Dad’s service Journal Part III

Note to readers: In 1976 while browsing in the De Anza High School library I found an American History textbook from 1876 stuffed in a shelf. That’s where I read that George Washington died largely as a result of the practice of “bleeding” patients to release the “bad blood.” Did he? There was nothing about that in my 1970s-vintage history textbook. Rewritten history is sometimes cleaned-up history. This journal will not be cleaned-up, because the 1940s were not a politically-correct time. This is a time capsule.

This is verbatim text from my father’s World War II service journal, and I am treating this as an historical document. Harsh references and stereotypical references common during 1942-44 are all over some of these pages. Dad was not a prejudiced man when he died in 1983. He’d made Japanese friends in his kidney dialysis group, and even suggested I date a cute classmate of Japanese ancestry. But you’re going to see a lot of stuff from now on that was a product of the times, and “Jap” was a pretty common word in U.S. Army lingo at the time. Read on with these cautions in mind. 

John R. Moses

Sorry Wiki -haters, but the following summary if division service is from Wikipedia:

“These troops saw action

From Wikipedia:

Combat Chronicle

The 43d Infantry Division landed in New Zealand on 23 October 1942. The 172d Infantry Regiment arrived at Espiritu Santo, 26 October. The Division moved to Noumea, New Caledonia, in November and to Guadalcanal, 17 February 1943. The Russell Islands were occupied without opposition, 21 February, and training continued. Elements landed on Vangunu and Rendova Islands against minor resistance, 30 June. Rendova served as the major staging point for the assault on the Island of New Georgia. The assault on New Georgia was met with determined enemy resistance. The Japanese fought fiercely before relinquishing Munda and its airfield, 5 August. Vela Cela and Baanga were taken easily, but the Japanese resisted stubbornly on Arundel Island before withdrawing, 22 September. After training at Munda, the 43d moved to Guadalcanal and thence to New Zealand for rest and rehabilitation. On 19 July 1944, the Division assumed defensive positions at Aitape, engaged in patrols and reconnaissance at Tadji and along the Drinumor River, 25 July, and took the offensive, 8 August 1944, ending organized resistance on the 25th. On 9 January 1945, the 43rd made an assault landing in the San Fabian area, Lingayen Gulf, Luzon. Under enemy fire, the Division secured the beachhead and fought into the Lingayen Plain by 12 February. The offensive was resumed against the enemy north and west of Fort Stotsenburg, 27 February. After ending Japanese resistance in the Zambales Mountains with help from the Philippine Commonwelth army forces, the 43d swung south against the Shimbu Line. On 6 May 1945, the attack continued in the Bulucan area. Ipo Dam was secured and enemy opposition smashed in the Ipo area, 19 May. Mopping-up activities continued until 30 June 1945. The Division left Manila, 7 13 September, for occupation duty in Japan until it left for home.”

Editor’s Note: Dad left for home in October 1944 during a lull in combat after he passed out from and developed high fevers from malaria and Denghy Fever. They put him on a hospital ship after weeks on and off sick call. He missed the Philippine campaign.

The journal resumes:
Auckland, N.Z. October, 1942

Auckland sure was some city, about 50,000 and fairly modern. Call street cars “trams” and they seem to run in every direction at once. Shops close Sat. afternoons and people seem to hurry to nowhere. English money now clear simple when you handle it for a while. As for their hamburger, all I can say is the onions was good. Cost 9 pence each. Soft drinks don’t even compare with our worst. Nothing but sugar water. Have modern harbors big enough for any ships.  And full of mines to discourage enemy ships.

I believe I walked all over every street there was and saw something interesting every time. Had men here of every branch of service in every army. Plenty of beer and ale. For me, milkshakes galore. Even the ice cream was lousy. But the girls who made them sure had everything.

Had a few hikes, a few miles from camp we found a beaut of a hill, had us all puffing but sure nice scenery when you reach it. Quite a few Fords on the road, a smaller model than cars in the states with the steering wheel on the wrong side. Seems funny to see cars on the opposite side, must have been a miracle no one got killed.

(Editor’s note: One of those records Dad recorded for his family detailed how he wound up with a Bobby on the hood of his Jeep, the angry cop still blowing his traffic whistle.)

Quite a few of our boys A.W.O.L. one gone for 2 ½ weeks fined $100. Many minor fines and extra duties such as digging holes 6x6x6, and N.Z. soil isn’t exactly gravy.

Listen to radio or phono-graph nites but all good must come to an end, so up we packed again ready to leave. Last night in N.Z.

Pap had trouble chasing a big Collie out of his bed. That wine sure must have been powerful. Drug stores are “chemists” and beer gardens are called “bottle depts.”

November 1942

Finally got orders to leave again after only 3 weeks of heaven. I’m sure we all left with regrets. Paraded thru Auckland for the last time about noon Nov. 15 and sure did get a sendoff by the people lining the streets. Boarded an ocean liner, the Matsonia, the biggest and best ship I ever saw. It was really big. Had staterooms for us Recon troops and really had meals. Celebrated both Thanksgivings on board, the second was really a lulu. Had a dinner civilians back home would envy, turkey and all the trimmings.

Saw land again two days later. New Caledonia sure looked desolate and very mountainous. Stayed on board to guard while ship was being unloaded, 10 days in all. She had plenty of stuff. Had to haul it to shore on barges and tug since the Matsonia couldn’t get in the harbor. Saw our first natives, look like our negroes.

Got ashore at last and piled on trucks at Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia. It sure is backwards but a big cathedral sure looks nice. People here are French and very hostile to us Americans. The natives are for us, for which we can thank the lord. They’re only half civilized and rumor has it 3 were hung because they killed a French sergeant. Saw three of them eating on tug and forks and spoons must be scarce, they just dug in fingers and all. Saw our first Javanese woman. Looks like a Jap. And the French take advantage of them.  Pay them a few francs a day and have them working in nickel mines or on roads. Women work right with them. Sure are a sneaky-looking bunch. Wouldn’t trust them even if I had a gun on them. But, at that, they’re better than some of the French.

Had a 90 mile ride by truck to our base camp at La Foa. (Note: Modern day mileage, doubtless on better roads, lists the distance at 55.5 miles from Noumea.) Camped right by an evacuation hospital with real, live American nurses. But as far as we were concerned they may as well have been in the States. Something about officers attracted them. Back home we wouldn’t even look at their type.

Our new camp sure was new again. Had straw roofs with some kind of paper-like bark around the sides. Sure was hot here, and dusty. Had lots of freshwater streams all over the place, so we swam plenty. Had small fish swimming all over and plenty of mosquitoes and lizards. No matter where you went you were surrounded by hills that were really hills. Had to climb a few and they sure were high. Vegetation is mostly bush and small trees. Poor soil and hot climate are the cause.

December 1942

Was sent to this our outpost for the Second Platoon. This part of the island was really nice and green. Plenty of coconuts. Base camp was at Thio but we split up to various outposts all over the place.

Our first was a place called “The Mission” just out of Thio right on the beach. Had a .37 mm and a .50 caliber to man in case of an invasion. Had 24-hour guard, 4 hours each for 6 of us.

Cpl. Halloran in charge. Had about 30 natives guarding a peak, our observation point, about 300 feet in height. Saw for miles over the ocean. Plenty of work at first, but soon got things in order. Went in swimming with the sharks and fish. No casualties. Took a shower afterwards in fresh water in a home-made affair.  Probably put up by the Americal Div.

(Note: The Americal Division (American, New Caledonian Division) was formed in response to the invasion of Pearl Harbor. Its formal name became The 23rd Infantry Division. It was born on  May 27, 1942 on New Caledonia, comprised of three units. As far as I know, no other U.S. Division was formed outside U.S. Territory.)

Had our meals prepared by native cooks. Even if the stuff was good they had a way of ruining it.

Spent Christmas day here by going to church at the mission. Plenty of French there, mostly Free French and lots of Natives. Sure was beautiful the way they sang hymns, and it was like a dream seeing half-naked natives staring at you. Was very few of us in uniforms there. The priest was a character. Had a little goatee and white hair. Whenever he gave the sermon he looked like a mad billy goat. Gave 20 francs when a girl came around with a small tray. Some of these French girls are really honeys, but we can’t speak Frog lingo so we’re handicapped.

Some of our French pals are doing O.K. Boys are so desperate they even go with the native girls. Have some liquor here called “Butter Fly Rum.” Had plenty of descriptions about its taste and the closest they could come to it was “Prestone.” French use kerosene to mix with liquor.

Had an incident Christmas Eve that put Thio off-limits for some time to us soldiers. Two of our boys got a beating by some French soldiers so naturally we got blamed for it all. Had quite a time forcing the French to observe blackouts. A .45 automatic helped matters considerably. Boy, they sure loved us for it.

Next outpost was Makati Bridge, a one-way control system. Boy these roads were carved right on the side of the mountains and full of curves. One mistake by the driver and eternity. Our P-D driver Shanahan isn’t too bad with our truck. Passarele, me, Cpl. O’Halloran, Pap and Red was the squad. Pioneer and demolition, that’s us. Handle dynamite and T.N.T. like a veteran now.

Me and Pap and two natives, Philip and Bateese,  had the bridge to control, 24-hour guard for four men, two at a time. One American and one native. Natives sure are proud to be soldiers, under French control in the Colonial Army but are loaned-out to us as guards. Some are O.K., but the majority are plain lazy. Our two were no exceptions. Slept on guard and ate our share of the rations. Made up for it by getting us native fruit mangoes, tasted like half-sour apples. Papua looked like cantaloupe and tasted  same, had seeds in it like fish eggs. Plenty of bananas and pineapples, so we didn’t exactly starve.

Our last outpost was the airport, an emergency landing field. On the Sat. we got there a bi-plane crashed into the jungle about ¾ of a mile away. Pap and I with our natives combed the wooded section and found both pilots alive. Both Looeys, Lt. Platt and Bronze. Lt. Platt was injured internally and was spitting and coughing-up blood with every breath he took. All I could do was keep wiping the blood off his mouth. Had broken arm, legs, neck and cuts all over. Died one hour later. Lt. Bronze had cuts over eyes from goggles, a badly-cut right arm, but otherwise seemed O.K. Took him to Thio on 3/4-ton truck for first aid. M.P.s took over plane, wrecked beyond repair when it hit a cable suspended from mine to nickel dump. Cable blended in with mountains so no one could see it. After dinner a monoplane landed at the field and took Lt. Bronze to base hospital. Took over guard of plane with two natives for two days. Ground crew finally took it away off our hands.

January 1943

Outpost at airport was swell. No duties except to keep natives in line. Sgt. Of natives was veteran of last world war. All of them were swell fellows. They had radio equipment to guard, a lookout over the ocean and the camp area. Had about 21 of them.

Had beautiful full moon over the mountains  and everything was just like a movie. Pap and I lay under a tree listening to them singing or chanting native songs. Sure a nite to remember. Lt. Baker proving to be a heel. Stories about him are unbelievable, but true, so our platoon was replaced by the 1st and we headed back to La Foa base camp. Got back to camp about 11 at nite and of all things, The Murph was there to greet us with hot coffee and cookies. He sure is a changed man. Still remember the night I had K.P just because I went in swimming too soon.

Pretty hard to get back to camp routine after being away for five weeks. Got some G-@ reports about Japanese tactics on Guadal Canal and quite a few lectures on jungle fighting. 1st Platoon returned to camp and the 3rd and second have orders to pack up. Got 7 teeth fixed by Lt. Barnett. Not bad. All set to leave New Caledonia.

I’m sure very few of us have any regrets, because we’re leaving. Of all hell holes, this one will be hard to equal. Rumor has us leaving for Guadal Canal. According to news reports it’s in the hands of the Americans.


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