Archive for October, 2016

INTERACTING WITH THE COMMUNITY OF MAREEBA

October 31st, 2016 by Ken & Phyl Bledsoe
This photos is possibly of Fay Cooper, Vernon's Aussie Friend

This photos is possibly of Fay Cooper, Vernon's Aussie Friend

The citizens of Mareeba did their best to plan relaxing activities for the men of the 19th BG. Most of these events centered around church socials and community dances. Vernon jokingly compared the dances to barn dances and seemed very proud that he and the other “Yanks” were the ones who taught the Australian women about rhythm and swing.

He became very good friends with Fay Cooper, a young widow from Atherton, a town near Mareeba.

They probably met at one of the community dances and remained friends throughout Vernon’s stay at Mareeba. Fay even wrote to Grandmother Elder, and a couple of her letters were found among Vernon’s letter collection.

This friendship with Fay always raised questions for me. Does Fay still have relatives that live in the area, and who might have known Vernon? Just how close did she and Vernon become?

CAMP SCENES FROM MAREEBA

October 17th, 2016 by Ken & Phyl Bledsoe

The camp at Mareeba was isolated but much better than Longreach and Cloncurry. At least there were trees to provide shade from the hot sun and fresh water to drink and use for cooling baths.

Waiting at the Mareeba Post Exchange

Waiting at the Mareeba Post Exchange

One of the things the men looked forward to most was mail call. Even though it took weeks – if not months – to get letters from home, they always showed up at the Post Exchange hoping that this would be the day a stack of letters would finally track them down.

Washing eating utensils at Camp Mareeba

Washing eating utensils at Camp Mareeba

They probably didn’t enjoy doing their own KP duties, but it was an expected part of life at Mareeba. If you ate, then you had to wash your own “dishes.” Pictures in Vernon’s collection, show the large pots of hot water where each man would wash his eating utensils.

 

 

Among the pets at Mareeba - a dog and a goat

Among the pets at Mareeba - a dog and a goat

As is true of most Americans, it didn’t take the men of the 19th long to adopt camp pets.

These pets included birds, different types of reptiles, a dog, a goat, and either a wallaby or baby kangaroo.

 

The need to feed and care for these animals provided a degree of normalcy, and it must have been nice to know that there was someone in camp who would be

Sgt. Houston A. Rice - Vernon's best friend - with a baby kangaroo

Sgt. Houston A. Rice - Vernon's best friend - with a baby kangaroo

glad to see you when you returned from a mission.

HARD TO KEEP THE B-17S IN THE SW PACIFIC AIR-WORTHY

October 3rd, 2016 by Ken & Phyl Bledsoe
On the way to a mission over New Guinea

On the way to a mission over New Guinea

Due to the lack of planes and spare parts, more often than not the 19th BG could not send more than six B-17s on a mission. So when they lost a plane it was a traumatic loss.

 

For example, while on a mission over New Guinea, B-17 #621, “Daylight Limited,” sustained substantial damage from flak and crash landed at Mareeba. All of the crew survived, but the plane was badly damaged and out of action.

The Phantom burning in the hanger.

The Phantom burning in the hanger.

 

 

Then B-17E #41-9012, “The Phantom,” burned while in a hangar at Mareeba.

According to Ralph Dietz, a member of the 93rd Squadron, the ground crew used gasoline to remove oil from the outside of an engine before it had cooled.

Notice first responders in white fire-fighting suits

Crash landing. Notice first responders in white fire-fighting suits

 

Another much needed plane was gone; and with every lost plane, an extremely difficult job became next to impossible. But the men of the 19th BG carried on the best they could.