Chapter 17

Standby,     Mark!
by Lynn Forshee

Mail was quite slow, unpredictable and the fastest form was something new called V MAIL which was a printed form that was copied onto microfilm and at the other end was printed back into letter size.  Censorship was always in effect and sometimes they cut out something just for the amusement of it.

 

I did receive one large packet of letters from friends and nearly all the business people of Britt due to the exposure in Iowa and Minnesota by the radio stations and newspapers following the Distinguished Flying Cross presentations at Pearl.  They all felt it was something for a small town such as Britt, population less than 2,000 to be mentioned in the press.  These letters such as the one from the Papadakes brothers in the candy kitchen with their homemade ice cream and lollipops, a stick through a milk bottle cap with a scoop of ice cream and then dipped in chocolate for five cents.  What I wouldn’t have given to be back there, or even just to taste some ice cream.  I could close my eyes and hear George say, “You donta reada the magazines unless you buy them”.

 

Most personal photography was forbidden but once in a while we would luck out and find some film and a buddy would have access to a camera.  I had a roll of pictures of myself, and a friend from St. Louis, Koerber, was going back stateside so he volunteered to take the roll back and send it home for me.   Never did hear from him or anything about the film again.  All of my pictures, even some 8 by 10 glossies of Jap ships going down on our strikes had gone down with the Yorktown.  I did manage to get some pictures of myself with the phonograph I built from odds and ends.

 

One night about 5 of us were to be treated to a dinner out at one of the natives homes.  It was claimed to be steak and I wasn’t able to identify what cut the fellow next to me got, but I think I got part of the saddle.

 

News of the war was rather sparse but we got some firsthand accounts of local action up north on trips to Guadalcanal.

 

One of the men we visited with who flew in the SBDs told us of making a dive on the enemy and taking a large round in the leading edge of the wing which made a perfect whistle and it was the most ghostly sound causing the Japs to abandon their gun positions and dive for cover.  Had washing machine Charlie received this bit of information, he would probably have rigged his plane that way for the nightly runs over Henderson Field.  Seemed he kept a pretty regular schedule making it the same time every night sending everyone to their foxholes.

 

I had gotten to know S W Tumosa who was an AP and one day I had gone to the far end of the runway with a tool box to do some work on a plane and Tumosa asked if I wanted a ride back to the shops.  I said sure and put my tool box up on the wing of an F4F and he began to taxi back.  He hollered at me over the sound of the engine to hang on and he gave it the throttle and soon we were sailing down the runway at a good clip.  The exec. saw it and thought we were trying to take off and about had a fit.  Tumosa and I had a good laugh over that later.

 

We were really roughing it there and one of the things we missed was a laundry.  We would sometimes boil our clothes in a barrel but they came out spotted and looking like today’s camouflage clothing.  At other times we would take our clothes down the road to the river and beat them on a rock ala native method.

 

I had submitted an application for enlisted pilot training and had to have a physical from an Australian flight surgeon which I passed with flying colors.  My promotion to ARMIC had also come through and Grew assuming I had a good chance for flight school asked me to teach what I knew of RADAR and IFF equipment to a couple of the other radiomen.

 

Murphy, who was always in trouble, was assigned to task of constructing a new latrine.  After having a few drinks, he called his friends down, had them sit on the planks and drew lines around their posterior portions, making tailor made holes.

 

We had to go down to Noumea for some parts and I volunteered for the trip wanting to see the metropolis which we had only seen in passing through on the way in.  It seems we got there a bit late as they close up all the shops at noon and go home and take a nap through the heat of the day, reopening again later on.  The exchange rate at that time was 8 Francs to the dollar and our navigation computer which was really just a circular slide rule was great for figuring the prices in dollars, providing you could find a shop open.

 

My orders finally came through to report for flight training in the states and I was looking forward to a short stay in Britt.  By this time my folks knew where I was as in reply to their question in a letter I asked them if they could remember the name of that last CCC camp I was in, that NEW one.  Of course the camp was in Caledonia, Minnesota.

 

I received congratulations all the way around and packed my gear and was taken down to Noumea where I boarded a PBM twin engine sea plane for transportation back to Pearl.  We made a stop overnight in Suva Fiji and I stayed at the Hotel Metropol where everything was very British.  Just like in the movies with mosquito netting hanging from the ceiling down over the bed, fancy table settings, etc.  The natives were wearing the latest in hair style, red, bushy and standing straight up.  I was told that they achieved this effect by putting lime in their hair to kill lice.

 

The next leg was to Pearl Harbor and these PBMs were not meant to carry passengers, you could stand up or lay down in a bunk.  On our arrival at Pearl I ran into Don Hoff who was a member of the mixed group who flew off the Enterprise with me at Midway.  We didn’t get much time to chat as I had to report to a ship for the last leg, to San Francisco.

 

They utilized everyone of us at one time or another for standing watch, scanning the sea at night with binoculars watching for subs.  We had a lot of chit chat going on the sound powered phones until the officer of the deck heard it and stated he did not want to hear anything unless we sighted something.  These five days passed rather rapidly in anticipation of our first stateside liberty since Dec. 6 of  ’41.

Copyright ©2004-2007 Lynn R. Forshee.  All rights reserved.
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