TSgt. Allan #4
Note: Pictures added for clarity. Pictures are not necessarily originals from TSgt. Allan.
I had reason to think of the route Amelia Earhart flew in 1937. I thought about when the squadron was there since I had just finished reading her book. We had a little library that floated around the group. I think the good hearted Aussies got it started. Earhart wrote the book while planning her trip. I'm not sure if she finished it herself or not. History says this was to be her last escapade. I guess it was! While there I walked out onto the end of the runway -- just to pay her a little respect I guess. This was the place she was last seen. The runway ended in the air! Looking down, about two hundred feet from the end of the runway, was a pile of rocks and a heavy surf. I thought: What a hell of a place to abort a take off.
A Cobber, Noel Hughes (an armament man in the squadron) used to be in the U.S. Navy. We called him "Sailor." He had actually been in the hunt for Earhart. The search for Earhart was the largest the U.S. Navy ever engaged in (also looking for Japs at the same time -- or evidence of them.)
Out in the central desert, there is a gigantic monolith, called "Ayer's Rock'. It is seven miles around, 1500 feet high, and how deep is anyone's guess. In the setting sun, the whole thing appears to be on fire. A brilliant red. Science has that it was upthrust from the ocean floor millions of years ago. My idea, is that it came from the outer space. When it hit, the force caused the lopsided orbit of earth creating the seasons. But-- who am I? After years of quibbling with the "Abos" (aborigines) the "Rock" was given back to the tribes, and is a sacred monument again! The name now, in aboriginal tongue is Uluru "Oo Loo Roo."
Another place out in the hotter desert, is "Coober Pedy." (Aborigine for "white man digs holes in the ground.") It is now world famous, not as the place, but for what comes from there – Opals! The only place in the world! It is so hot there that a person cannot exist for long on the surface. Those who do stay to work in the mines, create homes far below the surface, furnishing the underground dwelling just as nicely as any other home.
Picture to the right is an underground church at Coober Pedy.
Getting back to the war, when the squadron first got to Canberra, we had no bloody aircraft! So, for a few days we just sat around looking intelligent. We would hike sometimes, sometimes practice throwing grenades, or playing with the dog. Then one day a soft humming started in the air. We pricked up our ears. The noise mounted steadily, increasing to a thunderous roar, but we couldn't locate it. Suddenly, all twenty-five aircraft, P-40s, descended from about 45,000 feet, down to deck level! Single file about one or two hundred feet apart, zooming over, then up and away They gave the government office workers the thrill of their lives! They flew between the buildings and around them, down those beautiful tree-lined streets on the deck. Then finally, they made another pass at the airdrome. They did this three or four times. The control tower was a wooden affair, only ten feet off the ground. The Aussie operator looked up to see a monster heading right for the tower. He jumped out, clear to the ground. A second later the P-40 lifted a wing, and sliced by with all kinds of room to spare -- about four feet! Then the excitement was over. We were all very happy, and jabbering to each other. We all went up to the hangar to be assigned to our bird -- at last.
Lt. Dennis was my first assigned pilot. He was a wild flyer! Was he a safe pilot? I don't know. We nicknamed him "Buzz" – but not to his face! He buzzed everything he could, and some things he couldn't. Green grass stains two feet up on prop blades and belly cowls. I can't imagine what he was doing that low! One time, I had to clean out the guts from a duck or chicken that he managed to scoop up in the oil cooler. That's what he was doing so low! Another time, the craft came back minus a wing tip. This time he didn't miss a tree. Later, a two foot deep gash in the leading edge of his wing proved that he didn't miss another one! Scrubbing for hours on end couldn't remove the stains. The stains were now just part of the paint! I think he considered them a badge of honor.
Australia had a summer drink made of all kinds of fruit juices. Nothing in the drink was carbonated. It was very thick, and sickenly sweet and like their beer, warm! So, when we wanted a sweet drink in the hot season, the thick, sweet fruit juice had to suffice! While at Darwin, Lt. Dennis went on leave and brought back his mechanic two bottles of what we thought was this juice. It was very thoughtful of him! With the dim light in the tent, (a candle, I think) I took no notice of the label. All I saw were large letters saying "peach," so I opened one bottle of "peach fruit juice," and, in a little while, it was all gone. Very refreshing! Even if it was hot, I wish I had taken the time to read the label. It said Peach Brandy! I don't know how I ever got through that night! Perhaps it was a good thing that it was only a pint bottle!
He ceased to fly ''my'' plane sometime after that, and while operating from Moresby, he was listed as missing. Sometimes I wonder how he met his fate. Perhaps he was hit head-on by a Betty or a Zero that didn't give way in his crazy game of combat "chicken."
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June 6, 2000