Letter XIV “On the Move” (again)
undated due to censorship
Dear Mom, We have been at sea now for three days heading toward someplace the Land and the great white father in Washington only knows.
As I sit here writing this, I just can’t help but feel like a very small insignificant part of something so vast that the mind can’t in any way begin to comprehend what it is all about. Here I am on a ship heading out to something, someplace, and it was all planned probably months ago, miles and miles away from anywheres near here. Suddenly it all takes form. Transports and other ships stream into the harbor and just as quickly and quietly we are made loose and moving out. It all happens so fast and so smoothly that you can’t help but admire it all.
Of course, as serious as it all is, the army just can’t help but be the cause of many amusing incidents. When we first landed in New Guinea we got lost looking for our camp and coming down to the boats, the trucks again got lost and so we had to travel up and down the beach until finally, instead of us finding the boats — the boats found us. Climbing up the gangplank with our packs and duffel bags always provide an amusing incident or two, but at the time seem pretty damn dangerous.
On board ship, we are once again packed in like sardines down in the hold. Once shown our bunk, we proceed at once to get rid of our equipment and dash up on deck to pick out some spot where we can spend the night, It isn’t long after this that the details are handed out — and so — what could have been a very pleasant voyage soon turns out to be anything else but. I was lucky in that I was handed a detail that only worked for an hour each day, but the poor guys that hit the broom detail were at it all day long. All we could hear, all day long, over the speaker system was: “Army broom detail, moping and brooms, clean sweep down forward aft, all decks.” They kept it up all the time until soon one of the fellas made up a little ditty about it and sang it every time we saw a broom coming down the deck.
The food was excellent and really worth talking about. On the first trip coming over from the states, we dreaded the thought of eating, but on this ship, it was more than a welcome thought. Generally, when you go to a movie there are news reel pictures of convoys of ships and the men aboard. They always try to show you a few playing cards or joking and say that this is how the boys relieve the tension they are under. Well, I don’t know about the seriousness of the situation was anything like what the news reels portray.
Of course, it was a strange sight to see the boys at night line up at the side scanning the sky and distant horizon. This was generally though at night and early dawn. What we expected to see, I don’t know and what our reaction would be, if we did see something — I hesitate to predict. It won’t be long after this letter is written that we will land or at least sight our destination, so wishing to be wide-awake when we do, I’ll close this letter now and hit the hay hoping I sleep an uninterrupted sleep.
Till next time, “Good night and pleasant dreams.” Love, Everett
Click on images to enlarge.
Current News – For those of you who will be in the Fredricksburg, Texas area…..
Military Humor –
Farewell Salutes –
Joan Abery – Darley Dale, ENG; RAF, WWII
Emil Adams – brn: Slovakia/US; US Navy, WWII, CBI, Annapolis graduate
George E. Bria (101) – brn: Rome, ITAL/Waterbury, CT; AP war correspondent, ETO
Otis ‘Roger’ Humphrey – Montpelier, IN; US Army, 11th Airborne Division
Charles Johnson – Wichita, KA; US Navy, WWII
Lucien Legault – Windsor, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII
John Mumford – St. Petersburg, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 318/325/15th Air Force, KIA
Marion “Flee” Pettygrove – CA; USMC Women’s Corps, WWII
James Summitt – Des Moines, IA; US Navy, WWII, radioman
THE RISING SUN
Dedicated to the elite troopers of the 11th Airborne Division and all the other gallant forces who fought in the Pacific during WWII
by: Peter S. Griffin
Out of the east, the horror would come, The dreaded war beast of THE RISING SUN, Sunday, December 7th of '41, That day of infamy, the war had begun... The Pacific Ocean was their nest, Full of warships, carriers the best... Tora, Tora, Tora!, was their call, A sneak attack would signal our fall... Torpedo bombers led the way, Pearl Harbor was sleeping, resting that day... Hickam Field was quiet as well, Soldiers at ease, Tojo quite pleased... Devastation was thorough and quick, Japanese treachery had done the trick... Our Pacific Fleet was left in ruins, Sunken ships, in a burning lagoon... Midway, Wake and Guam fell next, America's forces were most perplexed... General MacArthur left the Philippines, Japanese forces, fulfilling their dreams... British possessions in the Far East, Were soon to suffer, similar defeat... Soldiers of THE RISING SUN, Had the Allies on the run... Instilling terror everywhere, Samurai Soldiers had nothing to fear... Gobbling up islands as they progressed, Japs reveling in, such easy conquests... It wasn't long before we rallied, Our Air Forces would better the tally... Doolittle and his Bombers filled the air, Soon Tokyo, would taste the fear... Japanese Soldiers would fight to the death, Suicide acceptable, if aided conquest... The "Bushido Code"* called for this, American power would grant them their wish... Naval battles would turn the tide, Coral Sea, Midway, many Japs were to die... American Soldiers and Marines, Were soon to silence, the Bonzai screams...
Our Merchant marines joined the foray, "The Red Ball Express" saved many a day... The Japanese were a bitter foe, Jungle fighting was toe to toe... Heavy fighting was the theme, Island hopping was the scheme... Coast watchers monitored our foe, We'd attack as we'd grow... Victories on Iwo Jima and Saipan, Forced the Japs to alter their plans.. American flags, being raised everywhere, Japanese losses, exploding in air... MacArthur and Halsey gathered their might, Taking Leyte in the dark of night... Kamikazes struck from the air, Jap desperation, reached a new tier... MacArthur's promise was right on, American troops stormed Luzon... Paratroopers jumped on Corregidor, Airborne soldiers opened the door... The Bataan Death March, horrors begotten, Japan's atrocities not forgotten... The Los Baños Raid, liberation at dawn, Paratroopers jumped, to right such a wrong... B29's bombed the Isles of Japan, Fire bomb raids were scorching their lands... Jap industries burst into fire, "Tokyo Rose" became known as a liar... To invade the land of THE RISING SUN, America would lose, too many sons... On an August day, flew the 'Enola Gay,' Atomic blasts would finish the task... Anchored in Tokyo Bay, "Missouri Guns" seemed to sway... Leaders of THE RISING SUN, Had to answer, for what they had done... September 2nd of '45, "V-J Day" had finally arrived... THE RISING SUN was set by the best, "The Sleeping Giant" put them to rest... * Bushido means, the way of the warrior.
Peter Griffin is a Paratrooper with an outstanding combat record. His military decorations include the Viet Nam Service Medal w/ two bronze battle stars, the Silver Star, the Vietnamese Paratrooper Badge, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Recondo Patch, etc. More of his poems can be found on the web site Paratroopers of the 50’s http://home.hiwaay.net/~magro/poemsww2.html
Farewell Salute –
Donald Meads – Elverson, PA & Jupiter, FL; USMC WWII PTO, pilot receiving 5 Battle Stars and the DFC
Robert Saunders – Boynton Beach, FL; US Navy, WWII
Margaret “Peggy” J. Brabham – Warm Sulphur Springs, GA & Leeds, Alabama; United States Intelligence Service, WWII
Edward Herman – Oceanside, Long Island NY & Hutchinson Island, FL; Army Air Corps Band, WWII
Larry Lockwood – Utica, NY & Lantana, FL; US Army, WWII
John B. Boy – Johnson City, TN & LaBelle, FL; US Navy, WWII, Captain of the USS C350 (subchaser), USS PC613 (patrolcraft) & USS Holton, DE _ 703 (destroyer escort)
As many of you know, this site is dedicated to my father Everett “Smitty” Smith, the 187th Regiment and the 11th Airborne Division as a whole. It is with this in mind that I am continuing the posts into the Korean War era and will then return to the very beginning of WWII, Pacific Theater.
The entire 11th A/B wrapped up their obligations in Japan for the occupation as of January 1949 with most of the 187th Regiment boarding the General Hersey for transport on 19 February. They docked in New Orleans, LA on 17 March and began heading to their new home at Camp Campbell, Kentucky. General Swing had remained their commander until January 1948 and in May 1949 they were under Brigadier General Lemel Mathewson and the 188th Regiment was deactivated. The 187th was reorganized and designated as the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment, with Col. Harvey Jablonsky in command.
The flimsy gliders that they had developed and used in the war were sent to the museums at Forts Bragg and Bennington and the 11th A/B spent their fall of 1949 honing their airborne and physical fitness programs. In the spring of 1950, they returned to Camp MacKall, NC were Smitty and the division were first formed into a top unit and stunned the ‘brass’ with their outstanding performance in the famous Knollwood Maneuvers. I covered the Knollwood Maneuvers at https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/camp-mackall-the-knollwood-maneuvers/ . The new 11th then participated in Exercise Swarmer over that same terrain.
1 August 1950, Col. Frank Bowen Jr. faced the his men of the 187th Regiment in Theater Number Three and announced that the troops were slated for movement overseas. On 27 August, they became the 187th Regimental Combat Team along with the 674th Airborne Field Artillery Battalion, A Company of the 127th Airborne Engineer Battalion, Battery A of the 88th Airborne Antiaircraft Battalion and units of MPs, quartermasters, parachute maintenance riggers and medics. 1 September they were separated from the 11th Airborne Division. The 187th RCT “Rakkasans” were being sent to Korea and we will follow them in future posts.
In December 1950, Major General Lyman Lemnitzer took command of the 11th A/B Division and were transferred to the 3rd Army to consolidate the airborne units. Between 1950 and 1956, the commanders would change six times as they became situated in Germany. They were deactivated 1 July 1958, but reactivated in February 1963 as the 11th Air Assault Division at Fort Benning, Georgia. On 30 June 1965, when they were once again deactivated; the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) was formed.
I wish to convey a special Thank You to Lt. General E.M. Flanagan, Jr. USA (Ret.). Not only as the author of The Angels:A History of the 11th Airborne Division and Rakkasans, but as the commander of the 11th A/B’s B Battery of the 457th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion and a columnist for Army Magazine. Being that Smitty’s records were lost in the St. Louis fire of 1973, his knowledge and memory were of great assistance to me.
I have had the honor of receiving two phone calls from the general, during my initial research, in which he thanked me for my letters to him. Both of those occasions will remain highlighted memories for me which I shall never forget.
Click on images to enlarge and read. Thank you.
Farewell Salute –
Joe Zack Thompson – Dallas & Humble, TX; U.S. Naval Air Corps, WWII
Dr. Douglas MacInnis – Wisconsin & Laguna Beach, CA; Surgical Army Captain, Korean War
Murray Michael Rothberg – Agoura Hills, CA; U.S. Army, WWII
Harry Daily McCament – Plano & Houston, TX; U.S. Navy, Korean War aboard the USS Randolph CVA-15
Salvatore Cintorino – Rochester, NY; U.S. Army, WWII ETO, Purple Heart
James Wallis – Dallas, TX; U.S. Navy, WWII
John B. Boy – Johnson City, TN & LaBelle, FL; U.S. Navy, WWII, captain of the USS C350 (subchaser), USS PC613 (patrolcraft) & the USS Holton, DE-703 (destroyer escort).
28 August 1945, Japanese officers signed the surrender documents in Rangoon to finalize Japan’s defeat in Burma. On islands throughout the Pacific, enemy troops surrendered in droves to American and British authorities in the following days. Most of the men were malnourished and ill.
30 August, due to the latest typhoon, the first plane carrying the 11th A/B does not leave Okinawa until this date. Colonel John Lackey lifted off Kadena Airfield at 0100 hours with General Swing on board. The 187th regiment, upon arriving at Atsugi Airfield (just outside Tokyo), after their seven hour flight, immediately surrounded the area and the Emperor’s Summer Palace to form a perimeter. The 3d battalion of the 188th regiment, the honor guard and the band showed up to prepare for MacArthur’s arrival.
Swing brought with him a large American flag and a banner painted, “CP 11th Airborne Division” to be fastened onto the roof of airplane hangar. He was dressed in battle fatigues and “11th A/B” was stenciled on his helmet. He carried a .38 pistol and a bandolier of .38 caliber shells draped across his chest. (As ready for combat in Japan as he was on Leyte and Luzon.) A Japanese officer approached him as he departed the plane. The officer saluted and introduced himself as Lieut-General Arisuye, the officer in control of the Atsugi sector. He then asked the general what his current orders would be and Gen. Swing lost no time in telling him.
American POWs had been left unguarded at their prisons just days before. Two hours after Gen. Swing’s arrival, two POWs walked into the CP. (command post). They had taken a train from the prison to Tokyo. No Japanese soldiers or civilians approached them along the way.
Later that day, Colonel Yamamoto presented himself as the chief liaison officer; both he and his aide were still wearing their swords. Gen. Swing ordered them to remove their weapons. Yamamoto arrogantly protested and insisted on explaining that the sword was his symbol of authority. Swing repeated his order, but with a more firm and commanding tone of voice and the two Japanese men complied immediately. The 11th A/B then proceeded on to Yokohama where the Allied Headquarters was to be established. The fifth largest city of Japan was now little more than a shantytown after the persistent Allied bombings. In fact, most of the towns and cities resembled the crumbled remains seen in Europe. Yokohama and Tokyo would become sites for the Allied Military Tribunal trials for the Japanese war criminals, similar to those held in Nuremberg for the Germans.
The trucks waiting for the men at Atsugi airfield to be used as transportation between Tokyo and Yokohama mostly ran on charcoal and wood. Only a few vehicles still operated on gasoline. They were consistently breaking down and the fire engine that led General MacArthur’s motorcade was said to look like a Toonerville Trolley.
Below, the photographs from the New York “Daily News” show the 11th A/B in front of the New Grand Hotel and on the right, one of the many vehicles that constantly broke down. (click to enlarge) The dates written on the pictures are the days in which my grandmother cut them from the paper, not the dates the pictures were taken.
General Swing wanted to view his newly arriving troops farther down the runway from where he was, when he spotted a Japanese general exiting his car. Seconds later, ‘Jumpin’ Joe’ hopped into the backseat. The interpreter translated from the driver to Swing that the limo was reserved for the Chief of Staff of the Imperial Army. Swing roared in returned, “Goddamn it, we won the war. Drive me down the strip.” Once in front of his troops, Swing exited the car and the Japanese captain said, “Well sir, Generals are alike in all armies.”
The 11th Airborne band set up for the arrival of General Douglas MacArthur at 1400 hours. When the general’s plane the ‘Bataan’ landed, the five-star general paused at the door wearing his pleated khakis, his shirt unbuttoned at the neck and the garrison hat with the gold encrusted visor crown. (In other words – his typical attire). There were no ribbons clipped to his shirt, but the customary corncob pipe hung from his lips at an angle. He then descended, shook hands with Gen. Eichelberger and quietly said, “Bob, from Melbourne to Tokyo is a long way, but this seems to be the end of the road. This is the payoff.”
In the photo above, General Swing is dressed for combat on the far left, General Eichelberger is on the far right, next to General MacArthur; shot taken – 30 August 1945.
Resources: “The Pacific War” by Costello; “Rakkasans” & “Angels: The History of the 11th Airborne Division,” both by Gen. E.M. Flanagan; AOL Images, Everett’s Scrapbook
Saturday, 11 August 1945, top secret orders were delivered to General Swing for the division to be prepared to move to Okinawa at any time. The division G-3, Colonel Quandt, called Colonel Pearson, “This is an Alert. Have your regiment [187th] ready to move out by air forty-eight hours from now.” Commanders throughout the 11th A/B had their men reassembled, even those on weekend passes had been found and brought back to camp. The lead elements left Luzon immediately. At 0630 hours on the 13th, trucks brought the 187th to Nichols and Nielson Fields for transport and they landed at 1645 hours that afternoon at Naha, Kadena and Yotan Fields on Okinawa. They would remain on the island for two weeks.
It would take the 54th Troop Carrier Wing two days to transport the 11th Airborne using 351 C-46s, 151 C-47s and 99 B-24s; with their bombs removed and crammed with troopers. The planes had carted 11,100 men; 1,161,000 pounds of equipment and 120 special-purpose jeeps for communication and supply. Eighty-six men remained on Luzon long enough to bring the 187ths organizational equipment to Okinawa by ship.
Okinawa, as one of the islands being “beefed-up” with supplies, men and materiel, quickly became significantly congested; it is only 877 square miles. One day would be unbearably hot and the next would bring the heavy rains that created small rivers running passed their pup tents. The troopers were back to cooking their 10-in-1, ‘C’ or ‘K’ rations on squad cookers or eaten cold. A typhoon crossed the island and the men were forced to live on the sides of hills with their pup tents ballooning like parachutes and taking off in the wind. In the hills were numerous old Okinawan tombs that the Japanese troops had adapted into pillboxes and these helped to protect the men from the storms.
I believe it was about this time that Smitty discovered that there was an opening on General Swing’s staff. My father requested the position and happily received it. Swing was not certain how the enemy would take to him and the 187th regiment landing in Japan, so the men were ordered to be combat ready. Besides staying in shape, they spent many an hour listing to numerous lectures on the Japanese culture. The 187th regiment of the 11th Airborne Division would be the first troops to enter Japan, as conquerors, in 2000 years.
Also, on 13 August, two ships, the Pennsylvaniaand the La Grange were hit by kamikaze carrier planes. All ships in Okinawa harbors were shipped out to ensure their safety. Although the Emperor was at this point demanding peace, the complicated arrangement of their government (Emperor, Premier, Cabinet, Privy Seal, etc. etc.) made it difficult for them to answer the Allies immediately. As Soviet forces, hovering at the 1.5 million mark, launched across Manchuria and approximately 1600 U.S. bombers hit Tokyo.
14 August, the Emperor made a recording to be played over the Japanese radio stating that their government had surrendered to the Allied powers and to request that his people cooperate with the conquerors. The fanatics, mainly Army officers and also known as die-hards or ultras, attempted to confiscate the prepared discs and claim that the Emperor had been coerced into accepting the Potsdam Declaration. People died in this mini revolution and others committed hara-kiri when it failed. Some enemy pilots continue to fly their Zeros as American planes went over Japan.
15 August, Washington D.C. received Japan’s acceptance of the terms of surrender. Similar to the Western Electric advertisement pictured, phones and telegraphs buzzed around the world with the news that WWII was over, but reactions varied. Among the men on Okinawa, there was jubilation mixed in with ‘let’s wait and see.” In Japan, most felt relieved, but others committed suicide to fulfill their duty. Russian troops continued to push into Manchuria to get as far into the area as possible before the Allies could stop them. Troops in Europe were elated to hear that they were no longer being transferred to the Pacific. South America began to see the arrival of Nazi escapees and the United States went wild with gratitude.
Resources: “The Rising Sun” by John Toland; “Rakkassans” and “Angels: History of the 11th Airborne Division” by E.M. Flanagan; “Pacific: Day by Day” by John Davison; The 54th Troop Carrier Wing
23 February 1945 demonstrated the result of teamwork between General Swing and his troops, the Filipino guerrillas and the intelligence supplied by an escapee of the interment camp of Los Baños, Peter Miles. The man’s photographic memory gave a detailed layout of the prison and the exact sites of the guards and armaments. Mr. Miles had memorized the strict regimental daily routines of the Japanese and the specific times when the guards changed shifts and had their exercise periods, which would put them a safe distance away from their weapons.
By this time, Everett “Smitty” Smith was an NCO and when I’d asked him many years ago if he was part of the Los Banos Raid, he said, “No, I was occupied somewhere else.” As best as I can find in my research, he was busy with the rest of the 187th near the 457th parachute FA Battalion that was commanded by Captain Flanagan. (The captain would later become Lt. General E.M. Flanagan, author of many WWII historical books.) Although Smitty wasn’t at this dramatic feat of the 11th Airborne Division, it deserves any and all the attention it gets. It is an operation that anyone associated with the division remains proud of to this day.
href=”https://pacificparatrooper.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/losbanos_07.jpg”> 11th set fire to the barracks before leaving[/caption]
caption id=”attachment_588″ align=”alignright” width=”300″] Ringler’s jungle route[/caption]Los Banos camp was originally the University of the Philippines Agricultural School. It was situated forty miles southeast of Manila and on this date in history was 26 miles behind enemy lines. This operation needed a multi-pronged attack using each principle of war to the maximum. (The 9 principles will be explained in the following post. It will help explain this complicated operation) Above photo shows actual path taken to sneak to the camp.)
The guerrillas provided intel and also guided Lt. Skau’s reconnaissance platoon into position under the cover of darkness. The army did help supply them with radios, ammunition and food, but the loosely organized groups also later stole the 11th’s supplies, calling it a justified gift.
First Lt. John Ringler was in charge of those troopers who would drop 900 yards from the camp. They made their jump at approx. 500 feet instead of the usual 700-1,000′ since the drop zone was so small and the men would have less exposure time. They made three V’s-in-trail by the nine Douglas C-47s from the 65th Troop Carrier Squadron, 54th Troop Carrier Group. Some of the men ran across open fields to achieve their assigned positions. Ringler and his company went down a riverbed from the northeast (photo) while others came from the south and southeast.
Major Burgess went across Laguna de Bay with the amphibious vehicles as the main attacking force. The noisy amtracs slowly made their progress to shore with hopes the enemy had not heard their arrival. Once on the beach, the 457th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion dismounted at San Antonio to defend the area.
On land, Lt. George Skau and his 31-man platoon infiltrated with the Filipino guides and banca crews. (a sailing vessel usually used for fishing and trade) Once the men eliminated the tower sentries and guards, the soldiers attacked and entered the camp. The internees ran into their barracks or ditches when the firing began. One man said that at the start of the war, they were still using WWI materiel, so when they spotted the domed helmets of the troopers, they believed the Germans were there to help the Japanese. When the reality of the situation became apparent to them, the G.I.s had over 2,000 excited and hysterical people to contend with, but many of them were unable to walk. Every moment was crucial as the enemy could arrive at any minute. Sometime during this period, the guerrillas faded back into the jungle.
The 11th Airborne’s G-4 amassed 18 ambulances and 21 trucks to take the 2,122 internees to the New Bilibid Prison, where they would remain for a few weeks before being shipped home to the U.S.. They had been prisoners for three years.
The 188th had some casualties while confronting the enemy, but not one person was killed during the raid. The story of the Los Banos Raid was downplayed in the newspaper because of the fall of Iwo Jima. Reporter Frank Smith was at the raid, so the story did get out somewhat. (a photo of a headline will be in the following post.)
The Japanese supply warrant officer, Sadaaki Konishi, who actually ran the camp, was able to escape the American raid unharmed. He, along with others of the enemy and the YOIN (Filipinos that were pro-Japanese – makapili) continued to kill and burn the homes of the surrounding population. He was later accused of six counts against the laws of war, tried and found guilty of five charges. Sadaaki Konishi was executed on 17 June 1947.
Back in the states, people were still dancing to the tunes of The Dorsey Brothers, Count Basie and Artie Shaw. They listened to the songs of Doris Day, the Andrew Sisters, Lena Horne and Rosemary Clooney. But, some others weren’t so lucky, in the army there was always latrine duty, as depicted in the following letter from Smitty.
The cartoons were thought of and drawn by Pvt. Smith. (They scanned in rather light, so you may need to click the photos to see them clearly. Sorry for the inconvenience.)
Letter XII Latrines Wednesday 9/5/44
Many are the times you have heard me refer to the latrines. Never before had I any conception or realized the amount of genius and mathematical figuring that was necessary for the building of one of these casual looking comfort stations.
Yesterday I had the dubious honor of being selected, with four other disgruntled G.I.s, to labor on a detail whose sole aim and mission was the digging and building of a latrine. It seems that in order to get a latrine built correctly there also has to be present a lieutenant and a hard to please sergeant. Their presence is essential due to the fact that if they weren’t around, it would never get built, no less started and to supervise the completion and finesse details of the finer points necessary for sanitation and the comfort of the men. You can most generally find these two worthy in some far off spot, away from all the work.
To begin with, a place is chosen suitable for a latrine, generally about a half mile from the nearest inhabitant and well hidden in the brush and woods. This is done for the very simple reason that it affords the stricken G.I. a chance to brush up on his long forgotten tracking and compass reading lessons, also the hike involved tends to make up for the many he has missed.
You wait then while the Lt., in a very business-like manner, marks out the length and width desired. When finished, he gives you a short speech on the importance of the detail and the time limit allotted, ending with: “Good digging fellows. I know you can do it, as you are the picked men!”
You pick up your shovels and picks and gloomily get to work. First, the picks are put into play loosening up the stubborn ground. Then, the shovels get to work removing the loose dirt, making sure to pile it evenly around the hole. This procedure is followed until finally you have now a hole six feet long by five feet in width with a depth ranging anywheres from six to eight feet. Try as you may to dig less than six feet, the sergeant always has a ruler handy which he guards with his life. One would think that a latrine hole that size would last forever, but as I found out, in the army — they don’t.
Next step is to lower into this hole oil drums whose both ends have been removed. This end cutting process is something foreign to us as they had another detail doing that the day before. I understand though that it is a highly skilled job in that keeping the ax blades from chipping is quite a problem. These drums, once lowered and set side by side, draws to a close the crude laborious end of the job.
Boards, saws, hammers and nails now appear along with some overbearing would-be carpenters. They proceed to build a coffin-like box which looks more like anything else but a box. This affair, when finished, is fitted over the hole, covering completely the hole and part of the piles of loose dirt spread around the outer fringe. This type of latrine box is called the settee type. It is very comfortable to sit on if rough boarding isn’t employed. When the box is completed to the satisfaction and sitting height comfort of all present, holes are then cut in the top. These holes are oval in shape, but of different width and shapes. The rear end of a G.I.’s anatomy, I’ve found, has many varied shapes and sizes.
The next thing to put in an appearance is the latrine blind and screen. This is very simple, although at times men have leaned back into it and got tangled up in the canvas, bringing it where the blind should be. While the blind is being put up on a long pipe, funnel-shaped at one end comes up and demands a lot of detailed attention. The height of this pipe, when set, is a trial and tribulation to all and never satisfies all who use it. This funneled affair is intended for what all funnels are. The directing of a stream of water.
The Lt. and sergeant now come out of hiding, inspect it and proclaim it a job well done and worthy of their time and supervision, strutting off gaily chatting, leaving us to find our way alone, unguided and without a compass, back to our tents. We, in the building of this latrine were fortunate in that we only had to erect it once and it was the correct position. Generally, you dig three or four only to find out that it is out of line somehow with the next latrine a mile away.
Generals, colonels and majors all visit while you are at work. Their presence is also needed for the fact that when they are around, you stand at attention and in that way get a moment’s rest. The captain generally comes out to see how you are doing and always tells you to hurry it up as the boys back in camp are prancing around like young colts and doing weird dance steps all the while hoping that they can hold out until its completion.
When once finished and back in camp, you are kept busy giving the boys directions as to where it is and then have to listen to them gripe about the distance away from their tent the blame thing is. It is, I have found out, a thankless detail and one I intend missing the next time there is one to be built.There are of course different types of latrines as the illustrations show, but most of those are for troops on the move. Now, why they should say, ‘troops on the move’ I do not know, for certainly no matter whether in the latrines or on the wat to it, you are most certainly moving.
Before any G.I. finds the latrine, the flies are already there. No latrine is a latrine until after a family or two moves in. They too are necessary in that without them as an annoying element, some men would never leave, others would fall asleep, while others would use it as an indefinite hiding place from some hike or detail. Latrines are also necessary for rumors. Until a good latrine is built, rumors around the camp lay dormant. Many new and strange acquaintances are made and the souls of many a man have been saved while sitting in this sanctuary place of appeasement.
No place in the army gets the care and attention of a latrine. Orderlies are assigned daily to see to its cleanliness. Medical inspections are twice a week, while on Saturdays it has to stand a general inspection. It is the haven of good-fellowship, conversations and a relief to all men in the end.
Hoping I have portrayed for you the army’s version of a rest station, I’ll close, as the flies in here are very annoying and the fellow standing and waiting for me to leave is going into a rage and walking up and down all the while eyeing me up and down as if to kill.
Ending this in a hasty departure and on the run, I am always, Your son, Everett
Smitty did not write home about his experience with the showers. (Unfortunately, I do not remember which island this story occurred on.) He was coming back into camp after having a nice cold shower. He walked back with a towel wrapped around his middle and held it closed with his left hand. The jungle appeared quiet except for the buzzing of the insects whizzing around him. He said, “You know how annoying just one mosquito can be when it’s hovering by your ears. This was like a swarm and I tried like hell to use my right hand to swat them away from my face. When I began to approach our tents there was not one man to be seen and I couldn’t imagine where they all went. As I got closer I could hear the G.I.s yelling and they were waving their arms as they crouched in their tents, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying. Besides, I was too preoccupied with swatting the bugs. When I got back to my tent complaining about how aggravating the bugs on the island were, I asked them what all the hooting and hollering was all about. All they kept doing was checking my skin and asking if I was alright. Somebody yelled, ‘Those were no jungle bugs — that’s shrapnel!’ When they discovered that I had been hit, someone happily said that I could put in for a Purple Heart.
After a good laugh between dad and I, I asked if he ever put in for the medal. He laughed again and said that he was too embarrassed. “For one thing I felt stupid for not realizing what was going on and second, I didn’t want to be grouped into being one of those guys that put in for a Purple Heart every time they nicked themselves shaving. It would be like taking something away from the men who actually did get wounded and deserved the medal.”
The 11th Airborne Division, still in New Guinea and continuing to specialize their training are coming closer and closer to their time for combat, unbeknownst to them. Their commander, General Swing, awaits the word from General MacArthur.
Letter XII ?? Problems ?? 0800 Sunday 9/3/44
Dear Mom, We will start off first with “Webster’s” definition of the word — problem. “A question for solution, and a proposition to be demonstrated.” This is all very true, only in the army, although it is demonstrated, it never turns out in a satisfactory solution.
For some unknown reason, the hint of a problem soon-to-be gets around long before it is ever officially announced. When once you hear about it, you begin to wonder just how you will get out of going and wonder if going on sick call will help. The best thing is to try to get on some detail, but generally, the details floating around loose at that time are of such a nature that going on the problem is much easier.
No one likes or cares for problems including the officers and non-coms, except maybe a few who are bucking and hope to show their leader that they have tactical and sure-fire P.F.C. abilities.
No matter how easy or simple the problem, you always have to carry around a load of unnecessary equipment. On the day set forth for the problem they put up a list of the stuff you are to take with you. After an hour or two spent trying to get everything into the pack, just big enough to hold a pair of socks, a tent, poles, rain gear, poncho, insect repellent and your toilet articles, you are pretty well tired out and lie down for a few minutes rest. You no sooner do that than the sergeant will come around with a revised list of equipment and again you unpack and re-pack. This goes on through the day until finally in utter despair you pick up your duffel bag and carry that on your back.
Finally the whistle blows. You hurriedly put on your pack, pick up your rifle and dash to fall in the formation forming outside. After standing there for 30 or 40 minutes, you realize that all your rushing was in vain and that you have a chance to untangle yourself from the pack harness and straighten it out. You no sooner start to do this than the order comes to pull out and get going.
While marching out, it suddenly dawns on you that a quick visit to the latrine would have helped, but is now impossible to get to. After walking for two hours, your pack feels like a ton and your five-pound rifle now weighs twenty. The heat is slowly getting you down and you begin to wonder, is it all worth it? Soon the Lt. comes prancing alongside of you and walking just as easy as falling off a log. He says a few words to you, such as, “Close it up.” “Keep in line” or “How you doing fella?” as he passes by. You wonder how the devil he can keep it up, until you take a good look at his pack. Many are the times when I wondered what would happen if I stuck a pin in it. Wonderful things these basketball bladders.
When finally you arrive at the next to last stop, the Lt. calls his men around him and proceeds to try and tell them what this problem is about and what we are supposed to do. We are all too tired to listen in the first place and in the second place — don’t give a damn. All this time you watch the Lt. and soon you realize that he didn’t much care for the problem and is probably just as annoyed as you.
When you finally hit the place where the problem is, confusion takes over and the problem is started. Orders are given and not carried out, cause generally the G.I. has been told before to do something else, so that by the time order is restored, all is in a worse shape than before. The Lt. takes out a map to try and locate himself and is only to find that the map he has is the one relating to last week’s problem. No matter, from then on, where the C.P. and assembly area were to be, now, wherever you are at that particular moment will become the C.P. and assembly area. If the rest of the company was fortunate enough to locate the right place — the hell with them — let them find us.
You are then assigned to different spots and told to dig in. Now, digging in calls for some thought. If you just dig a slit trench, it doesn’t call for much work, but you can always be seen and so you can’t sleep. But, if you dig a larger hole, called a foxhole, you can safely sleep away the night and also — the problem. Myself? I go for the foxhole on the slit trench side as it affords me the opportunity of sleeping in a horizontal position.
Soon the whistle blows announcing the end of the problem. You awaken to find that it is the next day and that once again you slept through the whole mess. Questions are asked as to who or what side won, did the enemy get through and a thousand and one others. Before leaving the place, you now have to shovel the dirt back into your hole, as leaving blank open holes around are dangerous to life and limb. When that is completed, you put your backpack back on and trudge your weary way back.
Upon arriving back in camp, critiques are held and then you find out what you were supposed to have learnt while you were out there. I have always been of the opinion that if critiques were held before going out, it would save us all a lot of trouble and also make going on the problem — unnecessary. Once back in your tent, you unpack and think that now you will lie down and have a little nap, only to find out that the detail you tried to get on in order to miss the problem has materialized and that you are to get up and get on it. Oh, weary bones, will they never have any rest?
Don’t give up, for after all, the war can’t last forever. One thing you can always count on though, problems are the pride and joy of the army and will continue on being as long as there is an army.
Hope I’ve confused you as much as we are. I’ll leave you as that damn detail has come up and so I’ll have to carry my weary body out and hope I last out the day.
Confused as all hell, Everett
But training goes on …..
This following letter from Smitty will show how much the G.I.’s of WWII and those of today have in common. Human nature doesn’t seem to change very much in 68 years.
Letter XI Java at 2100 Thursday 8/10/44
Dear Mom, Java at 2100 is nothing more or less than a good old-fashioned gabfest or the same as women folk back home call a “Koffee Klotch.”
There are a few differences though that need a little explaining. At home, the girls gather and talk, generally about the one who isn’t present; including in this conversation, her husband and his family, also hers and then down the line to her most distant relatives. Also, they will gab for hours about the gossip of the neighborhood and of course add a little more to it. At times, arguments amongst themselves will ensue and that ends the present meeting and the next few to come.
With us there are a few differences and variations, such as: we don’t care whether the person being talked about is present or not; although his absence is preferred and appreciated. Of course we have our little gossip circles, but they mostly run toward the rumor side and therefore no one puts much stock in them. Invariably we always talk of home, such as what we did before the President greeted us, also what we intend to do when we get back. This home talk most always leads into a lively debate as to whose state, city or county is the best. Arguing that topic is just like arguing religion; no one is ever impressed or convinced.
The officers are always good for a good 20 to 30 minute razing, with no one pulling their punches. At times though you must be careful, as there might be someone present who is bucking like the devil and the talk will go back. Never is there a good word said in the officers’ defense and I doubt if there ever will be.
Another colorful period is spent when someone brings up non-coms. What is said at this time is unprintable. Surprise to say that if I was visited by the seven plagues, I wouldn’t be as bad off as the non-coms, if even half the things wished upon him should ever befall him. I sometimes wonder if ever in their own conceited way they know just how the private feels toward them.
At home, the girls are all gathered around strictly talking, but here again we vary. Some may be playing cards with every now and then some player adding his say, much to the consternation and anguish of the others. Over in another corner are the die-hards who always listen for rumors and continue on talking about the latest one long after the others have dropped it.
All this time the water is being boiled outside in a large five gallon can. Every now and then, someone will go out to see if it is time to add the coffee. When once the coffee is added, there comes over the tent a lull and then everyone shuffles out to get his cup, which he will dip into the can of coffee before coming back in. Conversation for a while is a combination of talk, loud sips and the blowing of the hot Java. We manage also to provide milk and sugar and at times, crackers. The last is generally present only around paydays.
I don’t know whether it is the effects of the hot coffee upon the vocal chords or not, but always right after the coffee, some would-be Crosby or Sinatra starts singing some old favorite and that is when music conquers over all. They say music has its charms, but after listening to it here — I have my doubts.
Some nights the conversations are really good and so is the coffee, on those occasions, talking lasts after taps has blown and then you are sure to hear the mournful wail of the company charge of quarters meekly saying, “Aw fellas, put out the lights.” Never has it happened that the request was heeded and I doubt if it ever will be. It isn’t long after though that the first sergeant comes barging in bellowing, “Get those blankety-blank lights out and get the H–l to bed!” Lights immediately go out and good-nights can be heard throughout the company area as Koffee Klotches all over break up.
Peace and quiet prevails until all one can hear is the not too soft patter of feet heading out to the place where, at some time or another, we all must frequent. Bits of conversation can be heard drifting through the night, but generally isn’t worth listening to, as it is only the rumor mongers at work again in their office.
Before I close this chapter, allow me to say that the evening coffee, sugar and milk are all donated cheerfully by the fellow most unfortunate enough to have had K.P. the day before.
Having nothing more to gab about and also having to pay a visit down to the end of the company street, I’ll close before I have to make a run for it.
Gabbingly yours, Everett (The Donator of This Evening’s Coffee)
Thought I would throw in this photo of a half-track, a vehicle that Smitty felt had the capacity to go anywhere.
In Dobodura, New Guinea, the 457th began to notice severe shortages in their sugar supply. As it turned out, there was a major boot-legging operation in progress. With the absence of alcohol, the men felt necessity would be the mother of invention, but they were caught with their stills in production. The makeshift liquor companies were immediately put out of business.
My father had other ideas. The following letter was one I never tired of reading; it always gives me a chuckle or two. My father’s ingenuity was unfailing. He used to tell me, “If you think hard enough, there’s a solution to every problem.” After years of having tended bar, this was going to be right up Smitty’s alley.
Letter # 10 has been previously published by “Whistling Shade” magazine in 2007. I submitted it during their war story inquiry.
Letter X “Jungle Juice” Monday 7/17/44
Dear Mom, The title of this letter, at first glance, will no doubt puzzle you, but I suspect at the end you will know more than you do now. Before going any farther with this, allow me to explain the whys and wherefores of its origin and purpose.
The Army has been telling us, for some time now, that any day (they mean year), they are going to issue us hot, dry soldiers some beer. They haven’t told us the percentages yet, but never fear, it will be 3.2. In the meantime, we’re here in New Guinea patiently awaiting the day. We know, because our eyes and nostrils do not lie, that there is good whiskey slyly floating about. Try as we may to lay hold of some, as yet, none have succeeded.
There is an old saying, told to me by a much older and wiser veteran of this man’s army that goes: “Take something away from a soldier and he will, in time, make or find a better substitute.” Hence and forever after – Jungle Juice.
To begin the making of this liquor substitute, one must first overcome a few minor details in order to secure the necessary equipment and ingredients. First: You may try to cultivate the friendship of the mess sergeant. This is easily accomplished if one is well endowed with currency. Second: You may try getting on guard duty and taking a chance of getting the job of protecting the mess hall. (The odds against this working out is ten to one against you.) This is the hard way of acquiring the friendship of the mess sergeant and we will continue. With your new buddy’s help, you now have in your proud and cherished possession a quantity of raisins, dried prunes or apricots and some sugar. (Very rarely will one come up with any yeast, so we will forget it.)
Now, we need something to put all this stuff into. To make matters worse, it cannot be metal and it must be waterproof. A nail barrel will do the trick, if we soak it in water, thereby allowing the wood to swell. You could go to the supply sergeant and get a saw, hammer, nails and boards, but in taking this route, you risk your supplier discovering your idea and you will have to pay him off with the promise that, when finished, he will receive a share. Not only is this undesirable, but now you will have to sit out in the hot sun and build a cask. My first suggestion of a nail barrel will not only save you labor, but also add an extra drink of this wonderful alcoholic beverage.
Now, we are ready to begin. Into the empty cask, put your fruit and sugar, making certain to add water. With your hands, (clean ones are advisable) stir everything around while crushing some of the fruit with your fists. This is what’s called the “rapid juice extraction process.” When finished, cover the cask with a clean piece of linen long enough to drape over the side. Here, you can also use a G.I. handkerchief or undershirt. (This is just a sanitary precaution and it in no way affects the product.)
Now, dig yourself a hole (under your bunk preferably) large enough to receive the cask and conceal it. This is a necessary precaution as the manufacture of Jungle Juice is frowned upon by the Army and especially you C.O. or Inspection Officer. The finding of such might cause embarrassment. This way it will only be found if someone should trip you C.O. and he inadvertently falls face down on the spot.
All you have to do at this point is use some self-control and patiently wait out the next two or three weeks as the fruit, sugar and water do their stuff. We all know from experience that you will only sit out two weeks, so let’s get on with the last step. Surely you have kept busy locating empty bottles and cleaning them, so dig up the cask.
To accomplish the final phase, it is wise to get your mattress cover and put it over a clean, steel helmet. You will find that the Army had supplied you with a damn good filter. The whole parts stay on top and the liquid freely pours through, without blemish to the helmet. Pour the juice into the bottles and seal with candle wax, making them air tight. Here is the most difficult step because by this time, not only your curiosity, but your craving for a taste is so high — you’re almost completely out of control. But, you must put your contraband away for one more week.
As the expected day approaches, I want to warn you to be on the lookout for newly acquired friends who start calling on you, regardless of the fact that they never came near you before. Yes, you are suddenly becoming the most popular guy in camp. When the hour approaches, marked as the time of reckoning, I would advise you to make up your mind that you are not going to finish it all in one sitting. Actually, this precaution is really unnecessary, as the Jungle Juice will decide that for you.
I won’t describe the taste. For some it is bitter and others say sweet. No two batches are alike and in fact the Juice has no opposition. Even its most adamant foes agree that for variety, the Juice has no equal.
This recipe is given free of charge.
I hope to hear your hiccupping in your next letter soon. Your brewmeister son & never to be dry again, Everett
General Swing decided, after the stills were destroyed, to bring ice cream machines and set up sports competitions. Teams were made up for volleyball, softball and tackle football. This proved not only to lift their spirits, but the activities kept them in top physical shape.
It always amazed me that such a letter as “Jungle Juice” made it through the censors without Smitty ever getting into trouble. His little operation was never discovered.