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. . . iful Dumbea Valley, a lovely river winding through it down toward the blue Pacific which we could see stretching away beyond the limpid lagoon and the outer coral reef white capped by its eternal surf. Only it was not the blue Pacific. It was the Coral Sea. But it bears a family resemblance to the Pacific. In fact you can't tell them apart. And anyway, it may have been the Tasman Sea after all. The frontiers of neither the Coral nor the Tasman are sign posted, and they mingle somewhere in the vicinity. I was never certain which one I was looking at or crossing over.
Back in camp, I gave a talk to the men after they had cleaned their animals and their tack. Then had a fine dinner with the officers. They told me that they had been in that camp for more than a year and that I was the first person who had shown an interest in them other than a couple of generals who had to inspect them as a matter of routine. There is no USO, no movie stars, no glamour girls for them.
After dinner the next day, Lt. Ramsey and I drove out to the camp of the 1st Parachute Bn of the Marine Corps. Ramsey went along for the ride. I saw Capt. Stallings and met Col. Robert Hugh Williams, commanding. Arranged to come out again the next day for pictures and a story. The camp is about thirty miles from Noumea, a long, tiresome ride in a jeep. It was necessitated by the fact that the communication system is so poor that it is practically impossible to hear anything over the telephones.
January 15. An M.P. called me at 4:00 A.M. Picked up Sgt. Dave Corson of New Jersey, a Signal Corps photographer, and reached the flying field at Tontouta about six. These qualifying jumps for trainees are made early in the morning, when there is little or no wind, to reduce the danger of accidents.
Corson and I went up with the first flight. There were twelve trainees, including Capt. Richard Sagan, who was well along in his forties, but as keen on getting his wings as the newest kid recruit. This was the fifth jump for this contingent. Their sixth, and qualifying, jump was to have been made after dark that night. The thirteenth jumper was Maj. Richard W. Hayward of Great Neck, L.I., commanding the 2nd Parachute Bn., who just went along to jump for the fun of it!
The men were very tense. There was no joking, no conversation. I sat on a little metal box with an A roof (not a comfortable seat) opposite the open door. When the pilot banked a little to port, I and the box had a tendency to slide toward the door; and neither of us had a parachute. Had he banked steeply, we should have glided out into the bosom of Abraham.
We made two passes over the range, the tenseness mounting constantly. Finally the Jumpmaster warned: "Coming on the Range!" Then, "Stand by!" The men rose from their seats on each side of the fuselage. "Hook on!" They attached their individual static lines to the main static line that runs overhead along the centre of the plane. At last, the fateful word for which all were waiting: "GO!"
The leading man was already standing in the doorway, the others crowded in single file behind him. So rapidly they disappeared, so close together were they, that they seemed to be pushing those ahead of them from the plane. In a matter of seconds they were gone. Twelve men can jump in six seconds.
The plane returned to the field for the second flight, and Corson and I . . .
U.S. Marine Corps Parachute Battalion in World War II
The Paramarines was a short-lived specialized combat unit of the United States Marine Corps,
trained to be dropped from planes by parachute.
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