For a period of five months the 11th Airborne Division would receive jungle warfare and intensified combat unit ground training in the primitive land of jungles and mountains and thatched huts. Many called the native population, Fuzzy Wuzzies, but this was considered a derogatory term. The Papua brigades and Allied forces that constituted the Cartwheel Operations before the troopers made this landing possible.
Letter VII 6/8/44 Land
Dear Mom, Well, here we are on the island of New Guinea. From what we can see if it so far, I know we’ll never go hungry as the coconut trees are as thick as a swarm of bees.
We started for our area in trucks after all the rumors said we’d walk and we “Oh!” and Ah’d” all throughout the trip. Not wanting to show the natives here how smart we are, the driver proceeded on his own when lo and behold — where were we? I don’t know, no one knows, so right away we all knew that wherever we were — that wasn’t where we were supposed to be. Now, of course, we weren’t to blame, as after all, this is a strange and new place to us and they didn’t give us a Socony road map or a compass reading, so no matter — drive on — come what may. Of course, some large and strange appearing trees which grew in the road had different ideas and no matter how hard we hit them, they consistently set us back. How they ever managed to find a road to grow in is beyond me, but then they were here before us. Naturally, after the way they treated our truck, we gave them a wide berth, eventually leaving the road al together.
When after what seemed like hours, we finally found our area, much to the delight of the lower hind part of our anatomy. Then, our shoulders and backs had to haul our bags around until we found our tents. This was done very systematically: someone had the idea of first asking the captain just where we belonged and he proceeded to take us there. We could see at once that this place was no place for us and got right down to thinking up goldbricking alibis.
Work here is the main word we soon found out, and might I add we are all still trying to duck, but it seems that as soon as one finds a spot in the woods, oops I mean jungle, the tree-chopper-downers come along and there you are not only up to your neck in work, but also find out that now your haven is so exposed as to make it useless again as a hideout.
You might wonder what all this labor is about and also expect to find out in this chapter or letter, but no, it shall never be. I’m saving that for the next installment, which I’m sure you will be breathlessly awaiting. Regards to all.
Love, Your son, Everett
The origin of the nickname, “Angels” for the 11th Airborne has always been up for debate. At Dobodura, New Guinea, while unloading the supplies off the ships that were constantly pulling into port, it became well-known that the troopers of the 11th A/B were a bit more light-fingered than the other units. The distribution of the food and war materiel was severely unbalanced, with the bulk of it going to the troopers. It was definitely at this time that they acquired the title of “Swing and his 8,000 Thieves.” My father and many other troopers believe that the title remained with them up until the release of the internees at Los Banos prison on Luzon, when a nun looked up and said that the parachutists looked like “angels sent to save us.”
One other theory I found, while still on New Guinea, a senior officers questioned General Swing about the uneven delivery of supplies. Swing , with a rather tongue-in-cheek attitude, replied that it could not possibly be due to his “angels.”
And yet, there is another idea on the subject. The troopers, with their antics, were often in trouble. After a rather rough weekend, a senior officer asked just how many of the 11th airborne’s “little angels” were in the stockade. The reply, of course, was, “none of my angels are.”
No matter what the reason or nickname, this undermanned and under-equiped division trudged on.
Posted on October 23, 2012, in Letters home, SMITTY, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged "Angels", 11th airborne division, Gen. Swing, History, New Guinea, Oro Bay, Pacific War, paratroopers, WWII. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.