MARCH 25, 1944
BALBOA, Canal Zone, Friday—Miss Thompson and I were very much touched at the Navy base at Curacao when, at the movie theater, we were presented with little gifts which the whole camp had brought for us. The gifts were lovely in themselves, but the thought touched us more.
At 7:45 Tuesday morning, the band was already playing in the inner square as we stepped from the Governor's house and stood on top of the high steps. We looked down upon a very big group of school children who were carrying the Stars and Stripes and orange school banners, and the Dutch flag.
Much of the teaching on the island is done by Catholic brothers. Some of them led the children in singing all the verses of "The Star Spangled Banner" in English, followed by their own Dutch national anthem.
Most children talk "papiamento," so it is an achievement to know both Dutch and English and they told me that many of them learn other languages as well, but of course the language of the schools is Dutch.
We drove to the flying field, took leave of the governor and left for Aruba. Since this is the dry season, this island which calls itself "The Gem of the Caribbean" looked to me rather arid. Their rainfall at all times is low, only about 13 inches yearly, and I wondered that herds of sheep and goats got enough to eat.
We drove through refinery grounds and were amazed at the sight of flourishing little gardens around many houses. I soon discovered, however, that these gardens flourish because water which is brought from the United States and very carefully doled out for drinking and washing purposes, is occasionally diverted to the gardens.
I had a chance to meet all the American women living here after I had met the Army and Navy personnel. The USO here is a particularly good one as Mr. Vint, director, was here before and knows people. He has obtained good cooperation and seems to keep his program moving all the time.
It took only a little more than an hour to fly to Barranquilla. Here the wife of the acting president, Mrs. Echandia, with other Colombian officials and our ambassador, Mr. Lane and his wife, met us, along with local military officers and General Brett and Admiral Train who came over from Panama.
We drove to the city about ten miles away to see the club which the women of the city run for the soldiers. It is the equivalent of our USO, but it was started before the USO became active down here. They have open space at the back with shade, trees and gay hammocks hung for the boys to lie in. Twenty-five steaks can be broiled at once on the big grill. They give the boys service which is exceptional.
The boys are always looking for gifts to send home, and frequently shopkeepers put up prices because they know American boys are unwilling to bargain and do not know the value of native products. Our boys think only of getting gifts started toward home. The ladies who run the service club have the gifts consigned to them, put on display in the shops, and then let the boys buy through them. They told me they had sold more than $6,000 worth in a few months.
I visited the Army and Navy areas, and before we left there was a short reception at the airport. Three o'clock found us taking off for Panama.