browser icon
You are using an insecure version of your web browser. Please update your browser!
Using an outdated browser makes your computer unsafe. For a safer, faster, more enjoyable user experience, please update your browser today or try a newer browser.

We Aren’t Here on a Picnic

Posted by on March 21, 2017

June 9, 10 and 11, 1945: Dad writes a few short letters home to let his family know that he is “in very good condition.”  He comments that “The boat trip sort of wore me down but that is behind me. I’m looking forward to the one which will being me home to you folks after the war is over and I’ve completed whatever work I’m supposed to do over here.”

He provides some color as to what life is like during his first days on Guam (or as he puts it “somewhere in the Marianas”). He writes about some of what he hears on the radio and PA system in camp, specifically “…many pre-war tunes over our Public Address System…tunes that really send you…We get music most of the day, thanks in part to special services and communications department.” He also mentions one of the more infamous broadcasters of the War, “Tokyo Rose, the woman who speaks in English over the Japanese radio…” of her, Dad writes that she “…certainly does not like us boys over here. Some fellows have heard her swear at us over the radio.” Although it is acknowledged, that “Tokyo Rose” was a nickname that GIs gave to numerous female Japanese propaganda broadcasters, a link to the story of one, Iva Toguri, can be found here.

As far as the creature comforts, Dad writes “…we had chicken twice for chow, so you can see I should be putting on some weight. We now have tables with seats which makes eating more convenient. Until that time, we ate standing up and just about got used to it too.” He also writes that “We’ve been able go get candles for use in our tents at night. I fashioned a candle holder from some porous coral and it looks O.K.” Even so, he comments, “In case you want to send me something, maybe you could dig up some hair oil.”

Dad takes a paragraph to address personal hygiene, with a description that was likely common for many of the soldiers. “Your health here depends I’d say, mostly on how well you can keep yourself clean. It is quite necessary to shower practically every day even if you were to sit and do nothing all day, otherwise you feel greasy and uncomfortable. The first few days we were here, no kidding, you learned how to take a bath in your helmet. Now we have overhead showers, outdoors, and we use the helmets only as wash basins or for doing your laundry in. We have laundry service, so you see we have all of the convenience of home with the luxuries taken out, and of course missing your presence. On comparing our first days here with the present setup, you can notice the improvements.”

Dad continues his letter of the ninth on Sunday the tenth, adding anecdotes about the dogs at camp. He mentions seeing dogs hanging around the mess hall. He also tells about a dog that “found its way into our tent one night while we were sleeping only to have McCormick, a fellow in our tent step on him when he was returning late from work at 1:00 AM. The dog let out a yelp and McCormick sure got scared. He imagined Japs and what not. He lit a match and there was the big black beast laying under his cot. The same dog was running in and around our chapel this morning while we had High Mass.”

For the eleventh, there are two letters, one that Dad wrote to his family back home, and another that he wrote to his brother, Stanley who at the time was just winding things down in England. The letters are fairly identical, so for the purposes of this post, I’m treating them as one.

Dad writes that he can finally reveal that he is on Guam and that “we’re pretty well settled now. In fact, attention has now been focused on the military manner we should dress, etc.” As far as the locals, Dad writes, “The Chamorros mostly inhabit the island and although I haven’t had the opportunity to speak with them, I understand they are very much American and suffered inhuman treatment at the hands of the Japs. They are Catholic and respect virginity to the point of perfection. Perhaps mama would enjoy living here; there’s a lot of fresh air and sunshine, and coconuts – free, not like at Miami Beach. I got all the coconuts I want and don’t care for any anymore. I’ve eaten some papayas and they’re quite the taste. Bananas grow wild but I haven’t bothered with them. After all, we aren’t here on a picnic…”

He writes that he’s seen the movie Stage Door Canteen “for my third time” and that they also saw Return to Guam, which was a US Navy produced film about the retaking of Guam by US forces which included  the story of a US Navy radioman who survived in hiding on Guam during the 31 month long Japanese occupation of the island. He notes that “we had some Chamorro children among us watching the picture. I’ll bet they have a lot they could tell you and me on what happened the last two years on Guam.”

As he wraps up his letter to Stanley he writes, “Hope the war ends before they send you over here.”

I leave you with the US Navy’s film Return to Guam. Grab a snack, it runs 19 minutes.

Previous Post
Next Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *