exhausted 1st Marine Division left Guadalcanal in December
1942 and was sent to Brisbane, Australia. However their
camp turned out to be in a malarial area, something the troops
had just endured for six months on Guadalcanal.
Vandergrift moved the Division south to the city of Melbourne in January 1943, which received the Marines with every hospitality. The 1st Marine Regiment was
quartered at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), which was near
the centre of the city. The 7th Marines were 30 kms south-east
at the bayside suburbs of Balcombe, Mt Martha and Frankston
and the 11th Marines went to the town of Ballarat,
100 kms north west of Melbourne.
In Melbourne the men were
issued brown Australian battledress type jackets (18 months
before the "Ike' jacket made its appearance and the famous
Divisional shoulder patch appeared to set them apart from
the US Army troops.
A few months of steak and
eggs, ice cream, Aussie beer and the company of Australian
women did wonders for the Divisions health and morale. Clashes
with Australian troops subsided after the famous beer party
at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where 9,000 men drank beer
out of paper cups and "a good time was had by all".
In July 1943 plans began
to take shape for the New Britain operations and training
was stepped up. During August - Sept 1943 the bulk of the
Division moved north and by October 24th the last Divisional
units arrived in New Guinea.
Melbourne was the only large
city the 1st Marine Division saw until the end of the war.
For the next 12 months the volume of Marine mail to and from
the city exceeded the volume to the United States. Many enduring
friendships were made, many hearts broken and many Aussie
girls married Marines!
One Sergeant went out on
a blind date and it was love at first sight. When he left
in 1943 he did not not see his girlfriend again until 1947, when
he left the Marines and returned to marry her and spend the
next 48 years here.