January 30, 1943 (Saturday)

“Buttons,” Espiritu Santo

Patrol north again today. 016 to 022 True. 800 miles. Nothing sighted despite passing about 100 miles from Ocean Island, where the Japs have recently installed a fighter strip.

Took off at 0345. #1 engine torched badly and I noticed that the cowling was coming loose. Circled the field and made my first night landing. Quite smooth. Fixed cowling on engine and took off again at 0436.

Passed through the usual front on the way out. Everything black as ink, rain, turbulent clouds, and above all, those goddamn peaks out there waiting to snag the first careless pilot. Tired as hell because of no sleep last night. The damned Curtiss was on the plane all night with all sorts of bright ideas. Reveille was at 0200.

Ran into the same stinking front on the way back. Then my radar quit and I started to get mad. Never saw such rotten bad weather. I wouldn’t mind it quite so much if we didn’t have all these high peaked islands to dodge. Finally ran into a clear spot over the Torres again, and made the run south the same as last time. The weather, however, was a bit clearer.

Went to the movie at the Seabees camp for a little relaxation, but the beginning of the movie was heralded by cloudburst. Took refuge under a truck and finally managed to get back to the quarters — very bedraggled.

The closer one gets to the war zone the less blackout there is. The West Coast and Hawaii are rabid on the subject; ditto for Palmyra. But Canton, the Fijis and here, are different. They are well lighted at night. Open-air movies and no dimmed automobile lights. However, at the first sign of approaching strange aircraft, everything goes out.

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