BILL BENTSON, US ARMY
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII

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Before WW II started, Bill Bentson was on duty with Coast Artillery Corps at Fort Stevens, Oregon, USA at the mouth of the Columbia River. They had 10" guns that fired out to sea and 6" guns that fired on the river.  They also had 12" mortars that fired on the river.  They even had mines planted in the river. All of this weaponry was out of date, by the time the war started. Some  dating back to the Civil War.

Even during the blackout of the Fort and a moonless night in May 1942, a Japanese submarine fired at the Fort, one night, but missed it.  Bill was shipped out of the Fort in February 1942 for Australia, so missed this action by the Jap sub.  Fort Stevens was the only military installation in the U.S. fired upon, by the Japs, during WW II.  The sub was tracked, but the 10" guns on the coast could not be lowered down far enough to fire at the sub, it was too close the coast.  The Japanese knew this.  The Fort held it's fire.  If they had fired at the sub, the flash from the guns would have given the Japs the exact location of the Fort. Shortly before the war started, Anti-aircraft 6" mobile weapons and searchlights were issued to the CAC and a lot of training was carried out with these weapons.

When Bill Bentson arrived in Australia he served in the G-4 Section in Melbourne, beginning on 9 April 1942. General Douglas MacArthur had just established his Headquarters. U.S. Army Forces In The Far East (USAFFE) in Melbourne, shortly after he arrived from the Philippines. The G-4 section was Supply and Logistics. with Brig. Gen. Lester J. Whitlock as the Assistant-Chief-Of-Staff G-4. 

When MacArthur became Commander-In-Chief of the Allied forces on 18 April 1942, the Headquarters became known as General Headquarter, Southwest Pacific Area (GHQ SWPA). 

GHQ, SWPA  moved to Brisbane on 21 July 1942 and was located in the AMP building in Queen Street, Brisbane. Bill remained with the G-4 Section until he was appointed a Warrant Officer on 16 Sept. 1943, and was assigned to the 391st Port Battalion in New Guinea. At the time, he was with the Advanced Echelon of GHQ in Port Moresby.

Bill Bentson liked to do some fishing in the Brisbane River during his stay in Brisbane.

 


Photo: Bill Bentson

Warrant Officer Bill Bentson, eating SPAM
at Oro Bay, New Guinea in about November 1943

 


Photo: Bill Bentson

Warrant Officer Bill Bentson, 491st Port Battalion
at Oro Bay, New Guinea in about November 1943

 


Photo: Bill Bentson

Warrant Officer Bill Bentson, with Gary Cooper
at Oro Bay, New Guinea in about November 1943

 


Photo: Bill Bentson

Warrant Officer Bill Bentson, with Gary Cooper
at Oro Bay, New Guinea in about November 1943

 


Photo: Bill Bentson

Una Merkel at Oro Bay, New Guinea in about November 1943

 

 
Gary Cooper, Phyllis Brooks and Una Merkel entertained the 491st Port Battalion, at Oro Bay, New Guinea in November 1943.  The Battalion Commander of the 491st was Una's Godfather. Gary Cooper sang "LAY THAT PISTOL DOWN MOM".  First time Bill Bentson had ever heard him sing. Bill said "They put on a great show."  
 
The stage was outside, but had a cover over it. Half way thru the show, a jeep went over the hill, just behind the audience and the red tail lights look like an air raid alert and everyone ducked for cover.  After this false alarm, everyone settled back and the show went on.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank the late Bill Bentson for his assistance with this home page. 

 

Can anyone help me with more information?

 

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 Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 29 September 2004

This page last updated 03 February 2017