Kwajalein: February of 1944

As for the “hellish dangers” which I have gone through, I think your imagination occasionally works overtime. Any sympathy is entirely wasted as far as the Kwajalein Campaign is concerned. There were moments, but they were few. I never felt better in my life physically. The hot, equatorial sun of the Marshalls is a wonderful medicine, and there are few things as invigorating as the pure, fresh air of a coral atoll, scented by the perfume of coconut and pandamus trees. I am speaking of the islands relatively untouched by the war. It rains frequently and heavily, but one dries out very quickly. The rain is the only source of fresh-water, so it is always welcome. The natives have cut little hollows in the trees, and the water collects in these living and beautiful barrels.

Of course, on the islands where the heaviest fighting took place, the picture is entirely different. I have already described the complete and utter devastation of Ebewe. There, no coconut trees scent the air. Instead, the horrible and nauseating stench of mangled human flesh poisons the air. Until the Japs were buried, I found it very difficult to keep from
vomiting. That was one experience we were spared on Attu. The hot sun is not so kind as the snow of Attu in this regard.

But let us consider instead, the islands of Emnubuj and Emnylabajan, and the beautiful native women. Now, don’t be jealous, because they really aren’t beautiful. At least, I haven’t seen any yet that resemble the beauties to whom the mutineers of the bounty made love. Besides, there aren’t enough women for the native population. They marry at a very early age — fourteen —- and soon are producing little marshallese. And finally, the native villages are “off limits.”

We see them, though, as they file through our camp on the way to chow — men, women and children — all carrying G-1 mess kits, and men, many of them now dressed in G-1 fatigues — and the women in their long, ankle-length orange and purple dresses — some of them with babes in arms. No matter how many dogfaces they pass, they all nod their heads very quickly each time and proudly repeat the one word of English they all seem to have learned — “Good morning!” — and we all politely nod our heads to each one — and answer, “Good morning!”

The women are quite modest, except for one who was in the field hospital — being treated for wounds and who
persisted in pulling down the blankets and exposing her breasts. I don’t blame her, though, because they were really beautiful and should never have been covered by G-1 blankets. She was a bit commercial-minded, though. She had learned that dog faces like to be smiled at, and that they responded with gifts. She had collected quite a few trinkets when I smiled back at her. However, I had nothing to give her. I could have sung her a song, though. “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby” — or something similarly appropriate.

My most interesting experience, however, was to talk, through interpreters, to the Jap and Korean prisoners.
The Koreans were quite content to be captured. They surrendered as soon as they could. They were volunteer laborers who had been induced to leave Korea by the promises of good food and good pay. When they arrived at Kwajalein, however,
they found that the Japs never intended to keep their promises. They were very harshly treated, segregated, kicked around — and got barely enough food to live.

They were very popular with our own troops. After their capture, they were placed in a stockage — a kind of chicken coop affair. At first they seemed to be quite frightened. The Japs had told them we would run steam rollers over them if they were captured. However, they were soon at ease, when soldier after soldier sauntered up to the cage and
passed to one and another packages of cigarettes, candy, etc. One man even gave a prisoner a very rare item — an orange!
He probably wouldn’t have given it to his best friend, but this was different. Everyone seemed to feel a responsibility for making these unfortunates realize that we had no quarrel with them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *