GUINEA GOLD SCOOPED WORLD'S MEDIA
It was able to do so because US General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the South-West Pacific, gave it permission to publish his communiqués 20 hours before the release time for the rest of the world's media.
New Guinea was the only war zone where the US armed forces did not produce their own newspaper, Stars and Stripes. With separate American and Australian editions, Guinea Gold fully met their needs.
Earlier in 1942, Melbourne Herald war correspondent Reg Leonard had suggested that the Army should produce its own daily newspaper. Promptly crowned a major, he became Guinea Gold's foundation editor.
Years later, Mr R.B. Leonard, O.B.E., managing director of Queensland Newspapers Pty. Ltd., said that Guinea Gold's success was due very largely to dedicated people below officer rank - men who toiled uncomplainingly and for long hours in the ramshackle buildings that housed its overworked plant.
The front and back pages concentrated on up-to-the-minute news from around the world, including coverage of major sporting events on the back page. Page 2 was devoted to extracts from Australian and US newspapers published a few days previously, which air transport crews delivered to Guinea Gold.
Soldiers with newspaper experience, who had been transferred from other units when Guinea Gold was established, wrote news stories by taking shorthand notes of shortwave radio bulletins from Australia, the US Armed Forces station in San Francisco, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), All-India Radio, and others.
At Lae, the second-hand Miller high-speed flatbed press ran 20 hours a day, printing 34 million copies in little more than two years. When it was retired after the war, it had 50 welds. It's now an exhibit at the National War Museum in Canberra.
Horace ("Chis") Chisholm, the paper's last editor, recalled some of his favourite memories in an article in The Weekend Australian Magazine 20 years ago (October 30-31, 1982).
"The worst crisis in Guinea Gold's life was the day that the Port Moresby linotype and the Dobodura press broke down simultaneously," he wrote. "The problem was overcome by having the type set in Dobodura, flying the type 100 miles over the Owen Stanleys [mountains], and the paper printed on the Moresby press. Papers for the northern edition were then flown back over the Owen Stanleys.
"It was a good example of the co-operation received from the air forces. RAAF pilots flew almost daily over the Japanese lines to drop small bundles to forward fighting areas, and the day after the American forces landed at Cape Gloucester, New Britain, Flying Fortresses dropped Guinea Golds to them.
"Always we thought of the men we served: men fighting in the lonely, dank, rugged, slimy jungle depths, hauling guns up steep mountainsides, repairing shell-torn signal wires under fire."
On a lighter note, "Chis" recalled that when the newspaper promoted
a "Girl I Left Behind" contest, 1700 photos of wives, sweethearts and
baby daughters swamped the editorial office.
Among his other memories, "Chis" wrote: "On one occasion a consignment of crossword blocks and clues failed to arrive from the mainland. Staff-Sergeant E. Shackle (the Telegraph, Sydney) solved the current one and compiled one on a pattern previously used."
A few years after the war ended, one of Guinea Gold's printers, Paul Jefferson Wallace, of Sydney, compiled and published a 32-page history of the newspaper, which is now one of my most prized souvenirs. It also provided useful material for this article.
Wallace reported that on moonlight nights in its early days, production of the newspaper was often interrupted by air raids, but deadlines were still met. Blow-lamps were used to melt linotype metal during frequent power supply breakdowns.
Because the hand-set type was so badly worn, it had to be packed with layers of gummed paper underneath, to raise it to type height. On one occasion, the printers ran out of T's. A native Papuan chiselled some out of wood. When there was a shortage of R's, editor Reg Leonard added tails to P's by cutting them from L's.
Wallace also explained why an Army newspaper was needed in New Guinea. "In 1942, isolation was a morale-destroying disease in New Guinea" he wrote. "Radio sets were few and far between, men were cut off from day-to-day news" (I can vouch for that).
"The result was a flood of false rumours which swept along the Owen Stanley trail when Australian troops were just starting to push the Japanese back from their mountain strongholds.
"From the first edition on November 19, 1942, until the presses rolled to a stop on June 30, 1946, with the enviable record of 1,320 days of continuous publication, Guinea Gold daily brought to the news-hungry men of the Australian and American forces serving in the steaming jungle, topics of interest to allay their boredom and boost their morale."
In all, 237 Australian soldiers worked on Guinea Gold for varying periods. Not one of them was there for the full three and a half years' life of that unique and vital newspaper.
To see Guinea Gold's special VP (Victory, Pacific) World War II edition, click on IT'S OVER