Attu: June 25, 1943

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.

Attu June 20, 1943

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.

Attu July 7, 1943

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.

Attu August 4, 1943

Dear Harry

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.

Okinawa, June 5, 1945

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…..

Okinawa, May 31, 1945

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.

Okinawa, May 3, 1945

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.


Leyte January 26, 1945

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.


Leyte, January 24, 1945

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.

Leyte January 15, 1945

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.