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This Frying Pan of an Island

Posted by on October 1, 2017

November 27 and December 2, 1945. Dad writes two letters home from Guam with his “hope this letter will bring…some of the warmth from this frying pan of an island.”  The war has been finished for some time, the army is winding things down at Northwest Field and Christmas is on its way. With all of that in the mix, it is still uncertain when Dad will be discharged and sent home. Given that uncertainty, the family decided to offer masses for him at their church in Albany rather than send him packages of gifts and goods from home. Dad writes to assure them “You folks did the right thing in offering Mass for me as that might bring me home sooner than packages. If they went by points, maybe I would be getting around in January but now it looks like it may be in early February.  …We aren’t doing anything here, and now they are getting silly ideas on having weekly Saturday inspection.”

It looks like Dad is not the only on that wants to be closer to home. He goes on to note “Have a rumor that Brig. Gen. Armstrong, our Wing Commander is in Washington trying to move our outfit back to the States. Five of our Squadron planes have returned to the States and three more should leave by 1st of Dec. Then by 1st January, I believe, 5 more will leave, leaving 5 planes in our Squadron.”

Dad goes on to write about what is happening on base and on the nearby islands. “Fellows on Saipan radio are being warned to keep out of restricted areas as there are still armed Japs hiding out. I guess somebody must have gotten bumped off. The auto accident rate on Guam is going up. Four fellows got killed in different accidents in something like one week. The MP’s are getting stricter on the enlisted men.”

As far as diversions, Dad writs about seeing the movie A Thrill of a Romance which starred Esther Williams and Van Johnson. He notes “it was good” and that “Larry Melchior was most entertaining with his songs.” After the movie there was a performance by the group’s band. He writes, “During one number…the guitarist had a solo, then the trumpeter got up and blew his brains out, followed by the bass horn, finally the drummer bang-slammed away for about 2 to 3 bars …”

Poster for Thrill of a Romance starring Esther Williams and Van Johnson


He also writes that the radio in the barracks is working again; it seems that it was out of commission because “the GI generator was on the bum and would jump up in voltage burning out the tubes. Two nights ago they burned out all the bulbs in the barracks.”

Continuing his correspondence on December 2, Dad replies to Stanley’s November 25th letter and provides some additional detail on the flight that Stanley mentioned of the B-29 that flew from Guam to Washington, D.C. “That plane took off from our (Northwest Field) runway around one o’clock in the afternoon that I remember. I didn’t see it take off as I was in the office. They pestered our office for the necessary auxiliary equipment and servicing even if it was a 20th Air Force plane. The fellows who saw it takeoff said it started its takeoff on the approach coral strip behind the blacktop runway in order to increase its takeoff speed and used all the runway it could before it took off. Our field is pretty well situated so when our planes takeoff they sort off fly off a cliff which gives them 500 ft. additional height free.”

Dad also writes about the dedication of the chapel on base and provides details about efforts to help fund a cathedral in a nearby town. “Today at 0900 our new Chapel was dedicated by the Bishop on this island… It was a splendid ceremony with the singing done by the Guamanians from Agana. They were pretty good at that. I don’t know if I ever told you before about the cathedral that is being built in Agana. Our group had collected something like $1,008.00 as an offering and we put our names and addresses on a piece of paper as the priest wants to send us a picture of the cathedral… Also, these names will be enclosed in the corner stone of the cathedral. Once I get home it will be quite a pleasure to know that I will still be remembered on this island even if it will be in a corner stone of a cathedral.”

Before signing off he writes about “a man from the 356th Squadron” who accidentally drowned while swimming and also mentions, “Two days ago a body was washed upon the coral shores the only identification on the body being the bracelet the fellow wore”

In a P.S. he mentions that he is sending more negatives with instructions to “print only those you want, as the negatives are non-sentimental and useless as far as I am concerned.” He also provides instructions “Don’t print any of the negatives where you can see the bottom of the plane until I tell you.” This is quite likely due to requirements to maintain the secrecy of the Norden Bombsight.

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