MARCH 22, 1944
CARACAS, Venezuela, Tuesday—We arrived at Atkinson Field, British Guiana Saturday morning, in time to be greeted by the Governor, Sir Charles Leatham. With Colonel Alan, the commanding officer of the field, be accompanied us to a movie theater where some of our men had assembled. After talking to the men for a few moments, we went back to the officers' mess for luncheon and the governor bade us goodbye, leaving Colonel Hooker, a very delightful Scotchman, to represent him.
The governor said he had a commission in Georgetown visiting him from Great Britain, which was taking testimony on the local education situation. Just before meeting us he had had a parliamentary committee, so he was being kept very busy. I gathered that these committees were like some of our own which go to investigate conditions and are a little trying to residents of faraway places sometimes, because committee members have to be told all the things which the people who are on the spot have taken months to learn. Decisions which have been arrived at by people who have perhaps lived for years in that locality are often misunderstood because visitors have less experience and background on local situations.
We had a very pleasant lunch with the officers on the field, and then went back to talk to another group that had come into the movie theater from other parts of the field. In anticipation of bombings from the air, the camps are widely scattered and well camouflaged, which was a wise precaution but which does make gathering at any one place a little difficult.
We drove around the base, stopping at the hospital which had very few patients who were all on the road to recovery. It was rather interesting to see two Brazilians whom Major Art Williams had brought in by air from far outlying ranches on the border between British Guiana and Brazil. They were extremely grateful for the care they had received, and it had a great effect upon the feeling of friendliness which these men in isolated places now have for Americans.
For two hours in the afternoon, Major Art Williams, a friend of ours who is a character and has lived in this country for 10 years, showed us interesting places in the interior. He was a flier during World War I, and he knows every mountain and stream.
Around Georgetown and all along the coast, British Guiana is low—practically under water. Rice and sugar grow and there is a certain amount of gardening on drier spots. But the jungle is thick as you get further back, and you see both up-to-date and very primitive gold and diamond mining in occasional clearings, and then high mountains loom before you.
The rivers are filled with rapids. We hoped to get a glimpse of the highest falls in the world, but the mountains were enveloped in mist. Instead we saw an extraordinary sight, swiftly blowing dark clouds, a lowering and angry sky, and below us, a steaming jungle from which floated upward what might have been clouds, smoke or steam.
I could only think that it would have been a remarkable illustration from Dante's Inferno, and we in our little plane might have been the disembodied spirits looking down into the terrifying Hell of Dante's dream. It was evil looking and yet fascinating, full of hidden things.