National Geographic : 1942 Jul
Life in Dauntless Darwin Want a Clean Shirt in Sticky Darwin? Wash It Yourself! As the military population skyrocketed and the civilian population dwindled, the perspiring newcomers rushed the few professional laundries out of business. That meant everyone had to do his own washing, as this couple soon discovered. One Navy wife was most furious against the Japs because their machine gun bullets had riddled her wash (page 137). Even before the Japs struck, all was activity as I watched from a window overlooking the harbor. With pink of early morning on their wings, a squadron of bombers flew north. Over the harbor tornadoed torpedo planes: their undercarriage gave them the appear ance of sharks shadowed by pilot fish. Noisy training and fighter planes droned about in all directions, and a single, silent recon naissance craft flew high in the blue above all the others. Through palms and poincianas I glimpsed a naval cruiser slipping gray and ghostlike out to sea. A destroyer drifted in, as smoothly as a champion winning an easy race. A sub marine sneaked by like a water snake. Close inshore idled several pearling luggers, the Japanese crews shut up on land like fright ened oysters in their shells. Not many days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, American warships appeared myste- riously off the cliffs of Darwin. Long-trousered United States sailors in snowy uniforms amazed laundry-limited Darwinians who had forgotten that clothes could be washed so white. American Sailors, Soldiers, and Slang As our sailors thronged the streets and shops, their drawling voices and accentuated R's infected admiring Australians. The new comers brought back to me familiar phrases and forgotten slang. Then came American troops to establish the first headquarters for United States Army forces in Australia. Up went the Stars and Stripes over a new building originally intended for shops and flats. Colonels and majors, captains and lieutenants moved in with com plete office equipment. Even to the smell of tobacco, a nostalgic atmosphere filled this corner of America in Australia.