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War Around the World

India & Ceylon


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War Around 
the World

India & Ceylon
page 1

The date links will take you to a page with maps and/or pictures to give a little context for that day's events.


Lieut. Comdr. Griffith Baily Coale, U.S.N.R.

JICAME (Naval Section),
Hqs, CBI, APO 885
c/o Postmaster, New York, N.Y.
March 14, 1944.

Captain Leland P. Lovette
Director of Public Relations
Navy Department
Washington 25, D.C.

My dear Captain:

The following is my fortnightly report on the progress of my duty:

Feb. 22 - 0700 to 1830 writing report #6. To office and turned in part finished in long hand to yeoman for typing.

Feb. 23 - 0700 to 1900 writing report #6. 2030 to 0130 - writing report.

Feb. 24 - 0800 to 1900 writing report #6. 0930 to A.T.C office with letter collected in London to see if the army will fly me with my 250 lbs of gear to New Delhi. Captain Reynolds most pleasant and agrees to transport me by air. 1030 back in room writing report #6. 1300 take Captain Foskett, USN, who is down from Alexandria for day, to lunch and say goodbye. 1450 to 1730 writing #6. 1745 with Captain Thornton and his officers to party at General Osmond's for Major General M. G. Royce.

Feb. 25 - 0700 to 2000 finished report #6. As this report is ten thousand words in long hand, and I could not write it on hectic jeep trip, I had by necessity to write the days immediately following my return. This is the hardest, fastest writing I ever did. 2100 Guest at dinner party given by Captain Thornton at Shephards. 

Feb. 26 - To office with balance #6 report for yeoman and reading typed portion. To barber and waited long time for haircut. Lunch Colonel West. 1430-1830 working in room. 1900 to farewell party by Army and Navy officers of the OSS. Dined Auberge du Pyramid at 2200. Strange to see English in long evening dresses climbing into high dusty command car, to go to dinner. 

Feb. 27 - Sunday. 0900 Working in room. 1300 to lunch with two of our officers for data in India. 1430 working in room. 1900-2200 dined with Lt. John Brinton, Military Attaché, and his father, Judge Brinton of the Courts of Cairo and Alexandria.

Feb. 28 - 0830 Working in room. 1230 to A.T.C. and get word to stand by on March 2nd. Drew per diem. Had orders completed to be detached on March 3rd. Finished all details for departure at office. 1400 working in room 1800.

March 1 - 0830. All morning packing and sending Bridge Coat and other winter gear by parcel post home. Packing all afternoon. 2100 Given fare well dinner by Colonels Toulmin and West.

March 2 - 0743. Finishing up work details. 0900 to office. Called A.T.C. 1030. No word. Driver, Snow, and old jeep 111180 given to me for day. Snow says having me leave is like seeing his father go and gives him queer feeling in pit of stomach. This touches me. Exact age as my Pilot Son. Changed Egyptian money to Indian Rupees. All stowed awaiting word to fly. Two officers and I have Snow drive us to Nile where I wish to hire Fuculla and sail her. Find very unusual strong wind from the South, white caps, and no manner of urging will persuade owners to let ship go out. Very disappointed as we had planned this for long time and I wanted to handle gear on the big lateen, and sail ship. 1630 Get the word will fly 0500. To sleep at barracks Payne Field. Drive gear to Headquarters and leave it under M.P. guard. Give orders to have Snow at gate 2345. Captain Thornton insists on giving me farewell dinner at Auberge du Pyramid and driving me away out to field in his car. After dinner and dancing back to Headquarters. Snow and two blue jackets load all my gear in my jeep of the Holy Land voyage. They stand by as Captain drives me over to General Osborn's to pay last respects. See King Peter again and talk some Bowery for him, which always delights him. Shove off for Payne Field; jeep and three men leading. Captain, Lt. Comdr's Oakes, Newsom and lovely lady in Captain's car following. Feel this is a big send off. Arrive Payne Field where everyone wants hamburgers and at last turn in after short drive to barracks at 0145. Delighted to be out of my lonely room and to be leaving dusty Cairo for the Sea and Ships and Navy Messes.

March 3 - 0430 "Mr. Coale, Mr. Coale" Egyptian calling me. Could have gladly shot him where he stood. America in the desert. Everything works. Hot water. Find phone on dark porch and call car. Breakfast snack bar. Soup, hamburgers, coffee. To ship, big freighter, Douglas C-47. Just as I feared, bucket seats! See all gear stowed, keeping blanket to sit on and musette bag to live out of, raincoat for warmth. Take off at 0610 against the red sky of the desert dawn for "Slow Flight", Cairo bound for New Delhi. Hot red sun, rises beyond the leagues of sand as we fly across the Suez Canal, emerald green ditch straight across yellow, brown waste. We are just above Ismailia and I think of that night spent there with the crashing sound of the brazen amplifier. Can see Suez and the Red Sea far to the South, Port Said, lost in the haze of morning and distance. Along coast of Palestine, Mediterranean deep blue. Pass over Raffa, turn East south of Akir. Look! That wide body of green water, deep down at the base of those high steep desert cliffs, that's the Dead Sea! See those faint blurs on the high hills to the north and west? Jerusalem and Nazreth. Think of us down there in our jeep like a small square bug, crawling down those deep precipices to the salt water of the Dead Sea only a few days ago. On over the desert beyond, nothing but desert. Rainle Amman. We are following the pipe line to Baghdad. The trench stretches straight through the endless sands below. 0820 we have lunch, sandwiches and pineapple juice. If this were a ???????? we'd have coffee. I take a swig of Cairo water from my canteen ?????? head South for Habbamiya. In the foreward part of the ba ?????? is gripped down a big plane motor, reaching to the over ????? [another page has covered part of this text Gordy] and interesting design it makes. We hope it doesn't go adrift. Quite a lot more freight and our cold metal bucket seats that are beginning to come through our blanket folds. A Colonel, 3 majors, Captain and three enlisted men, all our Army, a Canadian RAF, a French lieutenant and a courier in tropical helmet from the State Department, who is asleep on his pouches. Two others are stretched on the aluminum deck. The Colonel sleeps sitting up. We wake them up to get strapped in their safety belts for here is Habbamiya air field below. Land 1058. Climb out and stand in hot sun while we gas. "Sorry we did not go over Baghdad", I say to a young American Lieutenant in a jeep. "Gosh, you didn't Miss anything, it stinks", he said, simply. "About 50 miles north from here; when were you last in America?" This is the country of Iraq, the air field RAF. Habbaniya just an oil town built of mud in the middle of the desert on the pipe line. How dreary to be stationed here like this American boy. Take off 1140, climb up to 4000 feet and continue our voyage at 160 M.P.H. with favoring wind. Desert, desert. 1400 - 1430 Vast marshes and wide waters stretching away below. Used to be all water and the head of the Persian Gulf. Pass inland and see below the junction of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, lined with dark grey-green date and fig palms, the yellow desert, globing beyond. There lies in this swamp the site of the Garden of Eden. I peer down, searching with my far-sighted eyes but fail to see a single apple tree. "Well", says the Colonel, when I report this, "We know Eve gave Adam a date!" We follow the Shott -el- Arab River, born of the Tigris and Euphrates, lined with the same dark palms. Little white sails reflecting warmly on the surface. An old Iron Steamer lies beached close ashore. We drop lower and lower, the narrow river bears a number of seagoing ships, beyond the tall rows of palms the taller smoking oil chimneys, surrounded by big round oil tanks. The airfield, the big curve to windward, the low, fast skim over the telegraph wires, bump. 1450, we are on Persian soil. The land of Iran, town of Abadan. Step out leaving our gear in plane, and on a tall pole over the airport building, flys the Stars and Stripes. Drive to typical neat brick barracks that Uncle Sam is building all over the world. The Colonel, two Majors and I get a clean room with four beds, with Simmons springs and mattresses. My country! Wash up and walk over to large brick mess hall. Our Army officers most hospitable and interesting about this "hole". Amazed to find modern metal and leather furniture around a cool attractive lounge. Beyond the rail at the far end of the big room, rows of tables covered with fresh blue cloths, clean plates and silver. We have bread and butter and a huge mug of good black coffee for tea! Walk around in the extremely hot sun. It gets to 170° in the sun here in summer, 130° in the shade, but the nights are always cool. No wonder they appreciate Arabian Nights! Native Arab village very foul. Dates and figs uncovered, piled up on dirty street. In and out through these mounds wander goats, their disease dogs and mangy cats. The natives when making a sale scoop up the fruit in their filthy hands, dump it in the buyer's basket. Back to the mess hall and find a snug bar lined with matting. Have a drink made of vogga and vermouth. Good dinner served by round-faced buxom Polish refugees. Go to bed at 2012, new time. Night very cool. Down walk under lines of dormitories to combination head, wash room and showers. Spotlessly clean and pleasantly warm.

March 4 -Called 0400. Today it will be from Abadan, Persia, to Shargah, Arabia and on to Karachi, India. We stumble through the night to the showers. Orange, good French Toast, bacon and coffee. Rise up at 0620 into the dawning sky. Twinkling lights of town dancing in the narrow river. Row of tankers anchored stern to stern. Blaze of fire from refinery, smoke belching chimneys, all gone in a minute. 0640 - the raging fire of the sun bursts upward from beneath the world an angry glowing red ball. Leave the land of sand and roar out over the Persian Gulf. The whole world is blue, the yellow for the time being has vanished. 0845 Land ho! We approach obliquely to the East, high hills, the ridges as sharp as razor blades, uninhabited and as black as the moon. Desert always desert. To starboard the blue Gulf - to port thy ever rising range. Far to the north all is Russia. We are now flying on a level with rugged 9000 ft. range. 1000 - we pass over the shore on the west side of the gulf and below is the town of Shargah, with its 80,000 souls packed like lice under its sandy roofs, between its mud -colored walls. Water along the foreshore, bottle green, with milky flaws - the sea beyond deep cobalt. Dhows with white sails moving slowly - many made fast to shore. We circle twice getting good view and land at 1020, Step out on Arabian sand, white and hot at British Airways port. To officer's lounge in sunny white court, with Stewards in white that look like Indians. Have sandwiches and coffee. Irish officer in white shorts and shirt tells us natives live on figs, dates and fish. Says Shargah is really the dirtiest city in the world. Take off at 1115. Cut over barren sand climbing up over the completely desolate, absolutely naked mountains of sharply wedged shape, colored in brown and violets. Fly high out over the deep blue sea again, the line of white breakers ringing the mountain's dry feet. Round white clouds below casting circular white reflections on the sea's deep azure. We suddenly observe flaming orange streaks in the water like fiery wakes spreading out from an entrance point, streaming away for half a mile, dozens of them flashing like a gold fish. No man aboard can say what this strange and beautiful phenomenon is. They have a great sense of moving forward and intrigue me to no end - and to no conclusion. We are now over the Sea of Oman at the head of the Arabian Sea. Land again, completely desert land. I began to think that all the world is either desert or sea. I have flown South over the sea from England to the desert of French Moroco. Have seen the long thirsty coast of North Africa follow the Inland Sea to the dry Egyptian sands. Have traveled through the arid wastes of the Holy Land and Syria. And now all the way outward bound for India, the endless, relentless wastes. I study the map and see we must cross the "Great Indian Desert" that lies between Karachi and our destination. New Delhi. Empty sea, sun baked sands, bare, treeless uninhabited hills arid mountains. Like an American lost in the parched sands, I think of the wooded-hills and green valleys of my country, can see the sparkling dew on the grass and hear the liquid music of the running brook. My shipmates sprawl in hard discomfort on the unyielding metal seats, or lie distorted in uneasy sleep on the cold and vibrant deck. "Second day and another to go", shouts the courier, working his back in between tight canvas pouches. Pass over the sea to land again, the land of India! Over Karachi and an airport on to an American field and land at 1545. Get out stiff and blinking in the hot, bright Indian sun. File through quarantine, show orders and register and are all scattered for the night. Colonel McDonald and I who unfortunately have dinner at Station Mess instead of waiting. Colonel's car drives me out to the Navy's house in Karachi as he is at hotel nearby. I arrive before the word of my coming. Pass camels rigged in shafts to cart, for first time. Women in brilliant costumes. Glad I am out of Egypt and in the real East that I have always wanted to see. Navy has a large, cool, attractive house. Young officers giving dinner party with attractive girls and invite me to dine. Bench in hall with row of "Bearers" Spring up knucling turbans in salute. Handle my gear. Colonel invited to stay but declines reluctantly and departs for hotel. Given servant or bearer, Ololy by name, in knee length tunic, loose white trousers and bare feet. Splendid turban. "Does Master wish a drink?" Master does, and another servant appears, knuckle salute - "Salame" and I have Scotch and Soda with ice! Wash, change uniform and post report notes. Skipper is out as it's Saturday night. Young officer comes in and joins me. Transient too. Torpedoed in Indian Ocean, armed guard on merchantman, just like chap in Port Said. Shoot the breeze and turn in under tightly rigged mosquito net. Saw sun rise and arrived at these quarters after he had set, no trouble about sleep.

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