JOHN WAYNE IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII

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John Wayne had applied for a position with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) on 2 August 1943 but was unsuccessful. He had tried to get into John Ford's OSS Field Photographic Unit. Commander John Ford, USNR, was the head of the OSS Field Photographic Unit which made documentaries for the Navy Department. John Ford was a Hollywood Film Director.

 

John Wayne's Application for OSS Page 1

 

John Wayne's Application for OSS Page 11

 

A secretary at Roberts and Olson Wayne's Republic Studios remembered typing a letter in the spring of 1943 inquiring about openings in John Ford's O.S.S. Field Photo Unit. A reply from a navy official was received in May 1943 that the navy and marine allotments for Ford's unit were filled. It went on however to indicate that there was a possibility in the unit under the US Army's allotment. Wayne secured the application but then apparently knocked it back.

Dan Ford, grandson of John Ford remembered that John Wayne told him he had been approved by William Donovan, the O.S.S. Commanding Officer to join the Field Photographic Unit, but that the letter went to his estranged wife Josephine's home address, his former address,  and she never told Wayne about it.

John Wayne then set out on an entertainment tour of the South Pacific and Australia in December 1943 with the American United Services Organisation (USO).

Apparently John Wayne despite not officially enlisting in the OSS was apparently on a secret mission for Colonel William Joseph Donovan, the head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). General Douglas MacArthur went out of his way to ensure the OSS was unable to operate in his theatre of war in the Southwest Pacific Area (SPWA). John Wayne's role was apparently to collect information on officers and enlisted men serving in the SWPA and in particular collect information on General Douglas MacArthur. However he never got to meet Douglas MacArthur which was probably a planned move by MacArthur.

The West Australian, Perth, WA, 24 December 1943

WILD WEST STAR.

John Wayne in Brisbane.

BRISBANE, Dec 23.-John Wayne, hero of many a wild western film and top-ranking suave villainof such screen attractions as "Reap the Wild Wind" and "The BigTrail," is in Brisbane. Six feet four inches tall and weighing 15 stone. Wayne in his army kit last night looked the typical outdoor cow puncher which Hollywood has made familiar to the world.

"Like my friend Gary Cooper," he said, "I'm here to entertain the troops. I have no special act but hope to get by on appearances."

With Wayne is Miss Vikki Montan, a woman accordion player, who has a following in the night clubs. The couple will leave for Sydney soon in order to broadcast in the Allied hour programme on December 30. No public appearance has been arranged yet for Wayne in Brisbane.

 

Whilst in Brisbane, reporters commented to him that he had a habit of putting his right hand in his hip pocket. John Wayne commented "Old habits die hard. Guess I've reached for a gun so often in horse operas that now is second nature to me."

John Wayne told Brisbane reporters that he credited Joe E. Brown as the inspiration for his visit to the Southwest Pacific area. "Joe was so full of praise of the hospitality he had received here, and the pleasure it gave him to bring some gaiety into the lives of the boys in forward areas, that I rushed off and volunteered for entertainment service. Guess I'm gonna like it too."

John Wayne arrived in Sydney from Brisbane on 29 December 1943 accompanied by Miss Vikki Montan, accordion player and vocalist, and Benjamin DeLauche, baritone. The party gave a broadcast through the national radio network on the night of 31 December 1943 during "The Allied Hour" segment.

John Wayne said that In Brisbane he had learned that horse-racing "was the baseball of Australia."

His happiest memory of Australia was when Dr. Power and his family welcomed them to his home and took them to the Albion Park races in Brisbane. "I had the feeling," he said, "that I had just gone to some friend's home in America. It was just like going from one town to another at. home - not like being in a far-distant land." Doctor Power was a member of the Queensland Turf Club.

John Wayne and his entertainment troop then left Sydney headed off to entertain the troops in the many camps in New Guinea and the islands.

 

John Wayne in his USO uniform and Lt. Col. William Bleckwenn at the Albion Park Races in December 1943

 

Ted Peterson, in Vera Bradley's excellent book "I Didn't Know That", said that many parties were held at the Directorate of Air Transport (DAT) Canteen in Cairns. It was staffed by American girls dressed in pale blue uniforms. Ted said that he was present the night that John Wayne and his entertainment group passed through on their way to New Guinea.

 


Photo:- Ted Anderson

John Wayne with a servicemen from the US Weather
 Squadron based at Cairns Airfield in January 1944

 


Photo:- Ted Anderson

John Wayne and two girls from his entertainment troop with members
of  USA Travel or USA Post Office Staff at Cairns airfield in January
1944. Hollywood star, Carol Landis is on the left of John Wayne. The
man on the left of the photo is Charles Wilfred "Charlie" Lonnon.

 

Charles Wilfred "Charlie" Lonnon who is at the far left in the above photograph was of the very early skippers with U.S Army Small Ships Section. Charlie had obtained a lift with John Wayne's party from New Guinea to see his family in Cairns.

Glenda Wilcox was a WAAAF attached to 25 Operational Base Unit (23 OBU) in Cairns and worked at the Cairns Airfield. In Vera Bradley's book "I Didn't Know That" she said that she remembered John Wayne arriving on an aircraft. "He looked like a big lanky kid dressed up in khaki and was walking and growling about some delay."

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth" by Michael Munn

I Didn't Know That" by Vera Bradley

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Karen Nunan for her assistance with this web page.

I'd like to thank Peter Hayes for his assistance with this web page. He is the son-in-law of Charles Wilfred "Charlie" Lonnon.

 

Can anyone help me with more information?

 

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This page first produced 26 January 2013

This page last updated 03 February 2017