New Guinea War Letter IX
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Letter IX “A Day’s Venture” Monday 6/26/44
Yesterday, being Sunday, a day of rest, I decided to ride around this place and see something. I made up my mine though that this sightseeing tour of mine, this time, would be done as a civilian completely forgetting I’m in the army. You have to do this in order to see the place in its true light, otherwise if you don’t all you can see is hardship and work. With my mind cleared of Khaki, I set forth in a jeep with a buddy of mine; who I dare say couldn’t see the sense of our venture.
As we drove along in the still quiet, the thought kept coming to me of the enormous job the boys before us had to confront and overcome. Here and there along the way you could see some old emplacement or deserted village. These villages were really something to see with their straw-thatched roofs and open sided houses. We wouldn’t call them shed, but that is just what they looked like.
One can readily understand why the authors of those travelogues really go all out when describing these islands. You forget the heat as cooling breezes blow over you from the coast and the shade of the giant coconut trees gradually engulf you.
We passed one spot close to the coast that suddenly shook us with the horrible realization of our place and mission. It wasn’t large or spread out, but all was peaceful and quiet though men were gaily chatting and swimming nearby. We entered by an archway on which was inscribed, “Japanese Cemetery.” We passed now upon some of the little white markers all neatly lined up and lettered. Although they were once an active enemy, one could not help but see the shame and waste of war.
We looked around the beach for a while, then decided to go in for a swim. The water here is amazingly warm and clear. You could never believe it unless you could see it as I have. How crystal clear and immune of blemish this water here is. Why, to peer down 25 feet and see bottom is really an easy thing to do. The bottom is sand, sand at its finest and whitest literally covered with shells of every shape and color with here and there a grotesque piece of coral. You can really pick out the coral as it shows up a faint green while the shells throw all colors of the rainbow up at you until your eyes are completely dazzled by the many-colored lights.
By this time, the sun was well on its way toward the horizon and dusk rapidly approaching. Here and there a faint star twinkled until suddenly the sky was almost completely covered with thousands. The moon finally appeared in all its bright glory and reflected itself a hundred times over on the waves before us. The end of the day had come and with it also my venture into a world never to be forgotten. This day will long be remembered and stored with the rest of my most treasured memories.
Good night! And may God bless you, Everett
PS. I shall write to Joe Dumb as soon as I send this letter on its way. Be good and take care of yourself.
Smitty always made mention of how hard the soldiers before him had to struggle. He noticed that no matter how hard people or nature tried to disguise their surroundings, the scars of war were everywhere. In New Guinea, my father had a clear view of the battle remnants of General Robert Eichelberger’s Australian and American troops from when they fought on a similar terrain and in battles as fiercely intense as Guadalcanal – on each island the territories had to be taken inch by inch. (Many veterans know of what I speak.)
Lt. Gen. George C. Kenney, Chief of Allied Air Forces, in the southwest Pacific sent his complaints to the War Dept. and Gen. “Hap” Arnold, head of the U.S. Army Air Forces to explain just that in 1942:
“… The Japanese is still being underrated. There is no question of our being able to defeat him, but the time, effort, blood and money required to do the job may run to proportions beyond all conception, particularly if the devil is allowed to develop the resources he is now holding.
“Look at us in Buna. There are hundreds of Buna ahead for us. The Japanese there has been in a hopeless position for months. He has been outnumbered heavily throughout the show. His garrison has been whittled down to a handful by bombing and strafing. He has no air support and his own Navy has not been able to get passed our air blockade to help him. He has seen lots of Japs sunk off shore a few miles away. He has been short on rations and has had to conserve his ammunition, as his replenishment from submarines and small boats working down from Lae at night and once by parachute from airplanes has been precarious, to say the least. The Emperor told them to hold, and believe me, they have held! As to their morale — they still yell out to our troops, “What’s the matter, Yanks? Are you yellow? Why don’t you come in and fight?” A few snipers, asked to surrender after being surrounded, called back, “If you bastards think you are good enough, come and get us!”
“…I’m afraid that a lot of people, who think this Jap is a “pushover” as soon as Germany falls, are due for a rude awakening. We will have to call on all our patriotism, stamina, guts and maybe some crusading spirit or religious fervor thrown in to beat him. No amateur team will take this boy out. We have got to turn professional. Another thing: there are no quiet sectors in which troops get started off gradually, as in the last war. There are no breathers on this schedule. You take on Notre Dame every time you play!”
It was after this one month later after this report that the specialized training for the 11th A/B began and the War Dept. also saw the need for improved weapons for this “new type of war.” Under the direction of Colonel William Borden this effort resulted in: 105-mm and 155-mm mortars, flamethrowers, ground rockets, colored smoke grenades and the skidpans for towing heavy srtillery in muddy terrains.
But – still at this point – only about 15% of the Allied resources were going to the Pacific.
(These two photographs are courtesy of the World War II Database. ww2db.com)
Posted on October 27, 2012, in Letters home, SMITTY, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged 11th airborne, Everett Smith, Gen. "Hap" Arnold, Gen. Eichelberger, History, New Guinea, Pacific War, paratroopers, war letters, WWII. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.