Tuesday, July 1, 2008

War Experiences by Bill Frost (final 3rd part)

With much joy I eventually got to Melbourne and it was then and there Ruth and I became officially engaged. A week is like a blink of an eye, it doesn’t last long and by train and ship I was back in New Guinea.
We left Milne Bay on a Liberty ship bound for Oro Bay on the west coast of NG. The next morning out at approximately 7 a.m. as I was preparing a ‘tasty breakfast’ with my C rations, the Liberty ship came to a screeching shuddering halt in the middle of the ocean. We were threading our way through a chain of island and there we were high and dry on a reef, wedged tight. We were about fifty miles from our destination and apparently an SOS was sent out because within a few hours two destroyers arrived and ready to take us off.
After all personnel were transferred to the waiting ships, the navy fed us a hot meal, handed out cokes, candy bars and a carton of cigarettes each. Then they told us to sit tight up against the ship’s superstructure and not to go near the railing as this was going to be a fast ride. It was an exhilarating ride for the 50 miles we had to go.
Oro Bay was an uninviting, rat infested hell hole. We were camped just metres from the ocean, no beach to speak of and just plain yuk as far as I was concerned. From there our second invasion occurred – Gasmata on the island of New Britain. In we went on the second wave. When my turn came to go off I drove to the elevator and it lowered me to the exit point and as I drove off the ship three navy planes were bombing and strafing Japanese positions about 50 metres on my right. I shot out of the ship’s orifice, past Japanese bunkers, not knowing if any of the enemy were still in them. I found the supply dump where I was supposed to go. With gun fire crackling all around me the truck was unloaded. I didn’t waste any time getting out of there and back to the ship. As I approached the ship they were getting ready to depart but sailors on duty waved me on and I made it. Once on board I discovered we had four prisoners taken from the bunkers I passed on the way out. I sat in on an impromptu interrogation between a Marine sergeant and one prisoner. It was interesting but nothing much was accomplished. That night I was down below in a sleeping compartment when a general alarm was sounded. We were under attack, a sailor came through dogging down all exits and there I was, stuck down below. I heard a lot of gunfire and bombs dropping but we were not hit. It didn’t do my claustrophobia any good though.
Back in Oro Bay I had a couple of nights sleep, a few meals and it was back to Gasmata with another load of supplies. This time I remained in that location for a week, transporting marines from one place to another. While there we experienced an air raid one night when three enemy bombers came over and the air was filled with tracers and anti aircraft explosions as the searchlights picked up the planes right away. It was like a fourth of July fireworks show. Another day a lone Zero came down the coast about 100 feet up until it came to where our trucks were parked, then 40 mm guns opened up on it and it veered out to sea while thumbing it’s tail at us and disappearing.
That was the last invasion I was involved in and it was time to move on. This time it was Finchhaven and I was glad to get away from Oro Bay.
We moved into a campsite built by Seabees in a coconut grove on a slight incline and completely terraced. It was a top notch camp site but the occasional falling coconuts were a menace.
In 1944 the big push north was on and we were busy running our trucks on a 24 hours basis with drivers working 12 hour shifts. There were two large dock areas to service and ships were coming in all the time with machinery, equipment and food to be stockpiled and then sent on north when needed. There were no furloughs given out that year. Late in 1944 things started to ease up and in early 1945 the war started to wind down for most of us. The men who started out with the 147th had enough points, gained through overseas service, to be sent back to the States for a furlough of 45 days and possible discharge. One by one the old faces started to disappear, replaced by new ones. I was relieved of truck duty and given an office at the motor pool and the title of truck master. There I assigned drivers to trucks as needed and dispatched same.
In April of 1945 I received word that Ruth was sick and that she had lost her memory and the possibility of marriage was questionable. Well, I didn’t know how, why or when but I was determined to find out. I got in touch with the Red Cross, chaplains, the Battery commander and anybody else who would listen. I had a lot of sympathetic ears but nothing happened. A few days later something akin to divine intervention occurred when a directive from the War Department came down that all eligible soldiers could have their 45 days in Australia and then be sent back to the States from there. All I could say was I’m OUT OF HERE!!! And I was packed and ready to go.
I arrived in Melbourne on May 16 and when Ruth and I got reacquainted all doubts, fears and reservations vanished and it was on with the marriage. The ceremony took place in the Congregational Church in Glenferrie on the 26th May, 1945. Two weeks after we were married Ruth got her memory back. It was then I found out why.
After our honeymoon I had to get back to Brisbane to wait for orders. Ruth flew to Sydney with me and we parted the next night when I took the train to Brisbane.
I then settled into a routine life waiting for transport back to the U.S. June went by and then July was history. Then in August atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. One night in that month on the 15th I decided to go to a movie in the Valley, a suburb of Brisbane. I don’t remember what the movie was, but about half way through it, four words were flashed on the screen- THE WAR IS OVER. The theatre was devoid of patrons in a matter of minutes and as I sat there alone I decided to finish the movie. Afterwards I made my way through a deserted foyer and into an empty street, because everybody had rushed off to central Brisbane.
It was a warm springlike night and I walked slowly towards the centre of Brisbane, breathing in clean free air.

1 comment:

jbjinco said...

Well, Bill, this was a wonderful "bio" and I know all the Jones kids enjoyed it immensely - Dale said it was a double treat because he had been reading lots of WWII and, of course, this had family!
Janis, thank you so much for putting this up - again we all enjoyed it and one of us will print it out and get it to Aunt Blanche and Uncle Red.