September 14, 1943
CAIRNS, Australia, Sept. 12—Yesterday was devoted to seeing the men of our armed forces in camp. Some of the men who have been to New Guinea were now back for training, replacements and rest. Many of these boys have been out here eighteen months and more, and, unless they are wounded so they cannot go back to duty or have had the kind of malaria which makes it necessary to go home, they return to duty because they are so much more valuable then they were originally.
The veterans are the ones who can explain the need for certain kinds of training to new men who may not always understand the purpose of some of the things they are made to do. They demonstrated for me today various types of training for jungle fighting. A group had come out with their jungle outfits in tatters and had not yet received replacements, so they were attacking in ordinary uniform. But, as they moved forward, I found them hard to see for they took such good advantage of the terrain and what camouflage they could improvise.
I am sure newcomers would never be as successful and might even think some precautions silly. Boys who have spent their lives in the open, who know animals, the woods, and how to live in the open in good or bad weather, have a little advantage, I would imagine, over the city boys in this training. All are getting it here under very realistic conditions.
I saw the training in hand-to-hand fighting, in shooting, in reconnaisance work and I felt that these men had confidence in themselves to meet the enemy and to win. They were studying Japanese weapons in one group and the man who demonstrated the gun to me knew quite well why his own gun was a supereioir weapon, since he or his comrades had actually taken these Japanese weapons in combat. They had great pride in their trophies and went to considerable trouble to put them back in working order so they could be used for demonstration purposes.
As you get nearer to the front you find that fewer and fewer things you had thought essential to decent living really are necessities. Things are wonderfully clean even in a camp where all the water is brought in by tank. A tent, if it has a floor, can be quite comfortable, and with an extra fence outside it can be tied more securely. Mosquito nets are held up by four posts at the four conrners of army cots. Though some boys had filled their mattress covers with straw or grass,the majority found blankets without a mattress or pillow a perfectly satisfactory bed.
One thing will interest you at home, namely the boys who have just come out from camps in the United States speak of their food as being better out here. That is partly because of Lease Lend arrangements. Meat, some fresh vegetables and butter are obtained from Australia. In some areas, they got a bit too much Australian mutton, but up in the north they are in the beef country and it is good, and you know at home how your boys like steak.
There is all sorts of talent in this army. As I was going through a Red Cross Club here last night, I came to a little room where a young man was busy turning out a poster. When I asked him if he had done similar work in civilian life, I learned that he was Sergeant Moore and had been Ripley's assistant. There was another man playing the piano and when I asked if someone led the singing around there, they produced the soldier at once, and the whole group sang "Home On The Range."
In a hospital the other day a man said, "I was with your cousin up North." I thought he meant one of the very young members of my family, but I soon found that he meant Archie, whom I had seen just before he came out here, but had not heard from since. He fought all through the last war, but is back in the thick of it like his brother, General Theodore Roosevelt, who was in Africa and is probably now in Italy.