New Guinea - Retracing My Grandfather's steps in WWII

Entries are chronological. A joint effort by Spencer and Richard Brown.

Background. April 1st, 2018.

Granddad would have been 100 years old this year. He never talked about the war. Well, almost never. When I was about 12 years old my father began asking questions after we had finished dinner. Granddad was seated in the middle of the table across from me and Dad was to my left. We had just returned from a trip to the D-day beaches of Normandy and had spent the past few days immersed in World War II history. Granddad told a few stories. One involved coming under fire while driving in a jeep toward the front lines on the coast road in New Guinea. The driver had been shot and they took cover in the ditch beside the road. They were listed as missing in action for three days. Somewhere in the middle telling it, with tears streaming down his cheeks, Granddad said he couldn't go on. Dad later told me that was the most Granddad had ever shared.

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On Monday, Dad and I will board a Boeing 777 bound for Asia. Assuming our connections go as planned we will step off plane in New Guinea on Friday morning, 74 years later. Stay tuned, more to come... - Spencer

 

Jakarta: 3 April 2018

Thirty-eight hours after shoveling 6” of heavy wet Montana spring snow, I stepped off the plane in Jakarta.  Departing  the San Francisco airport at midnight, Spencer and I settled into our (frequent flier mile) business class pods featuring a TV and a seat that transformed into a bed.  During the 15 hour flight to Hong Kong we were treated to the best Cathay Pacific offered sleeping most of the way.  After the sun rose, revealing the mountains of Hong Kong and well appreciated showers we were in the air... again.  En route we saw Qui Nong, Viet Nam between the big puffy clouds but Ho Chi Mihn City (Saigon) was obscured by haze.  Once in Jakarta, and after a passport stamp and a uniformed official collected our entry declaration papers we found ourselves at curbside debating how to get to our hotel, when two young Americas approached us asking about the same.  Both from the Bay area, they were off to Papua New Guinea (PNG) on a National Geographic assignment studying medicinal plants but one of them was planning on manning a firetower west of Darby, MT this summer!  Once in our air conditioned21st floor room (with a locked door to the balcony) we raided the hotel mini-bar for two beers ($1.75 each) and napped until the next morning.  Jakarta is an unispiring town.  Located on a flat flood plane, it is hot, humid, dirty, congested, noisy, and smelly.  That said, we walked through narrow alleys, markets, dodged traffic while crossing streets, logging 6 miles, and in the process, and saw one stop light.  Originally a Dutch town we found a small section with colonial buildings with police monitoring the street entrances making it a quiet respite in the midst of this less than pleasant city.  As in most 3rd world cities, the people sell nearly everything imaginable, were all eager smile and say “Hi” and try other simple English phrases.   We are both ready to take the red-eye to Irian Jaya tonight.

1944 Following jungle training in Hawaii, Capt. Brown boarded the converted freighter SS Jean La Fitte shipping out to Milne Bay, at the eastern end of the world’s second largest island.  Passage took somewhere around three weeks and Dad was sea-sick most of the time.

FYI I have no texting capabilities here email me so instead at twodotmt2@gmail.com - Richard