March 30, 1944

Thursday

Dearest:
Don’t exactly know where the past couple of days have gone. They’ve been fast, that we know. We left Guadalcanal about 1:00 pm and flew to the Russell Islands where we landed on Renard Field1 strip, which is of coral and very smooth, though it has a hump in the middle.

The Russells are distinctly gem islands. Huge coconut groves, with Quonset huts and small houses dotting it. It’s very hilly and green. The trees stand as armies on parade, row upon row standing sentinel over the Island. Coconuts litter the ground and we tapped them often for coconut milk and pulp. Remembered each time, back at your Mother’s, shredding the fresh coconut for your Mother’s cake? Memories arise at the oddest times, compelling one to retreat to a glorious past. Nostalgia is very often welcome, too.

The food at the island was excellent and we spent the first night savoring the delicious Swiss steak that was served. The rest of the evening we indulged in a game of Casino, where the “chief’ made his first inimitable appearance in the remarkable story telling ability of Seehorn.

Every island we pass over or stop on, Seehorn and Russell, in fantasy, discuss their dealings with the chief for this and that particular coconut grove. At first the boys ranted about Guadalcanal’s aspects, but it remained a veritable hole to me. Now they’ve switched to the Russells. It seems their bartering with the chief has been unsuccessful. He’s willing to part with Savo Island2 a non-cultivated place; but doesn’t want to part with his nice coconuts, so the boys ended up, proverbially, up a stump!

Spent Tuesday playing Casino3 and doing some reading. Lt. Tolhurst had to fly back to Guadalcanal after his baggage. Found one bag at Engineering, Carney Field. The other, under the suspension bridge leading into the area a few miles away.

The Russells’ scenery is very nice and the atmosphere is very restful. After the place called Guadalcanal, it’s heaven. Guad, you know is the only place in the South Pacific where you can be up to your neck in mud and have dust blowing in ones face.

We went to a show tonight entitled Holy Matrimony4 with Monty Wooley and Gracie Fields. Very, very good. Are scheduled to leave tomorrow so went to bed quite early after more casino.

Arose in the a.m., shaved and packed the stuff. A truck came by and we moved it to the line. Loaded the stuff in the bomb bay and finally left there at noon for Stirling,5 scene of combat. Stopped by terrific weather front, we set down at Vella Lavella,6 on a beautiful Seabee7 constructed strip which is called Barakoma.

This was a Navy island. The boys stationed here are youngsters, a good many have never shaved as I could easily see. Listened to scuttlebutt and bilge. Explored the theory that Navy show is better than Army.

Saw a show about France when Germany took over. Not bad. Slept in the mess hall. The Navy treated us very nicely. Good boys, all. We were awakened early in the morning by a B-24 pilot who was quite sore. He couldn’t find his crew.

This boil is killing me so will close for the time being.

Notes & Commentary:

1 On Banika Island in the Russell Islands group, there were two airfields, both contructed by US Navy Seebees after the Island’s capture: Renard Field (also known as South Field or Yandina) on which was stationed the USAAF’s 67th Fighter Squadron, 347th Fighter Group. The other airfield was called Banika Field but also known as North Field and Sunlight. Based at Banika Field were elements of the USAAF’s 69th, 75th and 390th Bombardment Squadrons, 42nd Bombardment Group as well as a number of USMC F4U Corsair-equipped fighter squadrons, a dive-bomber squadron and a radar-equipped Lockheed PV-1 Ventura USMC night fighter squadron. Since units of the 69th, 75th and 390th Bombardment Squadrons, 42nd Bombardment Group, were stationed there, it is likely that it was Banika Field rather than Renard Field that Wayne landed on.

2 Savo Island is a volcanic island located northeast of the northern tip of Guadalcanal. The seas surrounding it were scene of fierce naval battles involving U.S. and Australian ships and Japanese forces during the conquest of Guadalcanal. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savo_Island and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Savo_Island.

3 Casino is an 18th century card game that was brought to America by Italian immigrants. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassino_(card_game).

4 Released in 1943 by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Holy Matrimony was based upon the novel “Buried Alive” by Arnold Bennett. See http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0036009/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2.

5 The airfield on Stirling Island was used by the USAAF and USMC during World War II. See http://www.pacificwrecks.com/provinces/solomons_stirling.html. The airfield, known as “Coronus”, was used by the 42nd Bombardment Group as well as by US Navy units operating B-25s and PB4Ys, a Navy patrol bomber variant of the B-24. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mono_Airport.

6 Vella Lavella was the home of Barakoma Airfield. Barakoma was the home of five USMC fighter squadrons equipped with F4U Corsairs as well as a night fighter squadron operating radar-equipped PV-1 Venturas. Three and half months after Wayne landed there, the airfield was abandoned. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barakoma_Airfield.

7 Seebee, US Navy Construction Battalion. See http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq67-3.htm.

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