PVT. ONNIE OF THE ENGINEERS HAS SERIAL NUMBER ZERO

Posted on March 24th, 2017 by:

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PVT. ONNIE OF THE ENGINEERS HAS SERIAL NUMBER ZERO

By Sgt. Dave Richardson

YANK Staff Correspondent

NEW GUINEA—Pfw. Hee Onana Gona has been in New Guinea for nine years, but he’s just a rookie in an American Negro engineers outfit.

“Pfw.” Is a purely unofficial title meaning “private fuzzy wuzzy.” And Onnie is not actually in the Army of the United States—just attached for rations and quarters. He’s an orphaned native who has been adopted by the engineers. Onnie came wandering around one day as the engineers were hard at work. They took him to chow and he’s been around ever since, by mutual consent.



Officially, of course, Onnie isn’t supposed to live and eat with the engineers. Australian authorities once took Onnie away to return him to his native village. The engineers, knowing Onnie’s tricks, cagily got a receipt showing they’d surrendered him—lock, stock and barrel (if fuzzy wuzzies have such things).

Half an hour later Onnie returned to the engineer’s camp. How he got away he never told, but since then both Australian and American officials have wisely ignored Onnie’s presence. The receipt frees the engineers from all responsibility from their orphan mascot.

Onnie has a cot, mosquito bar, foot locker with “ASN 0” on it and a GI uniform with a distinctly drape shape. Each part of his uniform was donated by a different member of the outfit. Miles too large, the clothing has been cut down to something near Onnie’s pee-wee size. When Sgt. Charles Pope of Chicago went to Australia, the engineers contributed money so he could buy children’s shoes and other articles Onnie needed.

Onnie is a good-natured, grinning native boy who already speaks pretty good English. He brushes his teeth, takes atabrine daily, washes and showers, can almost drive a jeep and tries to be soldierly in every way. His GI job is messenger, and he’s as swift and reliable as the man who carried the message to Garcia.



For two hours each night he goes to private school, with 1st Sgt. Leander H. Scott Jr. of Fayetteville, N.C., as his instructor. The other night he learned to count all the way to 300. Scott, who is Onnie’s chief guardian, threatens to spank him for cursing, gambling or other breaches of a good boy’s behavior.

In his spare time Onnie is becoming quite an athlete. He goes to very baseball game, boxing or wrestling match in the engineers’ jungle camp. Then he gets the good-natured Negro engineers to let him take part in the sports. At night he plays checkers; soon after learning the game, he beat Scott.

Occasionally Onnie gets mad, but he’s got a slick way of avoiding spanking. He swears in Papuan, a language he’s refused to teach the engineers, so they won’t know when he’s cursing.

wwii new guinea engineers

New Guinea natives carry out American wounded.

For More Reading on New Guinea Check Out:

The Ghost Mountain Boys: Their Epic March and the Terrifying Battle for New Guinea–The Forgotten War of the South Pacific


War at the End of the World: Douglas MacArthur and the Forgotten Fight For New Guinea, 1942-1945




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