TSgt. Allan #10
The advance detail finally got to Darwin. We came in an old British four-engine flying boat. Our strip at twenty seven miles was not yet finished (that was almost always the case all through the war) and the Japs were not yet chased out so we had to sit down in the harbor. We then settled in at a grassy field called Adelaide River. Here is where we first learned to live on bananas, wild radishes, and whatever we could catch. The cooks did not have the experience to prepare powdered food even if we had any. It is simply amazing unprepared we were to go war after the twenty some years the war department preparing the "Rainbow Plan."
Well, we were in the "operational zone", whatever the hell that was! We soon found out -- when being bombed or shot at. It was just plain and simply: "the combat area!" It was here that several of the pilots, and a few enlisted came, escaping from Philippines. After about a three or four week stay here, we finally got the word to move up to what would become our temporary permanent base! So, break camp, load up all the stuff, and take off again! The new strip was all asphalt, smooth and shiny, with spacious inserts hidden between the trees. Not much good could be said about the camp though. It was dreary with ant, vine and other jungle goodies infested! The upper tree level was so woven with vines, etc., there was hardly any sun. However, in due time, after the canopy and ground cover had been cleared, tents put up etc. it wasn't half bad!
When first arriving at Darwin we came into possession of the most beautiful blue leather-covered stuffed furniture. Someone in the squadron always had their eye and hand in something so we were quickly able to get and put up a spare tent and relaxed a few times in seldom-attained comfort! It didn't last long, someone came looking for the stuff! It belonged to Pan Am, or the likes, at the air terminal! They had been looking all over for it! Same thing happened with a generation plant. It was just sitting there! It belonged to the city of Darwin -- but. there was no city anymore. The police came looking for this item also! We finally got one of our own. Someone in the outfit was very good at pilfering items (every outfit has at least one) and I really don't mean me!
The whole town area was completely devastated by numerous jap bombing raids, flattened, except for two (remembered) structures. The cement plant was spared -- the Japs would use it for their own good, when they invaded in the near future. The other, a large building fitted out for cold storage, and said to be full of all kinds of frozen meats! The Japs, knew all about it and dearly wanted that meat. Who didn't? A friend in the 7th said they pleaded with their own pilots to save at least bomb (after an bombing mission) and blow the large loading door off this big freezer. Several men with a 6X6 truck would be waiting, so they would have something to eat, besides bark off the trees and bananas. Of course this was just a big joke! (or was it?)
We had a man in the squadron who shall remain nameless (and I still don't mean me). I don't know what his M.O.S. was, and I never saw him actually working. He had "acquired" an officer's cap, and could secure a jeep from the motor pool whenever he needed one -- and was gone all day! He was known only as "colonel." He would return later in the day with a carload of "goodies," whether we needed them or not! He got away with it time after time, as he looked old enough and enough dried up to be considered an established ranking officer. He could have been 27 or 75 by facial features! If he had ever been found out (perhaps in time he was; I don't know) he would have been hung 17 times! The eagle cap was the only thing that made it possible. No indication of special rank, or special clothing was worn by anyone; the snipers picked them off first! To further this fact (at Buna, I think) one day two men, one older and one younger, strangers, came walking along the edge of the strip. The older man asked Ed Kerr for the time. "What do you care, you're not going anywhere," Ed answered. The younger man, a lieutenant, wanted to court martial Ed on the spot because of his most disrespectful answer to the colonel, or general, or whatever rank the older man held. "Let's drop it," the older man said "this is the way it is here." Ed Kerr was a good guy, a comic, loudmouth, an all- around happy guy.
Rudy, the camp dog! He was a hound type and had gone through the early severe Jap bombing raids at Darwin. I don't know how he ever became associated with us. A right friendly cuss! Whenever the red alerts sounded, in daylight anyway, we all learned to watch Rudy. He would be standing stark still, head lowered, listening. If he started quivering and shaking, we'd all run to our trenches. This was the signal he heard enemy planes. If he stopped quivering, it was the sign that what he heard was our own planes returning from a mission or a lone scout. Bill Cooper was his "manager." Bill fed him, groomed him, and let him sleep under his cot!
Rudy went with us to Moresby and Dobodura. There, Cooper had a covered trench with a small entrance, Eskimo-style, built on. It was just big enough for person to crawl into. On alert one day Rudy gave the signal to take cover and headed for his master's dug out. Both he and Cooper reached the entrance at the same time -- each squirming, cursing, growling, and screaming and fighting to be the first inside (such as Laurel and Hardy going thru a doorway)! Afterwards, Cooper laughed, saying; "I had to back off and let that goddamn dog in first!
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June 6, 2000