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

<- PREVIOUS LETTER February 7, 1944
Saidor, New Guinea

      Feb. 7, 1944

  Somewhere in New Guinea

Hello Ma:

      Since my last letter to you, I have received a package containing the four rolls of films from you and the six handkerchiefs from Aunt Kate and Uncle Ben. Thank them for me. Also, received the box of twenty packs of chewing gum. Guess what? Yesterday, I received one skate in a package with the roll of film and shoe laces. Hope I get the other one eventually. Received a Christmas card from Phus and a letter from you. Too bad about grandpappy. You can sell the other pair of skates to Buddy Oster. They are too small for me anyway. You can have the money. I don't need it. What is Daddy planning to do until the end of the war? Too bad about leaving Hilgartners. [Hilgartner Marble Company, now called Hilgartner Natural Stone Company. Earl's father was a blacksmith who specialized in working on the tools that were used for etching text on stone. According to Yvonne, he was very good at this profession, but did not enjoy the work. He also had a drinking problem, which made it hard for him to hold down a job. Hilgartner's personnel records from that era no longer exist, so his years of employment and reason for leaving could not be determined. - Ed.]

      Well, since my last letter to you, nothing much has happened of any great importance. The Japs dropped about six or seven bombs the other night. The closest landed about two miles from us. Yesterday morning, we had two airplanes crash here - nobody got hurt. We get mail about once every one or two weeks when a boat comes in. But when it does come, there is plenty, as it accumulates at another base not quite as advanced [not as close to the front - Ed.] as ours. In ten more days, I will have completed nine months of overseas service. I still have nine more to go before I am eligible to come back to the States.

      I had a rather close shave the other day. I was collecting trash from around my tent and placing it upon a small trash pile that had already been started. Then I squatted down and lighted the trash with a match. The next thing I knew there was an explosion. With dirt blown in my face, I was almost knocked backwards off balance. Yes, some careless person had thoughtlessly thrown a bullet in the trash pile. The bullet went one way, the empty shell casing another, and I luckily fell (or was blown) in another direction. Just about an hour before that, three other boys narrowly missed being probably killed. One of our sargents laid his Thompson .45 caliber submachine gun down on his bunk. He thought that the safety catch was on. It wasn't. Before he could grab the gun again, four or five bullets went sailing into the wild blue yonder. The center post of the tent was pretty well shot up. Five minutes later, the three other boys in the tent were still shaking. Oh well, the tents need better ventilation anyway.

      This morning, I was talking to a captured Japanese soldier. He came walking into our base waving a white handkerchief on a stick and surrendered. He had been educated in a college in Tokyo, and his English wasn't too bad either. I never saw a happier looking person. Although he was in the Jap infantry, he claimed that he wasn't Japanese by birth. His mother was Arabian and his father, Chinese. He brought maps, pictures, and other information along with him. He claimed that his soldier friends were starving out in the jungle. He seemed to like the American cigarettes which an M.P. guard gave him. He was even more delighted when he heard that he was going for his first airplane ride. That afternoon, the plane took off carrying the Jap lance corporal back down New Guinea to a prison camp. He looked to be about 22 years old and stood a little under five feet tall. Well, so much for that. [See photos below. - Ed.]

      About an average of one night a week, several natives (about five) come visiting our squadron camp. They are getting quite an education. Among their learned talents is the ability to shoot crap. At my old base, some Australian soldiers taught one to drive a jeep. He was a little jumpy on the clutch when I saw him driving. Most of the natives here have flown at least once in an airplane. We get a big kick out of talking to them, using some sign language of course. They seem to think that we are something to laugh at too. It works both ways. One of my soldier friends spent about five whole minutes trying to find out how many engines were on the airplane in which this certain native had flown. The boy used all kind of gestures including waving both arms wildly in the air and making a noise like an airplane with his mouth. After my friend had about given up the whole idea of questioning the native further, another of my soldier friends appeared and asked the first soldier what he was trying to find out from the native. When the first soldier told the second, the native overheard the short conversation and interrupted and said, "Two engines," in plain English. The first soldier felt rather foolish. He had not resorted to trying to question this native in ordinary English, but had tried every other method which came to his mind. We all had a good laugh over it.

      Well outside, the anti-aircraft gunners are practicing. The ground occasionally shakes and it sounds like a Fourth of July celebration. In the next tent, the boys are making coffee. It seems that they "borrowed" a can full of coffee from the mess section.

      I was listening to some Japanese propaganda on our shortwave receiver. They thought that they could make us feel bad by dwelling on the following subjects:
(1) Our girls or wives back home going around with 4-F's and draft dodgers.
(2) About the little money the American soldier gets in comparison with the defense workers back in the States.
(3) How worthless is the American cause to fight on.
(4) They ask us how we would like to be back in the States eating ice cream and malted milk, going to good movies and shows, drinking beer, and going out with our best girls on dates.
(5) They tell the Australian soldiers that the Yanks are stealing their girls back in Australia while they (the Aussie soldiers) are fighting and sweating for a useless cause in New Guinea.
      Yes, that is the type of propaganda the Japs broadcast. The only reason we listen is to hear the good old American recording[s] of songs played by favorite name bands.

      Below are a few poems which you might like:

Drunkard's Poem

Starkle, starkle, little twink.
Who the hell you are, I think.
I'm not under the alcofluence of incohol.
Although some thinkle peep I am.
I fool so feelish, I don't know who is me,
The drunker I sit here, the longer I be.

      The following appeared in a Yank magazine:

Somewhere in New Guinea

Somewhere in New Guinea where
      The sun is like a curse,
Where each day is followed by
      Another slightly worse.
Where the dust blows thicker than
      The shifting desert sand,
And all the men wish for a fairer
      Greener land;
Somewhere in New Guinea where
      A girl is never seen,
Where the sky is always cloudy
      And the water always green,
Where the bombers nightly roar
      And rob a man of blessed sleep,
Where there isn't any whiskey and
      Beer would be a treat;
Somewhere in New Guinea where
      The nights are made for love,
Where the moon is like a searchlight
      And the Southern Cross above
Sparkles like a diamond in the
      Balmy tropic night,
It's a shameful waste of beauty
      When there's not a girl in sight;
Somewhere in New Guinea where
      The mail is always late,
And a Christmas card in April is
      Considered up-to-date,
Where we seldom have a payday
      And never missed a cent,
But we never miss the money
      'cause we'd never get it spent;
Somewhere in New Guinea where
      The flies and lizards play,
And a million more mosquitoes
      Replace the ones you slay;
So, take me back to Baltimore, let me
      Hear that mission bell,
For this god-forsaken country is
      A substitute for hell.

      Well, so much for the poems -

      My book c/o Postmaster is being passed around to the men of my outfit. At least ten men have read it so far. There is quite a remarkable similarity between the incidents mentioned in the book and my experiences. Practically every page made me think back over the recent past. It certainly refreshed my memory.

      One of the boys in my tent received a box of cigars from his former boss and he insisted that I along with the other boys smoke one. Well, just to please him (he's my crew chief), I decided to give 'er a go. It's the first time that I ever got drunk without drinking any alcohol. When I got halfway finished it, I got a headache and sick in the stomach. I slyly made a quick "fade-out" to the nearest latrine, where I promptly disposed of the remains of a supposedly good smoke. At least it said so on the box. Yes sir, I was right about smoking - it's something that I am quite willing to do without.

      Between the beginning of this letter and the ending there was a slight interruption. We had another air raid alert. So, the lights were extinguished until the "all-clear" signal about 15 minutes later. And now, as usual, it has started to rain hard. Outside, the ground is a sheet of water with clumps of earth breaking through here and there. Such a slimy situation indeed for one who by necessity must traverse this liquified terra firma for duties in the fresh air latrine.

      Well, I am running out of both time and material to write. So, as usual, until next time -

The novel c/o Postmaster is out of print, but copies can easily be found for sale on eBay.

A Jap prisoner in New Guinea.

Jap prisoners in New Guinea. Notice "PW" (prisoner of war) on the clothing of the guy on the right.

Another Jap prisoner in New Guinea.

Jap burial ground in New Guinea.


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.


This page established: November 11, 2018             Last updated: February 23, 2023

© 2018-2023 Earl P. Reinhalter. All Rights Reserved.