MARCH 29, 1944
GUATEMALA CITY, Tuesday—On our last full day in Panama, we left the house at the very reasonable hour of 8 a.m. We visited the Marines, saw the naval hospital and attended a demonstration at the fire fighting school. The men do a remarkable job on fire fighting today. They are not only putting the men at the base through this school, but they even give intensive instruction to men who can be spared from ships. It was an extraordinary demonstration of how fire could be handled on ship board. As one boy said: "In the old days we would have thought there was nothing to do but jump overboard." It is a very important course for both officers and men to take, as it gives them knowledge and training which will see them through many tight places.
We went from there to another naval installation on a nearby island. This gave me my first chance to travel on a PT boat. What speed these boats have! Any young man who has ever liked a yacht would be fascinated by the compactness with which they are designed. I went all through the boat, for I knew that I would probably never have another chance to see one. My chief concern on the trip was a photographer, who insisted on taking photographs from precarious places. I was thankful when we had him safe on land again.
On the island we visited the naval hospital, which had no patients thus showing what a healthy spot this place happens to be. Since there is not a very large group of men, the men here have one advantage usually found in small places. They feel like a family group. We had lunch in the enlisted men's mess.
After returning to the mainland, we went to visit a school run primarily for Puerto Rican inductees, although many officers and men from the continental troops attend. We heard an orientation lecture given in Spanish and I thought every class, whether it was held in a classroom or in a shop, captured the men's attention and achieved the desired results.
Then we went to General Brett's residence for a press conference. These conferences are rather amusing because many of the press representatives speak only Spanish. Therefore the questions are carefully prepared beforehand and translated into English. As I answer them, they have to be translated into Spanish.
Later, we went for a short drive around the city and visited the very fine Santo Tomas Hospital. Many of the nurses on the staff go to the USO dances on their time off. I had a glimpse of the church of San Jose, with its wonderful golden altar which was brought from Brazil many years ago. It is carved out of mahogany and covered with gold leaf. It is one of the most elaborate and dazzling pieces of work I have ever seen.
We had supper in one of the enlisted Navy men's messes, and at 6 o'clock we attended an informal reception given by the President and Madame de la Guardia at the Presidencia. In the evening we went to three USO clubs. One had a particularly large gathering, and two soldier bakers had provided one of the most elaborate cakes I ever saw in my honor. So of course I had to cut it. Again I drew the door prizes at a jungle dance, and then the show went merrily on.
We did have a little time to sit and talk to our hosts, and I was glad to have this opportunity. I hope I shall see Governor and Mrs. Edgerton in Washington before long, since the governor's tour of duty is nearly over. I did want a chance to thank them both for their very generous hospitality, which included calling us at 5:30 and seeing us off at 6:45 in the morning.