Today is our day off. Washed clothes in the a.m. and caught up on my mail. Wrote Mom, Tom, Dad, Bonnie, Ray, and Grandma.
Was on my way to the Seabee area to have a frame made for my beautiful picture of Bonnie, when our pilot collared me. We were to take off at 4:30 for destination unknown.
As we took off from here we were caught in the slipstream and it took both pilots to hold us out of the drink. This landing strip ends at the edge of a cliff over the ocean. We hadn’t been gone 10 minutes when we ran into a terrific storm. Though in late afternoon the skies were dark as if night had fallen. We dodged one thunderhead after another. Visibility was awfully low and in a six ship formation that’s no joke. We landed at Toroquina with a big sigh of relief. Our pilot went off to be briefed and returned six hours later. Secrecy shrouds all.
As we waited, the engineer, a new one, talked about his sex life. We sat in the shadow of the plane to escape the rain, and listened to stories of the Jap attack there on March 22nd. The Japs were firing a cannon onto the field as well as machine guns. It was nip and tuck for a while. A company of Fiji soldiers infiltrated the Jap lines and surrounded a Jap division which they were about to annihilate when three more Jap divisions surrounded them in turn. The Fijis slipped out of the trap after killing a 100 Japs without loss of their own.
Our barbed wire held them in the day time. At night the sound of chopping and falling of trees were heard by our soldiers. They waited until there was complete silence and then opened up the entire fire power of the section and caught the Japs with their pants down. They, being cagey, had dropped trees on the wire and were sneaking through when the boys caught them.
They killed 7,000 men in two days fighting. These were piled 25 deep over several hundred yards. The Japs would advance over their own dead and be mowed down in return. These begun to smell so bad that bulldozers were sent forward and they plowed them under.
In another instance, one captain led a patrol out the day before the big attack. They went through two Jap bivouac areas and walked miles without seeing a single Jap or hearing a single shot; and yet, the Japs attacked that same point with four divisions that very night.1 Elusive is the word for Jap.
The rest of the time we spent sitting in base operations, listening to the buzz of code2 coming over the radio set. We also ate sandwiches and drank coffee.
We took off at 11:20 for a rendezvous with Navy TBFs3 on practice maneuvers. We got lost, so circled the field several times and then landed. As we circled, Jap small arms fire was directed at us, but no hits.
We sat some more until the rest of the crews returned. Then we piled into trucks heavy-eyed and worn out. The Navy issued mattresses to us and led us into a tent where we all flopped immediately and were asleep as soon as we hit the beds. This at 2:30 a.m. Bougainville time.
Notes & Commentary
1 The establishment of Torokina Airfield on Bougainville was bitterly contested by the Japanese from the landings at Empress Augusta Bay in October 1943. Fiji Military Forces’ 1 Battalion and 3 Battalion, served on Bougainville. Half the officers and many of the non-commissioned officers were New Zealanders. The Fijian troops provided valuable intelligence through small group patrols combing the jungle-choked terrain beyond the Torokina Airfield perimeter. In attacks made on the airfield between mid-February and mid-March, over 700 Japanese dead were counted in the immediate area. Though far less than the 7,000 reported in Wayne’s Journal, the Japanese attacks were a disaster for them. During the Japanese attacks on Torokina, aircraft were flown away each evening to Green and Stirling Islands and brought back in the mornings. The Fijian troops exhibited outstanding bravery and initiative during these battles. The Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939-1945. Oliver A. Gillespie, “The Pacific, III: Battalions Move to the Solomons“. New Zealand Electronic Text Collection ( http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-WH2Paci-_N88374.html#WH2Paci-fig-Wh2Pac37a : accessed 05 May 2014) pp 274-282.
2 code, Morse code.
3 The Grumman TBF Avenger (designated TBM for aircraft built by General Motors) was a heavy Navy torpedo bomber. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grumman_TBF_Avenger and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uT_lZ2Vr_yo.
During World War II, President George W. Bush was a TBF pilot, and actor Paul Newman flew as a TBF rear gunner.