AFTER Crane was discharged from the hospital in Melbourne he went north to a rest camp near Canberra, the Australian capital. His eyesight was coming quickly back to normal, but Crane still felt shaky from the fever he had caught on Bataan.
The three weeks in the rest camp were, to Crane, a time in which to catch up with news he had missed in hospital. His Australian doctor still refused to allow him to work. So, for the first time since the war began, Crane had time to sit and think things over.
There had been a big change, he could see, since the first easy success of the Japs after Pearl Harbor. Crane had seen Singapore fall, and the Philippines crushed. He had wondered angrily, "Must our side always retreat?"
Now, at last, the tide was turning. Tokyo had been bombed. The Japs had been turned back at Midway. We were sending a great army across the Atlantic to Britain.
The United Nations were gathering their tremendous strength. Crane could see the day coming when defense would be turned into attack, and retreat into victory.
"When that day comes," he thought, "I hope to be there to see our first attack."
* * *
The day before Crane left the rest camp to go back to work a cable arrived from the New York office of the Consolidated Press.
"Fly to New Zealand," it said. "Instructions await you at Auckland."
The next week was a busy one for Crane. He flew to Auckland and found that he was to be a war correspondent, attached to the U. S. Navy.
"Better get your gear together quickly," the Navy press officer told him. "You'll be pulling out any day."
Military secrecy prevented Crane from cabling New York more than the bare fact of his arrival in New Zealand. Even today he is not allowed to tell on what day he sailed, nor to what base; nor how he came to be aboard a Marine transport, in a convoy sailing north into Jap-infested waters.
Crane put together a home-made sextant and on this, each noon, he worked out the transport's approximate position. When he found in what direction they were heading Crane knew at once, "This is it!"
His wish was being granted. An American force was steaming to attack the enemy, and here he was, a war reporter, aboard one of the biggest transports.
The morning of the attack, before dawn, a Marine colonel assembled the men on deck.
ATTACK ON THE SOLOMONS
"We're going into the Solomon Islands," he said. "There's a Jap airfield there, and a harbor where the Japs have begun to build a naval base. We're going to clean them out, and use the base ourselves.
"There are just two things we must all remember. First, this is our own, personal chance to show the Japs what we think of Pearl Harbor. Second, there's no fight too tough for an American Marine."
Crane watched the men listening to this talk, and heard them cheer it. For the hundredth time, he wished he could be part of the scene, instead of a spectator. Then he remembered what a naval commander had said to him, only the night before.
"No, Crane," the officer had told him. "Don't give up your job with Consolidated Press. You're helping us more where you are.
"There might "never have been an attack like this, if it hadn't been for men like you in the Philippines and at Singapore. You made the people at home understand why we were losing, and what they had to do (and do without) so that we could win."
Crane was up on the ship's bridge when they sighted the first land in the Solomons. It was foggy, fortunately, and if there were Jap batteries on the island the Jap gunners did not see them. The transport steamed on and dropped anchor out of sight of the land.
Crane couldn't get into the first wave of landing boats off the transport. All the places were needed for fighting men. He went ashore in the second wave, 20 minutes later.
As Crane's boat pulled in towards the beach he could see the palm trees waving beyond the shore line. Then he heard the whine of small-caliber Jap rifle bullets the same noise he had heard in Singapore, the night the city fell.
The main Jap positions along the shore had already been cleaned out by the Marines. The shots Crane heard were coming from snipers who, Jap-fashion, had tied themselves into the tops of the palm trees. Their fire caused casualties in every party of Marines that crossed the shore.
There were about 30 of these Jap snipers. Crane later wrote the story of a corporal of Marines who, single-handed, shot 20 of them down.
SNIPING THE JAP SNIPERS
This corporal was a Kentucky boy named Stinson. He had grown up with a gun in his hands and had a medal to prove his sharp-shooting ability.
Stinson saw at once what damage the Jap snipers would do to our men; and he saw, too, that the only way to silence them quickly was to stay out on the beach and watch the trees from which they were shooting.
Crane had never seen a brave deed more calmly and deliberately done. The corporal crawled out on the beach and dug himself into a shallow trench for protection. Then, whenever a Jap sniper fired, the corporal noted his position and fired back.
It didn't take the Japs long to see what Corporal Stinson was doing. Soon all of them were firing at him, trying to knock him out before he shot them down from the palm trees.
The Marine paid no attention to the bullets scuffing up the sand around his foxhole. Methodically he concentrated on one sniper after another. He aimed his rifle as calmly as he might have done at a shooting meet, until 20 Japs were shot down.
Crane told the story of this corporal in the first story he could send out from the Solomons. "Stinson is dead," he wrote. "But at least a hundred of us are alive today because of his bravery."
An American bomber took Crane's story to the nearest radio station for transmission. The bomber took off from the airfield at Guadalcanal. Brave American Marines like Stinson had already captured this airfield from the Japs. They had renamed it Henderson Field.
NEXT WEEK: JACK CRANE FLIES TO A SECRET U.S. AIRBASE IN NEW GUINEA.