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William H. Neel - Diary of a serviceman

  • Written by 
William H. Neel William H. Neel

The armed services, the war, and being away from home in accommodations far from what one has been accustomed to, take their toll on our servicemen and women.   Veterans have found varying ways to deal with the absence of family, the trauma of war when their deployed to war zones, and their living conditions.   William H. Neel found his ‘comfort’ zone in keeping a journal of his days.  Below is an account of his days of service beginning from his first day of enlistment.  

January 13, 1942- Enlisted in Army at Ft. Benning, Georgia. 

January 17, 1942 - Arrived at Keesler Field, Biloxi Mississippi. Sure was disappointed. 

March 7, 1942- Left Keesler Field. 

March 12, 1942- Arrived at Angel Island. Ft. McDowell, California. 

March 18, 1942- Got on Mariposa.  

March 19, 1942- Sailed from San Francisco. 

March 29, 1942- Stopped at M Island and refueled, on KP that day. 

May 22, 1942- Sent cables to Mama and Olivia.

May 28, 1942- Received first mail.

June1, 1942- Made PFC. quite a shock.

July 23, 1942- Left Long Beach by train. Arrived in Townsville Sunday morning, about two hours after an attempted bombing raid. Arrived in Marabu Ide Monday morning. 

July 26, 1942- My first ride on a freight train. 

August 1, 1942- Day -1- Opened a PX at camp and got Coca Cola made in Guam, and American candy. What a treat. 

August 11, 1942- Went to Mareba to a show last night, saw Lady Eve, and Doctors Don’t Tell. Ide Town was black as smut. They call it a brown out.

August 20, 1942- Went to Mareba to show saw Sun Valley Serenade and Ellery Quinn’s “Penthouse Mystery.”

August 22, 1942- Went to Atherton, long rt., pair of shoes and underwear cost .80 each.

August 25, 1942 – Went to Atherton and saw “Wild Geese Calling.”

August 31, 1942 – Bought canned grapefruit juice that was made in Lake Alfred, Florida and Planter’s Peanuts packed in California.

September 07, 1942 Sent $150 home.

September 10, 1942 – Went to church and saw “When the Daltons Rode.”

September 26, 1942 – Went to Malanda came back to camp and went to show in Maruba and saw “Tillie the Toiler” and Million Dollar Baby”.

September 29, 1942 – Don’t know yet whether it reached destination (Money that was sent home).

October 3, 1942 - Saw Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at Mareba.

October 4, 1942 – Called out at 9:00 to fight forest fire.

October 5, 1942 – Went to Cairns on 48 hour pass.  Jeep broke down in Cairns. Our truck went bad on the way back and took an hour to get her going. We were about halfway up the mountain.  The road was one-way, lucky there was no traffic. That town was mentioned in the picture “Nice Girl” with Deanna Durbin. 

October 14, 1942 – Saw Robert Traylor in “Billy the Kid” and “Turned out Nice Again” in Mareba.  

October 16, 1942 – Went to Malanda, Atherton to Mareba and saw “Ride ‘em Cowboy” and “Man at Large”.

October 29, 1942 – Saw “All This and Heaven Too.”

November 05, 1942 – Saw “The Virginian” in Mareba.

November 07, 1942 – Saw “Badlands of Dakota” and “Double Crossed” in Mareba.  Left Mareba Saturday, November 28 – arrived in Townsville, Sunday, 29.  Went to some camp.  

Tuesday, December 01 – Got on boat, the name was S. S. Tourina, a Norwegian freightliner.

December 7, 1942 – A day as we had two of them, we crossed.  International date line on Monday December 7 at Midnight, so we had another.

December 13 – A very exciting day, and the night before we sighted a large allied tanker.

December 13 about 11:30 we had an abandon ship drill.  There was a large ship of some kind almost over the horizon, never found out what it was.  At 2:00 o’clock we had an invitation for Polywogs they were the fellows who hadn’t been across the equator by boat, had quite a day.  

December 20, 1942 – Passed under Golden State Bridge at 8:20, got to Angel Island at 2:00, got physical exam, and drew clothes, and applied for furlough. 

December 25 1942 – xmas . In Texas Rode all day. Had xmas dinner between El Paso and Houston.

December 27, 1942 Left home to go to new base in Idaho.

January 14, 1943 Arrived in Idaho. Stayed 2 days, sure had a nice time.  Stayed at Boonrock Hotel.

January 16, 1943  Left Pocatell , Idaho for Pyote, Texas.

January 19, 1943  Arrived in Pyote.  As far as you can look in 3 directions, you can’t see a thing.  The other way you can see a sandstone mountain.

No active warfare during this time does not reveal the toll taken on W. H. Neel from being separated from his family and friends, living in often less than suitable housing, and traveling from camp to camp.  Our servicemen are to be honored and respected for their sacrifices that allow us to live in a free country.

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