[The diary begins at Fort Mason, California, where Lieutenant Jenks has reported to embark for Australia and New Guinea. He is accompanied by Mary, his wife of seven months, who flew back to New York when he boarded the U.S.S. Mount Vernon and sailed into the Pacific.]
I went back to the hotel and told Mary. We went out to make a few last-minute purchases, mostly to replace clothes I couldn’t get from the laundry.
After that we went to the ticket office and Mary got a seat on the afternoon plane for New York.
I called a taxi and left the hotel about 12:30. Mary felt very badly, and she walked to the elevator to kiss me good-bye. There were tears in my eyes, too, as I went down and loaded my stuff in the cab. Then we took off for the pier.
I wore my pinks [slacks] and blouse [military jacket] and carried a mussette bag and a barracks bag. The drive to the pier (Number 20S as I recall) didn’t take long and there was a large number of officers and enlisted men waiting to go aboard. I presented my orders and tickets and, after waiting in line for a couple of hours, I finally got on board.
The ship was the Mount Vernon, and it was a large and fast one. I had a stateroom on B deck that I shared with five other officers. We had two rows of three-tiered bunks stuffed in a room originally intended for two beds.
We stayed on deck that night, but we couldn’t go ashore.
About 7 the next morning, we cast off, circled around the bay a couple of times and finally passed under the bridge about 10 a.m.
The weather was rather rough through the first day, but it wasn’t too bad. After that the weather was very pleasant and the trip was quite uneventful.
I worked the entire trip in troop headquarters as an assistant to the adjutant. The ship was completely blacked out at night. Usually I found a few minutes during the day to go up on the sun deck to get a little tan, and often I took a few turns around the deck.
We were on C Deck, just after the Navy personnel – or just before them. There were so many officers that only captains and above ate in the ward room. The rest of us had a mess line with trays and the food was lousy.
There were over 5,000 troops and Navy personnel on board. Five messes were served during the day and there was a line nearly all the time.
A PX for the officers was set up in the wardroom during the afternoons, but the supply was limited and there was always a long line, too. Candy bars went the fastest.
There was a very impressive ceremony and initiation as we crossed the equator. Only representatives of the different groups on board were initiated. Outside of that, the trip was normal and uneventful.
I was particularly interested in watching the phosphorescence in the water as the boat plowed through it at night. I enjoyed watching the big dipper disappear bit by bit each night, and the southern cross come into view. The sunsets were especially beautiful, and so were the sunrises and the stars at night.
After about 15 or 16 days we arrived at Wellington, New Zealand. We got off the boat for a few minutes in the evening and I got my first glimpse of a foreign town with its pubs, fish and chips stands, stores, blackout lights and air raid shelters. I was on duty that night and I had to return to the boat all too soon.
The next morning a few enlisted men and I went ashore and had breakfast in a small cafe.
We sailed in the afternoon and arrived at Auckland a day or two later. Auckland is larger than Wellington and had more to offer. I went to one of the hotels and had a few drinks before I looked the town over.
I bought a beautiful deer skin jacket for seven guineas, about $23.
The second day after that we left for Australia.
I think this a wonderful thing you are doing, Phil. By the time I came along the war was just a story in the history books. I had absolutely no clue of Dad’s involvement in it. I knew about the little bag of shells and the chopsticks that he had somehow acquired during the war, but he would never elaborate. Yes, I have read the diary before and I still have the copy you made for us. Each time I read it, it touches me in a different way. I miss him.