May 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. No missions accomplished on any of these days, even though we had alternate ship1 one day and were scheduled to fly on another. No ships were had on alternate day and ours burnt out both voltage regulators on scheduled day. Rather disgusting, as we were going over a target I’ve never been to. Tobera airfield on New Britain.2 Oh well, will come another day.
Nothing much outside of plenty of work has happened lately. Tore down my upper turret the other day. Removed guns for cleaning.3 What a mess they were. The guy responsible for their neglect ought to be shot. The ship was just assigned to us from the local service squadron. Should be jammed back down their throats.
For the first time in my life, I knew actual fear of the elements. It happened last Friday night very late. Had retired for the night when something awakened me. A solid waterfall of rain was pouring on the roof of our huts and thunder smashes outside were more than deafening. The loud and wild rumble was so oppressive, the devil must have been beating his flaming head against the wall.
After a few minutes of this eternal pounding, I broke out in a cold sweat. One needn’t wonder why, because I’ll tell you. Lightening was flashing its livid slash across the sky. The earth near us took many glaring hits. Around us, the giant jungle trees were smashing aside everything in their paths as these monarchs took a terrific blows. The rods of white fire would drill into the ground on either side of our hut and light the inside of the hut with a light more brilliant that the noonday sun. It appeared at times as though huge balls of light were rolling down the aisle between our beds.
So terrifying was the storm that many of our boys ran out into their foxholes and sat shivering there. Many men who had undergone sustained enemy bombing attacks were heard to say the noise and the other terror of them were nothing to this storm of all storms. I agree with them. No enemy bombing could compare with this nerve shattering and horrible attack. Soon though the thunder and lightning retreated leaving only the beat, beat of rain on the roof. That to soon ceased and we thankfully dropped off to sleep.
I can assure you there weren’t many of us who didn’t sit up in bed in fear, as our subconscious repeated the terror of our experience to our shocked brains. Come to the beautiful South Pacific on a night such as Friday, and tail between your legs homeward you will go as if all the devils in the world were in sharp pursuit. Amen.
Have received many letters lately. Seven from Bonnie, three from mom, two from Tommy, one from Bob and one from Guyneth. Have finally answered all of them except Tom’s which I will get tomorrow.
Went on sick call this a.m. because of side and back pains. Was put on “quarters”. They think its kidney trouble. Results on this will come later. Mail Call so time out for the present to see what’s cooking.
Notes & Commentary
1 Alternate ship, the aircraft and crew that would join a mission in the event of mechanical failure of a mission’s scheduled aircraft.
2 Located near Keravat in East New Britain, Tobera Airfield was constructed by the Japanese in August 1943. During the war, it housed a detachment of A6M “Zeroes” from the Japanese aircraft carrier Zuikaku; several A6M Kōkūtai, and a G4M1 “Betty” bomber Kōkūtai. The Japanese term for a naval air group was “Kōkūtai”. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tobera_Airfield.
3 Each turret-mounted .50 cal. machine gun weighed 65.4 pounds and was nearly 57 inches long. There were two .50 cal. machine guns in the dorsal turret and two in the tail turret. Working in a relatively confined space, removing the guns, cleaning, and then replacing them must have been quite a task. War Department. Browning Machine Gun Caliber .50, M2, Aircraft, Fixed and Flexible, April 30, 1942. Technical Manual TM 9-225. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1942. digital image (https://archive.org/details/TM9-225_1942/TM9-225.pdf : downloaded 13 May 2014) pp 2 & 34-41.
Your uncle mentions his possible kidney infection but on those islands, a number were afflicted with enuresis (not a suspected infection like your uncle – he may have also passed a small kidney stone!). Combined with dysentery, jungle rot and the like, the Pacific was a horror house of afflictions. Your uncle endured.
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There were few that served in the South Pacific who didn’t suffer from some disease or skin problem. I had an uncle who served late in the war as a Navy Corpsman, and occasionally he would speak of such things. We will learn more of these things in the coming months.
And by the way, your uncle is a marvelous writer.
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He would have been very pleased by your compliment.