sleep. It was a most uncomfortable night. I arose on 23rd September 1943, my fourth day out. Suspecting that a river was located nearby, I set off to find it. I left my hammock, life preserver, and a box of .45 caliber ammunition at the camp, thinking I would come back and retrieve them once I had found the river. As I went out, I blazed a trail, breaking off small branches and cutting into the bark of trees to leave marks. I found the river and then tried to retrace my steps to the camp. I became lost, confused, and bewildered. I could not recognise my trailblazing. The jungle closed in on me oppressively. I panicked and just wanted to run away anywhere, blindly - to run and run. It was a terrible, fearsome feeling that I had never experienced before nor since. Somehow, faith and reason prevailed. I knelt down and prayed earnestly, “Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Never was it known that anyone who sought your help or intercession was left unaided”. Mary heard me. I stood up, much calmer and confident. I resolved to take a compass course, which I believed would take me back to the river. I did not deviate from the course. In about twenty minutes I was back at the riverbank, although at a spot different from where I had been originally.

The jungle had won. I would not find my equipment. The problem now was how to cross the river. Undaunted, I looked for trees with which to build a raft. I began to flail at some small trees with my twelve-inch machete. The trees were tough and the job arduous. Soon, I dismissed this idea and began collecting logs and tree limbs from the riverbank. I tied about eight logs together with parachute cord and confidently floated down river. But, it was not to be ! The logs were water-soaked and the raft would not support me. I had to lie on the raft, half in and half out of the water. I drifted with the current, kicking my feet for extra stability. Somehow I managed to stay afloat. Rounding a bend in the river, where the current quickened, I was swept against a muddy bank that rose about four feet above water level. As the current swung the raft around, it hit me in the back. I lost the raft and, like the proverbial drowning man, grasped frantically for anything to hold. All the time I was flailing, I kept my gun in my right hand, above water. Once more, Providence provided. I grabbed a vine hanging down from the side of the bank and steadied myself. The makeshift raft floated on, never to be seen by me again. I surveyed my somewhat precarious position. I was in deep water in the current, but the swift part of the current was narrow. I realised that if I shoved off from the bank, I would cross the current and be in shallow water. I did just that, and it worked. After reaching the shallow, pebbly shore, I decided to wash my wet clothes. Since I had had enough for one day, I prepared for the night. Under a huge tree a few feet from the river, I fashioned a little shelter. I used sticks to support some banana leaves, to serve as my roof. Then, I booby-trapped my area, using parachute cord as a cordon, hoping that any intruder would trip over my alarm system and wake me. Branching into the river was a beautiful mountain stream, so I planned to explore it the next day. Also, across the river I spotted a fallen tree that I believed was used as a bridge by the natives. Of course, it rained for most of the night, but my tree and banana-roof shelter served me quite well. I was tired and slept soundly. In the morning I awoke and ate the last square of my chocolate bar. I looked to the east and prepared to start my journey up the mountain stream. To the left of the waterway was a sandbank that extended for a short distance and appeared to lend itself to easy walking.

As I approached the bank I was startled to see a solitary human footprint in the sand. Only one footprint! I looked on every side for another, but none could be found. I was baffled. I thought of Robinson Crusoe when he discovered Friday's footprint in the sand. The solitary footprint was pointed upstream. In the distance, I could see a clearing on the side of the mountain. We had been told that the natives girdled the trees near their base. This process would eventually kill the tree, causing it to fall over. It was in clearings so produced that the natives planted their gardens. The stream seemed to lead in the direction of such a clearing. I hoped that the clearing contained a garden tended by friendly natives. I knew of lucky encounters with coastal natives in the Port Moresby area. Several of my comrades in the 39th - Tommy Lynch, Harvey Rehrer, Carl Rauch Jr, Frank Angier, Wilmot Marlatt, Jim Foster, and Joe Greene - had been helped back to friendly territory after being shot down in the New Guinea campaign from May to July 1942

[The details of these losses have been assembled from Aerothentic’s s records].

SERIAL

TYPE

DATE

REM

41-7204

P-39F

16 June 1942

2/Lt Harvey E. Rehrer bailed out. Aircraft crashed near Rigo.

(unknown)

P-39F

16 June 1942

Thomas Lynch bailed out between Rigo and Port Moresby

BW 169

P-400

18 June 1942

Carl T. Rauch bailed out North of Port Moresby

AC 361

P-400

18 June 1942

Joe Greene bailed out near 14-Mile Drome

41-7148

P-39F

4 July 1942

2/Lt James R. Foster bailed out Brown River area, NW of Port Moresby

41-6783

P-39D

4 July 1942

2/LT Frank Angier bailed out Borea, Cape Nelson Area

(unknown)

P-400

4 July 1942

2/Lt Wilmott R. Marlott bailed out in combat north of Rogers Field.

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