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