New Guinea

The 618th Engineers departed New Orleans 25 January 1944 on USAT EVANGELINE, arriving at Milne Bay on 25 February. There, they built roads, airfields, and other infrastructure in support of the Milne Bay build-up, and also were responsible for heavy equipment assembly, repair, and transshipment. They also had a few opportunities to see the sights. These photos document the men, their engineering work, company life, and local activities.
WWII NG Milne Bay
View of Milne Bay from officers' quarters. 1944. The profile of the land across the bay proves the 618th was located at or near what is now Alotau, on the north shore of the bay.
WWII NG front door
Another view across Milne Bay, same location. Annotated "Out the front door."
WWII NG river scene
Unidentified river, best guess flows into Milne Bay.

WWII Company area
Company area; album context indicates Milne Bay, possibly late 1944.
WWII NG China Strait 1
View across China Strait, toward Samarai Island, which probably is the lower island to the right in the background. China St. is just S of the mouth of Milne Bay, around the corner. Quite a few photos are probably or certainly from the China Strait area but none show engineering work. Perhaps men of the 618th went there on occasion for R&R.
WWII NG China Strait 2
Another view across China Strait.

WWII NG Johnson
Lt. Johnson, Oct. 1944. We concluded the annotation was almost certainly written by Drury. The original album page is titled "Milne Bay, New Guinea - Officer Personnel, 618th Engrs." by Johnson.
Lt. McEwen at Milne Bay, caption very probably by Drury.
Lt. Drury, Oct. 1944. Annotation handwriting is almost certainly his.

WWII NG Unholy Three
Lts. Johnson, McEwen, and Drury, at Milne Bay. The names were annotated by Johnson and the caption was written on the print almost certainly by Drury. Its meaning is mysterious; the Dad we knew was upright, somewhat stolid, perhaps even a little ponderous (although he did have a slightly weird sense of humor). There's a story here, sadly lost.
WWII NG Johnson McEwen
Lts. Johnson and McEwen, Oct. 1944
WWII NG McEwen Drury
Lts. McEwen and Drury, Milne Bay, Oct. 1944.

WWII NG Johnson pantspress
Portrait of Johnson, Milne Bay, 1944. Annotated "Notice the press." Spiffy tailoring, New Guinea style.
WWII NG stogie
Portrait of Johnson smoking a cigar. Milne Bay, 1944.
WWII NG The Whistler a
Believe this is Johnson; another print is annotated "The Whistler," probably by Drury. Dad had a whistle that could cut glass.

WWII NG Mathews McEwen
Informal portrait of Mathews (from Texas) and McEwen. Summer 1944.
WWII NG McEwen portrait
Formal (sort of) portrait of McEwen at his desk. Summer 1944.
WWII NG officers latrine a
Drury, in skivvies, posing next to HQs 2nd Battalion Officer's Latrine. Context is unclear. Milne Bay, probably Summer 1944.

WWII NG officers latrine Johnson
Johnson in front of the Officer's Latrine. Is there a subtext here?
WWII NG officers shower 1
Man posed standing in front of Officer's Shower.
WWII NG showertime
Men entering Officer's Shower, might be Johnson and Drury.

WWII NG officers shower 2
Three men posed in front of Officer's Shower. Man on left could be McEwen, on right might be Johnson. Unknown what it is with all these facilities, was this one of Dad's editorial comments, or were those the only permanent buildings yet constructed? "First things first," as Dad used to say.
WWII NG On the job
"618 on the job!" Portrait of Johnson, Milne Bay, 1944.
WWII NG Balcom Galloway
Balcom, Galloway, and another man apparently at leisure. The half-walled hut construction appears to be common. Summer 1944.

WWII mechanics
Group portrait of unit mechanics, Dec. 1944 in New Guinea.
WWII NG road construction a
Road construction with engineers sitting around or standing looking at camera, while somebody drives a bulldozer. Milne Bay, March 1945.
WWII NG sitting engrs grader a
Probably road construction, with more engineers sitting around watching somebody else at work.

WWII NG grader dozer a
Grader and dozer at work, probably same road construction.
WWII tandem grading
Grader, other equipment; a duplicate print is annotated "Tandem grading." Original album page is annotated "618 on the job!".
WWII NG airstrip 1
Lt. Drury apparently doing some surveying during construction of an airstrip in New Guinea. Original album page is labeled "Hilea," apparently a location. We have not been able to identify it. Annotation reads "Drury (S.I)"; meaning unknown.

WWII NG airstrip 2
Grading at the Hilea airstrip.
WWII NG airstrip 3
A couple of cranes during Hilea airstrip construction. The one on the left is labeled "Tourna-crane" (no reference). The one on the right is labeled "Track crane - Bay City", which likely refers to the Industrial Brownhoist Corporation of Bay City, MI.
WWII NG airstrip 4
Davis, Fenzi, and Sorrensen apparently surveying at the airstrip construction site.

WWII NG airstrip 5
A large crane removing sections of landing mat at the airstrip--perhaps job is near completion?
WWII NG airstrip 6
Drury standing in front of several vehicles at the airstrip.
WWII 618 loading trailer
Some evolution involving crane, bulldozer, other equipment. Annotated "loading trailer."

WWII equip crane
Trucks and crane, probably New Guinea location.
WWII gravel pit 1
Loading up in a gravel pit. "2 cubic yard Lorain" refers to the shovel. Operator might be Lt. Johnson.
WWII gravel pit 2
Another view of the gravel pit. Operator is unknown. Presumably they're not going to load the jeep.

WWII Mac crane
Portrait labeled "Mac," presumably Lt. McEwen, standing in front of wheeled crane and other equipment.
WWII NG Heavy Eqpt Yd 2
Storage yard at the Engineering Depot, Heavy Equipment Yard.
WWII NG Heavy Eqpt Yd 3
Bucyrus-Erie 50 T crane and other equipment at the Engineering Depot, Heavy Equipment Yard.

WWII 618 contrast
Jeep versus truck--contrast, indeed.
WWII 618 equipment 1
A lineup of 618th equipment, most look like some sort of trailer.
WWII 618 equipment 2
More 618th equipment in New Guinea, including crane, road rollers, other unidentified vehicles.

WWII NG Heavy Eqpt Yd 1
The 618th was nothing if not resourceful. One entry in the unit history said, "Our mechanics have been successful in assembling a 30KVA generator and Diesel Engine from an amazing variety of salvage parts." This photo shows the result of a similar accomplishment. A 12-ton Lima crane crane arrived with motor trouble and no spare parts, so, according to the annotation, they "installed a D-6600 Cat. engine in Lima crane." (The unit history identifies it as a D4600 and notes that, owing to the larger size of the new engine, the cab needed to be modified and reinforced.) We assume "Cat" is Caterpillar and Lima refers to the Crane and Shovel Division of the Lima Locomotive Works, Lima, Ohio. The word "Corts" is unknown but might be a name.
WWII 5th wheel 1
Another piece of innovative engineering. They built a 5th-wheel mount to turn a Mack truck into a semi configuration, so they could tow a large crane on a flatbed trailer. This required 1-1/2 weeks work by two welders. Suspended structure in background is unidentified. Person is T/Sgt E.B. Thompson. The album page is annotated Dec 1944 but the unit history (which describes this construction in unusual detail) says the job was performed in April 1945.
WWII 5th wheel 2
Another view of the 5th-wheel setup with Sgt. Thompson.

WWII Brehmer Thompson
Portrait of M/Sgt Brehmer and T/Sgt E.B. Thompson, apparently in connection with the fabrication of the 5th-wheel. This is almost the only annotation that includes ranks, which might be taken to suggest these men were key figures in that project.
WWII NG 60T Mack semi
The final result of the 5th-wheel construction. This rig became a key element of the 618th's operations and was used routinely to haul heavy equipment in the Philippines.
WWII 60T float crane
Although sometimes things went wrong. A large item of tracked heavy equipment is upside down. Annotation says "1-1/2 cubic yard Koering dropped while loading on ship." Man standing next to it gives an idea of scale. Album context implies New Guinea, perhaps early 1945.

WWII dropped Koering
Another view of the Koering. The name doubtless refers to the Koehring Company of Wisconsin, a major producer of heavy construction equipment. This event was not recorded in the unit history.
WWII NG O quarters
Company life in New Guinea. Johnson at his desk in Officer's Quarters, apparently taking care of the mail. Note the books in the bookcase in background--texts or references?
WWII NG O quarters Mac
McEwen and Mathews in Officer's Quarters. The room looks the same; note the clothes bar and empty hanger, the radio (just visible in the upper-right corner of the previous shot), and the multiplug extension cord and the glass next to the radio (the sun helmet is missing in this shot). The family photo on the desk is the same but that end of the desk has been rearranged. Looks like they took turns? (And is that a pinup over the radio?)

WWII NG snacktime Mac
McEwen and Mathews in Officer's Quarters, about to have a little lunch. Annotated "Snacktime, Mac - Mathews." Same scene as before except McEwen looks ready to open that tuna can or whatever with a screwdriver.
WWII shipping documents
We don't understand this one. Man at desk in front of bank of pigeonholes, furniture looks homemade but solid and a bit stylish, crude sign painted on side of desk: "For Shipping Documents." Annotation "Funny?". December 1944 in New Guinea.
WWII NG Barbershop
618th barbershop at Milne Bay. Barber is Rinehart, victim is Johnson.

WWII NG baseball diamond
Army-Navy Game (baseball), probably September 1944. Looks like a pretty good turnout.
WWII NG Umpire Johnson
Johnson and an unidentified man, wearing a baseball glove. Annotation, probably in Drury's handwriting, says "Umpire Johnson"--did he work the Army-Navy game? Milne Bay, New Guinea, 1944.
WWII Pac rifle range
Group portrait of NCO's at a rifle range, probably vicinity of Milne Bay. May have been around Dec. 1944.

WWII NG rifle range 1
Target practice at the rifle range. It's a little rustic. The photos contain no indications that the 618th was ever in an engagement, but you need to be ready.
WWII NG rifle range 2
More target practice. Photographer is standing in a position that suggests the weapons were not loaded. Engineers carried M1 carbines, replacing the M1911 pistol (none of the photos show pistols).
WWII NG rifle range load lock
Target practice. Note the annotation. With all due respect to Sgt. R. Lee Ermey and others, we believe "load and lock" is the technically correct terminology. We observe that W.F. Johnson's service records list "Qualification in arms: Rifle Sharpshooter, May 26, 1942" and "Expert with Caliber .30 Rifle M1".

WWII NG rifle range paste tgts
Targets at rifle range. Dad was a marksmanship enthusiast; these scenes were almost the only times he used exclamation points.
WWII NG rifle range targets
Target line at the rifle range. The weapon in the foreground, which has a flash hider and apparently a bipod, seems perhaps a little fancy for engineers.
WWII NG three masted a
There were opportunities to take time out and see the sights in New Guinea. Three-masted ship in China Strait, near Samarai Island.

WWII NG trader 1
Small sailing craft, probably in China Strait; annotated "Trader." Seems to be taken from another boat.
WWII NG trader 2
Another view of the trader
WWII NG China Strait chapel 1
Mission chapel at China Strait, exterior view.

WWII NG China Strait chapel 2
Interior of mission chapel at China Strait. Look at that stonework and roof structure.
WWII NG China Strait natives
Local people near China Strait. Two outrigger canoes are visible, also some sort of boat (ferry?) in the water.
WWII NG China Strait trading
Annotated "trading with the natives," sort of an open-air market. Not sure if that's the chapel in the background.

WWII NG population 1
Portrait of two New Guinea local people.
WWII NG population 2
Another portrait, probably same two people. These might be the ones in the "Up the river" photo (see below).
WWII people mangroves
Several people on shore, with a couple of dugout canoes. Image is poor quality and difficult to interpret.

WWII NG waterskiing
Things to do in New Guinea. Original album page is annotated "New Guinea, Vacation Land??" Probably mid-1944. This may have been taken in China Strait, but several Milne Bay and China Strait album pages are interleaved, so it's hard to tell.
WWII NG waterski 1
Another view. Platform sure looks like a wakeboard, which standard sources say was invented in the late 70s or early 80s, in this part of the world. Maybe a little earlier?
WWII NG Drury diving 1
Drury diving, uncertain whether into Milne Bay or China Strait.

WWII NG Drury diving 2
Drury on his way down. He looks like he's going to splash hard.
Woman lawn
Portrait of unidentified woman, annotated "Dr. Dupre's home, Sunday, May 7, 1944" on back of print. We suspect this is near China Strait. Dr. Dupre seems to have been reasonably prosperous--a two-car garage and two cars. This indicates the engineers had made social contacts with the local community.
A brief holiday from the war. She is identified as "Denny" but no other information is provided. Mid-1944, probably in China Strait.

This is "Di", same boat and occasion.
WWII NG Denny Di
Denny and Di on the boat. It is clearly a small pleasure craft, not military, and thus presumably belonged to one of the locals, who might have been Denny.
WWII NG Denny Di Drury
Di and Denny, flanking a cheerful-looking Lt. Drury. A wedding photo shows that Drury and Di (Diana) were married in late March or early April 1946.

WWII NG up the river
Appears to be Drury, Di, and Denny on the same boat. A duplicate print is annotated "Up the river" by Johnson, who presumably is on the shore taking the photo. Natives in dugout canoes look like they're getting out of the way. Role of the boat in the middle of the river is unknown.
WWII NG time out 2
Unidentified person (Johnson?) in a small boat, probably China Strait. The boat looks similar to the one in the previous photos, but that's not clear. These photos were on an adjacent album page and could have been part of that outing. Original album page is annotated "Time out."
WWII NG time out 3
Portrait of Johnson in a boat, again from "Time out" album page.

WWII NG time out 1
View across the water, from the "Time out" album page.
WWII woman with pipe
Another mysterious image. Portrait of woman standing in front of jeep, smoking a pipe. Annotated "Ain't it the truth," significance unknown. Somewhere around China Strait.

All contents copyright © L.S. Johnson and C.A. Johnson, 2017.
All rights reserved.