Kwajalein: February 21, 1944

On 31 January 1944 the Division landed on islands in the Kwajalein Atoll in conjunction with the 4th Marine Division, and in a week of heavy fighting, wrested them from the Japanese. Elements took part in the capture of Engebi in the Eniwetok Atoll, 18 February 1944. The Division then moved to Oahu, T. H., remaining there until mid-September when it sailed to join the assault on the Philippines.

Have you ever considered the vastness of the Pacific Ocean? Hawaii is about 2100 from S.F. From Hawaii to Kwajalein is another 2000 miles, and we are still 2600 miles from Japan proper. These great distances are one of the principal reasons why the war with Japan is so difficult. After sailing for several days — seeing nothing but water, one begins to realize how the men with Columbus must have felt on their great adventure. We keep as busy as possible — playing chess, reading, dishwashing — but still the time passes with monotonous slowness. It looks like the whole world is nothing but ocean. We lean over the rail, studying the water. Sometimes there are white caps or giant swells — the water rising and falling like the bosom of an agitated woman. At other times, the water is still — with glassy smoothness. The ocean appears as one big stained plate-glass window — of ink-blue color. Suddenly the stillness is broken by a flying fish which leaps through the air — pink and silver scales flashing in the bright sunlight. It moves for 20, 30, 40 yards — barely touching the surface of the water — and for a brief second there is a trail, like that made by a bird hopping along a dusty road. There may be one fish — or a whole school— leap-frogging along beside the ship.

At night, the inky blackness of the water is broken only by the white flash of the wave made by the ship as it plows along. The water shines with phosphorescent brightness.

Finally, you arrive at the rendezvous area. You know that tomorrow the attack will be launched. It is impossible to sleep. Everyone is busy making preparations. You lie down on your bunk, but there is no rest. Every noise registers. Funny, how you didn’t seem to notice them before — the beat of the engines, doors banging, the water fountain — loud, nervous talking.

Midnight, now. Only three hours before breakfast. Maybe it will be your last breakfast. The next day is full of uncertainty — unknown dangers. You turn over on your back and stare at the bunk above. Is my rifle clean? Did I load those magazines properly? Better check it. Out of bed, now. Everything o.k. Hot down here. Think I’ll get some fresh air.

Up on deck — a bright moon outlines the ghostly position of transports. It’s bright enough to read a newspaper.
I pull out my pictures of you and Willy. Really unnecessary. Every detail is already clearly fixed in my mind. I see you all the time. I’ve just got to get back. Too many things left undone at home.

One o’clock. The booms have been raised — silhouetted by the moon — like giant arms ready to catapult men and machines against the enemy.

Better get some sleep. Hard day tomorrow.

Back into the hold — into the bunk. It seems only a few minutes later when the loud speakers wake you up — reveille, reveille! Breakfast for troops!

Everything moves faster now. Finally the time arrives. You’re on deck — ready to go over the side of the ship into the assault boats. The island is visible now. Why haven’t their shore batteries opened up? Where are their planes? What are they waiting for?

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