Verne White



"During the time I was faking death it came to me that it was still a few days 'til my 20th birthday."



Verne White,
HQ Company, 503d PRCT


Ah, Lae, New Guinea, land of palm trees, forests, rain and mud all thoroughly overlaid with heat.

We landed there on the south east coast. Immediately boarded trucks called 6 by 6's. It had to do with the number of wheels. Anyway they were big enough to have about 25-30 guys standing up in the back. We traveled over rutted muddy roads some distance into the interior. We were put into an organized area of tents. Each tent held 4 - 6 troopers. This was to be our home for a short spell. We were considered replacements for paratroopers who had been lost to active duty during battles fought in various areas around the South Pacific.

Most of the time we just sat around waiting for something to happen. One of the older men (about 30 if memory serves) taught me how to play bridge and chess. He got into the paratroopers by being pardoned from jail if he'd enlist with them. Don't remember what he was convicted for. This was not an uncommon occurrence back in the States, so many of the troopers were quite hardened to life. Compared to my sheltered life and education you can see that both types had much to learn from the other. We were finally put out on details. One was to work in a food warehouse stacking and moving boxes of canned goods around. When the shift ended and we were to be loaded back onto the trucks we were required to stand in formation while an officer "frisked" us. The reputation of the troopers was not good as can be imagined from the previous remarks of their backgrounds. Lo and behold, a large quantity of canned foods were found hidden amongst the pockets of the platoon. We then were allowed to load onto the truck. Whoops, someone realized how sneaky we could be and off-loaded us to frisk us again. Another pile of food was retrieved. Finally we were allowed to return to our area, where we all shared in the canned goods which had escaped detection.

Just before Thanksgiving a couple of our company were detailed to deliver turkeys to each companies' mess tent. As the truck passed our living area one of the deliverers accidentally dropped off a turkey to a waiting cohort. During the evening a turkey was spitted and turned over a fire back behind the company tents. It was basted in the canned butter, which wouldn't melt except under very high heat. The butter and chocolate bars were made of some compound that kept it from melting in the tropical heat. That turkey sure tasted good. It was quite a change from the so-called lamb we had for meat on most days. We claimed that the "lamb" was really billy-goat which had been to old to run very far and had been beaten with clubs. It tasted awful and was very tough and stringy.

The next assignment showed that the brass figured out that getting us next to food was not a great idea so they assigned us to load and unload ammunition. This ammunition was mostly artillery shells for 105mm and 155mm cannon. Very heavy when in the wooden crates.