TSgt. Allan #7
Note: Pictures added for clarity. Pictures are not necessarily originals from TSgt. Allan
We arrived in the operational zone (whatever that was) to do battle with the dreaded Jap slant eyes. If we had only known that for the next year plus, our battle would be to stay alive! With our dwindling supply and the perpetual diarrhea, everyone's ribs were soon showing and our pants wouldn't stay up. It became a custom to cut suntans off short, at about the crotch or just below and wear no shirt. Is it any wonder so many men became afflicted with half a hundred ailments (most of them for life)? Soon, we were issued the accouterments of the modern U. S. Army. Choice 1918 stuff! Dough boy Helmets, 1908 Springfield rifles, (three of them -- for three hundred men) WWI ammo, mess kits, pistol belts, etc., etc.
I have to tell you a little story about the ammo, Colt 45s, and 45 cartridges. One day five or six of us started out on a little trip of exploring. The Buck Sgt. with us was the only one allowed to carry a weapon -- a Colt 45. We were soon plodding along in that detested fine red powder four inch thick dust. We suddenly saw a beautiful, large red fox. It had a splendid thick collar of fur, something even movies of wildlife do not do it justice. Of course, like a bunch of stupid young kids, we thought it should be shot! Tom, the Sgt. who had the only weapon, got to fire at the fox. After taking careful aim, he fired. A little puff of red dust plopped up in the air about six inches away. All of us were surprised and then burst out in laughter. We all agreed that it was a one in a thousand dud! Tom took careful aim and fired again. Again, a little splatter of red dust rose in the air. This one hit about ten feet out in front! Tom fired several more quick shot, all of which kicked up splatters of dust about eight or ten feet in front of us! It wasn't funny anymore! Meanwhile, I watched the fox. He got up on all fours, stretched, and grandly walked down the trunk of the fallen tree. He then jumped down to the ground and, still strutting, vanished into the under brush! We stood very silent for a few minutes after that but Tom was red as a beet and had a sick little smile. We proceeded on our walk-a-bout! I don't know what the others' thoughts were but in sudden realization, I was worried sick. Here we were, far from camp, no protection, in an area supposedly ripe for an enemy invasion. What in God's name would have happened if we had met up with an enemy advance patrol! We headed back to camp with no further merriment! Perhaps the others also realized what a predicament we had placed ourselves. 1903 Springfield Rifle shown on left.
Even medical supplies were low. Worse of all was the infamous
old "hard tack," which no one could eat even if made yesterday --
let alone twenty something years ago. I can't imagine how all that stuff got
there before we did! In time though, base supply was set up and we would go
into Darwin where base supply was located to get a truck load of needed stuff.
One time I went along to help load. While sitting in the shade waiting for clearance,
we spied a wooden box about ten feet or so from us. On the side, in big black
letters for the whole world to see, said six Garand M-1 rifles (brand new) Quick
as a wink, that box was on our truck, covered over with resting men and tarps.
We finished up loading and took off for home at full throttle! The box was secreted
away. After two or three days we got a call from supply saying that our allotment
of new Garand M-1 rifles was misplaced and it might be sometime before another
shipment came in! We went to our hiding place and looked at the box. There,
on the allocation ticket, was our squadron's name and address. We had "borrowed"
our own guns!
On one of those vicious daytime raids, a large flight of Jap bombers was flying over at no great altitude. There were about eighteen or twenty of them. They had no fear of the six or seven AA guns around the Aussie airdrome and they knew air interception was nil. As they flew right over our camp area, I stood looking up. It was one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen! The undersides of wings were all white, appearing somewhat pinkish. They had the appearance of a flight of snow geese flying in a graceful V formation. I came out of my trance to the yelling of my tent mates and hastily made a running dive toward my trench. But by that time, it was too late! They had done their damage and were gone. I can still, after all this time, see them going over! I saw some Brewster Buffaloes going up to intercept but they didn't last long against Zeros. My cousin was in WWI. He used to tell me how the German engines sounded when coming from a distance toward him. He said that they always had an up and down in pitch to them. A bunch would sound like a swarm of bumble bees buzzing around. I remembered that when I heard the first enemy flight incoming , I listened intently. There it was, the waver. I will never forget that sound! During the rest of my part of the war, I listened and our planes had a steady drone, changing in tone only at the release of bombs. Brewster Buffalo shown on right
In the early days of the war, wash day was every day for the squadron. When the buck teeth came over to unload, they knew what it meant. When they saw a bunch of white (mostly underwear) laid out on the grass, or hanging on tree limbs visible from any altitude, they knew troops were close by. In time, some upper echelon brass balls finally realized that the first rule of warfare being violated. After good men were lost to bombing raids, new underclothing, towels, etc., were issued. They were now colored sun tan or olive green -- thank God for small favors.
The flocks of geese in the Darwin area were something to behold. At dawn they would take off in a sky of darkening clouds. It was so vast that the sun was partly, or mostly obscured. They were heading for their feeding grounds in the marshes along the coast. At dusk the scene was repeated, only a looser formation. It was no fun hunting them. All you had to do was to point your gun straight up, fire and down would come several! A friend, who generally went along as "keeper of the weapons," brought me one. I was taught as a kid how to dress a fowl. I was proud of it. The cook and I were on friendly terms so he stored it in the freezer until the next day. After the chow line closed down for the day, I got ready to cook it for a late night supper. Upon opening the package, my beautiful bird was no more. What I found was something one of the young lieutenants who didn't know beans about cleaning a bird did! It still had the feet, head, most of the feathers and was very timidly gutted. I almost sat down and cried for the first time! By the time I had it all dressed, and ready for the pot, it was almost 2300. I Put it on a spit and with a good supply of fire wood handy, I lay down for a while, getting up every few minutes to turn it over and throw some ketchup at it. About four in the morning, I was almost starving so I decided to taste the gourmet feast. It was only half done but it still filled my belly -- the first time in a while.
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June 6, 2000