My orders finally arrived at headquarters. It was an anxious moment for me. For a long time I had been wondering just when I would be leaving Brisbane, and where Iíd be going. Now the answer had come.
"Youíve been assigned to the 374th Troop Carrier Group," the clerk said. "The 374th is a good organization and youíll like it. Get your things together and stay in camp. Iíll let you know when they are ready for you."
Within in a short time, I was on my way to Port Moresby, New Guinea. It was a relief after being one of the last guys to be assigned. I always felt that the chaplain had something to do with my being held back so long. No one else played the organ, and he might have pulled some strings to keep me as long as possible at the post. Of course, that was only speculation on my part.
When I got to the orderly room, I found Lieutenant Curtis King also waiting to be shipped to Moresby. He was a pleasant fellow and we got acquainted in a hurry. His specialty was statistics and he loved to talk about it. I did a lot of listening.
"Wars are fought not only on the battle fields, but also on paper," Curtis was fond of reminding people. "Paper orders precede everything. Remember you must have a paper order before anything happens. Now we are being sent to Moresby via a piece of paper."
You know, the more I thought about it, I knew he was absolutely right.
"Paper records are very necessary to keep my superiors aware of how and where personnel, equipment and supplies are being moved," he explained.
Lt. King continued to explain all about the many statistical reports he would be required to make. I soon understood, statistically, that is, how he was going to fight the war. I was certain that, among other things, when he got to Port Moresby, he would keep a record of every roll of toilet paper used.
As time went on I learned how important one aspect of his job was. He
checked on the loads that the C-47ís were carrying, making certain that
the weights put into the crafts were properly estimated so a flying crew
wouldnít have problems lifting its plane from the ground. Those troop carrier
C-47ís moved millions of pounds of supplies to the front, and seeing that
they were properly loaded was essential.
First Stop, Iron Range
Lt. King and I were the only passengers on that flight to Port Moresby. The plane we were on was an old converted B-24 bomber that the squadron used to bring food and other needed supplies from the mainland of Australia. Since the guns had been removed from the belly and tail turrets, it was easier to see what was going on below. I had a great view through the plastic bubble of the center gun position. I could see everywhere, except up. Of course I had no controls to turn the turret so I was constantly squirming around to get better views.
After taking off, we headed in a northeastern direction to a little spot in the jungles called Iron Range. It wasnít a town, but a secret refueling and overnight resting station. It was so secret that the pilots often had trouble finding it.
The flight from Brisbane to Iron Range was a low-level flight just above the range of the few isolated Japs that were still holding out. We had to stay hidden to keep them from taking pot-shots at us. A well- placed bullet could have done much damage. On the other hand, since we didnít have oxygen for breathing, we couldnít fly too high.
From my vantage place, I could see for miles around. I saw lots of jungle, mountains and an occasional small lake. Since most of the large birds flying below were white, they were easy to spot. Once in awhile, I could see some dark-colored birds, probably vultures or eagles. I didnít see any other animal life at all. If there were animals, they would probably have fled quickly at the sound of our engines. Even if they were directly below us, they would have been well hidden below the dense tree tops. It was a terrific sight anyway, and I enjoyed every minute of that trip.
Finding that Iron Range landing strip was no simple trick. The engineers had cut it right in the middle of the jungle. The green steel matting made a safe landing place and that was important. Because it was getting dark, landing was even more difficult. Since the pilot wanted to keep a safe altitude as long as possible, it was important to drop quickly, just a few moments before hitting the strip. The landing gear hit that mat with a thump and the large tires made a weird noise. Of course, the plane had no noise abatement treatment and the steel matting caused it to vibrate violently. All in all, to me, it was a very scary landing. However, I was told it was just normal to those who were used to it.
Lt. King and I were told that the plane would be refueled and ready to fly early the next morning.
"Weíll try to get you out as soon as possible. This isnít a very safe place to be. One stray bullet from a Jap rifle it all it would take to ground us," the pilot informed us. He then led us to a waiting jeep.
The camp at Iron Range was a damp, dark place. It was hidden under the forest trees so the Japs couldnít spot it. By this time most of them had been cleared out, but no one really knew how many might still be out there in the jungle.
By now it was dark and I couldnít see where the driver was taking us. Finally he pulled up beside a lone tent and stopped the jeep.
We were greeted by an orderly. "Here is where you will sleep, but first Iíll take you to the mess hall," he said.
I was hungry by the time I got there. I was ready to eat just anything, I thought. It was there that I was introduced to the most "gawd-awful" food imaginable. Both the dinner and breakfast were something to be remembered. I had powdered eggs, powdered potatoes, and powdered milk. Everything was taken from a can or a box. Even the cereal was packed into little hard cakes which had to be crumbled before eating. That bowl of cereal with milk looked normal enough, but eating it was another thing. I still canít describe the taste of that first spoonful.
"Donít complain," he said. "Itís better than hardtack."
Lt. King and I were awakened early the next morning to continue our flight to Port Moresby, New Guinea. The flight over the sea from Iron Range to Moresby was uneventful. We landed late in the afternoon and we shown where we were to sleep.
Somewhere in New Guinea, 1942-1945
It was Christmas eve, 1942, when I spent my first night at Port Moresby. The army had already cleared most of the Japs from the area. What few remained were isolated and, supposedly had no way to escape. If they tried to repair an air strip from which to escape or attack, our guys could usually bomb it again. Nevertheless, I was informed that the air raids still continued. From where they came, we never were sure. It was certain some were suicide flights.
"Now, if you hear three shots, that means three things: grab your helmet, yank that wire there and head for the closest slit-trench with room for you," the sergeant informed me. "Remember that slit-trench will protect you from the fragments of shrapnel. That stuff is what mangles you if it hits you."
That wire he pointed to, when pulled, would ground and stop the generator that provided power for our lights. The sound of the generators didnít matter much, but those lights had better go out very quickly, or someone would shoot them out with no questions asked! Even one lone light could guide an entire squadron of Jap planes to the target, us!
"What would happen if I were unable to turn that generator off? Would all the guns be aimed at me?" I wondered.
I found very quickly that things were for real around there. The rifles
and bullets were for real. The anti-aircraft guns and bombs was also for
real. Believe me, I was scared!
My First Air Raid and Slit Trench Experience
Things happened just as predicted that first night. Three shots were heard echoing through the valley, and everything got tense. As ordered, I yanked the wire dousing the lights in our area, and then I hit the slit-trench. The lights, that moments before had made a pretty sight along the sides of the hills, quickly went out. It became very dark and very still.
Within a few minutes, I heard the low roar of many engines high in the sky. Then every search light from miles around seemed to come on at once and focus on the enemy Jap planes. Actually, it was a beautiful sight! It was difficult to realize that there really were human beings in those planes, and we were going to try to shot them down. Reality quickly came, however, when the anti-aircraft guns began to fire. First, there were flashes of light and then the sounds of explosions. It was just like a 4th of July celebration, and very exciting to see and hear. But wait, this was war! I was in the war zone, and this was for real, and I had better pay attention! Get those Japs down or away, or we could get maimed or killed.
After the planes had left, there was a short period of silence. Then a lone shot rang out, signaling that the raid was over for this time. In a short time all the lights came on again.
The few bombs that were dropped that night had all fallen into the bay.
I soon learned that most of the time the Japs missed their mark, and likewise,
our guns usually couldnít hit the planes. It got to be somewhat like a
game. We would cheer and clap during the raids. "Hit Ďem! Look out, thereís
another one," would be heard.
"All Hell broke loose that Christmas night!
Then, I truly understood,
my country was really fighting for its life against Japan."
Yes, I was now on the real fighting front of the war in the Pacific, and I needed to know about slit-trenches and other types of bomb shelters. I quickly learned that there were two kinds of slit-trenches, one kind to get into as fast as possible to protect yourself from physical danger and another kind to stay out of for rather obvious reasons. These were the ones used as toilets. All combat foot-soldiers carried a small spade for digging their slit-trenches, of both types. The slit- trenches that I used were handy-me-downs from earlier times.
The toilet slit trench was just wide enough to let a person spread his feet comfortably. The medical detail decided where and how deep it was to be. It was a cardinal rule that after using one, you must cover all waste carefully with dirt. When the trench got full, it was time to either lengthen it or dig another at another location.
Early that next morning our troop carriers were busy as usual. Heavy
loads of ammunition and other needed materials were flown back and forth.
I was assigned to A-1, the personnel section of the 374th Troop Carrier Group. Our camp was located between two hills in such a way it was impossible to see the ocean. When I arrived, it was far from completion. However, we did have a place to sleep and the nights were pleasantly cool. Remember, although it was December, it was the summer season in New Guinea.
Since we had no mess hall as yet, we ate anywhere we could find to sit or stand.
The New Guinea natives had been hired to build our mess hall and other needed buildings under the supervision of Captain Norman Wilde.
Captain Wilde was a member of the Australian New Guinea Administration Unit and was our troop carrier liaison. He knew everything about New Guinea. He had been one of the last civilians to escape to Australia when the Japanese invaded his home in Wau. He had flown many combat missions before I knew him.
It was quite a sight to see him hauling a trailer full of natives behind his jeep to work each day. They went into the forest to get bamboo poles, fronds and grasses. When they finished one of those huts, it really looked nice. I had no idea that those buildings would keep the water out, but they did. The natives knew how to weave those fronds in and around the bamboo poles so to protect us from the elements. Our big problem was the termites. In the morning we would often have to wipe up the droppings from their nightís work, or should I say, meal.
Captain Wilde was strict with his native workers. He expected them to
work. Once in a while one had to be "urged" to get out of the trailer and
go to work. Urging took the form of a threatened whipping, which sometimes
became more than a threat. The natives were uneducated and the Australians
didnít have much patience with them. They didnít have much of a "work"
ethic in their background.
The Emu, a Favorite Food of the Native Workers
Rats Were Also Eaten (Barely Cooked)!
It rained often at Port Moresby. I remember one particular day when it rained especially hard. Rather than letting the natives seek shelter under a tree, Captain Wilde permitted his crew to sit on the office floor. The captain admitted it was against the rules for natives to be in the same room with the GIís, but he did it anyway. The humidity was almost unbearable. As it got hotter and more humid, we began to notice that those natives emitted quite an odor. It reminded me of my old dog Rover back when I was a kid in Kansas.
The natives always had something to sell, bracelets, rings and all sorts of things. They usually wanted a fortune for them, too. If they werenít trying to sell something, they were mooching "cigs" from the GIís.
Iím told that Port Moresby wasnít much of a town before the war began. It was just a small seaport. Ships anchored to drop off a few supplies for the Australian gold miners at Wau, a little town on the northern rim of New Guinea. Tourists visited Port Moresby to buy a few trinkets to prove they had seen the wilds of New Guinea.
The natives had the unsavory reputation of being head hunters. In fact, there were real cannibals in the jungles there. It was hard for me to realize I was living in a place where such things actually took place.
Although I didn't go there, I was near the area where cannibals lived.
The area, called "Lost Valley," was discovered by military personnel during
the war. It was surrounded by very high mountains and its inhabitants were
still living in the "Stone Age." Although there was evidence of cannibalism,
our guys were able to make friends, and were not harmed. The following
are some of the photos they took:
(click on pictures for a better view)
We soon got used to using some of the Aussie terms, such as airdromes for landing strips or airports. However, it was harder to get used to driving on the "wrong" side of the road. Naturally the Aussies had taken many names and customs from the English who had settled there years before. Of course, the vehicles we brought in were American made. Sometimes, we drove on the "correct" side of the road until we met a driver coming toward us. Suddenly, we had to change our ways! Needless, to say, all this led to considerable confusion.
I remember the first time I drove when I got back home, years later,
I almost caused a catastrophe. As I drove out of the driveway to enter
the main highway, I forget that I wasnít in the SWPA. There was enough
of left-handed driving in my head to cause me to move directly into the
left side of the highway. Suddenly I saw a car heading right towards me.
Wow! I made that adjustment back onto the right side just in time to avoid
To make it safe for landing and taking off, the engineers had brought in perforated steel matting hooked together for the planes to land. Those steel mats made odd noises when the planes landed or took off. No one minded about the sound.
Note the Steel Matting on the Landing Strip
They were quick to put down, and they were safer than the rough dusty strips. Later the strips were paved. I well remember seeing white clouds of dust coming from the mountain side where a monstrous rock crusher was at work. Unfortunately there were times, after the asphalt and\or cement strips were completed, that they got little or no use. The war front kept moving so fast, the finished or nearly finished strips would have to be left behind.
The engineers also prepared revetments where the pilots could park their planes. There were always workers around those planes, either loading or unloading equipment and supplies. It was a 24-hour job. While pilots rested, routine gassing, checking the plane engines, unloading and loading went on and on. I found it interesting to watch all the operations.
Although the going was rough at Port Moresby for several months, supplies
and equipment continued to arrive to make life easier for us. The weather
was warm and nice at that time of the year.
374th Headquarters Camp
"Someone took my picture as I was taking a picture."
"Our tent was decorated with a parachute. My bunk was on the left."
"Our tent. Note the water barrel and clothes line."
Lister Bag Containing Our Fresh Water
"My tent mate Lockman washing his clothes."
Feeding the Native Kids. They were Always Hungry
These Malnourished Kids Made the World Press
The camp area of the 374th Troop Carrier Group was well placed
between two rolling hills. Between them, I could see Wards airdrome running
along the beach. The camp was located near to the site of an old Japanese
ack-ack ammo dump. The army had secured the area early on. Nearby was our
fuel supply. There were hundreds of 55-gallon barrels full of high octane
gasoline there. Japs were always trying to bomb both of those sites, but
they never hit either of them so far as I knew.
Our Bomb Shelter
The Japs did their best to put our strips out of commission, but usually their bombs fell into the bay. One moon-less night they did hit the end of one of the strips and damaged a couple of planes.
As soon as an enemy plane was discovered, many beams of light converged on it. Then the ack-ack guns began to fire, making a real Fourth of July celebration right in New Guinea.
We guys were warned to keep our helmets on during a raid. Exploding ack-ack shell casings would fall around us. That falling shrapnel was dangerous. It made quite a swishing sound as it dropped to the ground.
Our first decent bomb shelter was a dilly. Our tent was near a very large boulder that protruded from the side of the hill. We decided it would be a great place to make a bomb shelter. We dug some dirt from around the boulder, and constructed a cave-like room on one side. The roof was made of logs, pieces of wood, and whatever else we could find. On one side we left a small opening through which we could enter the shelter. When finished, it looked right homey. We even fixed some make-shift seats.
Our bomb shelter became a conversation piece, and we were proud of our job.
One day, in broad daylight, those three signal shots rang out.
"There they come!" some guy yelled. "There must be a hundred of them. They are headed for our runways and airplanes."
Since we were confident that they wouldnít be coming in our direction, we just watched the show for awhile. Our ack-ack guns were blazing away. Suddenly, however, one of the planes dropped out of the formation and was headed toward us. We heard that swish, swish sound coming from above and that made us move fast. At least ten guys tried to pile into our shelter, designed for a maximum of six. We were packed so tightly that I couldnít get my breath. We all began to panic and were really glad when the ordeal was over.
Those of us who built that shelter, made it clear from then on that
the next time there was a raid, each must go to his own shelter.
54th Troop Carrier Wing
The 374th Troop Carrier Group rapidly grew too big, and plans were made for the activation of a Troop Carrier Wing that could allow for expansion. With a small staff of officers and a handful of enlisted men, General Prentiss undertook the real man-sized job of organizing the 54th Troop Carrier Wing in February, 1943.
A new camp area was cleared near the 374th Headquarters building to make way for the new 54th Troop Carrier Wing. Unfortunately, it was constructed on the side of a hill making the preparation of suitable tent spots more difficult.
Personnel for the new 54th came in from several squadrons,
overages from other commands, and some replacements from the states.
Citation for Army Typist
Captain Lacey W. White was the adjutant for personnel with the 374th, but he didnít shift to the Wing. He was the person that taught me all the military ways to doing things. Someone certainly had to do it because I knew nothing about the military communications techniques. White taught me how to write military communications and how to file the appropriate 7-copies of the correspondence. At first I thought they were kidding about that 7-copies stuff, but it was true. Sometimes I had to make even more copies.
I worked hard in the personnel office. Getting things organized was my forte. My strict training back at Bethel College under Bennie Bargen came into play again, Iím sure. Day by day, week by week, month by month and yes, year by year, I did my job in keeping special orders and records in shape. One of my jobs was to keep track of the earned points for the personnel which let them rotate home to the states on a thirty-day leave.
Another responsible job I had was to select, in a rotation manner, the messengers from our headquarters to the front. Most of the time the guys didnít mind making the trip even with its element of danger. It gave them opportunity to get away from their regular jobs for a day or so. Once in a while I had to order someone to go to a really dangerous forward area, and getting a guy to go willingly was sometimes a problem. Since I chose the messengers in strict rotation, they really couldnít complain too much. They knew I was treating everyone alike.
Day after day I banged away at that typewriter. As a matter of fact, I almost wore it out. I even took it apart one day to see if I could fix what was ailing it. What I did helped a little, but from then on I just had to put up with it. I never got a replacement. I suppose other military needs came before new typewriters.
Captain White recommended me for the Legion of Merit for my work in the 374th before I moved to the Wing. The recommendation followed me to the wing and General Prentiss kept the request alive. Even though the award was never given to me, I appreciated the efforts of my bosses. I suppose the recommendation got lost somewhere in the files, or perhaps there were too many others who deserved it more than I.
I was pleased that the Army Air Force Public Relations Office sent this article to my home newspaper, The Hutchinson News, when I finally got my leave home:
When grandchildren of M-Sgt. Glenn McMurry, son of Mr. and Mrs. Fred E. McMurry, RFD 2, gather around his knee and inquire, "What did you do in the war, Grandpa?" he can answer them by showing a recommendation made by Paul H. Prentiss, brigadier general, commander of the 54th Troop Carrier Wing, asking that he be given the award of the Legion of Merit.
It was written while he was in New Guinea and goes like this:
"He (McMurry) was the only typist assigned to Headquarters, and he was untrained in military procedure. McMurry made up for his lack of training by working long hours, listening intently to everything concerning his work and studying war department administrative manuals.
"Within two months he was relieving the adjutant of many burdens, caused by lack of trained personnel. As personnel arrived, McMurry, by his own imitative trained typist and mimeograph operators, he did his own mechanical repairs, acted as barber and chaplainís organist, and, until he could train men to take his place, was movie projectionist for three months.
"He revised the filing system in accordance with army decimal files: he ably learned the work of sergeant major and now acts in that capacity; he continually conceives and puts in operation plans to shorten work and heighten efficiency."
McMurry, now home on furlough was stationed in Australia, New Guinea,
the Netherlands East Indies and the Philippines. He is the sergeant major
of the headquarters of the 54th Troop Carrier Wing which has
received two presidential unit citations."
"Can you cut hair, sergeant?" That was Colonel Hampton speaking.
"Well, Iíve done some, but Iím not much good at it. I donít have a barber comb or scissors, and Iím afraid those old paper shears wonít be so hot," I responded.
"Sergeant, as long as you have some kind of scissors and a comb, letís have a go at it. My hair is getting so long that something has to be done," the colonel said.
"You mean that youíd let me cut your hair without any guarantee that I could do a good job of it?" I asked.
"Sure, sergeant, letís get going!" he said.
Well, that was as close to an order as I needed. I hesitated a moment, and then I selected a chair from the office that would make a suitable barber chair, and invited the colonel to sit in it.
That haircut must have been OK because others began to ask me to cut their hair. Soon I began to collect a few Australian Florins. (Iíve forgotten just how much the Florin was worth in American coin.)
Soon Colonel Prentiss decided he needed a haircut and from that day on until he went to the states on leave, I cut his hair. He always visited with me while I cut his hair and I enjoyed that.
"Iíll tell you what Iíll do, sergeant," Captain White said one day. "You cut my hair and Iíll cut yours. How about that?"
Now on the surface of things it seemed to be a pretty good trade. At least he didnít have to pay or tip me anything and likewise, I would get a free haircut. As he had never cut hair before, it was a real gamble on my part. I cut his hair first, and then it was his turn to cut mine. Some minutes later I noticed that he kept working on the left side. He would size up the right side and then heíd cut more off the left. This continued for several minutes. I was really happy when he finally finished with me. No one had paid much attention to my haircut until the job was done and I got up from the chair.
"Holy toledo!" Lockman exclaimed when he saw me. "Did you see what he did to you? Why did you let that guy do that to you?"
Lockman roared with laughter. Soon everyone around was looking at my haircut and laughing. Captain White didnít really appreciate their criticism.
"Well, thatís the way it is. Sometimes things works and sometimes they donít!" he remarked.
I was afraid to look in a mirror! Oh no! I was scalped on the left side and had a fairly good job on the right. At first I was slightly insulted, but then since the guys had such a good time laughing at me, I thought I should be a good sport about it. My hair would grow out in a few weeks and since there was no professional barber around yet, I figured I would just learn to cut my own hair. You know, that was in 1942 and I donít think Iíve had a half dozen haircuts since. The price for a haircut in 1941 was about 50 cents, and now, in the 1990ís, itís at least 7 dollars or more, even though Iím almost bald. Just look at all the bucks Iíve saved.
When we moved to Nadzab, there was a regular barbershop. Well, I should
say a barber "tent." One day someone discovered that Corporal Stosic had
been a barber in the states, and so I lost my job. Frankly, I was happy
to have him take it over.
One afternoon I went down to the mess hall to do something, Iím not sure just what after all these years. There I found several guys shooting craps on the floor. They were making their bets with their Australian coins and bills. They had kept raising the pot until it was quite valuable.
Suddenly one guy yelled, "I got my seven! Hot diggeties! That potís all mine!"
"Hi, McMurry. Why donít you get into the ring?" my friend Carper asked.
Now I noticed that he had been drinking something. Where the guys got that stuff, I didnít know. Those who wanted it found how a way to get it. When they got depressed, theyíd drink all kinds of stuff, even medical alcohol. How they got by with it was even more of a miracle.
"Come on, Mac, break down and join the game."
"Make room for Mac, guys, Iím sure heís going to join us."
I knew that I should humor a guy who been drinking, so I decided to join them.
"O.K., hereís a Florin. Is it my turn to roll?"
Well, it was my turn and what do you know! On my first throw I got an eleven. That made me a winner. I won the pot of three Florin coins. With that bit of luck, I tried it again. I canít remember how much was in the pot that time, but I do remember that I got a seven and was again the winner. That ended that game of craps.
Maybe it was my imagination, but when I won Carperís Florins, that look he gave me seemed to say, "Iíll get even with you!"
In a way, I lost more than I won in that crap game. Carper never seemed to forgive me for winning that pot from him. He was cool as a cucumber to me after that. I got the feeling that he knew that I knew he was half clobbered and he had certain guilt feelings about the affair.
To this day I feel bad about what happened as a result of that crap
game. Carper had made a very nice teakwood jewel box for me to give to
Darlene. The top was beautifully carved and had Darleneís name on it. I
think of Carper whenever I see that box today, and I remember how that
crap game damaged my relationship with him. I had hoped to meet him at
our first reunion, but I was told that he died several years before. Carper
was a heavy smoker, and that plus his drinking probably damaged his health.
Mosquitoes and Malaria
When I got to Australia, we were ordered to take atabrine pills regularly. It was a clone made to take the place of quinine to keep us from getting malaria. Actually, my malaria didnít show up until I had been back home in Kansas for several months. I couldnít believe it.
"Youíre having an attack of malaria all right," my family doctor said. "Iím going to prescribe some quinine for you. Be sure to take it regularly, and I think youíll get over it."
He was right. It didnít last too long and that one bout was all I ever had.
Lots of the guys got what we called the dengue fever, supposedly from mosquito bites. The doctors didnít seem to do much about that. If one felt he had the fever, heíd just go to bed and wear it out, much the same as wearing off a hangover after drinking too much. I never really knew whether I got the real dingy fever. We were always suspicious that any headache we got might be it.
Port Moresby had a lot of stagnant pools of water where the mosquito could breed. The medics would spray the water to kill the larvae. I can tell you, they didnít get all of them. We all had netting that covered our cots. It helped, but it was hard to get into bed without letting in one or two of those mosquitoes. Too often, about the time I was dozing off, I would hear that buzzing sound. If I was lucky enough to have the mosquito settle on my face, I could usually swat it. More often than not, however, I was pestered throughout the night.
Lock, Rocco, Kemp and I enjoyed playing "Hearts" or Rummy" any time we had time to waste. That was about every night unless there happened to be a movie.
We had a lone electric light bulb hanging from the center of our tent. Directly under that bulb, we had constructed a type of card table and two long benches. That table made the place rather homey looking and, more importantly, provided a place to play cards and write letters.
Still, homey as it was, that light attracted mosquitoes and every other kind of winged insect around. Something had to be done about that situation.
"Lock," I asked one evening, "do you think we can find three or four mosquito nets? If we can, I think I can figure a way to cover our table and chairs so we can keep those pests away from us."
Lock thought it was a great idea and so we both pulled as much rank as we could to get more mosquito nets. I cut them just right and sewed them together. Then I contrived a little wooden frame to hang the netting from the ceiling above our table. We really enjoyed our nice little bug-proof room.
Bill Lockman and Weldon Kemp Playing Cards Comfortably Inside Our Nets
However, one day the captain discovered what we had done.
"Who told you that you could cut those nets?" the captain growled. "You destroyed government property. You can be court martialled for that!"
I tried to explain that I got them from the supply and someone said they werenít any good. I could see I wasnít going to get anywhere with that line of talk, so I calmed down right then. I didnít have much rank those days so I had to watch what I did and said. As a matter of fact, I was only a corporal at that time.
The captain let me sweat for a few days, but never did come back to
pursue the situation. I think he was trying to figure a way to write the
proper report to his superior. Maybe he was jealous or just admired our
creativity. In any even, we kept that room for months, and really enjoyed
ourselves playing cards.
Lots of guys finding it hard to cope with our circumstances and, of course, being homesick, found themselves drinking too much. Only officers were supposed to have access to "strong drink," but lots of other guys seemed to find ways to get plenty. One of the B-24 bombers had been converted to carry food and drinks from the mainland of Australia. The officers of the squadron made good use of its service. They always seemed to manage to have the best food and plenty of liquor in their private club. I might add that the officersí club and mess hall seemed to have first priority when a new camp was established. Now you might say that I had a sour grapes attitude about such a situation. Not only was I a teetotaler, but it bothered me to see what some of the guys were doing to their health.
My friend Lt. King was one who too often drank too much. All the above paragraph is just my introduction to a story about him.
I often operated the movie projector and enjoyed being able to do the job. However, one evening my fun job turned into one not so much fun.
That evening Lt. King had drunk himself silly and after the show, he decided that he wanted to see the film again. After all the others had left, he demanded that I show him the film again. I stalled by saying I have to rewind it first, but he didnít leave. I obediently crawled back up the ladder to the projection booth and threaded the first reel. I started to run it when suddenly I got angry and decided no drunk was going to order me around, even if he was a lieutenant and I a mere sergeant. After a few minutes I slipped down the ladder. I went to the pole that held the power switch and turned the power off. Lt. King kept yelling for me to start the projector again, but I just ignored him and went to my tent. After awhile when I saw that he had left, I went back and shut the projector down properly.
Imagine, I had defied a lieutenantís order! I wondered just what would
happen the next day. When I saw him, he seemed to glower at me. Of course,
that could have been my imagination. He may not have remembered anything
about the night before. Anyway, if he did remember, he would know I could
give him a bad time if I told how drunk he had been. I had no desire to
get him in trouble, and I certainly didnít want to get in trouble for defying
orders. Neither of us said a word about what happened and that was the
end of the episode.
The food was awful! I was absolutely stunned when I discovered that the white bread so nicely cut and stacked on the table before us had worms in it. I looked carefully at each piece of bread for the "embedded" worms. I dug every worm out before putting what those cooks called "butter" on it. It looked like lard, and even tasted like lard.
By the time I got finished picking out the worms, the slice of bread looked like a piece of holey white cheese. There wasnít much bread left to eat.
Some of the guys around me just spread the butter on their bread and ate it with enthusiasm, but I couldnít do it. The cooks said those worms was a good source of protein. "Eat it," they said.
We had plenty of powered milk and eggs, and canned vegetables from the mainland, but with all those worms and that so-called butter, well! Really, I tried hard to eat that food, but I couldnít. I didnít drink coffee, but according to the scuttle, the Aussie coffee wasnít much good other.
I tried fasting, but that didnít work. It was either eat something or starve. So, I compromised. I settled for canned fruit and cookies from the Aussie PX. That wasnít such a good idea other and I began to loose weight.
Sometime planes from Australia would bring fresh eggs, meat and even some vegetables. Occasionally, one of our planes would go to the Mt. Hagen area and bring back some vegetables from the native farms.
Thinking about the food we had to eat always reminds me of a particular Thanksgiving Dinner. The mess sergeant had announced that we would have turkey and all the good stuff that went with it.
It was just as good as the sergeant had said; but, what he forgot to tell us was that canned turkey was tainted. It had been shipped in from Australia.
A few hours later it hit! The entire group got poisoned from that turkey. It was a regular footrace to see who could get to the slit trench first. It was comical watching those guys running towards that trench. Many didnít make it in time. Comical? Well, it was comical to the guys that hadnít gotten those cramps yet. I got them about 30- minutes later than most of the guys.
My tent mate Lock laughed at us and called us a bunch of pansies. However, in the middle of the night, I heard him groaning and subsequently rushing for the slit trench. He got the runs harder than the rest of us, and it took him longer to get over it. Now it was our turn to laugh at him.
There wasnít much use in calling for the doctors. Everyone was in the
same fix. However, we all survived the ordeal, and we all had something
different to talk about for days. Iím sure, also, that all wrote long descriptions,
maybe some exaggerated, in their next letters home.
Mt. Hagen was a reservation set aside by the Australian and New Guinea authorities where the native people could be protected from the dangers of the war. It was high in the mountains northwest of Port Moresby, about an hourís flight away. It was a place where we could get fresh vegetables grown on the nativeís well-kept farms. I had heard so much about the place, I was thrilled one day to be given the opportunity to go there. When our C-47 plane descended to the little airstrip, I knew I was in another world. Below me was a beautiful fertile farming area. The natives raised luscious sweet corn, head lettuce, tomatoes and giant yams in their well-kept gardens.
The moment the plane landed at the Mt. Hagen airstrip, what seemed like hundreds of natives began to congregate. They were a curious folk to say the least.
The natives were black as coal, and wore little clothing. A distinctive feature was their "fuzzie-wuzzie" hair. In the group who came to greet us were a number of mothers nursing their babies and lots of children. Most of the children wore no clothing at all. It seemed they were all decked for our arrival however. This meant seashells, boarsí teeth, and beads worn on their ears, noses, arms, wrists, fingers, and ankles. Few of the women wore anything above their waists except ornaments around their necks and in their hair. Most wore some type of skirt, usually made of grass.
Some men wore the same type of grass skirt. Others wore only a small loincloth.
They liked having their pictures taken and would put on their best jewelry and ornaments. However, they didnít smile for us. Generally, they seemed to have rather sad expressions on their faces.
Natives Waiting for Our C-47 to Land
Crowding around as the Plane Door Opens
Seashells from Afar Were Hard to Get
Only Wealthy Natives Could Afford Them
The Women Keeping Their Distance
Natives in their Fancy Dress
A Bra was a Rarity
Maidens with Grass Skirts, Dancing and Skipping Rope
Mothers with Children. They Had to Skip Rope the Hard Way
Great Show Finale! A Flute Duet, Feather Headpieces, Shells and All
After the crew loaded the plane with all kinds of fresh vegetables, and bananas, they warned the crowd to move away. Boy, did those natives scatter when the pilot revved up the engines.
Before the trip, I had borrowed a 16mm camera from the photographic group and filmed some footage of the natives. I actually used three short rolls, but unfortunately, I ruined one of them by trying to hand process it. What a flop that was. The other two reels I sent home to the folks.
After I got home, I showed those reels many times. When we got ready
to transfer all our home movies to videotape we looked high and low for
those Mt. Hagen reels. How disgusted I was that we never could find them.
I guess they were "gone with the wind." That was the expression my Mom
always used when she couldnít find something.
One of the darndest things happened! The Operations Group decided they needed some bicycles to move personnel from the camps to the revetments where the planes were. The idea was a good one, but just a minute! The bicycles must have been made of cast iron. Also, the people that bought them apparently had not heard of the invention of the coaster break. In others, these bikes all had stiff axles and the pedals went right along with the wheels. Imagine that? It was like a kid's tricycle!
Well, I thought I could master any kind of bicycle and checked out one of those G.I. "greens" out from the motor pool. It would have been fine on the flat paths, roads and airstrips, but when it came to hills, I forgot about them!
Most of our tents were situated on the sides of a nice little valley. Whenever I went to work, to mess or where-ever, I had to go down that steep path to the road below. Now getting that beast of a bicycle up to my tent should have warned me that I was going to have trouble, but I knew what I was doing, well, I thought I knew! I did know that when a good free moment came along I would take that bicycle ride to the airstrip and watch the planes take-off and land.
This is what happened that eventful day!
That beast of a bicycle, now by my tent, was at least 100í higher from the path below. Any sane person wouldnít have attempted to ride any bike, let alone the one I had, down such as deep grade, especially without a good braking arrangement.
Anyway, I straddled that thing and started down that incline. Within a few feet gravity took over, and both my feet were thrown from the pedals. I went going at high speed down that path with my feet sticking straight ahead. With no feet to help me balance, keeping on that seat was a mean trick to play on any butt, ouch! There was nothing that I could do, but to try to ride it out. It went faster and faster as I hung on for dear life. I was afraid my feet would hit those spinning pedals! That would be a disaster. I was just sure of that!
Fortunately for me, there were no curves in the path. It went straight to the bottom of the hill and up the other side. Luck must have known that I was going to make that trip that day and planned the path on the other side in such a way that my bike would be slowed down before the eventual spill.
I dumped that dumb bike in a soft place and sprawled. Wow! I'm sure
I was quite a sight! Luckily, no one saw me so I could talk about my wild
ride and embellish things just any way I wanted. No more GI bikes for me!
I donít remember if they ever got any decent bikes. I tried to forget the
entire escapade, but I never forgot my hurt butt and pride!
Bananas by C-47
The day I ate my first New Guinea banana I realized that there are two entirely different kinds of bananas. There are those I had eaten all my life that are pulled green and allowed to ripen later. Then, there are the New Guinea bananas that are pulled when ready to eat. Although both may be called bananas, they are as different as night and day. Those tree-ripened ones are delicious. Iíve never had any in the states to compare with them.
"Do you want to go with us to pick up a load of bananas?" I was asked one day.
"Sure," I said, "Letís go!"
I found that there were about eight or nine other guys going along for the ride, also. Soon our plane was roaring off the airstrip and gracefully flying into the sky.
That pilot was a real nut. He thought it would be fun to do some hedge-hopping on the way and so he weaved that plane up and down and around until I was getting air-sick. Those planes had an odd odor inside and that didnít help my air-sickness one bit.
Within a few minutes after the pilot got tired making his shenanigans, we touched down on a rather rough airstrip along side a beautiful banana plantation. Waiting for us was the detail who had piled up the bananas we were to bring.
"OK guys, letís get this crate loaded. I want to get back to camp before it gets dark. After all thereís a war on and weíve got to keep these planes rolling."
Right, we didnít have much time to fool around. It was getting late, and the crew probably had to get up early the next day to make more runs to the front.
"Wow, what a stack of bananas! Are they going to load all those bananas in this plane?" I asked the crew chief.
"Sure! And whatís more weíre going to take the jeep back. Whatever space is left is for you guys to crawl into."
I should have figured that someone had been using a jeep to gather that huge stack of bananas.
First, the jeep was put in and then the bananas were loaded. They were all over the place. Itís a wonder they didnít have bananas in the pilotís compartment. Then we all climbed in!
After the doors were closed, the pilot started the engines and warmed them up. He taxied the plane down to the end of the strip and turned it around. Then he tested both engines full throttle. He knew that he was over-loaded, but with all his experience hauling heavy loads in C-47ís, he knew exactly what to do. He locked his brakes and shoved both throttles forward. Those engines roared. That plane shook until it seemed it was going to break to pieces. Then, he released the brakes, adjusted the props for the best power and let it go. Bananas, jeep and people began to slide around. I was scared.
When we had first landed, I had noted a deep drain ditch at the end of the strip. We had no margin for error! We had to get off the ground before hitting that ditch. I cringed! Those few moments as that plane roared and shook, seemed an hour. I was looking out one of the windows and I just knew we werenít going to make it. But just when as I thought we were going to crash, I saw that ditch pass under me. We had made it. Wow!
I never forgot that trip. If we had crashed, how could we have explained that trip as an "on duty" one? I tried to enjoy those bananas even more. I ate at least two or three every day for days. They were from eight or nine inches long, and so large that I could hardly get my fingers around them.
Those bananas got bigger and sweeter by the year in my mind. Believe
me! Iím ready to go back to New Guinea today and get another stalk.
Our Chapel in Port Moresby
Our chapel in Port Moresby was unique, I thought. It was covered entirely with grass, the native material so plentiful in New Guinea. Its frame was made of large bamboo poles. The natives had a way of slitting young bamboo into long strips that held the framework firmly together.
While one group of natives were putting up the framework, another was gathering large piles of grass to be used for the roof and siding. I could tell that those people had been at that job of making grass houses for many years. In other words, they were skilled workmen.
Our chapel was one of the most beautiful ones I had ever seen on the island. To top it off, they had put a cupola with a steeple on it so it could be recognized at distance as a place of worship. It blended into the landscape splendidly.
Our Grass Church Was Constructed by the Natives
Ready To Go To Church
The finished chapel, inside, had all the trappings of a church. There were rows of wooden benches perched on large round poles. They were really very comfortable to sit on. In the front were an altar and pulpit, all made of wood. Along both sides were openings, which served as windows. I donít think I saw a piece of glass on the island.
I well remember Sunday mornings, when the Chaplain opened the service. Facing his audience, he usually witnessed an eager group of young soldiers waiting for him to lead the service in words of hope and comfort. I, too, was ready for such a moment. I was nearly always sitting to his right, sitting at that little foot pump organ ready to play at his command.
That little Chapel in the rolling hills of Port Moresby was an inspiration for me. I felt God was present waiting for me to listen to him in silence, song and word. The silence, the music, wheezy as that organ was, fit into the singing and the Chaplainís message. It was inspiring. It surely touched me. It was a small part of home for me.
As I begin to pump out the first tones from that organ, the Sunday morning service would begin:
"Praise God from whom all blessings flow."
Paratroop Mission to Nadzab
The paratroop mission to Nadzab happened while I was in Port Moresby. Every airstrip in and around Port Moresby had C-47ís loaded and made ready. General MacArthur was there to witness the whole operation. That was the only time that I saw him in person. General Prentiss, my general, piloted a 41st Squadron plane to lead the drop.
A zillion pictures were taken of that operation and I understand that the War Department mailed copies to all the major newspapers in the states. The public relations officer in his report called it "The first paratroop drop in the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA)."
Later, we found that the Japanese had already left Nadzab so the paratroopers had to move on towards the little town of Lae where they were fighting. Apparently, the Japs had been tipped-off and cleared out before the paratroops got there.
In a way, the entire escapade turned out to be rather useless. Nevertheless, it was a good show to publicize to the home folks. All were anxious to hear good news from the war front. Also, it was a great show for us at the scene to watch. The sky was literally full of planes. When they all got into formation as they headed towards Nadzab, it was a thrilling sight!
General Paul H Prentiss Preparing for the Nadzab Parachute Drop
Australian Troops Loading Planes for the Nadzab Parachute drop
C-47 Transports Getting in Formation for the Parachute Drop
The Owen-Stanley Mountain Range
A High One to Fly Over
Scenes of the Parachute Drop of Supplies and Personnel
Later, Major Jacobs, our intelligence officer, invited me to accompany him on a flight to Nadzab, Gusap, Dobodura and back. He, unlike most of our C-47 pilots, was a seasoned pilot. At that time, he must have been forty or fifty years old. He had been a fighter pilot in War I. I figured he had "urgent" intelligence business to take care of. I knew that those pilots could check out a plane for any old reason. All pilots had to chalk-up a certain number of flight hours each year or they didnít get flight pay.
I knew it wasnít completely safe to fly into those war areas, but after getting permission from the general, I decided to go. I have always been glad I did. That trip was another of my thrilling experiences in New Guinea. Luckily, We didnít get mixed up in any air raids raid while we were there.
When we arrived safely and taxied the plane to a revetment.
"They tell me there is a great little stream where we can take a swim. Would you like to go with me?"
"Of course, Iíd like to go. Iím ready when you are."
The major checked out a jeep from the motor pool and away we went. Major Jacobs assured me that it was safe around in that area as well. He said the guys there used that stream all of the time.
"Here it is," the major said stopping the jeep. "Letís go, sergeant."
Neither of us had a swimming suit so we stripped and waded out into the water.
Enjoying a Dip in a Cold Running Stream
"Wow," I said. "This water is cold!"
The major then selected a large rock, surveyed the water and dived in. When the major came up for air, I knew it was my turn. I got upon the same rock. Although there was no one except the major around, I felt a little funny standing on that rock staked naked. Looking down at that clear water, I judged it to be over ten feet deep.
"Jump in, sergeant. Itís cold, but it beats that salt water in the ocean."
With that bit of encouragement, I jumped in.
Yes, that water was cold, but I enjoyed it immensely. It reminded me of the cold water gushing from out irrigation pump back in Hanston. That water was around fifty degrees.
After a few minutes I began to shiver. Although the water was refreshing, I knew it was time to get out. I donít remember how we dried ourselves, but who cares.
We hopped back into the jeep, checked it in at the motor pool, got into
the plane and flew home to camp. I thanked the major for an enjoyable day.
Wow! A Piano
How glad I was when we got a piano in our recreation hall at Port Moresby.
I was really happy to be able to play again. I did so every good chance
I had. Darlene sent me a copy of "Rhapsody in Blue" and I made up my mind
I would memorize it. But, I guess I had too many other things on my mind.
I was never able to play all of it from memory.
On Leave in MacKay and Sidney, Usually Called R & R
After nearly eighteen months of service in the Port Moresby war area, Major Smith, the adjutant, handed me some orders to prepare.
"I think youíll like typing these orders, sergeant. Theyíre your orders for a ten-day R & R leave to MacKay. Pack your bags and be ready to leave."
Was I ever happy! Lockman, my tent mate, was also on the same orders. We were both elated. Two days later, leave orders in hand, we left for MacKay.
The accommodations in the little town of MacKay for us GIís on leave from New Guinea were just terrific. Those responsible for us while on leave did their best to help us feel at home. They wanted to keep us from being homesick for our real homes, and we appreciated their efforts.
MacKay was such a clean city. Our headquarters were within walking distance of a beautiful park situated on their beach. We really enjoyed wading in the ocean or just lying on the sand and letting the water lap over us.
"Lock, weíre in civilization again at last!" I said.
"Thatís for sure, Mac. Reminds me of the home I want to build in Indiana. I know exactly where Iím going to build it. It will be beside a beautiful lake, and Iím going fishing every day. Once Iím back home, I donít want to ever leave again."
Lock often told me about his plans. I felt somewhat differently. Although I was eager to get home, I felt I still wanted to travel and see other parts of the world.
Lock did build his house by a lake. We stopped to see him many years later. We had a great reunion, and I tried to convince him he should come to California to visit us. But true to what he had said while we were together for three years during the war, he still insisted he didnít want to go anywhere. So far as I know he stayed right there until his death.
The stores in MacKay were quaint to us, but they were always spic and span. Of course, the shoppers walked on the "wrong" side of the sidewalks, just as the cars drove on the wrong side of the road.
There was a great recreation building for us GIís. Red Cross and USO personnel, as well as local volunteers, were there to take care of us. They provided various activities and shows for us.
I enjoyed having a piano to play while there. Once I got up enough nerve to play and sing my "Freedom Forever" at a special program. The audience seemed to love it.
The food in the PX was fabulous. All kinds of sandwiches and of course the favorite, steakín eggs, were available morning, noon and night. An entire dinner could cost me one florin or two shillings, the equivalent of US fifty cents. Wow!
My favorites were their magnificent chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry malts. They were always topped with lots of whipped cream, nuts and a bright red cherry.
Each evening we could attend an outdoor movie. Although the canvas lounge chairs we had to sit on werenít the most comfortable, I still enjoyed spending the evening there. Before the show started, I enjoyed searching the sky for familiar stars. In Brisbane I always looked for the Southern Cross. In MacKay I discovered it was a little lower in the sky. I guess I never quite got used to how different the star patterns were from those back home in Kansas.
Thank goodness it never rained all the time I was on leave. I was lucky.
I enjoyed three leaves in MacKay. One time our leave was extended by another week because of scheduling problems. The plane was full of fresh food, and liquor, of course, headed for Port Moresby, and there was no room for us. I didnít care. I was happy about that extension of my leave.
On Leave in MacKay (Note My New Staff Sergeant Stripes)
Leave - A Time for Rest & Relaxation (R&R)
Me, Two Red Cross Workers and Bill Lockman
Three GI's with a Red Cross Worker
Horse-drawn Taxi in MacKay, Australia
One day, several months after my last leave to MacKay, the major said, "Sergeant, I think itís about your turn to take another leave. Do you want to go to Sydney this time?"
No one refused such an opportunity. I packed my bags and waited for the next plane south.
By this time we had moved from Port Moresby to Biak, a little island northwest of Moresby. That made the C-47 plane trip much longer, across New Guinea and over the Coral Sea to Australia. Sydney is situated at the southern tip of Australia.
Iím certain we had to refuel but I donít remember where, Townsville, MacKay or Brisbane.
The bucket seats in that C-47 werenít made for tourists. That plane was made to move troops. We passengers had to face each other for the entire trip. It was difficult to see much outside the plane. When our plane arrived at the airport, we were bussed to the R & R building where we were to be housed and entertained for ten days.
Our Home Away From Home while on Leave in Sidney, Australia
Leave Was Nice, but I Still Missed Darlene and My Family
It was good to be away from the camp routines. The Australian food was great. There was lots of good steak, fresh vegetables and, my favorite, ice cream. I figured Iíd gain at least ten pounds in the ten days, but I didnít worry. I could easily lose that when I got back to GI rations.
The Red Cross and USO were there to make us welcome and supply us with entertainment. At one of the dances a nice girl noticed me and asked if I was enjoying myself. I guess she noticed I wasnít doing much dancing. I told her I had heard that the water was great for swimming, and that Iíd like to find a way to get down to the beach.
As planned, Rose picked me up and we drove to the ocean, stopping where the waves looked good for swimming. There were high sand dunes all along the shore.
"Sure," I said. "Are you coming with me?"
"OK," I said, going behind the next sand dune to put on my swimming trunks.
I could hardly wait to get into that beautiful ocean. I loved running barefoot through the sand, but it didnít take long for me to realize how steep that beach really was. I started down toward the water pell-mell, and suddenly found myself going even faster than I wished. Also as I got closer to the water, I saw that those beautiful breakers were much larger and higher than I thought. Whatís more, they were heading directly toward me.
I was scared!
That wave headed for me looked at least 15 feet high.
The backwash turned me around and moved me down deeper and further out to sea. I was beginning to get desperate.
A second wave hit me sending me even further out.
After what seemed like an hour, but was probably only a few seconds, I suddenly came to the surface.
I gasped for air and dogpaddled toward the shore. I saw another large wave heading toward me, but this time I was able to ride it in.
After drying and getting on my clothes, I took a few more long breaths, calmed myself and casually walked up to Rose. She never knew how close I came to being swept out to sea.
Although I pretended that I had had a wonderful time, I knew that swimming off the seashore at Sydney was over for me. Never again would I try that!
Rose took me back to my room. I thanked her for a wonderful afternoon,
went inside, stripped, took a shower, dried, lay down and took a nap. What
New Guinea Jungles
One day a group of us went by Jeep and truck into the jungles. After riding about ten miles we had to get out and walk. There we met a native boy who was our guide. Without him, I'm sure we never would have found our way back to our transportation.
One of the Soldiers who drove us into the Jungles
Mike Stosic and Me -- Looking at Jungle Plants
Typical Jungle Scene
Scenes of the Jungle Village We Saw
I sent my folks a description of our New Guinea jungle trip. They showed it to the editor of our hometown newspaper and he published it. Since Iím sure it is more accurate than my memory after all these years, Iíll just quote it:
"All the terrors and thrills that make up a boyís dream of adventures became as real as the sun which shone overhead to Tech. Sgt. Glenn McMurry, former Zook music teacher, when he went on a long trek through a New Guinea jungle.
"The sergeant, who has served 18 months on the island with a troop carrier wing, says in a letter to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Fred E. McMurry Sr., RFD 2.
"It seems as if we had walked ten miles, winding around enormous trees draped with vines and through foliage so thick we couldnít see the sun, but we kept on trudging along in single file, 15 of us, through the hot, steaming undergrowth towards our goal, a native village in the mountains.
"When we turned off the road on a mere trail that led into the jungle, we had traveled about 15 miles from camp. From there we gathered together for our last minute instructions before starting out. They were short and specific: ĎKeep in file and donít attempt to take a trail leading off into another direction.í
"This seemed a bit simple at first, but it wasnít long before we thoroughly understood. Finding oneís way in New Guinea jungles is, in fact, an impossibility. The only hope is that youíll come across some friendly natives who will guide you to safety.
"After we had walked about a mile into the jungle, we sensed the intense heat and the dampness that lurked beneath foliage. For those of us who hadnít made the trek before, it was inspiring. For those veterans of the jungles, it affirmed their hatred of the place.
"Your imagination didnít have to go far to see the jaws of the jungle closing upon you, as you groped your way through the almost- impassable undergrowth. The thought of going without water for days faded only when you came upon a fresh brooklet with crystal clear water rippling over the small stones that huddled together to disturb the peaceful waters. On and on we trudged, over rotten tree trunks, grass, leaves, through arches of immense ferns that added to the richness of the scene, winding around trees that reached hundreds of feet into the forest air to rule over the undergrowth below; crossing stream after stream, wondering just how many times we had crossed the same one.
"Still we trudged along, our shouts and footsteps muffled by the surrounding walls of the creeping jungle, until finally the native boys pointed to a clearing ahead and with broad smiles acknowledged it as home.
"Quite surprising it was to come upon a clearing made by human hands. Simple it was, but we felt a decided disappointment at the utter neglect of the place. Trees lay strewn as a bundle of twigs that had burst its band of cord. Fields of corn grew in and around the tree stumps and limbs. A disappointed murmur swept through out party.
"Giggling women and many naked little bodies prancing and scampering about from hut to hut, or curiously approaching to beg for cigarettes, began to put life into the picture. The preparation of food (herbs, roots and fruits) indicated that there was a desire to live.
"The pets, all species of wild dogs, were being fondled. They are valued treasuresóeventually food for bloated bellies.
"The utter disregard for modesty among the native women was evident to every eye. So calm, so listless, so lazy they seemed. What would stir them into activity?
"But the native, who disregards practices of civilized man, is not so dumb, for he has found that life is short for the man who exerts himself in the steaming jungle. Life should be simple, without activity and with laziness.
"So the villagers sprawled on the ground, on bark and burlap, sleeping in the midday heat. Their interest in white man was slight. Just as calmly as they had received us, they bade us go.
"We broke off into groups and trudged back down the trail to open country and, finally, back to camp. Some where inspired by the experienceóothers were bored.
"All in all it gave me a sense of appreciation for the people who
inhabit the far-off places of the world and keep the spark of life there
until judgment day. I donít doubt that, when that day comes, the sun will
be shining on that same clearing in the jungle, and all will be asleep
in the shade of a banana tree."
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