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PAGE FOUR. . . when we crossed the International Date Line on the 6th. Or was it the 5th? I never have been able to get my dates straightened out since.
New Caledonia Arrival: December 8
We took off at about 6:30. I was up in the pilots' compartment. We raced toward the ocean at a hundred miles an hour, chewing up runway with nerve wracking prodigality. A few yards before we hit the water, turned over, and burst into flame, were air borne.
Flew near and over some beautiful islands. We were flying low. In some instances we skirted coast line below the summit of the jungle clad cliffs and so close that one could have tossed a stone among the trees. There were little clearings with tiny, grass thatched huts. And streams winding down to the ocean. And mysterious beaches and inlets and coves.
The waters of the lagoons were clear as crystal and a greenish azure. Beyond the ever present coral reefs were the white surf forms and an eternal halo around the islands, the sea drops to tremendous depths; and the water turns to indigo. All these scenes were so beautifully indolent and peaceful that it seemed incredible that war was so very close at hand and these boys who were flying with me were going into thick of it, most of them never to return. And they were such fine, eager boys.
At 11:46 A.M., the skipper set our wheels down on the runway at Plaines des Gaiacs at the northwest end of New Caledonia. It was the end of the trip for all of us except Englander, who was continuing on to Australia. We and our gear were driven a short distance to a barracks, where a major introduced himself and took me under his wing. He was Phil LaFollette, a former governor of Wisconsin. He piloted me down to H.Q. and introduce me to Lt. Colonel Ecklund of Lincoln, Nebraska, the C.O.
Colonel Ecklund is a Tarzan fan and was mighty nice to me. He even telegraphed Major General Harmon that he was sending me down to Tontouta by plane at one o'clock, and asked the general to have a car meet me there!
I only hoped to God that General Harmon was also a Tarzan fan. Old Tarzan has been a life saver throughout my journeys. Apparently everyone on the transport plane was a fan of his. And so it was throughout. I shone in reflected glory as the name aroused nostalgic memories of boy hood in the minds of the hundreds that I met -- from privates to generals.
Colonel Ecklund's quarters were in a large, airy, grass thatched, bamboo hut which he had built on a slight elevation above the camp. I washed up and waited for dinner there. There was a cool breeze and no flies.
At one o'clock I boarded a Marine transport plane and was flown to Tontouta, which is about thirty miles from the southern end of the island. And, sure enough, there was a command car waiting to take me to Noumea. When I arrived there, I reported at once to General Harmon. Probably the only war correspondent who had been dumb enough to do so. Anyway, the general was mighty cordial. He introduced me to a couple of other generals and then turned me over to Col. L. C. Sherman, A. C. of S. G-2, Hq. USAFISPA.
Col. Sherman drove me to the Grand Hotel du Pacifique which had been taken over by the army I am probably the only War Correspondent assigned to that area who was driven around by an Assistant Chief of Staff. Dumbness has its compensations. The colonel introduce me to Lt. Col. Earle C. Stead, G-2, First Island Command, and made his escape. I was now Col. Stead's headache.
Col. Sherman, from the time I arrived, until I left New Caledonia, was . . .
WWII Photos and Flight Crew at Plaines des Gaiacs Airfield, New Caledonia
Tontouta Airfield 1943 ~ Southern New Caledonia
Tontouta New Caledonia 1943 stock footage and images
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