Based on the letters of Earl Philip Reinhalter (1922-1953). Edited by his son, Earl Philip Reinhalter (1950-).

<- PREVIOUS LETTER December 25, 1943
Lae, New Guinea

      December 25, 1943

            Christmas Day

Hello Ma:
      This afternoon I have off, and so I now take this opportunity to write. Christmas Eve in New Guinea is one that I shall never forget. Along about 9:00 o'clock last night, after I had just returned from an outdoor picture show, it began to rain and plenty hard, too. It thundered, lightning flashed, and the rain really came down. This continued on into the night. About 11:30, it became quite apparent that I had to go to the latrine, rain or no rain. So, I started out wearing nothing but G.I. shoes and raincoat. After reaching the outer bounds of the tent area, it became a matter of wading rather than just normally walking. I continued on, still heading for my goal, the latrine. Water at times came up to my knees. The latrine floor itself was covered by no less than three inches of water and in some places deeper. Well, after completing my desired mission, I began my return trip to my tent. All went well for the first 10 yards. But at that point the gasoline-driven electrical generator began spitting and sputtering. With an increase in revolutions of the gasoline engine, there would be a corresponding increase in electrical power put out by the generator. The gas engine itself had probably gotten water on the spark plugs or in the carburetor and so the engine was running rather jerky, alternately speeding up and slowing down. Some of the more prominent members of my squadron (sargeants and above) have electrical lighting in their tents. Well anyway, the light intensity was fluctuating. The lights becoming now very bright and then very very dim. I had taken full advantage of the light going to the latrine, but now, on my return journey things were rather - well, not so good at any rate. When the lights would become momentarily bright, I would for a second or two dash in the general direction of my tent. It was rather awkward having at each step to raise my knees high. Remember, the water was as ever still at least nine inches deep. So, splash, splash, splash it was for a while. But I was in for further more trouble. The worst happened. The generator failed completely. Well, there I stood wearing nothing but shoes (they acted as water scoops as I didn't have them laced completely to the top) and a raincoat, knee deep in water, in the pitch dark, and the rain beating down and drumming on my raincoat like ______ (use your imagination). I had no flashlight. Occasionally, lightning flashes would allow me to safely take about five steps farther. I had to be particularly careful to watch where I stepped. After all, it was only two nights previously that I, in heading for that same latrine in great haste for reasons you can best imagine, fell luckily feet first into a four foot deep foxhole. Of course, the foxhole had to have water in it and - well, that's another story. So, getting back in my predicament, I continued on by the light of the lightning in the sky. After enduring this hazardous journey, if I may call it that, I heard the sound of a gasoline engine. Lo and behold! The generator had been fixed and the electrical boys of my outfit were beginning to again put it into operation. I breathed a sigh of relief. After getting back to my tent and drying myself off, I went to bed. The rain continued unabated as I dozed off. Well, this would probably be the ending of a good story, but that was not the end of happenings that Christmas Eve. No, there was still more.

      Along about two o'clock in the morning I was awakened by a splashing sound. Now, who in the heck would be washing at this time of night? A candle was lighted. I discovered that one of the boys was returning from church services and was merely wading in to go to bed. By this time the wind had started and at times reached gale velocity. Never thought that I would see "white caps" on a tent floor. Then one of the other boys woke up. Upon reaching for his canteen, which, if he put it where he said he did, should have been on the floor beneath his cot; he found it missing. This was rather queer indeed. After a closer inspection, he discovered that in addition to his canteen was a pack of cigarettes, matches, and two G.I. shoes all being, if somewhere, other than where they had been placed. So, we all began to reconnoiter the general locality of the tent. Well, we found them with the exception of one of the shoes. Yes, all of the items had floated completely outside of our tent. Evidently, the canteen had had enough water removed to become sufficiently buoyant. The fellow climbed again into bed after retrieving the articles with the exception of that one shoe. One boy suggested getting his fishing tackle out. After all, it was just a matter of dangling the hooks over the side of the cot. Of course, that was all in fun. Right now, we are awaiting the water in our foxhole to sink into the ground. Why? Well, we expect to find a sunken treasure, this treasure consisting of one waterlogged G.I. shoe. Among the few things that didn't float away were some Japanese shells and pieces of shrapnel lying around inside our tent.

      Parallel to my cot is a slit trench about three feet in depth. The three legs on the left side of the cot are only about six or eight inches from the edge of the trench. As the night, or at that time morning, grew older, the trench became more filled with water. It wasn't long before I realized that I should move my cot away somewhat from that trench. It was a rather queer feeling to all at once notice that I was not lying no longer on a level cot. I first noticed this when I kept rolling to the low side of the cot. I acted plenty fast then and moved my bunk at a safe distance from that trench. It would have been quite a calamity indeed if my bunk and I had capsized. The cot, blankets, mosquito netting, and me included would have gotten a dunking for sure. Maybe I would have been awarded the Purple Heart for being wounded in action or something to that effect. So much for that.

      About three miles from my general camp area is a stream, or it possibly could be called a small river. [Possibly he is referring to the Bumbu River. - Ed.] It's about thirty or forty feet across and the maximum depth reached about three feet. That is, however, under normal conditions. At one section of this stream is an isolated bit of dry ground, the stream splitting and going around that particular spot and then rejoining farther downstream. Well, some of the new boys probably fresh from the States, cunningly had pitched their tent on that said island. I might add that this stream eventually empties into the sea. After all, the rookies figured that it would be a cool spot. Well, today, following the heretofore previously mentioned big downpour, the new boys' camp site has been forcibly by Mother Nature relocated. Latest reports have it that they now live a normal Army life ten miles at sea. Along with the boys, the swollen stream has supposedly carried their cots, barrack bags, mess kits, and tent, including the poles, stakes, and rope, out to sea. Oh well, it's only a rumor, so don't place too much faith in it.

      Oh yes, I did finally get to sleep about 3:00 o'clock Christmas morning after placing on top of me a raincoat in addition to my blankets. This prevented the wind-blown water spray from seeping through my blankets. My hair was heavy with dew when I finally got up Christmas morning after a good (?) night's sleep.

      Today, I enjoyed my Christmas dinner even more than I did last year, even though the temperature does hover close to one hundred degrees. (It's a comparatively cool day today at that.) Maybe it's because of the absence of such food for a while. Our dinner was comprised of string beans, mashed potatoes, canned corn, chocolate layer cake, coffee, tomato juice, soup, pickles, fruit cocktail, turkey dressing, buns, and of course the turkey itself. Oh yes, I must not forget the usual salt and Atabrine tablets. The first replaces salt lost through sweating and the later helps prevent malaria. After the meal, we each received a bag containing a bar of soap, a can of talcum powder, toothpaste, shaving cream, and some kind of cream which is supposed to be a preventative against insect attacks. I hope that it works as claimed on the container. Our mess hall was decorated somewhat on the interior with brightly colored crepe paper. Well, so much for Christmas. No, I haven't received my packages yet. I am not worrying too much about them anyway. Time up here doesn't mean very much, you know. Or do you?

      I received today some forwarded mail. A letter from you dated October 7th, one from Fred Roussey dated October 11th, one from Mrs. Roussey dated October 7th, and a Christmas card, too, from Mrs. Roussey dated October 12th. Yes, they all were from the same year, 1943, thank goodness. Mrs. Roussey says, among other things, that Robert Kornman is not as yet in the Army and in fact he now has a baby daughter. Also, Fred will not get married until probably after the war. Gus Fetting is still in Mississippi. George Harmony [apparently meaning George Harmening - Ed.] was last heard from in California, and you know what that means. Fred is still at the same camp.

      Yesterday, I received in the mail some pictures which I had taken some time ago. The pictures of the kangaroo must have been pretty good because of the three snapshots thereof, they only bothered to return one. I cuss myself every time that I think about it. The remainder of the pictures they returned, bless their dear hearts - the dirty so and so's. Two of the pictures I can't send home because they show too much of the airdrome itself. So, I'll just have to save those until after the war. My picture does not appear on either of the two anyway. So, to you they probably would not be very important anyway. I will send the four remaining pictures to you shortly after all of the boys have seen them.

      Ma, I don't want to sell my moving picture machine. But you can tell Buddy Oster that he can borrow it. But take care of it. After the war, I'll want to use it again. I don't know who won the bet concerning the best-looking girl, as I was away temporarily at school. I sure appreciate Marian Tieman getting those films. You can thank her for me or else you can send me her address and I'll write her myself.

      Well, having just finished up one pad of writing paper, I continue on another. Pardon the variation as to the linear dimensions. Enclosed is a Japanese fifty-yen piece of money. The Japs left in a hurry, you see. Some of their flags are made of nice silk. Their rifles and machine guns are not bad either. Further details on that subject I am not allowed to mention. Well, that's about all for just now. When I began this letter, I did not intend to write a book. But I got started and - well, see the result. So, until sometime later -


The Kindle book includes the letters; all 23 issues of the unit’s wartime newsletter “The Squadron Pulse,” which was originally edited by Leonard Stringfield; all 12 issues of the “Pennant Parade” newsletter that Stringfield published while sailing home after the war; complete text of the U.S. government booklet “Pocket Guide to Australia,” which soldiers heading Down Under were given to read; more than 200 photos; pre-war and postwar family history; and over 700 explanatory endnotes.


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