Bill Hillman's Monthly Military Tribute
2019.04 Edition

Wartime Journals of Correspondent Edgar Rice Burroughs :: December 1942-April 1943
PARTS:  10 ~ 11 ~ 12
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 and Tontouta (Preparing to Fly to Australia): December 21-23
. . . the interstices between the flagstones forming the floor of the new mess hall his men were building. This mess hall, which was to accommodate both officers and enlisted men, was a typical South Sea structure with Hollywood trimmings that would have done credit to Cedric Gibbons. It is 24 ft. by 80 ft., has half walls of bamboo placed vertically and screened above to the eaves. Fuzzy haired Melanesians were thatching the roof with a special long grass.

The electric light fixtures of bamboo, practical an d ornamental, were designed by a soldier who was a bar tender in civilian life. Charlie Farrell would have loved them for his Palm Springs Racquet Club bar. Bamboo was being used for many purposes - soap dishes in the washroom, for furniture, even for sewer pipe.

Near the mess hall, they were completing a kitchen with brick floor and a massive brick oven. It is connected with the mess hall by a grass thatched pergola. Capt. Hines had already built a wash room with showers, a laundry, and a storeroom -- all of the same constructions. He plans barracks, recreation hall, and last of all an officers' club and quarters.

The whole plan sounded quite elaborate and expensive for war time camp; but it was not to cost the tax payer a cent, and the men work on it in what little leisure time they have, meantime carrying on their regular duties. When I was there, the material and native labor had so far cost one hundred packages of cigarettes, six mouse traps, and the promise of a second hand Ford rear axle -- if they can find one. The out—it paid for the cigarettes and the mouse traps themselves.

That evening the Noumea Chowder and Marching Club met in Cl. Hayward's quarters in the Grand Hotel du Pacifique. Somebody had achieved a bottle of Scotch. I lost about ten bucks. Got to bed about twelve. Had a swell time. Promised to bring the club a case of Scotch from Sydney.

After breakfast the next morning (December 22/24?), Capt. Fordham and Lts. Ramsey and Bergholz got me to pose for several silly pictures -- one with Ngatijem, my Javanese room girl. Fordham later told me that the films had all been either spoiled or lost.

Paid my mess bill preparatory to checking out. December 8 to 23 -- $13.60! That was for both room and board. Returning Bouncing Baby to Motor Salvage Pool. A sergeant drove me back to the hotel. H. Maurice Lancaster and Robert Alonzo Navarro of London office The March of Time came to say goodby. They were returning to London.

Army transportation picked me and my gear up at 3:15; then called for Capt. Freeman at Message Centre. At the last minute he had received orders to go to Sydney. I was pleased that some one I knew was gong along. We drove the twenty-eight miles to Tontouta. Supper there at 4:30. We had carried our gear to a big barracks for casuals. About forty or fifty cots in one room. After dark we went in and sat on our cots and got acquainted. There were five of us: Freeman, Lt. Col. Loren G. Windern? GSC, Hq. 37th Div., of Columbus, Ohio; 1st lt. Charles r. Hogberg, Signal Corps, of Springfield, Ills., and 1st Lt. William L. Whitehead, Air Corps, a navigator, of Charlotte, N.C. and O.B.

Presently, Hogberg produced a full bottle of Harper's (not the magazine). After that, acquaintance ripened rapidly. We had no glasses, but there were a couple of canteens of warm chlorinated water among us. Hogberg was to fly to Viti Levu the following day. I hope he had another bottle . . .

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.


Soldiers' Pocket Guide to New Caledonia


Flight from Tontouta to Australia: December 24
. . . for we certainly ruined that one before we turned in.

Was called at 3:30 the following morning (December 24). Saw the Southern Cross again. It can't compare with our Big Dipper. It was to early for breakfast, but we went to the kitchen and the cook opened several cans of tomato juice for us. A truck took us to the plane a little before five o'clock. Plane was a DC3 Marine transport. There were 12 passengers -- all service men. We took off about 5:15 and arrived at Sydney about 1:00 New Caledonia time (12:00 Australian time). It was a rotten trip, unspeakably tiresome. We had had no breakfast, and as there were large auxiliary fuel tanks in the forward part of the fuselage, we could not smoke. The seats in those transport planes are hideously uncomfortable, each seat resembling a shallow aluminum wash bowl There were not enough seats, and the more fortunate ones who had something to spread out, lay on the floor.

2nd Lt. D. William Hubbard, USMC of Minot, N. Dak., was the pilot. Two of the passengers whom I afterward saw something of in Sydney were CApt. Ronald F. Adams of Jesup, Ga., and Lt. Ray T. Smith of West Hartford, Conn. Both were of the USMC 1st Parachute Battalion. Nice kids on leave. Going to have a swell time for themselves after seeing half their buddies killed or wounded. Adams said he had brought along $300 and was going to buy #300 worth of Scotch.

At Mascot air field we were loaded into a navy bus -- fifteen of us -- and our baggage was piled on top. As soon as the bus started most of the baggage fell off, including all of mine. My brand new portable typewriter fell about eight feet onto a cement pavement. I didn't dare take the slip cover off of it and look at the poor thing until the following day.

We were driven up town to the Australia Hotel. No rooms! Freeman and I hunted up the billeting officer and were darned lucky -- we each got a single room at Usher's Hotel across the street from the Australia. My room had a bath and lavatory, but no w.c. Freeman's just had a lavatory. Sydney's hotels are packed.

Freeman came down to my room, and I ordered a couple of Scotches. They were 1/ each, about 16 cents US money. I then went to report to the Public Relations Officer - Col. Leo Duprez. He was very nice, and telegraphed General MacArthur's Hqs to ask if there was any mail there for me. I expected a letter from Ralph relative to some blocked funds in some Australian bank. I didn't know what bank nor in what city. There was no letter.

While I was waiting for the lift after leaving Col. Durez's office, he came along and asked me to go with him and have a drink. I seem to be drinking my way through this war, and I don't know of any better way of getting through a war. Most of other correspondents and officers and men seem to feel the same way about it. We went to the office of a Mr. Alexander, where there were large quantities of beer, Scotch, and food. You've heard of tables groaning with food. The table in that room was shrieking. Turkey, ham, roast beef, and God only knows what else. I art Scotch. There were several Australian army officers and civilians in the party. I didn't stay long.

Back at Usher's the "housekeeper" on my floor came in and introduced herself. Said her name was Sis and that she had been on the job there for twenty-five years. I learned later that she is quite a character. She was fat and good natured. She told me that I could get no laundry . . .


Christmas in Australia: December 24 ~ 25 ~ 26
. . .  done before the following Tuesday (this was on Thursday), and that then it might not be returned before the ensuing Saturday. The government had decreed four holidays.

Freeman came in just before six (December 24), and we started to look for a cocktail bar. Found one in the hotel, but it was jammed full. A grinning, Irish captain saw our predicament as we were leaving and took us under his care. Introduced us to three girls and then got a table for all of us. He was Capt. Sam Gilliland, AUS. He was quartered in the hotel three rooms from mine.

The six of us spent all of Christmas eve together. Gilliland, being on duty, had to remain in his room all night. Freeman and two of the girls went to the Princess to dance. The other girl and I went up to Sam's room. Later, we joined the others at the Princess, but didn't stay long. Went back to keep Sam company. There was a US major with him. I stayed until about midnight. It had been a long day -- 3:30 A.M. to 12 P.M., with a very tiresome and uncomfortable plane trip, plus considerable Scotch and champagne. However, all told, it was a swell day.

Up about 7:45 Christmas morning (December 25) after a good night. Felt fine, notwithstanding the fact that I should not have. Breakfast wasn't bad, but the Australian coffee tastes like ether. Wandered around town for more than an hour looking for a Major Strode for whom I had a message from Col. Connally. By the time I found Strode he was a Lieutenant colonel.

Back to the room to write a story. After finishing it, Ham Freeman phoned and asked me down to cocktail lounge to meet some one who wished to meet me -- Captain James A. Geyer of Grand Rapids, Mich., a P-38 Fighter Pilot who had been fighting at Guadalcanal for many weeks We talked in the cocktail lounge until three -'clock -- too late for Christmas dinner. Geyer had to leave; so Ham and I went on a search for a steak. Took a tram to King's Cross, where we found our steaks. It was my third meal in two days.

December 26 was what the Australians call a "sticky" day. Took my story to the censor, and then started for the Botanic Gardens. Stopping in hotel to leave raincoat ran into Sam Gilliland who called me into his room for highballs. Ham joined us for lunch. Failing to dig up a fourth for bridge, we went to Sam's room and played poker until dinner time.

They had "austerity" rules in Sydney for food conservation. The price of each article on a menu was given in shillings or pence. There was a maximum price of four shillings for lunch and five shillings for dinner. It was also the minimum price. One had to order accordingly. In Roman's, a swank restaurant, they beat the game by establishing an oyster bar in a separate room. After ordering a five shilling dinner in the main dining room, one could go to the oyster bar for oysters, returning to the main dining room later for the five shillings worth.

There was another regulation covering sale of drinks in hotel cocktail lounge. One had to be a guest of the hotel to be served at all; but could, of course order drinks for one's own guests even though they didn't live at the hotel. The result of this was that along about the cocktail hour, the lounge filled up with Australian girls with thirsts. there was also a sprinkling of American army nurses. No introductions were necessary.

One afternoon Ham saw three very attractive American girls sitting alone at a table in the lounge. He dared me to go over and ask them to come to our table. But this was at a later date. There seemed to be a lot of . . .

Wartime Map of Australia

Flying into Wartime Sydney, Australia

ERB Interviews a P-38 Fighter Pilot

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