Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New Guinea II

Sorry Sam, to be so long getting back to Southeast Asia during World War II!

I mentioned in a previous posting that at Dobodura New Guinea, we weren’t settled into our regular location to set up our Radio Shop, so since I had had some truck driving experience at home, I was assigned to the Motor Pool.

One of the things I had to do was to go to the Australian Post to secure food and supplies. I don’t recall how far away it was, but it took some time to get there. The first time I went, I arrived at about 2PM, I think. Whatever the time, it was “Tea Time” for the Aussies! We not only had to wait, we couldn’t even raise anyone to find out why they couldn’t help us. We just waited - maybe a half hour or so. Tea time in Australia is a sacrosanct time. After that, we avoided 2PM.

We didn’t stay at Dobodura very long, since it was just a “staging area” for our more or less permanent post at Finschhafen, on the Papua New Guinea eastern coast. Some time later, we were taken back down to Milne Bay and boarded a ship to go to Finschhafen - of course, riding the “Ducks” again (dual use trucks for land or sea).

The Finschhafen base wasn’t very much (are you kidding? There was nothing there). So, the task at hand was to build maybe 20 tent “floors” out of lumber from the area, then attach our tents to them. Then, our bunks (cots, actually) were put up, 5 to a tent, on the side of a hill.

Since this location was close to the sea, we had plenty of water - but “not a drop to drink”. So, guess what? We had a guy named Govro, I think, from Missouri who said he could find water wells for us. Right! So, he cut off a “willow twig”, or whatever, from one of the trees, and made a forked device about 2 feet long, and 1 foot wide, with two prongs in his hands, and the third pointing forward. He walked around with that gadget, trying to “divine” water, and several times it seemed to jiggle, but one time, it really dipped. “Here it is”, he proclaimed. What? So, our Company Commander, Captain Phillips ordered us to dig, and dig, and dig. Before long, WATER was discovered, and it continued providing the whole time we were there (maybe 15 months). Doubters were humiliated.

Since everything we were going to use was yet to be set up, we had to improvise, using the materials available. Our group set up a Radio Shop, to check in and repair radios for P-38 airplanes (the ones with the twin fuselages). Later, some of our crew installed the radios (I remember the term SCR274N) right behind the pilot’s seat. We also had some of the new VHF (Very High Frequency) style radios that were put in C-46 planes, I think. I can’t remember the model of the VHF ones. My job then, was to bring all the VHF radios into my shop (a large cargo trailer), tune them up, and then turn them over for installation. Then, after installation, the pilot took off, and we checked for operation further. “Jaclyn Tower. This is 6537, C46. Do you copy?”

One of my tent mates in Dobodura was a Jewish fellow from Brooklyn named Gus Blumenthal. A real nice guy. We hit it off real well. After arriving in Finschhafen, he was riding in a Weapons Carrier one day, when he had an accident, and was killed. Very sad.

Another character I remember was an Irish lad named Michael Mc something. I can't quite remember his last name. I mention him, because of the phrase he often used, that my oldest son and I still use. When someone mentioned that they had some gadget or other, no matter what it was, Mike would say, “We had one once, but the kids ate the wheels off of it.” Jim and I say that all the time.

We had one guy in the outfit (not a radio guy), who told all of us that he was going to pretend that he was insane, so he could get a “Section 8 Discharge”, and go home. After several months, he pulled it off. They sent him home.

We had another one, in the tent just above ours on the side of the hill, who didn’t PRETEND he was insane, he WAS. Not only that, he was “wacko”. He would rant and rave at times, then be quiet sometimes. All the guys around knew he wasn’t “right”, but no one knew what to do.

One time, he “holed himself up” in the tent, and wouldn’t come out - to eat or anything. Our First Sergeant found out about it and came to the tent to get him. The guy said, “Come on in, Bill (the First Sergeant). I don’t have anything in my hand.” Well, that gave Bill some pause. So, he stayed out, but talked him into surrendering. (It turned out that he had a revolver he got from somewhere.) We often said, “You don’t have to be crazy to work here, but it helps.” He was crazy!

A couple more stories about Finschhafen.

This area was noted for “monsoons”, I think they called them. One day mid-morning, a “monsoon” hit the area, and tore down some of our tents. One guy in our tent who worked the night shift in the Warehouse was asleep in his bunk. Next he knew, he was on the floor, his cot upside down, and no tent over his head. I was in the Radio Shop. I don’t remember anyone being seriously hurt.

Two things I got in New Guinea I didn’t forget. One was the fungus I got in my ear from bathing/swimming in a creek near by. It was treated for maybe 3 months, by using the peroxide liquid in my ears. The other malady I had, was Dengue Fever. Not quite as bad as Malaria, but was caused by the same bug - the mosquito. We had “atabrine” tablets (like quinine) to keep from getting it, but I STILL got it. Took a couple weeks to get over it. Atabrine, by the way, was BITTER if you didn’t get it down right away.

One time…………….oops! Have to stop. Some other time for New Guinea and/or Manila. So long!

Psalms 103:11 “For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him.”

And, Lamentations 3:22 “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions they fail not.”

Whew! Thank God!

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