OCTOBER 2, 1943
HYDE PARK, Friday—On my way to Australia I stayed at a post on an island where we have been for many years. War brought it many changes, but it is still garrisoned by the Navy, and Major General Charles F. B. Price U.S.M.C. was in command of the whole area. For the first time we had hot and cold water and really a comfortable mattress to sleep on! A navy nurse Lt. J. G. Edna R. Tilden acted as hostess and spent the night at the guest house with me.
We each had a bedroom and a bathroom and there were two other bedrooms and a charming sitting room, so I wallowed in comfort. This very fact, however, made me notice the difference in the men's quarters, where even combat crews of airplanes returning for rest have just cots and blankets, no mattress and no pillow.
The men are well fed and they get much fresh food, though from the prices which I heard quoted for eggs, New Zealand and the Islands have not done as well as we have at home in keeping prices down. Eggs, they say, have been as high as $1.75 a dozen. At one of the islands where our troops are stationed, the men pay about $4.00 a week for their wash if they have it done by a native woman. It is fortunate that the government provides the men with food and lodging, so there is not much for them to spend money on.
There was a great deal of construction going on everywhere; airfields were being built; quarters, roads, defenses of all kinds. The men were busy, not only with drill, but in changing the face of the landscape, and making it look by camouflage as much as though there were no changes as possible. If the men want a desk, a cupboard, a chair, they not only have to make it but they have to find scrap material, improvise hinges, hooks, etc. America is a nation of resourceful and inventive people, and our pioneering days are not too far behind us. We have learned a few things about sanitation even in the wilderness which are standing us in good stead now.
We saw two picturesque things. One was a native house, very elaborate with much carving on the posts, and simple painted decorations. All the supports and posts were tied together by string, where they were fitted or joined, and yards and yards were used. The whole thing is then shellacked. A bed stood at one end, woven mats covered the ground, one mattress was placed on the floor near the other bed, and extra bedding was neatly folded and placed off the ground.
The other interesting sight was a group of native Marines. They looked smart and stood inspection as well as any other battalion. Their skirts seem to be no impediment, and made them walk more gracefully. I saw the hospital here and it was well equipped and prepared. to take care of all kinds of illness and accident. This was one of the places where Captain Rickenbacker and his party were cared for on their way home. They pointed out to me with great pride that they had about the only air conditioned operating room in the islands, which the Rickenbacker party fully appreciated.
I have said little to you about the scenery on this trip because other things seem more important, but as you fly, if you are lucky in the weather, the ocean looks a deep blue below you. Fleecy white clouds sometimes float under you, sometimes beside you. Occasionally they close in and blot out everything and then suddenly you find them gone and an island lies below. These islands may be merely coral reefs with palms and coconut trees as the chief vegetation. In the lagoons and near the shore, the colors will be every shade of green and sometimes red. Other islands will be volcanic and mountainous and the scenery is striking and the vegetation more varied.