Short Takes

BOOK 1

Maine, March 15, 1937 (by Wilber)
It is snowing here now. The natives are quite hopeful. They have predicted a terrible winter ever since I came, with no results. With the end of winter in sight they have become almost desperate.

Camp Blanding, Florida, December 7, 1941
Dearest Wife and My Darling Children — I am just hearing newscasts of Japan [sic] attacks on Hawaii…. We have expected war to come to us for a long time. It is here and I want you to know I love you. That seems to be all there is in my heart.

Onboard ship, San Francisco Harbor, October 1, 1942
Truly my cup overfloweth. Don’t be downcast or worried. I’ll be armed and protected by your love and prayers, and I’m really counting on those prayers a lot.

On Ouenghi River, New Caledonia, January 17, 1943
The fish are jumping. One just jumped out of the water on the bank. He sure did a fast act flopping around to get back in the water. Probably he went home + told his wife he was sober but that the bank had reached in the water and grabbed him.

New York City, January 1943 (narrator)
[Norma’s plight] must have thrown her into despair. I, as a naive 12-year old, had no hint of this. Norma soldiered on through the rest of the spring, managing her children’s lives as well as supporting Wilber with her letters.

Guadalcanal, February 22, 1943 
The attack on our convoy on the way up here was one of the prettiest sights I have seen. There were Jap flares in the air to help their planes find us. The moon was calmly watching the whole fight, and its light danced on the waves just like in Maine… You know you can’t tame a machine gun by looking it squarely in the eye.

Russell Islands, May 1, 1943
Remember, I told you that the news items always play up the spectacular items and create an impression that all [at] the front is strenuous, hazardous and glory ridden. As I have said so often, it is more commonly a battle against boredom, disease and little annoyances.

BOOK 2

Rendova Island, Solomon Islands , on small landing ship, July 5, 1943 (Wilber)
Just then from sixteen to twenty four Jap bombers Mitch 97s came over us.… I could see when they dropped their bombs way up high and noticed how the sun glinted on them as they fell. They looked like little drops of mercury. At first, as I stood on the deck, I thought about a slit trench for me, but they had forgotten to dig any in the deck.…

New Georgia Island, Solomon, Islands, July 31, 1943
[When I was] forward [at the front], I would order fire, hear them [the howitzers] wham thru the phone, next hear Ray [DeBlois] say “On the way”, wait a few more seconds and the rumble of my guns would reach me across the jungle, and, almost immediately after, the shells will go “whish, whish, whish-whispering and whirring” overhead.

Baanga Island, Solomon Islands, August 1943 (narrator)
Among the wounded left behind were the artillery observer, Lieutenant Heidelberger, and three of his party. Heidelberger and Cpl. Norbert F. McElroy did not survive. Heidelberger was reported missing for some time after his body was found because of difficulties in identifying it.

Arundel Island, Solomon Islands, September 1943
It was on this move that we went thru a swamp that surpassed all my ideas of swamps. It was deep, slimy, stinking, sticky, sucking mud under about six inches of very nasty water. There were vines and rotten logs to climb over and really every step was over crotch deep. Several times I doubted if I could pull a leg out of the depth to which it had sunk.

…Once an observer said there was a light on Devil’s Island, so I said to Bailey “Put out the light on Devil’s Island.” Pretty soon four shells landed on D.I. and the light was out. [Colonel] Sugg had never seen artillery used to put out lights before. When I used it to keep the Japs from talking too, he proclaimed that we were the most aggressive artillery support he had ever seen.

Ondonga, Solomon Islands, October 3, 1943
[To Norma:] I know you will never leave me. You haven’t a chance if you tried. You keep reassuring me, and I “ain’t” even worried… The war seems so trivial beside your love for me. It gets noisy now + then, but the music of my Nana [Norma] sounds clear + pure thru the noise + confusion to me.… You seem to be a pretty necessary part of this soldier’s equipment.

New Zealand, July 7, 1944
Mrs. C. has more or less organized all the entertainment (local) for my men. For example, she specialized in fine and fancy cooking.… [Supper] consists of tea, about eight kinds of cakes, cookies, sandwiches, patties, scones, puddings and “trifle.” One eats some of each and is assisted to the car. Usually one such event is all the human system can stand in a week.

BOOK 3

Aitape, New Guinea, August 31, 1944 (Wilber)
Dear Son — … This isn’t a bad war here for I’ve seen a lot more dead Japs than wounded Americans. However two of my best friends were killed, so it is still a war with all its bad aspects.
[Narrator:] On August 7, five officers and nine enlisted men of the 2nd Battalion, 169th Infantry, were killed or fatally wounded and another 11 were wounded by misplaced mortar rounds fired by the battalion’s own mortar company!

Aitape, New Guinea, October 24, 1944
Of course all this firing on targets so close to our own troops is the sort of thing that everyone just loves as long as it just clears them. There is only about fifty yards difference between being a hero and a heel. Wish me luck and don’t think I haven’t appreciated what I’ve had to date.

En route to Philippine landings, January 6, 1945
Hale + Valerie, I’ve passed thru the Mindanao Sea, the Sulu Sea and am now in the China Sea. … We are the first transports to see the China Sea since Dec. 7, 1941 and I’m quite proud to be here. I wish you could see all these ships spread so thickly and so far across the ocean. Each one carries our flag so proudly and the flag looks so glad to be going about where it wants and not retreating from the Japs any more.

Luzon, Philippines, re January 12, 1945
Somewhere in the tall grass were the Japs with two machine guns but we didn’t know where. Whenever anyone tried to get to the wounded Filipino the Japs opened up on them and had wounded several. … So I proposed artillery. It was too close quarters to be safely used but I thought I might be able to do it.… Then we walked volleys back + forth thru the grass + stream using high explosive shell. Each time I expected to see the F. disappear because he was within dispersion limits.

En route to Japan, September 20, 1945
We had already made plans for the landing on Japan and there would have been many casualties. In fact I didn’t expect to come thru that one alive.… The 43rd was one of the assault divisions in the landing and my regiment was given the point considered most critical to the success of the division action. That meant we couldn’t take our time but would have to drive thru anything we met the costly way.

En route to U.S.A., October 5, 1945
[To Norma:] There have been times when I lacked the courage to continue the pace I had set for myself, when it was a temptation [to] not go into dangerous places that day. On those days you have reassured me and led me thru the hard places. Your days have been lonely. You have worked too hard. You have been ill away from me and have done many things I ought to have done. Yet your letters have been brave and sweet and loving until I could not but adore you.