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The Beach Was Like a Graveyard

Posted by on January 7, 2018

January 14 and 16, 1946. Dad writes a few letters home from Saipan where he reports that he is “fine but a little worried about the increasing grey hairs.” He asks that his family send him “…anything to stop me from losing my pigment further.”  He goes on to lament, “I sure hate to be prematurely grey. …It’s now very noticeable.”

He comments that there is little to write about on the 14th other than his assignment “to Base Operations”, a job he acknowledges might change if he ends up swapping jobs with “a fellow who used to work in Operations but now works in the Adj. General’s Office.”  He closes his short letter with an update on his hoped for discharge. “I sure hope to leave soon. Looks like I’ll be delayed another month. I’ll probably be in the states around the end of February provided they don’t screw up on dropping points again.”

On the 17th he has more time on his hands to write a longer letter. It is “around 6:00 PM” and he is “pulling the night shift”. He details, “The work consists mainly of coordinating all round when a plane lands or when it takes off. If the plane leaves this island you send a teletype, which we have in this office, to the AACS, who radio this information to the other base from which the plane came or is headed for. This is the kind of work I’ve never done before and it is interesting and probably will continue to be until the novelty of it wears off.”

Dad goes on to share some other news and impressions of life on Saipan. “I hear where some guy around the Marianas here, I believe, committed suicide. I think it was some officer. The officers really have it bad on this discharge deal. They need 68 points or over 40 months service. After reading about fellows forfeiting their lives and everything, shucks I guess my couple of grey hairs aren’t anything to worry about. About three days ago info came on the teletype where either a C-46 or C-47 crashed. The teletype listed survivors and missing persons. Life is a funny thing. For some people it comes and goes fast while others, who are probably more careful or lucky, they put in quite a few years on this earth.”

He goes on to share further details. “Last Sunday I went to Mass at the 363 Serv. Gp. Chapel which was very nice. After that I went down to the beach which is at our back door, and browsed around a bit. The place is deserted seeing as how the fellows on this island have about all gone home. The beach was like a graveyard. There was a rusting old LCT grounded on the beach with the motor taken out and it must have been there for over a year. Toward our end of the beach there is a sign warning everyone to be careful of the undertow saying that two fellows have lost their lives and others came close to joining those two. A little further down there [was] a rope wound around a stick with a sign saying that it is only for lifesaving purposes. Toward the other extreme end of the beach there were some native children romping around in the surf while two old natives were out near the undertow collecting sea vegetation. Maybe they were collecting shells or just seafood; I didn’t notice. Also, on the beach I found some shells (sea shells and ammunition shells) also, some bones. Some of the bones looked bigger than a human shoulder blade while other bones looked like they might have been ribs of some animal approximating a human being. At one time this beach must have been a very busy place.”  

He writes about one more thing that he did on his day off. “Sunday, I also spent quite a part of the afternoon in the Service Club that was built by the 73rd Wing. It sure was an extravagant affair. It looks over the sea towards the island of Tinian. Day and night the water keeps washing away at the rocks. At night the sound is fascinatingly eerie. When the moon shines across the water it creates an odd pale light effect on the foam.”

He concludes his letter with a P.S. directed to his brother. “Stanley, I’m sure glad you were never sent to the Pacific. …I hope to leave soon now that everyone is getting out on 45 points. All 48 pointers and 38 month men have left so that leaves the next boat for me with my 47 points and 36 months, I hope. Seems like the Lord has been holding me back so how about you all getting after Him and then maybe he will hear us. O.K.? Thanks!

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