March 25th, 1943

Rainstorm.  Lost one P-40 New Zealand flyer and one S.B.D. plane – Both pilots killed.  Four F4F’s also cracked up on the field – no one else hurt.  O’Malley led a fight with our tent-mate.  We’re all in a fighting mood.  Wish we’d leave for action soon.

March 26th, 1943

Final grade for exam, 3.7.  Went into countryside and took snaps.  Alert called on entire island.

March 28th, 1943

Presented O’Malley the $500.00 – he sure was happy.  Attended Army church services.  Navy funeral services held at our camp for the three flyers lost last Thursday.  One hop late this evening.

April 1st, 1943

Pay day: $61.00.  Liberty – Went to Lautoka with O’Malley, Roam, Ramson, and Dobley.  Wrecked three bikes while raising hell in town.

April 3rd, 1943

VGS-16 received orders to return to the States, sent a few letters with them.

April 6th, 1943

Tropical rain storm.  No flying.  Sold beer.  O’Malley and I put on a boxing show.

April 9th, 1943

No flight – Sold beer.  Moved our tent and finally got rid of our tent-mate.  About forty VF-11’s left for base.

April 12th, 1943

One hop.  B-24 and B-26 planes cracked up on landing strip – No one hurt.  Sold New Zealand beer.

April 19th, 1943

B-26 cracked up – Complete wreck!  3 killed, 2 seriously injured.  Wrote mother and Dottie.

April 20th, 1943

Packed up – Climbed aboard the U.S.S. Waters, a converted night-raider Destroyer 0900.

April 22nd, 1943

Land sighted – New Hebrides Islands.  Entered channel.  Many U.S. and British cruisers and destroyers in the harbor.  U.S.S. Enterprise in harbor and about 20-30 freighters and transports.  Refueled and Anchored.  Fifteen VF-11’s came aboard.  Sold my dagger for $35.00.  Went swimming over side of ship.  Anchored for night in harbor.  Beautiful moonlight, and little Dottie on my weary mind.

April 23rd, 1943

Shoved off 1300.  Passed the spot where the U.S.S. Coolidge was sunk.

April 24th, 1943

Radar picked up aircraft.  News over shortwave came in – U.S.S. Reed was attacked by Jap aircraft and submarines just 50 miles away.  Fire watch 00-0200.

April 25th, 1943

Easter Sunday.  Arrived in the Solomon Islands and unloaded our gear in a hurry.  U.S.S. Waters shoved off.  As I set foot on the beach of Guadacanal, my mind was full of memorable fights + battles that went on here when the US Marines landed in August 7, 1942.  But I had work to do.  Put up our tent 200ft from the beach near the Lunga River (known as the Death Hole) both for the Marines and the Japs.  Thousands were known to be killed on crossing this river.  Turned in 1900.  Air Raid Alarm from 1150-1200.

April 26th, 1943

My plane came in 1300.  Glad to see my pilot + crew.  Meals are really rotten and the entire place is a hell hole.  Alert on island 1200-1330.

April 27th, 1943

Air Raid 0400!  Four Jap planes shot down by our fighter planes.  No bombs dropped.  Mother received my Fiji letter.

April 29th, 1943

Air Raid Alert 0430.  Action 0730!  Twelve T.B.F.’s, twenty-five S.B.D.’s,  eight F-4U’s, and eight P-38’s.  Took off for Munda + Pago Pago, 153 miles.  Results - Direct hits on ammunition dump.  My pilot blew up two Jap bombers on the ground.  Air Raid Alert 1900.

Journal - Press News
© Retelasfilm

April 30th, 1943

Early morning raid on Munda - bombed Jap camp area.  0500 Alert.  Twelve new B-24’s came in.

May 3rd, 1943

0430 Raid to Vella.  Twelve T.B.F., twelve S.B.D., and forty F4U + P-38’s.  Bombing 2000 lb daisy cutter.

May 5th, 1943

0430 Raid to Munda.  Eighteen T.B.F., eight Marine T.B.F.’s, eighteen S.B.D.’s, and twenty-five B-40’s.  All our planes returned softly, but one Marine T.B.F. shot down to flames.  T-14 tail shot off, T-8 bilge shot up, T-5 bullet holes in wing.  Gunner and Radioman wounded.  My pilot nearly cracked with an S.B.D.  Bombing mission successful.

May 7th, 1943

Twelve T.B.F’s and S.B.D.’s on a raid for Jap shipping – No success.  Bad weather.

May 9th, 1943

Mother’s Day.  Have sent flowers to mother, and Dottie’s mother + grandmother.

May 12th, 1943 (Last Entry)

Nine T.B.F.’s and ten S.B.D.’s – Fighter escort raid on Munda airstrip.  Another pilot flew my plane.  Ensign Swootser, gunner Whitelead, radioman Cramer.  Plane return shot to hell.  Cramer was wounded in the back, not serious.

Journal - Last Page

"The story of Rattle asses plane, T-15"

She played an important role bombing Japanese bases at Munda, Regata Bay, Vanga Vanga and Kelili Field on Bouganville.  After her crew were killed when flying in a DC3, she was being flown back to New Hebrides, but crashed at sea, some where between Guadalcanal and Esperito Santos.

She flew twenty seven missions and had 78 holes in her, personally counted by George Retelas. George was with her from San Diego, U.S.S. Long Island, Honolulu, U.S.S. Altamaha, Figi Island, New Hebrides and Guadalcanal.

Rattleasses plane - Letter
Courtesy: San Diego Air & Space Museum
"Michael O'Malley Special Collection"

May 12th, 1974

Mother’s Day roses arrive for 31st year.

Her secret admirer didn’t forget.  For the 31st consecutive year Mrs. May Robinson of 431 Hurlingame Avenue, Redwood City, received a Mother’s Day gift of a dozen long-stemmed roses from someone whose identity she’s never known.  The “Forever Roses” come each year since her son, Bernard, a gunner on a Navy torpedo bomber, was killed during a mission over Guadalcanal in 1943.  He was 21.

Bernard was Mrs. Robinson’s only son, and the news of his death at the height of the fighting in the pacific during World War II was so great that she lost her sight and has been blind since.  The flowers started arriving the year after he died.

As usual, the roses that arrived last weekend had no card, and as usual the roses were delivered by Edward Dick, owner of Old Mill Flower Shop, who insists he knows nothing of the sender other than he’s from out of town.  Mrs. Robinson speculates the sender might be one of her son’s Navy friends, but admits that’s only conjecture.

May 10th, 1984

A day she’ll not forget - After 40 years, a mother finds sender of her roses.

Since 1944, May Robinson has wondered who sends her 20 long-stem roses every Mother’s Day.  On Sunday, 40 roses were at her Redwood City doorstep in the hands of George Retelas.  The answer to her 40-yer-old question.

Because he knew her son could not do so, Retelas 66, of San Leandro, has sent the flowers to Mrs. Robinson, 83, every Mother’s Day since he returned from World War II in September 1943.  Barney, Mrs. Robinson’s only child and Retelas’ wartime buddy, was killed at age 21 when his Navy plane was shot down over Guadalcanal in 1943 while on his way to a rest-and-relaxation leave.

Barney Robinson and George Retelas had flipped a coin to determine who would receive the last leave available to their unit at that time.  Barney won the flip. Mrs. Robinson has been blind since the time of her son’s death due to acute glaucoma.  She has long said the shock and sadness of Barney’s death led to her blindness.

Retelas visited Robinson after he got home from the war to drop off some of Barney’s possessions, but never revealed he was the anonymous flower sender.  “My sons and daughter always told me to go see her.  I tried to come out last year, but I chickened out.  I guess I was too sentimental.”

On Sunday, Retelas, dressed in a suit and fidgeted at the steps of Mrs. Robinson’s Burlingame Avenue home.  Hugo and Frances Bianco, neighbors who watch over the frail woman, led Mrs. Robinson to the door where Retelas nervously clutched the roses.  Mrs. Robinson, her mouth agape, touched the flowers, and heard Retelas’ voice say, “From here on out, you’re going to know it’s me every year.”

“Oh my! Oh goodness sake!” Mrs. Robinson, tears in her eyes, repeated over and over again.  She gave Retelas a long hug and said softly, “What a surprise for Mother’s Day. It’s like seeing my son again.”  There to witness the scene were Retelas’ wife, Koula, his daughter, Margarita of Daly City, and his son Sam, of Hayward.  Also present were Sam’s wife, Lillian, and their children, George, 5, Kosta, 3, and Georgina, 1.

Mrs. Robinson was led to a kitchen table as Retelas held her hand and explained the flower shop that had delivered roses the previous 39 years is now out of business, “So I had better deliver them myself.”  When the roses did not arrive Saturday, the normal flower delivery date for a Sunday holiday, Mrs. Robinson thought that something might have happened to her anonymous friend.  Hugo Bianco reminded her, however, that the roses were once delivered late five or six years ago, so she should not give up hope.

Retelas remembers Barney, who was younger than he, as “young and full of life and energy.”  George Retelas was a mechanic and Barney Robinson was a gunner when both were in Navy Torpedo Squadron 11 assigned to the Pacific Theater during World War II.

When Mrs. Robinson received the flowers last year, she told the Times Tribune, “I think it’s this nice Greek boy. I’ve tried to trace him, but I haven’t had any luck at all.”  Once she got his phone number, called and left a message, “but I never returned the call,” Retelas said.  “I was just too sentimental.”