The following are excerpts from letters Bruce wrote to his wife June during his military service.
Pvt. Richard Bruce Watkins, USMCR
Platoon 176. Recruit Depot
Parris Island, South Carolina
Iíve arrived safely, etc., and we already had a work out. Weíre gonna be here for 8 weeks and then on. Theyíre really gonna keep us hoppiní down. Our sergeantís a tuffy but heís a real man and a real marine. Theyíve informed us that only a few of us will ever get commissions. Hereís hoping I can make it but I donít think Iíll feel like committing suicide if I donít. Here goes to put everything Iíve got in it.
I really donít have much time to think about anything these days but military knowledge. Whoever said the marines were tough made a masterpiece of understatement. It is wonderful for me that Iím in good shape but we really havenít got anything yet.
We arenít allowed to write about anything we do so Iím afraid youíll have to go unsatisfied along those lines. I wish I could but that is the way it is.
I got interrupted here by a call of ďRoll out,í on the double.Ē That means get out and darn fast. Now it is about 3/4ís of an hour before taps. Iíve just finished cleaning my rifle and I have a little cold so Iím gonna really sleep tonight. The food here is fine, if a little crude. Iím learning a lot but I canít say what.
In reply to your queries, we got our uniforms fitted today. I was lucky and only had to have the pants shortened. You see we wear marine dungarees most of the time. They are the clothes for work and fighting. Iíll send you a picture later when I get a chance; they say it is okay now.
This is quite an outfit and youíll find that a boot in the Marine Corps is about the lowliest thing on earth. Still, it is a healthy life and youíre proud of the corps.What we appreciate down in hut 6 more than anything is clippings of international news and funnies, so anytime you want to slip some in a letter, it would be swell I wouldnít send any food or candy as the sergeants will take care of it. Iím not bitter about it, itís just the way things are.
Marines are pretty tough all right. You have to grab anything you can get quick. Thereís not much of the old sharing spirit, however the stimulus of war is what causes that and almost all of them are pretty square fellas. My past physical training is certainly standing me in good stead. Some of the men are pretty tired.
Weíve taken some pictures already of our short haircuts, etc., and when I say short, I mean short. However, it is growing back fast and will be a decent sight long Ďere you see me. By the way you can send food now. My hut mates would sure appreciate some of those brownies of yours.
Iím sitting at a table in the recreation hut writing this. Itís fixed up pretty nice but this is the first time since we got here that Iíve been able to get in here for any length of time.|
Iím not too fast at learning things and the military idea is new to me but I have been surprised that I have learned as fast as I have. Iíll probably get in trouble tomorrow but right now things are well. Iím getting plenty of exercise and a sunburn.
By the way, we canít go of f the island at all during the time weí re here, but thatís the Marines for you. Even if you lived right on shore you could only see me for a few hours on Sunday afternoon on the island. Weíre virtually prisoners. Oh well, it wonít be the same in Virginia.
By the bye, if I ever do get to see you, you might keep about April 20th in mind Ďcause somewhere around then I ought to be heading for Virginia. I sure hope so.
When I get to Quantico Iím supposed to get 8 weeks more of preparatory training and if Iím lucky, get commissioned. Then follow ten more weeks of training.
I thought New England weather was changeable but boy oh boy! It will be below freezing for 12 hours, then hotterní blazes, then rain cats and dogs and stable roofs, then itíll be hot and sticky again and the bugs will bite. Some place.
About 10 more days of awful tough drilling and plenty of verbal beating and then we go out to the rifle range for 3 weeks. That will be much better, at least mentally. They say theyíre gonna give us the workout of our lives tomorrow. But I figure if the sergeant can do it so can I. (Heís only human.)
Weíre talking about home tonight. A lot of the fellows are in bed and the rest are getting ready. Iím sitting up in my cot. There are about 3 topics marines talk about: their work, home and their girls. They get all the attention. I really have a wonderful bunch of fellows in this hut with me. Theyíre really grand. I certainly have been lucky.
Iím beginning to feel better and better. Today we hiked for miles with a 60 pound pack and rifle. Iím beginning to really tighten up again the way I used to be summers. Tight across the chest and above the hips. My tummy is nice and hard again too, although I donít see how it prospers under all I put into it. My hair is growing back, too. It really looks quite respectable now.
We certainly spent a rugged day today. We had an inspection by the commanding officer, a test, and then spent the rest of the day till 8 P.M. carrying buckets. We all got a whale of a sunburn. Iím real healthy and I got so hungry tonight that I ate fish down with a relish. You know how much I donít like fish.
Tonight I have to go on sentry duty from 12:30 to 2:30. Iím going to bed at nine to get a little sleep. Iíve got a feeling weíre going on a long hike with full pack tomorrow so I donít appreciate being a sentry.
The exam we took today was given in the queerest place. Right in the boiling sun, sitting on the ground in a sandy field. I think I did quite well although Iím not sure. I passed the inspection al I right at least.
Today they asked if anybody had experience driving a truck. Quite a few fellows stepped forward then the Sergeant said, ďOkay - get behind those wheelbarrows and move that rockpile.Ē I was almost foolish enough to volunteer for that one.
We had guard duty this morning from 8:30-to 10:30 so I didnít get to go to church. I feel sort of slighted. You really need something to soften your thoughts up a little around here.
For the last two days, weíve been carrying dirt in buckets for about a quarter of a mile. We all got pretty tired as the sun was boiling hot. You can see the fellas dope off very quickly at such times. Some guys will do a lot to avoid work. I kept going all day long, not fast, but steady. I figured it was for my own good; most of my hut-mates feel the same way. In between times we had an exam and rifle inspection. A couple of fellows cheated on the exam. One of them had to lead the Platoon today and the men wouldnít march for him at all. I guess he wants to learn the hard way.
Among the swell fellows Iíve met is a long, lanky boy from St. Pete, Florida. Heís homely as sin but has an infectious grin that you canít resist. We have paled around together quite a bit. He has a girl back home who is teaching school. Heís gone with her for five years. He also went to Florida U. in Gainesville, nameís Bob Miller. Heís dying to see New England and maybe Iíll bring him home sometime.
People on the outside will always find it hard to understand but-the Marine Corps is not the glamorous thing it is supposed to be. Itís a dirty, tough job that only fellows with plenty of guts can stay in. Marines are holding down very few office chairs, much less young Marines. Theyíre out fighting Ďcause thatís all and everything theyíre trained for. I know and you know that I did not join to get dressed up in blues so it isnít a shock in this quarter. Some of the men are pretty disillusioned, though. They are also learning the hard way. We wear the uniforms without emblems, etc., which all tends to deflate egos. We donít get full uniforms until we leave here and then we get them fitted again.
Next Sunday Iíll be writing you from out on the range, 3 weeks there and Iíll be back, then a week and Iíll be off for Quantico, I hope. Thereís no use fooling ourselves. When I get trained, either as an officer or enlisted man, Iíll get only a short time off and in all probability Iíll be off to the fighting.
You ought to see the obstacle course out here. Itís really something. itís officially closed because so many casualties resulted. However, all the D.I.ís (Drill Instructors) take us over it. Personally I think itís a lot of fun. Some of the men get pretty tired. This afternoon our whole hut was asleep, except Bob and I. The hut is an all-tin structure that looks something like this. About 10 or 12 men can sleep in each hut. I donít know if this is secret information or not but I donít see how it could be used against America.
Iíll tell you about the fellows in our hut. First thereís HUCK COCHRAN, the squad leader, who was chosen because of his height. Heís tall and skinny, nice looking, has a wife and 3 little girls.
Then thereís KATEN COBB, we call him ďCob.Ē He was a gymnast at Chicago U. Heís athletic with a nice build although slightly dissipated, a very good fellow.
Then thereís HEBER HART or ďBret.Ē Heís very nice looking, comes from a Mormon family of 9; worked his entire way through college, clean liver and is thinking of marrying his girl, as-is Cobb.
Next is CHARLEY SCHWARTZ. Heís Jewish, a pretty good little fellow.
Then comes KEITH BAKER. Heís training for the Baptist Ministry; is a quiet husky little fellow, very good natured.
Then thereís BILL COLLINS, or ďOld Doc.Ē Heís a practicing lawyer with a wife and baby boy. Heís a great baloney slinger but a real nice fellow, rather short but well built.
Next comes RALPH ENGLEMEYER; he is a hot potato. Says very, very little. Makes a bright remark about every 3 hours and smiles like a school girl. I think heís dreaming about his fiance most of the time, a good kid.
Then we have ADRIANE JUISEPPE CARIGNANI or just ďADE.Ē Heís a big Italian boy that went to Southern California.
Collins and Schwartz are Phi Beta Kappas. Cobb and Carignani were athletes. Hart was editor of his school paper and worked on two others. Huck went to Princeton, worked in a bank. Last but not least of course, there is Bob and 1. I told you about him and I donít suppose youíd be interested in me.
1 really enjoyed myself drilling today and we really got some snap into our manual of arms. Itíd give you a thrill to see us marching along and those rifles going whack, whack as they fly through the air together. We canít get too much of that to suit me. If my feet arenít sore I feel swell.
Iíve got some pictures to send you this time. Thereíll be a lot more too, I hope. Iíll send you the negatives later. Some of the fellas want to get some reproductions. How do you like those beautiful haircuts and my ears. I look a lot better now, really I do. I havenít got any pictures of Bob yet but they are in the making. Of course, as you see I found a means of having films developed here.
Thanks a million for all those cookies. My but they went fast. It certainly was thoughtful of you and all the boys are sending you their love. What with the pictures I have of you, youíre really in with them.
it sure is hard to study here now. Weíve moved out of our huts into barracks. 70 men in one room, what a bedlam. Itís really impossible to do a good job of studying. Iím going to the range Saturday night, after that I might have some time to write.
Sorry I havenít written you much in the last 3 days. Iíve had a tough little time this week. I guess Iíll have to tell you all my troubles. For one thing this eczema has irritated again in the crooks of my arms and backs of knees. Itís not bad but Iíd like to kill it right away so will you get this prescription filled and send it as soon as possible.
Wednesday night I was playing football on the asphalt drill field and was just making one of my scintillating runs when I slipped and broke my fall with my right arm which would have been all right on dirt but in this case took off considerable skin. My hand swelled up like nobodyís business. We had our 16th day inspection yesterday which is quite important. We have to crack the rifles very hard, etc. Although it was slightly painful I managed pretty well.
We had typhoid shots last night so I really had a nice fever but Iím right on the ball again today and the swelling is hardly painful at all, almost normal.
The idea around here is that if you are out more than a day you lose your platoon and have to stay on this island 2 weeks longer. Most anyone would object to that. What a place! The permanent personnel must go crazy.
Itís really hot down here now but despite the heat I weight about 180 lbs. Somehow it seems so long since I left Connecticut but itís only been about a month. I believe weíre supposed to ship out of here April 17th but that may only be scuttlebutt. After we get squared away at Quantico we might get a couple of days off. Of course weíve got to get to Quantico first.
This afternoon is sort of a lull between two types of training. Weíve passed our 16th day inspection and exam and tonight we marchout 5 miles to the range to start shooting. Thatís pretty rugged training, so I hear, but there wonít be much drill. I hope I do well with the rifle. Iím certainly going to try hard.
Thereís the call for more shots, so Iíll have to beat it now. This will be the fifth shot. I think itís another typhoid. I suppose weíll all be sick again tonight. Well, Iíll tell you about that tomorrow.
If you can find any oil of-citronella I would appreciate it. The bugs really bite down here.
A platoon consists of about 40 men but in a recruit platoon like ours, we have about 70. Our sergeantís name is Buckely. He is head D.I. (Drill Instructor). He has two assistants; Sergeant Mosgala and PFC Knowles, both nice fellows. I havenít got caught in any of those truck driver deals yet, guess Iíll probably get my comeuppance fore long.
Weíre out at the range now in more barracks and our gang is somewhat separated but the best ones are near me and we all get along swell even though we hail from all over the U.S. Tomorrow a real tough grind starts. Today has been too easy and tomorrow will be a tough, blue Monday. We have to get up at 4 oíclock.
Today we did a lot of snapping in which means getting into position to shoot and clicking the trigger at a target. Weíre learning all about the 30 cal. rifle now. Friday weíll go over to the .22 range and then about next Wednesday weíll go to the .30 range and shoot. Not long after that we fire for record and if weíre lucky we get marksman, sharpshooter, or expert medals, the last being the highest. Gee, I sure hope I can make at least the lowest.
Today weíve been here one month to the day. It seems like a year and yet it has gone very swiftly.
I donít know which I get called most, Bruce or ďWatt.Ē However, all the fellows in the platoon know each other pretty well by now. Weíre getting a lot more rugged exercise out here at the range and weíre right next to the ocean now so that the wind blows in real strong and burns our faces. The chow is very good out here and Iím feeling real healthy. The bugs are the only curse.
Last night I took my rifle apart as far as it would go. Weíre not supposed to as it is rather complicated and doesnít go together easily. I got it back together again 5 minutes before taps. I get awful curious about those things.
We took a few more pictures yesterday, in uniform this time and although our uniforms wonít be tailored for two weeks they may not look too bad. They look a whale of a lot better than those the army wears.
Itís 5:30 A.M. now, a little while after breakfast chow. Pretty soon weíll be on the move out to the pistol range. We fire the .22 first and then the .45 calibre. Weíve already done some shooting and weíll be doing a lot more for the next two weeks.
Three weeks more at Parris Island, boy are we counting the days. Not because itís tough down here but just because of the place as it is number one of places I donít want to be at.
My rifle is nice and clean this morning. In fact taps blew last night when I had it all apart and I had to put it together in the dark. I can pretty well do it now in the dark although it just took about 10 minutes instead of five.
You must be disgusted with my correspondence. Out here on the range we really have to jump every minute and at night Iím just about all poohed out. We shot the .45 Pistol, the Reising submachine gun, and the .22 rifle. I qualified in the Reising and got sharpshooter in the .22 rifle. I muffed the pistol on record day although I had qualified in practise. None of these matter much, however. It is the old rifle that really counts.
Itís now 5:30 P.M. and I have to go out to practice with the rifle at 6:00. Weíve just finished chow.
Weíre on the last hitch of our stay on Parris Island and do we long to be heading north. When that old train pulls out of Yemasee we sure will feel good. When we came in 6 weeks ago, we came from the train in big cattle trucks, about 200 on a truck. What sights; we stood out there in our civilian clothes and sweated. Some different now, although we arenít out of boot camp and weíve still got more to take.
My wrist is almost healed up now and the eczema is hardly to be seen. My hands are getting like brown leather out here from the sun and my face is very ruddy. The food sure agrees with me.
I certainly have been under pressure this week. I guess I told you that in the marines one of the most important things is to shoot the rifle well. You can win, if youíre good enough, a Marksman, Sharpshooter, or Expert Rating, rising in that order. The highest possible score is 340. You have to get 268 for Marksman, 292 for Sharpshooter and 306 for Expert. I couldnít let our family down, yours and mine, so now Iíve got a nice little silver medal with crossed rifles on it, that says ďExpert Rifleman.Ē I shot 309, 3rd highest in the platoon.
I had to get 5 balls at 500 yards on my last 5 shots. The target man said those 5 shots were on dead center in a space small enough to be covered by a half dollar. Iím proud of that.
Weíre going to leave here a week from today. We came back off the range tonight to the main depot. Weíve just got settled in our beds and soon will be asleep. Tomorrow we have to practice bayonet.
Weíve got to go on guard duty at 12:30 tonight and I have a lousy cold so Iím gonna get some sleep, mighty soon.
Itís Monday afternoon and raining hard. Our bosses have let up because this is our last week on the island. However, we are not going to leave till the 21st now. Red tape as usual.
I get five bucks more this month and for a year because I made Expert Rifleman.
Boy, we used to get up at 4:45, not itís 3:30. Iím beginning to wonder what we go to bed at all for. We eat chow at 4:00 and then sit around for an hour. Of course we canít lie on the bunks during the day so sleep is practically nil.
itís 3:00 A.M. and Iím on guard duty again but this time Iím posted in the guard hut. Boy, am I sleepy! I sure wish I could hit the hay. We have 40-day inspection today--Iíll probably march like I was drunk.
Weíre all looking forward to leaving Wednesday. In fact waiting makes us edgy. We took our uniforms to the tailors to sew on our PFC STRIPES yesterday and drew a summer issue of khaki. Iím not sure but I thing we have to wear our greens if we leave the post, even in summer.
If you pass at Quantico you get your commission after 8 weeks. That is a probationary commission and you still have 10 weeks training ahead. I sure hope I make it but I guess itís gonna be nip and tuck all the way. It sure will be the nutz to leave Parris Island anyway.
I qualified as expert in the bayonet yesterday. It doesnít mean anything like the rifle does but it helps.
My salary is very indefinite right now. Itís supposed to be $54 a month but what with bonds, insurance, etc., it surely doesnít amount to that.
We leave early tomorrow morning and of course weíre all busy getting ready. What a lot of racket Sergeants can make when they want you to move, my, my.
I guess Quantico is going to be awful tough. The general consensus of opinion seems to be that we will have weekends off from noon Saturday Ďtill midnight Sunday. Itís a 7 hour trip to New Haven.
PFC R. Bruce Watkins, USMCR
Co. K, 27th Candidates Class Marine Barracks
Here I am at Quantico embarked on another great adventure. This time it ought to beabout5O times as hard. Iím wearing my nice red PFC Stripe now. It feels pretty good but of course the next step will be those little gold bars if I can do it. Itís an awful tough outfit.
The address on the outside will be my official address for the next 8 weeks. It isnít quite like starting Parris Island even though it does get you a little scared. Youíre not quite as green and here youíre treated as an officer candidate. They donít cuss at you all the time. We have very short weekends and we have to stay within 150 miles of Quantico.
Theyíre throwing classes at us so fast it isnít funny. We marched 5 hours in the sun on hot pavement yesterday. This O.C. training is no joke. You certainly have to look spic.and span and youíre busy every single minute.
---first weekend home after going in the service--5/10/43
We had classes every night last week and drilled and paraded and did jiu-jitzu and took 3 exams besides Saturdays inspection. As part of our final exam in scouting and patrolling, they divided us into patrols of 6 and marched us out 15 miles. When it was dark they gave us a compass bearing through the thickest, roughest, swampiest section of wood to meet at a designated spot 10 miles away. We couldnít have lights or any such aids. Just had the luminous dial of the compass to go by. Our patrol landed almost on the nose as we took turns leading through the night. Several didnít though and the last werenít rounded up till late next day. It was a lot of fun except that the only sleep we got was an hour with your head in one of those steel pots they call helmets.
One of the fellows got thrown out of the Marine Corps, 3 hours after he cheated on an exam. They donít fool. Iím just glad I donít have much time to think and worry.
If we do graduate from here it will be on June 16th. Ten weeks from then we should be through ROC. That ought to bring it somewhere about August 25th when I should get leave.
More bayonet today and ju-jitzu. Itís surprizing how fast you can learn it. Iím gonna sneak into bed quick tonight because of the big workout tomorrow night.
Here it is Saturday again. Another week gone like a whirlwind. Weíre all through with inspection and 2 exams. Itís now 7 PM and Iím reclining on my back writing this. I suppose Iím going to regret not going into town tonight as Iíve got to stay in Quantico next weekend.
Pause here while I went to a stage show at the Quantico Theatre. The movie was crummy and the show wasnít very funny.
Thursday night our Company attacked another. I was a scout and went into the center of their territory. What a time, the moon came out and a great many of our men were taken prisoners. Somehow I escaped. I hid under one log for half and hour while a dozen of the enemy sat on the other side. I thought I was caught for sure but uh uh. Scouting is a lot of fun and a lot more difficult than I ever thought.
What a day! We were out in the field all day in the sun, firing mortars and grenades. At noon chow, out in the field, something bad got in the food and half of two companies got tomaine poison.
What a sight! When we got in tonight about 60 boys from our company had to be carried and dragged to the hospital. They just lay there wretching and doubled up, some of them were really bad off. Iím not sick yet and I guess Iíll get by.
This has been some week! We were firing all kinds of weapons but principally the machine gun. We fired for record in that, Friday. You have to score 120 to qualify. On preliminary day I had a lousy gun and drew a 65. Wellí, Thursday night I went to sleep with the one idea that I was gonna qualify the next day. Result 132 (3 points less than sharpshooter). I was about 10th in the company.
This weekend we canít go anywhere as we are in the Defense Battalion. We stand by in case Quantico should be attackedetc. This would be no place for a Jap with 20,000 Marines.
Last night weíd been asleep about half an hour when we all had to fall out in our scivies and line up in the barracks hall. It seems that 2 marines or rather several had got drunk and a large fight ensued with a good deal of blood and everybody was cross-examined. This is a poor spot to pick a fight, those fellows just cancelled their chances of becoming officers. Thereís no pretending here. Marines are very blunt and any affectation is just out in the Marine Corps. Nobody listens to any sob stories here believe you me. If someone thinks he is getting pretty good, he soon finds out plenty different.
By Archibald Rutledge
ďNow shall we have our joy,Ē the lover said.
ďThe waitings and the partings all are done.
Now shall our hearts by bliss be comforted,
By joy alone, and so shall we be one.
Love is the happiness that smiles at fate,
Being lifeís blossom of immortal birth.
Some angel, dallying at the heavenly gate,
Let fall this dewy rose to dusty earth.Ē
Not joy alone,Ē she said, ďshall make our song;
Nor rapture, nor the stars of bliss that shine;
Nor beauty, nor release from waiting long;
For Ďtis ordained we never shall divine
How deep love is, how true, how passing strong
Until my grief be yours; your sorrow, mine.
The Commandant, Marine Corps Schools
The Staff and
Students of the Twenty-seventh Candidatesí Class
request the pleasure of your presence at the
on the morning of
Wednesday, June sixteenth
nineteen hundred and forty-three
at ten-thirty oíclock
The Recreation Building
Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia
Iím now in a hotel (Hotel Annapolis) with one of my marine buddies, where we intend to catch up on a lot of lost sleep after the bivouac, We came in filthy dirty today since then Iíve had a wonderful shower and thereís a bathtub in this room which is gonna get used tomorrow. We were out all last night fighting a war with the ROC, wet, dirty, cold and sleepless.
6/14/43 2nd Lt. R. Bruce Watkins, USMCR
30th ROC, B. Barracks
11/5/43 2nd Lt. R. Bruce Watkins, USMCR
31st Replacement Bn.
New River, North Carolina
My time has sure been taken up today. I have Bn. O.D. tonight so Iím on duty all night.
2nd Lt. R. Bruce Watkins, USMCR
Co. B, 31st Replacement Bn.
Camp Elliott, Area 44
San Diego, California
Weíre going to be here a very short time but as the major says, ďif we gotta go, letís hurry up and finish it up.Ē Weíre right up in the mountains in tents, but it is beautiful country and the weather perfect.
It was a long ride out here but the scenery especially in Arizona and New Mexico was marvelous.
I had a very nice compliment from a corporal in the headquarters of our company. He said theyíd been talking it over (a bunch of enlisted men) and had decided that theyíd rather follow me than any other officer into battle. Naturally it made me feel very good and rather embarrassed too. I can stay in the Marine Corps forever and never get a better compliment.
Today I took some of my men on a mountain climbing hike and boy we did go. It started out for pleasure but ended up in a forced march. Cotza walked Ďem into the ground too. Thank heaven for a healthy life.
My dad sent me a telegram yesterday with Normís address and I called him up last night. Gee, it was good to hear the old so and so. I havenít seen him but once in 2 years. Well, anyway we arranged to meet in the Grand Hotel in San Diego. Heís only about a mile on the other side and Iím about 15 from this side. Itís a bus ride of about 20 minutes. He doesnít get this evening off but I ought to be able to see him 2 or 3 evenings fore we leave. (I think weíve got about a week).
Norm and I are spending the night in this hotel. U.S. Grant. We are having a great time talking over old times.
Things are at a standstill right now while boats are loading, etc. We canít do proper training because of facilities but I suppose itís allright for a very short while.
Norm and I both have duty tonight so we canít see each other Ďtill tomorrow night. We hope to spend this last weekend in Los Angeles together. Itís a break that we could see each other at all.
Iím all lame from giving my platoon kneebends and push-ups. Iím really rounding them into shape and they are plenty lame.
They sprung the duty on me again tonight so I wonít be able to see Norm. All of us are pretty mad because our battalion is getting all the dirty details Ďcause they know weíre moving out soon.
I missed Norm last night, too, but he just blew in the tent. I showed him the wedding pictures, etc. He looks very nice in his uniform but is hot stuff anyway.
Gen. Vandergrift just blew in so we all have to stay here this weekend. Knobb came over so itís not quite so bad. We will have fun anyhow. Iíll be calling you up tomorrow.
Iím spending another night with Norm in a hotel. It feels so good to sleep in a soft bed even if I do have to get up at 4:30 A.M. I have had very little sleep lately and have been where I couldnít write you. However, I did send you a package, guess weíll call it a late birthday gift.
At last Iíve found a place warm enough to sit still and write in, in the early morning. Here it is Thanksgiving day and out here it doesnít seem to mean so much as in New England.
We have our further orders now so itís only a matter of a little waiting.
Iíve been giving my platoon quite a workout lately. They honk a lot but they donít mean it. Theyíre getting huskier and huskier. The more the better Several of them have been in boxing meets, etc. Iím getting quite proud of them.
AT LAST theyíve got a heated room around here where a fella can write at night instead of shivering in a tent.
Norm and I had a big steak the other night. He just blew in and is leaving tomorrow for maneuvers. So I guess we wonít see each other again until over there.
I just came back from the church service. The chaplain was a very good speaker and gave a fine little talk. He mentioned the quotation: while one child is starving ... I am unfed, and brought out the point that when one little city was bombed in far off China the repercussions from their sufferings would finally come back to us who believed so strongly in our selfish island of security. The war is much bigger than any individual or his family. All the people in the world are in a sense, one...and just like one great body, if part of it gets sick the whole body is sick. To cleanse the whole body has become our job.
We certainly have a tremendous job to do. If youíve read the papers at all lately you can see what part the marines are playing. I think we can be very proud of our outfit. They are the Very best. Theyíre not any tougher than other men but they have more courage and never-say-die spirit as a group than any other.
Some of us are going to get hurt, thereís no doubt about that. Practical experience has proved it, but I believe it will not be all in vain. All the sacrifice that will be and was expresses the real strength of a people who believe in a square deal and yes ... have faith in God.
I often watch Major Johnson as he gets ready to go across for the second time, leaving his wife and baby behind. I think sometimes he feels caught like a rat in a trap and yet his nerve is unshakable. A year ago he landed at NY for a 30 day furlough with his wife.
2nd Lt. R. Bruce Watkins, USMCR1st Replacement Bn., F.M.F
Camp Elliott, Area 44
San Diego, California
There sure isnít much to write about. I know weíre going very soon but I donít know when. We are just standing by.
12/21/43 ---FIRST CENSORED LETTER---
We have to turn our letters in tomorrow. The ocean is sure a big place. Thereís an awful lot of water in it too. Weíve had to amuse ourselves watching flying fish, etc.
Up topside at night I always watch the moon and clouds. The sun is just rising in the East and is very bright. I wish you could see it rise out of the sea. Itís all ready to start a new day and it reminds me of that old expression ďanother day another dollar.Ē
12/21/43 --- First V-mail letter---
If Iím right, at noon on our Christmas day itíll be about 7 P.M. on Christmas Eve where you are. Youíd like to see the deep tan Iím getting. I canít tell you where I am except that Iím on a fair-sized island in the So. West Pacific. Weíre not in combat yet and the chow and the weather are both good. ***These days Iím using the philosophy of that very wise king.
I have received letters from you dated December 2,3,4, & 6 and just now one dated Nov. 29th which must have got fouled up somewhere. By now you should have received some of my So. Pacific mail. You should also know where I am.
I hope you will tell me all about Christmas day at home. It surely wasnít much down here. We all had a small portion of turkey for noon chow but of course quantity and quality were nothing like home.
Iím still fond of the marines as you well know but for personal comfort you better advise people to join the Army or Navy. Honestly, we are the Dead End Kids of the service. We get the least and worst equipment, food and fighting tools. I sometimes wonder how our record is so good. I guess itís the Marine spirit that carries us through. That and pride in the Corps. The Marines even have to fight for and steal food. One reason MacArthurís not very fond of us. What can we do if Uncle Sam gives everything to the Army? We sure arenít gonna sit and twiddle our thumbs.
Itís a real hot day today so Iíve been washing clothes. They dry in about 30 minutes. I guess that beats the sun even in Florida, doesnít it?
The boys are arguing over some court-martial very heatedly and itís pretty hard to concentrate. Iíve got quite a tan now, all except a 2 inch line from shoulder to shoulder which is well-cooked to say the least.
A couple of my boys are boxing at another camp tonight so Iím going over and boost Ďem along a little. Theyíre pretty good and I think theyíll do allright.
My men are being transferred one by one and I surely hate to see them go. Iím really very fond of them, even the ones that cause me the most trouble. Iím just standing by myself to be transferred to a regular outfit. A replacement battalion is an orphan outfit and nobody likes them. Wish I could take these men Iíve trained over with me.
Here it is the first day of a brand new year. The first New Yearís Day that I havenít seen you in quite sometime.
If there is any lapse in my writing donít let it worry you because as we get transferred from place to place we cannot write. We will probably move often anyway.
Iím trying to get in a Raider Battalion but I donít know what luck Iíll have. Itís a swell outfit though and Iíd sure like to be in it.
I have been rather lucky lately and passed my interview and will soon be included in a Raider Battalion. Itís not so many that are lucky enough. Itís just about the top outfit in the Marines, even better than the Paramarines. I expect they will give me a lot of good training. They work on the hit and run basis you know. Gallop in and gallop out. You can read about them in the latest Leatherneck.
Sorry I couldnít write you the last few days but I told you never to worry when there was a pause in my writing. The Marines sure donít have life easy although Iím not complaining. I have still to get my permanent outfit which will mean an entirely new platoon, etc. Iím gonna miss my New River boys. Jaffe is still with me and bunks in the same tent. Harry Thompson and he got into the Raiders also.
You know how mad I used to get when some of my fellow officers doped off. Well, itís a lot better out here. I guess the seriousness of the situation straightens most of them out. I have been quite proud of my own.
The Marine officers played the Navy officers in softball and I guess you know who won. We came back in the eighth inning and walloped Ďem. Cotza felt pretty smart too as he made two putouts in the last of the 9th to hold our lead. I skinned a nice chunk off my thigh sliding into home but it was all a great lot of fun.
Iím enclosing a poem written by a Marine that I thought was very good and .expresses my sentiments very well. If theyíre gonna kill this guy theyíre gonna have to load him down with so much lead he canít lift it, cause I intend to respirate.
DEFIANCE AT DAWN
By Corp. Vincent H. Cassidy, Jr.
Last spring the writer of this poem was decorated with the Silver Star for gallantry in action in the South Pacific.- Before his enlistment in the Marine Corps, early in 1942, he was a first-year student at the University of New Hampshire. His home is in Derry, New Hampshire. - The Editors.
And here I am,
Alive and well.
Yes, I might say
Iím feeling swell,
In spite of Japs,
In spite of hell.
Does it grieve you, Death,
That I defy you,
That I refuse to be taken by you?
Then on the morrow
Perhaps Iíll not get by again.
Hidden in the trees,
Lies in wait,
Prepared to squeeze
What machine gun
Or mortar shell
Will find its mark?
What bursting bomb
Or what grenade,
Thrown in the night?
Be aforehand warned
And plan it well,
if you intend my doom to spell,
For I intend to fight.
At last I got two letters from you although they are a month old. I still donít know where Iíll go to combat or with what outfit. I passed the test for the Raiders but now, for reasons which I canít write about, none of us who were chosen will go out with them.
Hereís a poem I though you might like, about the doggys-
OUR FIGHTING MEN
ďA Marine told his buddy on Guadalcanal,
The Army is coming, think of it, Palí -
The Corporal answered him ĎAll right, then,
Letís build a clubhouse for Our Fighting Men.
A Seabee rolled up and he asked, ĎWhatís the score?
The wagons and cruisers all laying off shore?
And scads of destroyers are sweeping the bay,
Is the Army finally landing today?
Their generals outrank ours, so theyíll take command.
New rules and new orders will govern the land.
Theyíll have some M.P.Is to push us around
When the Army takes over it sure shakes the ground.
We can take it, said the Raider, it wonít be long
Til the Admiral bellers and weíll shove on.
And a little while later weíll be landing again,
To make New Guinea safe for Our Fighting Men.Ē
The Army sure does get a lot of things we miss but then you were with Marines long enough to know how they feel. Hereís an answer written by a dogface which seems to me more of a tribute to the USMC.
ďWe want him to be cocky, heís welcome to his pride.
They scratch him off the muster right at the warships side.
He makes the contact for us--thatís what itís all about -
The Navy dumps him in there, the Army gets him out.Ē
We do not heed the yapping--we go our way serene.
For we are in his Army, and he is our Marine!Ē
A rather good attitude I might say at that. I guess you know, though, that when this war ends, itíll be the Army that gets back first. As the Old Sergeants used to say to us --- Nobody drafted you, Mac!
I no longer have a platoon. The few remnants that are left are organized in groups with other remnants. I sure would have liked to have taken those boys to combat but I guess you know that a 2nd Lieut. has just about as much to say as a Pvt. The way promotions are going now I will be very lucky if I come back a 1st. Lt. We wonít be due till about next Christmas. As the Marine Corps gets bigger the promotions come slower. Oh well, I hope the war is over long before that. Itís not impossible. From this point of vantage it looks like things might turn out well. A good bunch of Americans are going to have to die first.
Iím afraid weíll have to make up our minds to that. We canít play chess with the Japs. We canít play around with them, weíre got to go right in and smack the daylights out of them right away. Weíll lose a lot of men but weíll lose more if we give them the time they want. Iím glad to hear weíre getting a little credit back home and you can take it from me it isnít exaggerated. The Marines just get out of one place and smackin to another. They are not showing the Japs any mercy whatsoever. With the Army backing us the way they are now and our Airforce and Navy growing stronger by the hour, the odds are well in our favor. If we were fighting these Japs on country such as Europe, instead of jungle, it wouldnít take so long to knock them out.
We had a movie last night in the open-air theatre. It was ďKorvett K-225.Ē
This morning after I finish this letter I will ahve to wash clothes. I donít look forward to that much I can tell you, although I have kept ahead pretty well so far. Our khaki doesnít get pressed down here but at least itís scrubbed clean.
Here it is another day, another day of waiting. Iím beginning to believe the veterans who say the most time spent in combat is in waiting for for action have something.
Here it is another Sunday and everything is very quiet. The only possible excitement is our volley-ball game this afternoon. No work today. Two of my boys won boxing fights last night and so I felt very good. Of course they were good long before I saw them but they were my boys anyway.
Weíve been pretty busy the last 2 days recovering from a hurricane but weíre getting pretty well squared away now. Tents blew down like tissue paper, etc.
We have moved into another tent now (Jaffe, Thompson and I); it has a good wooden foundation and is quite pleasant. The tents are much like the big ones they used to have at camp.
At last I have an assignment. Naturally I canít tell you where now. We are moving out today and it may be a week or more before you hear from me again. I said goodbye to the last remnant of my platoon last night. Only 2 of them are going with me.
As I told you in my last letter we are on the move. We still have a ways to go. The sea has been calm right along. Weíre really going in this time and it may be very hard to get mail to you often.
Weíre going to have some dogfaces with us on board soon, what a stab! It may be a little rough for them. We are a rough looking crew. No pressed clothes since weíve been overseas. The Marines are really respectedout here and we are all intensely proud of belonging. The Navy claims the reason we fight so well is they put us in impossible situations and we have to, too bad! Theyíve got a record of ďMe and My GalĒ on now and it really sounds good.
Canít say much of anything about whatís going on but weíre in there. Everything is okay and yours truly is in good shape. I guess someday Iíll be able to tell you about all thatís happening now.
The more I get into this thing the more thankful I am that I worked hard before we went overseas. I have so much more confidence in my ability, small though it may be.
My first real chance to write you. My new platoon has kept me so busy censoring their mail and Iíve had so much learning to do that Iíve just used up the time. Old Tojo isnít exactly the kind of a guy to help out either, if you know what I mean.
I have found that over here the greatest thing is to relax. If you relax you canít be afraid, tense or self-conscious at the same time. Honestly, sometimes we wonder if the Army is a fighting organization or not. Thereís only one place you find the Marines and that is at the front lines. Believe me there is not the least exaggeration in that. I guess they must be fighting in Europe although I believe most of the credit should go to the Air-corps.
***I believe Iím a little above the Kingís philosophy, sort of a leftist idea Iím afraid.
Getting another chance to write at last. We move a lot but that canít be helped. Youíre wet most of the time either with rain or sweat. itís raining now and the tents are like to wash away.
Itís a month and a half since Iíve heard from you. I ought to get a stack of them one of these days.
I have a weapons platton now. Any Marine can tell you what that is -if youíre curious. Thatís about all I can say except that weíre in action. We would surely like to conclude this operation and itís high time the Army took over but I guess theyíre going to leave it to the Marines as usual. We hack out the Japs and then the Army takes over with USOís and movies, buildings, etc. Whadda dogís life, honestly, you could spend years overseas in the Army and not see any fighting.
Another little moment in which to write. Rather I should say a good-sized moment. When we arenít actually at work, we loaf. Rest certainly helps, although weíve had it pretty light so far.
I call my rifle ďJanieĒ for you know who and my pistol ďBetsyĒ for a Revolutionary War Cannon ďOle Betsy.Ē My real reliance is on Janie but old Betsy can speak with great authority when she has to. As yet no situation has been serious enough to call for Betsyís aid.
We have seen practically no action for a spell and things are very calm. There will probably be more in store for us but not just yet.
I still havenít heard from you since January 15th.
I added a poem that one of my men wrote or rather copied from somewhere. Just to show you the Marines are still cocky.
You can have your army khaki
You can have your navy blues
But thereís still another fighter
Iíll introduce to you.
The uniform is different
The best youíve ever seen
The Huns called him the Devil Dog
But his real name is Marine.
He trained on Parris Island
The land that God forgot
Where the sand is fourteen miles deep
And the sun is scorching hot.
Heís set many a table
And many a dish heís dried
He also learned to make a bed
And a broom he sure can glide.
He has peeled a million onions
And twice as many spuds
And spends his leisure time in
Washing out his duds
Now listen girls take this advice
Iím passing on to you -
Go get yourself a nice Marine
Thereís nothing he canít do.
And when he goes to Heaven
To St. Peter he will tell,
ďAnother Marine reporting, Sir.
Iíve done my strech in hell.Ē
And if St. Peter turns him down
Right back to hell heíll go.
To kick the devil off his throne
And boss the whole darn show.
This is hardly a combat zone now so lay aside all your fears for a good spell. I got a very minute taste of it this time but I donít suppose itíll be too long before the next campaign.
Hurray, the Army finally got hot and landed on the ADMIRALTYS and even though I guess they didnít meet much opposition they seem to be doing well.
Iíve been doing a lot of scouting around on my own in the jungle. The many things Iíve seen, I guess Iíll have to tell you about when I get home. Itís pretty warm in the tropics and donít let anyone tell you it isnít. Your clothes are wringing wet before you move very far.
We seemed to have stopped wandering all over for the present. Itís good to have a sort of home for awhile. Iím much more settled in my new life now. Ití s monotonous but Iím good and healthy. Even gained weight but Iím working that off now.
My philosophy is new, you know.***
It certainly has been a long time since Iíve been able to write to you. Weíve been out playing games with the little yellow people. I donít think you got the leftist idea but we are where I used to go to church.***Wish I Ďd thought of it before.
Janie has sung a very sweet song for the last 2 weeks. I only had to use Betsy once. I wish I could tell you everything about how many Japs we killed, etc. Suffice it to say there were plenty and the reports you hear about huge Japanese losses are more than true. Marines hate them like no-one else. The captured Japs all tell the same story, the US Marines are the worldís best soldiers. Frankly they havenít got a chance and itís just a pity that some good American boys have to die, too.
A stack of mail came today! 35 letters from you and 15 from the folks.
The worse I got out of this siege was a minor case of malaria. That can make you mighty uncomfortable but nothing to worry about.
When youíre a platoon leader you donít have much time to get souvenirs. Janie talked to a good many Nips and I picked up a few odds and ends from yellow men whoíll never kill Americans again. Iíll send you a thing or two now and then.
Iíve been so very glad that I knew the woods at home and had done plenty of hunting. The jungle is different and yet much the same eternal vigilance will alone save the lives of you and your men. I went on more patrols than any officer in the battalion and was proud of it. We have some swell officers in E. Co., and when they go after Japs they really go and get Ďem.
Here it is Easter Sunday. We can say now that we were in the landing at Cape Gloucester, New Britain. I have also been in Australia and New Guinea, but very briefly. Any news about the 1st Marines is my outfit. I can also tell you now that I didnít get into the Raiders because they disbanded them. Iím in a crack outfit now.
Here is a leaf--some kind of jungle vine.
Well, now I can also tell you that Iíve been in Australia and New Guinea. Not for long but I had a brief look and of course I landed on Cape Gloucester, a little late for the first clash but I got in my share. Weíll probably be moving again soon and there may be another hitch in your mail. I think the fighting here is pretty well secured, though I guess the Aussies will be moping for years.
Weíre just getting vague reports of a great sea victory. I hope itís all it seems to be. The Phillipines seem to be the next great objective. Maybe weíll get to go, who knows.
I was going to tell you about the native village we stayed in for several days. I was (as officer in charge) White Master #1. It was quite an experience. Lului, the chief, helped us out a lot and gave us native boys for scouts to route out the Japs, etc. We converse with them in Pidgin English. Our conversations would go much like this, with many gestures:
Me: Lului, white massa no. 1, him bringum plenty white soldier. Catchem Japan soldier. You savvy soldier, him belong Japan, where him stop stop and sleep sleep.
Chief: Yes, Master, me savvy. Sun come up this morning boy seeum 10 Japan soldier, stealum my taro, killum my pig.
Me: OK, Lului, we catchum boy, we go go go go, up up up, down down down, catchum place Japan soldier him stop. Boy showum white soldier, him shoot, boom boom--plenty Japan soldier he die.
Chief: Yes master, No. 11
Anything thatís tops is number one with them like No. 1 KIKI is best food.
They held a dance for us and had a hog killing. They split a little girls ears to put rings in them and the poor kid screamed and hollered. They killed the pig at the same time so that the pain would go into the pig. Some idea Iíd say. Boy, did they roast that pig.
While we stayed in the village every Marine had him a chopchop boy to wash his clothes and get him coconuts, etc. They gave them all kinds of names like Gizmo, Yardbird, Eightball, Headspace, etc. What a time!
One of the Gooks, as all Marines call the natives, got himself in the way of a .30 Cal. slug and I had to give him a military funeral to appease the chief. I had to say a blessing in Pidgin English and then we fired 3 salutes. The natives thought it was a fine funeral and went back happy as larks. Iím telling you, a Marine Lt. has to be versatile. My men were all calliní me Padre for awhile.
Iím writing by the light of a lantern and thereís rain coming down on the tent. Reminds me of old Camp Bethel. Guess this will be the first year Iíve missed although I havenít had too much time there in the last few years.
My letters should get to you regularly except when Iím fighting or moving aboard ship. I believe we are due to move very soon now.
I suppose I ought to tell you about a little thrill I had a while back. I had an 8 man patrol out in the jungle when we spotted or rather heard some Japs across a small creek. We figured they were only a few and crawled out onto the almost bare bank of the creek in readiness to sneak across. About that time we froze like dead men. What we thought was a few turned out to be the first of a marching column 35 feet away from us. We were in full view and couldnít move. If one Jap had turned his head left he would have seen us. I counted 73 armed with rifles and light machine guns. I guess you know we were sweating. Oícourse once they were by I sent for reinforcements and we annihilated them. Sometime!
The weather is really getting hot. Sure would like to be in New England. I think the European war will last Ďtill next fall and this one at least a year more. A lot can happen in that time but Iím optimistic. Once we get the Phillipines, itís going to be rather uncomfortable for Tojo. You know that paper money I sent you? Well, I guess you know the little yellow weasels were planning on using it when they captured Australia. We call it occupational money. I guess they didnít realize that over 10,000 of them would die in New Britain.
Weíre not allowed to tell of our own losses although I can tell you they were small. A few of my friends got hurt but weíve been lucky. We all are pretty dark I guess but you donít notice it when everyone is that way. Weíre a little yellow from taking so much atabrine, too.
By the way, I have a Rifle Platoon now which is what I wanted. I liked the boys I had but Iím a much better Rifle Platoon leader. It was a rifle platoon that I had at New River.
When weíre not on a blitz, I usually weigh almost 180 and then I go dowry to about 170. We get good food when weíre back off the lines and we do our share of just sitting around. Iíve just spent about 15 days without once having dry feet. It doesnít seem to bother them though.
Had a funny experience awhile back. I was out on patrol sneaking up on a Jap hut. It was raining hard and none of them heard me. I looked inside and there were several of them so busy talking they didnít even look up. When I said ďCome on outĒ they all dove for their weapons in the center of the hut. Of course that put them all in 1 bunch and fore I knew it Janie was talking to them very rapidly. Of course the rest of the patrol closed in and that was all. Sometimes that Janie sure gets to be a chatterbox.
A rainy afternoon with not much to do. Colonelís inspection tomorrow so weíve got to be on our toes, even out here. I got all my clothes washed but this rain isnít giving them a chance to dry.
We shot some fat jungle pig6ons yesterday but they were pretty. Like an old chicken. I guess your food isnít any better than ours except when weíre on a push.
Nothing much happening to write about. You must know where we are now. By the time you get this Iíll be going back to the old philosophy where the Marines first became acquainted with it. **
My new platoon has several yardbirds in it that Iím going to have to straighten out. That is almost always the way it is. I have fine NCOís at any rate and Iíve been on patrol with this gang before. We had a Captains inspection this morning and made out pretty well. My clothes are almost all clean so all is right with the world.
Itís just before supper chow and I can at least get started on a letter. Just had a nice cold bath in the stream.
Here comes your latest epistle from jungle land. Nothing new today, been firing out on a home-made range. Big inspection tomorrow so everybodyís getting cleaned up as to clothes. It has rained everyday for a long time and it is a little hard to get your clothes dry. The ground gets very muddy, enough to even come over the tops of our high shoes. Itís the real sticky kind, too, practically have to cut it off.
Thereís all kinds of rumors as to where weíre going and lotz of scuttlebutt about the original Guadalcanal men going home. There are a lot of them, too. I hope they do as it will move me one step nearer to coming home which is yet a long way off.
Tomorrow will make 5 months overseas for me. As you know I have moved. Say, by the way - do you remember the name of the Rev. Huggins son?*** You better. You should miss about a week of my letter. Donít worry as Iím quite a ways from New Britain and other front lines. I imagine you will soon read in the papers that the Marines were relieved on N.B. by the Army. ***Russell Island
I donít know what this newspaper article you speak of was but I sorta guessed it was about ďPappyĒ Genetti and I meeting down here. He is older than most of us, about 35. He is a PFC, a hot potato and people like him. Heís a very typical Manchester character.
1 am now writing you early in the morning, just after breakfast. Too many people are gabbiní and itís hard to concentrate. getting up early, and getting up in the middle of the notice.
Where we are now is some different. We are camped in coconut plantations in the world. All over one island. They were planted by the British concern of Leber Bros., Inc. The British Govít charges us $25 for every tree cut down. ĎI say we ought to charge them for everyone that we got back for them. Anytime you want a coconut you look out in front where usually at least one will fall everyday.
Thereís a little less mud here but plenty of rats, no jungle in the grove, of course. Pretty warm now.
We have been busy getting our men squared away and are now building tables, etc., to write on out of boxes and the like. Figuring to stay a little while.
Am enclosing a letter from Mrs. Quesy, the nurse I introduced you to at college. Remember her hair is almost white and she keeps all of Tufts athletes informed about the college and each other. A grand person.
My malaria only lasted 5 days and I hope I donít get it again. Itís not exactly pleasant. Those souvenirs came out of a Japs wallet. My scout and I crept up on two of them before they could move. I also got a nice watch, minus hands, but in good order. We had to kill the 2 Japs quietly sois not to advertise our whereabouts. Iím not a blood-thirsty killer but I have had to use a knife several times. This hand to hand combat is usually done at night in a foxhole. Most of the shooting is never over 50 yeards and is usually about 30-50 feet. Betsy can handle that as well as Janie.
Iím afraid if you saw the grass skirts these natives wear you wouldnít care much for them. They are very, very narrow. They are very dirty people and have lotz of skin diseases and infections and they are REAL black. We had a great time throwing grenades in the water to kill fish then the Gooks would dash into the water and scoop Ď6m up.
1 have just been thinking of all the many patrols weíve been on and I thought that everybody who had written about it had tried to make heroes out of us. This poem is about a small routine patrol where you might run across 10 Japs, maybe 20; track them and usually mop up on Ďem. Patrolling at the same time is very nervous work and it frays your nerves, knocks the weight off you, too. Youíre usually dirty and sweaty and tired and I tried to catch that picture.
Donít worry about me wearing a helmet. You see in the jungle it makes too much noise scratching against brush and when you are lying down you canít see from under it. One time for instance I had a 6 man patrol and was sneaking across the top of a ridge trail in pretty thick jungle. I was in front when I heard Japs talking. I slid down from the ridge on my belly to investigate. In the draw was a stream and 3 Japs with rifles who had just reached the top of the opposite ridge and were helping each other up the trail. One of my men back on the ridge coughed, and the three of them bolted. I was in no position to get a good shot but managed to get Janie up in time to wing a big fellow. Youíve never heard anything Itil you hear Ďem scream. He was just wounded but he jumped up and screamed like a fiend. Right thereís where he made a mistake as Janie stitched him a new row of buttons rather quickly. You see the others werenít yet in a position to shoot and we would have got them all except for that little noise. I shot him at 50 yards but I probably could have gotten within at least 25 yards of them.
May 14, 1944
I take my pen in hand to write again this day to my dearly beloved wife. Oh, that I could unfold upon this page all the hearts adoration, all the longing, all the love I hold for her. She, who was my inspiration so long before we became one heart, one mind, and one soul. Oh, if I could only tell her that the many miles that separate us only make my love more real, more fine, more true. She has been and will be my guiding star, my jewel beyond price, my only love. If I could tell her all those things tonight -
If perhaps I could, having spoken, enclose her dear self within my arms to hold her strongly but still gently. If I could feel the smooth, cool brush of her cheek on mine and hide my lips in her dark hair. If then looking down she would lift her eyes to mine and with those eyes tell me of her love and then her lips on mine, her heart beating strongly close to mine, we could hide forever warís ugly face and dwell in love together for all our days.
If I could whisper in her little ear, ďMy June, I love you so.Ē ďWe two will spend our life in love and no more longing, for the past is dead and before us lies the future full of work and promise, failure and success, shared alike, together.Ē
If I could say, ďMy, Dear, when we are three perhaps weíll have to make room here and strengthen there, a boy is a beloved tyrant in a home.Ē
If when coming home at night I should find my dear one tired, distressed, concerned with motherís care. Then, too, could I take her in my arms and say, ďDarling, be of good cheer, all the world loves a mother. When Jane is grown perhaps she can be as fair as wise as you, my Dear.Ē
And another time when she is close by my side at night and I am tired and weary of the constant demands of a little child, she would snuggle close, her head on my shoulder and her voice in my ear. ďHe will be like you, Hon, when heís big enough, and we will be so proud to guide him on his course of lifeĒ and I would answer, ďYes, but he will have his motherís thoughts and kindness and we two, through his life, shall relive all the joys of childhood to youth and mark with pride each new step that he has made.Ē
And on other lighter, gayer days perhaps we two, or three or four - can spend a sunny Sunday afternoon beside the sea and I will tell her of the years I spent away. The best things about those days in distant lands. And she in turn tell me of the months she felt that same aching longing that I felt. Little lazy talk upon the sand -- ďI love you, Hon. - Me too, you.Ē ďYou Pumkin head, let that loose lock fall over your eye. I like to see it so -- Youíre crazy, but I love you, Dear.Ē
Perhaps on other days when black clouds threaten home and all that is our own we will repeat, Our love is strong, Dear God, our faith is sure, we wholly trust in Thee. If it be thy will Oh Lord and thanks --Ē and rising we will feel the sweetness of our love, the strength of that love and looking on the future with a brighter face go forth to start anew upon old ashes.
If all this come true, my Dear, and trust in God it will, no longer will I speak about my wife but to you my better self, my stronger half. God grant, Hon, when my work is through and I must no longer use these hands of mine for evil work but now for honest toil, that our time of longing and sorrow will end in quiet love and I will take you in my arms once more and feel your lips again and touch your long dark hair and know that it is not a dream but really you and than Iíll say, ďMy Dearest June, I love you and I love you as only you will know.Ē
Many of the old men are still standing by in hopes of going home, although they will be lucky if they do. Some brand spanking new replacements are here and are they ever tough guys, in their own minds. They will however soon learn. I met a Capt. Al Bennett, Tufts Ď40 and a fairly good friend of mine. He was at New River fore we left, I might have mentioned him. Iím sure glad Iím all broken in now and donít have to start from scratch as a greenhorn. I think that is one of lifes greatest trials, beginning anew, being green at anything. It would seem, though, once youíve got the savvy in this business you will never be quite so green again.
You asked if I killed the Jap that I got the souvenirs from. Yes, but I donít think Iíll elaborate on how. Enough to say it was done quickly and quietly. A platoon leaderís job is first to keep his men organized and killing Japs is secondary. However, I did manage to get that in, too. We never let them suffer if theyíre wounded or sick either. I have a Jap watch Iíll send you sometime. Maybe next push I can manage to get a saber. I had plenty of chances this trip but was-too busy.
Itís pretty warm now. We wear khaki all the time except when training or fighting, then itís dungarees. The Khaki gets real salty out here, almost white from scrubbing and the sun. Atabrine makes us a little yellow like the Japs and of course we all have a pretty dark color. Some of those Japs are surely ugly and boy do they smell. They use incense and powders which make Ďem stink like the blazes. You can tell how long theyíve been gone from a place by the smell.
Down in the sunny, sticky jungle,
where the vines twist oíer the stream,
and the musty smell of jungle, a stagnant
Seems unreal, like a dream.
There are men among these jungles,
gliding down a narrow trail,
And their dripping, sweaty faces,
their dirty stubbled faces
Tell a harried tale.
Other feet have beat that trail,
just a little while ago,
And the men in muddy green,
in wet and ragged green
Track them, bending low.
Matters not the time of conflict,
matters not the fear of death
There is only tightened grimness, but
cocky, rugged grimness
Holding aching breath.
Will the tracker find the tracked one,
will the shining afternoon
Look on grimly smiling faces,
or on still and quiet faces,
Chilled of breath too soon.
Yellow men in the bushes, a sudden
Rifles blazing, tommies sounding, cries
of dead and dying sounding,
A final scurrying rout.
The morning sun will tell us of the
haggard men in green,
Yes, they came back last night safely,
all but one back safely
To tell of what theyíd seen.
And so it will be in the jungle, Ďtil
we reach a clearer goal,
When quiet love will welcome and the
sun no longer welcome
Another Marine Patrol.
R. Bruce Watkins
Theyíve got a movie tonight and Iím going to see it. What a picture, a strictly corny western.
Got up at 10 to 6 and gave the men physical drill. Both men and officers have to do it early in the morning when itís cool. Of course itíd kill you later on in the day. You donít have to worry about such stuff in combat. You stay thin as a snake anyway.
They really got a recent movie out here tonight. I sat on a coconut log and saw ďSee Here, Pvt. Hargrove.Ē It really was good.
Tomorrow is a big inspection day. Thereís one thing about the USMC, they surely do keep their men on their toes in or out of combat. I guess it gives them the spirit they need. It is a pain in the neck though and I donít mean maybe. They donít expect your platoon to lose or wear out anything and the officers are always held responsible.
Inspection went pretty well. It was very fast. I have a swell platoon and they always look swell. When youíve gone through things together as we have itís awfully hard not to get too familiar with them. You have to keep their respect and consequently find it hard. I know you feel as I do that we all rate the same privileges and nobody anymore than anyone else. Yet itís true, if you donít take advantage of those privileges they will lose respect for you. It really makes you feel good to have them come to you with their problems both here and at home. Naturally they appreciate a Lt. who does something about their requests rather than let it slide. Little things like keeping their mail censored so it gets out on time. You have to crack the whip every so often though, even if it hurts to do it.
I have a very good Platoon Sgt. His name in Montgomery (Monty) for short. He and I are exactly the same type and it seems like everything we do we click. We understand each other and the men us.
Remember a gap in my mail doesnít mean anything serious. Fur wonít be flying Ďtill my birthday, I donít believe.
We got some pepsi-cola today and that sort of made folks feel good.
Iíve really had a lot of exercise lately. Volleyball and baseball in my spare time. Itís been a help although plenty hot. Iím in pretty fair shape now, feel better too, building up resistance to this malaria bug.
We certainly have lotz of rats around here. They run all over everything, the tent roof and all. One ran down the length of my cot last night. I finally cornered him in a box and knifed him.
I guess maybe we wonít have that gap after all due to the fine service of Uncle Sam which I imagine you can appreciate.
6/2/44 - 8 P-m-
Just played volleyball after supper and Iím still a little hot. Iím writing to you now after dark. Jaffe is writing across the tent from me. Decker and Robby are fussiní around, not accomplishiní much and just shootiní the bull.
Thereís so little news thatís really interesting. They change their plans so often in this outfit that it keeps you busy just following it. I guess thatís why we get the jump on the Japs. Weíre so fouled up that nobody can second guess us.
6/3/44 - 8 A.M.
Whatíd ya know they had 2 good movies last night. The best ones Iíve seen overseas. ďLife of Mark TwainĒ and ďChip off the Old Block.Ē
Skulls seem to be a favorite decoration in the combat zone. I saw one on the radiator of a jeep. Itís jaws were fastened with elastic. Every time the jeep hit a bump the jaw wagged up and down. Donít worry, I wonít bring one home and I only kill when I have to, although perhaps I may have to order a lot of it. They are animals, there is no remorse about killing them.
6/4/44 - Noon
Itís almost chow time and I am nice and clean in a nice pair of white scivie shorts you sent, sitting at a table made by me on a stool made by ďDeck.Ē It is so good to be clean. I went to church this morning for the first time in quite awhile. All the rest of the day we worked on our tent, put in a coral deck, built furniture, etc. We have the nicest tent in the area now.
6/4/44 - 10 P.M.
There goes taps, sounds awful pretty. In a minute Iíll have to go down and check to see that all lights are out and mosquito nets up. Practically tuck Ďem into bed, huh?
Guess I better get on my horse and make this bed check. Back again, everybody was a good boy tonight, so consequently no unpleasantness. I imagine the platoon will have written a whale of a lot of mail today. Iíll have to censor tomorrow but I guess their mail is as important to them as mine is to me so Iíll just have to get hot.
6/5/44 - 9 P.m.
My platoon played the 3rd platoon in our company in volleyball and beat them 21-3, 21-6. What a shellacking I was very proud of them. They played the other boys for their beer. I hope they donít get too drunk tonight.
I certainly have a swell platoon now. They have a lot of spirit and really work and play hard. Course I think itís the best in the battalion but thatíd be hard to prove.
My platoon won their first 2 volleyball games in a tournament by onesided scores. Rain today, everything muddy. Sure is hard to get up at 5:30 in the morning but it always has been. By golly, I hope when I get to working back in the states I can get upa little later. I guess you can get up easy though when you want to--itís just beiní made to get up that gets you. If I could only have a nice hot bath now and then a a cold shower.
6/9/44 - 11 A.M.
We have a little better living than lately although we arenít exactly in the Waldorf-Astoria. The Jap troops wish to heck they lived as well.
6/11/44 - 9:30 A.M.
Met ďPappyĒ Guinetto yesterday. Heís been sick but made a fast recovery. Some new men from Connecticut are here that know several people in Manchester. Fun to talk to them.
Iíve gained a little weight lately, a little bit plumper...Iím even heavier than I like to be except that the next blitz will stick my bones out again.
6/15/44 - 9 P.M.
Things are going pretty well now. We have some showers now which really makes it very pleasant. We certainly have no kick coming. I just had a nice bath and now it is raining on the tent and sounds very cozy like camp. A rat just ran across the floor.
My platoonís been giving me disciplinary problems lately. Have to get on them a bit. Trouble is Iím too fond of them. Itís hard to get mad at them for any length of time. We do so little thatís really energetic now it seems as though you wouldnít get tired, but thatís the tropics for you I guess. Maybe Iíll bring you out this way sometime when the war is long past. I really would like to visit ole chief Lului sometime. Wonder if heíd remember? 6/21/44 - 9 P.M.
Back to red cross stationary again. We are enjoying our first radio music in a long time. Itís really good to get the news first hand for a change.
Everyone seems to figure the war out here to last about a year and one half more and of course hope sooner. I ought to be able to get through that okay. Iíve served more than a quarter of 2 years already. When you look at it that way it doesnít seem so bad.
6/23/44 - 11 A.M.
Itís a pretty warm morning and Iím the only officer in the Co. area so Iíve time to write.
Received quite a few letters from you today and also the snapshots. Surely was glad to get them. Mail is pretty slow at times, although I really canít complain.
6/25/44 - 9 A.M.
Here I am again on Sunday morning feeling very much like talking to you. Just had a bath, a shave and breakfast too. Iíve got to do some of my laundry this afternoon but for now until after church, I relax.
Sundays are a lot more like Sundays at home now. We seldom work and more or less relax most of the day.
Thereís not a heck of a lot doing lately. My platoon is running smoothly again. Everyone seems to be in good spirits but kinna quiet.
Saw a good movie last night, ď2 Girls and a Sailor.Ē There was lotz of music and lightheartedness and it made us all feel good. Once youíve been in the real thing these war pictures all look exaggerated or staged. ďGung HoĒ was here but very few went to see it. War isnít glorious and thereís nothing in it that anyone here wants to see reviewed. I guess itís enough to have to face it in reality.
6/25/44 - 9 P.M.
Iíve just finished doing some studying up on furniture. My Dad sent me some books and tonight I was just thinking how weíd be getting furniture fore too long for our home.
6/26/44 - 10 P.M.
Iím still in the same place and will be for awhile yet. My Pl. Sgt., Montgomery, has been overseas 2 years and says he is plenty ready to go home. I wish I could tell you more about my Platton. E Co. won two softball games in a row.
6/28/44 - 10 P.M.
Our fellow Marines up on Saipan seemed to have run into plenty rough fighting. I reckon it wonít be too long fore we see some feathers flying. I couldnít tell you when Ďcause I donít know and couldnít if I did.
Just had some limes mixed with water and sugar in my canteen. Takes care of your thirst real well .
Looks like one of my men is a track star. Iím entering him in a Regimental meet. Most of the athletes around here come from E Co. Itís a great outfit. Weíre waiting on the feathers now and I guess it wonít be very long.
7/4/44 - 9 P.M.
We went fishing today, 7 officers, Ďcause today was a holiday. We didnít use a hook and line though. We used blocks of TNT. Weíd get in about 20 feet of water with our rubber boat and when we found good coral bottom, drop over a healthy charge. After it goes off you go Ď) back and pick the fish up, floating around. Some of them, killed instead of stunned, sink to the bottom and we dive for Ďem. Sometimes you get ahold of one thatís still kicking and itís a battle to hold him and swim back to the boat. I grabbed on to a big 10 pounder one time and got my finger cut to the bone. This tropical fish is pretty, all colors of the rainbow, but what teeth! All the NCOís had fish for supper tonight. Personally I like to catch Ďem but donít care about eating them.
I am sending another piece of Jap money. This is their own money they use back in Japan. I didnít know I had it, it was in the back of one of my Jap wallets. If I ever get around to it Iíll send that watch too.
Fighting the Japs seems like years ago now but I guess weíll not have long to wait for more. Little but coconut trees here. The British must have had a corner on the coconut market. Down here in safe waters it doesnít seem possible our buddies can be dying up on Saipan. I guess it must be pretty rugged. Weíll find out soon enough.
Thereís a very beautiful moon tonight, round and full. Shining through the coconut palms it makes it almost light as day. I guess it is very beautiful. War doesnít bother mother nature too much. It may knock out a lot of growth by bombing, etc., but itíll all come back. It takes awhile to get used to seeing dead bodies after the sun and bugs have been at Ďem but after all, the spirit of the person has passed away and it is, as one would say, nothing but clay.
First dead Jap I saw we uncovered while digging a head (Latrine). I know spots in the jungle where there are bones scattered for hundreds of yards. I guess maybe I shouldnít mention these things but Iíd rather youíd realize how it was. I guess Iíve gotten pretty callous but I imagine itís nothing a little peacetime wonít cure.
Yesterday I got a letter addressed to Lt. Richard B. Watkins with the rest blanked out and only 1st Mar. Div. It came from Mrs. R. B. Watkins, 1428 Indianola Ave., Columbus, Ohio. I thoít you might be interested. Her husband evidently was in a hospital for awhile but probably got out and it was confused with my name. On the other hand it might be her son though as it looks like Lt. Richard S. Watkins. Very confusing.
I had to quit playiní volleyball this morning because my finger opened up where the fish bit me on the 4th. Barracuda are mighty vicious. Itís sultry as all get out today. I shot some parrots hunting yesterday. Iím enclosing some feathers. Kinna beat up but will give you a little idea of the many colors they wear. The big one is from a white cockator.
7/14/44 - 9 P.M.
We have an artist in our company who has been painting action pictures since we got out of combat. He painted a portrait of me which I am sending to you. I wouldnít say it was terribly good but I thought you might like it, next best to a photograph.
7/16/44 - 2 P.M.
Just was interrupted by none other than Corp. Labos. His outfit was split up so I couldnít find him but he found me. I gave him the picture you sent with his wife in it and he seemed very pleased. I donít think thereís anything wrong with him. He hasnít had malaria and he seems to be in good shape. I think his wife is worrying needlessly. I had quite a long talk with him.
7/21/44 - 9 P.M.
My correspondence is terrible but I just have run my head off lately. Wish I could tell you all that I do but thatís impossible. It wonít be long before the feathers start but we have work ahead to do.
My platoon is in good shape. Iím proud of them although they need a lot of improvement yet. All kinds of personalities. A lot of New Englanders too. I gripe a lot but I still wouldnít be in anything but the Marines. They are the toughest and the dirtiest but thereís something really down to fundamentals in a Marine foot soldier. ďWe donít need the aircorps medals or the armys rest and chow; let the navy dump us in there and we can show them how.Ē
Weíre getting more rain again now. I just hope it isnít gonna be the rainy season which it may be. One of the officers here is trying to tame a parrot but without much success. The bird is very ungrateful and mad most of the time.
Just got a swell package from you with candy, mints, books, those swell little pads, etc. They are awfully handy, I always give some awayí. Iíd like to get ahold of some leather shoelaces too if I could. The ones you got for me are just beginning to rot.
Funny weather weíve got. The sun shines and itíll rain at the same time. Our tent is getting mighty leaky. Iím thinking that something will have to be done about it. Itís about time we got goiní - then I wonít have to worry about it.
8/6/44 - 7 P.M.
Here are some pictures of my platoon. I would like to get reprints of all of them so would you have them made up for me.
1 donít think Iíll see the Huggins boy for awhile but again later probably. Heís treated me pretty well. I met Sgt. Goelz, my old platoon Sgt. at N.R. Boy, was I surprised. He is the first Iíve seen of that replacement Bn.
Iím gonna send my trunk home from San Francisco so donít be worried when you see it. It may be pretty well battered as it wasnít terribly strong. Itís been to Brisbane, Australia and back. I forget just what all is in it. My greens, letters, books, khaki, etc.
There surely isnít much to, write about although I have a little more time now. We are all in pretty good spirits. Itís nice to see people smiling. Weíve been a long time without a roof over our heads, or mattresses, or hot water or any of those convenient little things. Iím not kicking, just reflecting.
On my birthday Iíll have 9 months overseas. Feathers for a birthday present, I think.
Here I yam again. I guess you can probably guess where. Thatís right, Iím on a ship again heading into combat for the second time. By the time you get this of course we will have had our fun and you will be able to read about it. The 1st Marines are part of the 1st Div. so look for either name.
I should have more time to write aboard ship as we are all ready except for a few very minor details. My emotions are not particularly aroused by the thought of action yet. I feel like a veteran although I guess I havenít seen as much as many. No doubt after this one I wonít need to take a back seat to anyone. My platoon is really ready I do believe and I would match them against any platoon that ever went into combat. The Marine Corps has a way of making you feel silly if youíre afraid when there are so many fellas going in with you.
Iíve got Janie and Betsy in good shape. Theyíre all ready to go. Iím sure theyíll stand by me as they did before. Ole Janie is pretty well beat up but she is still a great weapon.
Sure gets hot inside a ship. All we wear is shorts most of the time. Itís not bad sleeping on the top deck when a cool breeze is blowing at night and the stars come out. Ocean travel is okay but Iím afraid Iím getting very sick of it. Good friends help while away the time.
I guess you been worryiní a bit but as you now see it was entirely unnecessary. I came through the Palau campaign without a scratch despite the casualties you read about. I must admit though that there were many, many times when I just missed. I canít tell you about how hard we were hit but I reckon youíve read it.
You probably know it was the First Division that landed on Peleliu and the First Marines (First Regiment) really bore the brunt of it. They can say what they want but I have seen the bravest men that ever lived or died. My platoon did a magnificent job and I am mighty proud of them. My Battalion and Co. were tops, too, and we are now licking our wounds. Not me though, thank goodness.
Six days covered the fiercest action and we were sure in it. The correspondents with us claimed it was worse than Tarawa and Saipan. It was really somethiní.
We didnít pick up any souvenirs this trip, we were too busy fighting. My fannie is my souvenir and a mighty good one.
The day after we came off the line we had a mail call and I got 6 letters from you, one with the picture of me and my two Sgts.
Iím aboard ship right now. Iíll probably see the Huggins boy soon -but I just want you to know that Iím OK.
My second letter to you since the storm. I guess Iíll be out here 24 months like I said the first time but by Christmas Iíll have over half in and I think ití]] be quite awhile before the next blitz.
Oh, I meant to tell you that Janie chalked up one more before I had to ditch her for a Garand rifle. The Garand did better and I finally ended up with you guessed it, Tommy, and he really did have a party. Ole Betsy saved my life this time and chalked up a saber-waving Jap officer. Sure was glad to have her along. Wouldnít part with her for anything.
My first chance to write you since I got to see Huggins. I know letters are on their way to you now but probably wonít reach you for another week.
Wish I could have got some souvenirs for you but there was just too much else to do. This gizmo Iím sending you was made by one of my boys from a piece of a Jap Zero. You can shine it up and bend it for a bracelet or leave it like it is. What you see in the center is the 1st Div. shoulder patch
All I lost on this push was a fingernail on my right hand ring finger. I had shells land as close as 5 feet from me and only knock me down. I had a piece of shrapnel as big as my arm tear the chin strap off my helmet and never touch me. Bullets came close enough to feel the breeze but yet I didnít get hit. Seemed like I always moved just in the nick of time. Your prayers were really answered, there are so many, many Marines not so lucky. Our regiment got hit hardest.
I guess Iíll tell you about a little personal satisfaction I got on the 3rd day of the fight. A sniper had shot one of my boys and as my carbine was no good I took his Garand rifle. About an hour later after the fighting had slowed up I suddenly spotted a Jap sniper creeping along a ledge almost 350 yards away. I put the old eye along the barrel and shot him right square between the eyes. He must of fallen 100 ft. Just like a bird. I reckoned Iíd got a litted revenge for Bucky
Your package with the first bunch of pictures came today. I know the boys will be more than happy. If I have enough left over Iíll send you one of each and identify them for you.
Iíve spent all morning buildling a desk. It has a leaf that drops down and lots of compartments inside, at least it suites our purpose very well. Robbie, Jaffe and I are still together in the same tent...Decker is gone.
I went hunting this morning with pretty fair luck. All birds and chickens but game is thick. Went out with a shotgun, canít miss with them.
TO MY WIFE
It seems but yesterday,
I left our home to fight.
You said, ďYou have to go, I know.Ē
And, Darling, you were right.
That was my destiny
And yours - to wait.
I vowed your love would go with me
Though all around was hate.
Long is the day and long the night
For Dear ones far apart,
But blood and rage have never changed
Your image in my heart.
And after every fight, My Dear,
Another battle won,
I build again those dreams of ours
A house, a home, for ďHon.Ē
I know those castles built on air
Have seemed so incomplete,
But someday we will surely hear
The sound of little feet.
Oh I have seen the darkest hours,
When Death stood by our side,
But God gave heed to prayers of yours
And bridged the chasm wide.
It may be long, it may be soon
But surely as the rain
Your loving arms will welcome home
Your husband - once again.
Not much for poetry, Hon, but words are little things. God bless you, my Darling.
My Tommy gun took an awful beating but it looks pretty good now and I reckon itíll be No. 1 by the time we have our first inspection
Itís kinna good to see movies again but after all that excitement I feel very restless. I guess these real quick blitzes are easier on the people who came through. New Britain was pretty long and drawn out.
Everything seems to be going smoothly here. The weather is as good as it ever gets in the tropics. Weíre getting some fresh meat now and then and things are quite livable. Itís just that never, until our wandering steps turn homeward will any of us be really happy. Thatís a long time for me yet.
What a huge crab just crawled across my foot. Glad he didnít take a notion to my toes. I guess he was minding his own business.
Here it is Sunday morning about 1:00 and very warm. We were just out tossing a football around and Iíve just had time to cool off.
Itís now about quarter to five. As we have supper at 5 it wonít be long. Had a lot of exercise today so I reckon Iíll sleep good tonight. Thereís a moview on ďHome in IndianaĒ that I think Iíll see tonight. I
Little while back, ďThe Impatient YearsĒ which was pretty good.
What a climate! The sun shines and it rains too. One thing I havenít done much of is swimming. Lotz of coral and you can get all kinds of infections if you cut yourself on it.
Here are a couple of articles you might be interested in. The dope on Peleliu is pretty straight. That ridge they speak of is where my outfit had itís toughest fighting. I have been on it and know just how it was. The other is something that a lot of people without husbands or sons over here could stand to read.
Iím going to a movie pretty quick. Itís ďLetís Have Fun.Ē
Iíve been out in the sun all day playing baseball and volleyball. I really am a dark brown now. You never realize how much one of these blitzes can take out of you until you get to playing sports. A few days of combat can take a terrific toll.
My fingernail is growing back after all. It would have been a mighty unsightly hand otherwise.
Am writing by candlelight. A little hard on the eyes but no hardship. Just came back from the movies, a long mixture of shorts. I enjoyed hearing Judy Garland sing ďOver the Rainbow.Ē Bob Hope was on too with Lana Turner.
Have to start with another platoon now. I said awhile back I could never get another platoon like that one. It was a wonderful one and I still feel that way.
Itís about 10 oíclock now and Iíve just come back from seeing the movie, ďBuffalo Bill.Ē It wasnít much of a story but it was in technicolor and quite nice.
Said goodbye to some of my boys today, going home after over 2 years of living in the So. Pacific. It really tugs at your heart to have them go and yet of course youíre glad they had the chance. If only ALL of them had left Peleliu.
11/9/44 - 10 P.M.
Youíd never guess what movie I saw tonight ... ďThis is the Army.Ē Remember when we saw it in New River?
Is it ever raining! Seems like the whole sky is unloading. Our tent is developing a couple of leaks. It sounds nice though on the roof.
11/13/44 - 9 P.M.
One of my best friends out here is a Lt. Lee Height. A very good friend of his is teaching school in Hamden. She is new there so I gave him your address which he sent to her. Her name if Hope DeMore so if she looks you up youíll know how come.
I went over to see my boys today and I feel good. They look a lot better most of them. Johnny Kincaid who had a heck of a battle with me the night I told you about isnít going to lose his eye and that alone was nice.
We are having a plague of crabs here now. Great big fellas, 9 inches across with the biggest nippers you ever saw. They like most of all to crawl under your blanket at night to keep warm. I never heard of anybody being pinched but there have been many startled awakenings. What pleasant bed fellows.
My finger is in pretty good shape now. I smashed it on the night of Sept. 1 7th. One of my squad leaders and I were defending a 1ittle point of rock and the Japs charged us several times. I donít know how it happened. I didnít notice it tillí early in the morning. I think it must of happened while we were wrassliní around. That, I hope, is as close as I ever have to get to those people.
Iím going to take a little trip to the hospital tomorrow and see some of my boys who are wounded. Itís quite a trip. Itís worth it just to see them grin. Some of them need a little cheering up too, and I think itíll make me feel a lot better also.
Iíve been running around today trying to get a good field for our battalion athletics-at least what we have. Softball and touch-football, etc. These coconut trees are kinna hard to get out of the ground, and we have to clear out a lot of them to make room, so Iíve been pretty busy today. My platoon always demands a certain amount of attention always so the moments are pretty well filled.
Weíre still waging war on the land crabs here, kill lotz of Ďem everyday.
Iím debating transferring to another outfit now but I canít make up my mind. It might offer a lot of advantages but of course itís hard to break away from the old familiar situation.
11/17/44 - P.M.
I just ran a fast half mile and I ainít used to it. Lt. Lee Height, one of my best friends and I decided to get a little exercise every night after dark when it was cool so weíve started. Iíve been out working naked to the waist for several days. I guess Iím darker than Iíve ever been. Just a little bit too heavy though..consequently the exercise.
11/19/44 - 10 P.M.
Saw a movie tonight, ďBarbary Coast GentĒ with Wallace Beery, not too bad.
All day the officers have been working, building a new building for a mess hall. We all really worked and the framework is already finished.
11/20/44 - 10 P.M.
Still working on our new mess hall today along with our other duties. Looks pretty good. I guess I told you I was battalion recreation officer and that keeps me pretty busy on the side, making schedules, etc. Still itís a lot better than some jobs I know. Things are getting a little more tolerable around here now. The only thing is this climate, you canít feel at all energetic.
I ran into some of my usual non-combat luck yesterday. We were clearing out an area with a bulldozzer and it kicked a big 1000 lb. coconut log on my left leg and rolled it around a bit. When the dozzer stopped I surveyed my situation from under said log (the pressure was slightly uncomfortable). From this position it was easy to see that although my leg was pointing North, my foot was pointing South, a most remarkable position. It took six men to lift if off and then I hobbled over to see the doctor. By practically a miracle sheís not broken but just extremely well bruised. Iím hobbliní around again today with only a little limp which goes to prove that you may knock Welshmen down but you canít break Ďem. Iíve got a left leg that looks just like alley oops.
11/24/44 - 9 P.M.
I yam feeling much better in the leg Row, although sheís swollen way out of shape. We are living better now than we ever have before. We get swell chow, have pads on our cots, etc. Itís almost too good.
All our Christmas packages are coming in now. I got one f rom you today.
11/27/44 - A.M.
All day long yesterday we worked on the mess hall and all of us hit the sack early last night. My ankle is still pretty swollen and sore but it is getting better. My shin has a big dent in it where the log hit, looks funny.
I had a bad case of fungus all over me but I seem to be defeating it now. It gets under your arms and between your legs and it really does irritate. Little blisters come first and then they break and spread it.
Did I tell you Lt. Decker was killed? If you remember he lived in the same tent with me and was one of my best friends out here. A swell guy and cool as ice water in action. I sure miss him and others, too.
11/29/44 - A.M.
Still at work on the new mess hall and Iím still making that athletic field. Itís beginning to look pretty good. Theyíll be playing softball on it fore long.
Itís clouding up for a real tropical rain this morning which Iím hoping isnít too wet as I have laundry to dry. Of course it cools if off and that helps.
Gotta get details squared away for several things. My Pi. Sgt. ďMontyĒ is finally going home after 30 months overseas. How I will miss him. I got him put up for a commission which he finally refused after long thought. You see he would have had to stay over here and I donít blame him. It will go in his record anyway.
12/4/44 - 7 P.M.
We had turkey tonight to celebrate Thanksgiving Day. A little late...Yes, but we had to take it when we could get it. We had a good dinner although itís been pouring buckets all day.
I have a lousy cold so I have spent most of the day in my cot and wearing my sniper sweater to keep warm. Didnít shave today and my beard is pretty rough. You should have seen the beard I had on Peleliu only it was all matted and dirty. Good camouflage but not good if you get wounded in the face.
One of my tent mates has 2 machine guns in the tent and itís kinna crowded. I donít know what he had to bring Ďem in here for. I guess heís just fiddling with Ďem. Tommy is all nice and clean and hanging under my bunk. I have taken very good care of him since the last one, as you know he took very good care of me. I imagine Janie is somewhere in a big scrap heap now but she did her job well. Ole Betsy is quietly resting in my box thinking about the next one. Sheís little conceited too and peeved because I couldnít get the saber from the Jap officer she shot. He fell down a cliff into the midst of his buddies and I was a little too sensible to do that even for Betsy.
The land crabs are getting thicker and thicker, pretty soon weíll have to call out the tanks. If the rain will only stop so will they. A fellow next door killed 240 of them in a day and a half.
My Battalion baseball team seems to be very good. Theyíve won all their games so far. I guess maybe itís due to the able coaching of Lt. Lee Height. By the way, did I tell you he saw a picture of Ernestine I received from your mother and wanted to write her, so I gave him her address.
12/11/44 - 9 P.m.
I donít think I will transfer from this outfit after all. Iíve had good luck here. I guess Iíll string along even though Iíll never be anything but a platoon leader.
The Colonel we have now is quite a character. He is a party boy and likes his whiskey but maybe he will turn out to be pretty good when the chips are down. I sure hope heís better than the last one.
12/12/44 - 10 P.M.
Somebody just hollered for a corpsman so we ran down to see what the dope was. Seems that someone had an epileptic fit.
My busted fingernail is just beginning to look like a real one again. My ankle is also back to normal size and Iím playing sports again. I mean what little we do around here.
12/14/44 - 10 P.M.
Been working on an athletic field for the battalion and I do think that after itís done itíll be about the best in the Division.
Just got another package from you --
My ball field is almost finished. In fact every evening there are people out there playing touch football. Had to cut down a lot of coconut trees. My days surely are very busy lately. Iím likely to be out in the field all day but they still insist on my running an athletic schedule. Getting a little short for time now and then.
Everybody is sending me Christmas packages. It really is fun to open them. I could never wait Ďtill Christmas.
12/18/44 - P.M.
Was out in a boat all day and really got a lot of sun. The coral on the bottom of the ocean can really be beautiful. It has so many colors. Lotz of odd looking fish down there too. Iíd do some diving but you get a lot of fungus from this salt water. You get a little scratch out here and it takes a long time to heal. Your blood gets thin in this hot climate, doesnít clot so easily. I still have a good scar where that barracuda bit me last spring, guess I learned from him.
12/19/44 - P.M.
We really are busy now which of course helps the time pass so who cares. Getting letters from my old platoon. Most of them have gone home you know. I guess I told you Monty was recommended for a commission but turned it down. I have a new platoon Sgt. now. His name is Rakauskas (Lithuanian descent). ďRockĒ is hi-s nickname. I picked him from 3 possible Sgts. maybe Ďcause I like Pollocks or their close neighbors. He seems to be turning out swell. Heís green of course to combat but I imagine heíll learn fast. Heís married and comes from Pennsylvania. 12/21/44 - 10 P.M.
I didnít write you last night but I was pretty sick. I scratched my wrist awhile back and it got infected. Last night I got a mild form of blood poisoning. I had chills and fever, tossed up, etc. No need to worry as I am writing with the swollen wrist and itís not bad.
We are getting a lot of beer and cake issues, I mean compared to what we used to.
12/22/44 - 9:30 P.M.
My new boys that just came overseas write home that theyíll be home for Christmas. I donít try to dsillusion them.
My infected wrist is still swollen but feels OK. You surely can get all kinds of infection and fungus out here.
12/23/44 - 9 P.M.
I have been awful busy in the last few days getting ready for Christmas day. I told you I built a ball field. Well, Iíve been putting last minute touches and we had a dedication this morning, blew taps, etc. We had official Marine Corps pictures of the ceremony and they are going to be sent to all the families of those who were killed. It was a kinna nice gesture I thought. The ceremony just made you feel youíd do your best to even the score for them.
Today we had a Christmas holiday field day. I do wish my old boys could have had something like it. So much sports! We had a broadcasting set from the radio section and an ex-commentator. It was really lotz of fun. We had boxing from 9-10 and then spent the rest of the morning in all kinds of athletics. In the PM we had a Bn. softball game and then we had a touch football game (6 man). When I was all through arranging the other events I played in the football game. The officers played the enlisted men and we took on a different Co. each quarter. We finally won in the last minute. We were back on our own 40 yard line and I intercepted a pass and got up to their 1 yard line. Two plays later I passed a short pass into the end zone for the winning touchdown. I was just as thrilled as I used to be in college.
12/26/44 - 9 P.M.
We had the little tree up you sent and a stocking that Ruth sent. t wasnít much like Christmas but our Field Day kept our minds off that. We had a swell turkey dinner, the best Iíve had overseas. We sang Christmas carols, etc.
Guess you know we had to start today off with a long hike, a bright idea the Colonel got at 11:30 P.M. Christmas Day. I guess he thinks heís rugged but itís very easy to walk at the head of a column, not so good in the rear.
Other than that, today has been pretty quiet. Weíre all well rested now and ready for whatever the next job is. It does not much matter what it is, I know the Marines will never walk ashore without resistance but I donít believe itíll ever be that bad again.
12/27/44 - 9:30 P.M.
Iím building the model airplane tonight that you sent me and I have one wing done and the tail and now Iím starting on the body. I think it will be quite a nice little plane. My fingers are used to rough work and it takes a little while to get them to work with small pieces of wood again. However, I think Iím getting along pretty fast.
Iím sending you an article out of the San Diego Marine Corps Paper, ďThe Chevron.Ē All about my battalion on Peleliu. I though youíd like to have it so I cut it out. No, Iím not a 1st Lt. but good news. They have speeded up Marine Corps. promotions and I am almost certain to make it next month if I donít dope off between now and then.
In case that article is confusing, I didnít get hit in the head, that was another guy. Johnny Kincaid and I had quite a little battle though.
Three crazy Marines just went by driving a Jap tank at top speed. guess they fixed it up on their own. There is always-somebody doing that. Jap motorcycles, etc., are all fair game.
1/5/45 - V- Mail
Really in pretty fair shape now. Ankle normal, fungus well under control, etc.
1/5/45 - Letter - airmail - 9 P.M.
Pretty busy these days with my platoon but they are turning out pretty well. I think Iíll have another good platoon. It is too early to say yet but there are some good signs.
1/11/45 - P.M.
An interesting thing happened yesterday about 5 P.M. Our battalion had been out all day and were trudging home pretty beat and dirty and hot. We were in 2 long columns on either side of a dusty road. Well, what should come rolling up the center but a jeep with an army officer and a woman. (Probably a Red Cross worker). Well, I guess you know the whole battalion had to have a look at the poor woman, so instead of letting the Jeep through, the lines converged until the last man in the battalion passed by that jeep. She wasnít very good looking and I guess not even a Marine would have looked at her in the States but you know how this gang would be out here.
1/20/45 - 4 P.M.
Just played a softball game. First in a long while. We won but I was lousy. Caught ahold of the ball twice but was caught out both times.
1/21/34 - P.m.
Well, they tell me the 30th ROC has made first Lieut. but official word has not arrived here yet, probably next week.
Lt. Lee Height is about my best friend out here. He is a little young, sorta, but he is our kinna people. We are always breaking military customs of one kind or another. He is too much of a daredevil though and I worry about him. Iím afraid he gets the idea from my always saying a PI. Ld. should always lead his platoon personally. Thatís quite true but youíre no good 100 yards. out in front. I often pray that God will take care of him, he doesnít know enough to be afraid.
My platoon can stand lotz of improvement and Iím gonna give Ďem all my time as I am no longer Rec. officer. Some of our new Lieuts. are awfully young. They seems like kids.
1/23/45 - 10 P.M.
Had another football game today. Played one of the Co. teams, score O-O but we gained a lot more ground and came awful close, couldnít quite connect with those T.D. passes.
1/25/45 - P.M.
My platoon is doing an excellent job. Today they were the best in the Co. and I believe battalion, too. Worked together like a real team. Theyíve got a ways to go yet but theyíve snapped from a fair platoon to a good one. I played volleyball before and after supper and now I feel a little tired.
1/26/45 - 10 P.M.
Funny thing happened this afternoon. I was coming in from the field all dirty, etc., with my platoon and we passed the Colonel and the adjutant. We were laughing and joking as usual and didnít see them. The adjutant told me tonight that I was the best humored person in the battalion ... happy go lucky. I guess maybe I am pretty happy go lucky but I can sure get mad sometimes. It was nice of him to say so anyway.
1/28/45 - P.M.
Just finished cleaning Tommy up. He is now sitting on top of my desk behind 2 pictures of you.
Today I played 7 games of volleyball. What a workout! Even now after dark it is still hot enough that little beads of perspiration stand out on my hands.
You should hear the crazy scuttlebutt that flies around a Marine Camp. Of course everybody wants to know when the next blitz will be. All the men think the officers know and are continually trying to worm out information. We never know till pretty late and then of course it has to be secret.
2/1/45 - P.M.
Well, Cotza made 1st Lt. today. Jaffe made it, too. It really doesnít mean much but sorta takes me out of the shave-tail class. My new rank dates from 31 Dec. 1944.
2/3/45 - P.M.
Today I got another one of your swell packages --
Played a lot of volleyball this afternoon. Played as hard as I could and Iím really tired out, feels good though.
2/4/45 - 9 P.M.
Had quite a strenuous day playing volleyball, baseball and football. We won the football game 13-0 over a company enlisted team. Believe it or not but I kicked a point. I pitched for my platoon in softball after our regular pitcher blew up. I just put Ďem over and let them hit and we fielded them.
2/7/45 - P.M.
If youíve already opened the big envelope that I mailed today youíll know what happened. Yeh, I got a medal. Iíll send the medal tomorrow. I think they will send you a copy of the citation on better paper, I donít know. They say theyíre going to send you some pictures, too. They donít fool me just Ďcause a Major General shakes your hand and tells you what a fighter you are.
Well, we had another football game today, 14-0, and we are still unbeaten and unscored upon. We have a challenge open to any team in the Division. Lee Height, a new Lt. Catterton and myself are the backfield while we have Capt. Tescarnio center and Lt. Didier and Balotti as ends. Lee and I do most of the passing and Balotti our rt. end is our star receiver (he is a 2nd Lt. brand new from the States). Lee and I are very proud of our team and think they are the best to be had. Weíre going to try to get some pictures.
Iím sending that Silver Star medal tomorrow. I wrapped it up today along with some shells I picked up on Peleliu, you might wanta make a bracelet or something out of them. The little ribbon up above the medal is a campaign ribbon you wear on your blouse, you donít wear the medal except on very formal occassions and I canít see it anyway. 2/13/45 - 9 P.M.
I guess you know I really had a case of stage fright tonight. I had to go down to Division H.Q. and make a radio recording. It all came from getting that medal. They got me in front of a mike and started asking questions. I guess youíll get a notice that it will be broadcasted from WTIC in Hartford.
2/18/45 - 5 P.M.
I have had a sort of fouled up day today. This morning I went to church and while I was there my left arm started to ache just above the elbow. I felt down there and there was a little hard ball just under the skin on the back. It swelled up pretty big during the day and the Doc still doesnít know what it is. I imagine itís some kind of a bite or something.one of the officers came to me last night and told me that he was speaking for all the other officers and that they felt I had been a victim of political pressure and that I should have had a Navy Cross. It was pretty nice of them.
2/20/45 - P.M.
My arm is much better tonight and I am feeling better all around.
I had to write a letter to the mother of one of my boys that got killed. She wrote me a swell letter but it was awful hard to answer and made me very melancholy. It was Joe Cookís mother, one of the very swellest guys you could ever meet. She wanted to know where he was buried and if the grave was marked. He was buried at sea but I hated to tell her, even though that is the best way it could have been. Iíve seen too many bodies lying around for days.
This isnít a very fancy letter but good writing facilities are not available. I want to put your mind at ease as to my location and welfare. You probably know from the radio and news that we landed on Okinawa in the Ryuku group. I guess you know it wasnít too tough for the Marines, Ďcourse we are not through yet but I am still coming along fine.
Weíve been living outdoors for quite awhile. I mean really outdoors.
Itís as cool here as at home and to us who are used to equator temperature the nights are really cold. I guess you know by now that I was on Pavuvu Island in the Russell Island group but I am on Okinawa as of now.
Today our walkie-talkie picked up a news flash to the effect that Germany had surrendered and confirming FDRís death. Too bad but I hope the German news is true.
4/22/45 - Sunday P.M.
I think I will be able to write more and more as time goes on. Weíre still living in pup tents, hammocks and foxholes and it is pretty hard to keep the gear dry.
I got a sort of promotion yesterday, not to Capt. but Iím leaving the old 1st Platoon at last. Tomorrow. Iím gonna join the Battalion Staff as Asslt. Operations Officer. I guess you will be pleased to know that it is a comparatively safer job. Itís a long ways from safe, but I think that I wonít have to lead any more assaults. My Co. Commander told me yesterday that he thought I was the best platoon leader the battalion had ever had and would put that in the monthly report they send to Washington.
My new job is to set up training plans and operations for the battalion. I am assistant to a Major Portillo, a grand fellow. He asked for me so I guess we ought to get along.
Believe it or not Iím still around. The old outfit has really run into a lot of blood since I last wrote, fighting the equal of that on Peleliu. I has really been awfully rough and I am very, very lucky to be alive and well right now. Weíre having a brief rest now but I donít suppose it can last long.
I guess I told you about my job being changed, well, itís been changed again. I am now a Co. Commander, C.O. of E. Co., 2nd Bn, 1st Marines so my address will not change. That is quite a few more men than I used to have but as you know I had a company on Peleliu for awhile and also here.
I hate to have to say this but my old friend Lee Height was killed awhile ago and Iím like to never get over it. One grand guy and I donít know how Iíll ever tell his folks. A sniper shot him while he was sitting in a foxhole. I donít believe the Japs will ever be forgiven for that.
The word has reached us about Germanyí surrender and has cheered us some although it is hard to be very cheerful when youíre busy fighting. We really need those additional troops over here.
If you should get the word that I was wounded in action before this date, donít let it worry you. I got hit in the back with a small piece of shrapnel from a mortar shell but it didnít inconvenience me at all. They treated it at sick bay so it might slip through the records. Up to date, I am okay.
Another short note just to let you know that Iím still functioning. Plenty of work and worry ahead yet but we donít borrow trouble from tomorrow.
Itís been pretty rugged, and I believe that is a pretty universal opinion. I sure wish I could extend some hope on this 18 months plan but Iím afraid thatís out.
Well, here I am again after another go at the nips, and they sure are stubborn. This Jap writing paper is about all I could find so I guess itíll have to do. My pen kept ink in it so I hope it holds out. You must have recieved my last letter when I told you I was Co. Commander of E.Co. ó well, I still am.
We sure have been eating a lot of nothing but rations.
As you may have read itís been raining like blazes here on Okinawa and we have all been mighty wet and dirty. However, we are used to living that way by now.
A couple of days ago I really thought I was headed for the sick bay. Got tangled up with a big explosion, got conked on the head with a flying rock and got a little blast concussion. Okay the next day, through, and going strong. Just wish I could keep clean.
I hope that next time I write I can say that our outfit has been relieved but itís hard to tell. I guess no matter how rough it gets, I can keep going somehow.
Been a bit since youíve heard I guess but by golly Iím back again and the old red cross has come through with the stationary. This is just a note to tell you Iím OK and I hope Iíll be able to write more soon.
Iíve a chance ot see Norm tomorrow. If I have any luck Iíll tell you. I sure hope I donít miss him, will let you know all about it.
Iíve lost a lot of weight and canít eat too hearty yet but Iím still rolliní. Old E. Co. has done a good job and Iím satisfied.
Couldnít get the last letter mailed, however, I think youíll be hearing a little oftener now. A whole pile of letters and 5 packages from you. What a day!
6/25/45 - Monday P.M.
Living on rations such a long time has fouled up my digestive system and Iíve had quite a little dysentery and indigestion. Steady meals begin to take their effect though and Iím beginning to feel much better.
I have my Co. headquarters in a Jap tent on a nice breezy hill and it is very pleasant sitting here in the evening and writing to you. Donít always have time to sit down. You can look out to sea from many points on Okinawa and much of the island is still beautiful. The scars of war are everywhere but they will be healed in time.
A nice hot Sunday afternoon and a chance to write. Iím sitting in the shade of one of these tall Okinawan hedges and itís quite cool.
I stayed with Norm last night and we really talked and talked.
What a drawn out campaign this has been ... blood, sweat and tears is the word for it. I have a heck of a problem now. I have an offer of a staff job in which Iíd be almost as safe as a church, and another offer as commander of a tank-destroyer outfit considerably safer and softer than this. Itís only sense to take one of them but I just get too fond of my men, I guess. I may be a lousy C.O. but they trust me and have faith in me and I Ďd feel like I was letting them down to change. Iíll have to come to a decision fore long.
Weíre really on the last lap now. There canít be more than one more campaign for me and then for sure Iíll see you. One chance in a million that I might get home before that but canít count on a slim chance like that.
1 guess Iím over optimistic but I keep hoping I might get home before the next blitz. It would be wonderful it it happened.
I think I might get to see Norm again today. I surely would like to shoot the breeze with him again. May be the last chance for quite awhile.
Lot of the old officers are going home including many of those with 24 months. Iíll have 20 very soon now, sure would like to make it. One thing about it if I do come home I should make if for Christmas. If not I guess it wonít be Ďtill sometime in May or so. All the talk is sorta hopeful but you canít be too optimistic.
Itís plenty warm here. First interests in sports have been aroused and we have been playing volleyball again. Itís easy to hang up a piece of camouflage net and right away we have a game. I picked up a lot of good tan in three days, look like a different person. Beginning to get back some flesh now.
Doubt if Iíll ever see Huggins again. Iím still here on Okinawa.
Pretty busy lately as you can tell by my correspondence. Iím still on Okinawa and the weatherís real warm. See a lot more of the civilian Okinawans now. Theyíre coming out of their holes. Theyíre pretty short but when they get cleaned up they arenít so bad looking. Theyíre only medium civilized as concerns clothes, etc.
19 February 1945 Mon. - 9:00 P.M.
I shouldnít do it on accounta I owe so many letters but Iíd rather write you again tonight. Say, Hon, Iím sending you some films one of my boys took. Mostly pictures of the platoon. I wonder if you could get them printed up. There wonít be so many this time. The posed, group pictures are the most important. Iíd like to get 50 of them. There are several duplicate pictures so just pick-the best one of the 2 and have that one printed like you did last time. The informal shots just get 3 or 4 prints made and please send the negatives back, O.K.?
There is something I guess I should tell you about but I just didnít feel like talking about it but now youíve got the medal I guess you ought to know how it happened.
It was the 3rd afternoon and we had taken Pelilius first ridge that morning after crossing the huge airport. My platoon held the furtherest point up the ridge. About 2:00 oíclock another outfit took over and we figured weíd get some rest. Our casualties hadnít been light. I got one Jap that morning with a dead boyís rifle and it was quite satisfying.
Well the ole 1st Pit., Co. E crawled back down that ridge and right away we heard that some hot coffee was being brought up and it would be the first nourishment in 3 days. It came and just as the first few men got a sip the order was radioed down to take the 2nd ridge, often called ďprostitute hill.Ē Why the first platoon got the order I donít know but we got no coffee and we were dead tired. We knew the ridge was doggone touch. Itís hard to describe what goes through menís minds when they are promised rest and food and then suddenly have to attack. But when I called, Monty (my platoon Sgt.) and Ferrell & Kincaid (my 2 remaining squad leaders) came up to the foot of the ridge and looked it over andwe made our plan. We were goin going either way.
I was going to lead the 1st squad and Monty the second. We took off in good shape and silenced the skeleton force that was there. The hill was pretty steep and I never felt so exposed as scrambling over the top of that ridge first. Just before we took off a mortar shell hit in Kincaids squad (1st sq.) leaving him only half a dozen men but they came just the same. Johnny (Kincaid) and I kept moving along the ridge building a line until we got on top of a little pinnacle of rock.
It was getting gray but on that little peak we had magnificent observation of a great deal of the island. So I decided that I would spend the night there with one other man and told the boys to dig in the best they could. I gave John every excuse in the world to let somebody take his place but he wanted to stick it out with me. It was a pretty vulnerable spot as the ridge dipped and then sloped up again and we were all that would prevent an attack from sweeping down on the platoonís left flank. They started jabbering about 9:00 oíclock and then started to stream up the sides against our platoon line. They didnít think of that flank until a little later. We suffered casualties but I doubt if hardly any of those Japs got back alive. There must have been a couple hundred of them and we had about 80 men in the whole company at that time and only my platoon and Lee Heightís platoon were up on the ridge. Maybe 50 men all together. They withdrew for awhile and then tried Johnny and 1. Up to that time he and I had only thrown grenades and they werenít sure anybody was on that peak. We just kept still and waited, we could hear Ďem down the slope about 40 feet messiní around.
Next thing we knew they had a knee mortar firing over our heads down the lines. Well, we couldnít wait any longer, so by the light of the next flare, we threw grenades and Tommy and his partner started talking in earnest. We knocked the mortar out and waited for the next surprize and it wasnít long before it came - about 50 of Ďem in single file coming down the ridge. Well thatís when I hollered back for mortar fire. I kept hollering back corrections and I thought we never would get Ďem but finally the shells landed right in Ďem. They really kicked up a fuss then and one of their officers led a rush up our little slope. He swung his saber on John first. Johnís Tommy jammed and I thought he was done for but he had the presence of mind to ward it off with the Tommy gun butt. He included me on the next swing and we both fell flat. John grabbed his pistol and threw it in his face which gave me the half second I needed to get ole Betsy into operation. Betsy smacked him in the shoulder and then filled him full. He fell backwards on the other Japs and then we both had our Tommies going. That was the worst trouble we got into but they didnít stop playing with us Ďtill almost dawn. John got hit in the eye by a spent bullet and I lowered him down to Ferrell who stayed there with me the rest of the night. Thatís about all. There were lotz of Japs lying around the 1st platoon the next morning and where John and I were they say about 40. (Hence the 20 Japs in the citation I sent you.) John is home now but I imagine heís got a medal too by now.
I think back now and I guess the only thing that kept us going was the knowledge that if we didnít hold that point the platoon stood a good chance of being wiped out. So you see itís not being a hero. Itís just a couple of guys who by some fate happened to be in the right place at the right time. I was mighty proud of my platoon, Monty and the rest, but I guess Iíll always keep a little spot in my heart for Johnny Kincaid.
I wish youíd show this to Dad as I couldnít write about it again but please donít spread it around. Youíre my wife, Dear, and I wanted you to know just exactly what happened. Someday Iíll be able to tell you in my own words what this all means. Seems like Iíve been writing for hours now. I believe thatís the hardest letter I ever wrote.
God bless you, my Darling,
THE BATTLE OF SUICIDE RIDGE
The story of how the 2nd Bn., 1st Regt., cracked stubborn Jap defenses during battle for Peleliu
By T/Sgt. Joseph L. Alli, Combat correspondent
Peleliu (Delayed) - Theyíve named it the battle of Suicide Ridge. It was exactly that- suicide for scores of Marines who tried for four days and three nights to scale its rugged peaks.
There are other names for it, too - Murdererís Ridge and Million Dollar Ridge. But suicide seems more fitting. For the Japs who defended it must had been suicide units.
The battle of Suicide Ridge started on the-morning of Sept. 17, two days after Marines landed on this former Japanese stronghold under a hail of enemy mortar and artillery shells.
For two solid days and nights, enemy mortars and field guns, emplaced in the coral crevices and caves of Suicide Ridge, had been pounding the Marines causing heavy casualties. From their point of vantage they had a clear view of Marine activities. Their guns were pre-registered. General Sherman tanks and amphibian tractors carrying ammunition and supplies to the front lines were their chief targets.
Those guns had to be silenced, no matter the cost. To the 2nd Bn., 1st Regt., fell the assignment of storming them from the right flank. And storm them they did, time after time. Several times, supported by tanks, they fought their way up the rugged slopes. But always, as they prepared to dig in, the Japs opened up with mortars and artillery and forced them to withdraw.
The Japs played a smart game - a waiting game. They didnít attack. They didnít have to. They stayed in their coral and concrete fortress and waited for the Marines to attack.
Lt. Col. Russell E. Honsowetz, 1935 Univ. of Idaho All-America Football player from Clarkston, Wash., said: ďExcept for small counter-attacks, we could not see the enemy. The cliffs and swamps precluded any envelopment of the enemy flanks to get at their mortars which were cutting our lines to pieces. It was a matter of moving forward and accepting the losses.Ē
But the Japs were ready. They had had 30 years to prepare defenses for this battle, and they had made good use of the time. They had caves and tunnels cut into the coral. Not just a few. Scores of them joined together by a network of underground passes.
The coral was tougher than concrete. Hours of heavy naval shelling had no apparent effect on the emplacements. Days of concentrated bombings failed to silence the big guns. Heavy artillery barrages were of little use, except to keep the Japs in their caves. General Sherman tanks, operating in support of the infantry, succeeded in blasting several caves from close range. But as one Marine put it: ďWhen we hit them on top, they popped out of the bottom; when we hit them in the middle, they popped out of both ends.Ē In the words of Maj. Charles H. Brush of Montclair, N.J., Guadalcanal and Cape Gloucester veteran and a winner of the Silver Star: ďThis is the first experience we have had of concentrated artillery and mortar fire. Previously we had fought in the jungle, where we encountered automatic weapons and the so-called knee mortar, whereas here, for four days and three nights we were pounded by shore-mounted naval guns and 141 mm. mortars.Ē
The mortars Maj. Brush referred to are nearly 6 inches in diameter, with the barrel resembling a sewer pipe. The missiles weigh about 50 pounds, and four men are required to carry the base plate.
One of the first units reached the coral fortress on Sept. 17. Advancing through a mine field, they fought their way to the crest of one of the many peaks. But that night the Japs cut loose with pre-registered mortars and artillery, inflicting heavy casualties, and causing the Marines to withdraw.
It was the same night that a group of Japs attacked three Marines - 1st Lt. Richard B. Watkins of Manchester, Conn., Sgt. Frank L. Ferrell of Charleston, W. Va., and Corp. John Kincaid of Eggertsville, N.Y. - who were manning an artillery observation post. Armed with automatic weapons, the three Marines fought off the attack. Next morning they counted between 25 and 30 dead around their post.
The lieutenant who led the first unit against the fortress didnít quit after that initial setback. Time and again he attacked. The casualty rate became terrifying. The line of stretcher bearers seemed almost endless. Men dropped from sheer exhaustion. Still the Marines moved forward in the face of withering fire.
Thatís the only way the Marine knows--to move forward regardless of the odds. A group of Marines made their way to the topmost crest of an adjacent cliff. Their crouching figures, silhouetted against the sky, moved speedily across a razorback ridge. Then they started the climb to the top. Occasionally a Jap popped out of his hideout and rolled a grenade down the slope. The Marines pulled in their necks, waited for the explosion, and continued their climb. There were casualties, yes, but the survivors silenced a Jap pillbox.
The morning of Sept. 19 found the lieutenantís unit making another attack. Near the base of one of the ridges, they were pinned down by heavy enemy machine gun fire--on a narrow spit between two stumps. For six and a half hours they were unable to move. Then mortar units, using smoke shells, set up a screen to cover their withdrawal.
It was here that two machine gunners --Corp. Bernard J. Maag of Richmond, Ind., and PFC Harry L. Cannady of Oklahoma City --noticed two wounded men exposed to enemy fire. Without hesitation, they set out to get them. They brought one back, then returned for the other. Machine guns peppered away at them, but they got back.
Late that same afternoon, the lieutenant was killed. He spotted a machine gun that had been holding up the advance. Grabbing an automatic weapon, he started out after it. A burst caught him in the head before he had moved two steps.
ďHe fell on me,Ē said PFC Lowell E. Ralson of Marion, OH. ďHe was one of the best officers I have ever seen. But he had too much guts.Ē
Fighting side by side with the lieutenantís unit during the four days of hell was a company under the command of 1st Lt. Gordon Maples of Middlesboro, Ky., whose outstanding work on Guadalcanal had earned him the Navy Cross.
Several times he reached the top. Each time the Jap artillery opened up. And the mortars, too. They knocked out the tanks supporting the infantry. The Marines were forced back. On the afternoon of the 18th, Lt. Maples suffered a minor shoulder wound, but he fought on. The next day, while attempting again to capture one of the ridges with a handful of men, he was seriously wounded. He died a few days later aboard a hospital ship.
Sgt. Lee Mumpower of Bristol, Va., in describing an attack on a individual pillbox, gives an inkling of the Jap defenses.
ďWe started out by throwing hand grenades at it,Ē he said, ďbut they had no effect at all. Then the demolition men came up and blasted it with TNT, but that didnít do any good either. We finally got a tank up there. The Sherman blasted it from the side but the pillbox withstood even the direct force of a 75 mm. shell. Then the tank moved in close, lowered its gun into the small port of the emplacement, and blasted away twice. That did it.Ē
CAVES SEALED ONE BY ONE
But that pillbox was in the open -- on the low ground where the infantry and tanks could get to it. The others -- those cut out of coral and rock on the lofty ridges -- defied everything except the demolition men. It was painstaking work, slow work -- sealing the mouths of those caves, one by one -- but it was the only way. Yard by yard, the demolitionists moved forward under enemy fire, set their TNT charges, and scampered for safety.
They encountered obstacles, too. If snipers didnít get them, there was always the chance that the Japs would disconnect the fuse before the charge went off. That happened many times.
One morning a squad of men set out before dawn to blast caves in front of our lines. An hour later five of them were dead or wounded. But they never quit. One demolition team of six men is credited with blasting 87 caves and pillboxes.
The 2nd Bn., weary and haggard, its ranks depleted, withdrew after four days, to be relieved by fresh troops. It had lost many men, but it had sealed the doom of hundreds of Japs.