National Geographic : 1945 Jan
Fiji Patrol on Bougainville Into a Rain Squall Flies a Piper Cub, Bound for Ibu, the Fijians' Outpost Bouncing through typical Bougainville weather, the "grasshopper" wings up the Laruma canyon through Jap-held country. Often the tiny planes drew small arms fire from the jungle, where a forced landing would have been fatal. It took 20 minutes to fly from Torokina headquarters to the outpost, where the Fijians had built a 350-foot landing strip (page 87). Besides making these daily flights, U. S . Army Air Forces Cubs spotted artillery fire for the Empress Augusta Bay beachhead on Bougainville, Solomon Islands. Had Hollywood created Ibu as the back ground for a guerrilla band, the setting could not have been wilder. Dense, forbidding jungle pressed in from every side. An old lattice-walled mission house served as head quarters. Steps were hewn from tree trunks. The clearing around the house was a pro fusion of ferns, bamboo, palms, and wild gin ger. Mount Balbi, the 10,171-foot volcano, towered over the vine-festooned trees. Dramatically dressed in multihued silks of discarded parachutes, heavily armed Fijians roamed the camp, completing the illusion of a scene from movieland (Plate VI). "Do we surprise you, Lieutenant?" queried a soft voice at my shoulder. I was startled. No one had been near me a moment before. Whirling, I stared into a vast, coppery chest, from which deep laughter rolled. Towering over me stood one of the most powerful men I have ever seen. Under one arm he carried a log of telephone pole dimensions. In the other, a submachine gun. Around his waist this bearded giant wore a bright-blue skirt! "Permit me, Lieutenant, to assist with your equipment. I am going that way with this rafter for the medical dugout." I was dumb founded, first because of his English, then that he could carry still more. After supper that evening, as rain beat down over the jungle, I sat back from the lamplight, listening to the conversation. Matches flared, momentarily high-lighting the faces. The major was speaking earnestly, so low that I could scarcely hear. "Tomorrow we do it again. This morning new Japanese troops moved in near the deserted village of Pipipaia. They still have no natives to guide them. They may have forgotten our last little party; so we'll give them another." No one smiled, not even the major. That "last party" had trapped and killed twenty two Japs. One Fijian also lost his life. It was no picnic.