SEPTEMBER 22, 1943
A SOUTH PACIFIC BASE, Sept. 15 (Delayed)—On our arrival yesterday afternoon, we saw a little Red Cross canteen which serves the men at the airport. It is supposed to open at 6:00 a.m., but I know from many fliers this hour is flexible and often the girls of the staff get up to give the men coffee and to see them off on a mission at 3:00 or 4:00 o'clock in the morning.
We drove over the whole field and I was interested in the way the boys decorate and name their planes and mark them for each achievement. Some planes have wonderful records and when they are retired their crews have a very personal sense of loss.
At 8:30 o'clock this morning, we went off to drive to a big convalescent camp. The island scenery is beautiful with mountains and fertile valleys, but it is already beginning to be hot. Everyone speaks of the mud, which appears with the rainy seasons, as though it were something rather astonishing and disagreeable. We have already contributed something towards the control of the mosquito by draining several swamps, but there is still much to be done. Fortunately, the malarial mosquito is as yet unknown here.
We visited two hospitals during the day and a receiving camp. Here the Navy assembles boys just arrived from home, prior to their being allocated, as well as transfers them from one ship or station to another. They showed me the system by which they try to keep mail flowing steadily to the boys. It is easy to appreciate their difficulties, when I tell you one boy helping in the office found his own name with the terse information, "Missing." He merely asked, "What shall I do? I'm here now." Mail is one thing that every man wants. They even have a song about it, so don't forget to write.
I was also interested in a big salvage depot. Most important, I suppose, are the tires which are completely made over in a shop here. They work so fast in this shop that they are always clamoring for more work. We saw shoes repaired here and one special man filling orders which had to be done by hand. One colored man from the South had the biggest foot I have ever seen and held a record for the Army. I think the actual size was nineteen-and-a-half.
In another tent, machines were whirring and tailors in uniform were salvaging discarded clothes. Others were struggling with a tent that needed repairs. Reciprocity between all the branches of the service is well carried out, but I thought sailors might have found mending canvas easier than did the men I saw working on it. All this salvage is work done on the spot and saves valuable shipping space, and is a very important job.
By 5:00 p.m. we were at Admiral Halsey's quarters, and three people came in to see me. Later the Admiral had the new French Governor and several other officers in to dine. It was a very pleasant evening. One more caller, a young lieutenant who came for a few minutes in the evening, rounded out the day.
I must tell you again how charmingly the Filipino boys arrange flowers. They had some in a saucer for me this morning, which I have beside me now and which fill the room with fragrance.
I visited the cemetery here today. The little white crosses climb up the hill, on the summit of which stands a high flagpole from which floats our flag. Some trees and shrubs soon will be planted, but just as it now stands, it is a dignified resting place for any soldier who gladly gave his life in the service of his country. I thought of the women at home whose hearts are partly buried here, too, with the men they loved. I think they would feel not only peace on this spot, but pride in the cause for which so many made the greatest possible sacrifice.