wpe1.jpg (12934 bytes)

The Journey to War
By James Lorio


VOLUME II NUMBER 1
April 1, 1999


CROSSING THE PACIFIC OCEAN, PART I, MAY, 1944


By 1st Lt. Miles W. Gale, Company "H"
If anyone had told me that at the age of 32, I and some 2,019 other men would be traveling from Northeast to Southwest on the bounding main for a month on a ship – impossible – no way – especially, on a ship that had been assembled in a few months, labeled "Liberty Ships." But in mid-May 1944, our 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment was aboard the Liberty Ship, SS Sea Pike, somewhere in the Pacific with destination unknown. The voyager ended at Oro Bay, New Guinea, about 28 days later.

MUSIC

When we staggered up the gangplank of the Sea Pike at Pittsburgh, California, loaded down with all our gear and field equipment, the American Red Cross gave each of us a ditty bag. It was like the extra straw. This ditty bag contained toothpaste, toothbrush, cigarettes and gum. Also, as an added bonus for those musically bent, we all received either a harmonica or an ocarina. The two thousand non-musical paratroopers with sweet potatoes and mouth organs all practicing at one time was sheer torture. Mercifully, after one day, the ship’s captain placed a one hour limit on the music practice. After the third day, any loose or unattached instruments were tossed overboard. Bergland’s Regimental Band provided popular music for the rest of the voyage. Below decks it was hot, humid and crowded with lots of soldier company bunking around, only separated by a few feet. Bunks were 12 tiers high from floor to ceiling and each tier was so tight for space that the guy in the bunk above was about ten inches over your nose. Our days were filled with activities, so sleeping was done at night. Some of the best musical snoring I ever heard took place during those nights.
FOOD
Shipboard food was bad. So nobody asked for seconds. The two meals a day were just enough to keep one’s skin and bones separated, but barely. Most of us sustained on chocolate bars we brought along just in case we met some nubile girls along between meals. Submarine alerts were too frequent to be true as the Sea Pike zigzagged and worsened sea sickness cases. Onion soup!
SEA
Nights were very pleasant. We encountered no storms, rain or heavy seas. The breeze was soft and warm. A few dolphins, slick and dark gray, joined us at San Francisco and played around the ship’s bow as if doing escort duty. We "Landlubbers" spent hours marveling at the sky colors of sunrise and sunset, after dark the sparkling bioluminescence in the churning water. Its source is the many forms of marine life having luminescent qualities. These forms, which function close to the surface, become part of the bow-wake and at night the luminescence is visible from the ship. To me, the lighting effects seemed to be large banks of lights under the surface that were switched on an off. When a dolphin or flying fish hit the water surface, a tiny spark of light would flash. In the moonlight the ship’s wake would shimmer like a river of liquid silver.
(to be continued)
TOKYO ROSE, By Gilbert H. Gay, Company "G"
Three days out from the Golden Gate Bridge to "Some where in the Pacific," we were welcomed to Oro Bay, New Guinea, over the radio by a soft spoken feminine voice in perfect English. It was Tokyo Rose. The 511th PIR had not after all succeeded in sneaking into the South Pacific War. She said, "While you are being killed in action, your hometown sweet-hearts would be stolen by the 4-F’s (the Selective Service Draft Board lowest category for the permanently unfit for military duty). Then she played nostalgic popular tunes to nag morale. Later, while I was hospitalized on Leyte with malaria and hepatitis, her broadcasts made me want to puke. Who was this Tokyo Rose?
Some years later, I learned her real name was Iva Tkuko Toguri. She was a Japanese-American student of U.C.L.A. with a degree in zoology. She was stranded in Japan on a visit when war was declared. It was either to work in a munitions factory or broadcast propaganda in English, which she did quite effectively. After the surrender, she sold her exclusive story for about $2,000.00 to the Cosmopolitan magazine. She was tried and convicted of treason September, 1948, sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined $10,000.00. Misfortunes of war!
TAPS
On the morning of February 6, 1987, Gilbert Gay died unexpectedly in his sleep at their apartment in Memphis. Four hours later from grief impact, his wife Tommie, suddenly dropped dead, also from an apparent catastrophic cardiac event – or should it be said "From a Broken Heart." The double services were attended by Norman Norton, Don Porter and me – G-511 all. His flag rests in my war room at home.
Airborne, Stay Tough Jim Lorio
Source: THE STATIC LINE, October, 1997, Don Lassen, Editor, Box 87518, College Park, GA. 30337-0518.
Crossing the Pacific Ocean by 1st Lt. Miles Gale (H-Company-511), WINDS ALOFT, quarterly Newsletter 511th Parachute Infantry Association, Issue No. 6, January, 1988, James W. Lorio, M.D., Editor.
Reproduced: James L. Dendy, Esq., and Mrs. Rhonda Graham, Baton Rouge, LA, March 16, 1999.
Copyright 1998 Patrick O’Donnell








VOLUME II NUMBER 2
April 3, 1999

CROSSING THE PACIFIC OCEAN. PART II, MAY 1944

By 1st Lt. Miles W. Gale, Company "H"
THE 511TH PIR ABOARD THE SS SEA PIKE


While on board, we were given tasks to do, namely, cleaning up the ship, hosing down decks, dumping garbage off the fantail at night, K.P., life-boat drills, etc. A few classes were conducted on seamanship and on navigation. Celestial patterns were explained and the North Star was important in our night viewing. Much better than looking for moss on tree trunks to determine North. Recreation took place with boxing matches, band music, and movies. Old movies. The movie screen was suspended amid-ship and we viewed it from both sides of the wind rippled screen. Later, ship lights were blacked out at night. The crew worked under dim red lights. Day by day, time dragged. New fatigue uniforms were dragged from the stern on long lines to launder and to soften for torrid tropics ahead.

SKY. THE SOUTHERN CROSS

The best sleeping spots were on deck with a musette bag for a pillow. At first light of dawn, on the command "Clean sweep – Fore and Aft", the decks were watered down with fire hoses and sleeping paratroopers would wake up in a river of salt water. A lot of vulgar language was directed at the hose crew, who seemed delighted in their job. Lying on deck at night afforded us lots of time to reminisce about the past. With no landmarks in sight we were lost. The familiar Dipper and North Star were in view, but gradually changed position and faded from sight. So like the ancient mariners and now to infantry soldiers, the most important set of stars was the Southern Cross, or Cruz. Actually, the Southern Cross is a constellation of five bright stars shaped like a cross with the staff pointing south.
KING NEPTUNE
On crossing the Equator the ship’s crews, a scruffy lot of fat, out-of-shape sailors, acted as King Neptune and his Court. Pollywogs is the label meted out to anyone who never crossed the Equator. At the Equator all Pollywogs are initiated into the Neptune Society by Neptune and other Shellbacks. Since we had a large bunch on board, a group of officers and NCO’s volunteered to go through the ceremony for everyone. Non-participants watched the proceedings from the decks, rigging and bridge. To King Neptune, Pollywogs are the lowest form of sea life and we were the Pollywogs. The unfortunate novitiates were blindfolded and branded with mustard, catsup, doused with fuel oil and had eggs crushed on their heads. The Royal Barber tried to cut hair, but we were crew cut already, so hair cutting didn’t work. The Royal Executioner had a canoe paddle which was applied to rears when action was slow. As the ceremony ended after a few hours, the ship’s crew broke out the fire hoses and tried to water down the audience. In seconds we captured the hoses and doused the ship’s crew, putting them to rout with boos, hisses and laughter. The 511th ruled at the end and now we are all Shellbacks, entitled to al the rights and privileges of Neptune’s Domain.
CHANCE MEETING
The ship’s course was plotted carefully so we never saw any land or ships in the 28 day cruise, except: One fine morning we woke up and a sleek little destroyer was next to us. The ships never stopped but, when we were about 100 feet apart, hose lines were exchanged and the Sea Pike refueled the destroyer. We lined the rails watching the proceedings and the sailors looked us over and we looked the sailors over. Lots of chit-chat was exchanged with laughter. The refueling took a couple of hours and as this was going on, one of our troopers on the Sea Pike spotted his sailor brother on the destroyer. They hadn’t seen each other for several years. It was a happy reunion. A line was passed between the two ships and the brothers passed their latest letters from home to each other. T-shirts and candy came over from the destroyer crew. As refueling was finished, all the lines and hoses were withdrawn. The destroyer took off like a scared rabbit, and was out of sight in an hour. Our meeting lasted only a few hours, and then we were back to seeing nothing but sky and water again. The most beautiful and stirring thing that I remember about that "chance meeting" was the red, white, and blue of our flag fluttering at the mast of the destroyer. It made me very proud.
THE END
A PARATROOPER LOVE STORY "I CAN’T DANCE"

By Rose M. Hastings
On August 14, 1984, I met Miles Gale at a ballroom dance in Santa Ana, CA, while the orchestra played soft music. Looking forlorn, I asked him, "Why aren’t you dancing?" He said, "I can’t dance." Not believing him, I asked, "What are you doing here if you can’t dance?" A little while later, he asked me to dance. He was very good dancer, saying he wanted to hold me in his arms. My heart did flip flops. He was what I had been looking for. We dated and danced for four years. At the 511th reunion in Valley Forge, PA, we were married by Chaplain Walker. Col. McGinnis gave me away. All Co. "H" troopers were Best Men. We danced happily ever
Airborne, Congratulations Mr. & Mrs. Miles W. Gale
Airborne, Stay Tough Jim Lorio



Source: THE STATIC LINE, November-December, 1997, Don Lassen, Editor, Box 87518, College Park, GA. 30337-0518.
Crossing the Pacific Ocean by 1st Lt. Miles Gale (H-Company-511), WINDS ALOFT, quarterly Newsletter 511th Parachute Infantry Association, Issue No. 6, January, 1988, James W. Lorio, M.D., Editor.   
Reproduced: James L. Dendy, Esq., and Mrs. Rhonda Graham, Baton Rouge, LA, March 16, 1999.
Copyright 1998 Patrick O’Donnell

 

VOLUME II NUMBER 3

April 5, 1999

 

511TH PIR NEW GUINEA MAY, 1944

511TH PIR ENTERS ASIATIC PACIFIC THEATER

As part of the 11th Airborne Division, the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment crossed the Pacific Ocean solo aboard the SS Sea Pike. Landfall in May, 1944, was at Milne Bay, northeast tip of New Guinea. Anchored overnight. Two days later debarked at Oro Bay on the northeast coast. The base and docks had been built by the US Navy Seabees (Construction Battalions). The 511th set up camp a few miles inland at Dobodura to train for jungle warfare while in Sixth Army Reserve.

NEW GUINEA

New Guinea is a large mountainous tropical island in the Southwest Pacific Ocean between the equator and 10 degrees south. This world’s second largest island is second to Greenland. Shaped like a large bird north of Australia, it stretches about 1,500 miles from its northwest head to southeast tail 316,000 square miles.

HISTORY

The earliest humans to reach New Guinea about 50,000 years ago migrated by land from the Asian mainland by way of the Malay Peninsula and Indonesia. These were Australoid, then Negrito people, remnants of whom are found today in certain remote valleys and lower mountain slopes in the interior.

In the early 1500's, Protuguese navigators were the first Europeans to discover the island. In 1545, the Spanish explorer, Ynigo Ortez de Rates, named it New Guinea after the Guinea coast of West Africa. In 1828, the Netherlands added the western half of the island to the Dutch East Indies. In 1884, Britain annexed the southeastern portion and Germany assumed control of the northeast. British New Guinea was transferred to Australian administration in 1906 and renamed Papua. At the end of World War I in 1918, former German New Guinea became a mandate under Australian rule.

 

WORLD WAR II

The native population of New Guinea in 1941 was estimated at 1-1 million of whom 3,200 of were Caucasians. Very large portions of the interior had never been explored. Early in 1942, Japanese forced occupied most of western New Guinea and the northern coast of the eastern section. Then southward from bases at Buna and Gona, the Japs advanced over the Owen Stanley Mt. Range on the Sananada Trail toward Port Morseby. The Australian Army met this force in fierce up hill battles and defeated the Japs who were killed or disappeared into the jungle. In 1943, US Army, including 503rd Parachute Infantry Regimental Combat Team, captured or by-passed Jap bases. Many tent cities and air fields arose with about half a million military personnel at Port Morseby, Oro Bay, Dobodura, Buna, Nadzab, Gusop, Finchhaven, Aitape, Lae, Hollandia and Sansapor. Natives who fled the Japanese re-occupied their villages along the north coast and inland river valleys. They befriended the Aussies and GI’s, but did not mix. The 511th troopers and Fuzzy Wuzzy Natives, at a distance, exchanged verbal greetings, shouting "Habba habba. Habba habba," meaning, "I see you, friend. All is OK." Returning stateside 1945 and 1946, 511th troopers found a civilian soft spoken, "Hubba Hubba," essentially meaning, "See the pretty girl."

At Oro Bay the main items of barter between the Fuzzy Wuzzy and base commandos was kerosene to fuel their lanterns and hydrogen peroxide for the males to dye their black hair a reddish color in exchange for skulls. Jap skulls with a hole cut in their top to allow a candle Jack-O-Lantern, Halloween fashion. In order to stop this illicit activity, Australian authorities set out to find the source of the Jap skulls while American commanders tightened control of kerosene and peroxide inventories. One source was Japs KIA or died in jungles along the Sanaanda Trail and environs high in the mountains where primitive head-hunter tribes also held Japs as captives. When beheaded, as alleged, skulls were placed outside the village for cleaning by carnivorous ants. In these tribes it was said that the life expectancy was 28 years. The chief sired the first born of each girl at about 10 years of age. Women nursed young pigs as well as their own babies.

Post World War II. By 1946, practically all the military had left the vast New Guinea installations, which had either been removed or abandoned to the voracious jungle or tall kunai grass. The entire east half of New Guinea was administered as a mandate of Australia until it achieved independence as the nation of Papua New Guinea on September 16, 1975. Presently, the population is 4 1/4 million, 98% Melanesians. The capital is Port Morseby.

The western half of the island, formerly Dutch New Guinea, later called West Irian, was renamed Irian Jaya in 1973 and remains a province of Indonesia. The city of Jayapura is its capitol.

Airborne, Stay Tough Jim Lorio

Source: THE STATIC LINE, January, 1999, Don Lassen, Editor, Box 87518, College Park, GA. 30337-0518. 511th PIR, Enters Asiatic Pacific Theatre, James W. Lorio, M.D., January, 1998. Reproduced: James L. Dendy, Esq., and Mrs. Rhonda Graham, Baton Rouge, LA, March 16, 1999.

 

VOLUME II NUMBER 4

April 7, 1999

 

511TH PIR NEW GUINEA MAY-NOV., 1944

During May, 1944, the 511th PIR debarked from the SS Sea Pike at Oro Bay on the northeast coast of New Guinea to a tent camp at Dobodura, the area of the 11th Airborne Division, displacing ten foot tall kunai grass in the plains at the foot hills of the Owen Stanley Mt. The climate was hot and humid. Rainy season from Dec. to Mar. Mission: Train in jungle warfare. Stage for combat.

TRAINING

Primarily small unit tactics and firing ranges in all weather. Communications: radios, wire and runners. Supply: Air drops and hand carry. The parachute jumps were limited by small drop zones. C-47 pilot error, wind or a hesitation would put jumpers in tree landings in dense jungle. Maneuver areas included the costal swamps of Buna and Gona, the Ambogo and the Sambogo rivers and the Kokoda Trail, all sites of least publicized US and Australian Army victories. Unexploded booby traps were among Jap skeletal remains, left undisturbed. Maneuvers extended into the tropical rain forest and the Owen Stanley highlands, avoiding native villages. The 511th developed a sniper group, made of two expert marksman from each platoon, armed with Australian Enfield rifles with telescopic lens and led by the Regt. S-3. Snipers recorded on cards the data of their hits on leaders who showed command by voice, body language or maps. Later at camp, hits were sent to these leaders for their information.

HEALTH

The first problem of well conditioned new arrivals to equatorial New Guinea was acclimation with anticipated, mild weight loss. Personal hygiene and sanitation at Dobodura and in the field were standard. Garrison rations: Unrefrigerated, powered and dehydrated chow prevailed. New was tough Australian "bully beef" (mutton) with small bone slivers which fractured some carious teeth. Field rations: The same "C", "D", and "K". At the end of every chow line, salt tablets were given under supervision. What was needed was an extra canteen for water, not so much salt. In camp, canteens were filled with potable water from lister bags. In the field halogen tablets were used to purify water from streams. Moral was superb at all ranks, due to training and keeping busy with movies, boxing matches and writing V-mail. In New Guinea one 511th trooper suicide and one nervous breakdown in 5 months.

TROPICAL DISEASES

Malaria and jungle rot were the most prevalent. Atabrine tablets taken daily were a malaria suppressant, causing yellowish skin and sclera of the eyes, like jaundice. The mosquito net during dark was mandatory. Jungle rot started with fungus infection of the feet and bacterial infection of minor skin trauma and scratching insect bites. Dryness and medicated foot powder and ointment were helpful. When a company was on cargo duty at Oro Bay to unload open bow landing craft, troopers with jungle rot were placed barefoot in the breaking surf to debride the rot and skin ulcers. Dysentery, dengue fever, typhoid fever and hepatitis were less common. No elephantiases. Scrub typhus, spread by the aka (red) mite in grass, was the most lethal. All dusted their ankles and socks with insecticide powder. Serious cases were air evacuated to Australia. Leaches on attachment to the skin secreted an anesthetic prior to their painless bite with their razor teeth. Their anti-coagulant allowed blood sucking to engorge their bodies from cigarette to cigar size within one hour. Best removal was by Zippo lighter flame to their tails.

THE 511TH PARATROOPER

Jerry Davis, PhD., (H-511)

The 511th Paratrooper is an American who represents the ultimate in living the American creed. He is a super patriot who represents the millions of Americans who lived, fought and died for the sake of freedom and the American way. He is a father who raised sons and daughters to believe and react in a positive way to the American dream. He is a soldier, business man, doctor, lawyer, teacher, worker and contributor to the moral fiber and economic welfare of his home, community, and country. He is the person who dedicated and re-dedicated his life to uphold everything that America stands for. By his deeds and actions he remains the personification of what an American should be. He is a 511th Paratrooper.

WHAT IS A PARATROOPER?

by George Doherty (Hq. Co., 3rd Bn.-511)

A 511th Paratrooper is like a good watch. He has an open face, busy hands, is made of pure gold, is well-regulated and disciplined and is full of good works. A Paratrooper is not necessarily someone who is better than someone else, but someone who is better than he would be if he were not a Paratrooper. A Paratrooper is someone who makes it easier for other people to believe in the airborne spirit. A Paratrooper is one who knows how to give and forgive. A Paratrooper is someone who has not lost the power to sin, but the desire to sin. A Paratrooper shows what he is by what he does with what he has. Be all you can be... Be a Paratrooper... Airborne all the way.

511TH PARATROOPER

by James W. Lorio (Regt. S-3)

A 511th Paratrooper was a patriot who answered his nation’s call to arms. He was a young man willing to accept a Challenge. He had the Imagination to know which weapons were needed in battle, the Ingenuity to acquire them (and not get caught), the Courage to become a Paratrooper, and his Bravery was proven in combat.

 

COL. HAUGEN’S TWO THOUSAND THIEVES

The nearby port of Oro Bay was the keeper of many good things. Most conspicuous was their electric lighting, in contrast to the Coleman lanterns of the 11th Abn. Div. Without mentioning names, one night certain volunteers from the 511th in a borrowed 2 ton truck on-loaded the Oro Bay generator, cut the wires and disappeared. A few nights later, a company area of the 511th camp site glistened like Times Square on New Year’s Eve. A few nights later, that area was again dark and Div. Hq. was lit up, but briefly. As rumored, the Base Commander at Oro Bay had retrieved his generator. Sparks flew but no court martial charges. 

Lesser raids went on. 1st Lt. Buzz Miley’s 2nd Platoon, Co. "G" without a Memorandum Receipt, acquired a Colt. 45 cal. Pistol for every man in his Platoon for future defense against the Jap "Banzai" night attacks. Known as "ROWDIES" at Camp Mackall, the 511th now had a new moniker, "THIEVES," reminiscent of the story, Ali Baba and the robbers in the Arabian Nights.

Airborne, Stay Tough Jim Lorio

Source: THE STATIC LINE, February, 1999, Don Lassen, Editor, Box 87518, College Park, GA. 30337-0518.

511th PIR, New Guinea, May-Nov. 1944, WINDS ALOFT, quarterly Newsletter 511th Parachute Infantry Association, Issue No. 7, October, 1988, James W. Lorio, M.D., Editor.

Reproduced: James L. Dendy, Esq., and Mrs. Rhonda Graham, Baton Rouge, LA, March 16, 1999.

Copyright 1998 Patrick O’Donnell

 

 


Send Personal Accounts and Feedback to: historian@thedropzone.org
Europe | Pacific | Training | Axis | | Scrapbooks | What's New | Press
1999 Patrick O'Donnell, All Rights Reserved