Friday 26 March

85th Day, 280 Days to come

Left 0800 for New Caledonia. Arrived 1105. Rode truck from Tontouta to Noumea, about 40 miles. Quartered tonight in former Jap officers club. Noumea is French. With bad weather will probably go ashore there tomorrow to look around.

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NOTE: For those who were not in the Corps, to "go ashore" means to leave the base, or to go into town. They were not on a ship at this time.

Saturday 27 March

86th Day, 279 Days to come

Went to Noumea this A.M., again this afternoon & again tonight. My knowledge of French is limited but I got along very well. This place is certainly a treat after Buttons. The chow is wonderful. Even a few white women though surprisingly I am not too interested. Allied Forces Club was nice though crowded. Will probably go aboard tomorrow.

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NOTE: In this instance, when he says they will "go aboard" he is referring to a ship, not returning to the base, which can also be referred to as "going aboard." They would have returned to the base every evening rather than pay for food and lodging to stay "ashore," i.e., in town.

Sunday 28 March

87th Day, 3rd Sunday in Lent, 278 Days to come

Held here until 1100. Word rec'd that we will go aboard tomorrow. Went ashore. My French is improving. A week here & I would speak it. Weather closed down so returned at 1400 after having lunch at "Hotel Sepastapol." Still expect to go aboard tomorrow though weather is bad. Word rec'd today that Lt. Paul Coe got it at Cactus. Went down in flames into the sea.

Monday 29 March

88th Day, 277 Days to come

Went aboard USS COPAHEE from harbor of Noumea. Converted CV class of NASSAU & sister ships. Catapulted F4U landed at Tontouta field. Weather closed causing two planes to miss field. One landed at Magurla strip (Capt. Humberd) & one at MADS Noumea strip (Lt. Brown). All 16 safe. Other eight pilots remained aboard. Returned from Tontouta to Noumea to sleep. Since being here wounds are healing & dysentery is OK. Mosquitoes bad but non-malarial.

In the photo at right, an F4U-1 of VMF-213 prepares to catapault from the USS Copahee on 29 March 1943. (National Archives)

Tuesday 30 March

89th Day, 276 Days to come

Aboard again this A.M. Remaining planes safely catapulted, all arriving at Tontouta by noon. After lunch all but Maj. Britt, Weissenberger, Capt. Humberd, Tref & I returned to Noumea to await conditioning of planes. This P.M.all 38 planes are here at Tontouta (one went in). Tref & I will have to install all guns when they come ashore so it will be several days before we head for Buttons. The food here is wonderful & the camp a heaven.

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NOTE: Unlike the F4Fs that the squadron had flown from the USS Nassau fully prepared and ready for action, the 39 F4Us on the Copahee were not at all ready - no one knew how to work on them. As the Ordnance Officers, Treff and Winnia had to supervise the installation of the guns in the new planes. The Corsair had never been catapulted from a carrier before this time. The ship's carpenter had to make wooden headrests for the planes so that the pilot would be able to control the airplane those first few seconds.

Lt. Tate was the unlucky soul to "take one in," i.e., crash into the water. The engine either failed upon takeoff or was still at idle when the catapult threw the plane off. Winnia says it was at idle, the VMF213 War Diary says the engine failed. Since Maj. Weisenberger signed the War Diary and outranks Lt. Winnia, it was engine failure. Rank always prevails in the Marine Corps.

The official war diary of the squadron has the planes being catapulted of on March 31 and April 1, with Lt. Tate crashing on April Fool's Day. Photos in the National Archive, however, are captioned as having launched on March 29. Rank over evidence?

Wednesday 31 March

90th Day, 275 Days to come

Went to docks today. Lt. Tate was catapulted yesterday, last man, when engine was idling. Under water 2 min on Solace now will be OK. Got fresh clothes in town, shaved & showered. All gear went out. Hope it's all here. Maj. Britt, Capt. Humberd, Tref & I played "Hell" tonight. It cost me 3.70. First gambling since in U.S.M.C. Just fun.

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NOTE: Lt. Tate was taken to the U.S.S. Solace, AH-5, a Navy hospital ship. Solace has the distinction of having been at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack. This was the second Solace, the first having served during the Spanish-American War, scrapped in the '20s.

Lt. Tate rejoined the squadron.

Thursday 1 April

91st Day, 274 Days to come

Dispatch rec'd today to return with first transportation. Spent day putting in guns & listing planes. Chow tonight interrupted by arrival of several army nurses. More arrived & a dance is to be held with a sailor band. I never was a USO marine so 2100 finds me in the old sack, a bare pad with an old mosquito net & a damp shirt for covering. Leave tomorrow will fly one of the F4Us on Tref's wing.

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NOTE: The dispatch, I assume, was to return to Buttons; Winnia and Treff and the Majors were already at Tontouta. The rest of the pilots had been enjoying the sights in Noumea, so this was a sad day for them. At Noumea was the Pink House, a world famous house of ill-repute, just the place for naval aviators. James Michener writes about the Pink House in Tales of the South Pacific, which is required reading for students of the Pacific War.

Army nurses would create quite an uproar, since they were generally enlisted, not officers. Navy nurses were officers, and were strictly off-limits to all but the highest ranking officers. Army nurses, while outnumbered by thousands to one, would at least be possible to approach.

Friday 2 April

92nd Day, 273 Days to come

Severe attack of fever. Chills & Sweats lasted all night. Better this AM. Tested F4U cannot fly due to fever. At noon reported to sick bay with 102.6 temperature. Confined so the gang left without me. No positive smear for malaria yet, all symptoms point to it. Feel like the devil. This evening temperature up to 103.8.

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From the VMF-213 WAR DIARY:

Left for Buttons in DC-3s and 6 F4Us. Upon arrival we were told to leave at 0330 next day for Cactus.

Saturday 3 April

93rd Day, 272 Days to come

Vomited once during night. Back & joints ache. Finally decided it was malaria & began to treat. Temperature lessening all through the day. Slightly nauseated, can eat but little, but better than yesterday

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From the VMF-213 WAR DIARY:

0330 - squadron took off from Espiritu Santo in DC-3s. Arrived at Henderson Field 0730 where trucks met them and took them, plus baggage, to the squadron camp area. Remainder of day was passed getting settled in camp.

The squadron time in the F4U will approximately average 8 to ten hours per man.



NEXT:
IN ARMY HOSPITAL #31,
with Malaria


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