I finally discovered a library here and although the selection is poor there are 2 or 3 books that will occupy my attention for a while. Most of the books are a “Gift from the people of the United States to the Armed Forces”–as the little note reads. They were secured through the Victory Book Campaign. The poeple must not consider the soldiers very intelligent, or else they merely cleared their closets and attics of all the old trash they didn’t want. I picked up one book entitled–“Things Japanese” It looked very intriguing until I noticed the date–1890.
Believe it or not–I am back in th editorial business again as associate editor of the regimental newspaper. The Colonel was disatisfied with the paper because it lacked life & humor so a reorganization of the staff took place and I was drafted as an associate editor. Right now the big dispute is whether the men are sufficiently interested in world n ews or whether the new paper should give more space to persoals, jokes, humo, etc.
Incidentally, we have a new Colonel. On the second day of fighting [May 12th] Colonel Earle was killed. I have already written you that all enemy resistance has ceased with the complete defeat of the Japs. All your old friends are well–even Jck Carroll who has recovered from a bullet in the rumble-seat for which he received the Purple Heart.
I was greatly surprised to learn that you had been evacuated to Letterman. I thought you were still in New Zealand or Australia. What d’ya think of Munda?
If you received any of my previous letters you already know that I emerged without a scratch and without any medals, but there will be plenty of opportunities for medals before this is over.
We are taking things easy noew. It’s like living in garrison–minus a few comforts and conviences. The chow is very good–there are frequent shows–we hear short wave adio broadcasts–hot showers once in a while. If the mail service was better we could be quite happy here.
Well, yesterday was my 4th anniversary in the Army. It’s hard to believe that it has been so long. It seems only a short while ago that I was saying adieu to you at [Fort] MacArthur, not knowing when I would see you again. Time certainly seems to have passed quickly when viewed retrospectively; but now each day seems like a month, because I am looking forward to the Great Day. Everything is going well and I am in the best of health. I’ve even begun to comb my hair as it grows out, so that I will look half-way civilized and won’t frighten the kiddie. As usual, the rain is pouring down. In spite of the fact that it slows things up out here, I still enjoy the rain very much. It’s so relaxing to hear it beating down on the pup tent as you prepare to go to sleep. Like a regular concert, sometimes fortissimo and at other times falling very gently and smoothly. We’ve managed to keep pretty dry. The tent is on a little knoll with a good natural drainage. As I lie here, I think what fun it will be to go camping with Willie & you, and teach you all about the fun of living out of doors. It will be even more fun with no artillery shells whistling by overhead. Of course, it will be nice to enjoy the comforts & conveniences of a home, but I will always enjoy the out-of-house life — the close contact with the good earth, the trees and birds and little animals — the rain— and the vast starry skies. We’re now sharing our 2-man apartment with a little nest of field mice — and outside —enjoying the rain and the mud are a lot of tiny little frogs. There are also a couple of little white goats, a he & she, living peacefully in the midst of it all and completely uninvolved in this unfortunate human folly. They’re very friendly little goats too, in spite of the fact that they are Japanese. Willie would have a lot of fun with them chasing at his heels and rubbing against his legs, waiting to be petted and spoken to….
My own “creative urges” are being directed toward making little objects out of the good clay of Okinawa. It has been a pleasant way of passing time. I think I’ll enroll in a sculpting class. The time is dragging so slowly that I’ve had to organize some sort of diversion. I’ve been trying to read “The Plumed Serpent” in spite of all of the difficulties & interruptions…..
I’m hoping things will move fast after Okinawa. And in Okinawa, I think matters are moving along very favorably. Even the fleas are behaving themselves. The haven’t given any trouble in a long time.
Received your letters of April 12 and 20. I usually dig my fox hole 6 inches deeper every time I get mail from you. Out here, one sometimes gets careless. There’s so much death and destruction all around that it doesn’t seem to make much difference whether you live or not. But mail from home usually reminds us that there is another world that we can come back to, and the will to live is revived. I am in the best of health–a little nervous perhaps, but otherwise in pretty good condition.
As for your questions about the war, it seems to me that the Jap defense on the Philippines is much less favatical than it was at other places. They have abandoned termendous supplies of guns and ammunition and have retreated from positions in great disorder instead of making the ussual last ditch defense. I am convinced that the majority would surrender if they were not held in check by their officers. On Kwajalein, there was a Jap officer who, in the closing hours of resistance, charged a U.S. tank with his Samurrai sword. He was cut to ribbons by machine gun fire. That incident characterizes the whole war in the Pacific. It is a struggle between Japanese feudalism and American industrialism. The Japanese Army, just as in the case of that Japanese officer, thinks that the “spirit” of the Samurrai warrior will prevail over the “materialistic” United States. There is no question that this war is being won not only by the front line soldier, but by the producers on the home front. I think that if the people of Japan were not so thoroughly “propagandized” and could see the real picture, there would ne violent repercussions in the home land.
I enjoy hearing the rain beat down on the roof. I makes you feel so smug and comfortable. We have cots now and sleep off the ground–just like civilized people.
As for purchases of cloth–you seem to forget that economic life has been at a standstill here since the war. The only clothes the people have is what they possessed before the war. Since we arrived there has been some stipuation of natie cloth wearing. However, it is hardly suitable for making garmets that could be worn in the states. It is woven from threads made by drying strips of abaca. The abaca tree looks like the banana tree. The trunk is very soft and pulpy and can be torn by hand into long strips or threads which when dried make a very tough fiber. The Filipinos weave some very attractive table cloths and napkins out of this and I plan to buy some th next time we get paid. Right now my capital is non-existent.
Some of the schools have now opened here and life is beginning to approach normal conditions and civilization has finally come to the Filipines. You can see little Filipino boys carry caroon books–Dick Tracy, etc.–which they have been given by the fellows. You’d be surprised how the GI’s mother these kids. Quite a few now have “number one house boys” who do odd jobs around the camp–cleaning up, carrying water, etc–and in return they feed the kids & give them clothes, take them swimming and to the shows–just like a father. It only goes to show how home-sick and lonesome they are. The Nazi soldiers certainly must have a beating when they moved into the occupied countries and found that the people wouldn’t speak to them. Do you realize how much it means to a soldier away from home to be able to talk to somebody other than a soldier. These people have certainly helped a lot. They invited a lot of guys to dinner on Xmas and often invite them to dances and baptisms. They wander through the camps soliciting clothes to wash, selling bananas, tangerines, onions, etc. There are even rumors that some of the guys have married, but I haven’t actually seen any weddings. The Negro troops are quite popular here, The Filipinos think they are American Indians. Whenever a truckload of Negro soldiers goes by they attract lots of attention. The girls point to them & giggle. They think the boys are pretty cute. I suppose quite a few will marry here & settle down in the Philippines. Poor as these Philiinos are, their standard of living is still much better than that of many of the Southern Negroes & so-called “white trash”. They are very alert and enthusiastic about eduction. However, most of them would never be able to do more than go through high school. The girls will learn home-economics & the boys will study agriculture.
The salami is almost gone now. I was saving it for the beer, which is now aa week overdue, and finally could not resist no longer. If you can spare the ration points, I certainly could use another one. The last one arrived in excellant shape because you didn’t wrap it.
Have completely recovered from the dengue. It certainly cuts you down, although only for a short period!
Today is a big day. We’re scheduled to get 6 cans of beer per man. That’s the most important thing that has happened here during the last week. The out door movie is now in operation at night, so the evening is partly occupied. Hope that you’re making better use of your time than I am, what a stimulating life.
Despite heavy casualties, the Japanese mounted two more attacks on consecutive nights. Not until the morning of 27 November were American troops able to take the offensive, counting at the time some 400 enemy dead outside of their perimeter and discovering over 100 more along with 29 abandoned machine guns as they advanced farther northwards that day. The 7th Division soldiers dubbed the successful defense of the Damulaan area “the Shoestring Ridge battles” after the precarious supply system that supported them rather than after the terrain fought over.
After a few days’ rest and a rotation of units, General Arnold finally began in earnest his advance toward Ormoc with a novel tact tic. On the night of 4 December vehicles of the 776th Amphibian Tank Battalion put to sea and leaped-frogged north along the coast 1,000 yards ahead of the ground units. The next morning, the tanks moved to within 200 yards of the shore and fired into the hills in front of the advancing 17th and 184th regiments. This tactic proved effective, greatly disorganizing the defenders, except where ground troops encountered enemy pockets on reverse slopes inland, shielded from the offshore tank fire.
As the 7th Division pushed north with a two-regiment front, the 17th Infantry inland encountered heavy enemy fire coming from Hill 918, from which the entire coast to Ormoc City could be observed. It took two days of intense fighting against enemy units supported be mortar and artillery fire for the 17th and 184th regiments to clear the strongpoint, after which the advance north accelerated. By 12 December, General Arnold’s lead battalion was less than ten miles south of Ormoc City.
The results of my birthday party were quite interesting. The next morning a number of kids came to greet me with gifts of eggs, bananas, camotes and green onions.
One little fellow of 15 is a particularly good friend of mine now. His name is Acquilino and when I gave him and his buddies some candy he said, in a very precise English – “I am so sorry sir, I have nothing to give you.”
I put my hand on his shoulder and said, “Acquilino, you have very much to give me—and that is your friendship.” He was visibly touched—a lump came into his throat and then he smiled.
The next morning he was back very early with a little sack of camotes—It is the only food the family has and I was not so sure he could spare it, but to refuse was impossible as I looked into that bright eager face. So I took the camotes and gave him an armful of things that would be very useful at home.
Acquilino wants to be a doctor but his family is too poor, so he will be a farmer like his father. His brother was a school teacher in a very small barrio (village), but when the Japs came in he was pointed out by spies as the leader of the underground movement. He was brutally beaten & then taken away and has not been heard of since.