Smitty ~ Letter VII ~ New Guinea

Smitty reclining in fron, on the far right, with the HQ Company/187th Regiment/11th Airborne

Smitty reclining in front row, on the far right, with the HQ Company/187th Regiment/11th Airborne

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 and the native population fondly called, Fuzzy Wuzzies.  The Papua brigades and Allied forces, that fought in what constituted the Cartwheel Operations before the troopers arrived, made this landing possible.

The Dobodura area that the 11th A/B would make their home was inherited from the 5th Air Force.  The first order of business was for the 408th Quartermaster trucks to deliver the pyramidal tents.

Pvt. Arthur Ristinen of Menagha, Minn., and Pfc. John Weinzinger of Phillips, Wisconsin, 186th Inf. Reg., 41st Inf. Div., relax in front of Warisota Plantation sawmill run by men of the 186th. Sawmill was used to obtain lumber for bridge construction on the new Oro Bay Dobodura road, New Guinea. (5 May 43) Signal Corps Photo: GHQ SWPA SC 43 5816 (T/4 Harold Newman)

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Letter VII                                                           Land                                                                                          6/8/44          

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

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

jonesy-lo-res

fng_101405

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes –

Robert Blagrove – NZ; RNZ Army # 64946, WWII, 24th Battalion, POW

Ernest Fowler – El Dorado, KS; USMC, WWII, PTO

The Big Picture...

The Big Picture…

Faustino Gonzalez – San Antonio, TX; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT

Paul Lemire – Sturgeon Falls, CAN; RC Air Force, Alouettes’ tail gunner

Warren Nelson – Lakota, SD; USMC, WWII, PTO, E/2/8th Marines, KIA (Tarawa)

Brian Rix – Cottingham, UK; RAF, WWII, ETO

Ivan Smith – Ft. Lauderdale, FL; US Coast Guard

Adam Thomas – Tacoma Park, MD; US Army, Afghanistan, SSgt., B/2/10th Special Forces Group, A/B, KIA

Martin ‘Skip’ Urso – Knoxville, TN; USMC; Vietnam, Bronze Star

Edward Zalewski – Jersey City, NJ; US Army, WWII, ETO

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on October 10, 2016, in Letters home, SMITTY, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 87 Comments.

  1. Late to this one, but I wanted to add that the personal touch of those letters continues to be very inspiring.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You have such a nice way of balancing out the “news” of the day, the location, with the military pictures and reports and softening the war to include the humanity of it, like your Dad’s letters. Love it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Cindy. That’s something dad taught me to do. Even in day-to-day life – try to find all sides to a story, argument, problem, etc. before making a decision. So I like to show as many of the sides to this war as is possible for me: the home front, personal stories, the death, the humor and the enemy’s points of view. I’m very happy you find the posts interesting!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Happy you fared quite well through the hurricane, GP. My son’s family evacuated from N. FL and thankfully found their home intact upon return. I forgot to tell you that I once (many years ago) got a job offer from the UN where I would have been stationed in Papua New Guinea. I did not take it as the situation there was very difficult, with curfew at 6 p.m.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love his letters! So funny yet descriptive.

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  5. Thank you lieber Freund….

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Don’t recall reading such clear first accounts like Smitty’s before, Navy and Air force yes, but not reading through the eyes of the man on the ground, an interesting reading gp, look forward to the rest of his tales.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “the coconut trees are as thick as a swarm of bees.” I love the personality that comes through in the letter. Lots of humor in this one. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Glad you made it through the storm! Coconuts are good food, and I bet the men ended up eating all kinds of things they were not accustomed to at home. I am enjoying these letters from Smitty, and reading about what life was like from the viewpoint of the soldier.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dad taught me how to husk a coconut when I was a kid and drilling the eyes to drink the milk before cracking it open to get to the meat. Being so young at the time, I never realized that during the war, he probably opened a number of them! (stupid kid! haha)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Same here. I remember watching him drill out the eyes, and pouring the milk for us. Then cracking the nut! That was delicious coconut meat.

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        • Wasn’t it?!! It tasted creamy.

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          • I can’t remember if I mentioned before, but when I was a kid, one of the returned soldiers used to make us money boxes from coconut shells. He’d make a body from a large one, head from a smaller one, and join the two together. A slot in the head to put the money in, and a hole in the bottom for it to come out (covered with a criss-cross of timber). He’d paint them up, give them a face, attach coconut husk ears, and string bead earrings in them. Mine was a girl with a pink polka dot body.

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            • No, you never mentioned that and I’m glad you brought this story to us now, with the discussions of coconuts going on! Thanks, Gwendoline!!
              Found this on-line, a good example or no?

              Liked by 1 person

              • Oh, glad I could add to the discussion. No, nothing like that at all. I might have to see if I can make a sketch, although I am not much at art work. It was like a doll, with a very human native face, and brightly painted all over. Only the texture of the husk remaining, not its colour. Probably enamel paint. They would have learnt to do them in PNG, maybe while in field hospital or some other down time. Although I can’t imagine if they were recuperating from malaria they would have had the energy to make them!

                Liked by 1 person

                • I’m eager to see what you come up with!

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Hi GP, Finally brought this little job up to my To-Do list i.e. the coconut money savings doll. Not sure if you can pick the picture up through the link to my draft post at the end of this comment. I can always email if you’d accept that way. I can’t draw so I had a go at doing something on the computer. This doesn’t represent the texture as the coconuts, although de-husked, would not be smooth. Also mine was much more decorated than this. I just can’t remember the detail beyond pink and polka dots. Anyway, as I said before, a small coconut for the head, with a slit in the top to put money in, then a larger coconut for the body. A hole in the bottom of that for the money to fall out when you untwisted the criss-cross timber. The ears were fashioned from carved coconut and glued on, decorated with bright dangling beaded ear-rings. Body parts such as arms were painted on to the larger coconut. I wish now I knew what happened to mine.
                    https://wordpress.com/post/garrulousgwendoline.wordpress.com/9535

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • No, I’m afraid it won’t show me.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Hi GP. Sent now via that alternative. Thanks for the email address GP. As mentioned there, this is a very naïve depiction. I remembered overnight that each coconut shell must have had a slice taken off part of the circle, so that when the head when onto the body, there was still the hole left for the money to drop through. And I guess the soldier glued the two halves together. But it gives a broad idea.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • I can see what you’ve been talking about. Thank you for going to all that trouble, Gwen to bring it to me. And you still can’t think of what ever happened to it?

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • No idea whatsoever. However there was a disruptive time in my life when many of my possessions were lost in the chaos. Or, it may simply have disintegrated 🙂 It was made around 1960, so I received it when I was about 5. It was one of several that he made. The odd thing is I have never seen another, nor anything like it, since that time.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Oh, and one final thought. The paint was a high gloss enamel, so the final object was bright and shiny. Not soaked into the coconut shell like some painted coconut objects I have seen on eBay.

                      Liked by 1 person

  9. Great letter to read.I’m happy storm is passing away without to bad things to you

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  10. A great letter. It is good to have these. I have one I will post soon about my uncle in Nth Africa.

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  11. Nothing falling foul of the censor. He’s learning 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. It doesn’t sound the sort of place you’d go by choice, and somehow, I can’t imagine either that in the short term, it’s going to get very much better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Luckily, with Mac saving the 11th A/B as a ‘secret weapon’ the Japanese knew nothing about, they not only spent this time staying in shape, but getting even more training – which all proves its worth in the long run.

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  13. Nice cliff hanger at the end there 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I love it when I find another cynic~!

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  15. Liked the letter. Thanks, GP. Glad the storm decided to spare you from the worst.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. A nice letter, and a great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Another tale of wartime life for our military. Never realized they had so many trials beyond the physical war. Your were right when you told him they should be published. Might you do it now? Still a good idea to have them in book form as well as online.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did a first draft of 11th Airborne data and Smitty’s letters, etc. and called it “They Pay You More in the Paratroopers” because that was my father’s answer when I asked as a kid – why volunteer for that duty? Then I started this blog, and the rest is history (so to speak…).

      Liked by 1 person

  18. That is the big picture, innit. So many…

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Love reading Smitty’s letters and his sense of humor. Great post and smiling at the humor section, again. Glad I don’t have to eat asphalt!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. It hard to express how much I enjoy these letters. Thank you and keep them coming.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. All the letters have been interesting, but this one is in a class by itself.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. What an incredible letter! He really was a wonderful writer, the way he creates suspense, uses humor, and evokes the scenery and tension of their location. Your grandmother must have enjoyed these letters. Good thing she saved them!

    Liked by 1 person

    • And I’m thrilled to have them. Since I was a kid and first found the scrapbook – I tried to get him to have them published, but he said no one would want to read them!

      Liked by 3 people

      • Letters like these are so valuable. I have a friend whose father wrote hundreds of letters home from Europe during WW2. My friend didn’t read them until after his father died and now wants to publish them eventually. That’s how we learn real history!

        Liked by 1 person

  23. Thank you for Paul Lemire’s Farewell Salute.

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  24. Glad to see you got through the storm without harm. I really enjoy these letters. I was thinking of my dad today, he was a mechanic on New Guinea for a while, and I was thinking of him getting a truck that had been used to knock over trees 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Wonderful letter. They draw you straight into his world in an unexpected way.
    So chatty. Look forward to reading more. All the best.
    Chris.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. These letters are precious. That humorous manner has a purpose to make everything look like a fun trip so that his mother didn’t worry. Between the lines, there is a great deal of gravity.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Never heard back from you GP…How did you fare with the Hurricane? All go OK?

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Thank you very much. You are too kind.

    Like

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