The Tiwi Island People of Melville Island in preparation for return to the grave of a deceased member to give thanks to the great spirit for his life. Picture taken by Danny Arntsen in 1944.Danny Arntsen
Danny Arntsen (2nd from left) on loan to the Allied Intelligence Bureau and stationed on Melville Island in 1945.Danny Arntsen
Danny Arntsen in the Australian Army, 8th Advanced Workshop, in November 1944.Danny Arntsen
Danny Arntsen with transmitters in Caboolture QLD, Australia, 1945. The round articles in rack are crystals used to control frequency. Different frequencies had code numbers. Sending and receiving coded messages for Allied Intelligence Bureau.Danny Arntsen
Danny Arntsen with fellow sailors on board the Fort Providence bound for Sydney, Australia, in July 1944.Danny Arntsen
"he seemed about a baby-faced 18, but he didn’t look near that old. And he was standing there, his eyes as big as saucers, shaking and tried to talk to him and we couldn’t talk to him; and finally he said, I saved my hat"
We got to San Francisco. The liaison officer there was the Captain Sidney Bracey. [He] told us, you’re not going any further because this is how secret things are supposed to be. He said, our intelligence knows that the Japanese intelligence knows that you’re going to leave there today and so we’ve cancelled your ship. So we hung around for the longest while and one day, I just happened to be walking down one of the streets in San Francisco right where his office was, so I dropped in and asked him if he had any ideas. And that’s when he said, Danny, I’ve got two problems. I’ve got the Canadians to get over; and this morning, I was blessed with an American ship, or British ship rather, come over with supplies for Australians short of gunners. So I said, oh, what kind? So he told me what kind, that there was a [Quick Firing] 25-pounder [field gun/Howitzer] forward, there was a [Quick Firing] 12-pounder [anti-aircraft gun] aft, Oerlikons [anti-ship and anti-submarine gun] and Brownies [Browning heavy machine guns] in the sides, oh, I said, I’ve trained on them (I hadn’t). On the heavy artillery, I had, yes. So I still remember when they finished, he poking me in the chest and he says, Danny, you’re in the British navy.
And the next morning we pulled out for Australia. We picked up a Japanese submarine on our ASDIC [Anti-Submarine Detection Investigation Committee] and we took evasive action. Imagine, it took us 26 days to go from San Francisco to Sydney, Australia, non-stop, but for dodging the submarine. We was supposed to pull into Sydney Harbour at 7:00 this one evening of the eighteenth of August and we had a terrible storm. And you know, when we hit that big waves, that ship would just howl like you plucked a million violin strings, it would just whine. So we had to turn around and ride out the storm.
And I was on watch at the time when they called me back. There was fish already flopping on the deck when we went down and were coming back up again. A screw would come out at the back and nose dive into the water and the rudder would come out and then shake that ship like a dog shaking a rabbit. So, anyway, and the next morning, the storm had calmed down, so we headed into Australia, Sydney Harbour, and just as we were going to go into the harbour, he blew up the ship immediately in front of us. And the four that were saved just happen to land close enough to a boat that people picked him up. Now, you can imagine being blown up in the air and come down and be lucky enough to be picked up.
And we went and talked to these boys and one of them was about, he seemed about a baby-faced 18, but he didn’t look near that old. And he was standing there, his eyes as big as saucers, shaking and tried to talk to him and we couldn’t talk to him; and finally he said, I saved my hat and he turned it over and he looked and he started to cry. He says, it's my buddy's. Of course, that was worth more than his own hat, I think.
We got all the radar sets improved. We had to lacquer them so they wouldn’t rust. Every piece had to be lacquered because they rusted when you’re in the tropics. Once we got this finished, that’s when they came down, looking for people to go into the intelligence. And I was off, away at the time, but Captain Schnell, who knew us very well. He said to them (they wanted twelve,), he said, I’ll give you one man, Arntsen, and you pick your 11. And that’s how I got into intelligence.
We got into Melville Island [Australia] then, just before dinner, and I went for dIinner. Two of us went for dinner. I was one of them, the other boys worked. Had my dinner. When we came back, we found out we’d already picked up a message from Timor because that was the furthest south that the Japanese were at the time. It was telling us, sending messages to Tokyo, telling us how many of us had landed. And they were exactly right. So they just said, leave us alone, find out what they’re doing and report later. So we picked up a few days later and picked up the reports that they can’t crack our code, so they don’t know what we’re up to. So that’s when they gave them the orders to bomb us out. So we just contacted the mainland and they sent up a plane, a bomber and, and I think it was, if I remember right, it was three fighters, it might have only been two. But the bomber was there, flying low to keep out of radar. But they, afraid of, there’s a bit of a headwind, they might have been late and they had to be right on the minute almost. So that’s how they got into there. And they got in there right in time. They had their planes on the runway. They just dropped the bomb on the end of the runway, so they couldn’t take off and then they finished the job.
Interviewer's Note: Mr. Arntsen took the oath of allegiance to Australia and was inducted into the Australian Army and wore its uniform throughout his time in the service overseas.