TSgt. Allan #8
Note: Pictures added for clarity. Pictures are not necessarily originals from TSgt. Allan
Letter 08 Bats, Owls and our first Zero
The bats, or as they were known in the region, 'flying foxes' were as thick (in number) as the geese were. They were ugly looking things, very seldom seen in daylight, but were very active at night. Our own troops pulled guard, even with up to four stripes on their arms. As an aside, we never wore stripes because the Jap snipers picked them off first; also no officers wore iron for the same reason so you never knew who you were talking to, a private or a general! This was before the US ground forces were there. Each man had to take his turn, even the crew chiefs. I don't remember whether the plane on the line was retired for the day or not. The bats would rest in the trees near the guard areas -- the owls would do likewise, and they all would get tangled up in a free-for-all; you never heard a more horrible noise: screeching, screaming, fighting, and then a hundred more on each side would join in and help with the screaming. Myself, I stood stiff as a ramrod, my toes inside my shoes trying to dig into the dirt, hanging on for dear life to the nearest rest tree or bush, daring not even to breathe! They sometimes would attack a person if motion was seen! When things quieted down, and your spine took on its normal curve, you started walking your beat again -- until a few minutes later, when it started all over! The owls were even larger than the bats with average wingspread five to six feet. When one of those started diving towards you, with its large claws extended, the bright moonlight made it appear even larger than it actually was! "Scared stiffness" made one offer up one hell of a quick prayer! I know the steel helmet, at least once, prevented my scalp from appearing on an owl's lodge pole.
Water buffalo, like the cats, fox, and others were brought
in by early explorers to run wild! They say that in recent years they have wrought
devastating damage to much of the ecology of the north country. We had a "great
buffalo hunt" once. A group of off-duty pilots hitched up a bomb dolly
to a jeep, and set off down the unbeaten track. Sometime later, our heroes returned.
While still a few hundred feet away, we could see an enormous shape on the bomb
dolly, and the riders (hunters) were waving their arms wildly. Of course, we
were all very exited, thinking of the delicious steaks we were going to have
for the next several days -- that is, if any enlisted men got to partake of
the prize. However, everyone got a large taste when they cooked it. We had large
eyes, open mouths, and dripping tongues, while we waited for chow to begin!
Hungry mouths received the first slices, dripping with "au jus" bite.
Extremely famished guys, who had lived mostly on coconuts relished the morsel!
But, after chewing on the cud for five minutes and sucking out what juice there
was, we spit out the rest. It was absolutely inedible; the second bite was the
same. Again, after chewing, and chewing, and chewing, one came to the conclusion
you were going to leave the dinner table still hungry! Oh, what a bunch of deflated
guys there were. Oh, what a sad tale of woe!
The first Jap plane we saw up close was a zero. During a raid, a lone zero, checking out something, evidently left his protection position, and came zooming over the strip at probably one hundred feet. Most everyone was standing out in the open watching the bomber flight way over in the distance over the town of Darwin. It never occurred to any of us that it was an enemy craft until it was almost gone! Hidden AA guns, (presumably Aussie) let loose with rapid fire and scared us more than the zero did. We thought it or some other craft was laying a string of eggs. I, at least, never knew the large guns were around and I never saw them or heard them again. The zero must have gotten home, for we received a saturation bombing the next day.
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June 6, 2000