In An Immense Tomb

Received your letters of May 25 & 27. Have been busy the last week or so. Hope this last push will bring my career as a soldier to an end. Everything is going along fairly well. It certainly isn’t as rough as it was at the beginning. Even the weather has been cooperative. It has been warm and sunny, so we finally got out of the mud. We are now set up in a spacious, grassy court yard of an immense Okinawan tomb. You have probably seen pictures of the tombs with the court yard enclosed by a massive stone wall.

We’ve been running into thousands of civilians again. The poverty, filth and malnutrition are almost indescribable. They’ve been living in dark, dank caves since March, coming out only at night. As a result their skins are a ghastly white from being denied sunshine. There are immense natural caves in the area, cut through coral mountains by the streams. There is running water in the caves. Sometimes you will find 300-500 people living in a cave—full of lice and fleas and with a nauseating stench. Most of the people are scaly with dirt and pores—some gangrenous.

One heartening factor is the great humanity of the dogface. It is amazing what risks they will take to get these people out of areas in which the fighting is raging. They go into caves with flashlights, not knowing whether there are soldiers or civilians inside. There is always the danger of running into an enemy position. In some cases soldiers have been in caves with civilians and have wounded our men who went in to try to get the civilians out.

And as they come out, blinking in the sunlight, what a pitiable picture. The little babies are strapped to the backs of their mothers—so tightly they can hardly breathe with one band of clothe across the back of the neck and the mother’s shoulder and another band around the buttocks & tied about the mother’s waist. Their heads fall back, arms to the side—hanging almost lifelessly. Many times you will see little kids of 6 carrying the babies on their backs. Some women carrying babies on the back & tremendous loads of food or clothing or cooking utensils in a bundle on the top of their heads. And then there are the orphans, and everyone has so many troubles of his own that no one is interested in the orphans. There are many abandoned babies. We found one little girl of 2—stark naked—thrown into a muddy ditch. We made one of the men pick her up. 10 minutes later we found her in the ditch again. We picked her up & gave her to to another man & threatened to shoot him if he threw her away again. And still life continues. Babies are still being born. The medics are performing miracles. Aid men with only elementary training are performing operations with pocket knives that would tax the skills of a surgeon in a modern hospital. If anyone at home thinks he has problems, he should see these kids—ill fed—wounded—gangrenous, stinking wounds with maggots crawling around inside.

I’m fine, but the experiences are very depressing.