Open Fire

Washing Machine Charlie

Japanese airplanes had a very distinctive sound that was different from our airplanes. They had an especially loud and rattling noise, somewhat like our T-6 Training aircraft with the 550-horsepower engine, only more so. If it was a twin engine aircraft, the pilot would unsynchronize the speed of the engines just to make it more annoying.

Contemptuously, we called them "Washing Machine Charlie" because of their unusual sound. Before the war, little one-cylinder gasoline engines that made a comical rattling sound were used to power Maytag washing machines in rural areas.

They would always try to drop their bombs on Henderson Field, which was only about a mile away from our bivouac area. Searchlights would soon pierce the sky, and when a Japanese plane was spotted, our big 90-mm anti-aircraft guns would begin firing. I never saw them hit a plane, even though they came close, but I'm sure they sometimes did . . .

Before going to the front lines, a few of us were on a working party on as supply ship. We anchored in Tulagi Harbor just before dark. The jungle was very close by, maybe 150 feet or less. We joined the crew in a meal that was a real treat for us. Later, I found a clear spot on the deck by the bridge area to lay down for the night. I was tired and the steel deck was cold and hard. About midnight, a sailor woke me up and asked if I would like to spend the rest of the night in his bunk inside the bridge since he was going on duty. I was a bit hesitant at his generosity, but finally accepted. I'm glad I did because it would be the last night I would spend in a good bed for many months . . .

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