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Several months later I ran into him again. We were on leave and had traveled to the city of Townsville for what the army calls rest and recreation. Again he was drunk and followed me into the restroom of our hotel and once more offered to beat the shit out of me. But this time and this situation were different. I ignored it and him and I never saw him again. But I have always been grateful that he was not in my company or my platoon. Fortunately, I never had any problems like that with my own men.

Indeed sometimes they went out of their way to avoid trouble. On one exercise we marched for hours in the hot Australian sun, loaded with full equipment. One man, a short fellow named Tallent, was carrying, in addition to his regular stuff, a mortar vest. This consisted of a piece of canvas with a hole for the head and three deep pockets front and back. Each pocket held a large cardboard tube containing a mortar shell. Total weight, some 43 pounds.

As we pounded along through the dust and the heat I could see that Tallent was struggling with his load and I became concerned. So I offered to carry the mortar vest for a while. “Oh, no thanks, lieutenant, I can handle it.” After several similar exchanges I gave up, knowing that nothing less than a direct order would force him to surrender the load. It wasn't until the next day that that I learned all those cardboard tubes were empty -- no shells! No wonder he didn't want to give me the vest.

When did we finally leave Australia for New Guinea? I don't remember. But I do remember that was the beginning of my greatest adventure in the service. We set up camp near Port Moresby, then the only place in New Guinea with any pretensions of civilization -- and not many of them I think there was only one, permanent building in the place and that was the governor's mansion. We lived in tents, of course, and carried on with the same kinds of training we had in Australia, lots of tactical exercises and climbs up nearby mountains and some live firing exercises.

This went on until the day I was summoned to regimental headquarters. There I was introduced to a very well set-up Australian lieutenant who greeted me with the words, "So this is the body basher!" He knew more than I about the purpose of the introduction. The field officer who introduced us explained that the Aussie was an artillery man and I had about two weeks to teach him and his 28-or-so soldiers how to jump out of airplanes and figure out how to drop their two 25-pounder guns to the ground.

Every morning thereafter a truck delivered my Aussies to camp for training. Fortunately, I had two excellent sergeants to help me. The conditions were pretty primitive and so was the equipment. We built a small platform under a tree and hung a parachute from a branch above.Of course, we tortured our students with physical exercises and speed marches, hoping primarily to build strength in the legs to withstand landings. Then we hung them in the parachute harness and taught them how to maneuver by pulling on the risers. Meanwhile, our riggers were figuring out ways to bundle the cannon so they could be parachuted. The Aussies were tough and willing and I soon became good friends with their leader and his two or three fellow officers.

It seemed that we had hardly started the training when I was informed that they were to make a practice jump. By this time they all knew how to don a parachute and all were equipped with American steel helmets. Australian helmets, with their sharp brims, were not suitable. They all had made jumps off the low platform we had built and practiced limited maneuvering while suspended in the harness. Ready or not, we had our orders.

I'm sure they were scared, but all faced the jump with considerable courage. We emplaned at a nearby field and took off. To my surprise we were accompanied by a few high ranking officers, including a General Vasey of the Australian army. It was apparent that higher ups in both armies regarded this as an important experiment. Once over the designated target, a cleared strip in the jungle, I stood my Aussies, ordered them to hook up to the cable and stand in the door. Then the command to “Go!” Every man flew out the door and all but one landed safely. The exception was a lieutenant who broke his leg on landing. The big guns were dropped from a following plane, but not with perfect results. One was damaged enough so that it could not be moved around. Nonetheless, the operation was a success. My orders were clear. When we went into combat, it would be my job to get these men safely on the ground.

Not long after the trial run we faced the reality of a mission. The target was a place in the jungle called Nadzab. It was about 20 miles inland of Lae, a major Japanese facility. September 5, 1943. Plane after plane filled with paratroopers took off from airstrips near Moresby. In one of those planes were my Aussie artillerymen, four officers and 28 men.

I learned later that Generals Kenney and MacArthur flew overhead in B-17s to witness the operation, and the number of planes in the air set a record. I was supposed to drop the Aussies about an hour after the regiment landed, so my planes stopped for a while at a place called Dobodura. I hadn't been told that was a scheduled part of the operation, so I fussed and steamed until we were finally permitted to take off.