March 8, 1944 (Wednesday)

“Cactus,” Carney Field, Guadalcanal

Fighting 17 arrived this morning and then well decorated F4Us on the way to Button and the States after 4 1/2 months in this area, during which they got 157 Jap planes with a loss to themselves of only 13 pilots. 

As they were leaving the Piva Y strip at Bougainville this morning the Japs commenced (about 0600) their long-expected push with a rip-snorting bombardment which which was raising the merry hell with the fields and installations as the squadron pulled away. In fact the C.O. got hurt and is coming down later in SCAT.

Had nine VF-17 officers to dinner (they were turned back from their Santo trip when their DC escort lost an engine — water in the gas). Lt. Giles stayed overnight in Newton’s bunk. All were fascinated by the display of nude photos in the huts, and all wanted some of our calendars. 

Found out from them that George Keller has been a member of their outfits since January, and here I’ve been looking all over the Pacific for VF-20, his supposed squadron. I missed seeing him when he passed through here today, as I missed him also during our stay in Piva. The dope must’ve lost my address.

It seems that Keller is the hero of that famous beer delivery story. About six weeks ago he made a trip to Piva with a load of beer. It was getting late in the afternoon as he turned up the Slot and being new to the scene the area he was only vaguely familiar with the islands and their “inhabitants.” As he approached Southern Bougainville he remembered about Kahili, so we gave it a wide berth and cut in between two harmless looking islands on the outer perimeter. Flying low over the water so as to escape Jap radar detection he was extremely surprised to find the two harmless islands riddling him in a beautiful crossfire. One of the first 20mm shots went through the star and completely smashed both cases of beer. Another cut all his rudder controls. About a half hour later old George landed at Piva in the dark with no rudder control – a lucky and wiser man. The two islands were Ballale and Shortland – the former one of the best Jap AA positions in existence. 

Heard how the Japs obtain the F4U they have several times attempted to use against our planes over Rabaul. In late January a marine pilot, whose F4U had its engine conk out from AA fire, made a wheels-up landing at Vunakanau field. The Japs obviously repaired the plane and attempted to shoot down our planes on numerous occasions with it. However, I still can’t understand where they got the B-24 that is been seen operating against our search planes north of Kavieng.