Time flies by and more lonesome by the hour and it seems as though this way of life will never end. It will end, though, one of these bright days, when there is flaming in the heavens and the end is far from sight. These past six days have flown, believe me. Letters have been coming in in a deluge and I’ve been writing like mad to catch up. A couple of more and I’ll make it. The rest leave has been all rest thus far, but it’s beginning to pick up a little more each day.
We flew 3 hours on the 15th, low level formation and altitude instruments. A rough, rough ride. Thrilling to say the least. We were too close a thousand times and it’s a wonder my hair remains brown. Lt. Miller1 is a good pilot. But they all scare me except Lt. Fincham who seems as steady as a rock, even though he follows anyone wherever they want to lead. The best man I’ve flown with out this way. Am hoping to get him back.
We’ve been issued lots of beer. I haven’t bothered to get my last ration, have too much saved up as it is.
Went to church with Stan Seehorn today.2 Chaplin Lewis presided and his services always bring peace to my soul. Though he challenges one to greater efforts in the battle against evil. He presents his case so well that you leave his church determined to do so. His sermon was on bloody seas. He told about the wounded men of Saipan coming in to the hospital here.3 It took four hours to unload them here. Men with arms and legs shot off and with every kind of wound imaginable. He scared the men who gripe a lot about having to be out here instead of at home with loved ones. To cinch his case, he spoke of the boy who’d had a leg shot off, a fellow from Amarillo, Texas who fought at Guadalcanal, Tarawa and received his wound at Saipan. He asked him if he were through with the fight. The boy said: “No Sir, I’m going to get an artificial leg before going home. Then I’ll try working in a war factory. After the war I’ll so the best I can to cut the cancer of evil from the world. That man, Ladies and Gentlemen has guts.”
We toured the Island this afternoon. We went out to Lingatu Beach and watched the swimmers for a while. Also went to the Red Cross and had ice cream.4
Saw the Liberty Ship, “James Shields”5 being loaded. Saturday the “Frances Parker”6 loaded the 6th Service Group and the 75th Squadron ground crew on it and took off. Where they go, we’ll go too. Is it New Guinea or Saipan? Your guess is as good as mine. We will go where they go, in all probability! Wonder when?
Notes & Commentary
1 1st Lt. Kenneth E. Miller
2 This was the same church Wayne attended last Sunday. See https://waynes-journal.com/2014/07/09/july-9-1944/.
3 Banika Island was the site of U.S. Naval Mobile Hospital No. 10, a 1,300-bed hospital, which provided care for sick and mildly wounded troops expected to return to their commands, temporary care for those permanently out of the war, and emergency and stabilization treatment for severely wounded before evacuation to the States.
Department of the Navy. History of the Medical Department of the U.S. Navy in World War II, “Facilities of the Medical Department of the Navy”, Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1953. digital image (http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/USN-Medical/I/USN-Medical-1.html : accessed 04 July 2014). See also Joseph Francis Campion, Pharmacist Mate, 2nd Class, http://www.jfcampionphm2c.info/about.php.
4 Banika Island was a major support base for operations in the South Pacific and may have been occupied by over 15,000 troops at its height of occupation. Wayne refers to it as a place of rest. Its recreational facilities are described as follows in Bitter bellies: The odyssey of Construction Battalion Maintenance Units 572 and 573 from boot camp to the South Sea isle of Banika:
Swimming, as a widespread pastime, took some time to get underway. Stories that the water produced or aggravated fungus infections were partly responsible and to some extent also, the fear of sharks or other marine life. However the beach at Lingatu was medically approved as a recreation center, and trucks were assigned each Sunday to transport swimmers there. The cove was a sheltered spot at the point at the southerly end of Sunlight channel—a quietly picturesque locale of blue and green.
Boat trips to nearby swimming shores were sanctioned for a time, until we built our own swimming dock just in front of the old red-roofed plantation building that served as a Personnel Office. A solid structure a heavy timbers, the dock had both a low and a three-meter diving board which catapulted the divers into water that was 43 feet deep only a few feet from shore.
Boat excursions or fishing trips were regularly scheduled. For fishing trips, you started out in predawn darkness in a converted LCP (Landing Craft Personnel), reaching fishing grounds such as Victoria Shoals, about five or six miles out of the island group, by sunrise. Most of the catches were of barracuda, tuna or bonito. In a half day’s fishing, an average catch ranged from zero to two.
Cameras were a delicate issue. Their use was not officially allowed, except by authorized unit photographers of which there were two. Some men amassed volumes of photographs. Others did not and one of the purposes of this book is to supply those who did not with a representative group of island scenes.
Extra area recreational outlets, besides Hyde Park, Neilson Park and Lingatu Center, were the newly remodeled Blue Beach Red Cross and the White Beach (Katura) Red Cross. At Blue Beach there were horseshoe pits, ping-pong tables, refreshments, the library, holiday shenanigans and some musical events. Frequently there were outdoor tables under beach umbrellas, a theater, rows of arts and craft shops, reading and writing rooms, a music room and on one occasion a carnival lasting for several days.
The attitude of men toward the work of the Red Cross was practically unanimous approval; but attitudes sometimes pointedly expressed, was that the South Pacific wasn’t any place for girl “ornaments” was mixed. A common feeling toward the presence of girls—especially if they merely sat around like pretty “do-gooders”. Not quite balancing this idea, but still widely prevalent, was the opinion that they provided a “stateside” touch and a pleasing, if momentary, companionship of a different sort. Meantime, the girl at the center of the controversy went about her work, arranging this and arranging that, making small talk and wishing—just as fervently as the men—for the war to end.
Eventually our area and island in general assumed some fleeting elements of a city organization. Electrification was complete. There was a rudimentary bus system—cargo trucks or weapons carriers with the word “Bus” painted in yellow on the bumpers. There were broad and well-surfaced roads to all necessary parts of the island, patrolled by motorcycle cops (MP’s) who nabbed speeders or reckless drivers. There was a “Quiet—Hospital Zone” sign near MOB-10. There were all types of specialized repair shops. Guadalcanal, the Armed Forces Radio Services (serving all the armed forces in the Solomon Islands) was on the air almost continuously during the day and evening with rebroadcasts of “stateside” programs, news reports and commentaries, all done in professional style even down to the commercials:
“Who says Annie (anopheles mosquito) doesn’t live here anymore? Keep fully closed after sundown and use your mosquito repellent. It is your protection.”
“Annie likes to hit the chow line after 6 o’clock and she’s always hungry. Keep your sleeves rolled down.”
The station, which started out by calling itself the “Mosquito Network” also had a daily musical. known as the “Atabrine Cocktail Hour” which was heralded by a recording of “The Flight of the Bumblebee”.
Radios came slowly to our area but in time became common. Most tents lacking receivers were hooked up by earphone or speaker to a nearby set. Toward the end of our stay also, the jumbled babble of the mess hall had to compete with scratchy speakers installed in the buildings to relay news broadcasts which late eaters would otherwise miss.
If our Banika sounds like a spa on the pre-war Riviera, the words are deceptive. From start to finish island life had no more charm than a city dump at high noon. Throughout, we were ridden by various forms of fungus, ringworm, boils, prickly heat, rashes, climatic debilitation, some malaria, threats of filariasis or elephantiasis and fear of such dreadful afflictions as yaws or leprosy.
Robert E. Standfield. Bitter bellies: The odyssey of Construction Battalion Maintenance Units 572 and 573 from boot camp to the South Sea isle of Banika. Portland, Oregon: Beattie and Hofmann, Printers, 1946. Google Books.com (http://books.google.com/books?id=kJgSdM8qBoQC : accessed 15 July 2014). pp 111-113
5 The SS James Shields, hull 1668, was a General Cargo Vessel Type EC2-S-C1 built by California Shipbuilding Corp. for the U. S. Maritime Commission. During World War II, 2,710 Liberty Ships were completed. The James Shields was one of 336 built by California Shipbuilding Corp. in their yard at Terminal Island, California. Laid down on May 13, the James Shields was launched June 5 and completed on June 18, 1943. From the time it was laid down until its completion, 36 days elapsed. As of 1970, the James Shields was still carried on the roll of the U.S. reserve fleet.
James Davis. “Liberty” Cargo Ship. WW2Ships.com. (http://www.ww2ships.com/acrobat/us-os-001-f-r00.pdf : accessed 16 July 2014) Appendix C, Ship Histories, p 64.
6 SS Francis W. Parker, hull 2261, was built by Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation in their yard at Portland, Oregon. The Francis W. Parker was also an EC2-S-C1 type vessel. She was laid down on October 13 and completed November 10, 1943. The Francis W. Parker did not leave service until 1965 when it was scrapped.
James Davis. “Liberty” Cargo Ship. WW2Ships.com. (http://www.ww2ships.com/acrobat/us-os-001-f-r00.pdf : accessed 16 July 2014) Appendix C, Ship Histories, p 110.
Liberty ships were built to a standardized, mass produced design with their 250,000 parts pre-fabricated throughout the country in 250 one-ton sections. The sections were then welded together at a shipyard, a process that normally took about 70 days. A Liberty ship cost under $2,000,000.
Liberty ships were 441 feet long and 56 feet wide. Their three-cylinder, reciprocating steam engines, fed by two oil-burning boilers produced 2,500 hp and a speed of 11 knots. Their five holds could carry over 9,000 tons of cargo, plus airplanes, tanks, and locomotives lashed to its deck. A Liberty could carry 2,840 jeeps, 440 tanks, or 230 million rounds of rifle ammunition.. For a graphic representation of the cargo carrying capacity of a Liberty ship, see http://www.usmm.org/capacity.html. See also “Troops and Cargo Transported During World War II under U.S. Army Control.” (http://www.usmm.org/armycargo.html).
American Merchant Marine at War. (http://www.usmm.org/index.html : accessed 15 July 2014)