George Bane Autobiography

This little skit is not intended to be a literary masterpiece, but solely for the purpose of refreshing my memory, to enable me to travel back into time some forty odd years, to the great depression of nineteen and twenty nine. The depression hit my family in my first year in school, and believe me, it hit hard.

My father was what was known in those days as a "public works" man. Most of the time he worked as a bookkeeper at the saw mills in South Mississippi. When the roof fell in on the economy, there was no work to be had, period. My dad stayed on the go most of the time looking for work, and I mean any kind of work regardless of salary.

I am sure it is hard for our present generation to comprehend not having some kind of welfare program, so as a result, if you didn't have the money, you didn't eat. Believe me, lots of times we didn't eat. I remember running to the front door of whatever shack we happened to be living in at that time, to see if Papa was coming down the road with a 24 pound sack of flour on his back, and an eight-pound bucket of lard, and maybe, just maybe, a five pound sack of sugar. If he did, Mama would start getting the old wood stove hot, so she could make some biscuits, saw mill gravy and sugar molasses. We moved around from one place to another and stopped wherever Papa could find work to do. During this time, Mama's favorite expression was, quote, "Walter! A rolling stone never gathers any moss."

We finally moved up into the red clay hills of Neshoba County and started share cropping. This is where the land owner furnishes the land, a mule, plows, etc. He also advanced around fifty dollars to buy a few groceries with, before the crop was gathered. Usually we had borrowed most of our half before gathering time.

We half-and-half farmed for about three years, and Papa managed to buy a piece of land with a livable house on it. We never did really own the place, but the owner had more land than he knew what to do with. So we did the farming and turned over what little cotton we made to him, and we were allowed to keep the seed, which we sold, and kept the money. During the winter, we cut and hauled stove and fireplace wood into town and sold it for $3.00 a cord. We also made cross ties, cut sweetgum stove blocks, and hauled them to the mill. The depression was over with as far as we were concerned. We had plenty to eat and a few dollars to buy clothes with. I don't want to give the impression that we were living high on the hog, but it was a tremendous improvement over the way were living before we moved out on the farm.

During all this moving around, I managed to hop skip and jump from one school to another until I finished grammar school and some high school. They were not as particular about keeping records in the little country schools back then as the schools are now. So I took advantage of this lousy record keeping and skipped a grade or two when I changed from one school to another. I don't know how I managed it, but I did pretty good in the grade I skipped up to!

I would be doing the school system quite an injustice if I didn't mention something about the school system I attended back in my boyhood days. Several of the schools were well constructed buildings, and equipped with all of the essential equipment but not all. From the third through the eighth grade, the building consisted of six rooms with a hall down the middle. Each room has a pot-bellied stove with a big wood box beside it. It was left up to us boys to tote wood from the outside wood pile to keep the wood box by the heater full. On the back edge of the campus behind the school building was located the sanitary facilities. The four holer on the right hand side belonged to the girls, and the one on the left hand side was the domain of the male gender. The boys privy was usually pretty well filled at recess and dinner periods. Not only to relieve the call of nature, but to break out our OCB cigarette papers and a sack of Bull Durham and roll a fag like the cowboys did in the Tom Mix movies, If you couldn't raise this dime it took to buy a sack of old north state and a book of OCB papers, you would hang around and try to get someone's butt before he smoked it down to his lips.

Is you saw a bunch of boys heading for the woods, you knew there was a little misunderstanding that had to be settled in a manly sort of way. Our professor didn't exactly smile on this sort of behavior, and most of the time he found out about it by the time the bell rang. He had a paddle about three quarters of an inch thick, and he knew how to use it. You see, this was before the Supreme Court ruled out corporal punishment. This kindly made us weigh our desire for mischief against the effects of that darn paddle. The only organized sports we had was basketball, and we played it on an outside court. I never did much playing, but I was the official score keeper. We had one fellow that flunked the twelfth grade for three years so he could play ball and drive the school bus. The prof finally gave him a passing grade and diploma whether he wanted it or not.

Now for a few words about the school buses. The buses didn't belong to the schools. They were contracted out, and the lowest bidder got the route. There were no rigid specifications as to what kind of vehicle it would be. Consequently, most of them were retired log or stove trucks with a wooden shed built on it with two benches on each side. I remember one morning the driver hit a big mud hole real hard trying to make it through without getting stuck. Well, we made it through the mud hole, but the whole dang body fell down on top of us. Nobody got hurt, but we had to walk the rest of the way. Well, I finally graduated from the little six room grammar school and started in high school about ten miles down the road. One good thing was that we had a much better bus, and the school building was much larger, but we still had to play basketball on an open court.

We had a Kholer light plant to furnish electricity to operate the water pump, which had to be running to get a drink of water at recess and lunch time. The thing was not only contrary, but was about worn out, to boot. Is just so happened that I was the proud owner of a T Model truck with a wafford gear in it. If you were mechanically inclined and knew the proper words to use, it would serve you well. It seems I was endowed with both. Soon after I started school there, the Kholer plant gave up the ghost just before the dinner bell rang. Consequently, there was no water to wash down the baked sweet potatoes in the lunch boxes, paper sacks, wrapped up in newspapers, or whatever. No one seemed to know anything about the water system, and I wanted to eat my baked potato and boiled egg real bad. I decided to transfer my experiences with the T Model truck to the water pump. They say ignorance is bliss, but when you jump into something you know very little about and everything turns out right, it kind of makes you feel important. Well, that's what happened to me. From then on, if I wanted to miss a class just before dinner period, all I had to do was tell the teacher I had to go and check out the water pump. That's probably why I am so dumb in some subjects now.

Let me digress here for a few moments and say a few words about the aforementioned T Model, the reliant ancestor of the junk that clutters up the roads today. A T Model transmission was a drum arrangement with three bands, low gear, reverse and brake. Believe it or not, this was the forerunner of today's automatic transmissions. When you started up a hill and you had to go to a lower gear, you just mashed down on the low clutch peddle and it would shift to a lower gear and you would go right on up the hill. Unless the low clutch band was worn out! Still, no problem, you just simply turned around and backed up the hill. The reverse clutch peddle had the same gear ratio as the low clutch. It also would substitute for brakes if your brake bands were worn out, which happened quite often.

I mentioned sometime back that my T Model truck had a Wafford gear in it. I doubt seriously if that is the way to spell the name of that additional gear, but that's the way it was pronounced in Neshoba County. To install the Wafford gear, the drive shaft and frame had to be either shortened or lengthened. In this case it was lengthened about a foot. This add on transmission was installed behind the regular T Model transmission. This meant you didn't have any brakes if you got it out of gear.

I was going into town one time with a load of sweet gum stove blocks, and I picked up an old gentleman, and he had to sit on the blocks because I only had one seat. Going into town I had to go up a steep hill and then down a long hill, around a curve and up another hill. Just as I topped the first hill and started down the long hill, it jumped gear. Consequently, I didn't have any brakes at all. All I had was a steering wheel and a prayer. I hadn't learned to pray real good by that time in life, but the old gent sitting on the blocks was doing a mighty good job. The City Cemetery was on our right all the way down, I think this had some influence on him, because his face was a bilious green when we stopped. I tried to give him a ride several times after that, but no way, Jose.

Laying all mirthful banter aside, this old truck was a valuable asset to me then. I would come in from school, go to the woods and load the truck with stove wood or fireplace wood, and bring it to the house. The next day after school I would haul it into town (I already had it sold.) It was 6 miles into town and the roads were red clay dirt, and when they were wet, I had to rap long chains around the wheels to make it up the hills. It would be dark before I unloaded and started home. There was no protection from the weather, no cab, just a windshield. I drove home many times in a cold winter rain, and I remember a few times having ice on my jacket when I got home. The money I made was used to buy my clothes, books and whatever else I needed to go to school, and some went for household expenses.

By this time, I was quite a shoot em up fan. I looked forward all week to going to the movies on Saturday. If I missed a Bob Steel, Buck Jones, or John Wayne movie, it ruined my week. I also kept up with the Saturday evening serials: Buck Rogers, Spiderman, The Green Hornet, etc. After the movie, I always treated myself to a Powerhouse candy bar and RC Cola. I never did care too much for the Moon Pie bit.

I started working in a radio shop when school was out. I had already built a Crystal set, and a one tube TRF, and a two tube regenerative set. Old Dr. Brinkley's station in Del Rio, Texas came in loud and clear, peddling his monkey glands to the old Codgers that were still chasing women, but with worn out equipment. It didn't take long before I was holding my own as a radio service man.

The shop also did electrical work, so the boss started taking me with him on a house wiring job or any other outside electrical work that had to be done. It wasn't long until I was doing most of the outside work. I remember I was replacing a ceiling light fixture in one of the upper crust homes, when about a sixteen year old well stacked young lady came walking into the room and sat down on a couch just a few feet from where I just happened to be standing on a eight foot step ladder. I started paying more attention to what was sitting on the couch than what I was doing. I fell off the darn ladder and like to broke my neck. She was wearing only a brassiere and a pair of panties! This was more than a country boy that got his sex education from the Sears Roebuck catalog could take. What made it worse, she almost passed out laughing. At 19, I joined the CCC Camp in March of nineteen and thirty-nine. For about a month I went to the field and dug ditches. Somehow they found out I knew a little about electricity and pulled me from the field. The only way I can describe my position is that I was the official camp flunky. I did all the electrical work that was needed and helped gas up the trucks when they came in from the field and whatever else they could think up for me to do. I suppose the next thing that happened in my life had more to do with the direction my life took career wise than any other. Ole Static, the camp education advisor, called me in to his office and asked me if I wanted to be the camp radio operator. That Sparkey's enlistment was out at the end of the month. This was quite a surprise to me, because I never thought about becoming a CW radio operator. I told I didn't even know the Morse Code. He told me I was relieved of all other duties, and I had better be able to take over the radio room at the end of the month. This meant I would be promoted to Assistant Leader and my pay would go from $21.00 dollars to $35.00 a month. That don't sound like much, but it was a lot to me then. I put together a code practice oscillator and studied and practiced 8 to 10 hours a day for the balance of the month. By the end of the month I could copy five words a minute, and I took over the radio room. Call sign WV99. It was two days before I was able to contact Headquarters at Fort Maclellan. Alas, the first message I received was about two pages long, sending a boy to Maritime School up in New England. I will say this for the operator on the sending end--he had the patience of Job. Within a couple weeks, I was doing pretty good. It didn't take me long to build my speed up to twenty words per minute.

The transmitter I had used a pair of tens in the finals and was put together by the Corp Area Signal Officer. The receiver was a Hallicrafter Skyrider, I copied with a stick (pencil) and used a hand key to send. My speed increased to about twenty-five words per minute. That was about the limit without using a mill (typewriter) to copy with. Headquarters sent me a brand new Hall Sky Champion receiver, and believe me, that made me very happy. In fact, it gave me the big head. We moved Camp 3494 from Dekalb, MS to Brookhaven, MS in the summer of 1940. As soon as we got set up there, I set my radio equipment up in the office building. All of my traffic (messages) was to and from Camp Beauregard, LA.

I got an appointment to attend Maritime School, and after finishing, signed an agreement to work on a merchant ship as radio operator for three years. I was only nineteen years old, and had to have my parents' consent. They would not sign the consent papers. It made me mad as the devil, because I really wanted to go.

I talked to our area signal officer about joining the Army. He told me to go to Barksdale Field, LA and report to the Post Signal Officer who was a good friend of his, and he would have me enlisted in the 5th Signal Service Bn. I got leave from the CCC Camp to enlist in the Army, and hitchhiked from Brookhaven to Barksdale Field, LA. I reported to the Major and after a rather interesting conversation, he sent me to the recruiting office, and shortly thereafter I was PVT Bane beginning a three year hitch in the Army Signal Corps. After completing three weeks basic training, I was sent to the radio room for a try out. I thought I was a hot shot radio operator, but I was in for a rude awakening. They set me down to copy a message from WVR Corp Area Hdqrs in Atlanta. When he started sending to me, it sounded like rain on a tin roof. I broke him twice in the message heading, he came back at me with .._ _ .. ("who new opr?"). When I said yes, his reply was, quote, "get off." I was transferred to the Western Union and Postal telegraph office on the base. This was one heck of a letdown for me, and I set out to do something about it. The first thing was to start taking typing lessons at night and hanging around the radio room when I got the chance. The transfer to the telegraph office was probably one of the best things that could have happened to me, because they printers in the telegraph office used standard keyboards, and my typing speed picked up rather rapid. My driving ambition was to get back in a radio room. I didn't particular care where or how. I got wind they were in dire need of operators at Brookley Field at Mobile, Ala. The C.O. would not even consider letting me transfer to another Post. This didn't set too well with me, so! Knowing darn well I would get my rear end chewed out, I wrote a letter (out of channels, mind you) to the Signal Officer at Brookley Field telling him, quote, "Due to an excess number of radio operators at Barksdale Field, I am performing duties other than as a radio operator, and if possible, would like to transfer to your command." Believe me, in about three days the crud hit the fan. My letter didn't stop at Brookley--it went straight to the Corps Area signal officer in Atlanta. When my C.O. called me in his office he was so mad he didn't know where to start--my head and work down or my feet and work up. I stood at attention while he read the riot act to me, doing my best to look like a kid that has just swiped a plug out of his dad's Brown Mule Chewing Tobacco--both guilty and sick. Heck, I probably knew as much about having to go through channels as he did. After all, I had just put a year in at the CCC Camp and about the only difference was we dug ditches and set out kudzu instead of carrying a gun. The CCC camp was only a staging ground for future cannon fodder to fight the war with. Everyone knew we would be in it before long. Any ole how, in less than a week, one of the best operators at Barksdale and myself was on our way to Ft Jackson, SC. Fort Jackson was under construction when we got there. There was no barracks built at that time. After checking in, we were assigned a tent with two other guys. Soon after we got there, it turned cold as a well digger's butt in Montana. There was a small lake a little way from out tents with outside shower stalls on the lake bank. Water was pumped from the lake to furnish water for the shower. It was so cold that there were seldom used. We would go to the lake and get a bucket of water and heat it on the tent stove. We would pour some of this water in out steel helmets or canteen cups and shave, bathe and then go out and wait for the chow truck to take us to the chow hall. We stayed here for about two months. We moved to another area. Here the tents were larger, and we had a heated bathhouse to take a shower in.The radio room was located in a small makeshift office building. Two of three operators there were on detached duty from another post.

During the morning and early evening, traffic from from WVR in Atlanta (Fourth Corps Area headquarters) was rather light, and the operators would send slow enough that I could copy, but would have to ask for lots of repeats. Several weeks later, we had a flu epidemic, and I was the only one left except the Chief, and he only worked the day shift. That left me to handle the night shift.

All the traffic was from Washington and the other Army Post in the Fourth Corp Area, as well as some from other areas in the States and some from overseas. All traffic from overseas, most from Army posts outside our command, was relayed thru WAR in Washington to WVR Atlanta and then the individual Army posts in the Fourth Corps Area. We also had to handle some veterans Admin messages. As we had a Veteran hospital near, when WVR called me and said "here stack", I sent K ("go ahead"). He started sending twice as fast as I could put out a solid copy. I broke him and asked him to slow down. His answer was, quote, "You don't want to be a Lid (lousy operator) the rest of your life, do you?" He continued sending out at the same speed. I copied about 100 messages with misspelled words and some with just enough letters for me to know what the word was. After he cleared all traffic with me, I had to retype most of it. The operator sending to me was LC (his personal sign). I will mention him later.

I did the same thing every night, but after the third or fourth night I was turning out some solid copies that didn't have to be retyped. My sending and receiving ability continued to improve, and I had no problem handling anything that was thrown at me. Our two detached service operators were sent back to their home station. That left us with only the Chief, TW (the operator that was transferred from Barksdale with me), and myself. The Chief only worked the day shift, so TW and I had to take the heavy load at night. TW was one of the best radio operators I ever worked with, but he had a problem--Old Man Barley Corn. On payday, he would dress up in a blue serge suit and go to town. He would stay drunk until he ran out of money. I would cover for him and work his as well as my shift. When he came back, I would loan him a buck or two so he could buy cigs and a couple or so bottles of beer to sober up on. After he had shaved and cleaned up, he would come in and take over my shift until he paid me back the time I worked for him. He was picked up by the MPs numbers of times, and the C.O. would get him off. He finally threw one too many, and the Post Commander pressed charges against him, and he got thirty days in the brig. I would take cigarettes and pass them to him through the stockade fence. His thirty days were up just a few weeks before Pearl Harbor. About then, I came down with a bad case of the flu and the doc put me in the hospital. When I was almost well and ready to return to duty, I got orders to ship out to Iceland. My C.O. came over to talk to me about TW taking my place on the Iceland orders. He had asked the Major to let him take my place if possible. I wanted to go overseas, but I wasn't crazy about going to Iceland. I told the C.O. it would be ok with me. We bid TW farewell and went back to our rat killing. This put me permanently assigned to the night shift. One night WVR called me and said "here stack." He started sending his traffic to me, and it was over a hundred messages. I didn't break or ask for a repeat on the entire amount. After I acknowledged for the messages he asked me if I was the same GB that asked him to slow down a month or so ago. When I told him yes, he asked if I remembered him telling me that I didn't want to be a Lid the rest of my life. That made me feel good, because LC was one of the best and didn't hand out compliments unless he meant it. By this time I had moved my bunk and clothes into a small room adjoining the radio room. I liked this arrangement fine, except I had to go back to the barracks to take my daily shower.

On the day of our Lord, December the seventh, nineteen hundred and fortyone, quoting our beloved president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the day that will go down in infamy. As usual on Sunday mornings, I opened up the radio station and checked in the WVR for traffic. There were no messages to be sent or received, so WVR signed off with me about ten am EST. After we signed off, I turned on my broadcast radio and started piddling around in my room. I wasn't paying much attention to the radio, but I heard Pearl Harbor and Hickam Field mentioned several times. Like a bolt from the blue, it hit me, and I realized its us that's being attacked. Immediately, I opened the radio station and checked in the WVR. A few minutes later a GI came running in red-faced and panting like a hound dog. He said the Major was trying to get in touch with me and he wanted me to open the radio room and check in with headquarters in Atlanta. He also said the C.O. had been trying to get me by phone. I don't know why I didn't hear the phone unless he called while I was at the chow hall eating breakfast.

Tuesday morning I copied the official declaration of war. I wish I had kept a copy to show to my Grandkids.

Well, we are now at war! What happens to us now? Many will live to be old men and sit around and tell tall tales to their grand kids. Many will never have that pleasure.

We could no longer go into town in Civilian clothes. Uniforms were the order of the day on or off the post. After we got over the shock of Pearl Harbor and Hickam Field, things settled down to normal. By the time, Christmas was only a few days off, and we started thinking about going home for the holidays. The Chief 's folks lived only a short distance from Fort Jackson, so we agreed for him to go home a couple of days before Christmas and come back the day after Christmas. I left as soon as he got back, and it took me a full day to get home by bus.

I didn't get home until late in the evening. I was supposed to have ten days leave, but it didn't work out that way. My parents lived about six miles behind the post office and didn't have a phone. The day after I got there, around four o'clock in the afternoon, a taxi cab drove up and the driver came running in with an urgent message for me to call my Commanding Officer at Fort Jackson. I went back to town with him and told him to wait while I made the phone call. The major picked up the phone about the second ring. When I gave him my name, he told me to leave immediately for Fort Jackson. When I told him it would be the next day before I could get a bus going in that direction, his reply was, "You find a way. I expect you in my office tomorrow morning." There was not much for me to say but "Yes, Sir." I hired the taxi to take me to Meridian, Miss, a forty mile trip from Philadelphia. I caught a bus out of Meridian and rode all night.

The next morning around eight am, I walked into the Major's office. He had all the stuff I was to take with me on the floor in front of his desk. Mixed in with the A bag, B bag and Musette bag, there was a field backpack, unrolled. We had a little problem here--no one in our entire outfit had the faintest idea how to roll the dratted thing. We solved the problem by sending it over to an infantry outfit and got them to roll it for me. It stayed with me all the way to Karachi, India, still rolled up. I forget just what happened to it, but I think I checked it in to supply.

The Major said he would tell me all he knew. I was assigned to Signal Team C Tack Force X 5402. I would be traveling under sealed orders, and would wear side arms at all times. Upon arrival in San Francisco, I was to report to the C.O. Fort Mason, CA. I would turn my orders to him. I was issued a regulation 45 automatic with belt and holster. Also two full clips of ammo. The Major carried me to the train and gave me a good send off. He was one heck of a swell guy. I have never seen him since.

We had several hours lay over in Chicago, and to a country boy, Union Station was quite fascinating. While walking around taking in all the sights, an M.P. stopped me and wanted to know if I had delivered or was picking up prisoners. When I told him no, he wanted to know why I was wearing side arms. I told him my orders were to travel armed at all times. Then he wanted to see my orders. I told him that was the reason I was wearing a gun, to keep someone from seeing my orders. He informed me that he was taking my pistol. I unsnapped my holster, put my hand on my 45 and released the safety. By this time we had quite an audience, including a civilian policeman. I told the M.P. he had no authority to disarm me, and for us to call his officer of the day or Commanding Officer. The Corporal and I went to a phone and he got his O.D. on the line and gave me the phone. I explained the situation to the Lt. He was a real nice guy and said I was right, but if I wanted to prowl around some to check that darn 45 with the civilian police until I was ready to board my train. And that is what I did. Any how, it all turned out ok, the MP Corporal and I shook hands and went our separate ways. I boarded the Union Pacific train for San Francisco. It began to dawn on me that I was getting a heck of a long way from Neshoba County, Miss. Even though the remainder of the trip was uneventful, I enjoyed it very much, especially crossing the western states that were covered with a heavy blanket of snow. The old steam choo choo traveled gracefully through the western plains and mountains. I will always look back on this train ride with fond memories, and one of the exciting events of my army days. We arrived in San Francisco after dark, and had to ride a ferry boat across the bay to the city proper. I located the Army reception center and the officer in charge. He put me on a tug boat and sent me to Angel Island on which Fort Mason is located. I was bunked in a long transit barrack sitting right on a rock bluff on the water edge. The Post Commander didn't seem to know any more than I did about what I was supposed to do. Believe me, by this time I was getting a bad case of the RA's.

If my memory serves me right, on the third day after arriving at Fort Mason, we were all issued passes to go into town. I was so afraid I would miss out on something, I didn't go. The barrack was completely deserted, because everyone except me had enough gumption to go into the Historical City of San Francisco and hang one on.

I was laying in my bunk reading a porno magazine (back in those days, that meant anything concerning a little sneaky smooching episode.) Well, any ole how, from the looks of the defenders of democracy when they got off the boat from the fair city of San Francisco, I am glad I stayed in my bunk and improved my worldly knowledge with the magazine I read. Right in the middle of a most interesting paragraph in my magazine, I head some yahoo yelling my name. I reluctantly put my educational material down, and answered him with a great big HO. The caller was a First Lt. and just happened to be my future Commanding Officer. He was the radio officer at WVR in Atlanta, and he and I handled quite a bit of traffic when he was pinch hitting for one of his operators.

He told me all he could about out mission. He gave me a sheet of paper with the names of the men that made up our team. He had found three, counting me, and I went to the office, borrowed a typewriter and made a bunch of copies and started hunting.

When I found one of our people, I gave him a copy and told him to get busy. By nightfall, we had them all rounded up. We started rounding up our gear to sail for ports unknown, the rumor was that it would be somewhere in the South Pacific.

Before daylight on January 12, 1942, we all fell out and took our shots. We all with the exception of the CO (he didn't pass the physical) boarded a tug boat that took us across the bay. We came within a short distance from Alcatraz Prison on our way over.

As soon as we landed, a truck picked us up and took us to the docks. It was a cold and damp morning, and I thought I would freeze. It took us until noon to board ship. We stood in line, moving up a little at a time until four thousand men was aboard the SS President Coolidge.

On January the 12th, 1042, we sailed in convoy with the President Taft, Mariposa Catoomba and the US Navy Destroyer PH. We went under the Golden Gate Bridge and out to sea. It was almost dark before we could no longer rest our eyes on the good ole USA.

The President Coolidge was known as the Queen of the Pacific before she was converted into a troop ship. In fact, the war paint was hardly dry when we left San Francisco. Her life as a troopship was very limited. Soon after delivering us safely to Australia (her maiden voyage as a troop carrier), she hit a mine off one of the Pacific Islands, and the Capt. intently grounded her with approximately 4000 men aboard. One man was lost, and he died of a heart attack.

I don't know what route we took, but it was not a direct sea lane to Melbourne, Aust. The first land we sighted was the coral reefs off the coast of New Zealand. About six am on January 12th, all hell broke loose. Every body grabbed their life preservers and hit the deck. About a mile ahead of us was a flotilla of destroyers and battleships. We had a powerful 3 inch gun mounted in the bow, and no doubt a brave gun crew. After they figured out which end of the shield went first, they loaded up, and with nerves of iron, they focused their steely eyes on the approaching enemy fleet and prepared to give battle. The ships turned out to be the Australian Navy sent out to welcome us and escort us into the harbor.

We touched bottom on our way in. We had several tugs that has us in tow, and without any farther incidents, we tied up at our berth about dark. The Salvation Army and Lord knows how many people turned out to give us a rousing welcome with plenty of coffee and doughnuts for us underfed GIs. The next morning we went a little way outside of downtown Melbourne, to an area that was used by the Australian Army at various times. We were issued passes into town, and I fell in love with the Australian people, as well as the country. If we went in a pub, in just a few minutes there would be enough drinks in front of us to make WC Fields drunk.

Melbourne is a beautiful city. I enjoyed sight seeing and the shops. The restaurants served good food, and boy, the waitresses were something else. It didn't take us long to learn not to ask one for a napkin, though. Instead, you ask for a sanitary cloth, otherwise you might get your face slapped. A napkin over there is a personal female item.

I was sent back to the ship, along with others, to check our equipment as it was being unloaded from the holds of the ship, to be reloaded on another boat.

It was a sop if there was one. All we had to do was watch everything that came out of the holds marked Team C Task Force X4502 and have it all put together in one place. Everything that came off had to be reloaded on another boat that was to take us to Java.

We stayed on the ship during this equipment transfer, and this made life a lot easier as far as eats and quarters were concerned. The docks were located at the foot of Main Street in Melbourne, and this made life worth living, because we were free to go anywhere we wanted to when off duty. We didn't fail to take advantage of this privilege, either. But all good things must come to an end sooner or later.

On the twelfth of February, Nineteen and Forty-two, we set sail on the Duntroon, an Australian registered ship. She was a fair old bucket, but not in the same ball park as the shops that brought us from the States, however, she turned out to be a seaworthy old gal after all. I can't say much in favor of the food. The refrigeration system went haywire, and all the mutton and other perishables went bad. I have never touched mutton in any form since. There seemed to be an ample supply of Australia's version of Wheaties and powdered milk. I haven't eaten many Wheaties since then either. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, they had some Cadburys chocolate bars and gumdrops aboard. I loaded up on these, and it made me dog sick.

Well, so much for the chow, we survived and that's what counts. Our course took us around the great Australian Blight and to the very interesting and hospitable city of Perth. We arrived on the 18th of February, 1942. We were joined here by the old aircraft carrier Langley. She had a few old biplanes, using catapults to launch them with. I looked around for a sopwith camel, but didn't see one. She was in the Philippines during the Japanese attack and was pretty well shot up. They have been at sea since Pearl Harbor and was almost completely out of supplies, including clothing. We put some of those sailor boys in GI khakis and they were really glad to get them.

We had a freighter, The Seawitch, with us loaded with P40s still in crates. They unloaded the freighter and started assembling them on the flight deck of the Langley, and tying them down wingtip to wingtip, ready to go into action as soon as we arrived in Java. The stevedores went on strike about halfway through this operation (bless their pea picking hearts) and that delayed our departure some good little bit. If they had not gone on strike, I probably would not be writing this now. The Japanese swarmed into our landing area about the time we would have been tying up in Java. The stevedores went back to work, and they got the P40s assembled and tied down ready to go into combat. We departed from Perth February 22, 1942, on our merry way to Java. I mean merry literally. If the Japs had picked this time to torpedo us, we would have gone down by the haunting strains of "The Yellow Rose of Texas" echoing off the masthead.

Two of our more talented members bought a fiddle and geetar plus an ample stock of joy juice in Perth, and after imbibing a goodly amount, the proceeded to serenade a deck with that most statetriotic song, the Yellow Rose of Texas. Our musicians may have hit a few wrong notes, but it sure helped us to forget what the Aussey Patrol Pilots told us at the pubs in Perth. They said the sea lanes from Perth to Java were swarming with Japanese submarines, and we wouldn't get a hundred miles out. Very encouraging, indeed. We lost our Naval escort, the Destroyer Phoenix. She took off like a ruptured duck to join in on a little fracas latter known as the Battle of the Java Sea.

Soon after the Phoenix left us, we were joined by an old rusty freighter with all kinds of laundry hanging out on deck. When we found out this old sow would be our escort from then on, we had our laugh of the day. A day or so later we sighted smoke over the horizon. We were in for a big surprise, because both sides of our escort dropped, and good-size guns appeared on both sides. She must of had plenty horse power, because she took off at a speed I never your have imagined she could come close to. This was the first and only disguised gunship I ever saw. One night, a stateside radio program was being broadcast over the ship's PA system, when it was interrupted to bring us some sage words from our Commander in Chief, Franklin D. Roosevelt. After his little pep talk, he made the statement that we now have troops on the Indian Ocean. We could certainly verify that, but it didn't make us all that happy for him to be telling Emperor Hirohito and his minions where to find us.

Somewhere along here, our skipper and other officers got word about the approaching encounter between the British, American, and the Japanese Navy. Evidently they decided it would be unwise for us to join in with them. Because we high-tailed it to Columbo Ceylon. We arrived Columbo Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka, on March 7th, 1942. Near Christmas Island, the Langley and Seawitch were rammed and sunk by the Japanese. They were eighty miles from the Duntroon when we changed course and headed for Ceylon.

We left Columbo March the seventh, 1942. By this time, the rumors were thick as hops. The current one at this time was that our mission had failed, and we were going back to the States. No such luck! We headed into the harbor at Bombay, India on March the Ninth, 1942. We were met by a patrol launch some little distance out from the harbor, some officials came aboard and stayed for a short while and left. We turned around and headed back to sea. Boy the rumors really started flying after this. We arrived in Karachi, India March the Eleventh, 1942.

Soon after the shorelines were made secure, the rails were line with rubbernecking GIs, including me. An open cockpit biplane with All India Airforce written on it bused us with one wing almost level with the rails. The pilot attracted more interest than the airplane. He was wearing a helmet and goggles, but what really drew out attention was the green cloth wrapped around his beard.

We left the ship and went about three or four miles out of Karachi to a vacant Indian army camp. The only thing here was a few tents and wash pots to cook old tough buffalo and a few other things in. You had to have a strong stomach and be real hungry to eat this stuff.

One of the things that sticks in my mind is the birds and the P40. There is a black bird over there about half way between a crow and our black birds in size. These things would come in swarms at chow time and dive down and knock your mess kit out of your hand, especially if you was foolish enough not to have your thumb hooked over the rim.

The reason I am including the diving birds is not to tell about the birds, but to mention one fine officer and a top notch fighter pilot that came over with us. At chow time, he would take a P40 and buzz the chow area to keep the darn birds away so we could eat. The bird probably would have tasted better. The years seem to have dimmed my memory, and I cannot remember his name. I do know he was one of the top fighter ace pilots in the CBI. He came back to the states with the rank of Colonel, and was killed in an airplane crash. He was up with a student pilot and something went wrong.

They started unloading our equipment, as well as other things, and putting it in a warehouse at the docks. I was down there a few times and managed to get my hooks on some 1 gallon cans of peaches. I carried a couple cans back to the tent, and we had a peachy meal. It helped to get some of the buffalo taste out of our system though.

On the second day after we moved into the tents, all got a pass to go into town. I believe the bicycle wallas knew we were going to get a pass before we did, because about five PM, our walla showed up, leading about a dozen bikes. Everyone but me rented one. The truth of the matter was, I couldn't ride the blessed things. When that bunch of yahoos figured this out, they put me on a bike and one got on each side of me and started pushing. I got my feet on the peddles and didn't stop peddling until we were up town on Elfinstone Street, We ate a delicious meal at the Chung King Restaurant. Believe me, this was a treat to us, after the chow we had been eating for the past few weeks.

We moved from the tents to the Moslem Hostel, a long two story masonry building, one room deep, with a porch on each floor the full length of the building. We had one window in each room facing the ocean. There was a cool breeze most all the time, day and night. There were three of us in each room. The whole setup was real nice, we even had a tennis court at one end of the building. The hostel was used as a college dormitory before we moved in.

We started setting up the radio station about six miles out of Karachi on the edge of the Sind Desert. Our major problem was getting power to operate the transmitters. We had a small generator that would allow us to use the one KW transmitter and the receivers. It didn't take the maintenance crew long to get our antennas up; we used two rombie antennas to begin with. Our first operating positions were in tents.

After the maintenance men threw the switch and gave us the go ahead, it was left up to us operators to contact WAR in Washington on 13.300 MC. The Chief and a few more of the upper crust tried for several nights without any luck. I was pulling Guard duty during all their efforts after they left, or they didn't try that night, I forget which. I went in the operating tent and turned on the old trusty super pro, and tuned around a bit, and low and behold, there was WAR calling us. I couldn't fire up the transmitter, so I couldn't answer him.

I told the Chief about it, but he acted as if I didn't know what I was talking about. Within the next night or two they did make contact with WAR and started handling traffic. This went on for several days while I was still walking guard. By this time, I was getting pretty upset. I think our Chief decided to let me make an ass out of myself so he could have me transferred to an M.P. outfit. So he put me on watch. Luck was with me that night. When I went on duty, there was a stack waiting for me, in fact, two or three days accumulation. (This was not the fault of the operator, it was weak or nonexistent signals.) Well, signals happened to be good that night. I cleared the whole stack, and when I got off watch, I was nil, all traffic cleared. I got word some time later our Chief went to the message center and wanted to know if any of the traffic I handled would break (decode). I was told the answer he got was 'Break hell!' They were perfect copy, not an error in any of it. A few days later I cleared another backlog through WVN in San Juan, PR. A couple of days later we got a message from the chief signal operator in WN, stating, quote, "You will not, repeat, will not use San Juan as a relay point," then assigned Iceland as a relay station. I didn't make the first contact with Iceland, but the operator on watch told me the first thing that was said when he made contact was "Is GB there?" It was ole TW that was with me at Ft Jackson. Needless to say, my stock went up with the Chief considerably. I don't know what made him think I was no good, unless it was my sharecropping Mississippi brogue.

We only lost one man during the whole operation. We had no communication link between the radio tents and the message center, downtown in the American Embassy. We had a motorcycle messenger to carry messages to and fro between the two places. Late one evening he made his delivery and pickup, and I helped him gas up his motorcycle before he left. About 45 minutes or an hour later a jeep drove up and told us that he was killed on his way back. He tried to dodge a camel cart and lost control of the bike, hit the curb, and bashed his head against a concrete wall.

We got our hands on two large airplane crates, Liberator Bombers, I think. We moved our desks, typewriters, receivers, in fact the entire receiving station into these crates. This was far better than the tents. Each one of the crates made a fair size room. We made one big mistake; we didn't put a rainproof roof on the crates. Whoever heard of it raining in the desert. Anyhow, we were to soon to find out different.

We were just getting comfortable in our new setup when the monsoon season set in. When it started raining, it just poured down. Water on the main streets in Karachi got two to three feet deep.

We covered up our equipment the best we could to keep the water off. I copied and sent messages to Washington and China with someone holding a raincoat over my typewriter and bug (telegraph key.)

The transmitters were about half a mile from the receivers. This made it necessary for us to have a pair of wires between the receivers and transmitters for a keying line. We had a pair laying on the ground, but when it started raining, it didn't take long for these to get wet and short out. We told WAR what was happening, but they would not believe a word of it. Our maintenance crew had a setup on the back of a jeep that would hold a roll of W110 wire. When one of the keying lines shorted out, they would take off across the desert unrolling wire. When the monsoon season was over, there was enough W110 wire strung out across the desert to build a fence around the whole area.

If my memory serves me right, the rains lasted for about a month, and that was the last rain you would see for another year.

Things were getting to be a regular routine now. We only had about two to four hours to work Washington. We tried all possible frequencies, but when propagation was not in our favor, there was not anything we could do but wait until the following day and hope it would be better.

We started making preparations to move into our new brick building. We were anxious to get out of the blessed airplane crates and get set up in our new building.

We got set up in the new building without any major problems. We were all glad to get our of the airplane crates and into a decent place to work. By this time, the power company had run power lines out from Karachi, so we didn't have to depend on our own plant for power.

We were still handling all traffic direct from Washington and that, of course, means we had very limited time to work WAR, caused by the erratic, propagation conditions, due partly to the great distance between Washington USA and Karachi, India. Really between Karachi and Rocky Point, New York, because the transmitters and receivers that WAR were using was located on Rocky Point Long Island and owned by RCA with a land line hook up between them. We tried for some time to get a Bohme System, and finally did, but it took a long time. This didn't help our propagation problem, though. It only allowed us to handle twice or three times as many messages as we could, working manually. When sigs got too weak to copy on the Bohme circuit, we went manual and copied and sent as long as we could hear a signal at all, sometime repeating each group until the receiving end operator acknowledged for it. They put in a relay station as Asmara Africa that gave us almost twenty-four hour signals. This was an automatic relay from Washington, and it solved the backlog problems from the States.

Somewhere along about this time, one of our operators starting hitting the bottle too heavy and didn't show up for several days. When the MP's finally found him, he was busted down to Pvt and sent back to the States. Maybe he wasn't so dumb after all. Even though I got his T3 strips, I was sorry to see him go this way because he was a good radio operator and I kindly liked the guy. This promotion gave me the same pay as a staff Sgt, but without field command authority. Not too long after this, I was promoted to regular staff Sgt.

A few months later, JGTA in New Delhi was designated headquarters radio station for the CBI theater of war. This left us twiddling our thumbs, be25 cause all traffic was being rerouted through New Delhi. A Bohme system had been installed at JGTA in anticipation of becoming the headquarters station. There was only one hangup in this changeover. The operators at JGTA had absolutely no experience in transcribing slip. Consequently, live tape continued to stack up and created a serious backlog of important unanswered messages.

Our officer in charge received a priority message from headquarters to put three of the top slip operators on the first available airplane to New Delhi, with top priority. I was one of the three. This is the only time I ever had the authority to bump a General. I am glad I didn't have to use it. The old gooney bird I was on busted an oil line in the port engine about halfway between Karachi and New Delhi. The pilot cut the port engine and feathered the prop. We limped along on one engine and landed at Agra for repairs. We spent the night in the transit barracks and caught a train into New Delhi the next day. In the short time we were in Agra, I had time enough to take a nice tour of the Taj Mahal. The pictures you see in books don't give it justice. It is indeed a beautiful place, both inside and out.

The pilot of our plane gave us an aerial view of the Taj before we landed, even with one engine. He circled around it several times, as low as he could, which was pretty darn low. Nothing to worry about, those C47s were the toughest and most dependable transport aircraft we had during WW2. There were no flies on the guys that few them either, especially on the hump run into China. Those kind words do not apply to C46s though. The crew, yes, but not to the airplane.

We left Agra the next day by train and arrived New Delhi around two or three o'clock that afternoon. We were picked up and carried directly to the radio station, which was located smack a dab in the middle of New Delhi. Everything was pretty well at a stand still, as far as transcribing the tape was concerned. By the next morning we had all of the tape transcribed, all the local stuff delivered and the refile traffic transmitted to the addressee. We were quartered in a building a short distance from the capital of India. The Capital building is a large two-story circular edifice surrounded by a moat. The building alone is nearly a half mile in circumference and houses all of the major Govt offices. The foundation was laid in 1921 and opened in 1927.

We settled down to a regular daily routine, rotating the day and night shifts to make it as easy on the operators as we could. About 1 o'clock in the morning, signals would drop completely out. During this time we would poke tape, clean up the joint, and take turns in pairs going over to the all night tea shop at All India Radio, just a short bicycle ride from our station. We would sit around for a short while and drink tea, eat a few small cakes and cookies and then hop on our trusty bikes and pedal back to the sweat shop. Signals would start coming in around 5am from all directions and business started picking up in a hurry. The day shift would relieve us at 6am . I would go to the All India Coffee House and eat breakfast, go to my room and try to get some sleep.

I would get up around noon, eat lunch and usually go for a long sight seeing bike ride, most of the time with one or two of the other fellows. This was my favorite pastime during my tour of duty in India. I treasure very much having the opportunity to visit and examine the ancient ruins of a brilliant civilization. A goodly number of the old forts, towers and other buildings that date back several centuries are still standing in good repair, not only for tourist attraction, but to preserve the history of a proud people. I would like to be able to go back and revisit all of these places, but I know that will never be. Our Maker gave us the ability to recall our past experiences both good and bad. We must be able to cherish the good things that happened in our past and not dwell on the bad.

Well, it looks like the big war is winding down. The Middle East is in allied hands, Field Marshall Rommel has been killed in a jeep accident, at least that's what the German news releases say. The Ruskies are advancing on their front, and our GIs are getting close to Berlin. The would-be world dictator Herr Hitler is in his bunker, no doubt praying to some war god for victory, while our B17s pulverize Berlin and other German cities. Their air and sea power is nil.

Prior to this time I was promoted to Tech Sgt and had a shift of my own. I had as fine a group of men as anyone could ask for. I only had to pull rank on one man, and that was minor.

It looks like it's almost over in Germany--about all that's left is a mopping up operation and some paper signing. There's still lots of killing to do in the Pacific yet though. Our GIs have hoisted the flag on Iwo Jima, the Philippines is back in our hands, and our GIs are moving slowly but surely toward Japan itself. It looks as if we will beat that Tokyo gate in 48 bread line in 49.

I am now acting chief operator and have been for a couple of months. Several of our original bunch have already been shipped back to the States, and we had no experienced operators to replace them with. All we had was a group fresh out of school. One of them was a tech Sgt that thought he was God's gift to the US Army Signal Corps. I ask him about his copying speed, his answer almost floored me--40 to 50 words per minute!! I told him I had a position waiting for him. I put him on the Kunming Circuit, the only good manual circuit we had left. He sat down, put paper in his typewriter and just sat there. I tried to get him to call Kunming and tell him to go ahead with his traffic, he still just sat there. I reached over his shoulder and called Kunming and told him to go ahead with his traffic. The operator on the other end started sending. After the heading and four or five lines, he had not touched a key on his typewriter. I broke Kunming and sat down and copied his messages. Now the fun comes in. I sat him down for a little conference. The first thing I said to him was "Sgt, you told me you could copy 40 to 50 WPM." His answer was, "I said 40 to 50, not 60 to 70." I felt sorry for the kid, but he learned a big lesson from this. He realized he wasn't so hot after all. I worked with him, and he made a serious effort to build up his speed and become a good radio operator. Before I left, he was coming along just fine. My orders were being cut to be rotated back to the states when our Chief Signal Officer asked me to stay over for a few weeks to help train the new operators. I agreed to stay over as long as necessary. He also hinted at a field commission as Second Lt if I would take a 30 day leave in the States and return for another tour of duty in New Delhi. I regret that I didn't take his offer. It would have been a temporary commission, and I would have reverted back to my regular Army Tech Sgt after the war.

My orders were cut for my return to the States 22 February 1945. The exact date of departure escapes me now, but it was not over two days at the most. In the Sands Hotel on Miami Beach. Boy this was something else for an old country boy like me. I ran into one of the fellows I knew in New Delhi. He had been a vocalist in one of the big bands before he was drafted. He was in charge of entertainment for the entire rest center. He supplied me with all the free tickets to the night clubs, and whatever else was going on that I could use.

When I used up all my twelve days on R and R, I was given orders to report to the CO, Camp Crowder, MO. Just my luck, I was put in charge of a group, also on their way to Crowder. We traveled by train and at the first stop, the news boys came along side with an Extra. This is how we found out about the president's death.

We arrived Camp Crowder just in time to take part in the ceremony in honor of President Roosevelt. We all stood at attention, holding a rigid salute as a military band played taps while the flag was lowered to half mast. My stay at Camp was uneventful. We went out in the mountains on a week's maneuvers. To tell the truth I kindly enjoyed it. I got to fly around the area checking camouflage discipline. I didn't know exactly what I was supposed to be looking for, but I enjoyed flying in the L12 spotter plane and being given the opportunity to see the country from the air.

I was given the job of Barracks Sgt. All I had to do was march the men to and fro from class and see that things were spic and span and in order for inspection day. After finishing these duties, I did whatever I wanted to. Most of my time was spent shooting pool or reading.

Soon after Germany surrendered, I was sent to Camp Shelby, MS for reassignment. Naturally, I got stuck with a bunch of GI's going to Camp Shelby for discharge.

We had several hour layover in Springfield, MO. I let them go into town on their own and reminded them if they didn't show by departure time, they would be reported AWOL. They all showed up but one. When I turned in their orders at Camp Shelby, I reported this guy's failure to report back to the train at departure time. Lo and behold! I ran into him two months later in Jackson. We had a cup of coffee and a long chat. It seems he ran into a good looking gal and shacked up with her for two weeks. He got his honorable discharge despite his self imposed delay in route.

I went to work in the Post Telegraph Office and worked there until I was discharged on August 7, 1945. [editor's note: this was left blank in Papaw's notes, but I've filled the date in from his discharge papers.] I came to Vicksburg and started to work for the Corps of Engineers as Radio Operator on the sinking unit, at Miller's Bend, about twenty-five miles above Greenville, MS. I stayed on the sinking unit for about 2 weeks and was transferred to the old stern wheel shag boat Charles H. West.

I stayed on the West for six months and was pulled in to the radio room in the Post Office building. I stayed here for a couple of months. We got a new towboat, the Tulagi, or at least it was new to us. She was one of the DPC steam boats built during the war to tow freight and oil barges from the Northern reaches down to New Orleans and in between, if necessary. She was a heck of a good tow boat, too. Capt Wilks Wilkerson was the master, and in my opinion, one of the best river skippers that ever piloted a Mississippi River towboat, as well as an all around fine fellow and close friend.

I was on the Tulagi for three months and sent back to the radio room in the Post Office Building. About this time, my boss found out I was doing all the repairs to the radio equipment on the boats I worked on, so he brought me back to the radio room and handed me two hats, floating operator and repairman.

I have talked about radio and boats enough, so I will change the subject. I don't know how to explain it, but I all of a sudden found out there were other things besides boats and radios, mainly a good looking brunette. After a seven month courtship we tied the knot. We lived in four little apartments before we were able to buy a house. We built the house we live in now, and moved into it in March Nineteen and Fifty.

We have two fine daughters and three grandchildren, two boys and one girl. I retired in Nineteen and Seventy-Six. Since then, I have been doing honeydo jobs around the house, working in the yard, and working on my ham radio when the notion strikes me.

That's all folks-