The route eventually became a regular run for the 37th Squadron’s aircrews who, flying Lodestars, linked Melbourne with the farthest RAAF outposts of New Guinea. Regularly flying 44 hours, these young Australians, most of whom had previously seen service in operational areas, delivered mail and service personnel at strips which had recently been under Japanese control.
Crews crossed 38° of latitude, used three changes of uniform and exchange the freezing cold of Melbourne winter for enervating heat a few miles south of the equator. The warm blue uniforms in they left Laverton were changed to shirt and shorts in northern Queensland and the trip was completed in the long-sleeved shirts and gaitered trousers which protected servicemen on duty in the malaria-haunted areas of the South-West Pacific.
Dutch currency was necessary if the crews wished to obtain anything at Merauke in Papua, the first stop outside Australian territory. This settlement, freed by the Allied offensive from the threat of Japanese occupation which froze civilian activity, had reverted to normality with a glimmer of the café life which lent a continental glamour to pre-war existence in the steamy, tropic Dutch East Indian empire.
Hundreds of kilometres beyond these faint flickers of returning civilization the Lodestars would touch down at tiny, isolated, steel-matted or gleaming coral strips amidst shell-shattered coconut palms and gaping bomb craters from where Australian and American airmen would carry retribution to the diminishing Japanese empire.