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In my first six weeks as COMSOPAC, our surface forces had to fight three savage battles. In addition, our troops on Guadalcanal were fighting daily and no less savagely. Tassafaronga, however, was followed by a lull, during which I was able to turn my attention, for the first time, to organizing my command and settling in for the long struggle ahead.
I have said that Miles Browning and Julian Brown were the only two officers on my staff who accompanied me to the South Pacific. The rest were aboard the Enterprise, which delivered them and certain key enlisted personnel at Nouméa on October 25, the day before the Battle of Santa Cruz. As I dug into my new job, I realized that the tremendous burden of responsibility which Bob Ghormley had been carrying was far beyond my own capacity. I have known too many commanding officers whose epitaph could be
I am a cook and a captain bold
And the mate of the Nancy brig,
And a bosun tight and a midshipmite
And the crew of the captain's gig.
I believe in delegating all possible authority. I called in my staff and told them, "There's a lot to be done. Look around, see what it is, and do it." Able as they were, the job swamped even them, and I had to supply them with more assistants. Before we were running smoothly, Operations alone was getting the full-time attention of twenty-five of my officers.
The Argonne was hopelessly inadequate for this increase. Not p137 only was she overcrowded, but she was not air conditioned, and the tropical summer was on top of us. I have always insisted on comfortable offices and quarters for my staff. Their day's work is so long, their schedule so irregular, the strain so intense, that I am determined for them to work and rest in whatever ease is available. Bob Ghormley had told me that he had wanted to move ashore but had been unable to find accommodations. I was going to find them or else.
Being well aware of the importance that French officials attach to decorations, I told Julian Brown to array himself in all his ribbons, with special emphasis on the Croix de Guerre and its fourragère, and sent him to call on the Governor of New Caledonia, M. . Julian made his politenesses, then explained our need for larger quarters.
Montchamp asked, "What do we get in return?"
Julian answered coldly, "We will continue to protect you as we have always done."
Montchamp reluctantly promised to see what he could do, and Julian took his leave. Nothing happened. Next day Julian received more empty promises. This continued for a month. Finally Julian told him, "We've got a war on our hands and we will continue to devote valuable time to these petty concerns. I venture to remind Your Excellency that if we Americans had not arrived here, the Japanese would have."
Montchamp shrugged. When I heard that, we simply moved ashore.
The offices "put at our disposal" had been the headquarters of the High Commissioner for Free France in the Pacific, Rear Admiral d'Argenlieu, who was enroute to San Francisco at the moment. This extraordinary character had served in the French Navy in World War I and had then become a Carmelite monk. He rejoined the Navy in World War II, was captured but escaped, was seriously wounded in the abortive Dakar coup in July, 1940, and arrived in Nouméa a year later. Here his insistence on the formal maintenance of French sovereignty so antagonized the New Caledonians — not to mention the British and Americans — that they put him under confinement in May, 1942. Maj. Gen. Alexander M. Patch, commanding the Americal Division, rescued him, however, and De p138 Gaulle made him acting head of the Fighting French naval forces. Still later, he became Assistant Chief of the General Staff of the Navy and when I last heard of him, was Governor of French Indo-China.
We were still overcrowded in our new offices, but not so badly as on the Argonne. Next we looked for living quarters and eventually established ourselves in a cluster of buildings constituting a miniature International Settlement — two Quonset hunts, which we christened "Wicky-Wacky Lodge;" one ramshackle French house, "Havoc Hall"; and, of all anomalies, the former Japanese consulate. Here we lived for the next nineteen months.
The consulate was one of the few brick houses in Nouméa, and its cool, airy hilltop commanded one of the most superb views I have ever seen. The consul himself had been sent to Australia for internment at the outbreak of war, but his household furnishings were still there, including the usual watercolor of Fujiyama, the usual embroideries of goldfish and geishas, and the usual dwarf pine in a pot. The chairs were so squatty that we felt as if we were sitting on the deck, and the tables hardly reached our knees. My Filipino mess attendants never became accustomed to my response when they broke a piece of the consul's china. Instead of bawling them out, I told them, "The hell with it! It's Japanese." But my deepest satisfaction came from a simple ceremony every morning, when the Marine guards raised the American flag over this bit of property which had once belonged to a representative of Japan.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff had fixed the original boundary between the South and Southwest Pacific areas at the 160th east meridian, but because this intersects Guadalcanal and would divide responsibility for that campaign, they later chose the 159th. To maintain equilibrium between the services, they appointed an Army officer, General MacArthur, Supreme Commander of the Southwest Pacific, and a Navy officer Supreme Commander of the South Pacific.
I emphasize "Supreme Commander" to establish the realization that MacArthur and I commanded everything in our respective areas — Army, Navy, Marines, and Allies; troops, ships, planes, and supplies. MacArthur reported only to General Marshall; I, p139 only to CINCPAC and, through him, to COMINCH. This was my first experience with a composite command, and I was determined that our job should not be slowed by interservice friction. I need not have worried. Archie Vandergrift was my other self, and the cooperation given me by Miff Harmon and his Chief of Staff, Brig. Gen. Nathan F. Twining, was ready and whole-hearted.
To make sure that this spirit penetrated the ranks, I summoned all my subordinate commanders and told them, "Gentlemen, we are the South Pacific Fighting Force. I don't want anybody even to be thinking in terms of Army, Navy, or Marines. Every man must understand this, and every man will understand it, if I have to take off his uniform and issue coveralls with 'South Pacific Fighting Force' printed on the seat of his pants."
I had already ordered all Navy men and Marines in the area to leave off their neckties. They were a discomfort in that climate, and tying and untying them consumed time; my real reason, though, was that the Army was not required to wear them, and I hoped that uniformity of appearance would encourage uniformity of action.
When the South Pacific campaign was over and we returned to Pearl, we found that CINCPAC's uniform of the day still included ties. Indoors at our quarters, though, we reverted to our informality. Our staff poet, Capt. Ralph E. Watson, had a plaque lettered and posted in our front hall:
Complete with black tie
You do look terrific,
But take it off here:
This is still South Pacific!
It was in 1943, I think, that the Navy Department introduced gray uniforms for officers and chief petty officers; anyhow, that's when they first appeared in the South Pacific. Most of us disliked them on sight. In fact, the Admiral always referred to them as "bus‑driver suits." Their unpopularity in our theater was so general that Washington issued a special bulletin, pointedly stating that grays had been authorized as an alternate uniform for the entire Navy, including every theater of the war.
p140 When the Admiral saw this bulletin, he hitched up his khaki trousers, pulled down the sleeves of his khaki shirt, and remarked to no one in particular, "The Department is absolutely right. Any Navy uniform should apply to the whole Navy, and officers and chiefs in my command are wholly at liberty to wear the damn things — if, that is, they are so lacking in naval courtesy and have such limited intelligence as to prefer dressing differently from the commander of the force."
We stuck to our khakis.
The lull that followed Tassafaronga gave us a chance to relieve the 1st Marine Division, which, with elements of the 2d and of the Army's Americal Division, had withstood the enemy, the jungle and malaria on Guadalcanal for four fearful months. (The Americal was the first American division to arrive in New Caledonia; hence its name.) On December 9, Archie Vandergrift turned over Guadalcanal to "Sandy" Patch of the Americal, and the Marines were transferred to Australia for the rest they had earned if ever men earned it.
In exchange, General MacArthur diverted to my area the Army's 25th Infantry Division, then en route from Oahu to Sydney, under Maj. Gen. J. Lawton Collins. I had known Joe Collins in Honolulu when he was a colonel — a small man, quick on his feet, and even quicker in his brain — and I was delighted to see him when he reported to me in Nouméa. He had great pride in his men. "The finest regular division in the Army," he said. "Give me three weeks to unload my transports and combat-load them, and I'll be ready to go anywhere. . . . Why, what are you laughing at?"
I told him, "Your division is leaving for Guadalcanal to‑morrow!"
Joe took it in his stride. Reinforced by the 147th Infantry and the unblooded 6th and 8th regiments of the 2d Marine Division, the 25th went into Guadalcanal and not only made a splendid record, but equaled it later in New Georgia and again in the Philippines. My respect for Joe Collins' men is as high as his own.
As December wore on, the New Georgia area attracted our attention more and more frequently. We had been warned at the end of November that the Japanese were constructing an airfield at Munda, on the southwest tip of the island, and on December 9 photographic reconnaissance showed that it was nearly completed. p141 An airfield •less than 200 miles from Henderson could not be ignored. Although our planes pounded it regularly, it was brought to operational shape, and "Zekes" began to use it. (Zekes are Japanese fighter planes, earlier known as "Zeros.") On the morning of December 24, we mustered our small air strength and shot the works. I put the results into a dispatch to CINCSOWESPAC, CINCPAC, COMINCH, and all my task-force commanders: 9 SBD's with 9 P‑39's plus 4 F4F's attacked Munda this morning × 4 attacking Zekes shot down × About 20 more caught attempting take‑off × 10 of these shot down in air by F4F's and remaining 10 or 12 grouped at end of runway destroyed by dive bombers × 2 others strafed in revetments × Weak AA fire silenced by SBD's × All planes returned safely × At 1800 9 SBD's covered by 4 each F4F's and P‑39's bombed 13 landing barges loaded with troops and supplies nearing Munda × 4 barges reached shore but few Japs escaped × Airport flown over at •50 feet no planes seen no AA fire received × This by way of Christmas greeting.
It is true that not only fighters but medium bombers were using Munda Field again within a week. Still, having hung up a record that day, we hung up our stockings that night with extra cheeriness. My staff procured some small, imitation Christmas trees, and our Filipino mess attendants festooned them with "flowers" carved from radishes and carrots.
Now I approach an incident which needs, I gather, some explanation. On New Year's Eve, the correspondents in Nouméa asked me to give them an interview and to make a few predictions for 1943. I did so. I said that we now had the initiative, that the Japs would keep on retreating, and that the end of 1943 would see us in Tokyo. I also made several passing references — some rather indelicate, perhaps — to Hirohito, Tojo, and others.
The "intemperate" tone of my remarks brought me considerable criticism. Even so, the remarks that appeared in print were a diluted version of what I actually said; Miles, Julian, and the SOPAC chief censor edited them and watered them down. The State Department may be right in its argument that it doesn't become an American admiral to sling billingsgate at the Japanese Emperor and his Prime Minister, but the correspondents had p142 asked for my opinion, not for my guess at what State hoped it was. So I said what I thought: the Japanese are bastards.
The severest criticism was centered on my prophecy about Tokyo. The production leaders at home put up a bellow that I could hear in Nouméa. They were terrified that labor would take my word as gospel and quit their war jobs. The draft authorities also complained, as did a lot of other officials. God Almighty, I knew we wouldn't be in Tokyo that soon! I knew we wouldn't be there even by the end of 1944. I may be tactless, but I'm not a damned fool!
What the civilian bigwigs didn't consider is this: my forces were tired; their morale was low; they were beginning to think that they were abused and forgotten, that they had been fighting too much and too long. Moreover, the new myth of Japanese invincibility had not yet been entirely discredited. Prior to Pearl Harbor, the United States in general had rated Japan as no better than a class‑C nation. After the one successful sneak attack, however, panicky eyes saw the monkeymen as supermen. I saw them as nothing of the sort, and I wanted my forces to know how I felt. I stand by the opinion that the Japs are bastards, and I stand by this one, too.
In fact, I stood by it, repeated it, and strengthened it two days later, in New Zealand. Ever since my arrival in the South Pacific, the New Zealand government had been pressing me to make a visit, but crises were recurring too frequently for me to risk being caught 1,000 miles behind my headquarters. Toward the end of December, Intelligence reported that no major actions seemed imminent, so I accepted the invitation, in order both to pay my official respects and to look over American personnel and equipment at our depots there.
Julian Brown, Bill Kitchell, and I took off from Nouméa in my Coronado on January 2 and reached Auckland that afternoon. The Prime Minister, Peter Fraser, courteously met me at the dock and accompanied me to our hotel. On the way, he told me that his country was still apprehensive about a Japanese breakthrough and was urging him to bring its divisions back from Africa, whereas Mr. Churchill and President Roosevelt were no less insistent that he leave them; they had warned him that General Montgomery's p143 slender forces might not be able to survive the depletion and that the Allies had no ships to spare as transports. Mr. Fraser expressed reluctance to jeopardize the Allied cause, but feared he would have to yield unless he could go before the war cabinet backed by a strongly reassuring statement from me.
I asked him, "What do you want me to say, and when and where?"
He told me that a number of editors and reporters were waiting at my hotel; if I would give them an interview in which I reiterated my New Year's Eve statement, they would circulate it throughout New Zealand, and his position would be fortified. I did so gladly, on condition that the interview be withheld, for the sake of security, until my return to Nouméa.
1) Following are extracts from this interview as printed in The New Zealand Herald for January 7, 1943:
"Interviewed at Auckland during the visit he has just made to New Zealand, the Commander-in‑Chief of the South Pacific Area, Admiral William F. Halsey, stood confidently to his recently cabled prediction of a complete Allied victory in 1943. 'That is right,' he said. 'We have 363 days left to fulfill my prediction and we are going to do it.'
". . . Questioned whether he was satisfied with the progress of operations against the Japanese, he replied, 'We have their measure in the air, on and under the water, and on the land. When we first started out against them I held that one of our men was equal to three Japanese. I have now increased this to twenty. They are not supermen, although they try to make us believe they are."
"Asked whether Japanese naval tactics were difficult to meet, Admiral Halsey said, 'Like everything else about them, they are tricky, but not too hard to fathom. There is nothing to be worried about in their tactics. Any normal naval officer can lick them.'
" 'What do you expect Japan's next move will be?' Admiral Halsey was asked.
" 'Japan's next move will be to retreat,' he said. 'A start has been made to make them retreat. They will not be able to stop going back.'
". . . Questioned whether the forces in the combat area under his command were now confident of the future, Admiral Halsey characteristically said, 'I would not say that they are now confident. There is a feeling of continuing confidence.'
p144 ". . . Throughout his interview Admiral Halsey did not bombast. Even when making what the Japanese would consider the most outrageous statements of their character and their fate, his tone did not rise above a level of firmness.
"His confidence was clearly immense, but the expression of it was even and not in declamatory statements. It was so great and so obviously no bigger than his conviction that it was infectious, and as statement succeeded statement it became very clear why it is said of Admiral William 'Pudge' Halsey by his officers and men that they would follow him to Hell. He is a man whose confidence could clearly win battles."
2) Following is an extract from an editorial in the same issue of the same newspaper:
"Few people can live up to their reputations. Admiral Halsey is one of them. The bold actions fought in the Gilberts, the Marshalls, and the Solomons had made of him a legend for enterprise and hard hitting. His recent visit to Auckland showed all who were privileged to meet him the embodiment of the legend. For all his unassuming manner and quiet speech, none could fail to identify in him the leader, the man of action, the fighter. The pity is that more could not have the tonic experience of seeing and hearing him, of being fired and steeled by his free spirit. Yet the main impression he made will be spread from those who met Admiral Halsey. Some of it is communicated in the interview published this morning. It is one of robust confidence — not the idle confidence that breeds complacency and slackness, but rather the faith that issues in works. The men he commands are fortunate in their leader. So is New Zealand and she should strive in every way to be worthy of her good fortune in having such a man appointed to match and out‑match their nearest enemy. Admiral Halsey sticks to his prediction of complete victory this year, as he sticks to everything he starts. He has the right way of it, for we shall certainly not conquer in 1943 unless we believe we can, and plan and work to do it. The willing must precede the doing, and the action will be fortified by faith. . . ."
3) On February 20, 1945, Captain Stassen gave an interview which he prefaced by saying, "The Admiral doesn't like alibis, but I'll take a chance and tell why he made that wrong prediction." Following is an extract from this interview, as reported by The New York Times:
"He made it [the prediction] during the darkest period of the Pacific War. We had very little Navy afloat. Australia was very much concerned. The Japanese Navy was still strong. It was a pretty gloomy situation. p145 Halsey knew that if the Jap Navy had attacked our force, it was doubtful if our fleet, even with its magnificent fighting spirit, could hold the line. So he made this bold assertive statement both to mislead the Japs and to cheer up our force. It worked. The Japanese didn't attack for six months. Instead they tried to find out what in the world Admiral Halsey had that led him to make that statement."
Next day I made a tour of various military installations at Auckland, including our naval hospitals, which were filled with wounded from Guadalcanal, then flew to Wellington for a similar tour. We returned to Nouméa on January 7. A few days later, word of my Auckland interview reached Japan, and Tokyo Rose went on the air with a grisly description of the tortures being prepared for me. When I came into my quarters that night, I found my two guests Jake Fitch and Bill Calhoun, enacting a mysterious pantomime.
I was bewildered. I asked them, "What the hell goes on here?"
"We're stirring a caldron," they said.
"A caldron? Why?"
"Boiling oil! Boiling oil!"
I had no time to waste on these well-wishers. A dispatch informed me that Secretary Knox, Chester Nimitz, and Rear Adm. John Sidney McCain were expected at Espiritu, so I left at once. We met aboard the aircraft tender Curtiss and had just settled into our beds when bombs started falling. Their total effect was a few craters in the beach, but since this was Espiritu's first raid in several weeks, we couldn't help wondering whether its coincidence with our arrival was luck or leakage. The following night, at Guadalcanal, we were bombed again, from 2030 until daybreak, and our wonder increased to a strong suspicion. It was never verified, but I learned later that it was shared. When our plane took off from Henderson, and a communications officer sat down to file the routine departure dispatch, his shaken assistant begged him, "Do me a favor, will you? Send it in Japanese. I want 'em to know for sure that the high-priced hired help has left here!"
I have very little stomach for bombs. There were no foxholes on the Curtiss, but there were plenty on Guadalcanal. When I heard the first boom!, I left my comfortable hut and dove into the ground, with Mr. Knox and "Slew" McCain. But not Chester. p146 He said he hadn't had any sleep the night before; he was going to catch up; besides, he said, he was scared of mosquitoes. Chester spent the night under a sheet, behind screens. The other three of us spent it half-naked, out in the open. And Chester was the only one who caught malaria!
His resistance may have been weakened by something I told him. Back in November, the Commander of the Guadalcanal Naval Base had been taken ill and I had to find a relief for him at once. The name of Comdr. Oliver Owen Kessing, an excellent officer and an old friend of mine, jumped at me from the Navy Register, so I requested the Bureau of Personnel to order him to my command with the temporary rank of captain, which the duty required. BuPers replied coldly, Regret his services unavailable. This was nonsense, and I knew it. There was not the slightest reason why "Scrappy" Kessing shouldn't be assigned to the important job I had for him. Somebody in BuPers was simply being hoity-toity. I sent another dispatch: Make his services available. Finally, after six or seven ill‑tempered exchanges, they notified me that Scrappy was on his way, but said nothing about his promotion, although Chester, a former Chief of the Bureau, had approved my request for it.
When I saw Chester on this trip, I told him that I was thoroughly fed up with such obstructionism, and that if the promotion had not been confirmed when I returned to Nouméa, I would send Scrappy the following dispatch, with an information copy to BuPers: You will assume rank uniform and title of Captain US Navy.
Chester had a fit. "No! For God's sake, don't do it! You'll foul up everything!"
"You wait and see," I said. But when I reached Nouméa, Scrappy's promotion had come through.
When Secretary Knox returned from this trip, he brought back a story which he told to many of his friends in Washington:
Two enlisted men were sauntering along a passageway on Admiral Halsey's flagship. One said, "Halsey? I'd go through hell for that old son of a bitch!"
Just then a finger jabbed his back. It was Halsey himself. "Young man," he said, "I'm not so old!"
p147 December had shown us faint signs that the tide was turning. By January no one could doubt that it had begun to run with us. New ships and aircraft arrived, and we were able to withdraw our old worn ones for the overhauls they needed so badly. The shoestring was still frayed; the total forces available were still so sparse that we had to strip the planes from three new escort carriers and send them to beef up the shore-based squadrons at Guadalcanal; but now for the first time we felt strong enough to attempt a modest offensive.
Our early moves consisted chiefly in developing port and training facilities nearer and nearer to the front — first on Efate, then on Espiritu Santo, and eventually in the Tulagi-Purvis Bay area, next to Guadalcanal itself. As soon as these forward posts were ready, we sent in our ships — PT's, destroyers, and even cruisers — not only to block off the Tokyo Express and to discourage submarine and air raids on our Guadalcanal shipping, but to make occasional offensive forays up the Slot, such as Rear Adm. Walden L. Ainsworth's bombardment of Munda on the night of January 4/5.
By the end of the month, I had at my disposal six major task forces. One, commanded by Rear Adm. Robert C. Giffen, was covering a convoy to Guadalcanal when, on January 29, a flight of enemy planes burst out of the darkness and put a torpedo into the heavy cruiser Chicago. She was taken under tow, but she had made only •70 miles toward Espiritu before another dozen torpedo planes attacked her and finished her off. The destroyer Lavallette was also hit but managed to limp into port.
The loss of the Chicago would have been a blow at any time, and just now we felt it with special severity. On February 5, an Army B‑17 from Espiritu, at the extreme limit of its 800‑mile search, spotted a powerful force standing down from Truk — two carriers, four battleships, six heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and twelve destroyers. I had been expecting this development. The enemy's obstinacy, the desperate plight of his troops on Guadalcanal, and the long lull since his last assault — long enough for him to replenish his carrier groups and task forces — all had led me to anticipate a final, supreme effort. Accordingly, I had disposed my own task forces south of Guadalcanal, ready to move p148 forward at the word. While we waited, the Tokyo Express made three runs and evacuated all except a few scattered troops. We knew what was coming, but although we had a veteran group of cruisers and destroyers within range of the Express's track, we considered it wiser to hold them against the major threat. It proved to be only a threat. The main force never closed us.
The Express's last run was on the night of February 7 — exactly six months since our Marines had landed at Haleta, Gavutu, and Tulagi. Next day Sandy Patch informed me, Organized Resistance on Guadalcanal has ceased; and Miles Browning replied over my signature, When I sent a Patch to act as tailor for Guadalcanal, I did not expect him to remove the enemy's pants and sew it on so quickly × Thanks and congratulations.
The grim, ugly, bloody, expensive campaign was finished.
Before I leave it, I want to mention two lighter incidents, both of which occurred toward its end. To appreciate the first, it is necessary to understand the Navy's abet: Able represents the letter A; Baker, B; Charlie, C; and so on, with Option representing O, and Sail, S. Around the middle of January we learned that a Jap submarine would land a certain high official at Cape Esperance at a certain time. We sent the data to our surface-force commander and added, Important sail option Baker aboard × Get him. Soon afterward we received his terse answer: Sank Sub × Important sail option Baker still aboard.
The other incident involved the New Zealand corvette Kiwi. (A corvette is roughly equivalent to a gunboat.) Three of the Kiwi's officers — the captain, the medical officer, and the chief engineer — were famous from the Solomons to Auckland. Everyone knew them, at least by sight. Not only were they the most mastodonic men I ever laid eyes on — their combined weights were •close to 800 pounds — but whenever the Kiwi put into Nouméa, these monsters would stage a three‑man parade through the town, one of them puffing into a dented trombone, another tooting a jazz whistle, and the third playing a concertina.
On January 29, the Kiwi was patrolling off Guadalcanal when a big Japanese sub suddenly surfaced close aboard. The skipper immediately put his helm over and rang up full speed on his telegraph, which so astonished the chief that he yelled up the speaking tube, "What's the matter, you bastard? Have you gone crazy?"
p149 "Shut up!" the skipper yelled back. "There's a week‑end's leave in Auckland dead ahead of us! Give me everything you've got, or I'll come below and kick hell out of you!"
The big sub turned out to be the I‑1, half again as long as the Kiwi and with twice the fire power. None the less, the Kiwi charged in, with her little guns popping, and rammed the I‑1 amidships.
"Hit her again!" the skipper yelled. "It'll be a week's leave!"
They hit her again.
"Once more, for a fortnight!"
The third time the Kiwi rammed her, the I‑1 sank.
It was a bold attack, bold enough to deserve recognition, so I notified the skipper and the chief that I was recommending them for Navy Crosses, our Navy's highest award. When they reported to my office to be decorated, it was in a spirit that might be described as "picnic." In fact, I had to support them with one hand while I pinned on the Crosses with the other. They thanked me, saluted, and rumbled away. The last I saw of them, they had picked up the medical officer and their musical instruments, and were forming another parade.
The North African campaign had top priority on New Zealand's man power, and the number of troops she could lend us was limited. One exacting and valuable duty, however, the "New Zealanders" shared exclusively with the Australians. This duty was coast watching. Paratroopers, Rangers, and underwater demolition experts already enjoy a wide reputation for fearlessness, but no list of hazardous services would be complete without the coast whalers. Before the war, most of them had been interisland traders or managers of coconut plantations, so they knew the Solomons intimately, the trails and channels, the natives and their languages. The establishment of our front at Guadalcanal put a premium on the special information which these men possessed and their special facilities for acquiring more. Equipped with radios and a few supplies and weapons, they returned to their islands, dove into the jungle, and stayed there, sometimes hundreds of miles within the enemy's lines and sometimes for six months on end.
Each of them developed his own spy system, to supplement his personal observation. His native scouts, moving freely among the Japanese, would report what they had learned, and the coast p150 watcher would pass us the word by radio — how far construction of the airfield at Vila had progressed; where the enemy's barges were lying up at night; how many planes had flown over on their way to strike Guadalcanal, and how many had returned. In addition, the coast watchers organized rescue parties to pick up our downed fliers and keep them safe until we could send for them. One of them showed me his "guest book," with the signatures and thanks of some thirty pilots and crewmen who had been returned to their bases by his guts and ingenuity.
It was a lonely, desperately dangerous life, and only real men could endure it. The Japs knew about the coast watchers and tried every means of capturing them. They bribed and tortured the natives, combed the islands with patrols, and even tried to hunt them down with dogs. A coast watcher on Bougainville discovered the exact location of the kennel and radioed it to us, with a request for a bomb. Our pilot's direct hit was acknowledged with Thanks × Will not be bothered further.
Most of the natives were loyal to the Allies, but the Japs occasionally managed to corrupt a village. As soon as we heard of it, we would bomb the village, then drop pidgin English messages on the villages near by, warning them not to invite bombs on themselves. I have kept a copy of a message we dropped on Bougainville in January, 1943, and I append it here as a curiosity:
|Sitrog pela tok bilog nambayan kiap bilog olmasta,|
|A serious warning from the big white chief,|
|ol iupela man bilog Bukapasis na bilog Buin na Kieta:|
|to all natives of Buka Passage, Buin, and Kieta:|
|Dispela tok migivim iu i straitpela tok.||Mobeta iu harim gut.|
|This is straight talk.||You must listen.|
|Ples kanak olikolim Sorum i ambag tunas log kiap tru bilog iu nau|
|The village of Sorum has been disloyal, has|
|harim tok bilog Japan nau alpim Japan.|
|taken orders from the Japs, and has helped the Japs.|
|Oriat trowei bom olsem dainamait log in nau.|
|We have now bombed them.|
|Mipela trowei pinis bom log Pidia log Pokpok log Toberoi nau log|
|We also bombed Pidia, Pok Pok, Toberoi, and|
|Sadi taim oliambag tumas log mipia na alpim Japan.|
|Sadi when they helped the Japs.|
|p151 Sipos nadapela ples kanak i alpim Japan orait mipela trowei bom|
|If any villages help the Japs, we will bomb|
|logim tu na kwitkaim i bagarap olgeta.|
|them and destroy them altogether.|
|Mipela i got planti balus planti bom planti solja.|
|We have many planes, many bombs, and many soldiers.|
|Mipela no ken lias log dispela wok.|
|We will not hesitate to carry out this work.|
|I no longtaim na mipela olgeta ikam wantaim ol solja bilog|
|Before long we will come with all the American|
|Amerika na rausim ol Japan na kilim olgeta nau mekin|
|soldiers to dislodge the Japs and kill them all and punish|
|save olman i alpim Japan.|
|all natives who helped them.|
|Tok i pinis.|
|That is all.|
|Iupela i lukaut.|
|You have been warned.|
Each of our pilots carried a pidgin English paper to read to the natives in case of a forced landing. Here is a copy of that, too, with the translation:
|1.||Dispala masta i gifim pas long yu i peren bilong gavman.|
|The white man holding this paper is a friend of the Government.|
|2.||Balus bilong en i bagarap tru nau yupala mas lukaut gut long en inap long masta ikamap long mipala gen.|
|His plane has crashed and you must look after him so that he reaches safety.|
|3.||Im ino save gut long tok pisin nau yupala masting long ol liklik samting bilong en.|
|He is not able to ask in pidgin for everything he needs, so you must anticipate his wants.|
|4.||Gifin wara bilong dring olsem kulau.|
|Bring drinking water and drinking coconuts.|
|5.||Gifim kaikai olsem kokuruk nau kiau nau banana mau nau popo nau ol gutpala kaikai.|
|Give him food, such as fowls, eggs, bananas, pawpaws, and other suitable foods.|
|6.||Sapos Japan ikam kilostu yupala haitim masta nau giamonim ol Japan.|
|If the Japanese come, hide the white man and give them false information.|
|p152 7.||Wanpala boi igot taunam olsem kalambo i gifim long masta.|
|If anyone has a mosquito net, give it to the white man.|
|8.||Sapos piles ino gat auskiap olarit makim wanpala nupala aus biolong im i silip. Wokim gut bet bilong im olsem pasin bilong wok bus.|
|If there is no resthouse in the village, allot him a newly built house to sleep in. Make a bush bed for him.|
|9.||Sapos masta ino inap long wokabaut yupala mekim bet nau karim.|
|If he is unable to walk, make a stretcher and carry him.|
|10.||Dokta boi lukaut long sor bilong en.|
|The village medical orderly should attend to any wounds or sores.|
|11.||Sampala boi i wokabaut wantaem long masta nau karim liklik samting bilong en. Yupala bringim long kiap no long ol masta no long ol soldia bilong Inglis.|
|Some natives are to travel with him, to carry his effects and to guide him to a Government officer or to our lines or to other whites.|
|12.||Biaen igat pe ikamap long ol dispala samting.|
|Later you will be paid for all these services.|
|13.||Yupala kisim papa na pensil long misin boi bilong yupala naumasta i wokim pas nau gifim long yupala. Taem kiap ikamap gifim pas long kiap nau kisim pe. Sapos Japan ilaik kamap haitim pas gut inap long ol ino kan lukim.|
|Get a pencil and paper from your native mission teacher, and the white man will write a note to leave with you. When a Government officer visits you, show him this, and he will pay you. If the Japanese come to your village, do not let them see this note.|
Gavman i tok yupala mas arim.
|These are the instructions of the Government, and you must obey them.|
That last sentence became very popular with our pilots. If one of them grumbled about being assigned to a tough mission, another was sure to tell him, "Gavman i tok yupala mas arim!"
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World War II
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Page updated: 17 May 17