives at their play. From someone, they had obtained an American volleyball. This they were kicking back and forth with their bare feet, laughing and shouting all the time. These people appeared to be much smaller than our average man. Most of them wore loin cloths as their only dress. Some, however, had G.I. towels draped about them. Here and there were black boys wearing the apparel of the white soldier. One man even had an old pair of G.I. shoes and was proudly wearing them even though the soles of his feet were visible through the shoes.
These natives all appeared very clean. The incongruous thing about them was their reddish hair. Some of the boys explained that they dyed it constantly.
As to how the natives compared the Japs and the Americans, one told some people here that “American OK; Japs, son of a bitch.” The women belonging to these natives keep out of sight. Very few men on this island have seen any of them; therefore, we’re keeping a sharp eye out for any view of them.
Until lately, the native boys would make a tour of the tent areas, asking for cigarettes, candy and any kind of equipment they could lay their hands on. They didn’t have any idea of stealing things, but they were just picking up anything and everything that pleased them. We, however, have had no trouble.
There are still a few Japs on Guadalcanal. These are starving and are gradually being taken prisoners. The boys watch them closely but are treating them quite well. I have often wondered how we treated our Japanese prisoners when reading of the atrocities they practice upon us and find that we treat them with every respect given a prisoner of war under the Geneva treaty rules.
The jungle here is sparse and is beautiful to the eye. Coconut and banana trees abound here. Attached to many of the pyramidal style tents are bunches of green bananas, which the soldiers are attempting to ripen for their own use. Every tent has a coconut or two within them.
For recreation, we have an outside theatre where I’m writing at the present time. On one bench or several, poker games are in progress. One lad is making what we used to call a beanie or a sling shot. Personally, my main recreation is watching the natives grinning and kicking their white volleyball. Swimming is one of the main sports and we are also addicted with sun addicts who spend hours acquiring a Southwest Pacific tan.
Mosquitoes here are plentiful but are rapidly being brought under control. Jersey `skeeters’ have nothing on these. For control, signs are placed on bathing houses, restricting the bathing hours to daylight only. Atabrine is given to us each day.6 The men turn yellow from it, but that goes away when they go home. Ah! Home! The very word causes nostalgia.
A good many men just got their first mail, 20-30 letters at a time. One captain, who came here several months ago, received 93 letters at one time. Mail from here is out biggest worry. The Army takes care of the rest.
Notes & Commentary
1 Koli Airfield (known as “Bomber 3 Field”) and the adjacent Carney Airfield (known as “Bomber 2 Field”) were located about 15 miles east of Henderson Field. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carney_Airfield and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koli_Airfield.
2 Carney Airfield was the home for the 42nd Bombardment Group’s aircraft as well as it’s bivouac area, which was situated in the jungle surrounding the air strip. See United States Army Air Forces, The Crusaders: a history of the 42nd Bombardment Group.(M) (Baton Rouge, La.: Army & Navy Pictorial Publishers, 1946). World War Regimental Histories. Book 113. p. 37: digital image (http://digicom.bpl.lib.me.us/ww_reg_his/113 : PDF download 17 February 2014). Carney Airfield was also the headquarters of the Thirteenth Air Force.
3 They were issued candles because after dark, their only light was provided by kerosene lanterns or candles. We take so much for granted in our daily lives that is difficult to comprehend fully the conditions under which these men lived.
4 The K-ration breakfast unit consisted of a canned entrée Veal (early version), canned chopped ham and eggs (all subsequent versions), biscuits, Dextrose or Malted milk tablets (early version), dried fruit bar, pre-mixed Oatmeal Cereal (late version), Halazone water purification tablets, a four-pack of cigarettes, Dentyne or Wrigley chewing gum, instant coffee, and sugar. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K-rations.
5 The Guadalcanal Campaign commenced with an Allied invasion of Guadalcanal on 7 August 1942 and ended with an evacuation of troops by the Japanese on 7 February 1943. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guadalcanal_Campaign. Wayne arrived on Guadalcanal a year after the end of the campaign.
6 Atabrine, an anti-malarial drug, was used throughout the Pacific during World War II. It caused the skin to turn yellow and was very unpopular.