PAGE NINETEENTook a cab to another part of town and bought what I wanted without any priority release. Then I walked a couple of miles back to the hotel. It is usually much quicker to walk than wait for a cab to pay attention to your frantic signaling.
January 6 and 7
Bob Ferguson and some fourteen other pilots wanted me to come to their party at Ciro's, but I begged off and went to bed early.
The next morning, I went to the bank and drew a lot of paper money. Then to the office of Lt. Col. Julian A. S. Meyer of Richmond, Va., where I purchased $3475.00 worth of US War Bonds for ERB Inc. Meyer was a Tarzan fan and very cordial. He promised to bring me a bottle of Canadian Club, and I promised to send him an autographed Tarzan book for a young relative of his. Both promises have been kept.
After lunching with Ham, I went to Col. Duprez office to see about getting transportation to Brisbane on my way to New Guinea. He directed me to a Mr. Wright. From him I learned that I couldn't carry more than 44 lbs of luggage on an Australian plane. Then I went to the Navy. No help there. I was mad and discouraged when I saw Ham and he said that he was flying back to Tontouta the following morning with Lt. W.J. Schramm of Winner, So. Dak.; so I decided to try to go back with him. Schramm, who was stopping at the Australia, was out when I want to see him; so I left a note, asking if he would take me.
Ham, Terry, and I went to Kodak to look at some motion pictures of Rickenbacker -- all hush-hush stuff at that time (for God only knows what reason). Kodak had no projection room. The projector sat on a counter in Broad daylight and shot up at a tiny screen near the ceiling. We had to stand all the time. We could certainly show the Australians a lot of improved ways of doing many things. Saw Hulbert's friend, Shelton, in some of the scenes with Rickenbacker.
When I got back to the hotel I found a note from Schramm saying he would take me and that his plane left at 6:30 the following morning. In the lobby, I met a lot of fellows, and we went up to the lounge and joined Ham and Terry. Ham asked me to Romano's for dinner with him and Terry, but I declined, and ate alone at Usher's. While I was at dinner, Col. Meyer came with a bottle of Canadian Club. After dinner I ran into Harold Guard, UP, Lt. Edgar V. Markley (B-26), and Barry Young of the Sydney Daily Mirror. They told me they knew a B-17 pilot leaving for Brisbane the following morning who would take me and all my gear. I felt that it was now too late to change my plans. I also felt that, as they were all rather high, I couldn't put any too much faith in what they said.
Capt. John B. MacQuiddy, AGD, of Bakersfield, California, asked me to come up to his room. I did so, and he gave me a bottle of Johnny Walker for no good reason except that he had loved the Tarzan stories as a boy. I now had two bottles of Johnny Walker and one of Canadian Club, which was amusing in the light of what Ham and I had planned to do. I had promised The Noumea Chowder and Marching Club that I would bring back plenty. Ham and I were each going to buy at least a case. I was lucky in being able to buy even a bottle, and luckier still to have had two given me. There was plenty available by the drink, but it couldn't be bought by the bottle anywhere except at the Officers' Club -- one quart every ten days, I think. On the 15th I could have bought another. In Noumea there was none. A hell of a war!
I paid my hotel bill, packed, and left a call for 4:30!!!
PAGE TWENTYJanuary 8: Up at 4:15. A most unchristian hour. Ham and I took a taxi to Mascot Field. Many Marine transport planes were coming in -- about twenty of them. They had taken off from Tontouta because a hurricane was headed for New Caledonia. Pilots told us that all the transport planes had been evacuated and the fighter planes staked down. We couldn't take off for Tontouta, of course; so we took a taxi back to Usher's. Fortunately, our rooms were still available.
Australia: January 8 and 9
After breakfast, Mr. Curtis of RKO phoned for an appointment and came over. He wanted me to do another recording to be used when Sol Lesser's next Tarzan picture is released in Australia. He offered me 20 pounds. He phoned me later that his boss had decided not to have the recording made. He assured me that the 20 pounds had not influence him. I should have been glad to do it for nothing if it would had helped Sol's picture.
Having failed to draw out my balance of 35/5 pounds from the bank, I went over and made application to change it into US currency and take it out of the country.
Ham and I had lunch after a session with Taves of UP. Later we went over to Lt. Schramm's room in the Australia Hotel for a few minutes. Met Marine Corps pilots Lts. B.D. Bramhall of Beaver Falls, N.Y., and Doyal Branson of Murfreesboro, Tenn., in Schramms.
Ham was taking someone to dinner and invited me to go along, but I declined. I ate alone, and just as my oysters were served Lt. Schramm and an Air Force captain called on me. I asked them to have dinner with me, but they had another date. They did have highballs and we visited a few minutes. I went to bed immediately after dinner, and read. I mention this to record the fact that I led a quiet, domestic life in Sydney.
After breakfast on the 9th (December 9), I phoned Mr. Phillips, Foreign Exchange Dept., Bank of Australasia; and was told that my request to take $118.50 US currency out of the country had been approved. This meant that I had finally succeeded in getting all of our impounded funds out of Australia. I went to the bank and got the money. They figured the exchange at the rate of $3.26 plus per pound. Our Army there figures it at $3.228. Why the difference, I do not know.
Took a tram to the ferry landing and caught the 11:15 ferry for Taronga Zoo Park. It took about 12 minutes to make the crossing. Sydney being built largely around the huge harbour, ferries are the quickest and most convenient forms of transportation to and from many places. So there are innumerable ferries of all sizes moving in all directions. The service is excellent, many of the lines operating on a fifteen minute schedule.
Taronga Park Zoo is a beautiful spot situated on bluffs overlooking the harbour. I took a tram to the top and walked down. There are the animals that one usually sees in large municipal zoos, but I went especially to see koala bears. Saw five of them, most of which were asleep in the eucalyptus trees. One little bow-legged rascal was doing the polar bear routine back and forth at the foot of the wall that surrounds their arena. The trip was quite expensive . . . 4d ferry fare, 3d admission to the zoo, 4d return ferry, or about 15c US money.
Got back to the hotel about 1: P.M. Ham and I lunched together. At 4:30 Lt. Schramm phoned to say that we were scheduled to leave the hotel at 5:30 the next morning. The hurricane had gone elsewhere. Ham and I went to the cocktail lounge around five, and Terry came a little later. We went to Romano's for dinner. After ordering, we went into Romano's oyster bar and each had a dozen oysters on the half shell.
PAGE TWENTY-ONEThis was the way Romano's got around the five shilling ceiling on dinners. We had lobster thermidor (I can't spell it, nor find it in the dictionary) for dinner. The food at Romano's was excellent.
Australia to New Caledonia: January 10
1st Lt. Edgar V. Markley (B-26) of Jasper, Texas, came over and asked me to his table for a drink. There were three Air Force officers and three very pretty girls.
I said good night to Ham and Terry soon after, and went back to Usher's to pack again. Got to bed around eleven. Had I had good sense I should have gone to bed around seven. I "experienced the full realization" of this the following day.
Sunday, January 10 1943, saw me leap nimbly out of bed one foot at a time at 4:30. Several buses and trucks arrived at the Australia across the street from Usher's at 5:30. There was a lot of confusion and standing around while our gear was being loaded. There were the crews and passengers of twenty-one Marine Corps transport planes, and each pilot had to check to see that all his people were present.
As all had, undoubtedly, been on parties the night before, it ws a weary and sad eyed company. Some of the men had had not more than an hour or two sleep, if any. We were again driven to Mascot Field, where there was some delay in getting the twenty-one ships off.
Our ship, the "Chuggar", a C-45 (DC-3), got off at 8:00. Ham and I were the only passengers, and there was no freight other than two folding beach chairs. Schramm later came back and set one of them up for me., and Ham took the other; so we travelled comfortably as far as seating was concerned.
The navigator told me that he had practically no navigation instruments, and our objective was over a thousand miles away -- and no road signs. As a matter of fact, we came damn near missing it.
Part of the trip was quite rough, as we encountered a lot of cumulus clouds. At 9500 feet it was quite cold until they turned on the head. As there were auxiliary gas tanks in the plane, no smoking was allowed aft of the pilot's compartment; so I went up there occasionally for a smoke. This, a murder mystery, and sandwiches we had brought from the hotel helped to alleviate the boredom.
As we neared the position where New Caledonia should have been visible, the navigator and pilots were visibly apprehensive. So was I apprehensive. The island is two hundred and fifty miles long, and Tontouta is only about thirty miles from its southern extremity. We raised northern end of the island first. A few more miles to port, and we might have missed it entirely.
Flying down along the coast was intensely interesting as we were low over the lagoon and the reefs which are dotted with the skeletons of many ships that had come to grief. The coast line is deeply indented by many bays and estuaries, and numerous palm covered tropical isles along the shore give added beauty and mystery to the scene.
Our plane consumed 85 gallons of gas an hour. That is the basic allowance for eight and a half months for automobiles in Honolulu. This was food for much thought. There are several approaches to the problem. For instance. If I nobly refused to drive my car for eight and a half months, a C-47 could fly for one hour longer. But then it could go only . . .
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