SEPTEMBER 16, 1943
BRISBANE, Australia, Sept. 14—We breakfasted at the Red Cross officers' rest club in Mackay, then a couple of hours by plane brought us here to Brisbane. We had time before lunch to unpack and I arranged to get some washing and pressing done. We have been on some dusty trips and they play havoc with white shirts. I even had time to change from a thin uniform to a heavier one, for I have no desire to find myself catching cold. Coming south here, means coming to cooler weather.
We lunched at Government House with Sir Leslie and Lady Wilson. One is conscious of the great sacrifice which the British people have made in the war whenever one talks to any of their public servants. They have had to spend so many more years than usual without going home for a visit. They have been separated from their children and nearly all of them have lost close relatives in the war. There is never a complaint, but, nevertheless, the sacrifices and sorrows leave their mark.
Immediately before lunch, we visited an army hospital where I met Miss Willa Hook, who served in Bataan and on Corregidor. She has been twice cited by General MacArthur and once by the President but she asked not to go home from here when the other nurses went, for she wished to be near enough to be among the first to go back to Manila. I am sure all these nurses who left friends in hospitals, where they have since become prisoners of the Japanese, are constantly haunted by fears for them and hope against hope that they will receive better treatment than has been meted out to other prisoners.
In this hospital I found a young officer, Captain John Van Benschoten, who said he was a neighbor from Poughkeepsie. He is fortunately recovering, and seemed to be in very good spirits. In quick succession we visited a navy group, including a visit to their sick bay. There I was told of appendix operations done at sea by pharmacists mates, who used kitchen knives and spoons for instruments, and still not one of the operations had caused death.
Then we went to a Red Cross center, which was really very attractive. It seemed to be in adequate quarters, though they were looking for more space. At 4:00 o'clock we arrived at the town hall, where I had an opportunity to meet the heads of the relief and patriotic organizations, as I have done in other cities.
Their welcome, like that of the people in the streets, was very cordial and reflected what good ambassadors our men have been over here.
Lastly, we went to the Dr. Carver Club, a Red Cross Club for colored soldiers in this area, and for those coming down on furlough or returning to New Guinea. It is well run and very attractive. The men seemed to be having a good time, but here, too, they are looking for more space. This city is much too overcrowded and hotel accommodations and food are difficult to find for all our men.
There was a fine exhibition hung here of drawings and paintings made by soldiers in New Guinea. They are going to be shipped home and I am sure the Red Cross will arrange to show them for they paint life in the battle area and show what ingenuity has been developed under the drive of necessity. They are painted on bits of board, sacking or wrapping paper. Some of them are by artists of some experience, others have never painted before. The work is alive and very colorful, though the paints were just what could be found around camp, or mixed from curious ingredients probably not usually bought as artist materials.
Everywhere in Australia people tell you of their gratitude for what General MacArthur's leadership has done. One woman said to me, "When he landed I felt as though we had fifty thousand men to defend us." They are proud to have their men in service under him and they feel happy in their cooperation. Incidentally, I have never told you that, some time ago, Mrs. MacArthur came to welcome me and it was a pleasure to see her. I wondered how she could have lived through so much danger and still be so serene.