"....and the rains came," Goodenough Island, Nov. 1944
In November of 1943 an advance detachment of the 24th Division under Colonel Homer Kiefer found itself in the wilds of Goodenough Island, New Guinea, to select a staging area for the troops who would arrive from Australia early in 1944.
A rain chart revealed an average annual rainfall of more than 200 inches per year, but it all fell during the February-March rainy season.
A message warned incoming troop commanders that great care should be taken to have tentage pitched on all available high ground; low ground would certainly be flooded—and how!
Sure enough, two days after the last 24th Division troops had arrived on Goodenough, the rains came—36 inches of it within 48 hours. Rugged engineer road and bridge construction washed out the first night. (Remember that Engineer Saw Mill called "The Thick and Thin Lumber Company" with a slogan "The Best is none too good."?)
As the second night approached, troops encamped on a certain small knoll surrounded by swirling floodwaters, congratulated themselves on their good fortune.
BUT, the animals in New Guinea had learned that lesson long ago!
During the night snakes (they grow from 9 to 15 feet long), lizards (5 or 6 feet long is not unusual), wallabies (small scale kangaroos), giant rats, and even alligators (being amphibious, they could leave if they didn't like their company) sought safety on the crowded knolls among the tents.
The frightened animals became entangled in the tent ropes; tent stakes pulled out of the soft mud! Tents collapsed and lights went out! Rifles and machetes were held ready but no one dared use them; who could distinguish man from wild animal in that wet pitch blackness under the sodden tentage?
Finally some, heroic soul thought to turn on his vehicle lights and there the entire camp huddled in wet misery and with frayed nerves until dawn.
The animals, no doubt, were also relieved at having the comforting darkness left to them alone. Though no one was bitten or hurt that night the harrowing experience takes its place alongside the most nerve-wracking of battlefield tales. Imagine your own feelings in such a predicament.
*Dick Lawson vouches for this tale. He was there and talked to a soldier whose friend said it was a fact.
From: The Taro Leaf, Vol III(2) 1949.