February 20, 1944

Sunday

Tragedy took place a few days ago; and the news finally came out about it. One of the B-24s went up on a mission and had to emergency land. The assistant engineer was on the bomb bay catwalk. As they landed the bombs skipped loose and pinned him there. The other boys raced in and attempted to loosen him. The engineer begged them to leave him, said he was too smashed up to live. As time ran on, personnel had to give up. They ran from the plane and flopped on the ground as seven 1,000 lb. bombs went off.1 Tragedy comes often here and causes few breakdowns as a result of previous death and the men hardening themselves where death is concerned.

The time angle each crew puts in here is coming under a good deal of criticism. Relief just doesn’t seem to be forthcoming. After a crew comes here, 6 points must be made to get relief from combat duties. Each 10 missions are equal to 1 point. Every three months 1 point is given, to time consideration. 60 missions should be enough combat missions. Many in other Air Forces are being relieved after 35 missions. In this particular theatre, there exists a scarcity of combat planes, and many crews are held in reserve. From the state of affairs it’s seems this is unfair to the complement of the 13th Air Force. The ground crews are also getting it in the neck, having to sweat out two years in the area and then sweating out an opening to go home. Something must be done about this situation in the near future. I believe it to be entirely necessary for the welfare of all concerned. Of course, all this above information is based on the complaints of men in this area. They do not profess to know anything about the point systems other than they’ve picked up from so-called official sources.

Today, a great event happened a shipment of beer and of Coca Colas come to the training center of Guadalcanal. As usual it was distributed to permanent party personnel first, as many dozens of combat crews stood it line under a sweltering sun, awaiting their turn and their share. To me it seems entirely possible that all men concerned should stand in each line, equally, and with no partiality shown to either force of men, ground crew and air crew. During my army career of two years, permanent personnel have had first choice, be it in pay lines, chow halls, equipment consideration and etc. Back in Columbia Air Base, Columbia, South Carolina, the so called permanent party was quite an exclusive organization. Toward the end of my stay there, ground crews were served first. There are little things to grumble about; and made little difference to me, as my last four months there were not concerned with meals on the field.2 I ate my meals at home or in town with my wife, under allowance of a class A pass, which was difficult for me to obtain because I happened to be flying personnel. Indigestion is a common ailment at Columbia. Mine doesn’t bother me since I quit partaking of the G.I. mess at that station. There is no word which will describe that food any better than word “mess”. I do mean mess. The food here at Guadalcanal, despite terrific supply problems and entailing dehydrated foods, is a 50% improvement over the Squadron mess at Columbia Army Air Base. Enough of this critical attitude. It doesn’t win the war, the one thing we are concerned with.

Russell, radio operator, and Seehorn, engineer, are now swimming in the ocean. A good deal of life goes out of the place when they are absent. Russell has kept me entertained lately over the beer situation. He’s been trying to trade everyone Coke for beer. He loves it, even though it is quite tepid and not to my taste. Seehorn who does not drink donated his beer to Russ, and radioman is now happy.

My four bottles of beer and the five Cokes I have left are going to be saved until a more propitious time. Neither is to my liking when warm. I will have to go scouting for ice around the mess hall. Ah. My crew has returned and are about to drag me off to chow.

Well over dinner Staff Sergeant Seehorn and I had an argument. He said Spam and I said no. Quoted Yank3 to him, but he maintained Spam comes in five lb. cans and is a must food of the army. I argue against both counts.

School dragged today, and hour of intelligence two hours of engineering. Intelligence told us about the New Britain airfields which were knocked and the two which are not. The names are Vunakanau4; I can’t remember the other.5 I must check that tomorrow as the knowledge is vital.

Four laden natives are just proceeding through the open air the area. They have musette bags, poles, bags sacks a shovel an inevitable khaki O.D. loin cloth around them. A captain received lucky break, a native asked him for a knife. The captain dug out and old rusty one and queried the native as to what he had to barter, the native drew a mayonnaise jar from his bag. The captain traded very quick. In the jar was $104.00 of American greenbacks. The natives call stones pearls and use them for trading. One is surprised at the amount of gullible Americans. Ha! Maybe I shouldn’t laugh, I’m liable to get stuck myself. Staff Sergeant Seehorn claims I’m gullible!

This is Sunday and I’m terribly lonely for my wife. Our last Sunday together, we went to church in Columbia, South Carolina. It already seems as though a year has pasted. Maybe we’ll obtain action soon enough to allow us to get home within a year, very improbable however.

I still consider Guadalcanal as quite beautiful. The tall palms are gracefully adroit in the breeze. There is a grassy growth all about, nearly waist high. The place is remarkably fertile and one should be able to raise a wonderful crop, if one tried. Its seasons are directly opposite to; those at home. It’s hot in the wintertime here and cool in the summer due to many rains and numerous ocean breezes.

Some of the boys have parrots; others have dogs which they pet and makeover. One soldier has a red parrot and spends hours feeding and caressing it. We all have our vices. Mine is to write this sort of a poor diary. I have always yearned to be an author. And all of this is good background.

The show tonight is John Wayne and Jean Arthur in A Lady Takes a Chance.6 Red Skelton in Whistling in Brooklyn last night was quite hilarious and very enjoyable to a bunch of G.I. soldiers.

Well, I’ve a damned pleasant chore to do, which is write to my wife. So for tonight I’ll bid my diary, adieu.

Notes:
1 This event, the emergency landing of a B-24 and the subsequent explosion of its bombs, remains to be confirmed. Scuttlebutt was common and this may not have occurred as presented.

2 Wayne married on 04 October 1943. He and his wife lived with her parents until he was transferred to Guadalcanal.

3 Yank was a weekly magazine published by the military during World War II. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yank,_the_Army_Weekly.

4 Vunakanau was a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) base which was occupied by the Japanese and subsequently expanded into their main airfield at Rabaul. See: http://pacificwrecks.com/airfields/png/vunakanau/index.html

5 He later added Lakunai in the margin. Lakunai was another RAAF base which occupied by the Japanese. The Japanese expanded it to become their primary fighter base at Rabaul.

6 Released in August 1943, A Lady Takes a Chance is about “a city girl on a bus tour of the West encounters a handsome rodeo cowboy who helps her forget her simpy city suitors.” See: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0036092/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1.

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7 Responses to February 20, 1944

  1. M. Gray says:

    “I’ve always yearned to be an author.” More than one memory comes to mind after reading those words my father wrote so far back in his youth. I remember more than one time dad sitting down at the typewriter in search of the great American novel.

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  2. Pierre Lagacé says:

    As if I was reading over his shoulder…

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  3. Pierre Lagacé says:

    Learned a new word…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scuttlebutt

    I don’t believe this airman would have been in the bomb bay during a crash landing. Does not make sense. It reminds of the description of the crash of the veteran I met and lied about a lot of things. One of those was that he made love to his wife in a barrage balloon…

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    • a gray says:

      Neither do I believe the story of the airman being in the bomb bay during a crash landing. Wayne had only been on Guadalcanal for a few days when he made this entry in his journal. I think he is repeating a story that he was told by an “old timers” to impress a “new guy”. Over the next few weeks there are several entries of a similar nature. As with anyone confronted with a situation for which they have no experience, Wayne is talking with people, groping for truth, but not yet able to separate fact from fiction.

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      • Pierre Lagacé says:

        … I meant to say that being publish here on a blog is the next best thing.
        You don’t have to wait for an editor to see the merit of this story, and then tell you to change this part and that part to make it more vendable.

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  4. He writes beautifully, you get a real feel for the place. My grandfathers diary of his time in WW2 is very short and concise entries and I often wish he added more details.

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    • a gray says:

      Wayne aspired to be a writer, and in keeping his journal, hoped to accumulate information and ideas that he could use after the war. I hope you will continue to read his journal. He provides details of daily life so many people felt were to mundane to record, but it is through those details that we are able to connect with those times.

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