[Six months before the Mount Vernon docked in Sydney Harbor, the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Sydney and New Castle in Japan’s most aggressive Naval action in Australian waters. On the night of 31 May – 1 June, three Ko-hyoteki-class midget submarines, each with a two-member crew, entered Sydney Harbor, avoided the partially constructed Sydney Harbour anti-submarine boom net, and attempted to sink Allied warships. Two of the midget submarines were detected and attacked before they could successfully engage any Allied vessels, and the crews scuttled their boats and committed suicide. These submarines were later recovered by the Allies. The third submarine attempted to torpedo the heavy cruiser USS Chicago, but instead sank the converted ferry HMAS Kuttabul, killing 21 sailors. Above right (courtesy of Wikipedia), A mini submarine is raised from the harbor. Dad does not mention these events and, given the thoroughness of wartime censorship, may not have known about them. His interlude in Sydney seems to have been quite pleasant, and, in view of widespread reports of a GI bacchanalia in the city as soldiers prepared for combat, Elmore may have left out some salient details.]
14 October 1942. The Mount Vernon docked in Sidney [sic] today. The Mount Vernon used to be, I believe, the U.S.S. President Washington, and it’s one of the biggest ship in the United States ever built, or so they told us.
We could see the mainland easily when I got up in the morning, and it wasn’t much longer before we were steaming up the river to the docks. The pilot came out to meet us and he climbed slowly up the side to take over (the steering of the ship). The tugs came out to guide us to our berth.
I was still working in troop headquarters and I was pretty busy in the job of getting everyone ready to disembark. I left a little too soon, I guess, because I heard afterwards that the commanding officer was wanting to know where I had gone before they were finished. I was too excited to see what Australia was like I guess, and as a result I lost a letter of recommendation that the colonel said he was planning to give me. As things turned out, I don’t know if that would have helped a helluva lot anyway.
After going down the gang plank at around 10 a.m., we were herded into buses. The buses were double-deckers and painted a very full olive drab and green paint.
We were taken for quite a ride through town to Randwick Racetrack, one of the largest and best known tracks in Australia.
Once there, we stood in lines for a long time getting checked off, and finding our cots and blankets and billets. I clearly remember having just a bottle of milk for dinner.
Finally we were all billeted somewhere inside one of the grandstands, which was just a big room full of cots.
Soon we were told that we could go into the city and get hotel accommodations if we could find them. Off we went, out of the gate, some of us hailing taxis and others catching trams. Five of us – Pete Frost, Hugh Howard, Harry Elders, myself, and one I can’t remember – got there too late to get into one of the larger hotels, but we did manage to get rooms at a small one called Perry’s. It wasn’t too bad.
AFter we got settled in the room, we went out to look over the town. We ended up at a place called the Trocadero – a large dance hall with two bands – male for jazz and female for waltzes. The place was lousy with sailors, soldiers and girls. No beer or liquor was sold or allowed in the place, and a man on the gate frisked us as we entered to make sure none was taken in.
Harry had an American nurse that he had known before sailing from the States. Pete and myself had no trouble getting someone to dance with, though. There were plenty of girls looking for someone to dance with, and a lot of them weren’t bad looking.
The girl I danced with most was named Rose. I shall have to devote a chapter to Rose sometime.
It soon became apparent that the girls didn’t come there just to dance. Couples wandered off into the darkened streets almost as fast as they came in.
Harry suggested we go back to the hotel for a few drinks, so we did. We sat around in the lodge, drinking until the 1 a.m. closing time. Those were the days when you asked for Scotch, people didn’t look at you like they’d never heard of it. Everything flowed plentifully, but yes!
I took Rose to the nearest corner, put her on a tram, and came right back to the hotel to bed. I was tired. It had been a long day.
I remember Pete saying that night that he wanted to get into action right away, that it couldn’t be soon enough for him. I also remember him saying that he had met such a wonderful girl that evening. I wasn’t surprised the next evening when I found them both in bed in our room.
The next day we got up for breakfast and went out to the racetrack – we had to report in at 10 a.m. each day. There was nothing for us at the track, so we went back into town. There was a lot of Sunday yet to see.
As we got settled in Australia, I formally requested a transfer to a weapons company and, after a couple of weeks of hiking, drilling and bivouacking, it came through and I went to D Company.
On that same day, D Company started a long hike over the mountains and I caught up with them at noon and joined them. It was a pretty rough trip. Right after I got back I was sent on an advanced detail to Tourbol Point, where we went for amphibious training. I was there over a week, and when we got back I was transferred to B Company. Then I went on a special detail to the 120th F.A. and took a battery of them on the same on the same hike over the mountains. This trip was a loot wetter and muddier than the first one and we had a few accidents. After the crossing, some of us went in to Southport for a little celebration, and I made the three-day trip back to camp in a truck rather than walking.
From there on we were pretty busy getting ready to pull out for New Guinea.