TSgt. Allan #5
Note: Pictures added for clarity. Pictures are not necessarily originals from TSgt. Allan.
Ballarat! A famous little town out in the middle of nowhere was well known all over the world except in the U.S. The gold strike in California was a child's sandbox compared to the one in Ballarat. It happened at the same time -- 1849. Untold millions were lost. Gold was so plentiful that no one wanted to fool with the dust or small pieces. They just wanted the large nuggets. The tailings, containing the dust and little nuggets were hauled out onto the city streets as paving. You've heard of the expression: "The streets were paved with gold." According to the immigrants from Europe, in Ballarat the streets actually were paved with gold! Gold was so plentiful that many statues and monuments were made of it and placed in the parks and along the streets. I believe the city itself caused this waste with their cut, licenses, fees, permits, etc. As the gold gradually petered out, and things returned to normal, the monuments slowly came up missing. Stolen of course, for that gold in them!
The Japanese invasion was imminent. Anyone in their right mind could see that Australia could not possibly defend the whole north coast. According to the "Rainbow Plan," the 49th Pursuit Group was sent as fast as possible to Darwin. Darwin was the most likely invasion point with it's deep harbor and docking facilities. We were to be the "patsies" until MacArthur, or someone, could form a defense line half way down the country (Gen. Mac came in at Darwin after we had been there for a while.) We heard of the intelligence reports that an invasion force of twenty one transport ships were bearing down on us. We were approximately 1000-noncombatants, plus a couple hundred from the 8th Pursuit Group. We were to stop those 100,000 Japs, The cream of the Nippon fighting men were sailing toward us in those twenty one transports. But I'm getting ahead of my story.
I told you before about those little bitty freight cars and the trouble all the different gages of tracks caused. Well, to bypass that problem, at Brisbane, the advance element of about twenty men (which I was in most of the time -- thanks and no thanks), boarded an old British four engine Empire Flying Boat. The engines were five hundred hours overdue -- oh, how they did rattle. We cared naught. Our great adventure was just getting started. En route, a night in a small coastal town hotel included a grand dance honoring the first Yanks. A bevy of young girls from around the countryside made us all feel quite at home. There were about ten girls to each of us (15 or 20 men.) Woman hater that I was, I escorted six of them home afterwards. I offered each one a tender Yank kiss good night. Early the next morning we piled back aboard that fearsome old wreck and followed the coast for a while. We then turned inland for the next hour. I listened to those cackling engines, and looked down at the bare ground. Holy-Moly, we were a long way from water! Our medium altitude was enough to glide for perhaps a mile . . . or maybe we would sink like a rock. But the engines stood up well. Once in a while, we could see great clouds of dust rising from the ground and it seemed to stretch from horizon to horizon. If you looked far ahead, you could see vast numbers of wild horses, cattle, and buffaloes stampeding. Thousands upon thousands probably the first time they ever heard an airplane!
After a long over dry land flight, we saw the great metropolis of Darwin. Darwin, the "the Pearl of the Orient" was no more! The Jap bombers left nothing standing except the cement plant -- they would use it to great advantage after they invaded the place. They saved one other place. They saved a large warehouse full of frozen meats. Meanwhile, the rest of our squadron formed a truck convoy, and proceeded to make more or less their own road to Darwin about three weeks later.
Continued to next letter
Return to Previous Letter
June 6, 2000