FLYING TO JAPAN
QANTAS EMPIRE AIRWAYS
Wednesday 3rd December, 1952
We started off with a parade and then cleaning our gear. We were on alert all day waiting to be told we were going to Japan at last!
I went home on leave to Normanhurst and went to the Hornsby picture theatre with two of my friends at night. The two last pictures I would see in Australia, I hoped I would see more pictures back here, sometime in the unknown future. The first picture "The Clouded Yellow" featured Jean Simmons and the second movie appropriate to the South East Asia area where I was going the next day was "Macau" featuring Robert Mitcham and Jane Russell.
This is the day.
General parade early, then made phone calls to let friends and relations know I was leaving Australia tonight. We left Inglebum at 7.20 p.m. on the back of trucks, there was about 40 of us to travel on the aircraft to Japan at a time. We arrived at the Mascot International Terminal at about 9.30 p.m. My brother Alan, his wife Gwen and their two young children Ruth and Robyn arrived to see us off. Dawn, my girlfriend at the time, also came.
There were about 100 people at Mascot to see the soldiers off, mainly friends and relations. The aircraft was scheduled to leave at 10.00 p.m., but we didn't leave till 10.55 p.m. The good old days at Mascot, everybody was waving and taking photos of us as we climbed the stairs onto the aircraft. I settled into my seat, second last window seat on the left side, good for taking photos.
Here I was about to have my first aeroplane ride in my favourite aircraft, a Douglas D.C.-4 "Skymaster" one of six in the Qantas fleet at the time.
Our aircraft took off to the north, the four Pratt and Whitney R-2000-5's (1450 horsepower each) enabling us to climb smoothly over northern Sydney to our cruise altitude of 8500 feet.
Settling down to a cruise of 200 m.p.h., as this aircraft's range was 2500 miles. We were to call in at Port Moresby, in Papua New Guinea, and Guam in the Mariana group of islands to rest and refuel.
The lights of Newcastle showed below and then got sparser as we cruised our way up to the New South Wales coast. The two pilots and flight engineer settled the engines into perfect synchronisation. I was getting tired and rested the left side of my weary head on the plastic oval window frame. The vibration of the motors lulled me to sleep about midnight.
I woke up at 4.50 a.m. The sun was just below the horizon on the starboard side (right side) shining a pink/purple colour on the light clouds to the west.
After a while full daylight and waves on the Coral Sea at about 9,000 feet below us. I felt a high, thinking to myself, here I am in my first aeroplane and two more days ahead in this environment. Suddenly a cold shudder went through me as I thought to myself "I wonder if I will ever come back?" I quickly dismissed these thoughts, settling back to enjoy the colourful clouds drifting by. About 7 a.m. the New Guinea coast came up, we banked slightly and followed the coastline all the way to Port Moresby.
Below I spotted a Consolidated B-24 "Liberator" lying in the clear green water between 20 and 100 feet deep. The aircraft was still intact with its 4 motors on long tapered wings and distinctive twin tail fins and rudders. After 7 or so years in the water it hadn't broken up.
We landed at Port Moresby at 8 a,m. and were told we would be staying here for about I hour, while the aircraft was being refuelled~ We climbed out and straight away a wave of hot humid air hit me. I spotted a couple of bi-planes and two Noorduyn "Norseman's" next to some hangers. I walked over to study these aircraft and started to strike up a conversation with a Papuan native, sitting in the shade (he was probably employed at the airport). I didn't know "pidgin" English, and he didn't seem to understand what I was talking about, so we just ended up grinning at each other. A giant orange wasp flew onto my arm, lucky I had my army long sleeve shirt on. I went back to where our D.C.-4 was parked. These giant bugs in the tropics didn't appeal to me.
We took off at 9.30 a.m., we were told if we got cold to use the blankets which were in the lockers above our heads. I wondered why, as we were in the tropics, and only cruised at about 9,000 ft. After the take-offthe pilot circled the airport area about 10 times, climbing higher and higher each circle. When we got to about 10,000 ft the pilot set track north still climbing. It soon became clear to me about the blankets. Every few miles, the ground came closer to us; we levelled off at 12,000 ft.
We flew through a pass of the Owen Stanley Ranges, the hills on either side level with us, and light clouds hovering above these hills. Little villages just below us now and then, little round thatched huts and sometimes a large one around the small ones. The hills got further below us as the other side of the ranges changed to lower land. We gradually came back down to our cruise altitude. I was tough, I didn't need a blanket.
We landed at Guam at 6 p.m. after a smooth flight all the way from
Australia, not running into any tropical storms.
As we taxied to the USAF terminal
I spotted a World War Two Boeing B-17
"Flying Fortress" moving across the airfield. I was very excited.
The other soldiers thought I was a nut. I don't think any of the
other soldiers were aviation buffs like me. This is the only
"Flying Fortress" I had ever seen, and the only one I would ever
see. The only way to see one of these aircraft today is to go to air
shows in the United States of America, and sometimes in the
The B-17 "Flying Fortress" is remembered in the film made only a few years ago called "Memphis Belle" the true story of a U.S.A.F. B-17, that completed 25 missions over Germany and bolstered the American morale when this aircraft was taken back to the U.S.A. about 1944. The aircraft is now "Pride of Place" in a museum in Memphis, Tennessee.
After we had all disembarked off the aircraft we walked over to a bus stop. Buses to pick us up and take us a short distance to our assigned sleeping barracks. The buses pulled up with U.S. servicemen on board and other residents of the Island of Guam. We walked along the side of the bus then went to the back, then to the front We couldn't find the door to get in. The passengers were rather amused. Eventually the door was found on the other side of the bus. This was our first experience with left-hand drive, as this was U.S. Territory. We placed our "kit bags and gear" and rifles into our quarters, then I had a shower to freshen up. Most of the soldiers went looking for a "wet" canteen, I headed for the row of B-29, Boeing "Superfortresses" lined up on the apron.
These aircraft (4 engined super-giants) were on stand-by for other Pacific Island bases to bomb North Korea. It was now about 7 p.m. and no one around these aircraft, probably at the canteens, I spotted a ladder up against the nose of one of these aircraft. Still in my slouch hat, army uniform and hob nail boots, I climbed onto the wings, and walked from one wingtip to the other (141 ft wingspan). Being careful not to scratch the aluminium skin and not to slip on the metal panels with the army hobnail boots, as the wings were approximately 11 feet off the concrete apron. After about 10 minutes I climbed back down the ladder and stood looking at the giant 4 bladed propellers (16.7" diameter). These four engined high altitude bombers also made history as a B-29 "Superfortress", "Enola Gay" was used to drop the first Atom bomb on Hiroshima, Japan 6th August, 1945, and another B-29 dropped another Atom bomb on Nagasaki a couple of days later. I went back to the barracks; lucky no one had challenged me climbing on the aircraft. I could have been in big trouble.
As none of my soldier friends were about, I went and found a canteen to try and get a soft drink. I found one; American servicemen were around having drinks and food. I had no American money and approached the gentleman behind the counter to try and get a soft drink. I got a large sheet of one- penny Australian stamps out of my wallet to exchange for a drink. The man serving, I think he was Negro, just looked at me strangely. By this time other men in the canteen had crowded around me to see what was going on, they then drifted off, but a couple of young Americans about my age felt sorry for me and bought me a drink, and then took me "under their wing". They invited me to go to the service's open-air movies, which were about to start. (This was my first open-air movie that I had been to.) They paid my 25 cents admittance. First there were shorts and news, then a cartoon about "Sylvester and Tweetie Pie"; my American friends explained to me that the cat always tried to catch the yellow bird. I didn't have the heart to tell them that I had seen "Sylvester and Tweetie Pie" back in "The Land Down Under". The main picture was called "My man and I" starring Shelley Winters and RichardoMontalban. After the show I said goodbye to these American pals, and climbed into bed at 12.15 a.m.
Saturday 6th December. 1952
The next morning, we were woken up at 5 a.m., and boarded our trusty D.C.-4 steed in the darkness. We took off at 6.15 a.m. There was one soldier missing. He had gone drinking with American friends and ended up sleeping in the wrong barracks and was woken up too late. He managed to get a lift on a U.S. aircraft to Tokyo; from there he got a lift on another aircraft to lwakuni, and arrived at our Hire camp a few days after us. As far as I know he was fined a small amount for being "absent without leave". The army was sympathetic and understood what had happened.
We had our first view of Japan flying over the terraced paddy
fields on the Island ofShikoku, gradually descending and landing
at lwakuni Air Base, Japan at 5 p.m. on the southern part of the
Island of Honshu.
This airbase was used for a stopping off stage for many aircraft
flying to Korea, with troops and supplies. Here we boarded a
small ferry manned by Americans to take us across the stretch of
water to Kure Docks. The crew passed out cans of beer to the
Australian soldiers. I managed to secure a "C" ration pack full of
goodies to munch on for weeks after. As the ferry took us across
the short stretch of water I noticed two dark blue Martin PB.M.
"Mariners" tied up to the pier. These twin engined flying boats
with their distinctive "V" shaped tailplane and twin rudders were
used for air-sea rescues and over water patrols off Japan and
After leaving the city of Kure we arrived at the Ist R.H.U.
(Ist Recruit Holding Unit) on the outskirts of the town of Hire
about 10 miles away. We arrived there at 7 p.m., had tea, and
then issued with more gear. I was very tired but pleased with the
adventures of the last three days. I finally got on to my camp
stretcher at 11 p.m.
10 Platoon, "DI' Company, 2nd Battalion
The Royal Australian Regiment,
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