It is always night in the jungle. Mosquitoes whine in my ears. The heat feels like a damp blanket. I can’t breathe.
And they are coming. We can’t see them, only hear their horrible yelling and screaming in the dark. Where are they? Where the fuck are they?
I bolt awake, rub my grainy eyes as I look around. I’m in the stadium with the rest of the battalion, row upon row of sleeping Marines stretched out on cots where they took out the seats for us. My hand shakes, but at least the malarial fever seems to be gone now.
Yesterday as we shuffled down the gangplank of the West Point, I overheard an old Aussie man say we looked like starveling paupers. I suppose anyone would after five months on Guadalcanal.
A convoy of trucks brings the seabags we’d stored in Aukland an eternity ago. We try not to look at the huge pile that remains unclaimed, their owners in graves or hospitals.
After the brutal campaign on Guadalcanal, the Marine First Division needed rest and recuperation. “Bring your lads here,” said the city of Melbourne, “so we can thank them in person.”
On Jan. 11, 1943, the first contingent of Marines began disembarking from the transport USS West Point in Melbourne.
To the sick and weary men who had spent a half year fighting in impassable jungle and swamps that crawled with leeches, venomous snakes, poisonous spiders, scorpions, centipedes and clouds of malaria-bearing mosquitoes, the bustling city of Melbourne seemed like another world.
It was the beginning of a love affair between U.S. Marines and Australia that never has ended.