Getting to Alaska, the hard way

I felt great when I left Beaver Creek, Yukon Territory, and rolled through that desolate stretch toward the U.S. border crossing. I was almost home, hours from Tok, and then one more day would complete the trip from the San Francisco Bay Area to Talkeetna, Alaska.

My family and a three-days-late Thanksgiving celebration awaited me and my 10-year-old dog, Sandy. I could almost smell the turkey and stuffing. I could definitely smell the dog.

That was when the sound of my trailer tire shredding scared away a wolfish thing that had been watching my approach to the final hill.

I hate U-Haul trailers and their ever-deflating cellophane tires. I hate Canadian gas prices, although the rest of Canada was pretty great. At that point and at 40 below I’d had enough of all that colorful cash that kept flying out of my wallet.

Sandy and I had just about finished driving the ALCAN in late November and this third tire failure was the final straw.

“You’re screwed,” the border crossing agent said with a smile. “There’s no services until Tok. You have to go back to Canada.”

This trip taught both Sandy and I new life lessons.

Mine were:

• Never brake uphill on an ice-encrusted back-highway mountain pass at 50 below while towing almost 3,000 pounds of household goods.

• Never believe the parking attendant at a major hotel when he says the clearance sign in the parking structure is accurate. Your trailer will get stuck, and this gives hotel security absolute fits.

• Bison have the right-of-way, for however long they want it.

• There are more than enough nice people along that frozen route to make up for the ones who just want your money.

• GPS systems will get you lost or killed if you believe everything you hear them say.

Sandy’s lesson, (remember this dog was raised near California’s hot Central Valley) was to do whatever she had to do outside in about 10 seconds before her paws froze. (That knowledge came in handy for her during this last cold snap.) I later learned about dog mitts.

Later I’d learn that it takes more than a strong belief that a place needs a newspaper to actually create one. But that’s the next part of this story.

* * * *

I suppose this is a story about how optimism and canned tuna and beans alone are not enough to get someone whose snow-driving experience numbered just weeks all the way through Northwest Canada without incident.

No, for that you need a block heater, advanced planning and a copilot who doesn’t bark. I’m afraid dog was literally my copilot this trip and I couldn’t buy a block heater in Canada because the garages were all busy changing-out tires.

My copilot only lost faith in me once on the road. On Whistler Pass I think it was between Prince George and Dawson Creek in British Columbia there was a whiteout. Then another, and another. Big trucks were still passing from time to time. For a while I could only tell were the road was leading by watching the line on my GPS and bumping the snowbanks created by Canadian snowplows.

Sandy, hearing the wailing winds and seeing nothing but dark and snow surrendered to her fate, wedged her tail against the glove box and buried her head against the seat. This is the canine equivalent of the airplane crash position.

I got through a couple of hours of blizzard, curvy treacherous roads and blinding truck wash by listening over and over again to a Bing Crosby Christmas CD. I pictured my family decorating the tree back when I was about 6, Mom compulsively trimming the long, lead icecicles to a uniform length after hiding every light wire.

I stopped at the first place with RV parking, as I hadn’t actually had to back the trailer up since I got lost in Oregon on a rural logging road. I didn’t care what the place was like, I just wanted some food and a drink.

The first thing I noticed as I led Sandy to the room was the tremendous smell of skunk weed blasting through the corridors. More than one guest was on the road to Munchie Land.

“Be like Clinton Sandy,” I warned the dog. “Don’t inhale.” Aw, what the heck, it was probably good for her arthritis.

“Remember Dad,” my daughter said sarcastically asI described the scene by cell phone, “Just Say No.”

There was no food service, so I ate cold Chunky Corn Chowder soup.

The room was vibrating due to some amps somewhere below me. A woman making up one of the rooms said, “Oh yeah, heck, there’s music tonight in the lounge. You should go see the show.”

I guess I should, I thought, since I was certainly going to hear it.

I found the lounge, got a drink and settled down at the bar by the stage to go over my travel guides, tally mileage covered and plot my route.

“So, drivin’ the ALCAN, eh? Tough this time of year,” came a pleasant voice just above my head. As I downed my shot I saw through the bottom of my glass a portion of female anatomy one should expect to see at eye level — if one is at the Alaskan Bush Company.

Not in a mom & pop motel’s lounge on a Tuesday night.

Apparently stripper night is a town tradition, which is just one reason I didn’t mind putting the place in my rear-view mirror. Tiny excuses for breakfast steaks are another.

My luck ran out Thanksgiving night two days of roadside desolation later in Watson Lake. First I had to eat fish & chips. It was pretty much that or Chinese food. No turkey to be found. I call that General Cornwallis’ revenge.

The best was yet to come. My alarm didn’t go off, I didn’t restart the car at 2 a.m. and by 6 a.m. the Trailblazer was an ice cube with upholstery. No block heater. The nice people at my motel tried to give me and two other poor souls a jump start, but nothing would budge the SUV. A trailer wheel even froze in place. Canadian AAA took me to a legitimate garage, which got me up and running, fixed the flat U-Haul tire and warned me not to turn the vehicle off until I was home in my driveway. My driveway was a three-day drive away. I took their advice.

Back at the hotel a military guy from Anchorage was yelling into his cell phone at a local garage that wanted $400 to thaw his car, all the while pacing and staring at the small heating pad he’d bought hoping it would warm up his engine. Next stop was Whitehorse, where I pulled right up in front of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Headquarters and left the thing idling all night long. Boy did I choose a great hotel again. The lounge was below and the floor again was vibrating. I lit my last Cuban cigar to cover the smell of the room and left with six hours sleep.

It’s funny how onramps to the ALCAN and freshly-plowed snowbanks look alike at 7 a.m. when everything’s blue, but it wasn’t very deep, so I was soon back on the road to Whitehorse. It was so cold the insides of my gas cap snapped and it spun uselessly. About -50.

Caribou were on suicide missions before dawn as I drove toward Haines Junction. An entire herd appeared and filled my windshield’s view. I stopped and they split along each side of my Trailblazer and charged down the snow-covered highway. No one was behind or in front of me.

The road between Haines Junction and the aptly-named Destruction Bay, well, I’m glad it was paved with solid ice. It was rough, desolate and the limit was 35 mph. Two big trucks drove ahead of me the whole way to Beaver Creek blasting ice crystals from their twin stacks. I thought I was bidding Canada goodbye. After the tire shredded I limped down to the gas station at the base of the hill to make a call to U-Haul.

An ex-military-type guy who ran the gas station quickly cowed me into submission. I was using the outside phone at 50 below (no cell service for miles) and he overheard me screaming into the phone at a U-Haul operator that it was not OK to put me back on hold — I was freezing to death.

“You’re going to have to drive that thing back to Beaver Creek!” he said sternly. “I’ve already called the guy who runs the auto shop, and he’ll wait for you, but not for long. It’s 4 p.m. on a Saturday.”

U-hauls make good snow plows. I kept the tire in the snow berm beside the road for most of the 45 miles back to Beaver Creek saving the rim, and a nice man honored U-Haul’s contract and sent me on my way.

That’s what I mean about finding good people on the road.

Finally I was in Tok, paying normal prices for gas at the Three Bears station and paying greenish money for dinner at Fast Eddie’s. The SUV ran all night and it didn’t cost a fortune. Best of all we were back in Alaska. After a quick stop in Wasilla to once-again tighten a treacherous trailer hitch that bedeviled me all trip I hit the highway, tuned in the all Christmas carol radio station and headed home to Talkeetna. As I turned the corner I saw my wife had hired some young men from the high school to put up old-fashioned Christmas lights on the cabin we’re turning back into the Talkeetna Landings B&B.

That sight made the whole drive worthwhile.

“I’ll tell you all about the trip,” I said at dinner.

Well, everything except the part about the stripper.

And the snowbank.

And a few other things…

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Part 15: Sailing home at last

Notes from a son: Not all of John Steve Moses’ World War II stories involved death, and many of the antics that might have led to time in the stockade were not recorded in these notebooks. One day I pressed Dad to tell me something funny that happened in the Pacific.
Dad said that even after he was busted down from corporal he would still be called upon to take the lead on some recon or demolition missions. Part of the Recon Trooper’s job was to get rid of structures that could be used by the enemy, sometimes in advance of a larger body of troops. That sometimes meant going on patrol under a full moon and greasing-up with what he called “axelgrease” against moonlight. If one brought a watch, a patrol leader was to check the men and make sure the watch faces were hidden under the wrist to avoid a glint from a moonbeam. That’s how he often wore his wristwatch after the war.
On one patrol they were tasked with torching a missionary village so the enemy couldn’t use it, the way the Japanese did at Ugli Village in 1943 when Pap Morrell fell on the beach to enemy machine gun fire.
One building in the abandoned settlement looked like a church or a school, and there was an attic space. Dad was the one who went up the ladder with his rifle fully loaded. He popped open the trap door and above him was a dimly-lit figure with an upraised arm. He let loose a whole .30 caliber clip, and came down covered with plaster.
Dad had just taken-out a life-sized statue of Jesus Christ holding a small American flag over his head.
“Will you look at that,” said one of the guys. “Moses just shot Jesus.”
Other stories involved foraging for food in Officer Country. Let’s face it, when you teach a bunch of guys to sneak around and improvise, and then try to feed them tinned goat meat while officers got recognizable chow, that’s asking for trouble. Supply trucks must not have moved too fast behind the lines or been well-guarded, and at least once the officers found goat meat waiting for them, Dad said.
Despite what he said about swimming in shark-infested waters, he later fondly recalled taking a dip while guys on high ground with rifles kept an eye out for predators.
After the foxhole incident, where the Japanese soldier with the bayonet jumped in, Dad once recalled that he rigged special booby traps around his foxhole to keep that from happening again. Guys would call out when it was time for him to pull guard duty or go on patrol, because nobody was going to walk right up to his special security system.
Below is the end of Dad’s combat career.

October 1944
It’s been exactly two years overseas today, two years of hell and fun. If our luck holds out we’ll come out O.K. I have to admit we have pulled out of tight spots.
I’m the driver of a command car now, big-time stuff.
The Japs are going to town in China, losing their airports fast. I believe instead of the Philippines we’ll all end up somewhere in China. Anyplace would be better than these God-forsaken islands.
MacArthur finally hit the Philippines and had quite a beachhead on Leyete before the Japs woke up. Our Navy is giving the Japs a lesson in basic naval warfare. They’ve had three good scraps so far, and the Japs are coming out second best. Some Navy bigwig predicts now we’ll even hit China because we can use airports. Only 700 miles from Hong Kong and Shanghai now.
We have our area built-up really classy. All the tents are in a line and we even have flowers planted in front of tents. Now that we’re set up we’re sure to get orders to tear it all down because we’re moving again. We never get moss on our feet.
(Name unreadable, starts with an ‘S’) was taken sick with fever, which later developed into scrub typhus and got serious. He died today, Oct. 30, and had been unconscious for the last few days. We’re really going to miss him because he was one man in a million, the life of every gathering and a swell ball player. He lived in St. Louis. Now his folks are going to hear of his death instead of his rotation.
I got kind of sick again last nite. I still can’t get over my attack while at Yakamo. I believe I’ll go on sick call tomorrow to see what’s up again.
Nurses came in last week, and with them came trouble and rumors galore. They don’t think much of us GIs. During their initial appearance at a movie they came with .45 caliber pistols and had officers with them with loaded carbines.
Trouble came later when two enlisted men tried to get in their quarters while drunk. Both have about 11 counts against them, good for a vacation in Leavenworth. Only officers can enjoy their company. As representatives of American girls, they stink.
Our radio officers who stayed on O.P. with Aussies are being forced to move O.P. because a group of Japs are on their trail, Japs from Wewak on patrol or something.
The next day our planes bombed the village our O.P. had been in, and there’s no word from our boys as to where the Japs got to or if the bombs did the work. The boys are due back in camp between the 1st and 5th. Of November.
Another rumor last nite was that 18 natives raped three nuns on the island across from us.
The penalty for that is death by hanging if it’s true but, if true, it’s more than just.
Radio Tokyo scoffs at our claims, but not with the happy tones she used when we were at the Russells. From all appearances, Japan is in one hell of a spot, and her good friend Germany has plenty of headaches, too.
The boys are out on a four-hour hike now, there’s a nice, full moon but it’s very unlikely to be appreciated by tired men. I stayed behind in camp because I don’t believe I could take it.
It’s payday tomorrow, and the next day will start our 26th month overseas.

00-Dad's-Journal-Photos-fro
Here are some shots Dad took, most likely at his final post. The guys in the top photo are “The Bassey Group,” comprised of 1st Lt. Chapman, 1st Sgt. Wasp and S/Sgt. Sciarra. When Dad wrote notes on the back of the photos, Wasp and Sciarra were in the hospital.
The middle photo is a military vehicle labeled “Good Old Horse.” The 43rd Cavalry was mechanized.

The bottom photo shows a soldier next to a gun and gun emplacement, and simply is inscribed: “It works.”

November 1944
I got some negatives back I took while on patrol – three short because they showed Japs unburied at a village we burned to keep the Japs from using. And our censors are afraid the Japs wouldn’t like it. Boy! Are we suckers.
Natives are banging away on drums so some ceremonial dance is going on across the river. I sure hope they’re not mad at us tonite. I’m sleepy and I hate to be disturbed.
Lt. Ouzts killed a 10-foot snake. That would be nice to find on your pillow.
(NOTE: Lt. Ouzts is most likely Alamo Scouts team leader Wilmot Ouzts. That new unit set up a training camp in New Guinea before being deployed to Luzon. The elite Alamo Scouts led the famed raid that freed U.S. prisoners who endured brutal imprisonment after surviving the Bataan Death March.)
I went on sick call and was sent back to the 118th again, my third trip. Let’s hope it’s my last. I’m here for observation of syncope, whatever that is.
I saw plenty of movies here, two in the rain, and there are softball games every nite.
Later:
I don’t know what the docs found, but I was sent to the 37th Station hospital. It’s very nice here, beds, pillows and mattresses. The chow is O.K. and the treatment is the best so far. More check-ups, blood tests and high blood pressure.
We had nurses here, but before I got here they moved. Tsk, tsk. The doc told me I’m to be evacuated either to Hollandia or French Haven.
I was back to camp on a pass to see the boys, almost like going home. I had five Xmas parcels I split with the boys. I felt kind of funny leaving camp; I may never see some of my pals again because no one knows where I’ll end up.

Aboard the Hospital ship H.S. Maetsuycker:
I boarded the Hospital Ship in the harbor, really a lulu and comfortable.
One good point is it’s not crowded and the food was excellent. They even had ice cream and fried chicken. They had beer every afternoon. I swapped mine for root beer. The nurses were really swell to us boys and did everything to sheer us up.
We left the harbor with all the lites on. It seems funny to go this way when we’re used to blackouts.
We stopped over at New Britain to pick up a patient but since they had only one we kept on going. We sighted land late afternoon and pulled into Finschhafen and docked alongside another ship. We stayed on overnight but got off after breakfast and came here to 237 Sta. Hospital.
It looks O.K. The nurses are friendly but, as usual, they’re checking my blood, etc. There must be something wrong somewhere. The doc asked all kinds of questions, it could be here I’ll get results.
They have a Red Cross here, we heard Negroes sing last nite, pretty good.
Later:
Capt. Brown, in charge of the ward, diagnosed my trouble as a bad case of nerves, etc. He’s a nice guy for a medic. Gave us lectures most every day but claims in time we’ll be O.K. I hope they don’t believe I’m too sick over here, but it’s tough not knowing when we’re so far apart.
Editor’s Note:
Here’s a little bit about the hospital ship from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Maetsuycker_as_hospital_ship.png:
Maetsuycker
00 Dad's Journal Hospital ship

The Maetsuycker, a Dutch Registered vessel, 4,131 GRT, 361 ft 6 in (110.2 m) in length,[1] owned by Koninklijke Paketvaart-Maatschappij (KPM) of Batavia, Dutch East Indies was completed in 1937. She was converted to hospital ship at the cost of the Dutch government, crewed by Dutch Officer’s and Javanese (Indonesian) sailors to treat transport 250 patients.[citation needed] She sailed under the control of the US Army for intra-theater use, but was a Dutch hospital ship flying the Dutch Flag and certified by the Netherlands Government under the Hague Convention. She served in New Guinea and the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA) as part of the SWPA Command’s permanent local fleet with the local “X” number[Note 1] 12.[2][1] Maetsuycker officially became a U.S. hospital ship at a ceremony 4 February 1944 with an address by the Consul-General for the Netherlands. U.S. Army medical personnel staffed the hospital facilities.[6]

Later:
I was at the 237 for only 26 days when the transfer came in for the 13th General Hospital.

December 1944
The 13th General Hospital is pretty good. the nurses and doc s treat us as humans. Boys are leaving from here to the states. It sure makes us feel funny to see fellows leave for home.
It’s December here. Capt. Michael claims I need plenty of rest, etc., we’ll see. The mail is very slow, although a few packages did come through,
On Christmas Eve we went to Midnight Mass, my third Xmas overseas. Christmas Day was hot as hell. We have a tiny Xmas tree on the nurse’s desk. I put a can of Spam under it, but she didn’t appreciate it.
I got the best Christmas gift a guy could ask for. Doc told me I’d be boarded at 1 o’clock. I went before a board of a captain and two colonels, and I believe I’m on my way home. Now it’s only a matter of time before I get on board a ship for home and the folks. It still feels like a dream.
I was given a bag of woolens, etc. that brings (unreadable) one step nearer. Now we’re all anxiously waiting for a boat to go back o.
I’ve seen plenty of movies, but last night’s USO show was tops. Saw four Conoly Cover Girls featuring “Conoly Jones.” It was really O.K., even if I sat on a hard bench three hours before the show.
New Years we came in quiet and we had few casualties by drunkenness. It seems liquor is mighty scarce here.

January 1945
We boarded the Bosche Fontaine on Jan. 6, 1945 and sailed immediately – a Dutch troop transport.
We had 600 patients on board, including WACs and nurses as patients.
I felt pretty good seeing the lights of Finschhafen fade away.
I had quite a coincidence on board ship when I found another John S. Moses. Both of us are Pfc.s, so as a result he took all the K.P. on the way over. I lived the life if ease. That’ll teach him to steal my name.

Editor’s Note: When the John S. Moses who got stuck with double K.P. finally met my Dad, he had some colorful words to share.

I was on board ship 21 days and the meals were pretty good. We had only one alarm. Some psycho patient was let out for air and decided to jump overboard. He was caught ion time but his life jacket fell overboard so some sailor gave the alarm (Man overboard!) the ship stopped dead and bells started clanging.
For a while I figured we’d been attacked by subs or planes, but everything turned out O.K.
We had abandon ship drills most every day – really nice days – and plenty of sunburns resulted.
There were plenty of flying fish and, every once in a while, we’d see a tanker off in the distance plodding along
The sea got heavy as hell a week out of Frisco and the boat seemed to be doing a balancing act. I saw an aircraft carrier going out into the Pacific. We heard a direct broadcast from the States for the first time in years. It sure sounded swell – we heard the Post Toasties program.
The morning of Jan. 26 we all got up earlier because land was to be sighted. It sure felt nice to even see a light off somewhere. Our pilot pulled up in pitch dark and headed us in for shore.
We saw land at dawn and everybody realized we were home at last – home up to now was a word in the dictionary.
We pulled into Frisco Bay and that Golden Gate never looked better. When we sailed under it everybody cheered – with the exception of myself. I was too choked-up.
We got off the Bosche Fontaine at about 10 a.m. they had a band play while we disembarked. We got into the hospital buses and found a woman driver. She got us to Letterman General Hospital, so she couldn’t have been too bad.
We really rubber-necked and looked at everything. The States sure looked plenty O.K.
We had our first meal as soon as we hit the wards – we went to a beautiful mess hall and had fresh food galore – most of us ate to excess.
While we lined up to get into the hospital Red Cross workers gave us a pint of milk and a sleeveless sweater. That milk sure went over swell.
I sent a telegram home, and to Violet.
We went all over the place, and everyone agreed Letterman is one swell hospital. I spent the first night at the Red Cross, played hearts and lost.
We saw a swell stage show put on my civilians from Frisco nite clubs at the Red Cross. Buses took us to a hockey game. We had on hospital uniforms so we stood out. We got a swell welcome from the people.
We saw Frisco on a sightseeing bus, pretty good. We also attended a concert at the Symphony Hall or something, we heard the Dan Cassan Chorus. We finally found out we were to be split up and sent to hospitals all over the states – I’m to see Wakeman Gen’l & Conv. In Indiana.

February 1945
We got on a hospital train and started off closer to home. They had beds fixed in coaches, so we slept and looked at the states all the way.
Even our meals were served by ward boys, so as a whole our trip was swell. I saw snow at Sacramento, Calif. and went through Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.
I got to Wakeman at nite on Feb. 2. It was colder than hell. I was sent to the convalescent area.
Some fellows took off pronto. I hit the hay and called up home the next nite. It sure was nice talking to the folks, and Violet.
I took off on a pass a week later and almost got stopped by the S.P., but I got through O.K. (The pass was forged.)
Mom and Louie were waiting at the gate. It felt good seeing them, even if I looked like something the cat dragged in.
I had a 15-day furlough and got sick immediately – malaria sick. I was home 6 days and spent 7 in the Fort Wayne Hospital. I must have scared the hell out of everybody.
Liz came over to see me but I was O.K. when she arrived. I got a 7-day extension.
I had plenty of passes from the hospital, so no complaints.
I was sick as hell on my birthday, Feb. 26, but since Violet, Olga, Pearl and Elaine came over to help eat cake I came down – I went to the hospital the next day.
Elaine gave me a wallet. Bab’s scared stiff of me or something.

March 1944:
I got engaged to Violet on March 9.

John Steve Moses, in uniform, with Violet Margaret Moses in Detroit, Michigan on Easter of 1945. They were engaged on March 9 of that year and were married until he died on May 1, 1983.

John Steve Moses, in uniform, with Violet Margaret Moses in Detroit, Michigan on Easter of 1945. They were engaged on March 9 of that year and were married until he died on May 1, 1983.

April 27, 1945:
I got a 17-day leave again while the other guys start in processing for discharge. I had malaria again, but not too severe. It seems “furloughs” and “malaria” come about even for me.

June 1945:
I went before two boards prior to C.D.D. I believe I’ll be out and a civilian by July 4th.
Dentists fixed all my choppers, even made new ones for the missing ones. No trouble with them at all, since I leave’em in my foot locker.
I was discharged from the Army on June 22, Friday, at 1 o’clock – that’s all.

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Part 14: This is why they say war is hell

00-Dad's-Journal-43rd-Cav

Members of the 43rd Cavalry pose while enjoying beverages, probably on Aitape in 1944.

Notes from a son: When I was 5 a friend gave us a dog I named Snoopy. He lived with us loyally until I was about 19, and due to the dog’s advanced cancer I had to take him to the vet to be put down. My folks immediately brought in a new, yippy little dog that I didn’t want or like, and and told me to paint the old dog house.
I did.
A few nights after Snoopy had been put down, the new dog was next to the repainted dog house growling fiercely at a bush after dusk. I figured it was an opossum. I shined the flashlight into that bush and I could have sworn I saw my old dog, even the bare spot on his tail from where he beat it against absolutely everything. Now, I knew I couldn’t have seen my dog, he was dead. Just the same I ran into the house with the new dog close behind and found my Dad, who was in his favorite recliner watching TV.
“This sounds crazy,” I said, and described what I thought I just saw in the back yard. “I know I’m just acting nuts and I miss my dog.”
I was waiting for him to tell me that yes, I was acting nuts, and I should go do the dishes.
Dad paused, then said, “You know when I wake up sometimes, at night, and come out to the living room? Sometimes, when I wake up, I see a dead Japanese soldier I killed standing over my bed looking down at me. I don’t know what you saw, but some things you just have to live with.”
And that ended that discussion.
Now, I don’t know what my Dad saw during those nights, probably a bad recurring dream, but I’d like to think that if that if that soldier did pay Dad a visit, it was because he was concerned about the way Dad was handling the outcome of his days in the Pacific.
Here we rejoin the 43rd Cavalry as they hold a bit of Aitape and make defensive patrols.

Sept. 1944

We had to go relieve some boys below the Drinumor River. It seemed kind of screwy sending only one platoon to an O.P. where there are Japs galore. We went on an L.C.T.
The first nite we were there, Jimmy and I dug a shallow fox hole. Just at dark we both laid down to talk until we had to go on guard.
I heard a branch snap so I looked up and saw a Jap getting ready to jump in with a bayonet. I yelled to Jim, and the Jap gave a yell and jumped. I had time to hit him over the head with the barrel of my M-1.
By that time, Jim and I were out, and the yellow joker had our hole. I figured he’d toss our own grenades so I shot him three times through the guts. He got up and started toward us. Jim figured he was going to surrender so he told me to hold it.
I waited until he was three feet from me, but he jumped again so I shot him through the chest and through the jaw. The last shot blew a big hole through the top of his head. He’s the only one who slept that nite.
The next day we saw he was armed only with a bayonet. He had our biscuits in his pockets, and our cigarettes and a book of matches saying buy war bonds, help end this war.
We buried him in our old fox hole in the middle of camp
We went on patrols and saw fresh Jap tracks all over. The first patrol we had one shot fired by a sniper. The second patrol we saw tracks on the beach heading for the jungle, only a few hours old.
We scattered and started toward the jungle. When we were almost there, Collins spotted a Jap running like hell and fired. Upon investigation we found that three Japs were drying out their clothes when we surrounded them. They left everything but their shorts. Pass got a pistol, Briholez a big flag and a few bayonets. We burned all the equipment and threw their big cans of biscuits into the ocean. Made in Australia.
A gun boat came down to see what’s up. We kept going down, so the boat called O.P. to ask how many men we had. When they reported 11 the boat said there were 12, one way back. So we had a Jap for rear guard.
In camp, our area is full of sand fleas and mosquitoes, everybody’s all het up and there’s nothing to help.
The dead Jap now stinks like hell; even in death he bothers us.
The boys are shooting at Japs strolling by every nite, but they don’t stop.
Lt. Marcotte went out about 100 yards from our fox holes and a sniper winged him and heaved a grenade. Nice neighborhood we live in. We sent him back by boat.
We have a Lt. from the 112th Cavalry in charge. Hall sent back that he’d have more men and Cole the next day.

Later:
Early the next day after I drank my coffee I got up to wash my cup and passed out cold. My chest felt like it was on fire. I went to the hospital by the P.T. gunboat and found that I have high blood pressure and probably something out of kilter in my chest. Stayed five days, then back. All I got was (unreadable).
I’m kind of dizzy, so I guess I’ll be shoved out of 2nd and into something else.
After I left the boys went on patrol and bagged a 2nd Lt.
Jutras pumped four slugs into him. They captured a Superior Pvt. who spoke good English. G-2 got plenty from him. It seems he’s one of a few left from about 80 from Wewak.
The boys were relieved by Co. 172 and I heard later they were hit by an unknown number of Japs and lost one man.

Later:
Last night the boys were on another O.P. and they killed another Jap just outside of the fox holes. Opened up with a machine gun. So we had plenty to talk about on our return.
The 3rd Platoon is back. Outz has scrub typhus so he’s gone. Mike came to the same hospital, he had 105 degree fever. Jimmy is also in the hospital with a fever. I have a fever over 100, so I guess I’m due for a return engagement to hospital as well.
At least the war news is swell. The 1st Army is through the Siegfried Line in 14 hours, 26 miles from Cologne. The Russians are too close for comfort. Should be over by Xmas.
Here we hit two isles, Palau and the northern part of Halmahera. The latter is ours, and opposition was negligible. At Palau we captured the best airport in the Pacific.
We’re in training now for open terrain warfare so we’re headed for the Philippines, probably Mindanao in the Southern Philippines.
We got a division commendation from MacArthur for our work here, so I guess we’ll be pretty well known.
I’m in the hospital again for Dengue Fever, I had a temp of 104 so for six days I felt kind of lousey. I had Mike and Shan for company. Shan was a malaria case. Transferred from 2nd to H.Q. Platoon. My attack wasn’t any too good, so I guess the boys figure I’m a non-combatant now.

Later:
We had some hell here the other night. Names were picked out of a box for rotation. Merritt, Miley, Frank, Eastwood, Hampton and Lamarre. Boy, they paled and almost passed out. They had one more drawing for a furlough and 12 of us put in for it.
The next day the brass hats at H.Q. changed plans, and a more disappointed bunch was never seen, from smiles to heartaches, but fast.
The plan now is to send guys who had more time in our advanced area. The 1st Platoon left New Zealand two days before us, so all of them go first before us. Fellows who paid a fine lose two days for every dollar paid, and one day for every day they were locked-up. Now we have nothing to look forward to at all. Our furlough is gone, too. Richardson took it, so I guess I’m here from now on.
Julius is now overseas, in England, I hope. Detroit lost the pennant by one day, the Browns are the new champs. Too bad, because they were our favorites here.
The guys were really drunk last nite from home-made brew and some rotgut they bought. They threw up all over the place. Now they’ll behave till pay day.

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Part XIII: Back to the work of war

July 5, 1944

First Platoon is ready to leave at any time, going on advance. I hope we stay for last for a change.
I spent July 4th under better circumstances than last year. Most of the fellows were in Auckland, and most imbibed heavily. As a result, many a sick fellow woke up this morning.
First Platoon is guarding the equipment on the docks. The ship came in last nite, so maybe we are on our merry way again.
Aaron is going home because of jungle rot on his hands.

Later:
1st Platoon departed on a ship called “Sea Dog” or “Sea Devil,” destination unknown. Now we’re all packed and ready to go on short notice.
I’ve been kind of sick lately, temp around 95 degrees, too low for comfort. Our vehicles are on the dock now ready to load. I guess this is our last weekend here. I went to Auckland Saturday but it was too damn crowded and almost impossible to get into the movies. Everybody was stinkeroo.
I got a quart of whiskey as a gift for my work as typist. I gave it to Mike. He was so surprised his eyes bulged-out.
Second and third parts of the platoon got orders to pack up, so we really moved things fast. At 6:00 we started off for Auckland for the last time, for who knows where.

Later:
We got down O.K. and found we are to sail on an old Liberty Ship converted into a troop transport called the “U.S.S. Carlos Carrillo,” one of the worst ships we ever sailed on. To make matters worse, we found we were to have sailed on the “Matsonia,” but due to last –minute changes we ended up on this garbage scow. The food was lousey and we had lines a mile long before we could reach the hot box called a mess hall or galley.

The ship in 1944 was not old, but it did look the part. The S.S. Carlos Carillo, at least among my Dad's bunch,  won the 43rd Cavalry Recon Troop's vote for least favorite troop ship. U.S. NAVY PHOTO/SAN FRANCISCO BAY

The ship in 1944 was not old, but it did look the part. The S.S. Carlos Carillo, at least among my Dad’s bunch, won the 43rd Cavalry Recon Troop’s vote for least favorite troop ship. U.S. NAVY PHOTO/SAN FRANCISCO BAY


Everybody was sea-sick for the first three days, including myself. Later on we could eat, but the chow was so bad no one could eat it.
We knew we were heading or New Guinea, a place called Aitape. The Japs are trapped there, but fighting to break out. The first we saw of New Guinea was Moresby Bay, where we anchored all day and pulled out at nite. It’s very hilly and looks like hell. The next day we pulled in at French Haven. It was the same as the other place. I had K.P. here, had to haul garbage cans to the stern and leave them there to dump at nite. I never worked harder in all my life. Two days later we pulled in to Aitape, where we saw 16 ships anchored. We stayed onboard all day because other ships had priority on unloading.
We got off the Carillo and loaded onto an L.C.T. and pulled ashore. The beach was very sandy and we walked ¼ mile to camp (as set up by “”1st H-Q,” for us there were only two tents available. There were no cots, but the cooks were anticipating our arrival and had a swell dinner prepared.
I found we’re on the right flank of the front lines. It’s quiet in our sector, but on the left the 169 and the 172 have trouble, but so far the score is 272 Japs to 5 of us.
Marcotte and the 1st are on a three-day recon patrol now. The sun is so hot here it even gets in the shade. We’re digging-in the M-8s and M.G.s in case the Japs attack. We’re pretty well set up, 6 men to a tent and, best of all, we have cots to sleep on.
The 20th Jap division lost to our O.P.s. They’re probably going to try to hit us as an escape through the swamp.
Later:
The patrol is back. They report that the Japs are eating snakes, etc. in the swamp and, according to the natives, hanging themselves.
We have movies here every nite lites are on all over the place. One would never believe we are only 5 miles from thousands of Japs. We all look like (unreadable) and have out hair out to the bone and our mustaches are getting fuzzy.

August 1944:
The 3rd Platoon was ordered to relieve the 32nd Ran. We had to walk 6 days behind the Jap line to reach O.P.
1st Platoon headed back from an 8-day patrol. One man had malaria. I hope a news correspondent is along. They’ll probably have a story on us. Our 2nd Platoon reached its objective, the 32nd boys were on the way back when ambushed by the Japs. It seems the natives double-crossed them.
The natives are reportedly being held as prisoners, and will probably be shot for dead.
So far, 4 men from the 82nd. Recon have made their way back to camp. The rest are not accounted for.
We’re working our area now, plenty of work but getting on pretty fair. Movies all over the place. Can see one every nite.
Our artillery really is banging away. It’s sure nice to listen and not be on the receiving end.
I went to the airdrome today and saw a group of P-38s taking off. There was plenty of activity.
Rotation is now very much in doubt, according to plans now only two can leave per month. So I guess we’re here for the duration.
Mail won’t arrive, so I guess we’re sort of screwed-up.
The war in Europe is drawing to a climax and Japan is being hit 600 miles from home now. They lost lot of planes and ships last night when out task force hit them. I believe we’ll hit the Banin Isles and we, the 43rd, will hit some isle before long.
The boys are going pretty far past the Drinumor River. So far, 10,000 Japs are counted dead. This place should be cleaned out soon.
First Platoon is out on a 30-day recon. Now only the 2nd is here, plus H.Q. We’re reserves to relieve the 3rd. or, if needed, to use the M-8s. Rumor has us getting more vehicles.
I am now a gunner on a 37 in M-8 so maybe we’ll go somewhere yet on patrol.
Japan and the Philippines were bombed, the latter for the first time. Japan is due for some more headaches.
There’s still no place to set up my darkroom so chances are I’ll develop only my own film. There’s no chemicals here at all, so that’s another headache. This war is really provoking at times.
Mail comes once a week. Seems to me we deserve better service than that, very good for our morale.
I shot up plenty of .30 caliber slugs to try out my new rifle. It’s really a swell weapon. Too bad a few politicians weren’t lined up in the sights.
We swam in the ocean yesterday, but it’s not much fun when you have to keep an eye out for sharks.
I was up in a plane two days straight, dropped rations to the 1st Platoon. It’s really nice way above the clouds. Those were my first two rides, but they won’t be my last.
We’re building a ball field now, we named it Morrell Field in memory of Pap.

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Part XII – Replacement troops, and getting ready to go back

Notes from a son:
Dad didn’t record specific stories here about people he met in Auckland, but he said some of them would invite American servicemen right into their homes and feed them. He talked a lot about the green landscape and pretty houses, but he never went back for a visit. I suspect that’s because of all the other stuff he’d have remembered from that time. He didn’t get back to Auckland, but he did indeed master horseshoes.
As his World War II service journal continues, I learned that Dad knew how to type, at least well enough to keep him out of going on maneuvers.

April 1944

There are no American WACS here but plenty of nurses. All are officers, so the enlisted man is out of luck.
Wearing bars does make an officer superior to an enlisted man. Except up in the islands where bombs and bullets make no distinction. There, everything is palsy-walsy. But that’s life for you. We’re democratic alright, in some things.
Cpl. Davis is on his way to the states on an emergency furlough. To us he seems lucky, but maybe he’s not at that because his Dad is dying.
Since Capt. Dall left Capt. Hall is our C.O. but he has yet to get his two bars and methinks he is trying hard enough.
There are plenty of places to go in town for the enlisted man:
 The Catholic Services Club – very good.
 The Red Cross – too crowded.
 Government House – not bad.
 The YMCA – quiet.
 The YWCA – I’m not allowed to enter so I don’t know, but I know I’d like it.
The movies are plenty, and I was in all, but The Civic is tops. The interior is really beautiful and the roof resembles the sky at night, complete with stars, clouds that move and a moon. It’s very nice and could compete with any back in the states.
Our A.W.O.L. cases are not too bad, two are still out for quite some time now. Three are in the stockade for two months. They got a dirty deal. And there’s one awaiting courts martial. I hope he keeps his stripes because he’s a swell guy.
Last mail I heard Farmer is going overseas, I believe it’s England or France. Too bad, because he is too young to learn to kill.
Plenty of boys are low on money, so Cablegrams are going back home for more dough. I sent Mom flowers for Mother’s Day, and got a rosary from Violet for my birthday. She’s someone I aim to go home to.
I’ve been developing a lot of film for the fellows here. It’s getting so I can see like a cat in the dark. There are no rumors yet as to when we’re due to leave New Zealand.
I finally heard from Farmer, he crossed the Atlantic to England. I hope he’ll be as lucky in combat as I was in New Georgia.
A big push is expected any time now. England must be jammed with Americans. The papers say the casualties are expected to be very high.
I’m afraid my Brother Julius is coming here somewhere, especially if he goes to Virginia. I sure hope it’s not true.

May 1944
This may be the month of May, but it’s so damn cold it’s not funny. We have our kerosene stoves on all nite but even then I use 5 blankets, two issued, two I got from the 25th Recon boys and one I talked our supply sergeant out of. We’re having fun with our kerosene stoves. Some guys filled up with diesel and in the morning everything was lousey with soot. They looked like Amos & Andy.
I have a new job now for the past week, doing typing for Lt. Atkinson, the claims officer for the division. It’s pretty fair so far. I get out of a lot of work, and it’s pretty interesting, something new for a change.
We have two new officers, Cole and Israel. The rumor now is we’re going to the Philippines. If so, I doubt many of us will be alive when the rotation policy comes into effect next October, 24 months overseas.
We had a speech by General Wing. He says we’ll see action again before too long. Very encouraging. He said the rotation policy is even now in effect and boys are going back monthly.
All we have to do is stay alive and our turn will come.
We’re getting new men daily to replace the ones we lost. I hear rumors we’re to be mechanized and will have armored cars soon.
The Infantry is now on maneuvers, but Hall says we’re not going. Three men, Allen Anderson and Ames, are going to 502 New Caledonia soon. Big shake-up in the troop. Men are being busted all over the place. Anyone could wake up now and be a Cpl. or Sgt.

May 5, 1944
Effective May 5, Lamarre and I are Pfc.s, very touching for us two ex-corporals. Mike was busted to Pvt. LaJoie is still a private. Poor guy deserves new ratings. Now you don’t know who to cuss for fear he may be a Sgt., as if any of us give a damn.
Drivers are going to get new vehicles, so I guess our mechanization will become a reality.
I had to stand guard Sunday, and a nicer nite would be hard to find. I had a beautiful full moon, but no one around to share it with, only me and my dreams.
There were three auto accidents in Troop over the weekend. Passerelli hit four cows and wrecked his Ford. Billy hit one cow, and “Karescky” cracked his up too. Lefty had to be pulled out of a ditch too, so that alone proves there’s plenty of liquor yet.
We have a Troop party at Hamilton Friday nite. That will be one nite I want to see.

Later in May:
I went to Auckland again on Saturday and took in two movies with Joe, and stayed a while at the Catholic Club. I had fun listening to Baptists sing on the corner of Queens Street. They really go in for it here in a big way.
Mail is lousey, so bad, in fact, we’ve just about given up hope of receiving any.
We have new M-8s now, three to start with and one half-track. So I guess the word Mec. will finally be a literal fact.
I’m still doing a lot of typing for Lt. Atkinson, and it seems our boys are having plenty of accidents. Some of them are really lulus, these New Zealand people are really out for our money.
We had our troop party at Hamilton and beer flowed like water. We had a swell dance band, but being a non-dancer I just watched the capers of the gang. Everybody but Chuck and I was polluted but, strange as it sounds, there wasn’t one fight.
Lt. Hall (Now Capt. Hall) played the trumpet. Precusser was really good on the sax.
After the party about 5 kegs of beer was brought back to camp. All day Sunday and Saturday the few who stayed behind stayed by the kegs and really drank.
The Troop is scheduled for three weeks of maneuvers around Rotovia, they’ll really freeze nights up there. Being assistant to the claims officer is now paying off. I’m to stay behind.
I believe we’ll sail off some time after that, where nobody knows or ventures to guess.
Division called up and told us to stop putting our identifying number on crates. It could be we’ll finally move out of the South Pacific.
Cassin was finally taken by the Allies, sounds like they’re going great guns all over. I still believe we’ll be thru France before the year’s up.

June 1944:
The boys all left for maneuvers and, from the reports they’re sending back they’re having it tough. It’s not only cold, but our new Captain makes them stay out in it. They even had snow up there.
Our radios really sizzled with news that they opened-up the new, long-awaited front by invading France. The Germans were so surprised they haven’t recovered yet. It came on June 6. Now they have quite a foothold. The Russians are going after Finland, should knock them out by July.
Back to our party with the Japs, we hit the Marianas Isles 1,500 miles from Japan and 600 from the Philippines. We’re bombing Guam, so it looks like the climax is soon to come. New B-29 bombers hit Japan itself, and only lost four more thru Jap fire. So it looks like Tojo has something to worry about now that we’re in his back yard.
We have our worries, too. Our new rumor has us going to New Guinea to a staging point from there to take another rock from the Japs.
That’s something nice to look forward to, considering we have only three months to go to be eligible for furloughs home via the Rotation Plan.
I was to Hamilton both weekends the boys were on maneuvers. It was good to wake up in a hotel room and not have to get up unless I wanted to.
Rumor also has it that New Zealand will be given back to the New Zealanders. A lot of Kiwis ( New Zealand soldiers) are back for good to work at essential jobs. It seems funny, considering that there’s no indication that this war will end soon.
New Zealand’s servicemen resent the Yank’s popularity with the girls, but it’s their own fault. To see anyone duller one would have to go to a museum, and to their girls I guess we’re something new.
Anyway, some husbands came home too, and a few boys were sort of caught making themselves at home. Funny now, but some of us will probably fare the same.
Have only two A.W.O.L.s now if reports are true. Gray got caught. Wasn’t worth it if he’ll get three months in the stockade, losing chances for rotation.
The boys came back from maneuvers Friday night and a more disgusted bunch couldn’t be found anywhere.
Our outfit was the only one to stay three weeks as a whole group. Now we’re all looking forward to 5-day passes, but I have doubts we’ll get them. We were scheduled to stay in New Zealand for three months, and we’re on our way to the fourth now. We’ve got plenty of ‘recreational’ equipment, so civilization will probably be a memory soon. I’m still assistant to the Claims Officer. We had a new accident from Troop last nite. Halverson hit a 6X6 with a civilian car.
I had guard duty again Friday and Saturday as a quiet weekend was had by yours truly. Thursday was “Infantry Day,” so we all got off., but on passing the 169th Infantry we saw them drilling, so I wonder whose day it really was?
The mail finally made an appearance. I got 22 letters in two days, and none for the two weeks before. Everything’s O.K. on the home front, I hope.
Rumors as to an early departure are flying thick and fast. New Guinea lies ahead, by the consensus of our Troop; Port Moresby to Duna, to Wewak would be the main landing points, according to guesses.
Our outfits are packed and most everyone is ready to go, but leaving will be tough again. We had about six shots so far, I got the last four at once. Too bad we didn’t have bayonets to defend ourselves. By now we’re probably immune to any disease known to man plus a few yet undiscovered. Probably for our own good.

July 1944:
We had three-day passes, so Auckland had me for a guest. It was O.K. to sleep as long as I wanted to, and to top it off, chow in bed.
We have a 35-mile limit, so quite a few of the fellows were in town. I’m sure a few bartenders were taxed to their limit.
They have a funny system here. Bars are open 10 — 2 – 4 — 6 daily and closed Sunday. They’re losing plenty of pounds, but blue laws are enforced even over here.
Mike just came in from town, was to “church,” so he says.

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Part XI: Auckland R&R

Notes from a son: If my father’s version of growing up was true, and I’ve no reason to doubt his stories, my paternal grandfather was a moonshiner in Pennsylvania as well as a coal miner. Apparently he wasn’t always very nice when he was on the shine, leading my Dad, the eldest, to one night leave him passed out in the snow. Dad said as the boys got older they teamed up to set matters straight. By the time I met my Grandfather, in 1968 or so, he was a nice old man.
Due to Dad’s experiences growing up he developed a dislike of alcohol and the behavior of those who drank to excess. He hated going to business events where people would drink and try to drive, or pressure him to drink.
It was only natural that, at 24 and older than many of the men around him, he acted as a big brother of sorts. He held cash for some guys who just couldn’t keep from gambling and drinking away their payday, knocking some of them down if they tried to get their cash back before they were sober.
He said they always thanked him later.
(I’m pretty sure some of the antics and observations in this part of the journal were one of the reasons Mom never got to read it.)

February 1944
We got ready to disembark at 2:00 o’clock in the morning, but the boat wasn’t unloaded right away because the New Zealand dock workers are on strike. Yes, even here people can’t seem to understand there’s a war going on.
We got off at 3:30 a.m. and marched down deserted Auckland’s streets. How different from our first visit, when crowds lined the streets and cheered the Yanks. The town is about the same. It looks very familiar and no changes were noticeable. We marched to the train station and then waited for our coaches. We had two apples apiece while we waited.
We loaded on, and got on our way when the sun started peeping out. Then we saw our first fog, and even that looks good. We got off at Papakura and onto trucks to our new camp at Karaka North, 7-and-a-half miles away. When we go to camp it was day-lite.
The camp was very nice, located on the bend of a river. The scenery was perfect, and there were plenty of facilities, showers, day rooms, etc.
And, of course, there’s our sheep and cows staring at us.
We have one inconvenience. The 25rd Recon is still in the huts, and sin e the ship can’t be unloaded they can’t load on, so we have to erect perambular tents to sleep in until they leave, destination unknown.
The mess halls are very crowded with two Recons here. Some of the 25th Division guys are hard-up for money, so our boys are buying wrist watches.
Some guys are really suckers.
We don’t have to sleep on the ground because we got old, beat-up cots from some salvage depot. They were easy to fix. All we had to do was put brand new cot covers on the frame. It’s colder than hell here at nite.

Later:
The 25th Recon finally moved out, so we moved in. Collins, LaMarre, LaJoie and myself are in one hut. A screwier combination can’t be found for love or money.
We can’t leave for town for three days. I guess we’re quarantined to see if any malaria cases will pop up.
Capt. Dall read off rules for behavior, and a list of off-limits places, also our pass policy. It sounds O.K. Comes the great day, we’re off to see civilization at close quarters.
We went down to Auckland by truck, no trains for us. Now we get bus service to and from camp.
The first day in Auckland I felt funny. It was too crowded and noisy for my jangled nerves. People are still in a hell of a hurry, but so am I, to get me where, but fast.

March 1944:
I’m seeing the town very often and only a few things have changed. Prices are up. Meat will be rationed. And people are now accustomed to seeing Americans and don’t seem as friendly, but I guess we who have been in the jungles must seem goofy to them, too.
However, the girls are still man-crazy, as long as he has pants, he’s welcome. But back home we read of girls doing the same, so I guess they’re the same the world over. Of course, there are plenty of good ones, too.
We have about 9 civilian cars in camp now. Prices are high, but the boys are well-heeled. Back home we’d call them “junks,” but here they’re worth pounds. A pound is still worth $3.24 in our money. The only troubles with those cars are the tires. Some of them are on their last threads.
I had my first three-day pass. I went by train to Hamilton with Lajoie and Lamarre. It’s a nice town, not too big and there aren’t many other soldiers here. I had a yellow braid put on my cap. Now we look like soldiers. I feel funny with creased pants and wearing ties – the evils of civilization. Oh well, we can take it. May it last for months.

Later in March:
We’re hearing plenty of this 18-month relief bill. Mom and all seem to believe I’m on my way back. Contrary to reports they’ve been hearing, we’re over here for 24 months before we’re eligible for the states. And then only if they have space, and if we’re not needed. What a laugh. It shows what lengths politicians go to to get votes. I guess our people are too gullible for their own good.
Our mail is lousy, but we still write home to boost-up civilian morale.
I had a seven-day leave, so we went by truck to the Potoma New Zealand National Park, a sort of resort town.
People here are very friendly. The Red Cross got us rooms at the Commonwealth Hotel. The rooms are very nice and the prices reasonable. I got a double room, so Allen and I shared the room.
We met a girl there named Nan. She was a blonde and had more curves than the Penna. Highway She was really well protected, because 12 of us were there and she liked all of us. However, Kelly and I only took her out in the day time to go swimming and to play tennis.
Too bad this damn war doesn’t end so we could go home and see our own gals.
The girls here are as pretty as ours, but something’s lacking. They’ll never beat our American girls.
We went to the Cabaret Dance Hall to see the dance, the music was good and girls galore. Kelly and I flirted with every one of them, a few cuties, too. In fact, I stole one away from a staff Sgt. when he went to the men’s room.
The moral: Men, don’t leave your women, even if you have to.
I took plenty of snapshots. Two waitresses at the hotel consented to pose, so we obliged. The smaller one was cute and insisted on sitting on my knee. I know folks back home won’t believe me.
We visited hot water wells and geysers. We had a Maori woman for a guide. Boy, was she a snow artist. Maoris are natives of New Zealand, dark skinned, a sort of Polynesian type.
Some of their girls are beautiful, nicknamed “Night Fighters” (P-38s) because they’re so fast, and B-24s, the ones who are sort of fat. Plenty of Americans find solace by going with them. I have yet to hear a complaint. The Army has a law against it, but so far no one bothers to enforce it.
I rode a lot of bicycles. My legs really got a workout for a change.
All good things come to an end, so we headed back for camp and a week’s rest before we start in training again.
We’ve been here six weeks now. Our food is excellent, plenty of fresh meat, milk, butter, ice cream and plenty of liquor, beer and wine — and the boys are taking full advantage of it.
00 Dad's Journal karaka-war-memorial-hall-5

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Part X: Heading for R&R in New Zealand on one sweet ride, after a lot of muddy camping. (Recon Troopers do not make for natural M.P.s)

00 736px-USS_General_John_Pope_AP-110
USS General John Pope (AP-110) docked at B/S Pier 6, US Army Port of Embarkation, Hampton Roads, Newport News, Virginia, about to sail with troops and cargo. this photo was taken immediately before her maiden voyage. SOURCE- WIKI

Notes from a son: I had no idea I’d sailed past the troop transport that took my Dad to New Zealand for an R&R he talked about as a good time during a time he didn’t like to talk about. While covering efforts to save the USS/USCG Glacier from breakup, I’d seen the Pope at anchor in Suisun Bay’s MARAD Mothball fleet. The ship served through the Vietnam War.

February 3, 1944:
We left Munda Feb. 3 in a rain storm that lasted all day, everybody was soaking wet. We were in an LC2 this time, and the voyage was surprisingly smooth compared to the L.S.T. we arrived from the Russells on. They served cheese and meat sandwiches, plus some liquid alleged to be coffee. There weren’t many good appetites once we hit the open water.
We came to Guadalcanal the next morning and, as usual, the move was scheduled with rain. We haven’t had a dry stretch now for two days. We had mail call before sailing – I had 41 letters. Guadalcanal is now really built-up. There are good roads and plenty of buildings.
I saw Henderson airport and Carney Field, both of them really big. Later we saw a fighter strip manned by New Zealanders. If the Japs could see this place now, they’d really see what they’re up against.
We camped about 23 miles from the beach where we landed, put up camp and was really ready for bed and chow, but the lure of movies was stronger so we went by truck to see “The Big Shot.” I saw it once before in happier times, when I was a civilian.
The mosquitoes are really bad and getting too bold for their own good. We’re moving again tomorrow. I was issued four cans of beer and two Cokes, so for the first time since the states I had Coke again. Some of the fellows really had plenty of beer, and headaches.
Saturday morning the great, big trailer trucks loaded up all our equipment and we were off again, this time to stand guard over division equipment prior to loading on ship.
New Zealand is now pretty definite. After that, who knows?
Our new bivouac place is the muddiest place you ever saw. You really walk around in ankle-deep mud all day, shoes wet and torn.
I was issued new clothes, 2 sets of cottons, 1 set of woolens, so I guess now we’re really going.
I pulled guard 2 on and 4 off for a 24-hour period and, as usual, rain. I believe we start loading-on tomorrow. Our C.O. is getting a transfer to air cargo. Nuff said.
I saw some brand new troops from the States get off the President Johnson, and I never saw any bunch so dirty and disgusted. They were on the Johnson 41 days before they could decide where to land. I sure hope we don’t go back on this ship. It really smells, literally speaking.
A P-38 crashed while taking off on the strip next to us. The plane was demolished and the pilot burned to death before the fire could be extinguished. He did manage to crawl on the wing, but that’s all. A hell of a way to die, never even had a chance.
Later:
I pulled guard duty again, this time guarding division supplies. I never saw so much junk in all my life.
I had two real, honest-to-goodness fried eggs, our first in quite some time. It was swell, but it wasn’t quite enough.
We still have our rain. It’s really disgusting the way our area is muddy. We slip and slide all over the place. No washing clothes, because you’re just getting muddy again.
Our ship finally pulled in, and it’s really a big baby. It sure looked nice coming in – New Zealand, here we come.
I’m still pulling guard, I saw most of the 103rd loading onto the General Pope, or Polk. I guess we’re next.
Some of the fellows saw a real, honest-to-goodness USO show complete with girls, Francis Kay, Mary Elliott, some Spaniard and Ray Milland. It must be safe here if they come here.
I saw a task force pulling out to invade Green Island. I took pictures of the boats. I hope they’re luckier than we were in New Georgia.
We loaded onto the Pres., or I believe it’s the Gen. Pope at three o’clock in the morning. We were ready right after breakfast, but we had to wait damn near until morning again.
I was so disgusted a pulled a blanket out of my barracks bag and slept near the pier until it was time to go. I was handed a meal ticket while going up the gangplank. Big time stuff.
Our fellows were assigned to bunks two decks below,
Crowded but clean, New Zealand here we come.

Later:
The Gen. Pope is a new ship, very clean and pretty fast. There’s very strict discipline here because it’s run by the Army.
We have Marines on for guard, etc… some of the boys really gave them trouble, took the cockiness out of them.
Our troop had M.P. duty all the way over. For guys who have nothing to do with M.P.s,… we really got it. Now I know how the poor devils feel.
The chow on this ship is fine, nothing to brag about. We had plenty of weak coffee and no cases of sea-sickness this time. The boys are in good humor, and morale is very high.
One drawback was the strict blackout regulations. We had to go below decks before dark.
What made it worse: Even the lights below deck were put out, so we had to sleep.
I met plenty of old friends from the 103rd Infantry and the 118th Engineers. We really had some bull sessions.
We’re having trouble with some of the boys sitting on life preservers. It seems the big shots don’t want them to be comfortable.
The day before sighting land everybody was busy polishing shoes that really looked screwy after all the months we lived in mud and dirt. We saw birds all day, so land can’t be far; to-morrow is our 5th day at sea and last.
The next day everybody was up early to see if we’re near land, but no luck. Our ship seems to be going around in circles, I guess it’s waiting for escort into the harbor.
At noon we finally sighted land. Nothing distinguishable, but land again. I really feel good.
We sighted Auckland later on and closer to land. The houses look beautiful to us. After all, it’s been 18 months since we left civilization.
We steamed into the harbor and docked. I was so excited I forgot to eat my supper. A band played us some American songs and all around us we could see people staring at our ship.
The ferry boats going to Davenport and Bayswater passed by close, and we saw our first white girls. They seemed glad to see us, because they waved all the time until we were out of sight.
Auckland really looked like heaven. For the first time in over a year we could relax, see lites all over, and take it easy even if a plane flew overhead.
All of this makes us feel so good. How will we feel when the war’s over and we’ll dock at Frisco? We stayed on the ship all nite but slept very little, because things seemed like a dream come true.
00 Mothball 800px-USS_General_John_Pope_(AP-110)
USS General John Pope being towed to temporary dock. Also named: USNS General John Pope (T-AP-110)

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