"F" Company and the
rest of the regiment got up at 0300. Breakfast consisted of one pancake,
fat and stringy bacon and coffee. We did not have the luxury of syrup or
jelly with our pancakes - not even syrup made of sugar and water. Trucks
took the companies to the airfield where C-47’s were lined up. As we walked
around them in the dark they seemed so large, too large for C-47’s. Loading
began at 0530. We took off at 0600. The first part of the flight followed
the coast. At Lae the flight moved inland up the Markham Valley over Nadzab
where the 503rd had jumped last September. We crossed by the
mountains back to the coast and over Wewak. As we flew over Wewak we were
at an altitude of 13,000 feet. Far below we could see B-25’s bombing Wewak
at low level altitude seemingly to us just above the tree tops. The planes
appeared to be very small along with the puffs of smoke in the forest where
their bombs exploded. Our flight continued on up the coast over Atape and
to Hollandia. The coast is beautiful in this area as viewed from the air.
The coral reefs form peculiar, multicolored formations under the water. The
land is so green. We knew what mangrove swamps were like though. Nature is
the best camouflager of all. Approaching Hollandia and descending we passed
over a large bay and could see a large lake to the south. We landed at
Cyclops Drome, a 2500 foot Jap field which was very rough. We got out onto
a fiercely hot and terribly dusty place. The Cyclops Mountain is between
the strip and the sea cutting off the winds. The dust was red and
exceedingly fine. The constant movement of the planes at this busy strip
kept this dust moving covering everything. In a matter of minutes we were
filthy. Nearby a Zero fighter was being rebuilt by our Air Force. We looked
this over along with a Jap aerial .50 Cal. MG which looked exactly like
ours. As a graduate of the Aircraft Armament School in 1941 I had seen and
worked on many of our aerial .50 Cal MG’s. So when I say exactly like ours
I mean just that. They copied well.
We loaded on trucks
and moved out of that furnace. There was evidence of heavy bombing
everywhere. Shattered coconut trees, wrecked Jap planes, craters, wrecked
vehicles, and heavily damaged equipment was to be seen all around this
field. We kept our parachutes. We expected to jump on Biak within the next
day or two. Now we were going to take that step and catch up with the
Japs. We travelled east along a road still along the south side of Cyclops
Mountain. We stopped at a large coconut plantation called Evli Plantation.
A few miles to the northwest was Tanahmerah Bay. The large bay we had flown
over coming in from the east was Humbolt Bay. This was the good harbor
which made this place so valuable. The town of Hollandia was located on the
west side of this bay. The big lake to the south was Lake Sentani.
The Regt. CP was set
up in the Ebli Plantation house. The house was a low, rambling structure.
The outside walls were woven palm leaves which were about three feet tall.
The upper part of the sides were open. The roof had an overhang of several
feet. stream ran through the house. Within the house’s walls the water
way was cement lined. In the kitchen and bathing area brick holding tanks
had been built so that water could be heated. The plantation was at the
base of the mountains and many icy, crystal clear stream flowed through the
We pitched pup tents
setting up a bivouac area on the grassy flats under the coconut trees. Our
area was at the edge of the plantation next to where the undergrowth
started. The Japs had fled up into the mountains following the invasion.
Many were still up there starving and came down at night seeking food.
At noon the company
had K Rations, but that evening we had a choice, K or C Rations. An
engineer unit just east of us located on the two lane graveled, or coral,
surfaced road we were by had damned a stream making a great bathing place.
Just as we arrived there to bath the sanitation engineers arrived and placed
an “off limits” in plain view. That was the end of that. We bathed in the
cold streams while we were there.
Word got around that
the jump on Biak was off. The scuttlebutt was that if we did jump on Biak
it would be behind our lines because of a lack of ships to transport us.
Another bit of scuttlebutt was that a Jap fleet was coming down from the
Philippines to attack us. This fleet supposedly included two battleships.
That night many of
the troopers went up and down the road trying to find a movie but no movies
seemed to be operating that night. Everyone was thinking of the Japs coming
down that night and slept with loaded pieces nearby.