When we landed in Batchelor’s Field some Australian Air Force officers met us and took us in two dilapidated cars to their camp where we were given facilities to wash and then they served breakfast, not very good but it was welcome. Before breakfast we all prayed and thanked God for the safe trip and then we received Holy Communion from Father Ortiz. An American officer who introduced himself as Captain Godman told us that he had been a classmate of Captain Villamor at Kelly Field said he had been sent by General MacArthur to coordinate the trip in Australia. The President did not want to fly anymore, but when he was made to understand that there was no other way of transportation except a five day trip by truck he consented to continue. At 9:15 a.m. we took off, on a Douglas ten seater — a regular passenger plane –for Alice Springs an oasis in the middle of the Australian desert. The President asked me to sit next to him. After half an hour he said: “I believe we are too high because I feel I need oxygen.” “No Sir”, I answered, “we must be only at five thousand feet because I can easily count the trees on the ground.” He did not like my answer. Shortly after he told me to go to another seat so that I could sleep. Sometime later he sent Dr. Trepp to see the pilot and I noticed that we were then flying at a much lower altitude. As I expected it soon became very bumpy due to the heat from the desert. The President did not like it and sent Dr. Trepp back to the pilot to ask him to fly higher. The trip was very monotonous as we flew five hours over the desert. What desolation. As we flew over that immense territory I thought of how valuable that land could be if it had a system of irrigation. The water however would have to be brought from at least one thousand five hundred miles away. We landed at Alice Springs a town in the middle of the desert at 2:30 p.m. Before we landed we were already warned that the problem of flies there was a serious one, but we could not realize it until we landed. The soldiers on duty there use green fly nets over their hats and tied around the necks. As we came out of the plane our face and garments were full of flies small but sticky. We left that horrible landing field and proceeded to the town ten miles away where we spent the night in a small dirty hotel. As time passed we began to worry because the plane in which the Vice President & Major Soriano had flown had not arrived. We did not know what to do, and hoped that they were safe. The President transferred to the house of the priest and his family to a girls convent.
Basilio J. Valdes
Basilio J. Valdes, M.D. (July 10, 1892 –January 26, 1970), soldier, doctor, cabinet member, businessman. Chief of Staff, Philippine Army, 1939-1945; Secretary of National Defense in the Quezon and Osmeña War Cabinets, 1941-45. Professor of Surgery at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), Medical Director of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, 1948-1970.All Posts