Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

Supreme Sacrifice

  D. W. Starbird, whose letters appear below, was killed December 5, in New Guinea when the B-25 bomber of which he was a crew member, crashed on take-off, causing death to all on board.

    Mr. Starbird, appointed to the Los Angeles Fire Department in September of 1940, was for some time operator for Assistant Chief W. H. Augustine, transferring to 16s from which station he entered the armed service, in the Air Corps as radio operator and gunner July 13, 1942, being sent to the Pacific theater where he engaged in many missions.

    Surviving are his wife, Ruth E. Starbird, at present in Denver, Colo., and his father and mother, residents of Boulder, Colo.


Somewhere in New Guinea,
Oct. 20, 1944.

Hello Chief,

    Time slips by pretty fast and I have traveled a good many miles since seeing you and all the gang.  Would like to tell you about some of the places we have been, but you know how that is, besides you have read about them.

    Our pilot is in the hospital this week, so we have been doing some of the things I have always wanted to do.  Twice we have gone boar hunting in the jungle.  We haven't had any luck yet, but maybe tomorrow will be different.  There are plenty of signs but guess we are always just a little late.  The jungle here is everything they say it is.  When you get back into it the sun disappears and you are in a new world.  The trees and rocks are covered with moss and those long rope vines swing down from the trees.  All you have to do is grab hold of one and swing across the stream whenever you want.  The saw grass is plenty sharp and you have to hack your way thru with a bowie knife as you go along.  The weather is hot here.  It takes very little exertion to soak your clothes with sweat.  It rains a good deal here too, so one way or the other a fellow stays wet.

    We live in open tents with mosquito netting over our bed.  Makes you feel like being in a crib.  We are issued one candle per tent per night so you see we can't sit around and read or write at night.  It gets dark here at 5 p.m. and light at 4 a.m.  When we wash our clothes we must gather wood, build a fire under a gas barrel which has been cut in half to heat water.  Then we start washing the hard way.  I have read about living like this, but never thought I would be one to experience it.

    They say the original head hunter tribes are back in the hills from us.  We hiked into one native village and traded cigarettes for cocoanuts and a bunch of bananas.  Guess they weren't the head hunters, because we still have our heads.

    Yesterday we thumbed our way, via jeep, truck or anything else that came along, to a natural seaport.  It was a  busy place and there was lots of supplies coming in.  We went down the beach a ways and had our first swim in the South Seas.  Swam out to a Jap ship which had been sunk in the harbor, which had its bow and part of its mast sticking up. Our boys didn't mess around when they sank that one.

    Shorty got quite a kick out of being down at Engine 5s for the night and riding down there in your car.  Tell the fellows down there they have pulled a fast one giving Shorty that dollar.  Do they always have to pick on a fellow that small for their tricks?

    Give my regards to Carney and all the other fellows I know.

As ever,               

Source: The Firemen's Grapevine, November 1944

Netherlands, East Indies,
Nov. 26, 1944.

Hello Chief,

    Just received you letter and after what I have seen lately, it's a pretty good idea to keep up with the writing or it may never be done.

    Until being attached to this squadron they bounced me around a bit wherever a crew was needed.  Sometimes we flew a ferry mission bringing a new ship from one base to where the new one was most needed. We got around quite a bit that way.  On those flights they just used skeleton crews, consisting of pilot, co-pilot, navigator and the radio operator and engineer.  If we weren't doing that they would load us up with "eggs," get the bombardier and gunners at their station and we would fill in with some bomb group.  Now it's a bit different.  The squadron I'm in now is my permanent home for 12 points.  What I mean by that is--they give us 1-10 of a point for each 10-hour mission.  Each three months gives you another full point and each 100 combat hours you are given another.  The average time, taking everything into consideration, takes almost a year.  After that you go home.  Sounds easy, doesn't it?  It is, if you are lucky.

    After each mission they give you two ounces of whiskey.  Our crew is saving ours up for some later date.  I hope we get to use it.

    You will notice the last page is cut off.  It wasn't only that part page that was not passed by the censor, but also the next two pages and my letter was returned.  You see, it's hard to tell you anything without saying the wrong thing.

    Incidentally, if you would phone the Grape Vine and give them this address, it would speed it up considerable and the news from it is always welcome.

    This place is just like the fire station on a busy night, only the alarm calls us to our fox holes instead of to a fire.  For that reason it's hard to keep up on the sleep.  Darn inconsiderate of those Japs.

    If you have ever been told that the Japs don't know their guns I have a different opinion.  When you stare that flack in the face you just know it can't miss you.

    Writing to you is the easy way to get news to my friends.  I always was a lazy cuss.  There is one fellow worse than me when it comes to letter writing.  He owes me several.  It's that no good "Calfish."

As ever,          

Sgt. D. W. Starbird 19182675,
23rd Bomb Squadron,
5th Bomb Group,
A.P.O. 719 % P.M.,
San Francisco, Calif.

Source: The Firemen's Grapevine, January 1945



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