New Zealand


.....the memoirs of William T. Paull

Wellington, Pahautanui, Napier
February 1943

bout a month after our arrival in New Zealand, we were mustered to greet our new battalion commander, Col. Manley L. Curry. He was a new broom and he set out to shape up the outfit. He wasn't happy with the way H&S, Headquarters and Services, was operating so he arbitrarily transferred the top test scorers of G, H, and I Battery Instrument Sections into the headquarter's battery. I came from "G", Bill Evans came from "H", and Martin Petersen came from "I". The H&S NCOs didn't greet us with much enthusiasm. It was no secret that these transfers were expected to upgrade the performance of the survey section. A promotion list was due and the old section members were afraid that the three new hot-shots would get the extra stripes. Their fears were well founded. Evans, Paull, and Petersen were soon elevated to corporals.

I moved into a hut with "Facts" Clavin, Ray Jenkins and Pete Lopez. Clavin was a perpetually cheerful authority on every subject...hence his nickname. He was a walking encyclopedia of misinformation. Jenkins was a squirrely little guy who was forever on KP, but he didn't seem to mind. Pot-walloping was preferable to hiking up and down steep hills. Lopez was a genial Tex-Mex giant. We called him "Liberty Bell" because he had a long pecker capped with a huge purple, bell-shaped head with a crack, just like the Philadelphia original.

Such enforced intimacy fosters either hatred or friendship. We had a lucky combination and became good friends. They were three great guys. Our paths diverged, but later, whenever we met, we shared warm reminisces of those days when we were "hut-mates". We always bragged that we had the finest hut in the compound. We did.

After "lights out" our little hovel was the social focal point of the camp. We were genial hosts, serving stale, warm beer. When the brew ran out, we offered up greasy fried eggs.

We had a camp slop chute that sold quart bottles of potent New Zealand ale. The "chute" was a drafty shed equipped with long plank tables and benches. It was open from 4:00 until 8:00 PM every day. At closing time everyone was herded out past a guard at the door who checked to make sure no one sneaked out with any unconsumed beer. Lopez worked out a deal with the crew responsible for cleaning up the place. We agreed to do the janitor work if we could have the unemptied bottles left on the tables. Jenkins requisitioned a stock pot from the mess hall and regularly liberated bread, butter and eggs. Each night at closing, we would arrive with our big pot and empty all the bottles, usually getting a good haul. After lugging the loot back to our little hut we used our canteen cups to scoop up the tepid contraband. We fried up messes of eggs on the kerosene heater when the beer was gone.

These nocturnal revels lasted for several weeks until one night everyone got sick. We stumbled around outside retching and moaning, assuming we'd nipped a bad batch of eggs. A couple of nights later, the same thing happened. Non-participants in the neighboring huts began to refer to our little cabin as "Puke Plaza". Since we hadn't served eggs that night, operations were closed down. We were dismayed to discover that lazy wretches at the slop-chute had been holding empty bottles under the table and pissing in them instead of making a trek out to the latrine, which was some distance away. For several weeks we had been collecting these specimens along with the unprocessed brew. The piss/beer ratio must have finally exceeded our normal body tolerances. The beer runs ceased and for a few weeks we were not popular with former guests. Our little after-hours canteen went out of business.

*** *** ***

The training intensified. We started seemingly endless hikes up and down the steep New Zealand hills. The countryside was beautiful, the weather was warm, so the outings were pleasant. We marched along singing the raunchy songs that the old-timers had taught us. We had to clean up the lyrics or switch songs when we marched through a village or past a farmhouse. I can't recall all the tunes or the words, but our repertoire included The Caissons Go Rolling Along, The Monkeys Have No Tails in Zamboanga, The Raggedy-assed Marines are on Parade, and others that had no titles. I do recall some sweet, sentimental lyrics:


The general, he rides in his motorboat
The admiral, he rides in his gig;
It don't go a damn bit faster
But it makes the old bastard feel big.
Sing toor-a-la, loor-a-la, loor-a-la
Sing toor-a-la, loor-a-la-ay


Alla-boogy. That's the only thing that I crave
Good old alla-boogy is going to lead me to my grave.

Oh, I boogied last evening, and I boogied some more;
I boogied and I boogied till my booger got sore.
Alla-boogy, that's the only thing that I crave
Good old alla-boogy is going to lead me to my grave.

My mommy is a hop-head; my daddy is in jail;
My sister's on the corner shouting, "Boogy for sale".
Alla-boogy, that's the only thing that I crave
Good old alla-boogy is going to lead me to my grave.


Columbus had a cabin boy
His name was "Nasty Nipper"
He filled his ass with broken glass
And circumcised the skipper.

There were many others, but, mercifully, I've forgotten them.

*** *** ***

Between hikes, we had training exercises. We spent days in the field with aiming circles and chain tapes setting up gun positions and mapping target areas. In camp we had long sessions with slide rules, trig and log tables, and drafting equipment. I took to the math bit and must have been good at it because I became the instructor for all the survey personnel in the battalion. This didn't make me popular with the troops since a mere PFC was conducting classes filled with corporals and sergeants. I thought it was unfair too. If I was so damn smart why didn't I get a promotion? I met another peon who was in a similar situation.

Ray KehoeRay Kehoe was a PFC in the fire direction center, FDC. His section chief was an obnoxious little corporal, named Loggins, who took credit for all successes and blamed any mistakes on some hapless private. Whenever I had to contact the FDC, I was always told to report to Kehoe. It was obvious that he was the brains of the section. Ray was a tall, skinny guy who wore glasses that were always slipping down his nose. Since we were in different sections and our huts were in different areas, I didn't get to know him well until we were tent mates at Camp Tarawa in Hawaii many months later.

Surveying gun positions must be much easier now. Small calculators have all the trig functions and logarithms built in. With the little red books of tables we were using, we could look up logs to four places. The distances involved were usually in five figures so we had to interpolate. This was a big problem for section members who had no math background. Our trig tables gave direct figures to the nearest thirty seconds---not too bad---but we measured our angles with an aiming circle calibrated in mils. A circle contains 6400 mils. A 90 degree angle contains 1600 mils. This meant that we had to convert our mils to degrees, minutes, and seconds, before we could do any computations. It seems incredible to me now that no one thought to compile a conversion chart. We just bumbled along, converting back and forth every time we had to make a computation. Remarkably, we managed to fire our howitzers with consistent accuracy. Later, when our outfit became the 2nd 155mm Howitzer Battalion, we were issued a transit calibrated in degrees, minutes and seconds instead of mils. We no longer had to make all those complicated conversions.

Bill EvansBill Evans transferred in from H Battery and he and I were teamed up to do the math on our survey exercises. He was the chaplain's assistant so I felt a bit wary of him. During these months, I was wresting with a moral crisis. I struggled between guilt and lust. At the time, I felt vulnerable-- doomed. I didn't expect to survive the war. Should I maintain my purity, my virginity... but unfortunately, already too late for that... and try to store up "gold stars" to insure my entrance into heaven...or should I enjoy every hedonistic pleasure I could before the Japs finally zapped me? I've never satisfactorily resolved that question. No matter how hard I have tried, I've never been able to drive a stake into the heart of an uncomfortable, unwelcome conscience.

Through those years, I had two distinct sets of friends. Now, looking back, I realize that I play acted. I functioned on two levels and experienced the best of both worlds. Did all men/boys feel the same ambivalence that plagued me? I wanted to be decent and respond to these wonderful, warm civilized people who were so open to us. But I also felt doomed, resentful, and... very mortal. I was tempted to "eat, drink, and be merry... for tomorrow, I'll probably die". Now, in hindsight, I'm rather proud that my better nature was usually in control.

Bill Evans wasn't aggressive. Although he always invited me to go to church services with him, he never made me feel guilty if I opted to go to the slop-chute instead. His liberty experiences were so different than mine and I seldom went ashore with him. He'd met a family at church and he stayed at their home when he was on liberty. I went to town with him one weekend and got hooked on his adopted family, the Smiths. I never did learn their first names. They were always, Mum and Dad. They had a daughter, Chrissie, who was a tram conductor on the Wellington electric streetcars. Except for a few unsatisfying, guilt-ridden lapses, I spent most of my last Wellington liberties with this fine, warm family.

Their house was small, but they set aside a room for us and would never accept any money for it. Dad Smith was a disabled railroad worker. Kari, a Maori girl, lived with them and they considered her another daughter. This is another reason that I love and respect the New Zealanders. There was no second-class status applied to the native Maoris. The country celebrated and observed Maori holidays and customs with as much exuberance as we accord the 4th of July.

I spent many peaceful evenings in this little house. Kari played a Maori instrument that looked like a twisted, hand-carved guitar. She sang both old favorites and traditional Maori songs. This was the first time I ever heard the melody that became "Now is the Hour", and I get all squishy inside every time I hear it. It transports me back to that cluttered burning-coal-scented parlor where I felt so safe and warm. The Smiths adopted us, and we adopted them. Chrissie became my sister and I became obsessively protective of her.

Sam Doyle came on liberty with us one weekend and stayed with Evans and me at the Smiths'. He promptly fell in love with Chrissie and wooed her very aggressively. Sam wasn't a bad fellow... but he had carnal designs. Evans and I did all we could to foil his plans. We strained our friendship with Sam and I suspect that Chrissie also wished that we'd mind our own business. She liked Sam. It hurts me to remember this. Sam died at Tarawa just a few weeks later.

*** *** ***

mosquitoAn entertainment troupe came to camp one evening and we sat in an improvised theater to watch the show. I remember feeling a little dizzy as they were singing "Moonlight Becomes You". When I attempted to get up and leave, I blacked out and woke up in the Silver Stream Hospital. Most of the division had been plagued with bouts of malaria but I had been congratulating myself because I'd escaped the disease. Now it seemed that because my system had resisted the bug for so long my attack was more virulent. I can remember the chills and fever and the ice packs surrounding me in bed. My weight went down to 110 pounds. When I was beginning to recover and had to stand alongside my bed for the doctor's visit, I had to pin my trousers to my shirt to make them stay up.

I remember the envy of my wardmates one afternoon when Mum Smith and Chrissie came to visit me. This was an event in the ward. Very few patients had civilian visitors. I was especially touched because it wasn't easy to get from Wellington to the hospital at Upper Hutt.

Malaria is supposedly one of those diseases that often recur. I guess I had it bad enough the first time to get it out of my system. In any event, I've never experienced another bout with it.

Our Section Chief got grapevine news that he was going to be busted for inefficiency. He thought his trouble was due to those three new corporals, Evans, Petersen and Paull. This Sergeant was dumb, but he was likeable, so everyone in the section had been covering for him. Now in a desperate effort to save his stripes, he became the most horseshit NCO I ever encountered. In camp, we three drew all the crud details. In the field he had to rely on us to run the surveys, so the pressure eased up. Of course, the CO knew what was happening and took action before our morale and efficiency completely evaporated. The Sergeant didn't get busted, just transferred. Andy, who was a sergeant now, moved from G Battery into H&S as our new section chief. It was great to be reunited with my old buddy. Andy and I had maintained contact after I left G Battery but it wasn't the same closeness that develops between men in the same outfit. The two of us stayed together for the balance of the war.

In late October, we rode the trucks to the Wellington docks and loaded aboard ships again. We lived aboard for weeks and had several "final" liberties. If these reruns of goodbyes were painful for the Smiths and us, how much more distressing it must have been for those Marines who had to keep saying last farewells to their wives.

One sunny November morning, the ships left the harbor. Scuttlebutt assured us that these camps in New Zealand were our permanent bases and we would come back after our next campaign. This wasn't true. We never returned. I still hope to go back some day.


Memoirs Title Page Tipi's Retreat

Copyright 1996 by /\/\ / ( /-/ = // =

This beautiful song was sequenced by Sal Grippaldi . Thanx you so much Sal!

" Now is the hour,
When we must say goodbye,
Soon you'll be sailing.
Far across the sea.
While you're away,
Oh please remember me,
When you return,
You'll find me waiting here."