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South Pacific Diary, 1942-1943

South Pacific Diary, 1942-1943

Ronnie Day Editor
Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    South Pacific Diary, 1942-1943
    Book Description:

    A unique chronicle of the war from the perspective of a sensitive twenty-four-year-old sergeant who wrote for the Army's in-house paper,Yank, the Army Weekly and a tale of the South Pacific that will not soon be forgotten. Correspondent Mack Morriss reluctantly left his diary in the HonoluluYankoffice in July 1943. "Here is contained an account of the past eight and one-half months," he wrote in his last entry, "a period which I shall never forget." The next morning he was on a plane headed back to the South Pacific and the New Georgia battleground.

    Morriss was working out of the press camp at Spa, Belgium, in January 1945, when he learned that the diary he had kept in the South Pacific had arrived in a plain brown wrapper at the New York office. He was so happy "to know that this impossible thing had happened," he wrote to his wife, that he helped two friends "murder a quart of scotch." What was preserved and appears in print here for the first time is a unique chronicle of the war in the South Pacific from the perspective of a sensitive twenty-four-year-old sergeant.

    This is an intensely personal account, reporting the war from the ridge known as the Sea Horse on Guadalcanal, from the bars and dance halls of Auckland to a B-17 flying through the moonlit night to bomb Japanese installations on Bougainville. Morriss thought deeply and wrote movingly about everything connected with the war: the sordiness and heroism, the competence and ineptitude of leaders, the strange mixture of constant complaint and steady courage of ordinary GIs, friendships formed under combat stress, and, above all, what he perceived to be his own indecisiveness and weaknesses.

    Ronnie Day introduces Morriss's diary and illuminates the work with extensive notes based on private papers, government documents, travel in the Solomon Islands, and the recollections of men mentioned in the diary.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5736-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Editor’s Note
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Six months after Pearl Harbor, Mack Morriss was still uncertain as to what the war had in store for him. He had been in the army since September 1940, when his National Guard unit had been called up for a year’s training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Like the majority of men called up in 1940, he had trained with enthusiasm for the first few months and then weathered the boredom and discomfort of the winter that followed, living in tents because there were no barracks. When spring finally came, he again mustered up enthusiasm for the gruelling 1941 summer...

  6. “Going Overseas”
    (pp. 11-34)

    Tuesday, November 3, 1942. Here begins a record.

    This morning at 11:45 we slipped beneath the Golden Gate and headed out to sea, bound for the South Pacific with a holdful of AC technicians, medicos, ANCs and what seems to be a small scale task force of all arms and services.

    For most of us, the swells that lifted this Dutch East Indiaman while the southern tip of SF still gleamed white in the sun was the first taste of ocean sailing. Results were swift. The room marked “Troop Latrine” was a mess.

    This is a tiny convoy—three transports...

  7. “Christmas Day on Cactus”
    (pp. 35-56)

    Tuesday, December 1 Saw the PX officer for Poppy this morning and he gave us an idea of the troubles of circulation and distribution. Recommended air transportation for the paper if possible. Issues on sale now are September’s. Back room space crowded with packages unopened pending sell out of earlier ones. Walking into that place is like going into a display room we might have ourselves. Copies strung all over the walls, posters up, and a huge sign on the counter plugging for us. You couldn’t ask any more of the guy. The boys read it admitting the fact it...

  8. “Whatta Racket”
    (pp. 57-81)

    Friday, January 1, 1943. Awfully, awfully drunk last night. It was funny. Dowling, marooned or submerged at Button, sent two cases of gin up by plane. It arrived at the last minute in a jeep driven by a Navy pilot who roared up yelling, “Where’s the Press Tent?” like a knight errant in search of a battle. The boys had gotten some medical alcohol & grapefruit juice in case Jack didn’t come thru. We hit the gin. Robby, too drunk to know what he was doing, swiped three quarts—and returned them today, as embarrassed a guy as I ever saw....

  9. “I’d Write Hallelujah!”
    (pp. 82-110)

    Monday, February 1. Givens came back from Button yesterday and brought four bottles of gin, which we went to work on last night. Hangover this morning. I am now definitely conscious of a change in me as a drinking man—I talk too much. It used to be that I kept my mouth shut—was even noted for it back home—but I became aware in New York of the fact that my tongue was getting oily. Then when we pulled that terrific bender New Year’s Eve and the lesser one the next night I found myself prattling away like...

  10. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  11. “Got to Get on the Ball”
    (pp. 111-125)

    Monday, March 1. This is now reaching epic proportions, like nothing I’ve ever seen or heard of before. I am not now kidding when I say that we’re going to have to go north to get a rest.

    Now there is one Freda Forno (I call her Kate for short) who was originally Bainter’s woman and got around to me because Jerry was whipped down. I know how he felt. That girl, who is really not bad looking, turned me every way but loose. She knows tricks in the art of oscillation that I never heard of. Ooof.

    Last night...

  12. “Time Out for an Air Battle”
    (pp. 126-164)

    Thursday, April 1. Got off the story on the 172nd, altho Major Fuller raised some question on censorship. I couldn’t argue with him, altho I don’t think there was anything censorable in it at all.¹

    Spent yesterday, last night and most of today with George and drank so much coffee that my nerves are jumping. At least, I hope it’s the coffee. George has been really a prince. I went over yesterday & asked to take a shower. Sure—soap and towel. Came back, he had laid out a complete clean wardrobe which he insisted I wear until all my clothes...

  13. “So Ends a Chapter of My Life”
    (pp. 165-190)

    Monday, May 3. Jackson, Brodie and I left Noumea this morning for the trip up island. Tonight we are situated in a modern little room, exactly like something we’d expect to find in an auto court at home—but certainly nothing like we expected to find more than 100 miles north of “civilization” in New Caledonia.The name of the place is Houailou. For lunch we stopped at Bourail. We passed some of the most beautiful scenery I can ever imagine, and there were times when I completely forgot where we were and thought of it all as an excursion in...

  14. “I Got That Old Feeling”
    (pp. 191-200)

    Tuesday, June 1. The conversation in the outer room is politics, about which I know nothing and care less.

    Steve and I carried thru on the idea I’ve had for several days—to start at ten in the morning and drink until there was no more. Even at that, I didn’t get drunk.

    We spent most of the day with Fred Purnell and Williams who for hours talked combat aviation. Not since I’ve hit Honolulu have I so much enjoyed myself.’

    There are things here which I don’t like particularly, but today brought me back into the fold—among people...

  15. “The Army of the Pacific”
    (pp. 201-206)

    Friday, July 2. I got out of the hospital on Wednesday, the 30th, and an hour after I got to the office I learned about Rendova and Munda. Now I don’t know what to do—I should be there.¹

    Wednesday night we killed a quart of bourbon and last night, without intending to, I got mixed up with rye. Had dinner with Bill Hippie, looking like a million dollars again after having gained back 25 pounds in the States. Bill and I talked of people and places and I realized that, compared to him, I hadn’t been anywhere in the...

  16. NOTES
    (pp. 207-244)
  17. Index
    (pp. 245-256)