And here–it’s the same old routine. I’m still working in the hero department–and going to the movies almost every night. Ronight it’s a fairly goon one for a change–“Song of Bernadette”. Yesterday I saw Spencer Tracy in “A Guy Named Joe”. Don’t waiste your time. They should get wise to the fact that soldiers aren’t interested in war stories and imitation heroes.
The local U.S.O’s will have some competition as soon as the [recently arrived] WACs become available for parties. Up to now, the U.S.O.’s have been supplying all the girls for army dances, and many of the girls are Japanese. Some U.S.O.’s specialize in white and Hawaiian girls exclusively, and refuse to furnish girls for danceswith [when] some Jamapnese girls are invited. They claim the soldiers don’t want to dance with Japs! Could it be jealously? I’d never heard of any discrimination against Japanese girls by soldiers. In fact, one them came to our camp the other day, seeking the Chaplin, for advise on what to do about her pregnancy. And who should be on guard at the main gate but the prospective daddy. That’s quite a situation.
I forgot to answer your question about the Combat Infantry badge. It is awarded to all infantryman [sic] who have been in combat with forward echelon, and whose recor is otherwise good. The theory behind the $10 pay raise was to recognize the fact that in spite of all other arms and services, the infantry is still the “queen” of the battle–and is the decisive force. Artillery; air & navy bombardment still don’t win battles or war.
Incidentally, speaking of politics, all men in the 7th Div. were given a copy of Roosevelt’s speech, the one he made during the recent review. Would you call that a political move?
3 August 1944
Several days ago we had a Division parade, and among those present was your old friend Roosevelt. He spoke to us for about a minute, although I could not hear what he said. He certainly looked old and haggard. His face was grey and flabby, except for the large blue circles under his eyes. I don’t think he’ll last another term. He really made a very poor impression.
Speaking of presidents, we received our applications for state absentee ballots for the presidential election. The Army is doing everything it possibly can to see that every
man is given an opportunity to vote. A lot of hard work has been done to make things easy for the men. I’ll be very interested to see how many ballots are cast by the armed forces. Unfortunately, there seems to be a great deal of apathy among the men — as though it didn’t make much difference as to who was elected.
Today we had another parade and I received my Bronze Star award from General Arnold. Some pictures were taken and you may see them in the L.A. papers.
August 4, 1944, Oahu, Hawaii Territory
I suppose that everyone in the U.S. thinks the war is over for all practical purposes. You’ll find a very different attitude among the guys have to do all the fighting. It’s allvery well for the arm chair strategists to proclaim that the war is over, butfor the “dogfaces” the war won’t be over until the last shot is fired—because the last shot may still be the one with his number on it. For me, the war won’t be over until I can hold you and Wm close and know that I can stay with you as long as I like, and that is forever.
Pictures: Everyone has copies of those negatives I have mailed you. So no need to make additional ones. I am enclosing another picture—taken just before we departed for the parade in honor of F.D.R. You’ll probably have difficulty in recognizing me—but it really is. I expect soon to have some more pictures for you—taken during the parade yesterday—showing me shaking with the General as he congratulated me on the decoration! People who don’t know better will think I killed at least a thousand Japs.
July 27, 1945, Oahu, Hawaii
Bronze Star: There were 8 awards in Hq. Co. Although it is not a high decoration, it is still one degree higher than a Purple Heart—However, there has beenso much unfairness in the award of medals and decorations that they mean nothing to the men in the ranks, although civilians are probably very much impressed with them.
Is anybody living together happily? I think they should join the Army and then they will get so sick of fighting that they won’t have any energy left for fighting with each other.
As you may have read in the papers,10 men from the 17th have already left for home, on May 18th and 7 more left yesterday. I hesitate to arouse any false hopes, but if the process continues I should be on the way home in a month or so. I am now number 63 on the quota list. I hope the thing keeps rolling along regularly.
I meant to ask you about the Bronze Star medal. I would like very much for you to give it to my father, because I think it means much more to him than it does to you. I know it would give him a lot of pleasure to exhibit it to everyone. It has already served its purpose so far as you and I are concerned. The medal was worth 5 points and the [oak leaf] cluster was worth 5, which helped a lot.
I gave a slice of cake to Tommy—a Hawaiian Japanese—who serves as an interpreter, and he especially instructed me to send his thanks and compliments. It wasn’t your best, but still pretty good.
After having written long letters answering the mail received June 22, I learned that some of the matter which I wrote might conflict with the censorship regulations. You may or may not receive those letters. Now I have to start all over again. I’m sure you won’t mind the duplication, however.
Anyhow I can toell you about my bath. I used to feel sorry for Wilyum because he had such a small both-tub. Now, however, I would gladly trade him and pay 50 pesos besides. How about it Wilym? My tub consists of one G.I. helmet. Not having a wash-cloth I used my old underware. This has the advantage of washing the underware clean, even if the bath itself is unsuccessful.
Nevertheless, it was quite refreshing. The best part of it was the Sierra Pine soap. (Remember Yosimite?) I look clea, anyhow, and smell so pretty that I’ll bet you wouldn’t mind kissing me.
While on the subject of baths, how about sending me some wash cloths. Pur P-X will probably have some in stock by the time yours arrive, but send them anyhow.
I hope that by now you have received some leters from me more recent than the one of April 29. Starting with this letter I am going to start numbering each one, so that you can know whether all of them are reaching you. I have written quite a few in the last 3 weeks.
Censorship regulations having been relaxed to a certain extent I can now tell you that I have been in combat against the Japs and have seen plenty of action. I may later be able to locate the guy who took a picture of a gang of us after 3 weeks without shaving, washing, brushing teeth or combing hair. If you see the picture you probably won’t be able to recognize me. That Cyrano de Bergerac nose may give you a clue, however, in spite of the thick layer of mud with which it is camouflaged.
I shall never forget the day we first contacted the enemy. Many times at camp I have heard shells going over head, but that certainly does little to prepare one for the time when a determined enemy is directing shells at you —as fast as he can —with deadly intent to kill. I had only half-finished digging my fox-hole when an explosion was heard about 500 yards to the right of us.
Our own artillery had been firing all morning and when I heard the explosion I assumed it was caused by the firing of one of our guns. I continued digging. A few seconds later another explosion was heard. This one was much louder and much closer. Someone yelled, “They’re going the wrong way!” (Meaning that it was an enemy shell and not our own.) Everyone hit the ground. I crawled into my very inadequate fox-hole and hugged the ground, in spite of the 4 inches of water in which I was lying. Not too soon either. A third shell landed and a cruel, razor-edged piece of shrapnel came bouncing over the ground, landing about 5 yeards from the fox-hole next to me. I thought to myself — “So this is it, this is war.” At the same time I cursed the ancestors who were responsible for the long nose which made it difficult to get closer to the ground. It seemed to make such a difference at the time. My heart was pounding violently — threatening to tear itself loose it seemed. Although my face was flushed and hot, I was shivering — whether from the cold or from fear I cannot say. It was probably fear, because the intense cold was completely forgotten.
The candle-light grows dim and flickering. The sputtering wick is about to expire — and so must this letter. I will continue the story in my next letter which I will write tomorrow.
Yes I’m still in a very happy mood after receiving all of those letters from you. But mail call has its sad interludes. Some names are called, and there is no answer. There never will be an answer. Always there is a moment of silence — a brief memorial — before the mail call resumes. There are packages, too, in such bad condition after the long search for the owner, that it is impossible to return them to the sender. One of these packages was turned over to me to be distributed to the men. It was full of all kinds of good things, put there by loving hands — with loving thoughts. A little note was wrapped around one of the candy bars.
I carried it up the hill to where we live. The men were gathered there—playing cards, reading, talking and joking. The soft light was gradually dimming in the cold, grey sky.
“This belongs to Johnnie,” I started to say. There was a complete silence. All activity ceased. The men appeared as statues of grey marble — faces expressionless. Then a single thought seemed to run through all. One of them picked up a shovel, and we went outside.
Carefully, I lowered the package into the earth and waited until it had been covered. We returned to our shelter. Activity had resumed, but men’s minds were on the other things. I know mine was.
Memorial Days will be celebrated in the future. The stadiums will be crowded, flags will fly, and bands will play. There will be eloquent speeches and impressive ceremonies, but my mind will go back to this single little incident and others like it. It will always mean more to those who were there than all the formal ceremonies of the future.
Some day I think I shall write a story of the “Good Earth.” Unlike Pearl Buck’s story, it will tell of soldiers and the foxholes which protect them from the bullets and cruel, jagged pieces of shrapnel that seek to maim, kill and destroy them.
The first thing a good soldier does is to dig a foxhole. No matter how tired or weary he may be, he knows he must dig. It may mean the difference between life and death. Many times I have been so tired that I could easily have fallen asleep in the snow or rain, but in the end I always found the hidden reserve of energy needed to dig, and the deeper the better.
Never have I known such fatigue as comes after hours and hours of ceaseless march over mountain peaks so steep and treacherous that a single false move meant disaster. But there was always the time and energy needed to dig a foxhole. I remember one occasion very distinctly. It was very late —about one o’clock in the morning. I was so tired that I felt I could not move even if the whole Jap army had attacked. Yet a few moments later I was at work digging. At the head of my foxhole was a huge rock. I had chosen the place because the rock afforded such good protection. The job was done, and I sank into the hole—completely exhausted.
The next morning, I was awakened by the terrible scream of Jap artillery. It had started about a half an hour earlier and already there were a few casualties around me. I happened to notice the rock more closely. It was shaped like a tombstone. I felt like I was in a grave, but in this case it had been a guarantee of life.
HEY! Snap out of it! Don’t be depressed. I thought you might be interested in some of the depressing realities of war, but just as real are the beautiful things to be seen here. Not the least is the country itself. It is terrible, awe-inspiring almost, and yet most beautiful. Rather than run into trouble with the censor, I won’t go into detail, but must tell you about the little waterfalls. High up in the snow-covered peaks, the tops of which disappear into the fog and mist, like the mountains of Shangri-La, the processes of life are taking place. There are born the streams and waterfalls that delight the eye of any nature-lover. Many times I have been high enough to locate tremendous snow masses which give them birth. Emerging from the mother snow, they cascade and tumble over a never-ending terrace of grey-green granite and volcanic rock. Here and there in their dizzy descent to the valleys, little pools are trapped, full of icy, crystal-clear water. I have never passed such places without stopping to drink, even when I was not thirsty.
Then there are the birds— delightful little creatures. Whistling and singing and totally unconcerned with the destruction over which they fly with effortless grace. There is one in particular that has always warmed my heart. It is one of the tiniest, completely snow-white except for its black wingtips. Often during lulls in the battle, they would come flying over, whistling their cheerful tunes. I would close my eyes and imagine that I was in a park. Not for long, however, for the demands of war are stern and unrelaxing. What a strange and powerful contrast.