March 21, 1944

Tuesday

We still have no indication of going upfront soon. Am beginning to believe we will be sent to either Australia or Burma.

The news this morning said the occupation of Manus Island and the city of Lorengau1 was completed this morning. The Russians crossed the Romanian pre-war frontier. Am interested in what may happen there very soon. Something big seems to be brewing.

Holy Cow. That rumor that General Arnold2 said all aircrew men would remain overseas for the duration is certainly making the rounds here. That’s certainly a horrible thought to men who’ve been out here for two years. The war will probably end before we’re ready to go home. I want to be in one of the first contingents to land on U.S. soil. Am wild to see a big parade of smiling happy men. Hope we don’t have to see disillusionment on their faces a few short months after the war ends. That will be crowning injustice.

Yippee, received two letters from Bonnie last night. I usually sigh ecstatically and say to myself, “Ah! Wonder of wonders,” she loves me. I find self-confidence in that! Thank God for loved ones pulling for us from the long distance away, which is home.

Duarte just told Seehorn he was very nasty. Seehorn retorted, “Sure, and where in hell did you come from?” Wind went out of somebody’s souls.

This Army is lousy with BOs and BTOs (big operators and big time operators). One of the permanent party buck sergeants back at Columbia is a BTO, he thinks. I’ve an unprintable word for him: S.E., which I shan’t translate! Too nasty.

Left the good old sack at 4:30 a.m. today. Had breakfast of toast, tomato juice, dehydrated eggs. No coffee, this GI coffee is atrocious. Went over to the officer’s tent and woke Lts. Tolhurst and Fincham. Shouldn’t have awakened Shorty,3 as he was not flying with us, having a bombing mission to go on. We were scheduled to fly to Buttons and Stewart Island4 on cross country over ocean triangular navigation. Was sorry for Shorty. Losing precious sack time hurts.

The CQ5 came in to get us out of bed and asked us to sign for the service. Wise baby! No kickbacks from men who’ve been awakened and then go back to sleep, thereby muddling the schedule. People get smarter every day. Especially orderly room lilies who do their best to make men miserable. Oh well, they can brag to their children that they won the war clacking a typewriter and getting fat on their lazy asses.

It isn’t derogatory to those who were physically unable, but I happen to know many who were physically able, especially one C.A.A.B.6 clerk. Fixed him, though. He was keeping me from signing on a crew. Told the different pilots who wanted me, that I was unavailable. Intentionally made him mad at me. Then laughed when he assigned me a crew. When he got mad he tried to take me off, but I held the strings and here I am on Guadalcanal.7 Hooray! The smart boys can always be whipped if a person thinks a little bit.

42nd Group Med. Bombardment boys dropped bombs on Kavieng8 this a.m. This goes on everyday, even though 13th Air force is never mentioned to those people back home. It may surprise many people to know that 13th AAF in conjunction with the Navy knocked out Rabaul even though 5th AAF got the credit. Oh well, it all adds up to winning the war.

Robert Earl Russell C.A.A.B. 1943

Robert Earl Russell
C.A.A.B. 1943

Have nicknamed Russell “Corny” because of his love for Corn Music. All walks of life make up an average airplane crew. Lt. Fincham dabbled in automobiles, Lt. Tolhurst worked in industry, Seehorn was a National Guardsman, Russell a piano man in an orchestra and myself a substation operator. The Axis didn’t believe these types could do it and worked together.

Duarte and Russell are always talking music. Russ dashes off corn songs every now and then, a composer. Duarte is an artist, drawing cartoons and girls. I dabble in poetry and story writing such as it is. Seehorn specializes in witty remarks. Stalsworthy was an orphan and likes that subject. Cooper is quite intellectual and has radio pretty well down. His special descriptive word is “honorable”. Remarks such as “Get the honorable fuzzy out of honorable head.” “Get the lead out of the honorable pants”. “Honorable spoon, feed my face.” “Honorable Oakland, best city in USA.” That’s neither here nor there, though, not because it isn’t, and I don’t mean NY, NY!

For the eighth time we’ve gone out to fly and have flown once. That’s poor! Flying hours count points, missions count points and time counts points. Time points don’t add up fast enough!

Bought a couple of t-shirts for coolness, and a mattress cover to get those wool blankets away from my tender, long suffering back. The Navy has them plus mattresses. My sons will join the Navy in the next war! Resolved! There will not be another war!

Bonnie will have beautiful sons and daughters, won’t you darling? Anything that takes after you will be a wonder of creation. Your courage, straightforwardness, love and honesty and purity will make certainty of that. I love you, baby as I told you in answering your letters of 3rd and 13th, today! I’m lonesome tonight, Bonnie, probably because it’s a lovely evening. It’s 3 minutes to 8 p.m.

Went over to the Fifth Heavy Bombardment Group theatre tonight to see a show. It was called off, so we sat in the amphitheater listening to Guadalcanal Radio City9 and watching the natives who congregated to see the show. Quite a motley crowd, dressed in hundreds of various articles, some in blue swimming trunks, one in a white shirt. Some in complete GI uniforms, others with khaki shorts, one in blue denim sailor pants, bare black upper body topped off by a white sailor’s hat. Incongruous as hell, believe me. Anyhow, music over the loudspeaker out me in a definite nostalgic mood. Looking up from this writing paper, I saw you in the up surging flame of my candle, just as I saw your emanating from the powerful searchlight glare at the Fifth Group theatre.

In a letter received tonight, of which I received two dated on Feb. 7th and 8th, redated at Hunter Field, Ga. On Feb. 20th, you mentioned your breast, darling. Almost went wild, which you can easily understand knowing how fulfilling you were to me. How universal is the arts of love, but how intense was our desire. Oh my darling, I do miss you so intensely! Your desirability affects me even out here; even seven to nine thousand miles from Columbia. What an interminable distance to me; and yet, I can, in memory, feel every curve of your body. My finger strokes the curve of your lips. The velvet of them is soft; and they’re like a bruised cherry as I kiss them again and again. I cup your little blond head in the palm of my hands, and draw you near to me. How sweet! How gloriously precious you are, my love! Oh my God, if we were together this night, with the soft strains of music, sweeping s across the cool night air of the tropics. The dreamer is the tune, a dreamer am I. Forgive me baby I am too much in love; and write these things that should be said in privacy of our bedroom, my lips pressed to your ear, whispering the age old, yet startling, whisperings of love and devotion.

Well Bonnie, it’s flying tomorrow to make up for this morning’s debacle. The same route but a much better plane. My doll flies with me wherever I go; but you are in my heart; and in my prayers, thank God., Love me, Bonnie, Wynne

Notes & Commentary:

1 The capture of Lorengau and its airstrip is covered in detail by John Miller, Jr., in U.S. Army in World War II, The War in the Pacific, Cartwheel: The Reduction of Rabaul. Department of the Army: Washington, D.C., 1959. pp. 347-350. digital image. http://www.history.army.mil/html/books/005/5-5/CMH_Pub_5-5.pdf : accessed 17 March 2014).

2 General Arnold, General Henry H. Arnold “Pioneer airman who was taught to fly by the Wright Brothers, and commander of Army Air Forces in victory over Germany and Japan in World War II,” see http://www.af.mil/AboutUs/Biographies/Display/tabid/225/Article/107811/general-henry-h-arnold.aspx

3 “Shorty”, Lt. Tolhurst

4 “Button” was the World War II codename for a the massive naval base established on Espiritu Santos in the New Hebrides. See http://www.pacificwrecks.com/people/visitors/hinz/hebrides.html. Stewart Island is now called Sikaiana Atoll.

5 CQ, Charge of Quarters. See http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/charge+of+quarters.

6 C.A.A.B., Columbia Army Air Base

7 “. . . and here I am on Guadalcanal.”  This statement may become reminiscent of the opening scene of the movie Apocalypse Now, where Captain Willard, played by Martin Sheen, says:

Everyone gets everything he wants.
I wanted a mission. And for my
sins, they gave me one.

http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/apocalypsenowredux.html.  See Apocalypse Now. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. San Francisco, CA: Zoetrope Studios, 1979.

Wayne’s wife, Bonnie, was an employee of the Columbia Army Air Base. She grew up in Columbia and would have been known to the employees of the Base. Could the refusal to place Wayne on a crew have been an effort to keep Bonnie’s newlywed husband from being assigned overseas? Wayne, however, got his “mission”.

8 See http://www.pacificwrecks.com/provinces/png_kavieng.html for details of missions directed against Kavieng during World War II.

9 “Guadalcanal Radio City” was the name of the building housing Guadalcanal’s radio entertainment and news network. Guadalcanal Radio was also known as the Mosquito Network. See http://afrts.dodmedia.osd.mil/heritage/page.asp?pg=mosquito.

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4 Responses to March 21, 1944

  1. suchled says:

    I wonder what Wayne would think if he knew what Australia was using Manus Island for today?

    Like

    • a gray says:

      I have often wondered whether or not Wayne had any continuing interest in the places he knew during the war. When I first read his journal, I was surprised to learn the places he had served. There were other’s around who had served in many of the same places, but I have no recollection of Wayne commenting when the others were speaking of them. There is just so much that will never be known . . .

      Like

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