April 16, 1944 Oahu, Territory of Hawaii


April 16, 1944 Oahu, Territory of Hawaii

After men have been in combat, they become very intolerant of the minute regulations which were imposed on them in garrison in the States. There, every detail was regulated, including the position of each toilet article—and it was really a pain in the neck. In modern warfare, where individual initiative & intelligence is so important, the army makes a mistake in attempting to impose a deadly uniformity—suppressing all individuality and treating the men as through they were morons.

. . . . . . .

As for O.C.S.—I think I’ll forget all about it. Some of the guys who have already passed the OCS Board for Infantry have been waiting for over 5 months now with no results. Besides, I don’t think Id care to be a 2d Looie in a Line Company. A good one usually gets killed, and a poor one gets his men killed—and I don’t care to be in either position. If the war lasts long enough, I may become a 1st Sgt. Or a Master Sergeant—and the pay is about as good as that of a 2d Lt. & the prestige is even higher. So don’t forget to pary for the war to last at least 5 more years.


Territory of Hawaii April 8, 1944

My latest assignment is manufacturing heroes! Co. Moore, who is in charge of awards and citations has drafted me to rewrite the recommendations that have been fowarded by company commanders. My job is to rewrite their accounts–using clear and concise language–in a dramatic & interesting manner–so as to convince the Board that an award is deserved. He goes around telling everybodt that I really know how to use the King’s English, so I guess my efforts must be proving satisfactory.


Territory of Hawaii, Oahu, April 6, 1944

As for the Adjutant General’s Office, the old farm was closed some time ago. No more applications are being accepted. The next time someone tells you that men with combat experience are given preference in the various officer’s schools, I hope you will correct them. I know that many of my friends have gone into the J.A.G.D. without even completing basic training. Major Beatty–our S-2, who gave me a splendid recommendation–was almost flabbergasted when I told him my application was rejected for “lack of necessary qualifications.” Of course, that could anything including that the Board didn’t liked the way I combed my hair. As you say, the rejection wasn’t morale shattering for me either. I’ve got a million dollars’ worth of wood will and friendships here and would really hate to leave it behind.


Territory of Hawaii April 1, 1944

No shortage of onions here–by golly. I had one for lunch that must have weighed at least 1/2 lb. It was even too much for me. Think I’ll stay with the Army until you can assure me a reasonable supply of onions at home.

I’m now in first place in rifle marksmanship. Yesterday, for the 1st time in my Army career I shot a “possible” — which means all the shots hit the bullseye. This should convince you that I’m in pretty good physical shape — at least eyes and nerves are O.K. anyhow.

Except for the work on the rifle range, however, I have once more become a white civilian worker — with desk telephone, typewriter and all the other paraphernalia. In fact, I have been working in the S-2 office since returning from Kwajalein. I would much rather be working out in the field with the rest of the platoon, however. I can’t get acclimated to office routine any more. I’m affraid the prospect of returning to desk and practicing law is not very appealing. The body exercises I get now is walking to & from the mess-hall & the Sunday volley-ball game. I certainly feel stale without more physical activity. Nevertheless, I’m in pretty good shape — except for being terribly lonesome for you and Wm — cause I love you very much.

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?

Kwajalein: February 19, 1944

But to resume where I left off in my last letter. The Koreans seem very happy to be captured, but the Japs put up their usual suicidal defense. I have never ceased trying to solve this mystery. Why don’t they surrender when they see they haven’t got a chance? [Only seventy-nine Japanese were taken prisoner on Kwajalein alongwith 127 Koreans.] Have they
been filled with stories of the atrocities that would committed against them if they are taken prisoners? Is it the influence
of national psychology, or the samurai code of Bushido — the code of the warrior? Does devotion to the emperor outweigh the normal laws of life and the desire to return to home and family?

Interestingly enough, in spite of our tendency to consider every Japanese a potential hari-kiri, the statistics of the Encyclopedia Britannica show that the suicide rate in Japan is actually below that of some of the countries of Western Europe.
The dramatic acts of hari-kiri by various prominent Japanese has served to conceal these facts. Actually, it seems there is no national predisposition to commit suicide. Remember the epidemic which swept our own country at the time of the Wall Street collapse?

As for devotion to the emperor, it should be remembered that his “devotion” is enforced by one of the most brutal and vicious police systems in existence. A country which must rely on such means can hardly claim to have achieved “national unity.” The government recently has had occasion even to intensify the repression by new regulations concerning public
assemblies. The self-sacrificing devotion of the Japanese certainly is another false assumption.

Nor is Japan today supported by an army of professionals — of samurai warriors. Like the armies of every country,
it is a national army — with soldiers recruited from every walk of life. Certainly the code of Bushido is not very deeply rooted in the minds and hearts of the common people.

I was fortunate enough to be able to talk to one of the Jap prisoners. He had been drafted into the navy a year ago. Previously, he had been a cab driver. He was twenty-five years old, and had left a wife and baby behind. I asked him why more of them hadn’t surrendered, when they saw there was no hope.

After some discussion, it developed that there hadn’t been any great fear of torture. In Japan, they had heard some stories of American atrocities, but he doubted whether these stories had any affect on any of the men on Kwajalein. Some of the things he did consider important were: 1) Inability to return to Japan; 2) Contempt by the neighbors should they succeed in returning; 3) Pride.

I painted a picture for him — conveyed to the interpreter — of the sufferings of the people of Japan as the result of the foolish war into which the nation had been plunged by a few power-mad war-lords. What could the people hope to gain from such a war? How about the widows and orphans of the soldiers?

His answer was exceedingly interesting. First, he said, the people had only little actual information as to what was happening. After the attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent victories of the Jap army, the people felt that the war would not last very long and that perhaps their conditions would improve as a result of the acquisition of new territories.

Now, he was inclined to believe, they no longer had any illusions, and then he added that many times he and others
had thought that the war could bring nothing but suffering for the Japanese people, but that they did not dare express such opinions. After all, he was only an enlisted man — one of the ground crew for C-plane maintenance.

I do not think his remarks are unusual. I think they furnish the key for a successful campaign of psychological warfare against the Japs, which would shorten the war and very greatly reduce our own casualties.

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.

Attu, Alaska Territory: October 22, 1943

While onboard ship I had plenty of opportunity to practice on the violin. The ship’s library had a collection of musical instruments. I really enjoyed myself and surprised everyone (and even entertained some) by playing the violin. There were also banjos and guitars, and we spent many pleasant hours playing and singing on the back of the ship as we rolled along o’er the deep blue sea. There was plenty of competition from a number of real “fiddlers” whose square dances and Arkansas-Tennessee hill-billy music proved to be more popular with the men than any other type of music.

Except for the blue fox, I know of no other animals on the island [Attu]. There were of course many varieties of wild birds, and the cold clear streams were choked with giant salmon and other fish.

There are no trees on the Island, but it is carpeted with tundra. Just like a thick colorful Persian rug. The Tundra covers the rugged terrain of Attu. The tundra is as thick as a mattress, and interwoven are millions of tiny flowers of all colors which begin to bloom as soon as the snow had melted.

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.