TSgt. Allan #9

Letter #9 "Aborigines, Uranium and Lizards"

Note: Pictures added for clarity. Pictures are not necessarily originals from TSgt. Allan

I guess I told you about so many aircraft compasses precessing, and of our planes sitting down in those long hard places that the Abos used for stomping for thousands of years. Well, there was a story that whenever an aborigine would get injured by fighting, falling down a cliff (very unlikely) or any other way seriously hurt, he would leave the tribe, go to a certain spot in the "Rum Jungle" area, find a particular mud hole, bury hAboimself clear to his jaw, and stay there for several days! When he thought it was time (by whatever sign) he would emerge, find another water hole, wash all the mud off, and examine himself. There would be hardly a scar on his body! Years later, when the Aussie government checked into it, and when they found the right wallow, they discovered high radiation. They equated the event to present day radiation treatments. It was known for many years but until the war was over no one had the gumption to be interested! In due time, in the "Rum Jungle" area was found the largest uranium deposits in the world. I saw a picture of the area a year or so ago, and the hole was like the grand canyon -- no bottom to it. You couldn't see across to the other side, and the length vanished over the horizon!

I think I told you about the "Bunyap' before, but I will repeat the story. The aborigine "Death's Head,"is called "Bunyap," or"Bunyip." It was a threat of death to whoever saw it or thought they saw it. Before this emblem came into use in the 7th Pursuit Squadron, they believed in so completely that they would be dead in a shorBunyapt time. For some reason or another, depending how they kept track of time, within a period of time the person was dead! . It was said by Aussie historians that the aborigine "willed" himself to death -- so staunch was his relief that he would die after seeing this sign. The 7th Squadron commander asked the War Department and was given permission to use this emblem. The reason it was chosen was that when the Japs saw it on the 7th planes. They supposedly knew they would die.

The Darwin area, and 29 Mile Airstrip in particular, was a hell hole if there ever was one! They were subject to Jap invasion at any time with no one to defend it except pilots and mechanics. Talk about jitters! Moreover, it was burning dry, more than one hundred degrees every day. There was this red dust four inches thick everywhere which got into every thing. It splashed up in flour-like clouds at every step. When it rained, it just didn't rain, it came down in tub-fulls so heavy that you could hardly see five feet away. In the rain, the red dust became red mud that splattered all over you if you were unlucky enough to get caught out in it. Shorts were the only thing worn most of the time, until the Army health department got into the act! But, by then it was too late! Most everyone had already made friends with skeeters, chiggers, and a multitude of other fellow creatures

In New Guinea it was the same, only up to twenty degrees hotter, and wetter. At Biak Island, we were only six degrees off the equator, and the temperature was about 130 degrees every day! In Darwin, the least of our enemies were the mosquitos. The lizards were something to stay away from. We kept the little ones (chameleons) in our bunk nets to keep down the hordes of other bugs that lay in wait for you! Among other things, in the hot, sweaty weather, the chigger bites or possibly the old carcases, come to the surface on my legs, like an attack all over again. Red, swollen, very itchy. In the early days, most everyone awoke with blood running down their legs from clawing at them with finger nails, or toe hails, between snatches of sleep. It very nearly closed down the line at times. From ankles clear up to the crotch, and on some of the guys even above that! Infected sores and lacerations kept guys in agony. With the advent of Gentian Violet, this stuff was kept under control, but we were a bunch of Purple Martins. One kid even had his head almost totally covered! I wrote my mother, asking if she had an age-old, old country treatment. She suggested salt and butter or lard. The grease would hold onto the skin and the salt would become the greatest healer of all time!

We had lizards! From the chameleons, those cute little playful creatures, to the larger ten foot man-eaters. There were two kinds of big ones: swamp ones, and a slightly smaller one, common in the central desert. A person might outrun one on dry ground, but the big ones along the coast, and backwaters could outrun any man through the jungle. If I had known the man-eater Monitor lizards were anywhere close to our operation, I would not have been so fearless. I was once chased by a lizard. It was only a four footer but it could have taken a healthy bite out of me! I'm sure you have heard stories about the huge Salt Water Crocs. Some of the 49th pilots had experiences with them when they were shot down and parachuted into the coastal swamps.

I guess I should mention the snakes! Twenty different kinds, all deadly poisonous except two. We thought they were only Black snakes, or Bull snakes or some such harmless kin! Whatever they were, we let them hide in our tents, They kept the ground rats dispersed. Which are worse: rats with rabies or snake bites?

I never did see a dingo (wild dog.) I heard them many times howling at the moon -- sometimes not far away. It Dingomade me feel like dropping through my bunk, sinking down into the ground several feet. Not being able to do that, the only thing to do was cover my ears tightly and then try going back to sleep but many times that didn't work either. A wolf howl sounds more pleasant!

The Darwin area, and the town itself, was supplied with potable water via a twelve-inch (?) cast-iron pipe that came two hundred or so miles from the East. It was painted green, and was mounted on concrete pillars about one to two feet high -- all out in the open, alongside the only track (dirt) that came from that direction. I don't know what happened at rivers or gorges, or high hills. It was there for anyone to see although perhaps not from any altitude. Anyway, being out in that hot sun all day, we had plenty of hot water for showers up until two or three o'clock in the a.m. It was awful stuff to try to drink since it was 100 to 200 degrees. We had a daily fear (among many) of being without water every time the Jap bombers came over. But, later, we got used to Lister bags, but they were the worse ordeal there ever was! As far as I know, the Japs never found the water pipe!

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