When the 11th airborne landed at Bito Beach, Leyte, they immediately began to unload the ships. The troopers worked around the clock, even as the tail end of the convoy was being attacked by Zeros. (The Japanese did have other planes, but the G.I.s tended to call them all Zeros.) The beach gradually became an ammo dump as Bito Beach was surrounded by water on three sides and a swamp covered the fourth, it was technically an island and therefore they were unable to move the crates out until the engineers built them some bridges. Throughout all this, air raids were being called which impeded progress all the more.
19 November 1944 – a kamikaze sank one of the transport ships only 1,500 yards offshore. It was left where it sank, sticking partway out of the water. The men used it as a sight to adjust the artillery aimed at the sea.
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