SEPTEMBER 30, 1943
HYDE PARK, Tuesday—I want to tell you about the day when we landed about noon on a small island. It has a very large lagoon in the center, and a narrow belt of land. In all, I suppose the area of land is not much over three square miles, but around the lagoon would be, perhaps, a 30-mile drive. There is a native village on the island and some of the natives wanted to know if I was General MacArthur's "woman." They are very generous people and had gifts of shell necklaces and grass skirts for me and for those with me.
Our men here are very busy building the whole station, and have not been overseas quite as long as in some of the other islands. Therefore, there is not the strong desire to get home, which you find when men have been many months without a furlough.
Our navigator seemed to me nothing short of a miracle worker, for how he hit these little dots without any deviation in course I wouldn't understand. Nothing but waves and small fleecy clouds would be in sight, and then someone would point and there would be the island.
On this island, the resident manager said something which made me realize again how small the world is. I asked what the natives did to earn a living, and his reply was "When you ladies gave up wearing pearl buttons, you took away what was their traditional way of life." Fortunately, for them, they need little and the islands produce most of their food. Now, in some places, they work for the Americans but in others they do no work except what is essential to their daily living.
On every island, our men have built an airport, defences, storage areas, and living quarters have gradually been improved. The adaptability and ingenuity of the men is astounding. The resident at the largest island we have yet visited, told me that the first troops arrived in the middle of the rainy season and he marvelled at their accomplishments. Native houses are built on posts high off the ground because of the rains. Our men had to live in tents, and one boy told me the rain washed their barrack bags out into a little stream and they had to run after them to rescue them. Nevertheless, the work was done and now mail comes every ten days; at first six weeks was the minimum. Life is fairly comfortable on a camping-out scale.
One evening we landed at an airfield just at sunset. To my surprise, there was no twilight in this part of the world. We had barely gone a short way by boat to a nearby and larger island, before it was night. Day came just as suddenly. The moon and the stars shone and it was night, and then, before you realize it, full daylight. We spent two nights on this island, and I began my day early by breakfast at 7:00, with some of the men.
They started an interesting talk, because one of them had heard a broadcast from home in which he said the speaker claimed, that if all the women and older men now at work were dismissed and returning soldiers got their jobs there would still be 500,000 soldiers without work. How any one arrived at these figures I don't know, but such things are on the men's minds. They want to know what we at home are planning for the future.
I visited Army and Navy forces all over this island. One unit, off by itself, over a road only the jeeps and trucks could negotiate, seemed to be enjoying its isolation. The young lieutenant in command came from Seattle, I think. At least, he knew Puget Sound well, and had a little sail boat which he said he tipped over regularly.