Bill Hillman's Monthly Military Tribute
2019.09 Edition

Wartime Journals of Correspondent Edgar Rice Burroughs :: December 1942-April 1943
PARTS 25 ~ 26 ~ 27
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


Jan 14/15: Halsey Grounds Journalists ~ Noumea: Hotel Centrale ~ Officers Club ~ French Club Party
. . .  jumped into Bouncing Baby and headed for the range, several miles away. We got there after the second flight had landed, but in plenty of time to see the third flight jump. Out of the plane they poured, their bodies snapping grotesquely as their chutes opened, arms clasped around the auxiliary chute strapped to their chests, legs flying above their heads.

One boy got his legs tangled in the shrouds of  his chute, but succeeded in kicking himself free before falling far. Had he not, he would have landed on the seat of his pants, Thirty-seven men jumped that morning without even a minor injury. They have never suffered a jumping fatality in the two years of their existence.

Corson got a lot of swell pictures, before, during, and after the jumps. We drove back to their camp, where I breakfasted with the officers. Corson and I had eaten a pineapple given me by Lt. Winfred Minter of Blacksburg, Va., the night before, Corson carving it while we were driving out. But I could still stow away plenty of good Army chow. I seem to be the only human being in uniform who still likes Spam.

On the way back to Noumea we were held up for some time by a couple of prime movers that were trying to haul a brand new 90 mm AA gun back onto the road. It had skidded off the road at a turn and was hanging part way over the edge of a ravine.

At dinner that noon, Dick Tregaskis told me that the Navy's order grounding all correspondents was bona fide, definite, and final. It raised particular hell with my plans. It meant that I would have to go to Espiritu Santo and Guadalcanal by surface ship, and then all the way back to California to get to Hawaii -- also by surface ship. That part of the trip alone might take three months.

I was so sore that I invited Ramsey in to drink some of my precious Scotch. Which is about as sore as one can get in Noumea. I forgot to record the fact that the afternoon previous Ramsey had taken me to the Officer's Club in Hotel Centrale. The only thing that Gregory, the bartender, had was port wine. Ramsey supervised the mixing of a concoction of water, bitters, ice, and port. It could have been worse. We sampled two of them. Then Ramsey led the way to the Circle Club, a French club open to our officers. A filthy hole, like everything I saw in Noumea. It was so jammed with officers that we couldn't get within shouting distance of the bar. But Ramsey knew his way around. He led me out onto a back verandah to the side door of the bar, where he made connections with a club attaché. They had to offer only rum or absinthe. We had two rum Collinses, and Ramsey bought a bottle of absinthe. After we got back to the hotel we had a drink of that. One was enough for me, I gave my half of the bottle to Ramsey.

January 16, 1943. Wrote a request for air transportation to Guadalcanal and took it to Colonel Sherman. After supper, the Noumea Chowder and Marching Club met in Col. Hayward's quarters: Col. Hayward, Col. Skaates, Col. Gates, Maj. Dart, Col. Lee, another colonel, and I. We played until 11:30. I lost consistently until near the close of the session. Then I commenced to hold hands, and ended up about seven bucks to the good.

The enlisted personnel of Hqs were giving a dance down stairs. We had all been invited, and a couple of the colonels went down for a few minutes. After the game, I watched the people from my balcony above the room were they were dancing. There were quite a number of pretty French girls in evening gowns. Both officers and enlisted men were dancing. Others were sitting in what once may have been the hotel garden..

Off-Site References
American Presence in New Caledonia
Word War II Military Slang
New Caledonia WWII Museum Photos
WWII Cultural Clash in New Caledonia

Noumea Dance ~ Meeting Military Brass ~ Jeep to Dumbea Bay
Noumea Harbour and Old French Fort ~ Submarine Nets ~ Leper Colony
There are trees there and a fountain, but the settees and tables are rusty and filthy, and the ground as barren of lawn as a horse corral. Possibly the war accounts for the dilapidated appearance of Noumea, but I have an idea that the French are not an orderly nor cleanly people. There was excellent music, furnished by an army band. General Lincoln and his staff attended the dance and remained for some time.

At dinner on Monday I met Commander Sherman Everett Burroughs Jr., USN. He said that his wife had met me in Honolulu.

Today I became an "Assimilated 2nd Lieutenant"! The first one certified in this area, according to Col. Skaates. All it means to me is that I have one more item of identification to lug around.

Ran into Jack Rice yesterday. He is the photographer with whom I had my first flight in a Fortress several months ago from Hickam Field. He said he had seen Hulbert two weeks before. Everybody seems to get here eventually.

About 2:00 PM I picked Ramsey up, and we drove out across the causeway and around a long, winding road to Dumbea Bay. In one place, where they were widening the road, we had to wait while a bulldozer made a road for us. All the road work here is being done by our own forces. When we pull out of New Caledonia, it will have a road system the French would never have attained in a thousand years. But we need 'em. The island is dotted with army and navy posts, hospitals, and air fields; and at the time I was there there were five thousand military vehicles hell-whooping all over the landscape day and night.

In places, the road, winding up and around hills, was steep and narrow with a drop of a hundred feet and more straight down to the bay. In such a place we met a big Army truck coming down, and I had to back down a long way until it could pass us. The road ended at the top of a promontory at the north entrance to Noumea harbour. There was an old, abandoned French fort there with a battery of four rusty 14 cm guns overlooking the harbour entrance. Their breech blocks had been removed. One of the guns bore the date 1849, one in the 50's. They may have been there since the time of Napoleon III. They were huge (5 1/2 bore) and cumbersome. It must have been a terrific job getting them up there in those days.

There was a beautiful view of the harbour, which is quite large. (When I was taken out to the Shaw later, which lay just outside the submarine net at the mouth of the inner harbour, I had a trip of five miles.) There were many fighting ships and merchant men in the inner harbour -- battleships, flat tops, cruisers, destroyers; and more merchant men in the outer harbour. It used to worry me to see such a great concentrations of shipping so close to the front as were often assembled there. I could not but recall Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.

New Caledonia is in some respects one of the most beautiful islands imaginable, especially the deeply indented coast along which are many fine harbours, and all backdropped by rolling hills and lofty mountains clothed in the green of forest and jungle. With its potentialities for peacetime hunting, fishing, hiking, riding, and boating, it could be made a wonderful playground after the war is over. And not the least of its attractions lies in its pleasant all-year climate and its freedom from malaria.

A Commander Atkinson, USN, out for a hike, joined us at the old fort; and I gave him a lift down the hill. On the way home, we passed close to the leper colony, a very pretty, well kept establishment, with nice barracks, . . .

Off-Site References
Commander Sherman Everett Burroughs Jr., USN.
Jack Rice: AP Wartime Photographer
New Caledonia in Wiki
Dumbea Bay
New Caledonia Info
Noumea in Wikipedia
Warfare History Network: Pacific Theater
Warfare History: New Caledonia


Jan 18/19 ~ Old Fort and Leper Colony ~ Roadside rotting Native Lepers ~ Drive to Tontouta picking up passengers on the way
Interview Commander Burroughs ~ Dine with Aircraft Carrier Saratoga Crews ~ Downpour ~ Javanese Family

. . . hospital buildings, and a church -- quite an elaborate affair. Beside the road, off the leper reservation, we passed a boy already partially rotted away. I had seen inmates out on public highways thus before. Always natives, for only non-whites are required to live in the colony.

At 8:00 the morning of January 19, I drove out Tontouta way to find Cmdr. Burroughs and get a story from him. En route, I picked up a Fighting French courier carrying a blue denim mail sack. He was small and unbelievably filthy. Discovering during the first couple of minutes that the linguistic hurdles confronting us were insurmountable, conversation curled up and died. Each remained wrapped in his own thoughts. some of mine revolved around the possibility that things might crawl from him onto me. After a few miles, he motioned me to stop beside an old fellow working in a ditch beside the road. He handed his dispatch case, or mail bag, or whatever it was to the old man; and we drove on. I am still wondering. It might have been the old man's lunch. I finally left my passenger at "Little Old New York", the camp of a tank outfit.

Farther on, I picked up two CB's. When I stopped at the gate at Tontouta to inquire for Cmdr. Burroughs, they got out and walked on. Picked up the two CB's again, as I had been directed farther along Colonial Highway. Finally crossed the Tontouta River, where crowds of service men were bathing in their birthday suites regardless of the fact that people of both sexes were continually crossing the bridge on this main highway. I now realized that I had gone too far; so I dumped my passengers and turned around.

I now picked up two coloured men of an Engineer Corps unit. They were from Detroit. They directed me to the Carrier camp, where I found Cmdr. Burroughs and spent a pleasant half hour in his tent, including a Bourbon highball. I stayed for dinner, meeting several officers of his command, Air Group 3 of the Aircraft Carrier Saratoga. The Group consisted of four squadrons, with some hundred officers. The Sara was then in the harbour at Noumea.

While we were at mess, a torrential downpour started. It must have been a cloud-burst, for in a matter of minutes, water, inches deep, was racing through the camp. I got soaked getting to Bouncing Baby, in the bottom of which were a couple of inches of water. But this happened every time it rained; so I was used to it. There are plugs in the floorboard that I might have removed to let the water out, but I never got around to looking for a wrench. I always thought of it while the water was sloshing around my feet, and then forgot it as soon as the flood subsided.

Several miles beyond Tontouta, a Javanese boy hailed me for a ride. There were a woman, a baby, and a dog with him. It was still raining and the road was muddy. There is, I believe, a regulation that forbids one picking up other than service personnel in an army vehicle; so I stopped. The dog didn't wait for an invitation. He jumped right in. Everything, even dogs, seem to like to ride in jeeps. The woman was carrying an enormously fat baby, a tiny umbrella, and a nursing bottle. The woman was fat. I took the umbrella and the nursing bottle while mamma crawled into the seat next to me with the baby. How she managed it, I don't know.

The baby was a cute, fat, good-natured little rascal with large brown eyes. All three were immaculately clean, in marked contrast to my Fighting French passenger. The ten year old boy climbed into the back seat. They detrained after two or three miles, the last of my passengers for the day.

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USS Saratoga

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