Ought to be ashamed of myself for neglecting this book, but life of late has been rather hectic. We’ve been tearing down, packing and getting our guns in shape for the move which is expected momentarily.
We were also scheduled to go to Sydney for rest leave, Seehorn and I, Russell and Lt. Fincham having left earlier. We wanted very much to spend some time there with them, as we never did have our farewell to the states party due to government circumstances.1 Now we’ll have to wait because Seehorn and I have left Stirling and arrived at the new rear area, which is Hollandia, New Guinea.
Last Friday the operations clerk came over at 5 o’clock and told us to be ready to leave for Australia at 6:00 am. An hour later, the leave was scheduled as cancelled and we were ordered to get on a C-47 plane for Hollandia instead. We didn’t leave Saturday but Sunday am.The Friday before leaving, Bob Hope’s show2 came to Stirling and played to the 42nd Bomb Group boys who sat in the middle of a lake and soaked up rain while the Hope Troupe gave their show under Niagara Falls. The tent awning over their heads was full of holes, and the water was nothing less than a deluge. Bob said the folks back home wouldn’t believe it when he told them. Patti Thomas,3 dancer, was the hit of the stage. A very lovely blonde girl who couldn’t dance on the wet stage with shoes on, so she did it bare footed, despite ugly splinters. Anything for the boys was her motto. Jerry Colona4 was OK. He ran out in under the hole in the roof, clad in a raincoat and broad brimmed hat where he took a shower to the delight of the audience.
At any rate, we took off in C-47s Sunday morning going through rough weather that would’ve turned over a B-25. We landed at a small island near Woodlark5 to refuel and sweat out the weather for a while. Saw some native women, surprisingly light skinned walking down the strip with great bundles on their heads. Their upper bodies had no covering whatever. Man alive! They wore skirts, and I swear to heaven, they swung their hips a yard each way. Giggled and tittering like a bunch of 3 yr old girls. We took off but were sorry to go as there was a native mating festival scheduled for that night and the garrison was invited to the feast. Would liked to have seen the ceremony. A guy gets a bit curious about these natives and their ways at times.
We landed next at Nadzab6 between Lae and Finschafen7. This place is a remarkable joint which has five airstrips, mostly for training and for T.C.C. usage (C-47 cargo planes). Mud was knee deep. We unloaded our plane and ate dinner at a casual camp area there. Awful stuff. The place is mud saturated. Had to spend the night there and nearly starved before the Australian YMCA served us coffee and the Red Cross doughnuts. The Red Cross girl, queried by a wolfish Alabamian, said she didn’t believe in giving anything to the boys on the side. Ha! Ha! Laugh! I thought I’d die!
Had occasion to reaffirm my distrust for K-Rations on this trip. The stuff has an extremely rotten taste to it.
We were finally given a plane, loaded our baggage and took off at 11:00 am for Hollandia. We followed the New Guinea coastline to Wewak8 which we skirted, and finally landed at Hollandia9 on an old Japanese airstrip. Taxing to our revetment, we passed Jap plane wreck after wreck. Their little planes looked for forlorn, lying there full of bullet and bomb holes and many of which were burned. There are hundreds of wrecked aircraft here, lying in the fields, airstrips, hill sides and road sides. A terrific blow fell here. The evidence lies all around us. It looks like total war has visited this place, to be sure.
A small Island off the coast was the place of quite a discovery. Our planes went over and bombed it one day. Fifteen minutes later, the Japanese bombed it. Interested authorities sent a loaded LCI over to investigate. They found a good many Jap planes there, still uncrated which they gladly confiscated and sent back to the states.
The Zero is a small plane. I could push on one wing and rock it at will. Our fliers here, who have flown a few of the captured ones, state that it is a peach of a little plane; and went on to say that if the Japanese had pilots as skilled as ours and gasoline of our octane rating, they’d have won this war. Tough! Or not!
Another little item making the rounds is that MacArthur is having a $75,000 home built here, is bringing a dozen WACs to care for the place, and is also bringing his wife out here. Tough War! Or not! This is just a nasty rumor, I hope!
Heavens, what beautiful country. Seehorn says it’s identical to the State of Washington, which in his estimation is the most beautiful of all. It is awfully pretty and I like it, which is an admission I seldom give vent to about any territory except that included in the U.S.A. There’s a high mountain just behind the base which is obscured by clouds most of the day. The mountains around here are towering and majestic and many are solid light green because of the green grass which covers their slopes. Not a tree may be seen on many of these.
Incidentally our infantry boys are fighting the Japs just eighteen miles away. As this is written I can hear the rumble of the larger guns and the lighter clap of the mortars, emanating from behind the first range of hills.
The Far eastern Air Force Command10 is being set up here and Mac’s staff is said to be on the spot, drawing future plans. Who knows if this is true? I will like New Guinea. Its climate here is Colorado type, cool in the morning and evenings with good heat in the afternoon.
Last week, news came from Guyneth that Bob has written to her requesting a divorce. It seems that a girl named Valerie from Florida has stolen his heart away. This is astonishing, knowing Bob, and is an awful blow to me. Guy’s second baby is due September 10th. I hope that Bob will see his errors before it’s too late. I have written to him very forcible and pleading letters. Hope to meet him around here in the very near future. Also hope to see Bernie McKenna, Tommy’s best friend who’s somewhere in the Pacific.
Received some beach pictures from Bonnie last week also and several letters. What a wonderful wife I’m blessed with and the pictures leave little doubt in my mind as to what I’m fighting for. Goodnight, sweetheart. Sweet dreams and love me always as I love you!
Work call mornings come early so will hit the sack early tonight!
Notes & Commentary
1 “. . . farewell to the states party due to government circumstances.” Wayne may be referring to the crew’s disappointment at Hamilton Field, California when they weren’t allowed to go into San Francisco and “paint the town red”. Of seven B-25 crews being transferred to the South Pacific, their crew and one other weren’t allowed to leave the base. They were alerted for the next flight out. See https://waynes-journal.com/2014/01/31/february-13-1944-sunday/.
2 Wayne saw Bob Hope’s USO troupe perform on Stirling Island on Friday, August 4, 1944. On August 12, 1944, Bob Hope’s show was broadcast over NBC affiliates in the United States. Bob Hope’s reference to the Mosquito Network during that show suggests that it was recorded in the Solomon Islands. Listen and you will hear what parents or grandparents heard 70 years ago. Some may have even been in the audience when the show was recorded. Bob Hope USO WWII Show “Somewhere In The South Pacific” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2CD2MXSTTU : accessed 06 August 2014). A video of the troupe’s typical show is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7hNNKL7AfE.
3 For an understanding of what the USO performers experienced, see Patty Thomas’ video interview. Patty Thomas Collection. Experiencing War, Stories from the Veterans History Project. American Folklife Center, The Library of Congress. (http://lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/vhp-stories/loc.natlib.afc2001001.08272/ : accessed 06 October 2014)
Vocalist Frances Langford was also one of “the three gypsies” of Bob Hope’s troupe. Frances Langford. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1493954/Frances-Langford.html : accessed 07 August 2014).
4 Jerry Colona. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Colonna_(entertainer) : accessed 06 August 2014).
5 Woodlark Island. PacificWrecks.com (http://www.pacificwrecks.com/airfields/png/narewa/index.html : accessed 06 August 2014).
6 The only Allied parachute assault in New Guinea occurred at Nadzab in the fall of 1943. The Airborne landing at Nadzab. (http://www.army.gov.au/Our-history/History-in-Focus/The-Airborne-landing-at-Nadzab : accessed 06 August 2014). Also see the video, 503rd Jump at Nadzab, 1943. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuz0TpzqwWY : accessed 06 August 1943.)
7 Finschafen. PacificWrecks.com. (http://www.pacificwrecks.com/provinces/png_finschafen.html : accessed 06 August 2014). Also see the video, Development of Finschafen as a base. Australian War Memorial. (http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/F07478/ : accessed 06 August 2014).
8 After its military capacity was destroyed by 5th Air Force bombing missions, Wewak, like Rabaul, was bypassed by Allied forces. The Japanese occupiers cutoff from reinforcements and supplies. It was not until May 1945 that it was assaulted by Australian forces advancing from the west. The remnants of the once 100,000-man strong Japanese 18th Army surrendered at Wewak surrendered on September 13, 1945. The Japanese Instrument of Surrender had been signed about the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. Of the Japanese forces in New Guinea, only about 13,000 had survived battle, disease and starvation. Wewak. The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia. (http://pwencycl.kgbudge.com/W/e/Wewak.htm : accessed 06 August 2014). Also see Wewak. PacificWrecks.com (http://www.pacificwrecks.com/provinces/png_wewak.html : accessed 06 August 2014)
9 Prior to its occupation, the Japanese developed the Hollandia area as “one of the largest Japanese air base complexes outside of Rabaul.” Gordon L. Rottman. World War II Pacific Island Guide, A Geo-Military Study. Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 2002. p.230. Also see Hollandia. The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia. (http://pwencycl.kgbudge.com/H/o/Hollandia.htm : accessed 06 August 2014).
10 A small headquarters detachment of the Far East Air Force established it self at Hollandia on August 1, 1944. Futtrell, Frank and Bernhardt L. Mortenson, Maj., USAF. United States Army in World War II, The War in the Pacific, “Return to the Philippines”. Washington, DC: United States Army Center of Military History, 1996, transcription (http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/AAF/V/AAF-V-10.html : accessed 03 August 2014.) p 289.
Just amazing post.
I will come back to visit the links.
If nothing else, Pierre, follow all the links for Bob Hope and Patty Thomas. Because of Hope’s comments during the radio broadcast, I believe the show was recorded either in the Russell Islands or on Guadalcanal. Also, don’t miss Patty Thomas’ video interview and her comments of what it was like to perform for the troops.
I hope we find out what happens to Guyneth & Bob. How sad!
Major William S. Pagh, of Ormond Beach, Florida [right] and the crew of his A-20 light bomber “The Florida Gator.” Soon after the photo was taken, they were shot down over Hollandia, New Guinea, on August 11, 1944. They remain missing in action.
Has any information on them been found?
All I have to offer is that which is available at the following link: https://www.pacificwrecks.com/aircraft/a-20/43-21379.html.