49TH SERVICE SQUADRON
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII
Kenneth Paul Meriam was a Maintenance Sergeant in the the 49th Service Squadron. Kenneth Meriam was transported to Australia on the first voyage of the Queen Mary as a part of the 8th Service Group. The 49th was probably initially a part of the 8th Service Group.
The 49th seems to have provided maintenance and carried out more complex repairs than that provided by the Bomber and Fighter Commands of the 5th Army Air Force themselves, but less complex than the Depots which never seem to move once established on a base. The 49th seems to have followed the fighter and bomber groups around, but not immediately after the airfields in New Guinea and the Philippines were occupied by the bomber and fighter squadrons, but later on.
Kenneth Meriam worked on P-38s, P-39s, B25s, B-24s, and B-17s.
Photo:- via Darryl Ford
Sergeant Kenneth Paul Meriam in Melbourne in early 1942
Photo:- Kenneth Meriam via Jeffery Meriam
Grave of Tojo, the 36th Fighter
which was killed at Gurney Field on 3 October 19 42.
Photo:- Kenneth Meriam via Jeffery Meriam
Grave of Tojo, the 36th Fighter
which was killed at Gurney Field on 3 October 19 42.
Photo:- Milton Wilkinson via Jeffery Meriam
Australian soldier William Allen
Meriam met at Mareeba in April 1943.
WARTIME DIARIES OF KENNETH PAUL MERIAM OF THE 49TH SERVICE SQUADRON
Transcribed verbatim by his son Jeffery Paul Meriam
Wartime Itinerary: I found two small notebook-sized sheets of paper separate from the notebooks that have the dates of where he went and how he got there for most of the war.
|1942 Feb 18 - Mar 28||Q. Mary|
|Mar 29 - Mar 30||Sydney to Melbourne|
|Mar 30 - Apr 6||Camp Darby (possibly Camp Darley)|
|Apr 6 – Apr 26||Camp Crickett|
|Apr 26 – June 6||Camp Murphy|
|June 6 – Oct 28||Laverton|
|Oct 28 – Oct 30||Camp Murphy|
|Oct 30 – Nov 3||Enroute Camp Muckley|
|Nov 3 – Nov 30||Camp Muckley|
|Nov 30 – Dec 2||Enroute Armstrong Paddock – Townsville|
|Dec 2 – Dec 15||Armstrong Paddock|
|Dec 15 – to Dec 18||Moresby (enroute)|
|Dec 18 – Dec 20||17 Mile Drome|
|Dec 20||1½ hours by air to Milne Bay|
|Dec 20 – Feb 22 (43)||Milne Bay|
|Feb 22 – Feb 25||Enroute Cairns|
|Feb 25 – Feb 28||Cairns|
|Feb 28 – May 9||Marriba (sic: Mareeba)|
|May 9 – May 16||Enroute Part Moresby|
|May 16 – May 30||Port Moresby|
|May 30th 9AM||Flew C-47 from Port Moresby over Owen Stanleys|
|May 30 – Jan 25||Dobodura|
|Jan 25 ’44||Flew Nadzab|
|Jan 25 – Feb 9||Nadzab|
|Feb 9, ’44||Flew to Gooshab, Lae, Dobodura|
|Feb 9 – March 6, ’44||Dobodura|
|March 6||Flew Nadzab|
|March 6 – Sept 15||Nadzab|
|Sept 15 – Sept 18, ’44||LCI to Biak|
|Sept 18 – Nov 8, ’44||Biak|
|Nov 8 – Nov 15||LST to Leyte|
|Nov 8 – Nov 10||Dulag (Leyte)|
|Nov 10 – Dec 14||San Pablo|
|Dec 14 – Feb ’45||Tanuan|
|Feb 23 – to Mar 19||Enroute USA (ship)|
|Mar 19, ’45||Seattle, Washington|
Oct 24, ’42 Packing all equipment getting ready to move. We’re supposed to go to Brisbane about the 1st of Nov., just the instructors. It’s going to be hard to leave after being here so long. Came out June 6. Have grown quite fond of Laverton and Melbourne, in spite of the changeable, damp climate. Laverton drome supposed to be the finest depot in Australia. Sure have learned lots from the Aussies, they’ve been so grand to us. Lovely nites many more stars in the sky down here and there is really a man in the moon. The Milky Way is very clear and distinct. Cloud formations are much more beautiful than at home and the sunrises and sunsets are invariably beautiful.
Oct 25 We’re going back to Camp Murphy – MCC and ship out with them. Phooey, hate to go back there, but it’ll only be a few days. Everyone packing like mad. We’ve got to go in today. Lovely summer day, just as the weather gets good, we have to leave.
A stirring sight today as the field was guest to 14 B-26s flown and operated by the Dutch. Lord, those boys are real flyers. All the ships lined up in a row make a very impressive sight.
Laverton is a main repair and assembly depot. Beauforts, Beaufighters, Kittyhawks, Aircobras, Spitfires, Lancers, Vengeance, B-17s. etc.
Oct 26 Sure tiring moving in last night, slept good! Brought the big semi in with all equipment. Had a lot of fun dodging around Melbourne to get the load thru. The Props stuck up so high, wouldn’t go under some wires, etc.
Murphy in a dither packing up, first shipment goes out tomorrow. Think I’ll be on it. Two trains and a clean up unit that will stay to clean up. Am all packed, and what a load. With all my books and notes, they weigh a ton.
Oct 27 Boarded train 11:45 pulled out at noon. She’s sure going slow. First stop Tocumwal where we have to unload and reload on another train. Different gauge tracks in each state, bad business especially in war time. Tocumwal is on the Murray River and is just outside Victoria in New South Wales. The Murray runs clear to Melbourne where it and the Yarra River empty into Phillips Bay.
Just finished unloading train into another. What a job. Took us 2½ hours. We can really show the Aussie how to work when it comes to getting things done in a hurry. We have been 10 hrs covering the distance from Melbourne 167 miles, terrible. Sure tired.
Oct 28 – 29 – 30 Boy, these carriages sure aren’t built for comfort or sleeping. Leather cushions but are quite hard. A bit lucky tho, there are only 4 of us in this compartment. S/Sgt Mikkalson, Sgt Kinyock, PFC Bicks and myself. Slept better than some of the others, but that’s not saying much. Rainy weather most of the way so far. Just drizzle and not cold, only used one blanket and slept in coveralls. What a different life.
Small towns are very attractive clean and neat. Each town always has a part, one thing that nearly every town here has. Children line the tracks and people in homes near by are always out waving, etc. Odd names, Wagga Wagga, Cootamundra. Most names have to do with the native aborigines. None in the south but quite plentiful in the north.
Australian mountains can’t compare with ours so far. They seem more like big rolling hills mainly covered with different species of gum trees. Some cypress, ash and fir, but very few.
Passing through timber country now, they do a lot of logging. Some methods out of date to us, such as using cattle to haul big timbers to the mill. Have seen three teams up to 16 head driven by rangy Aussies with an incredibly long whip.
Passed over and around a beautiful chain of lakes yesterday - Hawksbury Lakes, between Sydney and Newcastle.
Saw my first wild Wallaby this morning. We’re starting to get into their country now. Crossed the border into Queensland last nite. Vegetation will become more tropical from now on the further we travel north.
The other three fellows are sleeping, we make up during the day what we miss at nite. I do a lot of reading, short stories, etc.
Food along the way not so good so we buy fruit cakes and biscuits every stop we make. Gosh seems like all we do is eat. Helps pass the time away. Had a good meal in Newcastle last nite for a change.
This part of the country is criss crossed with rivers of a fairly good size, deep and slow running.
Kahkis are the uniform now, will be glad we have them when we hit Brisbane. About 1300 miles from Melbourne to Brisbane.
Seems funny to have summer starting in November. Bet they’re all chilly now at home, bless ‘em. I get so damned homesick and lonely for my darling wife.
Country getting a bit tropical now. Beginning to see numerous orange groves and banana plantations. Never thought I’d see bananas grown for commercial use. Really attractive and fresh looking. Usually planted on hillsides, seems odd. Weather is beautiful, beginning to get warm, occasional showers.
Numerous rivers thru this section, we’re crossing lots of them, wide and deep.
Saw so much nice country and people, I’d like to spend some leave in one of these small country towns.
11-1-42 Still asleep this morning when the train pulled in. We arrived here at 6
A.M. Unloaded ourselves and personal equipment then had a spot of breakfast. We unloaded some of the railway cars, then took off for the new camp. It’s about three miles from a small town and 13 miles from Brisbane. Camp situated amongst lots of gum trees, everything is camoflauged completely. Barracks set more or less inline, but pretty irregular due to the trees. Slightly hilly. I like it very much so far. No hot water, but the weather is warm so cold showers feel good, especially after the long train ride.
Lots of bugs, flys and snakes here. At night plenty of mosquitoes, but we have mosquito bars so will make out fine. Just finished a letter to my honey – off to bed.
Brisbane is quite a nice town, streets a rather narrow, but the American influence is more prevalent here than in Melbourne. Situated near Archer Field, quite a large busy place, both yank and Aussie mostly yank.
Very little to do in town, generally a show to two and dinner – steak.
Have had a lot of fine swimming at the Oasis, about 4 miles from Camp Muckley. Also some horseback riding.
Nov 29 – Dec 15 Arrived in Townsville just at breakfast time, three days in the train and plenty uncomfortable. Our carriage was jammed, and how, slept half on the seat and half on the floor & barracks bags. Dirty as ‘ell.
Looks a very desolate, dry town.
Dumped us off at Garbutt Field, all Yank and Aussie where we baked in a hot sun all day. Then when dark came, after all the wasted time, we were taken to Armstrong Paddock where we fell into tents, no cots or blankets. Finally they dug some up and we dove into bed.
Rains by the buckets full and the ground is marshy so – what a mess.
Terrific long chow lines, food’s punk.
Just a few miles into town, quite as we first pictured it. Very little there, more shows, too hot to eat very heavily. Lots of ice cream, not very good, and cool drinks, soft. Haven’t had any beer since Laverton.
People very much at a distance to us here. Fellows squawk – no girls.
Ice cream boy comes into camp every day, eat a large pint at a time, makes up for the food.
Met a number of fellows at Garbutt of the old 41st and school bunch.
19th Bomb Group moving out going HOME – God, I’d like to be going.
Finally moving orders – New Guinea here we come (Dec 15).
We’re on a Liberty boat “- Johnston” sleeping in aft hold just under deck. Hot and stuffy. Slept on deck part of time. Rained out twice. Food canned rations – not bad at all. Four days – fairly good weather – plenty of fellows sick, but I’ve managed alright. Have been escorted by a corvette, one small steamer with us.
Dec 18 – Fri noon. Port Moresby – have been making a cautious entrance – coral reefs everywhere – can see the breakers over them a long way from shore.
Tier upon tier of huge jagged mts as far as I can see. The Owen Stanley Range. Very beautiful but also foreboding and dangerous looking.
Small bay and poor dockage. First Fuzzy Wuzzies – odd.
Off the Johnston into the corvette, then ashore into trucks and away.
Very unpretentious and dusty looking town. Wrecked homes, craters, etc.
Think 17 Mile Drome and – we’re lost – nobody wants us. My outfit’s at Milne Bay. Stayed from Friday noon till Sunday noon.
Dec 20 – 11:30 AM. 1½ hour flight to Milne Bay – a lovely trip – my first by air. Found it a very pleasant thing.
Can see formation of coral in the sea very plainly from here. Passing over banana and coconut plantations. Jungle every where, so cool and green looking.
Native houses from air look very picturesque.
No parachutes but no one seems to mind. Pilot and copilot, we too, keep and eye out for Zeros.
A quiet life, keep busy salvaging planes P-39’s – B-26’s – B-17’s – B-24’s – P-40’s – B25’s.
Two strips here at Milne Bay – Jungle and plantation cleared away a runway built up covered with strips of perforated steel.
Strip one – Gurney Field is the closest to us. Strip 3 about four miles east on end at the bay. Turnbull Field.
Jan 17  – At 12:40 I saw for the first time a formation of 24 Jap bombers, Mitshubishi type escorted by 20 Zeros. A beautiful sight, even if they were Japs. Tojo laid eggs all over Strip 3 and vicinity causing lots of damage and 3 casualties. Direct hits on 2 B-17’s, one B-24, 1 P-39 & 2 C-47’s. Beautiful bit of bombing but quite horrible to look over afterward. Eight of our fellows caught it – one now in hosp – shock – is getting Purple Heart – Petrocho.
Then head straight for us, went almost overhead, but laid no more bombs that day. First raid, I ran the gamut of emotions today, lightly but now I know what it’s like – Ack-ack not at all effective, guns too small, they’d just moved out our big ones.
They’re back in now as we’ve had raids now for almost 2 weeks.
A terribly thrilling, fearing sensation hearing bombs falling and bursting. Ack-ack shrapnel falling all around us in slit trenches. Only fatalities were 8 Aussies in Ack ack operations tent – direct hit.
Lord God – how we run for the trenches now – clothes or no clothes, but always helmets and gas masks.
Some very sleepless nites, nerves jittery at any unusual sounds, waking up at all hours of nite – waiting – waiting for the sound of motors, sirens – ack ack fire.
Doesn’t seem possible these beautiful nites sky full of stars and a huge moon. That’s when Tojo likes it best.
All peace and quiet serene and beautiful, suddenly it sounds like all hell has broken loose.
Only one raid for the last two weeks, lots of sleep, work and recreation.
Milne Bay and the area around is surrounded by mts. Usually a deep blue green color, clouds always hanging at the crests, jungle from the bays edge to the mountain top except for the coconut plantations. The bay is quite good sized, from the heads it opens out straight from one side, rounding in the other gradually coming together to form a small neck. The docks are on the north – rounding side. This area is known as Gilli-Gilli, the other side as Gabagabuna. Three wharves – two quite small – shallow too. One just big enough for Liberty boats. Any larger anchor in the bay sending cargo & men ashore on barges, etc. One small dock partially blocked by a shell blasted Chinese boat laying on her side.
She was here when the Japs invaded and were repulsed.
They were decent enough to allow a hospital ship to move out of the way before they blasted the Chinese ship.
Have been to the large pits where Tojo’s men are buried. They were let into Strip 3 and they were mowed down by Aussies and Yank Engineers. Wholesale graves large enough to be covered over by bulldozers.
Most all signs gone now, except for bones, clothing scraps, etc. All souvenirs gone before we arrived.
Feb 21, 1943. Leaving here very soon, probably tomorrow. In some ways I’d like to stay, but it will be so good to get back to Aussie. The nicest thing to me was the swimming here, it’s been perfect. Water is crystal clear and a wonderful temperature. Once in, it’s hard to get out, I feel so good.
The climate here isn’t so awfully hot, but it is very humid, consequently it’s stifling sometimes. Have drunk as high as 6 or 8 canteens of water in a day.
George Sambo Jumbo three natives from Goodenough Island are batsmen for the officers, what characters they are. George in particular can really cuss the Japs in American, It’s surprising how fast they’ve picked up Yankee. Always talking about pompoms and how they’d fix us up if we came to visit them after the war.
Bananas by the bunch for 2 or 3 shillings, short and fat not so bad. Few pineapples.
Feb 22. Left today for Australia on a Liberty ship. Had another raid last night while we were at a show in an Aussie camp. Sirens sounded, we scattered like quail but no place to go, so just hugged the ground hard. Bombs lit within 200 yds from us, we’re lucky. Shrapnel falling all around, no casualties. The last for a while, thank God.
Milne Bay, as we pulled out, was as smooth as a piece of glass, ruffled in spots by a light breeze. So clear and smooth that, standing on the bow, our reflections were very easy to see, likewise the bow itself.
A smooth trip all the way. Landed in Cairns, rain, rain, etc. Stayed behind to help unload the ship. Spent three days doing nothing but loaf and eat.
Landed Cairns Feb 25, ’43. Capt’n Jacks really treated us swell, no work for the boys of the 49th.
Very small town, nothing here at all. Sent a cable to my dearest on landing. G. I.s all over the place.
Drove a truck to our camp, about six miles from Mareeba over a nightmare of a road. Had trouble to start with so made the trip with a jeep escort.
One way toll road, driving time 48 minutes. Turns and curves, whooie. Climb to about 3000 ft in that time.
Camp a mudhole due to rain, got boots as soon as I arrived.
Camp in a grove of gum trees, looks nice, quite a change from coconut palms.
80th Fighter has gotten P-38’s for the old 39’s – 36th and 35th Fighter still have 39’s – 403 Bomb has a number of Liberators along with B-17’s.
We’ve taken two B-17’s that were practically dismantled. One has already been flown to 4th Air Depot in Townsville, the other is about ready. Waiting for wing tip, elevators and misc. equipment. Sure a grand feeling to see ships that I’ve helped work on, fly and do a good job of it.
Also a few P-38’s and P-39’s have been worked on in our hanger. A Mitchell bomber, B-25, new from the States over shot the field cracked up, so we had a salvage job.
The weather has been perfect since our wet arrival. Only a few very light showers since. Quite cool at nite, chilly in the mornings, but lovely in the daytime.
Leaving shortly, feverish packing up going on. Looks like New Guinea again, Port Moresby, but for once we’re not sure of the destination.
Had a good furlough while here in Mareeba. We have found out that we were supposed to have gone to another place on N.G. but as such a high % had malaria.
we went to Aussie.
Sunday, May 9, 1943. Left Mareeba, I drove a jeep to Cairns, just the opposite type of drive as I ate pounds of dust. We left in truck convoy and stayed in a staging area in Cairns till Wednesday, the 12 when we boarded the Dutch island steamer SS Van Heutoz. Have taken a number of pictures which I hope turn out. Stayed on board in the river till Friday morning at noon when we joined the convoy. Two Liberty ships, one Aussie freighter, subchaser and Aussie destroyer – very wicked looking. More of an escort this time as the Jap subs have been quite active sinking ships ‘tween here and N.G.
Had an uneventful trip, thank heaven. The only disturbing thing being ack-ack practice on board the ships that proved a diversion more than anything.
Main pastime was reading, that is unless a person wished to lose money in the countless card games – not me.
Port Moresby again the second time by ship. Most of the outfit have never been here before. Arrived the morning of May 16, 1943, the weather being slightly overcast and insufferably hot when we anchored. Damn the tropics, they’re not for me. Took more pictures, harbor, etc.
Very nice bay, tho small. Dockage still very poor even tho. This is being made into a large base. The Owen Stanleys shrouded in clouds, a shame because they are a magnificent sight.
Liberty ship tied up then we alongside her. We clambered over, onto the dock and into waiting Aussie trucks. The town is just the same dry, though surrounded by green, tropical place.
We’re to be at 14 Mile Drome. On the way, I see numerous changes, all for the better, more equipment, planes, men, etc. It’s terrific. The Japs would catch hell trying to take this place, fair dinkum.
Now we know that we are here for only a short time. Buna is our destination, rather Dobudura, about three miles from Buna. There we will set up and do our usual work. We’re flying everything but heavy trucks, etc. over to Dobudura. They come by barge as there is no dockage for ships.
All our work fixing up our trucks in Marriba (sic: Mareeba) is wasted as we are pulling everything out and crating it up.
Shows at outfits near here every nite.
First plane loads left with some men Friday the 24 of May.
Will all be over before long. I’d have gone except that I’m to go before the board for AYS exam. Golly, I hope I make it. Tomorrows the day, May 25, that I appear. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Have had several red alerts here but last nite they came over. Two bombers flying very high. A full moon with broken clouds upon which the searchlites played in their quest. They found them , very pretty, two silver moths caught for an instant, ack-ack bursting near them. Then suddenly the heavy bomb explosions followed by heavier ack ack when the searchlites lost the planes. All we could hear was the engines and ack-ack. All the time this was happening – sheet lightening was lighting up the sky – really beautiful but also quite grim.
One heavy tropical storm, rain in gallons. Our tent okay, but the air raid trench filled up. Others not so lucky – tents down, clothing, etc. wet. Ours was ditched so we stayed dry inside but many others were rained out.
Beautiful trip across the Owen Stanleys in a DC-3, 30 minute trip thru the air which would take days of back breaking labor toiling thru the jungle and mts. on foot.
Dobodura from the air looks inviting. The country is nearly all flat, one side the mts, the other the sea. Jungle everywhere but with many open, grasses acres. Strip four, transport strip a scene of busy activity. There’s quite an undescribable thrill about being airborne so many things seem to fall away. Our camp area the first day looked uninviting messes of equipment everywhere and everyone trying to get settled. Tents are springing up right in the jungle which fringes the grassy clearing. Cool under the trees and that is a blessing.
We’ve been here nearly five months now and the camp site and tents are a revelation from the first day. Every bit of jungle cleared away except for trees and an occasional clump of ferns and vines. Tents floored, raised and made very rigid by supports. Clothes lines, a boiling pot near every tent and now a day room is ready to spring up to the rear of our tent. Cemented shower floor with showers that work. Sandy soil, very deep, made slit trench digging very simple. We’ve had to use them many time though the bombs weren’t very close. Flying shrapnel is our main fear after the ack-ack has been pounding away. I was hit on the shoulder by a piece, luckily very small. I have it as a reminder of how much worse it could have been. We were all lying on the ground one nite watching the searchlites play across the moonlit sky and heavy towering clouds searching for the ones who were breaking our rest. The lights didn’t find them, but suddenly a trash pile flared up, burning brightly and with the Japs overhead we acted quickly. We filled our helmets with water, Tom, Allen and I. Quickly dumped it on the fire as we heard the never-to-be-forgotten sound of bombs swhoosing down, nearer and nearer. We made a run for the trench. Allen stayed to pour another bucket full on not thinking. Tom tripped over a tent rope, wham flat as could be, scrambled up and we just about made it at the same time. All this while the bombs were coming down. They hit some hundreds of yards away but sounded closer. We were in the trench by then, all but Allen We laughed lots – afterward.
One morning Lieut Palmer recognized a native boy who came in with another, wanting work. They were both wanted in Moresby as spies. Questioning them caused them to run thru the camp area, trying to escape. The fellows caught one, the other getting away. Native police were sent out after the other and before nite fell, he was caught. The natives had deserted their jobs in Moresby and had gone thru the jungle to the Japs. They were taken to Rabaul, apparently trained a bit and then sent into this area. An unusual happening.
The Japs have taken a terrific a terrific shellacking in the Buna, Oro Bay, Dobodura area lately! Twice in Sept they lost heavily. One Sunday they sent over 80 planes to raid Oro Bay. Our fighters were all up, about 100 of them and in a short time 51 were definitely destroyed, 10 probables.
Giving news broadcasts at the theater now. Was a bit nervous to start with but am going fine now. Have received many compliments on it and the Major is quite pleased. We “pan” one fellow each show nite, something about him that all the outfit knows, the fellas get a kick out of it. Broadcasting is a good experience for me.
We’ve begun to notice an increase in heat as summer draws near. It has been hot the whole time but October is the beginning and so I guess we’ll suffer for a while.
Took a trip through Soputa to Popenditta Air Strip where we had a B-25 crack up. Beautiful country, very rough and covered with jungle. Found some bananas pawpaws and bartered with some natives for more bananas and coconuts.
We were swamped at the line for a while. The heavy air assault on Rabaul brought us 13 planes to work on in one day, all but two were ready for combat again the next morning, had to work all nite.
The past few months have been strictly routine, nothing unusual except rumors of going home. Lots of work.
Moving again, Nadzab this time, what a lot of work packing up. Am on furlough in Nov – Dec.
The advance echelon left Dobo Jan 25 a nice flight in a DC. Jungle all the same, flew low over Salamaua and over the sea to Lae. Lae quite small. Flew on by, following the Markham River ‘til we came to the Markham Valley. Reminds me a lot of S. C. [Santa Clara] valley though narrower, quite flat, all kunai grass with jungles fringing the valley on the low side. Lots of activity. The valley is split by the Vetba River. Our engineering is on the banks of the Vetba, a wide shallow stream, swift.
Camp area already set up by a fighter outfit who are moving on up. Very dirty, untidy tho the mess hall is good-o. Spent lots of time wiring up for our outfit, climbing trees I don’t like. Eating like Kings. Have a nice Shanty. Given tour by a chap of the old 4th Sq.
Flew back to Dobo, we aren’t moving yet. Only had a few red alerts. The valley was strafed twice by a Jap plane while we were at Nadzab. Partially unpacked again at Dobo – operating nearly full scale. Phooey, wish we’d move.
Left Dobo Mar 6 after most the outfit was gone. Again – what food! Fresh butter, pork chops, eggs and chickens. It never fails, we always eat well before we move out; a fact.
Quite a good engineering here on the banks of the Vetba River. Had a rainstorm awhile back. The shallow river overflowed, pretty well covering engineering. Now the course of the river changed, we’ll keep dry.
Have a nice shop and are plenty busy! Glad the outfit’s got a good name.
The camp area is again a revelation, spick n span. The boast of our C.O. and Inspecting officers from the outside say it’s the best in the valley.
July 31 –1944 A few days ago we finished with an A-20, two of our air chaps, Reynolds and Lituiak went along with the pilot. They didn’t come back and we really felt low, first time anything like that has occurred. Planes searched all the next day, found the ship eighteen miles up the valley “buttoned up” so we assumed the fellows were okay. They should have stayed put, supplies could have been dropped. Instead they struck out for the base, a staggering job of cutting their way thru eighteen foot high Kunai grass and then the jungle. Reynolds cut his knee open with his knife, had no shirt; the Lt had a bum hip, couldn’t walk far at a stretch. Lituiak went for water, came back and found the Lt had gone looking for him – he was lost and the two started again. Another nite midst bugs, swarms of mosquitos and their covering was branches and leaves. The next afternoon they hit the main river saw two natives and a G.I. Lituiak lost a lot of weight, Reynolds is the hospital and is being evacuated, don’t know how bad the knee is. The Lt was found late the same afternoon. Thank God they got out alright.
Salvaging that ship is quite a job but from the trip we’re well stocked on fruit, etc.
Yesterday we test hopped a B-25 that had belly landed two months ago. Five of our blokes were up. ‘Round and round the valley it flew and we could see it had trouble with the landing gear. It was nearly dark, the pilot gave up trying to lock the nose wheel and ordered all men in the tail of the ship. In he came, landed keeping the nose high & the weight of the men kept the tail down after she’d stopped. What luck! A little work and she will be alright. Someone slipped a bit but it was unavoidable.
Rumors, rumors – that’s all we hear but we will be moving up soon (?) Partially packed already and still busy in the shop.
Aug 16, 1944 Started packing today, moving out again, this time rumor has it as Biak. Rumor also has it that we’ll merely stop-over there.
Sept 15 – A long wait doing a lot of odd jobs getting finished up tho we’ve been ready since the 20th of Aug. A lot of poker and cards of all kinds, reading a lot. Today we pulled out in trucks at 5 AM for Lae, leaving the fellows going home on the sixth and seventh groups. What happy guys, we also ‘cause the plan has finally caught up. Loaded on L.C. I.’s this morning, we’re going to Biak on them and what seasick visions we have. Twelve in a convoy.
Lucky us, the sea has been very smooth, just a few fellows seasick.
Went by the Jap held part – Wewak – Aitape last nite – completely blacked out – all guns manned. Hollandia – McArthur’s by gone by, busy looking place. We stopped apparently for a message, left five L.C.I.’s and underway again.
Pulled into Biak at two in the afternoon after passing Owe and Japen Islands – Japen still held by the Nips. Biak much different than we expected except for coral everywhere. Pulled in to landing jetties – a crunch and we were in. Five months after and signs of the invasion everywhere. Torn trees, cliffs, coral misc. equipment, barges etc.
Trucks to “camp” and what a dismal mess! A large lot scraped out on a bumpy slope to a steep hillside. Getting late and squabbles as to setting up the tents in a raw – a temporary set up at best – we can’t see what a difference it makes. Guess we’re tired and disgusted; too much petty stuff.
Have just spent two days moving tents into straight lines which are still crooked, hard to drive stakes in coral.
Picking up sticks and stones, digging and blasting latrines, putting in a shower floor, tent frames going up, police, police, police!!! Cleared out a lot for the motor pool; they moved in further down the road!
They say we’re going to operate on Sorido strip – transports. I don’t quite believe it ‘cause the equipment is coming in now and it’s going into the motor pool – not the “line”. What a hell of a mess!! The worst move I’ve seen! The equipment not too good. Our big electrical test set sat out on the open deck for over a month, thru storms, etc. A wreck!! God, I sure got burnt up at the messy job done. Broken boxes, more than ever before, tools stolen, and some equip missing.
Moved into the new tent frames, not bad tho a bad fit. Building frames for the officers now.
Well down forty feet, no water.
Crating and boxing again – we’re not setting up!! P.I. looks like the next hop.
Gosh almighty!! I’ve never seen hotter more humid miserable heat. Whooee, we stifle to death during the day in the tents. Outside in the sun, it’s like a hammer; in the shade it’s nice, a bit of a breeze helps. Logging in the woods a terrific job!
Oct 7 – Camp looks good now, tho it’s only a temporary set up, we’ve sure put the work into making it nice for we don’t know how long.
“Well” is no good, almost fifty feet.
School days again, a refresher for a few new mechanics. Not bad at all and it may do some good.
Food good now.
Had a nice chat with the Dutch civilian in charge of the island. ‘Bout trading with the natives and their being spoiled. Navy’s the worst offender.
Hanson says no shop foreman to go home ‘til after we’re set up and working again. The quotas are getting smaller – God, will I never get home? At this time, I can’t see it happening before January or February – three bloody, long, lonely years watching, lately, fellows go home who came overseas after I did!
Oct 15 – All caught up on rotation, the eighth October bunch left with the Sept group this am.
Bargaining with the natives is fun!
Two red alerts early in the morning, nothing else. Japs kept busy elsewhere now. We can’t tell how long it will be ‘fore we move. Convoys shaping up in the “bay”.
Had an experience today. Hauling crates from one side of the motor pool to the other with a big tractor and boom. Had a load of sheet iron, heavy as ell, backed over a slope, the tractor tipped, settled back I swung my leg, it tipped again and over she went. I took off like I was on a spring board, a flat dive, gloved hands hit first, stomach knees, then toes. Slid ten feet, turned over and watched the dust settle. The boom kept the tractor from rolling – on me.
The catseye business has boomed, we’ve cleared better then $100 apiece but now we’re moving again.
Nov 6 We left Biak after two hectic days of preparing to load and loading. No sleep for over 40 hours, rough. We moved to another island, picked up our convoy the next day. All told some 12 to 15 cargo ships and 40 to 50 L.S.T.’s, quite a good sized convoy, the biggest yet for us. Escorted by several D.E.’s. Several destroyers picked us up one day out. Only a few G.I.’s sounded but no Nips showed up.
The trip was perfect except the heat below deck, terrific. Food wonderful, sure did a lot of reading.
Nov 15. We came to Leyte in the morning off of Tacloban. A terrific number of ships in the bay. We had to go down the coast a few miles and beached off of Dulag, 30 miles south of Tacloban. Our ship didn’t get high enough on shore, we had to build a sand bag jetty to the ship. A ‘ell of a job with the tide coming in. The fellows worked like beavers to keep it in shape the whole time we were unloading. Took about 12 hours. Trucks and equipment dispersed along the beach in the sand, the road’s a mess. Two or three red alerts. Japs over once, no damage. Slept on the beach two nites, not so hot. Food – K rations, some hot coffee.
Several of us come out to our campsite on the 17th. The roads are terrible. We got stuck once, a truck pulled us out. Our camp area was a corn field and part jungle – mud and rain – wet for two days – no dry clothes. Camp area changed two hundred yards, will be a little “dryer” (nuts), it’s better tho.
Red alerts constantly, we work straight thru except when we see the ships or flak, then we watch. Two Zeros and a P-61 gave us a pretty dog fight right overhead yesterday. P-61 too heavy for that type of work. No casualties.
We see and hear, mostly hear, Jap planes overhead at various times during 24 hours. On the 24th of Nov, we were near San Pablo #1 getting bamboo. Tom and I saw a ‘plane, Tom thought it a P-47, then I spotted square wing tips and yelled it out. The Nip was coming straight over head, ‘bout 2 or 3000’. By that time we were flat, digging in. Allen was on a log over water so he hugged it. I dropped in three inches of water, Johnnie, Robbie just flattened. Burch stood up, first time for him. He said afterwards he’d know what to do next time. The reason, the main one, was that we heard the old familiar whistle and swish of a bomb, but by that time no plane was near. Turned out to be an unexploded ack-ack shell which went off when it hit, some distance away.
What a show we usually have every nite, red alert on most of the nite and fireworks every once in awhile, nearby and several miles away.
The Nips were pretty close when we came in, artillery fire at the Japs was being sent off 1½ miles down the road. The Nips were in the hills.
Mud, mud, mud! Slick and gooey, plus wet clothes makes a mess.
We’re alright now, though it’s still muddy.
Dec 6-7!! Last nite after dinner, we were all outside talking. A red alert was on, but we figured it to be the usual semi-false alarm. We all saw some 12 to 15 twin engine bombers approaching from the south. No ack-ack so spec had it amongst a few that they were Navy but most knew them for Nips. We scattered for helmets and slit trenches, then ack-ack opened up and they knocked a couple down. Their bombs did damage to a gas or oil dump.
====== I feel that chill of horror in my stomach of dread everytime I think if it. All that has gone before is nothing to what happened a few minutes after the bombers left. Coming in very low at dusk were Nip transports, right square over our area. Ack-ack went nuts, so did we when an unforgetable sight took place. Parachutists, one after another, tumbled out, right over head and to the north for a distance of a half mile. About 18 transports in three waves, disgorged the Nips. A wild scramble for rifles and ammo after the yell “Parachutists” and I mean wild. Everyone admitted soon after, that chill of terror that griped them. The guys, in spite of it, got ready quick enough to blaze away as the Nips descended. Two were killed in our area, several others just beyond.
No rain but it was muddy, we popped into the slit trench to begin an all nite vigil that ended at dawn. We fully expected wave after wave to follow thinking the first were just a preparation party, especially since they took over an unfinished strip. Thank God it didn’t turn out that way. Now I truly know the meaning of the saying – “There are no atheists in a foxhole.”
A lot of wild spasmodic firing all nite, everywhere. We stuck in our trench and under the floor, taking turns to relieve the aches in muscles. No Nips came to our clearing, we found out the next morning that they’d captured the “strip” and nine ack-ack positions. This was not the only landing, two others a short distance away but they’ve been kept apart.
Even as I sit here, the third morning after, there’s occasional machine gun and rifle fire, still mopping up and driving them to the hills.
Morning of the 7th was again something for me. Everyone tired, jittery, and hungry. Lt Hanson asked for 21 men volunteers to go into our tent area to back up the infantry in case the Japs infiltrated thru. Still a lot of firing but nearly all from outfits that were “trigger happy”, a bunch of damned fools. To date, one outfit has three dead, twenty wounded – by Yanks! Our bunch darned good.
I sure learned to hit the ground regardless of what was under me. The patrol didn’t last long, the infantry and engineers pushed the Nips across the strip – into the woods, so our job, for then, was done.
Just before the patrol, we were in a semi-formation, getting instructions. We saw a Zero wheel overhead, four P-40’s below. The P-40’s suddenly saw the Zero, pushed on all “coal”, streaked up and after the Zero just as it started a dive to strafe the road, 25 yards away. The Zero cut loose once at the road, the lead P-40 gaining all the time, tracers streaking towards the Zero, the Zero fishtailing, the tracers closer, finally a hit, a little smoke, more hits and the Zero dived into the ground – a black column of smoke all there was left of the Nip.
Reminded me of the P-38 that chased a Nip recco ship and we watched it fall in flames.
After the patrol, all was quiet, here, took a look at one of the ‘chutists shot thru the neck. God!
They’re really packing a lot of equipment, mostly demolition and very good quality stuff. Most all the Nips are turning out to be officers – they had other future plans in mind – something stopped it.
That morning we understood one end of the strip was clear, some of our blokes and others had gotten a lot of souvenirs – ‘chutes, packs, etc.
Allen and I grabbed our carbines, ammo and helmets to try to get a ‘chute. Crossed the little stream, went along an old Jap dispersal area. Action only a quarter of a mile away, we could see our men creeping forward. Allen spotted a ‘chute this side of the strip, went in to cut it down. I went on with five other guys, four on patrol one like me. Waded a bit of swamp caused by bulldozers making the strip, then up onto the strip. Looked clear, six of us strung out. Fifty to sixty yards out on the strip – we saw four Nips (whooee) on the other side tow – three hundred yards away, slip to dirt mounds, rifles at the ready. We were without cover, so we wheeled, zig-zag back to our side of the strip with bullets whistling around like so many bees. God, I was sure scared again. Carbines no good at that distance against rifles, so we took another look and kept on going. Picked up Allen and went on back to camp, two much wiser darned fools. What a “bloody” experience after the nite before.
Nothing startling the day of the seventh. Entire squadron in a perimeter that nite, my squad on one side strung out for 60 yards, some rain, a ‘ell of a lot of useless machine gun and rifle fire from trigger happy outfits on each side of us. Dangerous as ‘ell, more so than the Nips, bullets singing around.
Morning of the 8th, all very tired, two, three hours broken sleep in forty-eight. Got a couple hours sleep that morning, cleaned up, dry clothes, alerted again at four PM. I helped clean our machine guns, then had a not so good dinner. Fell into our perimeter defenses for the nite. A ditch which we made better by using pieces of tin for a roof. Black dark, rained like ‘ell, but pretty dry in our ditch. Then the ditch started to fill about midnite and we got soaked. Crawled out to the side of the orderly room, still on our post, kept watch and slept on the ground when not on watch. What a mite! Very quiet except for firing a distance away at the Japs and occasional mortar fire off to one side, whistle of the shell and all.
Truly a bit of combat and we all appreciate just what the infantry goes thru, my hat’s off to them
A good breakfast yesterday and this morning – the 9th. Cream of wheat and all hotcakes, bacon and coffee we want. Good on ‘em!
Resting now, just finished a letter to you, lovey, written on the 9th dated the 7th so the interruption wouldn’t show when you got the letters.
Quiet all day today, the 9th. Just spasmodic machine gun fire.
Dec 15th – Moved to the beach today, our permanent camp area. Looks good, I like to be near the sea. Ever since the paratroopers landed, we’ve all had varying types of the jitters and never have had any particular liking for San Pablo – mud!!
Flipped my lid at a new, young fellow in the outfit. The other day at mess a machine gun cut loose in the next area, trigger happy. This bloke jumped up started to dash out, bumped me so I told him off. Things like that start panics.
Swimming, hot dog, is grand! Do a lot of it and will be very good for me.
Packages starting to come in, hope mine get here soon.
Dec 20 – Yippie, the Nips sent some dive bombers over just at dusk tonite and we had a grandstand seat. A real show! There’s a Liberty ship right off-shore, ‘bout 500 yds. and a dive bomber made a pass at it immediately after red alert sounded. No shots were fired ‘til after the bomber got by, came in over the bow, dropped a bomb which missed by half a ships length and as he went over the stern they threw a lot of flack at him, apparently missing.
Just before that, Tom and I first saw a ship we thought and said was a P-47. It was quite low turned in front of the Liberty ship and streaked across the bay towards the ships on the other side, no flak. All of a sudden the sky was prettier than any Fourth of July show, just full of tracers criss-crossing from every angle.
That show ended ‘bout the time this other plane made a pass at the Liberty boat.
We saw another plane, inland, low but climbing made a swing back towards the bay and the Liberty. Flak cut loose close by, he flew thru it, the Liberty opened up, the Nip dropped his nose and dived at the ship. We expected him to pull up, but it was a suicide dive so he went straight in – and missed. We saw ack-ack hit him and the ships guns poured lead into him after he went into the bay a short ways from the ship – quite a splash. What shows we’ve had since we came to Leyte.
I’ve never breathed a word of it, lovey, knowing how bad it would be for you.
Too many “firsts” up here after 3 years overseas. My kidneys always hurt when action is close like that, except when the paratroopers landed. We all joke about having to urinate when a close show is on, another first in our experiences, and what experiences!
I'd like to thank Jeffery Paul Meriam for his assistance with this home page. His father Kenneth Paul Meriam was a member of the 49th Service Squadron.
I'd also like to thank Darryl Ford for his assistance with this web page.
Can anyone help me with more information?
"Australia @ War" Research Products
© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 1 January 2005
This page last updated 08 July 2017