Bill Hillman's Monthly Military Tribute
2019.03 Edition

Wartime Journals of Correspondent Edgar Rice Burroughs :: December 1942-April 1943
PARTS:  7 ~ 8 ~ 9
or Buck Burroughs Rides Again

Written April 1943 ~ Copyright ERB, Inc.
Shared by Danton Burroughs from his Burroughs Family Archive
Transcribed and Illustrated by Bill Hillman


Noumea: December 13 and 14
. . .  soldiers in a huddle. As I approached them to see who was killed, a sergeant spectator saw me and warned, "Lay off!" The men scrambled for something on the ground and stood up, looking very innocent and self-conscious.

Realizing that while some of them might have been badly hurt although not killed, I said, "Go ahead. I am only a correspondent." So they resumed their crap game. The sergeant said that he saw my brassard and though that I was an M.P. I haven't seen so much money outside of a National Bank. Every man had handfuls of five, ten, and twenty dollar bills. Their bets ranged from $20 to $50 a throw.

After I went to bed and was reading under my mosquito bar, Lt. Col. Claude Skaates and Major John J. Gates came in and invited me to a poker party with Scotch. Rather than offend them, I leaped out of bed and dressed. We went to the quarters of Lt. Col. Paul H. Hayward. Major Roy M. Dart completed the party. We played a 25 cent limit game until about 11:30. It takes 2nd lieutenants and enlisted men to throw the big money around. Had a good time. Also was lucky and won. This game originated the Noumea Chowder and Marching Club.

Just before supper the next day (December 14), Lt. Col. Bill Connaly, GHQ SPA, formerly JAGD, stopped in front of my room and invited me up to his, where he opened a bottle of excellent Scotch. Connaly is an old friend of my friend, Gen'l Tom Green. I don't know where people get the idea that I like Scotch. Which reminds me of how I happened to be invited to the poker party the day before. Col. Stead had been censoring my stories and personal letters. When he went to the hospital, Col. Skaates took over. In reading a letter I had written (to "Duke" Willey, I think), he discovered that I liked both poker and Scotch. This is one of the few instances of record in which a censor appeared to advantage.

This is one of the few instances of record in which a censor appeared to advantage.

After Burden left, I had a whole room to myself for a while; but this night Chas. P. Arnot, United Press, was moved in with me. He left for Honolulu the following morning. My next door neighbors included 1st Lt. Clark Ramsey of Hollywood and 1st Lt. Emmett Bergholz of Van Nuys! Capt. Forham, in the same room with them, gave me a bunch of full page coloured comics from the L.A. Times. The first L.A. Times I had seen since April 1940 and the first coloured supplements since last December.

Douglas Gardner, Sydney Morning Herald, was moved in with me. My room was becoming a regular flop house. War is no business for a recluse. My room, at that time, was on the ground floor at the far south end of the hotel. It had a dinky little lanai where I had a table for my portable. About twenty feet in front was the main artery of travel from the north end of the island and beyond that, the railroad track and the harbour. Jeeps, command cars, trucks -- all the terrific, motorized paraphernalia of a modern armed force - thundered and rattled by all day and all night. The street was never cleaned nor sprinkled. Everything in my room was constantly covered with dust which the Javanese room-girl never distributed. Open drains running under my window gave forth a truly French-Colonial aroma.

My bed was a double one with an ornamental iron head seven or eight feet high, from which was draped a few thousand yards of white mosquito netting. It must have been somebody's idea of the sort of bed that Marie Antionette slept in. I had also what the English call a wash hand stand, with pitcher and bowl, slop jar, and pot. A huge wardrobe reared its massive head to the stratosphere. Its door hung by one hinge. Its drawers stuck. It was typically French-Colonial.

Grand Hotel du Pacifique ~


Dumbea Valley, Leper Colony, Tontourta, Noumea: December 17-20
Came December 17! A day memorable for nothing at all. But I am one of those guys who adores statistical minutiae of no importance. A small mind -- and shrinking. Picked up Cpl. Wold after breakfast and drove out to Dumbea Valley to get a story on Pvt. John Templeton, 112th Cavalry, recently a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. He was currying his horse with an Oxford accent.

Wold snapped many pictures, not only of Templeton but of a troop in close order drill and of officers and men jumping their mounts. We were tickled to death with the wonderful shots we had gotten through the whole hearted co-operation of the 112th.

We got back to Noumea just before noon, and Maj. Romlein (since made lt. col.) went with me to Hqs ___th CA(AA), where I was dinner guest (luncheon to you) of Lt. Col. H.R. Handsen, C.O. He served beer, and after dinner drove me to a couple of his batteries. Had wonderful views of the harbour  and surrounding country from a couple of hilltops, Quentaros and Ducos, I think they are called. Also passed the leper colony, a rather attractive place.

There is considerable leprosy on the island among both Melanesians and whites. The former are confined in the leper colony, but there is evidently much laxity in the enforcement of segregation, as I have seen t hem along the road outside the colony.  The whites are supposed to be confined to their homes, on which are posted OFF LIMITS signs. But I was told that they move about rather freely in public, going to shops and attending movies. One of our boys who had been sleeping with a girl for some time, discovered that she was a leper. The doctors told him it might be anywhere from ten to twenty years before the disease showed up on him if he had contracted it. I understand that the poor kid nearly went crazy.

December 18 1942. Wold forgot to push some gadget on his camera yesterday, and didn't get a picture! A message came for Douglas Gardner that he could get a boat for New Zealand at three. But he couldn't be located; so he is still with me. (I'm getting my tenses all balled up. But don't mind) There was a rumor in the evening that there was a hurricane in the vicinity. This was the hurricane season.

Under date of December 19, my diary notes: "Started out about 8 AM for L." I think that means La Foa, a town up the island. Before I got to Tontourta, I picked up a negro solder who was going to the Tontouta River to bathe. I had heard that there was a parachute outfit in the vicinity, and asked him. He directed me to it. I introduced myself to Capt. George R. Stallings of Augusta, Ga., and interviewed a number of the men. Had dinner at the officers' mess.

That First Parachute Battalion, USMC, had seen action -- and plenty! But as raiders rather than parachutists. They suffered about 50% casualties, and were back here in New Caledonia training replacements. Stallings invited me to come back some day that they were jumping.

Gardner left for Tontouta  in the afternoon. Is flying to Auckland tomorrow. So I am alone again.

The next morning (December 20) I got Lt. Ramsey to go with me for a drive of exploration. We drove to the east side of the island. The scenery was quite different from any that I had seen. A combination of jungle and bare volcanic hills.

Commanding officer of troops talking with his men in New Caledonia, 1942. 

Melanesian leper

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.


Noumea, St. Louis Mission, South Tip, Palace: December 20 and 21
We picked up a Free French soldier. We couldn't understand him, nor could he understand us. He wanted to go to St. Louis (not Mo.), so I took him ten or fifteen miles beyond. We also picked up a couple of Melanesians. Which didn't revive the conversation. Everybody should speak American. There should be a law! Ramsey said the natives stunk. He was sitting in their lee. I didn't notice that they smelled any worse than I.

There were a lot more nurses at the hotel for supper. They come in batches to rest. They nearly always want to meet me. I am getting to feel like the two-headed boy. Lt. Ruth M. Lang of Brookline, Mass., was quite a glamor gal. "Oh, to be seventy again!" as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once remarked to Justice Louis D. Brandeis under a like stimulus.

After lunch that day, Ramsey and I drove to south end of island -- a beautiful drive along the shore of the bay. As my gasoline gauge was running true to form and not registering, it occurred to me to see how much gas I had before going farther. We looked in the tank, and couldn't see any gas. Then I got a stick and poked around. Finally I managed to wet just the tip of it. Two soldiers in an Army truck came over and joined the conference.

Their names should be memorialized. They deserve memorialization. They gave me five gallons of gas! Meet Pvt. Frank Bognar, Jr., of Garfield, N.J., and Pvt. Johnny Anderson of Keystone, W.Va. No gas coupons needed for Bouncing Baby. There are gas dumps spotted all along the highways where I can drive up and get the tank filled. No coupons. No cash. I can see Hulbert about to deliver a lecture on this. He will think that it was all wrong. Doubtless. But why should I attempt to reform at my time of life? Especially when I am having such a swell time being consistently wrong.

December 21: I went up to the palace and interviewed Col. Henri Montchamp, Governor of New of Caledonia. Capt. Jean Talu, the Governor's aide, acted as interpreter. The Governor was very cordial. Also met Major Max Vivier, Chief of Staff of New Caledonia. He speaks excellent English. We had something in common in our mutual respect and admiration for General Walter C. Short. I mentioned this in my story about my interview, and the censor cut it out. I told him he had no business to, as it was purely a personal matter and had no bearing on the war.

Saw Capt. Hamner Freeman at G-2, USAFISPA about transportation to Australia. He said he would have an answer for me in the afternoon. He did. I was booked for passage on a plane leaving Tontouta on the 24th, and was told to see 1st Lt. A.A. Sanford of Jarratt, Va., about transportation to Tontouta.

Lt. Ramsey and I drove out Rue de Sevastapol to Motor Salvage Pool to see Maj. Brown about letting Ramsey and his photo unit have Bouncing Baby after I left. We finally located Brown in town, and found that Capt. Fordham had already made arrangements for Bouncing Baby. Brown said he would fix me up with another when I return.

After dinner I drove out to the 905th Eng. A.F. and had a pleasant visit with Capt. Hines who is from Hollywood. When I told him that I was from Tarzana he said, "Oh, yes; that's were Edgar Rice Burroughs lives." I allowed that it was.

When I located Capt. Hines he was sweeping crushed rock into . . .

 Ship Repair Unit, Ile Nou, Noumea



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