After landing, I was assigned to a Quonset building with a navy man and we were both awaiting our plane to Samoa. It was hot, but I guess normal, as we were practically on the equator. I turned pink and then tanned in the short time we were on this atoll that was about three miles long and about a quarter of a mile in width. I doubt if the highest point would be more than twenty feet in elevation. We had nothing to do but wander around. One day, the navy man got some line and hooks, so we fished near some coral reefs. He caught an eel that was about twenty inches long and he had a hard time getting it ashore. He then tired to get rid of it by offering it to a native. The native did not want it and said it was poisonous. I don’t know how he disposed of the eel. Late one afternoon, it was free beer for all personnel. We were all given a ticket to claim our beer. Since I did not drink beer, I gave it to someone standing in line. It made him happy.
AMERICAN SAMOA, TUTUILA
Our plane arrived one morning after waiting for a week. We took off for Tutuila with mail, supplies and only three or four passengers. It was about a three-hour flight. After landing, I was picked up and delivered just off the landing field a few hundred feet to our housing area. We all had what I would call small cabins, with two to four men to each one. I was assigned to one cabin (called a fale) with two other members of our group.
There were about forty-five AACS personnel staying on this navy base. We ate in their mess hall, which was about one-half mile further by the road than walking across the runway. Only a few planes came in every week so it was quite safe to cross. The office I worked in was about halfway to the mess hall. The office was a small building with an office on one end for cryptographic service, radio equipment located in the center and another office on the opposite side for the officer-in-charge and me. This station was mainly located in Samoa for DFS (Directional Finding Station.) This would be one of three areas to get a fix on an airplane and its location could be determined. The cryptographic officer was there to code and decode messages and to censor all of the personnel’s outgoing mail.
My office title was “Clerk” and my duties consisted of taking letters and typing them from the officer in charge. I kept up the files and did reports. The mail arrived about once a week. There was always some mail from our Headquarters at Hickam Field that had to be taken care of and sent back on the return trip in three days. Often, some orders or report forms needed to be cut on a stencil and taken over to the Navy headquarters to run needed copies on their mimeograph machine. After the plane left, there was very little work to be done until the return trip. I did KP a couple of times. I was working on KP when the news arrived that President Roosevelt had died.
Many of the AACS personnel each put in $20.00 to give to a native to make an outrigger canoe for our use in the lagoon next to our living quarters. It took the native a month to make the canoe. We enjoyed the use of it. We also gathered live sea shells and would bury then in an ant hill. When dug up a week later, they would all be cleaned. A few times, several went fishing off the rocks. I don’t remember catching any fish. The organization had the use of the vehicle and a load of us would go into Tutuila to look around and visit the Navy commissary, where we could purchase toilet articles and gift shop items. We could use this vehicle to go to church on Sundays, which I often did. When passing the native villages, mainly in the evening, I would enjoy their singing. They all seemed to have beautiful voices. One holiday there was a big celebration with a parade and the natives dressed up in costumes. There were canoe races and dancing. A good time was had.
In June, I received orders to return to Hickam Field for a new assignment. When the plane, a B-25, came in, the crew and all that were being shipped out flew over to Apia the next morning. This was a distance of 90 miles. Just above the hotel we stayed in was a hill where Robert Louis Stevenson is buried. It was too hot and a big climb to go visit the grave. Some of us went to a movie with several native girls. Yes, I suppose you can say I took a native girl to the movie. She was only 14 and was accompanied by her older sister. I paid for the admission of a quarter. Earlier, the 14-year-old had sewed a button that was hanging loose on my shirt. They had a big intermission to buy refreshments. When the movie was over, they took us to another building that was serving homemade cakes and pies. This was conducted like our USOs. We all had a good time. We returned to our base the next day. On the way out, the pilot flew low over the main street of the town as our farewell. We were only at our home base a very short time and then headed north. It was a two-day trip to Hawaii, with the same stops as when we went south six months earlier. We learned that our plane was reported lost because no contact could be made. It was the first trip for the radio operator on our plane. He couldn’t keep in contact. As we neared Hickam Field, the pilot was able to contact the control tower and shortly after we were headed in for a landing. We arrived about ten p.m. and had to go through customs. That rather surprised me on that procedure.
HICKAM FIELD ASSIGNMENT
I was assigned to the headquarters of AACS as a clerk to the Officer of this department. He dictated letters to be typed. I had the usual duty of filing and keeping records current. As the war progressed north, new sets of maps of airbase installations and all that is necessary for the use of a new base had to be filed in a loose-leaf binder. It was good duty. I took over the Fund Account from the First Sergeant. It wasn’t a lot of work and was something I was trained for. It gave me something to do. There were a couple of times I helped with the disbursing of payroll.
When word came that the war with the Japanese had ended, it was great news. This was about 7 p.m. The streets became crowded with marching, as men were pouring out of the barracks. WHAT A HAPPY DAY! I was quite high on the rotation to return home. It wasn’t too long until I cleared out my personal things from my desk and was transferred across to the other side of the runway to await travel to the States. I must have been there about ten days. The Japanese prison was nearby. The prisoners were used of KP duty. It was strange to know that these same people were fighting against us not too many months ago. I would see them playing volleyball, like any of the Americans would be doing. They looked just like any of us. I was used to seeing Japanese people, as I went to high school with them and was used to seeing them working in the fields in Suisun Valley. I’ll bet they were just as glad as I was that the war was over. Finally, notice came for my flight home to the USA. Hawaii was still not a state. About two days before I was to leave, a person that I had become friendly with was leaving ahead of me. We had exchanged enough conversation and knew that my wife lived in Fairfield, a few miles form Travis Air Force Base, so he offered to call her, letting her know I would soon be home. The next day, a plane went down in the ocean about halfway to the states. It ran out of fuel. The papers reported that while fueling the plane, a heavy rain shower came up and they had to stop. For some reason, they never completed the fueling. The pilot or whoever was responsible did not check the fuel gages before take-off. Several were killed when the plane crashed into the ocean. This really shook up my wife and family as they were expecting me most any hour.
HAMILTON FIELD, CALIFORNIA
What a good sight to see; the outlines of San Francisco showing up. It wasn’t long until we were on approach to Hamilton Air Force Base near San Rafael, California. When we got off, a cold north wind hit me in the face. It had been almost a year since I last encountered cold weather. It felt so good. It was after 3 p.m. when we arrived, and then turned in some contents in the barracks bag. I was glad to get rid of the rifle I had in my possession for ten months.
This has been written like I would be speaking to my two girls and my two grandchildren. I have wanted to do this for some time.
~Written by Henry L. Darville
~Pages 3 & 4 contain photos from Henry Darville
~Edited for punctuation & spelling by Milt Keizer, permission granted by Henry Darville --2007
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