USAT Argentina, seen from the dock in Melbourne, Australia. Taken from the photo album of an Americal veteran. Source: American Division Museum Collection.
The town of Ballarat as it appeared during World War II. Source: Edward Monahan Collection.
Ed Monahan stayed at 502 Havelock Street while the 182nd was stationed in Ballarat. This photo was taken during a 1986 visit to Australia with his wife Claire. Source: Edward Monahan Collection.
On 26 February 1942, the ships of Task Force 6814 steamed safely into the harbor at Melbourne, on the southeastern tip of Australia. The Australian military had made hurried preparations to receive this huge influx of troops (see this declassified plan). The visit to Australia was planned to be a brief one, mostly to reorganize the equipment aboard the transport ships. In the rush of packing in New York, supplies had been stowed aboard ship in a haphazard manner, unfit for rapid deployment in a potential combat zone. The reloading process would take about a week.The Argentina can be seen in Photo #1, moored at a dock in Australia during her stay.
The soldiers on the seven transport ships were rapidly unloaded upon arrival. They were dispersed to various locations throughout the Australian countryside, lest a surprise Japanese attack hit them en masse. The men of Company G were sent by train to Ballarat, about 70 miles west of Melbourne (see Google Map here). Tony Dziuszko of Company G wrote home that the train was ancient by American standards. A good view of the town of Ballarat just prior to World War II can be seen in Photo #2, taken from Ed Monahan’s souvenir book of the town.
The soldiers of the 182nd spent their brief stay in Australia in a variety of different quarters. At some of the locations (including Ballarat) military housing was not available, so the soldiers boarded with local families. Ed Monahan stayed with a family at 502 Havelock Street, in Ballarat, seen in Photo #3. During their visit to Australia, the American soldiers found the local people to be warm and welcoming. Many made good friends, future pen pals, or even brief romantic liaisons.
Just a few days after their arrival, the soldiers of Task Force 6814 began to make their way back to Melbourne, to embark once again on their transport ships. On 6 March, the convoy headed back out to sea. The transport Ericsson almost immediately had to head back to Melbourne when it suffered a mechanical problem. The remainder of the ships, under the watchful eyes of their U.S. Navy escort, headed northeast, their destination unknown to most.
Next Chapter: Defending New Caledonia