WAR DIARY OF HAROLD W. BAUER
Dec. 1, 1941 to Oct. 13, 1942
By Harold W. Bauer, Oct. 1942. Edited by Kent Brown, 2002. Updated July 5, 2011.
This diary is being written by H. W. Bauer, U.S.M.C, for his wife, Mrs. Harriette Anne Bauer, and young son, William Dale Bauer. If found--please see that they get it. It's contents may be read by anyone interested enough to spend the time required.
- H. W. Bauer
I received this very fine diary from my Brother Dale in today's mail (February 27, 1942).
He has the wonderful capacity of thinking of everything. I know I would never have obtained and started a diary of my own free will and yet I realize what a magnificent idea it is. I have decided to utilize these first few pages (Ed. note--dated TH Jan 1, 42 -- SA Jan 15,42) as a general review of the situation back as far a 1 December, 1941, up to the present time and then make daily notation as is customary in maintaining a diary. I will endeavor to limit my remarks to subjects that will prove of interest to anyone who chooses to read them but at the same time they must bare (sic) in mind that this is being written primarily for Harriette and Bill's consumption and entertainment.
December, 1941 - February, 1942
Here we go--
On December 1st, 1941, I was enjoying the serenity around and about Southern California, having been ordered there from the Hawaiian area to form a new VF squadron (VMF-221). I was the Executive Officer of this squadron and well pleased with my duties and especially so with my commanding officer, one V. J. McCaul, and the rest of our pilots.
True, we never doubted for a minute that we would eventually be at war with somebody, but, somehow we felt that it just couldn't happen till the summer of '42. We also felt quite certain that we were going to be allowed to be with our families for several more months before any emergency might arise to drag us away. The USS Saratoga was scheduled to leave San Diego for Honolulu about 9 Dec. and so far we were not included on her passenger list.
About that time, the lid blew off! We received orders to go to Honolulu on 8 Dec. aboard the USS Saratoga. That gave us exactly one week to get our personal affairs squared away, get our squadron gear together, and get packed. It was a very hectic week, I can assure, and as you no doubt remember, was climaxed by the news that Japan make a surprise attack on Oahu.
We were now at war with the Axis Powers and no foolin! It was no picnic saying goodbye to the wife and kid feeling all the time that I might very readily never see them again.
The USS Saratoga was accompanied by 3 old type Destroyers for our trip to Honolulu and you can believe me when I say they were of little or no comfort to us onboard the Sara. I, for one, expected a big explosion from an enemy torpedo almost continually. We zig-zagged all the way out and were met by a small task force a day or so before arriving--Now we began to feel a little more safe. The radio aboard the Sara was quite a drawing card. Each news broadcast found a large crowd of wishful thinkers several deep around it. We heard of our ships being torpedoed in the Pacific--we even heard that the Sara had been sunk.
We pulled into Pearl Harbor about 16 Dec. and saw the sight of our lives. We were stunned at the severity of the damage accomplished by the Japs. Imagine seeing 6 or 8 Battleships either capsized or sitting neatly on the bottom of the harbor, 2 or 3 cruisers in the same fix, destroyers and other ships destroyed, hangars burned, and airplane remains littered about like a junk heap.
Needless to say--the attack on Pearl Harbor was the trickiest, craftiest, most successful attack in Naval history and should rightfully go down as the most horrible defeat from a materiel point of view that any Navy ever suffered. Of course, we give the Japs credit for their cunning plans, their courage in carrying them out, but we can't help resenting the advantage they took of us. They say all is fair in love and war but I for one want the future generations of Americans to feel proud that their forefathers fought clean from the start and kicked the hell out of the dirty little yellow b_______ without striking a single blow below the belt or from behind the other fellow's back.
We heard numerous hair raising stories about the attack and these facts will no doubt find their way into book form sooner or later. When we first set foot on dry land we could hear anything we wanted to listen to--quite a bit of which could be traced to certain individuals imagination. One thing was certain--the Japs pulled a real surprise and carried it out practically unopposed. Hence the destruction. It is a shame they got away with it--but why shouldn't they? We were at peace with Japan and they had envoys in Washington for that purpose--a perfect set up for just what they did. It will prolong the war and no doubt be the underlying cause of early American setbacks in the Pacific.
Other news we received upon landing at Pearl Harbor--namely, that we were to go to Wake, stunned me. I felt very sorry for the Marines at Wake and wanted to go to their aid but at the same time I could see the futility of it all. Wake would fall to the Japs whenever they wanted to make the necessary effort. It could not be protected by our surface vessels due to its distance from Pearl Harbor. We felt the Wake Garrison should be evacuated rather than send more lambs to the slaughter. Wake or any small Pacific Island cannot accommodate the necessary force for self protection. The capture of Wake proved very costly to the Japs largely due to the state of training of its defenders and their never to be forgotten courage.
We left Pearl Harbor aboard the USS Saratoga bound for Wake feeling that we were to be sacrificed but we were determined to do our bit for our country and were proud to be able to serve her even for such a small thing as Wake Island. The general frame of mind then was that we knew it was curtains but we felt a sense of pride in our position for being called on to aid the gallant defenders of Wake and were completely resigned to our fate.
Our task force reached the vicinity of Wake just before the final attacks and then quite by surprise we were ordered to abandon the mission. We were then dropped off at Midway, arriving there on Xmas day.
Needless to say the Marines and other inhabitants of Midway considered our arrival as the best Xmas present they had ever received. They knew that if two fighters could accomplish what they did at Wake that there was great possibilities for a complete squadron.
The accommodations at Midway were scarcely what one might call adequate--so it was several days before we could say that we were settled. When settled we lived in underground shelters of sturdy construction and were quite comfortable living with from four to six pilots per shelter.
Our food was never particularly good but our appetites never diminished on that account. The general idea was to eat two meals per day--one at 0900 and one at 1500. This wasn't a bad set up at all and I don't recall of having heard any complaints. The food itself was adequately composed of starches and this type of menu sticks to the ribs. The water situation wasn't what I'd call encouraging. Fresh water was scarce and had a bad taste due to its storage in wooden tanks and its being transported from one island to the other in metal tanks on barges. Salt water was used for bathing, washing, & flushing of toilets. A heater was finally installed so, before I left, we had hot salt water for showers. (Not too bad for duty in the field!)
OperationsOperating conditions are ideal. There is unlimited space for flying, no one to interfere, and a grand airdrome to use. We made regular patrol flights during the day and training flights of short duration for tactical & gunnery practice. I would call Midway an ideal spot to train a new squadron and truly hope to get back there if I draw a full complement of airplanes and new pilots.
The members of our squadron became very familiar what with eating, sleeping, & living inseparable each day. There were no petty dislikes of any kind. A remarkable set up.
We held a few practice air-raids to indoctrinate all hands and the results were very encouraging. We felt that if we ever received as much as six minutes warning we could have our Fighters in the air. We rushed work on airplane shelters and had them quite well protected and dispersed. Camouflage was practically impossible. Any disturbance of the natural landscape or vegetation stood out like a sore thumb.
The ground defenses were very good as well as quite adequate. We all had a feeling of security and further felt that the Japs would not be able to capture Midway with less than 2 carriers, 4 cruisers, 8 destroyers, and a landing party of at least 10,000 men. This requires a large number of small boats and several transport and supply vessels.
The pilots of our squadron had to consider themselves on the alert from 0530 to 1800. He could not be any place where the sirens weren't audible nor could he be at a distance from his airplane that would not allow reaching it in 2 minutes after an alarm was sounded. A mechanic was with the airplane at all times and it was his duty to start the engine & have the pilot's flight gear ready by the time the pilot arrived. This way--there was no lost time. The engine requires about 2 minutes to warm up sufficiently for take-off.
I received two good surprises while on Midway. One was concerning my promotion to Major which I didn't expect until the middle of the year. The other was the word to return to Honolulu. Six of the Fighter pilots and 6 of the Scout Bombing pilots received orders to return so naturally there was considerable conjecture over the reason for this change of station. We even let our imaginations get the better of us and thought that we might be going back to the mainland to form new squadrons. Another view point was that we were needed to fill up a Navy Carrier Squadron. Still another was that we might be going to Singapore or Australia. We were really ready for anything but slightly disappointed when we learned we were slated for Johnson or Palmyra. Johnson is even smaller than Midway and certainly less prepared for occupancy. I understand there aren't even any Gooney Birds--which by the way offered untold amusement for us on Midway. These darned birds went through the craziest rituals anyone could imagine. Too bad we couldn't take colored movies of their carryings on. The American public would become hilarious watching them. I have personally stood for several minutes totally absorbed in their antics. As a matter of fact--all the bird life was a matter of considerable interest. There were quite a few different kinds that frequented the island--each having its points of interest. The Gooney Bird was especially famous for its comical love making, large quantity present, and their graceful flyings. They would make an almost unlimited supply of "down" for pillows, blankets, mattresses, etc. One has to go a long way to find anything as cute as the newly hatched baby Gooney. It looks like nothing but a ball of fuzz.
I can't say that we were never under fire at Midway 'cause we were on three separate occasions after the initial attack on December 7th. In each case the attack was initiated by a single enemy submarine at dusk. He would wait until our patrols had landed--then would surface and fire about 7 or more rounds. Of course he at no time hit anything or even got the aviators excited and he had no sooner fired about 3 rounds until the shore batteries were throwing 5" shells right back in his lap. The batteries thought they got one of the attackers but I seriously doubt it. On yet another occasion soon after we left a sub surfaced just before two Fighters were about to land. They spotted him, drilled him with 50 cal., and dropped their 100# bombs. They also think they might have got that one.
Oh yes--there was one more occasion when a scout bomber pilot thought he saw a submerged sub. He dropped his 500# bomb but it didn't explode.
I personally believe that subs are being constructed much more ruggedly than in the last war and that in order to sink one with a depth charge or bomb one must come about twice as close as was necessary in World War I. A lot of aviators have just been kidding themselves if they think they have been sinking subs. I'm thinking their mortality rate is comparatively low. This is a comforting thought what with my Young Brother John going into that branch of the Navy.
I often think how far I've been since the war started and the little action I have experienced. Me thinks the day will come when fate will make up for lost time. Just think--from San Diego to Pearl Harbor to (near) Wake to Midway and back to Pearl Harbor. As I say--all I have seen are a few insignificant submarine shellings and two large bombs dropped in Honolulu.
Oh yes--I forgot to mention how & when I traveled from Midway to Honolulu. A PB2Y (four engined Navy patrol plane) departed Midway about 0630 on 9 February with 12 pilots aboard. We arrived here about 7 1/2 hours later.
These 12 pilots were the nucleus for 2 new squadrons VMSB-232 and VMF-212.
The breaking up of our squadron was a very sad event. We had all become quite attached to each other and truly hated the parting. Of course there will soon be more divisions for the forming of new squadrons but that still doesn't help our feelings in the matter.
We will hold many a fond memory of Midway and the Gooneys. I can close my eyes now and visualize a noisy group playing pitch, Bob Haynes or Smitty striking down Gooneys with a long rope. Lord--they would do this hour after hour. We all got the biggest sort of kick out of it.
I mean it when I say it was with a sad heart that I looked out the porthole of our PB2Y and watched Midway grow smaller until it finally faded out all together.
March 1, 1942The new squadron organization went into effect today. I am now the squadron commander of VMF-212. My pilots consist of J. L. Smith-Exec., F. R. Payne-Flight, R. J. Morrell Jr.-Eng., C. J. Quilter-Mat., H. E. Ellis-Ord. & Gun., L. D. Everton-Pers., R. F. Stout, C. M. Kunz, I. W. Carter, J. C. Musselman, & Lee Roberts. We had an air raid alarm today at 0936. It was good practice and a lot of our deficiencies will be improved upon. The raid turned out to be a false alarm, due to some planes from the mainland getting off course.
March 2This is moving day. We transfer all our spares, maintenance gear, and other equipment to a new building. Things are a bit crowded when two squadrons are forced to operate from one building which is built for one operating squadron. I received several letters from the States today. 3 from Harriette, 1 from Mother & Dad, & 1 from Dale and Jean. I certainly have no complaint to make about communications with my people.
March 3This is our first day of operating with the Hawaiian Intercepter Command (Army). They seem to be quite pleased with having us to help them. When we get the opportunity to do our stuff I feel that they will be doubly pleased. Today is Bill's birthday and I've been thinking of him all day. It is hard to realize that we've had him for six whole years.
March 4We started this day off by being called at 0100. We did some rapid scampering and were all set for anything--but--no soap. We got back to bed about 0245. One of my pilots damaged a Fighter this A. M. during F.C.L.P. He, 2nd Lt. Carter, ground looped on his final landing and wrecked a wing. He, of course, was not hurt.
March 5This was another bad day for us. Carter took off and barely got clear of the ground when his engine quit cold. He landed straight ahead as he'd been taught and escaped injury. The plane, on the other hand, was a complete washout. We will salvage what we can the throw the rest of the mess in a junk pile.
March 6Nothing much to report other than that I received word from the Group Commander that my squadron would very shortly be moved along with a Marine Defense Battalion to a small Island near the Fiji group. We are given only a few days to get our gear packed, crated, painted, & loaded. I will be given 21 planes & pilots with an enlisted strength of about 175. On the surface this plan doesn't look too good. Another Wake situation can easily ensue unless there is more surface vessel & nearby air support than I know about. All I can say is "I hope we do half as well as they did at Wake."
March 7Well, we had another air raid alarm the A.M. about 1030. The weather was almost zero-zero so nothing came of it. Several enemy subs surfaced around the Island--so apparently they meant business. Scuttlebutt is overflowing with data that an air raid is imminent within the next few days. Here's hoping we get some live target practice pretty soon--I'll be getting stale shortly. I'm getting my personal things packed & will probably store them here until I get back from the Fiji mission.
March 8Another fruitless day goes by. I am, however, expecting an air raid any day now. There is too much activity around here to expect anything different. I don't want to boast but I do feel that the Japs will get their bellies full of Pearl Harbor the next time they come.
March 9We are working furiously trying to get ready for our forthcoming "movement." We have little or no equipment and insufficient personnel even for the little amount of equipment. Oh Well!
March 10Same thing today! Trying to get something done without anybody to do it. There is still a great bit of confusion and indecision over our "movement" and what we will take in the way of equipment. Heard tonight that Midway had had its first aircraft vs aircraft engagement. Four of our fighters worked on a 4 engine patrol boat. Needless to say--they got him. Well done-boys!
March 11We started loading our gear aboard the transports today. We are sending everything except our airplanes and spare parts. That will go along with us on a carrier (we hope) at a later date--not far distant (we also hope).
March 12We continued loading and didn't even slow up for darkness. This all night labor isn't what it's cracked up to be but when something has to be done by a certain time there doesn't seem to ever be anyone around who has authority to turn back the calendar.
March 13An unlucky day for some people but never so for me. I received a good luck charm from Mrs. F.R. Payne and a letter from my Harriette. Who could ask for more?
March 14We got a real honest to God thrill today. We had an air raid alarm about 1000 with information that a carrier was 100 miles away. It was reported unfriendly, so we thought at last the day we had prayed for was here. Believe me--we were ready for them and would have cleaned their britches in good style. We certainly are champing at the bit around here. I'd give a month's salary, myself, for a chance at 'em. We may not have to wait much longer. The convoy taking our men & supplies to our new "spot" will leave very very soon.
March 15Sunday, but just another day around here. There was no excitement but we are always expecting it. We can settle down once more to normal now that the convoy has been loaded and is on its way. I am still a bit skeptical about its chances of getting unloaded near enemy territory without air support. Here's hoping for the best.
March 16Nothing whatsoever to write today. Everything seems to be moving along normally.
March 17No events out of the ordinary.
March 18There was an event today of a personal nature that will no doubt have far reaching effects on me and my career. I quite innocently took leave of station this night when I should have been here. I am receiving 5 days arrest and confinement to quarters as punishment which is a trifling matter compared to the punishment my pride and self respect are taking. I feel so utterly ashamed of myself for having done anything that would destroy the faith of my commanding officer in me. God only knows that at heart I am as innocent as a new born babe and that I would not under any circumstances deliberately jeopardize our chances of winning this war. If a person ever needed a friend--I need a lot of them now--but I would settle for just one reassuring kiss from my wife. I am deeply regretful and respectfully ask her complete forgiveness. There is no doubt that I will be a better officer when my punishment has been served but how will I ever repair the damage to my service reputation and regain the faith and confidence of my superiors?
March 19This is the day that I discovered I had been absent from my station the night before when I should have been here. I was called on the mat and assumed full guilt for my actions. although, as I have said--I left my station with a clear conscience feeling that Ira Kimes the Group C.O. would be on the station that night. My crime was leaving without making sure of myself. It, never the less, is a crime and I take my punishment like a man. I am so depressed because my superiors probably think I had malice aforethought or deliberately went knowing that I was wrong in doing so. But that is wrong! I have a very conscientious nature as they who really know me will admit. I am so conscientious and victory minded that I would try to get into the Australian air force if I thought it could be arranged. I want to be where I am needed.
March 20I received notice of my arrest and confinement today. I will do a lot of thinking during the next 5 days and am sure the results will be in my favor spiritually and morally. I do hate to lose the respect of people like Stan Riderhoff and Col. Larkin, though. I am counting on Harriette to forgive me and if I thought she wouldn't I'd go plumb crazy.
March 21General Rowell, our wing commander, came in today via plane from the mainland. Hope he will be able to visualize our needs in the way of men, airplanes, pilots, and equipment and then have influence enough to get them for us. Had a very consoling talk with Stan today. He admitted having been under arrest 3 times, himself. I am sure he received no harmful results. There's no doubt but what my service career will benefit if I derive some good from my punishment--providing, of course, the selection board sees it that way, too. We can only wait and see. I really needed the punishment to deliver me from my 'teens.
March 22Gen. Rowell & Col. Larkin are in conference with the gold braid today. There will undoubtedly be a lot of "changes made."
March 23Col. Larkin took me off arrest today and tore up all the papers. I learned a great deal from my experience and will be more thoughtful in the future. Was notified that the move which my squadron was slated for was indefinitely postponed and not likely to take place for at least 6 months.
March 24We received word that we must plan a redistribution of pilots and personnel so that 8 fighter squadrons will result from what we have now.
March 25Talked to Harriette on the Trans-Pacific telephone this A.M. A wonderful experience. It was so nice being reassured by her that she was sticking by me regardless. She is without question the best little wife in the world. Could not carry on without her.
March 26I submitted a master plan to the Colonel today for the assignment of available officers and personnel to the comprising units of the new fighter groups which must be formed by 30 June.
March 27Just another day except for the receipt of two very welcome letters. One from Verne McCaul at Midway and one from my Sister Lucile. If I don't mention letters I get from my wife it is not because I am not thrilled to get them or that I don't love her.
March 28Day after day goes by without us realizing what day of the week it is. It is relatively unimportant since each day is a work day and our activities are a duplication of the days before. I am getting a feeling that something big is about to break such as a simultaneous blitz on Russia by Germany and Japan or perhaps an invasion of England, Australia and North Africa all at the same time. One begins to think in terms of surprises in this modern war. Things have to happen fast to be successful.
March 29We flew awhile this morning but knocked off work from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in order to see a U.S.O. entertainment called the Red, White, and Blue Revue. It was very good, too, considering it was local Hawaiian talent.
March 30Things are getting very dull around these parts. We are craving action more each day. Wish they'd decide to use us in Australia. It would be good experience for later on when we really go into high gear and start rolling on the offense.
March 31A whole raft of airplanes came to Oahu by boat. We are scheduled to get 18 Brewster Fighters. I have personally been working hard on preparing Fitness reports.
April 1, 1942Our Mechs. are busy getting the boatload of airplanes unloaded, unpickled, and prepared for flight. Still putting in a full day's work on Fitness reports and signing my name to countless monthly and quarterly reports.
April 2Now--this has been some day! We heard today that we must be prepared to leave by Carrier about the middle of April for Efate'. That is the island where our advanced echelon (212) sailed for about 15 March. Sammy's squadron is to go to Palmyra on the same trip. He shouldn't expect much action at all, but we are expecting plenty, and are looking forward to it with eagerness. I worked on personnel & pilots rosters for the two squadrons & continued with fitness reports. I worked hard enough to kill a person with a little less vitality.
April 3We are busy today getting material sorted and packed. We must divide the airplane spares between two squadrons now where it was originally packed to all go to one spot.
April 4Held personnel inspection this morning. This is our last day on interceptor command. We were allowed to go off due to preparations necessary for our departure. New shipment of pilots arrived from the coast. I am due to get about 14 of them in my squadron.
April 5Easter Sunday! Who'd believe it? Anyway I met all my new pilots today and we are now organized as well as officers are concerned.
April 6Started training of new pilots today. One boy, named Rogers, had a forced landing in the surf but escaped without injury. Another new, but older pilot named Kuritich had a ground loop at Ford Island. I hope that will be the end of mishaps for this batch of babes in arms.
April 7Somehow this day was a misnomer. It should have been Friday the 13th judging from the turn of events and dreadful happenings. Bob Moses-a fine pilot and grand character was seriously injured making a cross wind landing-he lost control and ran into a 7 1/2 ton concrete pill box. Another boy-Capt. Kuritich-was injured when he attempted to retrieve his hat which had blown off and lay near his turning propeller. It cut off 3 fingers of his left hand. On more plane grand looped, Capt. Hennessy, being the pilot.
April 8A full day's operation and no accidents. Looks as though we've had all that's coming to us. I have flown with most of our new boys now and it looks like we'll have a good squadron.
April 9This has been a sad day what with Bataan's fall. I thought they might hold out forever in spite of the tremendous odds. Then, too, I fail to see why we didn't get some sort of aid to them. Perhaps it was more important strategically to save Australia. The latter seems a safe bet now with our air superiority. Heard today that there might be some chances of my squadron not going to "Roses." They are really having a tough time making up their minds. They just can't afford to make any mistakes, I guess.
April 10Word came today that the "Roses" trip was off indefinitely. I breaks the heart of everyone of us because we had a swell bunch of boys and all wanted to go our and do something.
April 11Col. Mulcahy arrived this a.m. Everyone here was quite surprised by his visit--even Col. Larkin. We are frantically getting things ready now for Sam Moore's squadron to go to Palmyra. Our material people have lived some hectic moments these last two weeks. First the deal is on--then two more are on--then it's off--then something else might take place--then it's off, etc. etc. In the mean time they put something from one box into another and vice versa. I became Group Commander today when Ira Kimec left for Midway. I dare say I won't keep the job long. There will surely be some senior people back or imported soon.
April 12Started moving Sammy's gear to the dock today. Certainly hate to see them go and be left behind. Well, maybe our time will come soon.
April 13Finished moving all of 211's gear. Heard today we would definitely get 18 or more F4F-3A's within 10 days.
April 14Got all of Sammy's planes aboard the Lex today. They will probably get rolling tonight. His men will follow in a few days. The Japs seem to be busy enough around Burma and the Bay of Bengal and I therefore can't contemplate any action for Sammy as far East of all this as Palmyra is.
April 15Things seemed very quiet today with all the boys from 211 gone. Understand we are due to receive about 25 more pilots from the mainland tomorrow. Well--we can sure use them. The sooner we can get our hands on the and get them training--the better.
April 162nd. Lt. J. F. Rogers had his second accident today. He overshot up at Schofield Bks. and wrecked another Brewster. Let's hope his string will stop at two. Heard today that there is a good possibility of forming all new Marine Corps squadrons on the Mainland. They should have been doing this all along. This is certainly no place to form, train, and operate.
April 17The Enterprise did her stuff over in Japan today. We should start to hear of bombing raids there daily--& very soon now.
April 18I received 14 new pilots today. Let's hope we can get them trained a little without accidents. These youngsters are coming out of training with scarcely any fast plane experience. They certainly weed out our fighters when a flock of them report in here.
April 19Nothing at all to remark about today. It was a very quiet uneventful Sunday.
April 20We started back on the Army Interceptor Command today. However, the main object of interest today was that we gave all of our 14 new pilots their first flight in Brewsters and there wasn't a single mishap. I'd better rap on wood.
April 21Still no mishaps. I'm holding my fingers crossed. Got word today that the "Roses" trip was definitely on again.
April 22We are getting in some very valuable training and it looks as though we'll need it. There seems to be no question this time about my squadron going to "Roses."
April 23We are working over the new boys and, although their state of training is very low, we are quite pleased with their progress.
April 24Had our first trouble with the new crowd today. A 2nd Lt. King landed a Brewster only to find out a second later that his wheels weren't locked down. Not too much damage. We also got word today to be on the lookout for a Jap surprise attack. Well--my outfit will be ready & God help the dirty yellow little B______s this time! (If & when)
April 25I was notified today that we would leave the 29th for Roses with 21 F4F-3A's and 1 SNJ. I'm taking 26 pilots. This means a lot of hard work and trouble getting spare parts for a strange airplane and getting them crated, etc. We've done it before--I guess we can do it again. Bill Wallace, Walt Baylor, Buddy Chappell, Bob Haynes, John Dobbin, Johnson, Prosser, & Delano got back from Midway today. They will get 2 days liberty. After this--they will wish they were back in Midway--unless, of course, they get orders back to the good old U.S.A.
April 26Didn't get a whole lot done today--being Sunday--and too since the Navy Supply gave precedence to the Carrier squadrons. It makes me so angry sometimes to think just what they expect of us marines.
April 27Procured and packed and crated like a bunch of fools. We are beginning to get places but still have a lot to do before we can say we are ready. Nine of our fighters were loaded aboard two carriers. The "E" and the "H". It will be my first trip aboard one of our more recent carriers as well as my first trip below the equator. Here's hoping they have the head hunters thoroughly indoctrinated down there. Somehow, I don't think I'd make a very tasty dish--although I must admit I think I'm not bad as a "stew."
April 28Packed & crated everything today as well as loaded it aboard the trucks. Everything must go to the dock at 0600 tomorrow a.m. Three more fighters and the SNJ were loaded aboard. On several occasions these past few days my friends have told me that they still don't believe we will go but I am quite concerned that this is the real McCoy. I can't visualize any miracle that could change the cards at this late date. I would not care to have the plans changed unless they would take me home to my little family. I really and truly am looking forward to this duty with the fondest of expectations.
April 29The rest of the 21 fighters were loaded aboard today as well as the pilots. The gear and the men didn't fare so well. We got the Salt Lake City about half loaded when they suddenly changed plans and decided not to take her. This means unloading her and waiting a few days for another ship. The Carriers will no doubt take us on down without waiting around for our men and equipment. It's really something the way the Navy orders we marines around half cocked when they or the Army either wouldn't think of doing what they force us to do. Oh well, that must be the reason for our existence. I have a nice room aboard the U.S.S. Ent. and am looking forward to a very pleasant trip.
April 30There was a great deal of operating aboard today--qualifying new pilots and refreshing older ones. We Marines, of course, took a gallery seat and watched the show. The Hornet was doing the same thing and I must say it was an impressive, as well as an encouraging sight, to see so many airplanes flying about our Task Force. We didn't get far along our way, but I guess they figure we have plenty of time. I would like to know just when we are expected to be disembarked. It will probably be about the 10th of May. Anyway--there is no longer any land in sight. One SBD split in two at the cockpit on an exceptionally hard landing. No one hurt. Our Task Force at present consists of 2 Carriers, 3 Cruisers, 7 Destroyers, and 2 Tankers.
May 1, 1942This is "Pay Day" to forces afloat, "Lei Day" in Hawaii and "May Day" in the good old States. Wouldn't it be nice to combine all three of them into one swell day? A fighter landed in the water during take off from the Hornet this a.m. The pilot was rescued by a Destroyer. There's never a dull moment aboard one of these things.
May 2While cruising along and we doing nothing about it, I am having my pilots work navigation problems. We test fired four of our planes today and much to my surprise they all fired O.K. That is quite a consolation--believe it or not. As I sit here--it is still difficult for me to realize that we are actually on our way "down under." I expect to wake up and find it all a dream. I think we are in the most envious spot of any body in Marine Aviation at present. Now if those Japs will only give me a few weeks to train my boys we will truly give them a working over once they poke their noses in our little nest.
May 3There was considerable Anti Aircraft practice today amongst the 14 ships in our task force firing at towed sleeves. The gunners need considerable of this practice. The weather is getting rather warm and I have no doubt but what the next few days will be very uncomfortable aboard ship. The landing gear on a fighter gave way today doing slight damage to the plane & not injuring the pilot.
May 4The group was up again today practicing gunnery and bombing. The torpedo planes made a dummy run against the ship. There was a little excitement during the day's operations--2 SBD's had deferred forced landings. They both made it OK and then heaved a sigh of relief. Who wouldn't--we are now about 1200 miles S.W. of Oahu. We are getting closer and closer to the Equator. Should cross it tomorrow. It will be a thrill in spite of the absence of the usual peace time initiation. Here I sit again reminiscing how far I've traveled since the war began and considering how much I'm likely to travel before it's over.
May 5We crossed the equator at 0030 but the bump didn't wake me up as I still don't know what it feels like to cross the equator. Had a very exciting accident aboard today. A fighter bounced on landing--failed to catch a wire and then floated over the first two barriers. He then nosed over into the third barrier, shattering his landing gear, broke the barrier, and ground looped to the left--nearly going over the side--and promptly caught fire. The fire and rescue parties were quick on the trigger and had everything squared away in about 2 minutes. The pilot wasn't hurt--but plenty scared. Can't say as I blame him much. Intelligence reports are beginning to indicate that the Japs are preparing a major operation in the vicinity of Pt. Moresby, New Guinea. An emergency could crop up where they'd keep us aboard for awhile instead of taking the necessary time out to take us by "Roses." I'd enjoy a little action aboard a carrier--especially this one with Adm. Halsey aboard. After this war is over Admiral Halsey will be as famous as Dewey, Farragut, etc.
May 6The Tankers refueled some of the Destroyers today. There was very little ocean breeze today and what there was came from the stern. In other words, we really felt the heat. All operations were carried out successfully--no casualties. Am expecting to hear big things from the New Guinea area any day now. Understand a unit of Flying Fortresses made contact with the Akagi Jap Carrier, but missed. Maybe they can keep the chase and get her yet. Went into zone+12 tonight at 1900.
May 7Had a sub scare about 1000 today. Nobody had a chance to attack it. Passed a very few hundred miles north of Somoa--and thought of "T.J." and his group of Marines there. Another sub scare about 1315. We heard today that the Lex took on two fish and the York--two 5 hundred pounders besides losing a DD and a tanker in their little tussle with the Jap Forces down in the New Guinea area. Oh me! Hope these two Carriers get there in time to be of use.
May 8Talk about drawing a blank! We crossed the 180th so that means there just ain't no Friday the 8th. There'll be two of something coming back--but I won't mind!
May 9In the wee hours of the morning the entire ship was awakened due to a fire in the incinerator room. It was nothing serious but one can never tell about a fire. We were notified today that we would be debarked on May 11. We found out that in the same affair where the Lex & York were crippled the Japs lost two carriers and plenty of other stuff besides. Nice going boys!
May 10We are making all our preparations today for debarkation tomorrow. It won't be long now! I hope we all get off O.K. and land on our new little field without mishap.
May 11We debarked from both Carriers about 0830finally got rendezvoused and took departure for Noumea, New Caledonia--nearly 400 miles away. Quilter had a forced landing due to a broken fuel line South of Noumea a few miles. He was not hurt but his plane sank immediately. The field at Roses was pronounced unsatisfactory by the Ent. Group Commander--hence the change of destination. I was called to Noumea immediately after landing to explain our presence here. All I can say is--"What a place!" Visited aboard the Tangiers while in Noumea & spent the night in order to get an early start in a "P" boat next day for "Roses."
May 12Went to Roses to inspect field etc. Found it to be too narrow--too soft--and too short with scarcely any dispersing spots completed. It will require at least another twenty days to get it into temporary operating condition. Navy Engineers have taken over the construction now. Our small detachment of 150 men--malaria infected--have done all the labor up to now. Poor Capt. Little is about to go crazy and no one can blame him. It has been raining almost continuously over there since he arrived a little over a month ago. Returned to Noumea about 5:30 p.m. and spent the night at Army Hdqtrs.
May 13Returned to the airport this a.m. and learned that the boys had one ground loop and a broken tail wheel assembly in their first day's operations. We flew all p.m. without a mishap.
May 14Had a considerable amount of trouble starting some of our planes and I can readily see that that will be one of our operating difficulties. Decided to go to Efate' tomorrow in connection with the field and camp. Stayed aboard the Tangiers. Got deathly ill about midnight from food poisoning, I think.
May 15Got an early start for Efate' in a "P" boat. After arriving Efate' had conference with the Commanding General and the Navy Engineers who were sent to complete the field. I asked for a field 400' x 4000' for fighters with a 200' hard surface strip. I also told them the big bombers would require the 200' hard surface strip and 6000'-7000' length. I have decided to stay a few days & get the work on the field and in the camp straightened out.
May16Climbed in the SNJ and took a couple of engineers all over the island looking for logical locations for landing fields. Got work started on the camp. Have decided to put in screened-in mess hall, screened-in heads, showers, galvanized parachute loft, concrete radio shack, & a steel water tank. It is pitiful the amount of Malaria that prevails here. Well over 50% of all the Marines on the island have had it in 7 weeks. Hope we'll be able to cut it down considerably.
May 17Went with Lt. Mathews, U.S.N. Eng. to South Bay on a reconnaissance trip in a peep. It took us 7 hours and I mean we battled all the way. It was worth while, I'm sure, 'cause we definitely found a site for another field.
May 18The engineers have landed enough of their men and equipment now to show progress on the field. I wish they had about 5 times as much equipment and the men to go with it.
May 19Admiral McCain, Cmdr. Gardner, and the 2 Generals were out to look the field over today. I told him I'd bring 3 fighters over on Monday May 25th but that the field wouldn't be safe for the rest of the squadron until the middle of June. Of course the main thing the Admiral & his staff are interested in is when the bombers can start operation. I predicted 60 days for that. The hard surfacing process is the thing that will require time. At present, they do not have the necessary equipment.
May 20Rec'd a letter from Col. Larkin today in which he stated he would soon pay us a visit. He will be a treat for sore eyes. I surely want him to see what we're up against here. I laid out a great number of dispersements (for planes) here today. They will be well hidden from the air.
May 21Work continued to progress on the field and in the camp. Our screened-in heads our great pleasure to use. Certainly outwitted the flies and mosquitoes on that deal.
May 22Flew to Noumea today to bring back the 3 fighters on Monday as promised. When I arrived at the Tangiers, Adm. McCain kindly let it be know that I was to come back over herewith to Efate' with two Army Colonels in the Army Engineer Corps to look over the field and the South Bay site. I stayed aboard the Tangiers.
May 23We got off to the usual early start and looked over the field as ordered and made our reconnaissance of South Bay. The Army Engineers have been using an iron mat very successfully which no doubt will be the answer to our problems here both as to the material to use and the time element for completion of the project. We stayed over night in Efate'. I postponed the flight of 3 fighters from Noumea to Efate' until Wednesday, the 27th.
May 24We returned to Noumea by "P" boat and reported a very successful trip to the Admiral. I met Beanie in Noumea and we road (sic) together in a reconnaissance car out to the airport--a 2 1/2 hour trip. It was very cold and I caught more cold on top of a sore throat I had picked up riding the "P" boats for 2 days. To top it off, I only had one blanket when I turned in at the airport and nearly froze to death. Col. Sverdrup, the Army Eng., ordered some Marston Matting for the field.
May 25You guessed it. I have a fever, a sore throat, sinus and a head cold. The doctor is giving me sulfanilamide to cure me so that I can make the flight on Wednesday. I am staying in bed and doing my level best. I saw some of the Marston Mat Material being used at Tontouta for taxi lanes. It certainly is the answer for rapid construction at Efate'.
May 26Another day in bed on sulfanilamide. (You can have that stuff) My back feels like someone hit me with an axe. It makes the kidneys work overtime, too. I'll take a sore throat and fever to the way I feel--anytime. Admiral McCain came in to see me and I gave him a more optimistic estimate on the field if he could get us the iron mat. Told him I was going to bring 6 of my fighters over Monday, June 1st, and the rest on Friday, June 5th. He immediately sent out a dispatch giving May 30 as the date of the Fighters arrival here and ordered some more Marston Mat. He even stated in his dispatch that the field would be ready 2 weeks after arrival of the mat. I may be working 24 hours per day myself to get it done.
May 27Certainly didn't feel like flying today but the mail had to go through. 3 of us left Tontouta at 0945 and arrived Efate' 1 1/2 hrs. later. I was surprised at the ease with which we all landed. They had a landing strip about 2800' long available. We didn't use it all due to a good wind up and down the runway.
May 28We kept the 3 fighters ready for action all day. We'll probably have to wait a long time for our first crack at a Jap bomber. I picked out locations for a few more plane dispersals. We are really fortunate in that respect here. Mother Nature must have know that someday she would have to conceal airplanes on the ground from the view of those in the air. We opened our new mess hall with the evening meal and, although we had no time to kill the indoor flies, there was much improvement. We held a free beer party on the welfare fund to celebrate the opening of the mess hall.
May 29We got busy on the mess hall fly situation today. Bought some flit and laid 'em low. The meals are quite pleasant now. That is one problem licked. We still have several left. Got heads together with the engineer, Lt. Mathews, in order to speed up completion of the 6000' ft x 200' landing strip. We want it ready when the Marston Mat arrives. Went down to visit Ens. Durkin & rear seat man Bailey who had a forced landing while away from the Enterprise nearly 3 weeks ago . They were adrift in their rubber boat until picked up in the New Hebrides about 140 miles north of Efate'.
May 30It started to rain last night and continued all day up to nightfall. We had mud holes all over the camp and the field became soft. The radar reported a target so I took off to investigate. It turned ou to be two of our patrol planes.
May 31We tried a radar practice tracking run this a.m. but the radar burned out two condensers. We tried it again this afternoon but it turned out very unsatisfactorily. We found out the radar has quite an area of blind spots. We had a grand day--got in some flying for three of our new boys who did very well.
June 1, 19426 more of our planes came over from Noumea today. A B-17 escorted them over. I went out to meet them off the harbor here and escorted the works to the field. They all made nice landings. I tried another radar tracking practice this a.m. and the results were so disheartening I went down to raise a storm about it. I wound up by flying the island communicator all over the area looking for a better radar location. An unidentified plane was reported flying over the field about 1700. Chick and I took off looking for it but had no luck. The Radar just didn't produce for us. At Midway we would have nailed it long before it even got here if it were an unfriendly plane. I had to make a forced landing on the way back. Got away with it beautifully. I was fortunate enough to have power to put me near the field so that I could land there.
June 2Rec'd a flock of personal and official mail today when a "P" boat brought 2 of my pilots and my ordnance chief over from Noumea. Went down to Army Hdqtrs today and raised a fuss about the field being constructed too slowly. It stirred them up momentarily but I believe they will do nothing besides just talk. The boys brought me the sad news from Noumea that one of my pilots--a very intelligent, ambitious, and a marvelous prospect of an aviator was killed in Noumea on Sunday when he failed to pull out of a dive. This hurts me very deeply especially since I was so fond of him. His name was Finisgane--a Stanford graduate. Got some orders written up on the Fighter Director system today. Worked with Radar again today trying to get them so that they can train on a target above 5000'. So far it is pitiful.
June 3No flying today due to rain & overcast. Work continuing on the field (slowly) and on dispersals. Col. Fassett, 4th Def, had dinner with us tonight and a very delightful visit.
June 4The powers that be down at Army Hdqtrs are still fussing around trying to figure out a way to help construct the airfield. They've called numerous conferences which have take up a lot of time, but as yet I see no results. Received a secret dispatch from Beanie saying that he & his nine planes would not be ready to come over from Noumea tomorrow. The apparently haven't had time to put in the three rubber gas tanks.
June 5Army called another big conference this a.m. in order to line up some trucks and some men, shovels, etc. for the air field. I am anxious to see the results--if any. Sent Wooley to Noumea in the Duck today to stay a few days and bring back some needed truck parts. Made arrangements to send a Sampan from here to Noumea to pick up our gear over there. Hope he can side step all the mines in the harbor. The word came in today about Dutch Harbor being attacked and also Midway. I'm betting they'll be sorry they made a pass at Midway.
June 6After all the fuss, the Army finally sent out 4 2 1/2 T trucks and 47 men to help on the airfield. Now, they will probable expect it to be finished in a couple of more weeks. Heard today that the Midway affair is still going on and that they have at least one task force mixed up it it.
June 7It rained all day today. It was rather a fortunate coincidence that Beanie didn't attempt the 9 plane flight from Noumea. He could never have found Efate' in the zero-zero we had all day. We welcome an occasional rain here for the purpose of settling the dust on and around the field. The radio brought us the very welcome and glad tidings of the U.S. Naval victory at and around Midway. It seems the fun always starts after I leave a place. Maybe the Japs have something in store for me here. Hope we get a decent Radar setup before the fracas starts because we are absolutely helpless without it. Sent a dispatch to Beanie telling him the weather would be O.K. tomorrow. It will be nice and quite a relief to have the whole outfit here.
June 8Beanie showed up today with the remaining 9 planes. He came in right at noon after we had all given up him up. The boys all did a good job bringing them in. Looks as though we won't have near the trouble I anticipated. They seem to have profited greatly from the training in Noumea.
June 9This was a miserable day. It rained steadily from morning till late at night. The radar was moved so we ran a continuous patrol all day just so we'd have some come back in case the Japs sprang an attack. Turned more Marines loose as bosses on the field to handle the Native labor. We noticed a considerable improvement. I felt poorly today. Had a splitting headache and felt lazy and weak. After a nap in the middle of the p.m. I felt much better. I find it is easy to overwork oneself in this climate. I handled a shovel all day yesterday clearing out drainage ditches and blame the exercise for my ill feeling.
June 10The rain has mostly stopped. It is very murky overhead and we get an occasional sprinkle. We continued our constant patrol since the radar has not as yet been set up in its new location. Work on the field is progressing quite satisfactorily. Marine bosses on the Native labor seems to have turned the trick.
June 11It started raining just before noon today and kept up steadily till dark. We ran our continuous two plane patrol since the radar is still out of commission. Work on the field is progressing at a very rapid pace. In fact, more has been accomplished since Monday than is any previous two weeks.
June 12Today was a perfect sunshiny day. A lot of work was accomplished on the field. We maintained our constant 2 plane patrol. The radar was reported as ready at 5 p.m. Heard two good pieces of news today. One was that no planes were caught on the ground at Midway--another was that the Jap fleet had been tracked down and nearly annihilated.
June 13We did quite a bit of flying today--but without incident. We made quite extensive tests on the new radar position and found the results are about 500% better. I took a flight to investigate what had been reported as two airplanes beached on a small neighboring island. They turned out to be two outrigger canoes. Feeling in wonderful health these last few days.
June 14Admiral Byrd and his party came in today to look over the situation here. He is on an inspection trip for the President and is making a thorough investigation of the bases, their strategical possibilities & limitations, supply, morale, health, etc. of the South Pacific area. Anyway, the point I'm getting at is that I was "with Bird" all day. I sounded off to him and expounded a few of my ideas and I must say he is the best listener I have ever had. He so enthusiastically agreed with me that he would slap the General on the knee and say, "See, there, what'd I tell ya, General?".
June 15I was supposed to take the Admiral for a ride around the island in the SNJ-3 but he apparently changed his mind last night after I left him and decided to go to Santos (an island 200 mi. north) to look over the possibilities of a base up there. 2 kingfishers and the Duck made the trip. I made up a voluminous report on the situation here. I really aired my feelings and ideas. Started a little gunnery today. Intend to do some each day weather permits. It was announced officially that our fleet and ground based bombers had sunk 3 Carriers in the Coral Sea affair and 4 at Midway.
June 16It is very surprising how fast the field is progressing. Everyone is working hard and continuously. The weather was mostly overcast today--making it difficult for gunnery but, nevertheless, we tried. The C.G. had Capt. Porter (Medico Chief), Cmdr. Hepburn (Naval Const.) & myself present at 5 p.m. for an informal meeting. It was pretty good for me since I came out of it with 3 trucks and a large diesel generator. The evening news told us that contact had been made with the Jap task force in the Aleutians and that considerable damage had been done. Our position here is becoming more secure each day.
June 17Operations are continuing--consisting chiefly of gunnery flights. Some heavy equipment has arrived from Noumea and San Francisco. When that is unloaded and gets in operation we'll see the field completed in a hurry. I spent nearly a full day making a reconnaissance of the area for the location of huts. We will soon have a camp here that will be the envy of every one in this entire South Pacific area.
June 18We are still working on gunnery for the new pilots. We are trying various methods of determining the fault with our air-ground communications. They have been very poor. A great improvement must be shown to have any sort of successful fighter director.
June 19No news is good news, they say. I hope that holds good here because there is very little, if any, coming in. It should be a long time before we hear from Japan again after the terrific losses they received these past 40 days.
June 20Work is progressing at its recent rapid pace on the runway. They are working frantically on the stretch 4500'-5000' trying to finish it by tonight. We all hated to hear of the British defeats in Libya but it was, nevertheless, expected news. I decided today to run patrols of 2 planes each during mid-day and late afternoons. The radar just can't be depended upon.
June 21I have needed and taken a lot of exercise these past three days. I got busy with a rake and shovel and worked on the roads through camp. We moved our radio gear into the splinter proof fighter director CP tonight. I am really quite proud of our set up now. As soon as we put in the huts we will be envied by everyone who sees our camp. We are now, as a matter of fact.
June 22Heard the very sad news concerning the pilot and personnel losses in the Midway affair. There must be a lot of sad hearts in the U.S.A. as a result. ComAirSouPac asked for specific info on the runway. He must be intending to send a test flight over. Well--we're ready for it. I told him we had 4500' ready for anything.
June 23No big planes came in today so either the Admiral doesn't think much of my idea or else he isn't pressed for time with any of his planned offensives. The radar reported a target at 112 miles--323 deg. about 7 o'clock at night. I had two planes warm up but the target didn't approach. It must have been an island or a rainstorm over it. We're having glorious weather. In fact I have never seen more beautiful and invigorating morning, when the sun is shining, dew on the leaves and grass, birds singing, crickets chirping, etc.
June 24Got word that the Admiral didn't want to risk anything on the field so apparently the tactical situation isn't as pressing as they led us to believe about a month ago. Wooley took the C.G. over to Noumea today for a conference with the Admiral. He'll bring us back a few small boxes that are on the curbs for us. Maybe some mail.
June 25The Admiral is working on the Jappies up North with a few Patrol planes operating out of here today. Wish they could have been B-17's. Wooley came back with a few spare parts off the Curtis and 90 dollars worth of chicken. Looks as though we're going to have a couple of good meals, anyway. Started putting coral on the rest of the runway. This will be a two weeks process. However, when it is finished we won't need the Marston Mat.
June 26Had a conference with the C.G. today. We have to reconnoitre a couple of islands up north for possible fighter fields. I'm dead against establishing bases or airdromes that can't be protected by other numerous airdromes.
June 27This was a very eventful day. Chick and one other wildcat were sent out to intercept and investigate a bogey. He saw it and although it was a PBY-5, he attacked it 'cause the insignia's on it looked like the Jap's. It happened to be an Australian boat making offensive missions from here to the North and sure enough its insignias were faded to such an extent that the red ball was about all that was visible. Anyway--nobody was hurt and the extent of the damage was a few holes in the gas tank and a severed control wire. We had our first ground loop here today, also. The plane headed for the side and finally stopped in the soft sand at the 420' mark. Luckily our field was that wide.
June 28This was a very busy Sunday--for me, anyway. I made six flights in the SNJ taking up such people as a French Admiral, our Interceptor Command controller, etc. Everybody, including the C.G. have been very good about the shooting incident. In fact some have been too prone to make a joke of it.
June 29The J-2-F transported a party of engineers to two northern Islands to make surveys for fighter fields. I hope the report will be negative since Fighters mean nothing on a small island which is separated by over 2-300 miles from other aircraft bases. We had a little rain tonight for the first time in several days. We sure need a good one.
June 30As a result of the rain last night and early this morning, the ground moistened up a bit. We therefore decided to do some dragging and rolling. I rigged up a good home-made drag that really did the work. We felt several earthquakes today, in all--about 8. We have them regularly--but never before have we experienced more than one in a day. The Island of Ambryma (about 80 miles north has an erupting volcano on it. Perhaps that has something to do with our tremors. We have 4000' coraled now and ready for anything. I heard the Marston Mat wouldn't be here for another month so there may yet be a chance of using this field with nothing but a coral surface.
July 1, 1942Got a dispatch from ComAirSouPac today telling us that an enemy task force was 200 miles west of here at 10:30 a.m. We started a 6 plane patrol with 6 more on the alert and had all stations manned. We also had a dusk to dawn blackout. The Admiral sent another dispatch earlier asking if runway was satisfactory for Hudson Bombers. Our answer was affirmative since we had 4500' complete with 5000' to be ready tomorrow night.
July 2We started things a 4 a.m. expecting the worst. We patrolled constantly all day but things were rather dull. Discovered unofficially that the report concerning the enemy task force was unreliable and probably false. Completion date on the field will be held up a couple of days to remove some muck on the last 1000' of the runway. We expected a Hudson Bomber today, but, of course, were disappointed.
July 3The Admiral, ComAirSouPac, came in today and was literally shocked over the progress made on the runway. He promised us a bomber of sorts the first part of the week. I was called down to the C.G.'s for dinner and a conference concerning the expected move to the North.
July 4I went with the Admiral and General to Santo to look over the terrain for possible landing fields. I was disappointed after hearing so many favorable reports. The top soil is over two feet thick and must be removed. Saw the volcano in action on the Island of Ambrym. The lava is flowing right on down to the sea.
July 5Was called to a conference along with the Navy constructors down at the C.G.'s office. We were told to immediately select a site and start construction for a runway at Santo. The plan is to build an airway avenue up through the New Hebrides and then through the Solomons when we take them. Got word of a 13 warship--2 carrier enemy task force operating in the lower Solomons. This alerted us and might possibly mean trouble for us. Wouldn't this be a swell time for a task force of our own to be on the loose down here and which could contact this enemy force?
July 6I was ordered to select a site at Santos so took off with Wooley at 0900 and went up. We flew all around spotting the likely sites, then landed to look the over from the ground. We located a particularly good one and a few alternates. Had to remain all night. Noticed it less humid and warmer at night than in Efate'. We are getting reports of increased enemy activity in the Solomons.
July 7Returned from Santos today and found a B-26 on the field. They finally broke down and sent us something for a test. It had no trouble other than in taking off. The coral seems to retard take-off. A shipment of equipment left last night for Santos to construct the field up there. Orders were to have it by 28 July. I don't think it can be done with the men and equipment furnished. General Rose took a ride in the B-26 and was quite thrilled. It departed at 1400.
July 8We started removing the loose coral off the first 2000' of the runway in order to pack it more closely. It is believed it will greatly aid the take-off difficulties of the B-26.
July 9Everton gave us a thrill today. He landed after dark and ground looped. He wound up in a pile of soft sand and didn't do a bit of damage. Lady Luck is still with us. There is so little equipment left here that any progress for at least a month will be quite slow. The runway, at present, however, is satisfactory for any type airplane.
July 10The B-26 was supposed to come back today for another field test but postponed his trip till tomorrow. We have dragged, soaked, and rolled the field hoping it will prove satisfactory. Had lunch with the General today. They don't eat any better food than we. The food situation is getting critical in that the canned ration is becoming monotonous. We get little or no fresh meats and vegetables. General Rose went to Noumea in a PBY.
July 11The boys from New Caledonia are up to their old stunts again. We went to a lot of hard work to get the runway ready for another test and as yet they haven't shown up. A report came in that 3 planes, probably carrier based, and identified as enemy, were sited 350 miles S.E. of here. So far, we haven't heard any more than that. One of our enlisted men had an attack of appendicitis or kidney stone about midnight. We sent him down to the French Hospital.
July 12It seems that more happens on Sunday around here than any other day of the week. A PBY-5A landed on the field about noon bringing General Rose back from Noumea. They also brought in the tidings that a Marine Battalion had landed a Noumea and that 251 was over there equipped with F4F-3P's in crates. I sent word over for the boys to come and see us.
July 13Had a row with Capt. Porter, USN (MC), the force medical officer over the disposition of a few huts. I think I won the battle, temporarily. 6 PBY's came for a daylight raid tomorrow on Tulagi. They asked for some of our incendiary ammunition which we gladly gave them with our blessings. Here's hoping they can put it to good use as we have the info that the Japs have 13 bombers anchored in the bay there.
July 14Six PBY's made a daylight rain on Tulagi. No one around here has heard how they made out. The runway is getting very dusty due to lack of rain for about 8 days.
July 15A B-26 came in today for the test we had been waiting for. He liked it much better and even took off down wind to see if it would give him a better take off with full load. He took the General for a ride up to Santo. When he returned he said the field was laid out so that he couldn't approach it. I wouldn't believe him since I had made it clear just where the field was to be.
July 16I went to Santo this a.m. to check up on the field layout. Sure enough, much to my consternation--it was being laid out differently than I had instructed and was consequently too difficult to approach. I had them change it and told them I would check their work again on Saturday. I went to Noumea in the Duck for the purpose of seeing ComAirSouPac. I wanted certain info about a B-17 squadron, 350 men, & 35 officers, which is to come here soon. I stayed aboard the Curtis and had a couple of good meals.
July 17Had quite a talk with the Admiral and his chief of staff-now Capt. Gardner. We interchanged a lot of information of great concern to both of us. Had an awful time getting the Duck started since the starter was stuck. We drifted about a mile down stream and were finally rescued by a whale boat. It took us an hour and a half to get it fixed and barely made it back to Efate' before dark. Col. Johnson was here to meet me with the information that Gen. Rose had gone to Santo to look into the runway situation and was to stay there awhile. We dedicated the recreation hall tonight with a band concert as the main attraction.
July 18Took a fighter up to Santos this a.m. to check the work on the runway up there. The new alignment will be O.K., although not perfect.
July 19Beanie & I flew over to Tontouta today in 2 wildcats. Stout and I started back and had difficulty due to water in our gas. We returned to Tontouta after getting 75 miles out. Got to see John Hart, Fog Hayes, Soupy Campbell, & others that I knew. They are a well equipped squadron and it may be that we will eventually get tied up with them. 2 B-26's brought 4 P-39's over from New Caledonia and took 3 of our fighters back. Our boys are to give their boys the dope.
July 20Stout and I flew back from Tontouta today. It was mighty closed in around here when we arrived giving me a few uneasy moments. A Lockheed Hudson flew in from the Figi Islands today to look the place over. They took off right away for their return trip. They liked the field very much--using 2500' for landing and 2000' for takeoff. The 4 Army pilots got their first gunnery flights off today. We have had about 5 days of continuous spasmodic rains. Was called to another conference with the General concerning some of the aviation construction problems. Was ordered by dispatch from ComAirSouPac to make the final reconnaissance of Santa Cruz. Started to go by boat to Santo but due to a mine reported adrift we couldn't go.
July 21Got up bright and early, climbed aboard a PBY and went to Santo. The pilot, a (j.g.) named Chase, was the one who spotted the Jap Striking Force at Midway. We shifted to another PBY at Santo and cruised on up to Santa Cruz. We looked and we searched and could only find one possible location. Murphy, the pilot, (and, incidentally, the one who flew Walt Baylor out of Wake) tried to make a landing so we could reconnoitre on foot, but he hit so hard the first attempt that he knocked a few rivets out of the hull. We came back without landing there and had to make a night landing here at Havannah Harbor. We hadn't had anything to eat all day, (10 1/2 hrs. flying) so we took on a few flapjacks and turned in.
July 22I had Chick bring the Duck up to Havannah Harbor to pick up Cmdr. Hepburn and I. We took him to the field then departed for a reconnaissance of the Torres Group. We found absolutely nothing there in the way of a possible Fighter strip. We landed at Santo for refueling and in the mean time had a look at the new field. It is coming along quite rapidly but I don't see how they could have it finished by the 28th. We got back to Roses at 1400 which gave me a total of more than 16 hours flying in two days. And was I tired?!
July 23The first B-17 came in today. He liked the field very much but said the approach was difficult for a B-17. Gen. Rose and myself flew up to look at the field at Buttons in the B-17. The pilot told us to be ready for 9 of them either tomorrow or the day following. John Hart came over this evening from Tontouta to spend a couple of days.
July 24We took Hart to Santos in the Duck tgo give him a look at his future home. The work is progressing very rapidly up there and it is entirely possible that they may have it finished on schedule. Mrs. Bladinieres entertained the pilots with a nice little party tonight. We made a lot of arrangements for the 9 B-17's today but they didn't show up. Perhaps tomorrow.
July 257 B-17's flew in today from the Sneva area for a visit of a few weeks. They all seem very pleased with the field, quarters, and mess we have set up for them. Hart left us today but I presume we'll be seeing his entire squadron here in a few days stopping off on its way to Santos.
July 26A B-17 from New Caledonia brought our 3 fighters over but fooled around town buying beer and whatnot until 4 p.m. before getting ready to leave so I refused to let our 3 fighters leave. They will go in the morning instead. We had quite a day of recreation and amusement, our first. Had a baseball game--officers vs. enlisted. The officers won it with ease. Then there were all sorts of races, such as: 3 legged, relay, leapfrog, wheelbarrow, etc. It wound up with a tug o' war and band concert. I would say that a very merry time was had by all.
July 27Work is progressing very rapid on our huts. It will be only a matter of a few days until all hands are in out of the weather and mosquitoes. The B-17's took a familiarization flight to the North. One escorted 3 of our fighters to Tontouta. This is getting like a big city Municipal airport all of a sudden.
July 28Well--believe it or not--we landed the SNJ and 2 fighters at Santos today. It could have handled B-17's in an emergency but will be completed in about 2 more days. I flew the General in the SNJ so that he could say he was the first to land at Santos--the field which he is greatly responsible for.
July 29General Rose and I landed the first plane (the SNJ) at Quoin Hill and then went with the first B-17 to land at Button. Rec'd the secret orders for the coming offensive.
July 307 of the B-17's from here went to Button to spend the night and make an attack on the Solomons early next a.m. 4 others came in here from Nandi and New Caledonia to do the same. Gasoline came so most of the night was utilized in hauling same. Looking back over the relatively short space of time that we have been here it is almost impossible to realize what has been accomplished. Two 6000' fields have been constructed suitable for any type aircraft besides the many little odds and ends in the way of facilities.
July 31What was left of the B-17's here took off--refueled at Button and joined the group there for a raid on Guadalcanal. They all got back OK with no opposition other than poor anti-aircraft. A total of 15 B-17's and 2 Hudsons spent the night here. There is to be another raid tomorrow. Gen. Harmon, AAC, came in for a visit. I was invited down to Gen. Rose's for a conference.
August 1, 1942I took Lt. Col. Berquist, radar expert, to Santos in the SNJ and reconnoitered for a radar site. We picked one on the N.W. coast and returned. Went aboard the Cape Flattery for chow. Had several course steak dinner with champagne. There were 18 B-17's on the field tonight. During the night a B-17 tried to take off from too close to the right hand side of the runway. His right wing tip clipped a tree and through (sic) him into another B-17 parked on the shoulder--washing out two of them.
August 2Spent most of the day getting 251 fixed up with a radar. Got it loaded aboard the Aldrich along with a water trailer, white gas, & kerosene. Went to a big staff conference at 4 p.m. The Gen. layed the cards on the table and demanded close cooperation for the coming offensive. 2 of the Bombers came back today with a few bullet holes. They met a little opposition from Zeros on floats. Another exchange of fighters and pilots was made with New Caledonia. 2 B-26's escorted the flights. Chick was the senior one this trip.
August 3Boy o' Boy--what a day! First I was informed that the Aldrich didn't take the radar to Santos after all. Next, I was surprised by Cmdr. Cromelin and Lew Bauer coming in off the Ent. to bring us belly tanks. Then Lou Kirn, Col. Moss, etc. came in off the Sara. Then Adm. McCain & Capt. Gardner came in by PBY-5A. We had better than 50 airplanes on the field yesterday including 9 different kinds. The Adm. was worrying how he was going to get Fighters up to Guadalcanal after it was taken. I made him a suggestion that he thought was excellent. I suggested having the carrier fly us a few F4F-4's in here for us to fly to the Solomons and use up there until permanent replacements came.
August 4This has been a bad day for the local Army-Navy- & Marine Corps forces. The Navy lost a destroyer up at Santos from hitting a mine. The Army lost a B-17 at Guadalcanal from a Zero flying into it. We lost a plane at Santos piloted by Drury. He crashed in the sea about 10 miles off shore. He was picked up but we do not know the extent of his injuries. Four more B-17's came in from Nandi. Builds up our force to about 22. Sent Wooley to Noumea for Gen. Rose to deliver a very important letter to Gen. Patch.
August 5I went to Santos in a B-17 in order to check up on the Drury affair. He was cut up badly and probably will be held on the Curtis for a few days due to pneumonia possibilities. I co-piloted a B-17 home and got to land it. It never rains but what it pours. I was told that Wooley didn't get to Noumea yesterday and that a search for him today proved negative. He had Lt. King and Cpl. Papke with him.
August 6I was told early this a.m. that Wooley was found about 10 miles off Noumea. I presume they are all O.K. He probably got lost in the soup and put it down or ran out of gas. I sent 3 Fighters to Buttons this a.m. and Massey got separated from the formation. He lost himself and finally had to land in the ocean out of gas. We searched all day for him but no luck. Will continue tomorrow.
August 7Oh Joy! I found Massey at 10:30 today way up on the North West tip of Santos. He sure was glad to see me. He had been on the beach for 26 hours. We got plenty of food, water, blankets, matches, etc. to him and arranged for a pick up boat to pick him up. Beanie found a missing bomber crew on the coast of Santos.
August 8Sent off a dispatch relative to the poor readiness of the squadron. Asked for replacement of aircraft--Army type. Gen. Rose sent for me to come up to Buttons. Had to locate them a fighter strip. Spent night aboard the Curtis and saw the movie. Beanie took the Admiral's Duck up to look at the Radar site on N.W. Santos. He landed and couldn't get it started so had to spend the night.
August 9I took off to look for Beanie and found him stranded on the beach on N.W. corner of Santos. He wrote in the sand that he needed a starter mechanic. We flew back and arranged for one to go up the in an OS2 U3. Came back to Roses about noon. Chick and the boys came back from P.D.G. Four more Army pilots came over but the previous four must wait for transportation back to P.D.G.
August 10It started raining in the middle of the night and it poured until about 0800. It rained off and on all day. In all I am convinced there was a fall of at least 3". The field was very wet in spots but could have been used in an emergency. The fighters operated all day without trouble.
August 11John Hart brought his squadron in today for refueling and noon chow. He was escorted by a B-26 and a Hudson. ComAirSouPac sent for me so I went up via the B-26. He told me to locate another bomber field and two more fighter strips. This makes a total of 2 bomber fields and 3 fighter strips for Santo. Spent the night aboard the Curtis.
August 12Took a boat from the Curtis with Bill Painter to look over Aore for a field. It would handle a runway in good shape. Finished this job about 2 p.m. and went to the field. Brought home our 7 fighters. There seem to be a million and one ships at Santo. They are all to be unloaded and there just aren't any facilities for same.
August 13Took the SNJ to Santos to look over the area again for possible runway sites. It looks as though it's going to be a tough job as there are so few possibilities. Spent the night at 251 after a big conference at the Seaplane base. Saw Col. Arthur and Van Ness. Heard all the dope about the battle at Guadalcanal. How the Jap cruisers surprised ours--about the 40 plane bomber attack--about the sinking of the Astoria, Vincennes, & an Australian cruiser--about the landing of our raiders and parachute troops--losses, etc.
August 14The Admiral called for me today and told me to supply at least twelve experienced fighter pilots to fly some Marine F4F-4's off the Long Island into Guadalcanal. The squadron having same are too inexperienced for the job. Came back to Roses just before dark.
August 15Gen. Harmon, accompanied by still another General, visited here today. I gather that they are getting things ready for ferrying fighters up to the Solomons.
August 16Got a dispatch which said the Wm. Ward Burroughs would be in today. It has Group 23 gear aboard. The radar finally got away on the Lowell to do to Button.
August 17The Long Island pulled in today with 1 VF and 1 SBD squadron. Charlie Fike (Exec. of Gp. 23), Ray Scollins (Hqtrs), Smitty, Rivers, & Carl (VF) and Mangrum, Brown, Prosser (VSB). I am giving them 8 of my pilots in exchange for 4 of theirs.
August 18The Long Island shoved off with Everton and Hamilton aboard. We received our 3 pilots from them--Marvin, Canfield, and Winter. Hughes will fly in their SNJ (ours of today) on the return trip. Got a dispatch informing Beanie and I that we had been promoted with the rank of Major and Lt. Col. respectively from the 7th of Aug. Boy! What a surprise!
August 19Took an engineer up to look at Quoin Hill. We decided to restrict it to a fighter field. A mat will have to be put down for operation during wet weather. I asked for another survey of South Bay in as East-West direction.
August 20Went up to Button today to look over the airdrome situation. They have started work on the first fighter strip. Most of Mathis' gear is now aboard the Tyler and will be sent back to Roses. Had a good long talk with ComAirSouPac about our little problems and found him in a very generous and receptive mood. Talked with Painter over the selection of airdrome sites.
August 21Came back to Roses this a.m. and brought two bags of mail. Col. Melvin Maas was in town but I was too busy to spend much time with him. Rec'd a whole slew of promotions for the boys and it was surely a task selecting the winners. 5 P-400's came in and then departed for Buttons for further transport to Cactus.
August 22Took Mathis around in the SNJ looking for possible air fields. Pickin's are mighty few. Col. Maas came out and we had quite a Bull fest. I showed him around--expressed a few of my recommendations, opinions, and criticisms.
August 23Was called down at 10:00 for a Staff meeting at Gen. Rose's office. He left hurriedly for a trip to Guadalcanal in the PBY-5A. He sure gets around. Took Cmdr. Hepburn all over the island showing him the Quoin Hill fighter strip, the proposed sites at South Bay, and Havannah Harbor. 10 P-400's came in escorted by 2 B-26's . The fighters will remain here until ordered to go to Guadalcanal via Buttons.
August 24We opened our officer's mess today. It really is a nice one. The food tastes much better now. A number of B-17's landed last night shot up a bit. They had had contact with some zero's up to the NE of Malaita. They claim they saw a normal size task force operating with one carrier. Mayhew landed with his wheels up but I think we can fix it up OK.
August 25One of 223's boys (Winter) let a fighter get away on take off and then tried to stop it with too much brake. He nosed completely over but it didn't do too much damage. We got it right side up without any further damage. The pilot ? was not hurt. Saw some bullet holes in the B-17's that made contact yesterday. Heard lots of good rumors today. One that the Marines up at Cactus had disposed of 10-12 zeros' and a number of bombers. Another that the Army plus our carrier planes had disposed of 2 Jap cruisers. Let's hope there is some truth in it all.
August 263 of our boys came back from Cactus with some tall hair raising experiences behind them. We sent all but Marvin up to Smitty's outfit of the 4 who were here. MacLeod had a cut knee from a Jeep accident up there and Freeman was a little sore from a parachute jump. They reported Taylor missing in action. John Cronelin came in off the Ent. with a F4F-7 for John Hart and a TBF to get back on with. The Ent. is out of action due to 3 bomb hits aft starboard.
August 27Went to Button and delivered the F4F-7. Took Freeman along to tell experiences to ComAirSouPac, who really got a terrific kick out of it. Noticed gas drums floating out to sea. Took a look at the new fighter strip, which had approx. 1000' rough graded. It was raining cats and dogs. The roads were extremely slippery. Freeman and I climbed aboard the Curtis without a dry stitch on our backs. The weather was clear when we returned.
August 28The Kitty Hawk and escort arrived this A.M. I went aboard with Capt. Gardner. Saw Col. Wallace, Walt B., Bob G., John Dobbin, Armistead, Leo Smith, etc. 3 of my boys were catapulted. All planes will come here first to be refitted and refueled before going to Button. Col Wallace and Walt stayed with us. We had a total of approx. 10 B-17's, 29 SBD's, 3 TBF, 3 J2F, 2 SNJ, 19 F4F-4's, and 16 F4F-3A's. Hamilton returned from Cactus. He sure did a nice piece of work. (2 zeros' and 4 bombers)
August 29All of group 23's fighters and SBD's got off to Santo today but not in time to go on up to Cactus. It is remarkably fantastic how well the boys are doing at Cactus. I hope this success holds out. They will soon get replacement. This has been a hectic day. Walt stuck around and we had a good time reminiscing the good old days in Quantico and North Island. Adm. Blandy, several other brass hats, and the Under Sect. Nav. said he had seen Adm. Byrd just two days before he left Washington and that Adm. Byrd had made a very strong report.
August 30Walt shoved off at 0700 this a.m. Wooley took their other J2F. Both will be flown up to Cactus by way of Santa Cruz or Vanikora. Giving all the boys a lesson in Dog fighting today. I am discovering that they need it badly.
August 31Got in a few more dog fighting lessons today. We flew more hours this month than last and on top of that had 8 of our boys up at Guadalcanal. Everton, King, and Bastian returned today. That's all accounted for now. Poor Red--we'll miss him. Our boys got credit for eleven Japs up there but they know they got about ten more than that. All told there have been over 60 Japs shot down up there to date.
September 1, 1942Had a very busy day in the office. Got off a dispatch to Sec. Nav. on Red Taylor and a letter to his folks. A very disagreeable task. Got Pay Master Adams belonging to Group 23 set up here but don't know how long he will stay.
September 2Lt. Cmdr. Simpler came in with 28 F4F-4's off the Sara. She took a fish and was disabled. She will leave her planes in this area and go back East for repairs. We got the personnel quartered and messed at Irikiki and Malapola Pt. Don't know how long they will stay, but ComAirSouPac probably has something in store for them.
September 3Our FD-4 surprised us with a visit early this A.M. with Gen. Geiger, Col. Woods, P.K. Smith, and Toby Munn aboard. They couldn't stay long since they were headed for Cactus but promised us a long visit on return. Let Everton and King go to Noumea for a couple days relaxation after their ordeal at Cactus.
September 4Got 6 SBD's ready for transfer to the Wasp. Lou Kirn paid me a visit today from Button. He came here chiefly to get a few supplies. We had our first rain in weeks. The ground lapped it up like a sponge. Got word today that King, Stout, and Faulkner made 1st Lt. as of 1 Sept.
September 5The 6 SBD's took off for Tontouta this A.M. An RD4 from Tontouta brought over 4 fighter pilots to transfer 4 of VF-5's 28 F4F-4's to the Wasp. This all will leave me 24 F4F-4's, 8 SBD's besides what we have in 212. The rain continued today.
September 6Took a look at the new fighter strip up at Havannah Harbor. It is expected to be ready within two weeks. That will give me a place to put all these fighters. We are still having rain and very cloudy weather. I was worried about Everton and King coming back in the duck from Noumea--but they made it OK.
September 7Got word to transfer 6 F4F-4's of VF-5 to Button for further transfer to Cactus. Sigman flopped a fighter over on its back by applying brakes at the end of its run. Guess we'll have to make him fly with his shoes off. Still having cloudy weather with occasional showers.
September 8Simpler (VF-5 Sq. Cdr.) took 8 fighters to Buttons and talked Capt. Gardner into letting him take all 8 to Cactus. I took the SNJ up and back--saw Gardner and Gen. Rose. Took a look at the new fighter strip at Button. They have 1500' completed. It will be a nice field. Grounded Mayhew for good. He has been causing discontent among the pilots. A few small showers again today.
September 9It sure rained a peckful today. Water was standing everywhere. The edges of the runway and most of the revetments were washed out pretty severely. Flaherty was showing the boys how he could cut himself through a wall of human flesh and climaxed his antics by stabbing his knife through his leg. Anything for a laugh! He's the talk of the camp.
September 10We had quite a distinguished visitor today. The first B-24 to land here brought in Gen. Emmons, U.S.A. He wanted to know all about our Morale, recreation, physical condition, etc. I didn't hold back--I let him have it. It started another steady downpour about 4 p.m. 3 DC-3's were in today. One from Tontouta and 2 from Guadalcanal with casualties.
September 11They called for the remainder of VF-5 at Cactus. The first 8 hadn't left Buttons yet so that meant a flight of 24 F4F's. They will surely be a welcome sight to the hard pressed Marines. No rain today and a good thing. There were 3 cases of malaria, I say as a result of the wet weather. Chick really has it bad.
September 12I sent 8 of my pilots to Buttons in the SNJ (which I flew) and 7 SBD's. 5 of them (Beanie in charge) flew aboard the Wasp in TBF's to fly F4F-4's off to Cactus. Haring was lost at Cactus due to oxygen failure. I brought the SNJ and SBD's back. 6 more of my pilots went to Buttons to help stand alert. All their pilots had gone aboard the Wasp, too.
September 13Rogers and I took off before dawn and flew to Buttons on ComAirSouPac's orders. That was all the able bodied pilots left in the squadron. They expected a dawn attack. They flew the fighters in off the Wasp and hadn't been on the ground an hour when they were ordered to take off. Some of our people made contact. Haring and Chamberlain were lost.
September 14All 251's pilots returned from Cactus so our pilots returned to Roses to get our planes and take them to Buttons. They are still expecting a raid since the Japs are concentrating quite a force up North. We flew eleven planes up. Two gave us trouble.
September 15Took the dawn patrol--getting off before daylight. We weren't raided, of course. Sent my two troublesome planes back to Roses. 15 Hornet SBD's were supposed to land at Button about dark. 5 were lost. These boys gave us the sad news that the Wasp had been sunk, the North Carolina damaged, & a D.D. sunk by subs. That certainly changes the aspect of this South Pacific battle. Am wondering now what will become of the boys at Cactus.
September 16251 took the dawn patrol today. Still we weren't raided. They are bringing in 3-4 loads of wounded in the DC-3's each day. Understand the 7th Div. landed at Cactus today. That will help a lot. I returned to Roses alone this p.m. to get a stove, some towels for Gen. Geiger, and 15 of my men on a plane for Cactus. Heard that Carl returned to Cactus airport after being in the hills living with Natives for several days. Hooray!
September 17Admiral Fitch (relieving Adm. McCain), Col. Maas, and some more high rank came by to see me today but missed me as I was down at Army Hdqtrs. Said they'd be back in a couple of days. Two of my pilots came back from Buttons, due to feeling ill. Visited the new fighter strip at Havannah and located the area for plane hides and camp.
September 183 of my planes and pilots started out for Buttons. One returned due to prop trouble. Our planes are approaching a rapid state of deterioration due to lack of spare parts. Doc Martin shoved off for a trip to Cactus. They need doctors or corpmen to ride the evacuation planes to take care of injured in transit. A B-26 was lost tonight. Later heard they all bailed out at Buttons.
September 19Some more distinguished visitors today. Some staff people from Australia on their way through picking up dope on the general situation at each base. We gave them the usual battle cry.
September 20Col. Mel Maas came thru today on his way to Noumea and thence back to the good old U.S.A., where he hopes to be able to do us some good out here.
September 21Four full colonels from Cactus came through today on their way to a rest. Too bad all the aviators and troops couldn't be going thru, too. Certainly hearing a lot of rumors about replacement these days. Sent up a lot of supplies to Cactus today. They'll sure be glad to see the stuff. Cots, juices, rain coats, screen, candy, etc.
September 22Went up to Buttons to check up on my SNJ which left here Sat. for Buttons and hasn't returned. Found out it never got to Buttons. Reported incident to the Curtis and arranged for search. Called on Gen. Rose and then went out to see Adm. Fitch. He agreed that our outfit should be relieved but that it wouldn't be done just yet. Might be able to send our sick pilots back now. Returned to Roses about 1600. They finished laying 500' of mat on the runway. Was called late at night and informed that the SNJ was found and the pilot and passenger. Notified the Curtis. Faulkner had a forced landing on the beach at Buttons.
September 23Got an early start to go pick up the pilot and rear-seat man of SNJ up on an island named Tongon. Took 2 fighters and the Duck. We flew all around the place but couldn't locate them. Arranged by dispatch a more definite rendezvous tomorrow. Gen. Harmon came through today and asked me a few questions about what I needed for the field. I told him, "more personnel."
September 24I laid in bed today so that a case of athletes foot would have a chance to heal. Sent some coils to Gp. 23 which belonged to VF-5. Have all sorts of supplies for the boys at Cactus awaiting transportation. The Army Q.M. is doing all right by the Marines. Several LB-30's and B-17's arrived today. Picked up Jensen and Latimer this a.m.
September 25With Xmas only 3 months away it doesn't look too encouraging that we'll be home for it. A few more B-17's came & left today. I guess there are 12 new ones in the area.
September 26Flew to Buttons today with a lot of official mail and medicine. I wanted to see Parmalee but he was down in Noumea. Had a good visit with John H. and Fog and returned. Kid Dennett called me tonight so I got up out of an early bed and went down to the dock to see him. I brought him out and showed him our camp at night just in case he might leave the next day. Had a pleasant evening talking over old times. He is skipper of the McDonough, a two stacker D.D.
September 27Kid didn't shove off today so I had him and two of his officers out to dinner. After dinner we took them all up for a ride in the SNJs. Soupy Campbell had flown down in one from Santo. Soupy went back after becoming very envious of our camp and set up. Kid stayed with me all day. Played several games of A-O (score 5-3).
September 28I left Roses at 0200 for Cactus--arriving there about 0745. Went up in a DC-3 to clear up a few administrative problems and talked them into giving me a plane for any air raid that might materialize. Well--the Japs came through in noble fashion. They brought over 27 bombers and about 30 zeros. We got 132 mile warning so had all our fighters up stairs to give them a welcome. We shot down 23 bombers and 1 zero. All our fighters returned safely--one had to make a deferred forced landing. I got credit for one Jap bomber. Am going to return in a couple of days and try to increase said total. Will try to run a rotation of about 4 of my pilots at a time up there until all who want to go have had the opportunity. It was the greatest sight of my whole life to see the Jap bombers fall out of the sky like flies. I saw all the gang besides Gen. Geiger, Col. Woods, Lt. Cooley, Frank Daily, Toby, Walt, Joe Renner, Ray Scollins, Charlie Fike, Col. Wallace, Smitty, Gale, Dobbin, Armistead, etc., etc.
September 29Left Cactus at 0930 on a DC-3 after a poor night's rest on a bare cot with one blanket. I'll do better for myself next time. Stopped in at Buttons to square away the transfer deal on Payas, etc. Arrived in Rose at 1630, tired but with a rejuvenated spirit. They had a small amount of rain in Roses today. Badly needed.
September 30Went to Buttons today in a fighter to see Parmalee and ComAirSouPac. Got permission to take 4 of my pilots per week to Cactus for combat experience. It actually rained up there today. Came back at 1715.
October 1, 1942Arose at 0130 and departed in an R4D-1 for Cactus at 0200. Took Faulkner, Flaherty, and Watkins. We arrived at 0735. It had rained the & night previously and the field was very wet & muddy as a result. No raids were attempted by the Japs. At about 2045 a Jap plane slipped in and dropped 3 bombs--doing no damage. It was practically impossible to sleep due to SBD's turning up and taking off at all hours of the night.
October 2At about 0345 a couple of Jap planes came in and dropped about 6 bombs--again doing no damage. We took off at noon to meet an enemy air raid. I had Faulkner and Watkins on my wing and we were never able to get joined up with our proper division leader. We waited at 30,000' indicated for the bombers which never came while several of our boys fooling around at 23-25,000' were surprised by Zeros from above. Galer & 3 others are missing. Smitty had a forced landing about 4 miles from the field. Word came in this evening that Galer was over on Salagi and was OK . That was some relief. There is artillery & machine gun firing going on day and night. Still was unable to get any sleep. "Maytag Charlie" was over again tonight by didn't drop.
October 3Galer was brought home this morning and told of a very exciting and amusing experience. The Japs came today about the usual time but left their bombers behind. Our division (6 planes) led by Capt. Carl dove on 10 zeros. We got 3 on the first pass. They all shoved right away leaving me to play with the zeros all by myself. I definitely shot down four and might have got more. At the end of the affair I noticed a parachute going down in the water when suddenly a zero came out of nowhere and fired a very long burst at the dangling pilot. This infuriated me and I went after the zero with much gusto. I know I scored several hits on him and chased him away smoking. I'm positive he didn't get his plane back to his base. I returned to the field nearly out of gas--jumped in another plane and went back to locate the parachutist for rescue. The boy's name was Frazier--one of Smitty's favorites. 2 Japs were back again about 2100. A Jap task force wes expected about 2230 but didn't show up.
October 42 more planes were over the field early this a.m. and dropped 2 bombs. The 37 mm boys opened up on them. No Jap raid today although we were standing by our planes at noon rather expecting one.
October 5A single plane came over early this a.m. and dropped one bomb. The Japs didn't spring a raid today either. Our SBD's and TBF's have been kept busy day & night bombing would-be task forces. Our boys have met with considerable success. I was presented with a historic Japanese Battle flag today for my successful attack on the zeros the 3rd. I in turn presented it to Group 23. It will be put on display in the Marine Corps Trophy room in Quantico, Va.
October 6There was no excitement today other than the bombing of Jap task force. I took a 2 plane fighter escort out for a photo plane. On the way back to the base we had a dog fight and I was later told that my adversary had accidentally fired his guns at me. I really am a lucky fellow.
October 7Left Cactus at 0600 by R4D-1. Arrived Roses at 1050. Found we had acquired 37 F4F-4's at Roses. Maybe we will get to Cactus in a group yet. Also found Gordon Bell in here with a squadron of SBD's ready to go to Cactus. He and Beanie went up to talk it over with Capt. Gardner.
October 86 group 14 SBD's left here this a.m. for Buttons. A navy crew of SBD mechanics came in from Buttons to fix up the 16 SBD's whose hydraulic gear didn't seem to function properly. They fixed them up in no time. In the meantime, however, the pilots and gunners went to Noumea. I received a letter of commendation from Adm. McCain for work I had done while he was ComAirSouPac. Also received a letter of commendation from Gen. Geiger for my activities on Sept. 28 at Guadalcanal (1 bomber). It is a grand and glorious feeling to get patted on the back for one's efforts. Makes one really want to do things. Had the colored band out for the boys tonight. They really enjoyed it.
October 9Work is continuing on the field touching up the runway here and there and rebuilding some of our revetments which were torn up to put in the mat. Gen. Rose and Gen. Lynd came in from Buttons on a B-24. Gen. L. will leave for Noumea in the morning.
October 10MacLeod left us today on the Solace. He was transferred aboard for evacuation. Flew up to our fighter strip at Havannah Harbor. It is a very excellent field.
October 11A very quiet and dull day what with very few of our people here and all the planes being worked on. The field is being touched up to improve drainage. It's beginning to look much better. We need a rain very badly.
October 12Work continues on the field. The Hammondsport is enroute here from Buttons with all our F4F-3a's aboard with the exception of one--which will be loaded here. It is already on the barge along with 4 engines and some other gear waiting to be loaded aboard the minute she arrives. Beanie is on her, having remained at Buttons to supervise the pickling and loading.
October 13The Hammondsport arrived early and we had our stuff ready. The Army held them up a bit with their gear. Smitty, Carl, and rest of 223 came in about 2 p.m. They will at least stay over one day and maybe more. Would like to have them for a long time.
END OF THE DIARY KEPT BY HAROLD W. BAUER
October 14th sent the men of the 212th packing, this diary being stowed for the last time and probably left behind with personal gear. The men were ordered to ferry SBD's from Santo to Guadalcanal, return to Efate and bring their 19 F4F's to Guadalcanal. They arrived Cactus on the 16th amid an air raid. Joe Bauer proceeded to smoke four Zeros, saving the MacFarland.
Bauer was now Fighter-commander at Cactus and was kept busy. The men of 212 were relieved in early-November and shipped out for San Diego. Bauer was to follow.
The afternoon of November 14 found Bauer flying high cover for the strafing bombers. He went low and was set upon by 2 zeros. He bagged one while his wingmen pursued the other. Bauer was last seen alive, appearing healthy and unhurt, in the water with darkness approaching. The rescue plane was unable to get their before the night hid his location from fellow aviators. His body was never recovered.
Abbreviations and Codes:
Roses was code name for Efate
Buttons was code name for Espirito Santo
Cactus was code name for Guadalcanal
S., Sara. = USS Saratoga
H. = USS Hornet