PAGE FOUR. . . when we crossed the International Date Line on the 6th. Or was it the 5th? I never have been able to get my dates straightened out since.
New Caledonia Arrival: December 8
We took off at about 6:30. I was up in the pilots' compartment. We raced toward the ocean at a hundred miles an hour, chewing up runway with nerve wracking prodigality. A few yards before we hit the water, turned over, and burst into flame, were air borne.
Flew near and over some beautiful islands. We were flying low. In some instances we skirted coast line below the summit of the jungle clad cliffs and so close that one could have tossed a stone among the trees. There were little clearings with tiny, grass thatched huts. And streams winding down to the ocean. And mysterious beaches and inlets and coves.
The waters of the lagoons were clear as crystal and a greenish azure. Beyond the ever present coral reefs were the white surf forms and an eternal halo around the islands, the sea drops to tremendous depths; and the water turns to indigo. All these scenes were so beautifully indolent and peaceful that it seemed incredible that war was so very close at hand and these boys who were flying with me were going into thick of it, most of them never to return. And they were such fine, eager boys.
At 11:46 A.M., the skipper set our wheels down on the runway at Plaines des Gaiacs at the northwest end of New Caledonia. It was the end of the trip for all of us except Englander, who was continuing on to Australia. We and our gear were driven a short distance to a barracks, where a major introduced himself and took me under his wing. He was Phil LaFollette, a former governor of Wisconsin. He piloted me down to H.Q. and introduce me to Lt. Colonel Ecklund of Lincoln, Nebraska, the C.O.
Colonel Ecklund is a Tarzan fan and was mighty nice to me. He even telegraphed Major General Harmon that he was sending me down to Tontouta by plane at one o'clock, and asked the general to have a car meet me there!
I only hoped to God that General Harmon was also a Tarzan fan. Old Tarzan has been a life saver throughout my journeys. Apparently everyone on the transport plane was a fan of his. And so it was throughout. I shone in reflected glory as the name aroused nostalgic memories of boy hood in the minds of the hundreds that I met -- from privates to generals.
Colonel Ecklund's quarters were in a large, airy, grass thatched, bamboo hut which he had built on a slight elevation above the camp. I washed up and waited for dinner there. There was a cool breeze and no flies.
At one o'clock I boarded a Marine transport plane and was flown to Tontouta, which is about thirty miles from the southern end of the island. And, sure enough, there was a command car waiting to take me to Noumea. When I arrived there, I reported at once to General Harmon. Probably the only war correspondent who had been dumb enough to do so. Anyway, the general was mighty cordial. He introduced me to a couple of other generals and then turned me over to Col. L. C. Sherman, A. C. of S. G-2, Hq. USAFISPA.
Col. Sherman drove me to the Grand Hotel du Pacifique which had been taken over by the army I am probably the only War Correspondent assigned to that area who was driven around by an Assistant Chief of Staff. Dumbness has its compensations. The colonel introduce me to Lt. Col. Earle C. Stead, G-2, First Island Command, and made his escape. I was now Col. Stead's headache.
Col. Sherman, from the time I arrived, until I left New Caledonia, was . . .
WWII Photos and Flight Crew at Plaines des Gaiacs Airfield, New Caledonia
Tontouta Airfield 1943 ~ Southern New Caledonia
PAGE FIVEuniformly friendly, cordial, and helpful. He is a very swell person. He even, later, turned over confidential files to me that I might obtain material.
Noumea ~ Native Village ~ St. Louis Mission: December 8 and 9
Colonel Stead was equally kind to me, and I developed a warm feeling of personal friendship for him and for Capt. H. M. Bowen of Chicago, also of G-2, F.I.C., who was in Col. Stead's office.
Stead told me that the hotel was full and that there was no more room, but he summoned Mess Steward Sgt. Edward Buttler of East Dedham, Mass., and told him to make room for me. So Buttlar dug up an army cot and shoved it into a corner of the room occupied by Capt. J. Alford Burden, M.C., than being used as an interpreter, having been born and raised in Japan. Burden had been an interne in Queen's Hospital in Honolulu and had practiced on Maui. He knew Dr. Rolla Brown well. Brown is my physician. He had agreed with me before I left Honolulu that I was a damn fool to undertake such a trip. We were both wrong. Incidentally, Burden is a UCLA man.
At mess that evening, a Lt. Ballanger came over to my table and introduced himself. He went to Pomona with Jack and Jane. A moment later a lieutenant (s.g.) USNR sat down beside me. He took another look at me and said, "For God's sake, what are you doing here?" He was Hal Thompson, Rochelle Hudson's husband. I had become well acquainted with him in 1940 when he and Rochelle were living at Lanikai and I was living at Kalama Beach. He went to the L.A. Coaching School at the same time Hulbert and Jack were learning nothing at the same place.
Met a Colonel Ralston just before supper. We got to talking about ages, and I bet him a Scotch highball that I was more than ten years older than he. I didn't have any Scotch and couldn't have gotten any. I didn't have to, because he lost. He took me up to his quarters and paid up.
The next day (Dec. 9), 1st Lt. William L. Van Ness of Mechanicsburg, Ohio, Signal Corps (Photo) drove me out in the country to a native village. He took Cpl. Edward C. Wold of Oakland, Calif., an excellent photographer, along. The village is close to the St. Louis Mission, a French-Catholic institution, formerly famous for its St. Louis rum. The village is set among trees in an attractive location. The huts are mostly grass thatched and a combination of French-Colonial and native architecture.
There were only women and children around, as the men were all away working for our armed forces. Wold took several pictures, including some of me with a buxom ex-cannibal lady and her incredibly filthy child. The latter might have been two years old, but it played with a knife with a six inch blade. Later, the Grand Chief came, and I was photographed with him. His grandfather was an Irish man. The Irish certainly get around. Like all the other natives there, he spoke French.
Many tribes inhabited the island; and being warlike, there was little intercourse between them except over the dinner table. As a result, each tribe has its own language which the others do not speak; so now they converse in French. They are Melanesian -- dark skinned, fuzzy haired, well built; but not as tall or fine looking as the Fijians. They smile readily, love flowers, and are very fond of Americans. I was told that they do not like the French.
When we got ready to leave, we found that they had filled the jeep with flowers and fruit. The Grand Chief presented Van Ness with a set of deer antlers. Van Ness gave cigarettes to the adults and chewing gum . . .
US Army Hospitals also provided medical care and treatment to the local population
New Caledonia Village Huts and Unique Tall Thatched Huts
St. Louis Mission by Mont-Dore, Grand Terre, New Caledonia
Melanesian Tribal People
Rare Edgar Rice Burroughs WWII Photos
Col. David Taylor shares eight photos of ERB as a WWII correspondent
from the National Archives in Washington, DC.
Longtime Burroughs Family Friend: Acress Rochelle Hudson
and Naval Officer husband Hal Thompson (Hollywood actor/screenwriter)
WWII Espionage Agents
Rochelle Hudson: ERBzine Tributes
PAGE SIX. . to the children. He also gave the Grand Chief a knife. All of which may account for his popularity.
Noumea and Dumbea Valley: December 10, 11, 12, 13
The next morning (December 10) I managed to stay in bed until six. The day before, I was up at 4:20, which was about the time it commenced to get light. When I left Honolulu it was not light until around seven. In less than three days I jumped from mid-winter to mid-summer, from the shortest to the longest of days of the year.
After breakfast, I went to the Q.M's to get some overseas caps without officer's braid, and met Capt. Omer T. Chaput of Natick, Mass., who turned out to be a regular Santa Claus. He drove me over to a warehouse to get the caps, and then got me a 1942 Willys jeep (they call 'em peeps down there), and a gas mask.
After lunch, I drove over to see Col. Sherman who has said that I could see the reports of officers who had seen action at the front. He told me that Chuck Shelton, who was down there with Rickenbaker, had asked him to send for Hully.
While I was working in my room, four men stopped in at different times and invited me to have drinks. Highly indignant, I refused. They had only local wine and brandy, and I'd been hearing about the local "butter-fly brandy" that analyzes 37% kerosene. One authority says 73%. Anyhow, it is so potent that it induces privates to spit in generals' faces.
Along came December 11. Met Frank J. Cuhel, Mutual Broadcasting System, who was later killed in the clipper crash at Lisbon. Major General Rush B. Lincoln signed my autograph book and got photographed by the Signal Corps while doing it.
The next day (December 12) I drove Col. Stead to the hospital. He has shingles. Then I picked up Cpl. Wold and his cameras and drove out to the 112th Cavalry camp at Dumbea. Stayed to dinner. Wold got some good shots. Major Philip L. Hooper (since made lt. col.) showed me around the camp. He was very cordial and hospitable. Asked me to stay all night, but I had to get Wold back to town. The 112th is reputed the crack outfit on the island. It has never had a man in the guard house. There was only one man on sick list the day I was there, and there is not a case of venereal disease in the entire regiment.
They use Australian horses, many of which they have had to break, as there is no remount depot within 5000 miles. Their camp is beautifully situated in Dumbea Valley beside the Dumbea River where the men bathe and swim. What use can be made of cavalry in the South Pacific, I cannot guess. What with almost impassable mountains and quite impassable jungle, it would be difficult for anyone to guess. The fact that all the feed has to be shipped in, makes one wonder all the more. But, as an ex-cavalryman and a horse lover, I'm 100% for cavalry anywhere and at any time, even though there is no use for it. It is damned ornamental.
They told me of some amusing instances during reviews held for generals. The horses were only half broken, and the reviews more nearly resembled rodeos. Hooper said they were thinking of building a corral to put the reviewing officers in for safety.
The following day being Sunday (December 13) was just like every other day. I went to D.Q.M., and Cpl. Dominic J. Biranculli of South Boston drove be over to the warehouse, where I bought a couple of GI towels. I then wandered through Place des Cocotiers (Coconut Grove to me), where I saw a large group of . . .
112th Cavalry, New Caledonia 1943
112th cavalry, New Caledonia 1943
Frank J. Cuhel
AUTOGRAPHS FROM FELLOW PASSENGERS ON THIS FLIGHT
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