One afternoon I found myself down at the Mokmer airfield, swapping Jap bayonets and gear for food and supplies from some of the flyboys. A few of them were trying to befriend me ‘cause word had got around that I supplied the best souvenirs. We were discussing some unusual areas on the island that were devoid of any foliage, and I was very interested because we were due to patrol near that zone. So then this aircrew invites me to take a ride on a B24 bomber; which I accepted just for a change of pace, and also out of curiosity to see what the island looked like from the air. We had to get permission from their Major, and from Col. Roosevelt, my CO. The scuttlebutt was that they were going to make a number of passes over the island at different altitudes, in order to test out some new, top secret gear.
Upon boarding the plane, I noticed that the crew were all donning their heavy flight suits; leather jackets, pants, and helmets lined with shearling sheepskin. I was wearing my raggedy olive greens; thin cotton HBT shirt and trousers appropriate for the 100 degree temperatures of the jungle. The engineer tossed me an old blanket, saying: “cover up, it gets colder than a witch’s tit up there!” Then they handed me an old, beat up sheepskin jacket, which I noticed had some stains and small holes. “Grape juice,” the engineer commented. As the huge craft lumbered off the bumpy jungle runway, it seemed to barely miss the line of trees at the edge of the airfield.
We spent the next 45 minutes or so making passes at various levels, sometimes so high up that I couldn’t make out the airstrip at all, just endless ocean and the little islands off the coastline of New Guinea. There was the tremendous din of the engines on board the aircraft, and I could hardly make out the crew’s conversation over their radio as I sat next to the navigator. I did make out the comment: “Is the gear ready?” several times, but my new navigator buddy seemed most interested in plying me to get hold of a Nambu pistol or a Hiri-Kiri knife for him. At one point, he decided to draw me into his confidence, and said: “Hey Joe, you wanna see the top secret stuff that we’re working on back in the cargo bay?” “Sure thing,” said I, and he led me back through the cabin, where upon opening the door I beheld a cargo bay full of strapped down cases of beer! The freezing wind was whooshing through the open doors; the comment that I had heard repeated was actually: “Is the beer ready?”
“Yup, Joe, beer’s nice and cold now, I guess we’ll be heading back to base…”
At which point I was sure to requisition a few cans of icy cold ones for my thirsty squad. But by the time I got them back up to our foxholes out in the jungle, they were warm as piss!