Excerpt from the Autobiography of Francis M. ,Perry, 1921 -
My Wartime Sea Duty As A U. S. Navy Radio Technician.
In this excerpt of my autobiography I have just put to sea in my first U. S. Navy assignment since leaving the Radio Technician training school at Navy Pier in the city of Chicago. I am now rated as a Radio Technician Second Class petty officer and am supposedly qualified to maintain and repair all sorts of electronic equipment aboard ship including the radio communication transmitters and receivers and radar equipment. This first voyage out of San Francisco is simply for the purpose of providing my transportation to my assignment with the U. S. Naval amphibious forces operating in the vicinity of the Philippine Islands. I am aboard a troop transport named the USS General Hershey and we have just left San Francisco.
Of even more importance in my life, while in Chicago I became engaged to be married to a Chicago girl named Charlotte Wiesen. We have set the date for our wedding for as soon as possible after my sea duty with the Navy is completed. As I write this autobiography some 60 years after this sea duty, most of my recollections are taken from the letters which I wrote to my future bride from the Pacific war theater, letters which she has carefully preserved.
During the war I was not allowed to write in a letter the security precautions that the ship had to take on this voyage. Our troop transport carried several thousand sailors. The threat of attack by Japanese submarines was considered to be possible, even in the waters near the California coast. And I guess the threat got worse the farther west we sailed. We were not a single ship but a convoy of several ships. Two or three destroyers accompanied us at all times. It was thrilling to see the destroyers, much faster than our transport, steam by us, sometimes cutting across our bow. I know now that they were operating their sonar systems, constantly searching beneath the surface of the ocean for possible submarines. And we did not sail on a direct course heading but we zig zagged in a random pattern. The purpose of the zig zag course was to make it much more difficult for a waiting submarine to know where to direct its torpedoes should it get a chance to fire at the transport. And, from time to time an American or Canadian aircraft would soar overhead giving us additional confidence that we were being cared for.
April 12, 1945. On board the USS General Hershey at sea. “The weather is wonderful, not too hot, not too cool. We must be getting very close to Hawaii. The ocean here is the bluest I’ve ever seen. I spent a good part of the day watching flying fishes skim out of the way of the ship. They can really fly! Their wings flutter like a humming bird’s wings. They are only about six inches long but some of them fly as far as two hundred yards. Sometimes we run through whole schools of them. Of course we can see for miles in all directions. Sometimes we can see rain squalls off in the distance but the sun will be shining brightly here where we are. At night the millions of stars are there, a pleasant sea breeze, the luminous glowing of the ships wake. With all that and a certain brunette with soft brown eyes (do you know the one I mean?), well, things would be much nicer.”
Friday the Thirteenth of April 1945. On board the USS General Hershey at sea. “Darling, There is a slight chance I can mail this letter soon. I’ll have it ready anyway. All morning we have been running through rain squalls. It keeps it from being too hot. I spent a good part of the morning in line waiting to get a book from the library. As soon as I got to the door, the library closed. So I still don’t have a book to read. We stand in line from 30 to 60 minutes for each meal. And then we have to eat standing up. But the food is pretty good.”
Saturday, April 14, 1945. On board the USS General Hershey in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. “Darling, Here we sit in Pearl Harbor and I can’t leave the ship. None of us can leave the ship. Can you imagine? I’m at the picturesque island of Oahu near Honolulu and the beach at Waikiki and the hula girls in grass skirts and I can’t get off the ship! What’s worse, I don’t think I’m going to be able to mail these letters. (Apparently the command will not risk the possible discovery of information by the enemy that might occur were mail from the sailors on this ship intercepted by the enemy.) And it’s hot today. Not as hot as it will be I expect but hot enough to be uncomfortable on this ship which just absorbs the heat the sun gives out. The shady green trees along the shore and the comfortable lawn chairs on the pretty green lawns sure look inviting from here. Yesterday as we sailed in we passed Diamond Head, the famous Waikiki beach, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel,. and the city of Honolulu itself. Oahu is really a beautiful island. Honolulu runs back from the shore right into beautiful mountains behind it. All morning the mountains have been covered with clouds. I love you darling, very much, FM.”
Sunday, April 15, 1945. On board the USS General Hershey in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. “My Darling, I attended the regular Navy church services today. There is some good to be gotten from these services. The sermons are usually pretty good as far as they go. Today the chaplain exhorted us to be more like Barnabas by giving a character sketch of him. But these chaplain sermons are noted for their aimlessness, for the preacher must give lessons that will suit all denominations and offend none. About all these services tend to do is make me homesick for my own church services.”
As I reread these letters more than 56 years later I’m surprised not to find any mention in them of the death of our President, Franklin D. Roosevelt. I distinctly remember that it was while we were at anchor in Pearl Harbor that we received the news of his death in Warm Springs, Georgia. Many of the younger sailors remembered no other president but him since he had been in office since 1932. I had worked in his administration in Washington, D. C. during part of 1940 and all of 1941. I had prepared officer promotion lists to be sent with his signature to the Senate when I worked in the War Department. I recalled seeing Mr. Roosevelt on several occasions. Once as I walked on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House and drew near the driveway of the house, a limousine crossed the sidewalk right in front of me. President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill sat in the back seat. Mr. Roosevelt had his cigarette holder and cigarette protruding from his mouth and Churchill had a cigar protruding from his mouth. In Pearl Harbor that day we wondered who will command the war now? We felt sorry for the new President, Mr. Truman, for we knew that he had not been part of Mr. Roosevelt’s inner circle.
April 17, 1945. On board the USS General Hershey at sea. “My Darling, I missed a day writing to you. But I was thinking of you just as much. ... I’ve already mentioned in a previous letter that we stopped once. (I was thinking that all references to Pearl Harbor may have been censored from my previous letter. We were constantly warned not to give away our location in letters back home. But seldom was anything ever cut out of my letters.) Well, we’re moving again now. I didn’t get to mail a single letter so I’ll just continue this one on and you’re due for a book when you do get it. While I think of it, you can write me airmail for 6 cents now. (The airmail stamp must have been reduced in price.) Last night we had some boxing matches. Because of the crowd I could hardly see. We are to have a variety show coming up soon by local talent. I’m beginning to get tired of reading. One book I’m reading now is Papini’s ‘Life of Christ.’ ... I’ll send you the money to buy an engagement ring as soon as I’m paid. You see, it’s been some time and will be more time before I’m paid again. I’ll send $150.00, Darling. I’d like to send much more but please don’t take the money as a measure of my love for you. There isn’t enough money in the world for that. I love you, FM.”
Thursday, April 19, 1945. On board the USS General Hershey at sea. “My Darling, Whew! I didn’t realize there was so much water in the world. It’s really just a huge complete desert because nothing grows. There’s no water to drink. You have to commence the journey with enough water and provisions to get all the way across in one try. ... The monotony was broken a little today for I was put to work, actual work. I was unlucky enough to be in my compartment when an officer went through looking for a work detail. It’s just a cleaning job, washing walls and swabbing decks. But it does make the day pass faster. I have to go back to work again tomorrow. ... I’d like to hear all about our friends in Chicago and I know you are writing me about them. Sometime, not too far away, I’ll get your letters. The fellows here on the ship are about the same as anywhere else I’ve been, I guess. I don’t make friends very easily. Of course, I’m friendly with everyone and am carrying on a conversation with someone all the time. But I don’t really get to be friends with any of them. I love you. FM”
Saturday, April 21, 1945. On board the USS General Hershey at sea. “Darling, Today is Saturday, tomorrow is Monday. Thar ought to tell you where we are today. I can’t say exactly but somewhere in the middle of the Pacific ocean. We’ve been gone for days and days without seeing land and we’ll be out several more days before we see any. And it is hot. Just like midsummer in Alabama. It’s especially hot in our compartment. We’re allowed to sleep on deck now, if we wish. It’s cooler. ... I’m off work detail now and probably won’t have to work anymore. But they nearly finished me off yesterday. We had to crawl down a huge ventilator and clean it out. The dust was terrible. It got in our eyes, nose and mouth and nearly stifled us. We were black when we got out and our clothes were filthy. At least we earned a nice fresh water shower. Our regular showers are salt water and you can’t get clean under one of them. ... I’m always missing you, all day every day. All my love, FM”
Sunday, April 22, 1945. On board the USS General Hershey at sea. “Darling, They were supposed to skip Sunday but decided to skip Monday instead. I love you with all my heart. FM”
There are a few letters missing from our archives for the next letter I now have is dated May 8, 1945 from Samar Island where I spent a day on land after arriving in the Philippines. During the period between April 22 and May 9, shortly after we crossed the international date line, we sailed into the atoll at Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands and dropped anchor for two days. I simply remember being surrounded by low lying small green islands. The main island had an aircraft runway and planes were operating from it. Of course, we were not allowed to leave the ship nor to mention the stop in our letters. A week later we stopped in the Palau Islands where we observed some United States military aircraft apparently strafing enemy forces on a large mountainous island near our anchorage.
May 8, 1945. Receiving Station, Samar Island, Philippines. “My Darling, We disembarked from the ship yesterday, somewhere in the Philippines. You know approximately where I am. However, notice my new F.P.O. number. I’ll probably be here only a short while and then I’ll go to a ship. We live in tents here, practically out in the open. And I have to walk about a mile for each meal. We are very near a native Filipino village but I haven’t visited it yet. Dearest, I got seven letters from you yesterday. It was wonderful. I love you with all my heart. FM”
May 9, 1945. On board an LCI, San Pedro Bay, Leyte Gulf, Philippines. “My Darling, We disembarked on one of the Philippine Islands but I only got to stay ashore for one day. We were brought ashore in a landing barge just like the Marines only there were no Japs taking pot shots at us. I got to see quite a few natives and one little town. The natives look just like the Filipinos in the States that you have no doubt seen. They speak only a few words of English but are very friendly. They seem prosperous and many of them work on war construction jobs. Most of them wear no shoes for they are hard to get right now. They usually are good traders. Many come out about four miles in their canoes to trade with us on the ship. For a few bananas the silly sailors would give them their shirts, or their mattress or blanket or most anything. On the other hand I saw one sailor on shore sell a pair of dungarees, worth about $2.00, for the equivalent in pesos of about $25.00. All this trading is illegal but it goes on anyway. Many of the good hearted sailors give away part of their gear. All the native kids are wearing mostly G. I. clothes and act just like kids in the States. When we passed them on the road they said ‘hello baby’ or ‘hello Joe.’ One little boy gave me a coconut and said ‘melly Christmas.’ In the village there is an ancient Catholic church. I didn’t see the inside but was told that it was magnificent. ... I’m now aboard an L.C.I. (Landing Craft, Infantry, a small but very sea worthy ship) going to another island. Then I’ll go aboard another receiving ship, get a new address, and some time in the future actually get aboard the ship on which I’m going to have my own duty. That will be a swell day. ... We heard that yesterday was VE day and that the celebration in the States was momentous. But there was no celebration here. Most of the sailors didn’t even know it was VE day, and if they had been told, would have laughed and said they thought the war in Europe had been over a long time. A celebration would have meant nothing here where there is at least a couple more years of war. But maybe Japan will surprise us and capitulate early. We all hope so but are afraid to voice such a hope. My new address is Com. Ad. Com., 7th Phib. Forces, c/o FPO, San Francisco,. Calif, All my love, FM”
May 11, 1945. On board the USS Henry T. Allen anchored in San Pedro Bay, Leyte Gulf. “My Darling, I worked harder today than I’ve ever worked in my Navy career. We were loading supplies onto our ship and we worked very hard for about 10 solid hours. Consequently I’m ready to hit the sack. But I’ve got to tell you about my new address, etc. I’ve been transferred to another ship (a large receiving ship) and this still isn’t the last. I’m definitely in the Seventh Amphibious Forces and my final duty will probably be on a landing ship of some sort. We Radio Technicians are going to have another week or so of school and then we’ll get our own ship. They also need someone to do the dirty work aboard this ship and I’m getting my share of it. But I’m not kicking. The bunks are good, the food good, and we get all the fresh water we can use. I can even catch up on my washing now. It will be a luxury to wear clean clothes again. All my love, FM.”
May 13, 1945. On board the USS Henry T. Allen anchored in San Pedro Bay, Leyte Gulf. “My little Darling, Well, I’m as well off as I’ll ever be. I have a soft bunk, good chow, a chocolate milk at the canteen, and a movie later tonight. And they keep us busy with work. It’s all right with me because the time passes faster that way. But the work is plenty hard. It’s all stevedore work, loading and unloading cargo. Every other day I go to school to study the specific radio equipment I am to be responsible for. It’s really not bad at all.”
May 14, 1945. On board the USS Henry T. Allen anchored in San Pedro Bay, Leyte Gulf. “My Darling, Today is one of my work days. But I hope you won’t be ashamed of me when I tell you I’m not working. They made some error somewhere and assigned everyone to work chipping paint but didn’t assign me. So I’ve been fooling around all day doing practically nothing. I wrote my brother a letter. Wrote to Bro. Ritchie (a minister and former teacher) yesterday. Say, tell me Bobby’s address. (Bobby is Charlotte’s brother who is in the army somewhere in the Philippines). I might sometime be close to his outfit. I don’t expect to move anywhere except closer to Japan,. but we might go almost anywhere. ... I spend a long time rereading all your letters. I’ve received 16 letters from you in all and the latest was numbered your 30th letter. So you see I have quite a few more to yet receive. ... Now as summer comes don’t go and get yourself sunburned. You don’t need to catch up with me on the sun tan business. You couldn’t anyway. I’m black now and I’m getting blacker if such a thing is possible. I like your soft milk white skin. I’ll get enough sun tan for the both of us. All my love forever, FM.”
May 17. 1945. On board the USS Henry T. Allen anchored in San Pedro Bay, Leyte Gulf. “Darling, A movie every night for me. That’s better than in the States, isn’t it? We have a screen strung up on deck and a different movie every night. Tonight I saw “Together Again” with Irene Dunn and Charles Boyer. I had seen it before. I was just trying to remember if I saw it with you. Have you seen it? ... Well it’s so hot down here at my bunk tonight I just can’t stay here. I’ll take a couple of blankets up on top deck and sleep. I’ve gotten so it doesn’t matter where I sleep. On the trip over here I slept many nights on the bare deck, no blankets or anything, and believe me, I slept good! I’m rather proud of myself. It’s really convenient to be able to sleep that way.”
May 18, 1945. On board the USS Henry T. Allen anchored in San Pedro Bay, Leyte Gulf. “My Darling, ... It’s the same here. I’m working pretty hard and still waiting to be assigned to my own ship. Some of my work is chipping paint, swabbing decks, loading and unloading small boats. Believe me, no one can say we’re not working our way. We sometimes wonder why they made us Second Class Radio Technicians if they are going to break our backs before we get a radio. But it isn’t too bad. ... Tomorrow, Sunday, I may get a chance to go ashore. But there’s not much there once one gets ashore but at least it’s a change. I can go swimming, I guess. The water way out here is not too good for swimming. There might be sharks in it. But over on the beach it should be nice. Most of the fellows want to go ashore because they can buy beer there. ... Guess what? I finally got paid. And a lot of money in one slab. I’ll send the money for the ring as soon as I can find a way to send it. I don’t think I can buy money orders from the post office aboard this ship due to censorship regulations or something. I don’t know exactly why. I’ll send it as soon as I can. I love you. FM.” (Apparently I didn’t remember or care to think about the fact that this day was my birthday!)
May 19. 1945. On board the USS Henry T. Allen anchored in San Pedro Bay, Leyte Gulf. “Darling, It’s Sunday afternoon and I just came back from the recreation party on the beach. We stayed ashore only about three hours but I had a very good time. We were at a tiny native village. The natives had arranged a dance for the visiting sailors. All the young girls of the village were there and an orchestra too. The girls were dressed in their finest long dresses. This was no ordinary dance. They charged the sailors $2.00 a dance. They didn’t get many sailors to come in but a few did. The dance was held in an open pavilion and we all crowded around to watch. The music was provided by a battered trumpet, trombone, and two guitars. The piece I heard sounded like a Polish polka in a minor key. We walked thru the village and down the beach past lots of native houses. At one house I met a little boy about three years old. He was running around quite unashamed in his birthday suit. They have no diaper problems over here. The youngsters don’t wear pants until they are about four years old. The minute we hove into sight the little naked boy hollered, “Hello Joe, Got chew gum.” And he repeated that about 60 times before we got out of sight. ... At another house we met three kids. They could speak a little English and seemed very smart. We asked them their names and they said Juan, Pedro and Antonio. Their ages were 10, 12, and 14. One climbed a coconut tree and got some coconuts for us. Then they laughed and laughed at us because, they told us later, the coconuts were green (and we didn’t know the difference). Later, we went swimming and then came on back to the ship.”
May 21, 1945. On board the USS Henry T. Allen anchored in San Pedro Bay, Leyte Gulf. “Dear little sweetheart, Now I’m one of the happiest guy aboard this ship! Because I got some mail from my darling. Three letters, your 20th, 21st, and 22nd. I had already received some written after these, so these sort of helped to fill in and lift my morale about as high as it can go unless I were told I was going home. ... I went ashore again today on a working party. We spent the day there. It was really interesting to observe the civilian population. We drove several miles inland. Of course, the highlight of the day was getting mail from you. ... I heard some fellows say today that they were going home. One of them has been over here 37 months without going home. The standard policy is to send each sailor home to stay, or for a leave, after 18 months duty over here. Looks like I’ve got a long time to go. I hope the war is over before then. But we can’t expect too much.”
May 22, 1945. On board the USS Henry T. Allen anchored in San Pedro Bay, Leyte Gulf. “My Darling, Today I finished my schooling here. It didn’t amount to much. It shouldn’t be long until I am transferred to a permanent assignment on some ship in the Seventh Amphibious Force. I’ll probably move to a different location then, maybe stay in the Philippines, maybe not. I don’t know. I have to report back to work at 9 PM tonight for some kind of loading work. We really get some long hours sometimes. ... To me the prospects look pretty good. Japan is already defeated and she knows it. It’s only a matter of her trying to get a peace short of unconditional surrender. From Okinawa we can reduce Japan to rubbish from the air. I hope it won’t be necessary. I hope Japan gives up soon. The government in Japan now is one that advocates peace. I think they will soon surrender. Maybe I’m wrong. We’ll see. ... As soon as I’m out of this Navy I don’t want anything else to do with the war or the Navy Department. However I’m in the Naval Reserve for ten years after the war is over. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but it was in there when I was drafted and I had to sign it. ”
May 23, 1945. On board the USS Henry T. Allen anchored in San Pedro Bay, Leyte Gulf. “My Darling, Remember yesterday I told you I had to go to work at 9 PM. Well, I did and the work lasted until 4 AM. We were told we wouldn’t have to work long!! But they allowed us to sleep in today. I heard a rumor that we get to work in the post office from now on until we are assigned to our ship. It will be more agreeable work.”
May 26, 1945. On board the USS Henry T. Allen anchored in San Pedro Bay, Leyte Gulf. “My Darling, The day is here, my happy day! I got another bundle of mail today. Five letters from you and one from my mother. Oh, it’s wonderful to read your letters. Mama is pretty good, but she has stomach trouble that is a source of worry to me. She has ulcers and one time, long ago, she was in bed for about six months. She has never had another breakdown like that one but she has some trouble all the time. She has to work so hard. She shouldn’t have to work at all.”
May 27, 1945. On board the USS Henry T. Allen anchored in San Pedro Bay, Leyte Gulf. “Dearest Sweetheart, It’s Sunday morning here and I have nothing to do until 11:00 AM. Then I have to go to work in the Post Office. I hope I get some more mail from you today. It’s still Saturday night back there in Chicago and you are probably just going to bed. I wish I were there to give you a good night kiss. Pleasant dreams anyway.”
May 30, 1945. Aboard Fletcher Class Destroyer en route to Morotai. “My Darling, I’m finally getting some action. I mean I’m on the move again. I left the receiving ship in the Philippines, went aboard another LCI for a night and now I’m aboard one of Uncle Sam’s sleekest and newest destroyers. When I get to mail this I will be on my way to (destination cut out of my letter, but it was the island of Morotai about 400 miles south of the Philippine Islands). I’m only a passenger aboard this destroyer. I’m trying to find the ship to which I’m assigned, the USS LSM (Landing Ship Medium) #53. Life aboard a destroyer isn’t bad for members of its crew. But it definitely wasn’t built to carry passengers. We passengers, some 50 of us, eat with the crew and use their wash rooms. But there is absolutely no place for passengers to sleep except on the bare deck. So that is where I sleep with a life preserver for a pillow and a raincoat for a mattress. Luckily, I’m just about used to sleeping like that and it isn’t too much of a hardship. I can’t mail this until we get to our destination.”
I was not able to write that for three days on the destroyer en route to Morotai the crew engaged in target shooting practice. A plane flew back and forth over the destroyer every day towing a target behind it. The crew then peppered away at the target with every gun on board including 5 inch cannon. The noise was not only deafening, it was dangerous to the ear drums to be on deck without ear protection. We passengers all stuffed cotton in our ears and huddled below deck most of the time. It was hot below deck. When practice was over we could come on deck and cool off. I slept outdoors on deck and it was cool sleeping except that there were rain showers for a while every night. When it rained I huddled in a passage way below deck where there was not room to stretch out. A destroyer is crowded enough when it has only a full complement of crew, but with passengers it is definitely over crowded.
Permanent Duty Aboard Landing Ship Medium, USS LSM 53.
June 2, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 anchored at Morotai. “Darling, Finally I’m aboard my own ship and about to get settled down. It’s wonderful just to settle down and have a bunk to sleep in. This LSM is a pretty good ship. I’m more than well satisfied with my job. When I get myself squared away and get a good working knowledge of the equipment we have aboard, time will probably hang heavy on my hands. I was worried for fear they would kick me out of the radio room and put me to work on some deck detail. That has happened to some Radio Technicians I know. But the communications officer to whom I report wants me to work into the radio operator’s work (when I am not busy on technician work). That is O. K. with me for I want to learn as much of the radio room work as possible. The Radioman aboard is a swell fellow. He has taken me right in hand and is showing me the ropes. ... It looks like I arrived aboard just in time. We may be moving again soon and this time we may get a little excitement out of the trip. I’ll write you about it after it’s over.”
June 4, 1945. Underway at sea aboard USS LSM 53. “Darling, We’re underway at sea now and believe me this little LSM rolls something awful. The weather is calm now but I hate to think what this ship will do in a heavy sea. I’m only concerned about the possibility of getting sea sick again. I’m finally settled down on my own ship and I’m pretty well satisfied with my job. I’m still learning the equipment I have to maintain and also learning the work of the Radiomen. So I’m busy.”
June 7, 1945. Underway at sea aboard USS LSM 53. “Darling, I haven’t written you for the past few days because I’ve been sea sick. It is a bit calmer now and perhaps I’m getting some used to the ship’s motion. Tomorrow we have a field day. That is, we all turn to and clean up the ship. We wash down the walls, decks, etc. Hint: We always have a field day just before big battles, invasions, inspections, etc. We may see a little excitement in a day or so. But it doesn’t promise to be very dangerous so please don’t worry. I love you. FM.”
June 8, 1945. Underway at sea aboard USS LSM 53. “My Darling, How are you this fine morning? It’s evening over here and the day is already spent but you are just beginning it. I only have about ten minutes before lights out. We turn out the lights at 8:00 PM when we are underway. And we don’t have to get up until 6:00 AM so that gives me 10 hours of sleep. Just what I need. Almost all day I’ve been working on the ship’s audio amplifier/loudspeaker system. I’m wondering how you are. There’s no way for me to know right now. I don’t know when I’ll get mail again. And, darling, I still haven’t had a chance to get that money order to send to you. Gee, I’m sorry because I want so much for you to have that ring. I love you. FM.”
June 13, 1945. Aboard USS LSM 53 beached at Brunei Bay. “My Darling, Once again I’ve been so busy I didn’t have time to write. I still have the last three letters I wrote to you. No chance to mail them yet. ... The excitement is over for the time being and there really wasn’t much excitement to it. The most interesting thing that happened in the last few days was the time a small boat landed beside us while our ship was on the beach. Out of the small boat stepped General MacArthur. If you see a newspaper or newsreel picture of MacArthur stepping ashore look for a ship right behind him with a big 53 on the bow. That’s us, LSM 53. Maybe you’ll see a picture of fellows up to their necks in water passing supplies to the shore from the open bow doors of the ship. If that’s not us, it will be just the way we did it. We unloaded our own ship once and I was standing in waist deep water for half the day handling supplies. We had a good swim when the unloading was done. ... Since leaving California I’ve visited Pearl Harbor, Eniwetok, Palau,. Leyte, and Samar. I can’t mention where I am now or where I’m going. All my love, FM.”
June 15, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “Dearest, The days seem to drag by and yet when I look back they seem to have passed pretty fast. Our trips from place to place take quite some time because our ship only pokes along at about six knots in convoy. Each trip takes about a week and that divides the time up, makes it seem to pass fast. ... I’m reading a new book called “We live in Alaska” by Constance Helmericks. You ought to read it. Its good. ... Enclosed is some Jap money issued in the Philippines. The little bill is money printed by the Philippine Guerillas in opposition to the Japs. Also a small Jap coin.”
June 18, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “My Darling, Something very wonderful just happened. A fellow came aboard with two sacks of mail. And there were nine letters from you and one from my father. The letters were pretty recent too, all dated in May and some late in May. And now I’m walking on air. ... Say, which of your brother’s addresses is right? You gave me APO 159, but the Church Bulletin you sent me said APO 926. I suppose APO 159 must be the latest. I’ll enquire as to the location of these APO’s. I believe we are very close to them. ... Well, I was in my first invasion. It didn’t amount to much. There were no casualties to our ship or any of our men. It was just about as safe as crossing a busy street in Chicago. So don’t worry about me a bit. I already wrote about seeing General MacArthur, didn’t I? All my love and a million kisses. FM.”
I can tell the details now, as much as I can remember. The invasion in which I took part turned out to be the last one of the war but we didn’t know that then. Our LSM was loaded at Morotai Island with Australian infantry soldiers and their transportation, some 30 or so small Jeeps. (In the early part of the war we called these small vehicles Peeps.) These vehicles were “jury rigged” so the engines would run hopefully under water. This was to take care of the possibility that if the LSM could not run its bow far enough onto the beach to disembark the vehicles on dry land, the vehicles might run a few yards through the water that might be encountered between the ship’s ramp and the dry beach. The soldiers wanted to be able to speed away in their Jeeps as quickly as possible after disembarking from the LSM. It took a couple of days underway from Morotai for the LSM to reach the invasion beach head. During this time the Aussie soldiers were tinkering with the “jury rigged” mechanisms which were attached to the top of the Jeep engines to enable the engines to “breathe” air and output the engine exhaust high up in the air above the possible water level. The soldiers were continuously starting and stopping the engines to test their ability to run.
The invasion beach was on the northeast coast of the very large island that I used to know during my school days as Borneo. It was an area of Borneo which had been by-passed during the early years of the war when the Allied Forces island-hopped northward towards the Philippine Islands. The invasion was to occur on a beach of Brunei Bay near a town called Labuan. This beach is now either a part of Malaysia or of the small Kingdom of Brunei.
The invasion fleet consisted of about 400 ships including 5 Heavy Cruisers, several Destroyers and Destroyer Escorts, and a large number of Troop Transports, LSTs, LSMs, and LCIs to transport and disembark Australian soldiers onto the beach head. The beach had been reconnoitered and each LSM had a chart which showed on which part of the beach it was to land, the water depth, and the slope of the beach. This was information necessary for the LSM skipper to have to determine the speed of the vessel in approaching the beach and where to drop the stern anchor of the LSM so that it later could extract itself off the beach.
One evening as we sailed at sea approaching Brunei Bay I had no watch duties, and not knowing when we would reach our destination, I retired to my bunk to sleep. I expected to be waked up by an alarm signaling us to “battle stations” long before we reached the invasion area. I woke up early in the morning and saw daylight coming through the hatch. We were no longer underway. So I jumped out of my bunk and hurried topside. The invasion fleet was lying stationary there all around us, just off the shore four or five miles. My LSM had only the standard watch on deck. Most of the crew were asleep. I noticed that there was a similar lack of activity on board the other vessels of the fleet. I was amazed for I thought everyone on every vessel would be up and at battle stations when we were this close to the enemy shore. The thought went through my head that the commander of this fleet must have felt rather certain that there would be little or no enemy opposition here.
As I surveyed the ships all around us I had a premonition to look up. Perhaps it was the very faint sound of an airplane engine I thought I heard. Then I saw a speck in the sky, almost too high to be visible. When the speck was directly over the fleet it made a sharp turn to retrace its path. At about that time I saw a geyser of water shoot up near a Destroyer several hundred yards away and then I heard an exploding bomb. It didn’t seem to cause damage to any ship but I learned later that a sailor aboard the Destroyer was killed. I looked back up and the aircraft had disappeared. No one had fired a shot or had even detected the aircraft before the bomb drop. (Later we discussed the appearance of that airplane and the single bomb drop. Intelligence had reported that the Japanese forces on Borneo no longer had any aircraft left. The general consensus was that the enemy had somehow pieced together parts of several old aircraft and had resurrected a single aircraft that would fly.)
It was several minutes before there was any noticeable response from any ships of the fleet. I heard an alarm sound on a nearby ship and at least a few ships went to “general quarters.” I don’t remember what our ship did. We probably went to “battle stations.” My station was in the radio room. I stood on deck just outside the door of the radio room for most of the exercise that day and watched the activity. At a predetermined time that morning the cruisers and the destroyers began a bombardment of the landing beach. The big guns were firing over our heads from a position several miles farther at sea. We could hear the individual shells as they whistled over us. The beach became one mass of erupting dirt and smoke and it appeared from our viewpoint that not a single square inch of the beach was left untouched. I remember that when we reached the beach an hour or so after the bombardment I was surprised that much of the beach seemed relatively untouched. There were a holes here and there where shells had exploded.
The landing ships went in to shore a few at a time. But within an hour or so all the LSMs had their bows on the beach and were disgorging soldiers and jeeps. A few LSMs had slid so far up on the beach that, when the tide went out, they were high and dry. Our LSM 53 came to rest about 200 feet from shore with water about five feet deep just off the end of our ramp. The Aussie soldiers got their jeeps running and tried to make the journey through water to shore. I don’t think a single one made it. Their engines sputtered out in 4 feet of water a few feet in front of the ramp. But already there were jeeps from other ships running on shore and the jeeps from our ship were winched ashore by means of cables. We got all our load of jeeps onshore relatively quickly. But the soldiers had to disassemble the “jury rigged” devices from the engines and dry the engines to some extent before they would run. Luckily there was no enemy opposition shooting at any of us during the operations. We were warned to beware that there might be snipers shooting at us from a distance. Most of the soldiers in their jeeps disappeared down a nearby road as soon as the engines were running.
Later, off in the distance to which the soldiers had disappeared, we saw U. S. Navy planes diving and firing at ground targets. Obviously, an aircraft carrier or two had followed our invasion convoy (I had not seen them) and the planes were providing support to the soldiers as they went inland.
The Aussie soldiers were in such a hurry to get to their work, they left their personal gear aboard ship for others to unload. A small contingent of soldiers were left behind on the beach to retrieve the personal gear of the soldiers. Of course they needed the help of the ships crews to get the gear to shore. It took us about half a day to hand the baggage of our soldier passengers to shore. We formed lines of men from the ship to shore and handed the baggage from man to man. Sailors from the ship made up the deep water end of the line while Aussie soldiers made up the shore end of the line. I stood in waist deep water most of the morning assisting with the unloading. After we had been working about an hour, the Aussies on the shore end of the line disappeared. The sailors kept passing baggage but about half way to shore there was no one to receive it. The baggage began to pile up in the shallow water getting quite wet. It took a while to get the signal back to the ship to stop handing out baggage. Where were the Aussies? We looked over to the shore and there they were standing around a camp fire making and drinking tea! The sailors began to yell and jeer tauntingly at them. They just waved back at us in a friendly manner and kept drinking their tea.
Later when things were quiet I talked at length with some of the Aussie soldiers who were bivouacked on the beach. One soldier had noticed and admired the kind of blankets we sailors had, very light cream colored blankets. I had always felt that our blankets were too short but wider than necessary. The Aussie soldiers each had a blanket which was dark colored, longer in length but less wide than ours. The Aussie blankets were obviously made from very high grade wool as was ours, I presume. An Aussie soldier offered to swap blankets with me. O. K. We struck a deal. I still have that Aussie blanket to this day and have used it on many a camping trip.
That afternoon after we had unloaded the ship we noticed a P. T. Boat come near our stern and disembark some officers onto the LSM beached next to us. Then we noticed some U. S. Army newsreel photographers assembled on the beach with their cameras trained on the ramp of the LSM. I was up on the bow of our ship looking down on the scene next to our ship. Out of the neighboring LSM strode General Douglas MacArthur followed by several officers of his staff. At the end of the ramp they stepped off into knee deep water and waded ashore with the newsreel cameras rolling. I’m sure the news reels back home soon had the pictures of General MacArthur and his latest triumphant invasion. At that point he had already retaken the Philippines and the battle of Okinawa was raging. The Japanese homeland was the obvious next target.
June 20, 1945. Aboard USS LSM 53. “Hello Darling, Well, I finally got to that shore station for a couple of hours and was able to get the enclosed money orders. I’ve been carrying that money around for an awfully long time. Gee, darling, I’m sorry I can’t be there to buy your ring. I should think you might be a little self conscious buying it yourself. But I’ve heard of it having been done before and I can’t have you going around without an engagement ring on your finger. You should get a little bit of fun out of being engaged. Wonder of wonders, I got three more letters from you today. That makes twelve letters in three days. I received the little snapshots and they were pretty good. There are no cameras here among the sailors so I can’t send you any pictures of me. I had to send my camera and portable radio home before I shipped out of California.”
June 23, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “My Darling, The days are sure monotonous around here. I spent the morning cleaning up the compartment and learning a little code. This afternoon I sat down to read some more on radio but I spent most of the time shooting the breeze with the Radio Operators. Next month I am to start standing radio operator’s watch. It isn’t work. It is just listening for messages and copying them on the typewriter. I might as well be doing it now. ... The war news sounded good tonight. It said thousands of Japs on Okinawa surrendered. That’s the first time anything like that has happened.”
June 25, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “Darling, The days creep slowly by and the sea is something one can get awfully bored with. Do you know that I’ve only slept ashore one night since I left the States. I’ve been literally at sea ever since I left. ... We are simply a freighting ship. To the sea the same as a truck to the land. So we just travel back and forth between islands that all look alike. Our voyages generally last about a week each. Then we lie in a bay or a harbor for a couple of days, then we are off again. The places we stop are uninteresting. There is absolutely nothing there except an army camp and, perhaps, some native huts. These places might be interesting were I a civilian and were seeing them on my own accord.”
June 327, 1945. Aboard USS LSM 53. “Dearest, I’m lonesome for you tonight. Same as every night. We just got in (to harbor) from another week at sea. There isn’t any news to write except that we had ice cream today. I helped make it so I got all I wanted of it. It wasn’t very good because we have to make it with powders, even powdered milk, all ready mixed.” (I remember that we made the ice cream in an old fashioned hand crank machine just like we used to have at home. But, we rigged a way to turn the hand crank by motor. We fixed the handle onto the spoke of a slowly turning winch wheel run by the engine that winches up the stern anchor. There’s never been another automatic ice cream machine like it, 200 horsepower dedicated to making ice cream.)
June 29, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “Hello Darling, I’ve been thinking of you all day. We’re on the move again. The one good thing I can say about the Navy is that you are not stuck in one spot all the time. We may get close to Japan this time. But no one knows except maybe the skipper. I stood a midnight to 4 AM watch last night on top deck with a Thompson sub-machine gun. Your Chicago gangsters will have nothing on me from now on. I’ve fired the gun too. Not at anyone, though. It’s an easy gun to fire with no kick and not too much noise. I’ll get you one when I get back to the States and then we can be typical Chicago citizens, huh!!! I talked with some Australian soldiers for a while one day and they said all they had heard or seen of America were gangsters running around in high powered cars shooting tommy guns. Well, darling, you just watch your step around that dangerous city of Chicago. You be careful in all that traffic. That’s more dangerous than the war zone.”
July 2, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “My Darling, We’re at sea now but just before we left we received a little mail. I was the luckiest fellow. I got five letters , three from you, darling, and one each from my mother and father. ... Mama and the girls have moved by now for they had to move before the 1st of July. I know they had a hard time finding a place to go. They have to move so often that I don’t see how all our things can stand up under the strain. Dick went up to Washington, DC for a visit. He also got a new bicycle. He must have plenty of money. ... Sweetheart, your suggestion of having Mary Fields sing at our wedding sounds good. I don’t think its too early to think about it. I wish we were married now, darling. but I guess it’s better this way since I can’t be with you anyway. I hope Bro. Ritchie can perform the ceremony. I wrote to him about our engagement. ... Thanks so much, darling, for offering me packages of food. But please don‘t try to send any. They wouldn’t reach me for six months and even the strongest boxes are usually crushed. I really don’t need a thing, except one thing. I need you, wonderful one. So long, lovely, FM.”
July 4, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “My Darling, We just got to another censored place. I’ve been here before so you may know where I am. I’ve been standing Radioman’s watch for the past two days. Now I have one in the early hours tomorrow morning so I’ll probably go to bed as soon as I finish this letter. ... How did you celebrate the day today? We had a sort of a holiday. We did no more work than necessary and tonight we had a turkey dinner with ice cream and apple pie. ... Dearest, practically all my thoughts are of my post war plans with you. Maybe I can get a job right off. Maybe I can’t. I’ll have some money saved by then but not an awful lot. There are many things I want to do. I want to get a job I’ll like first of all. And then I want to learn more engineering and I want to study music. But most of all I want to marry you dearest and if I can’t do anything else I’ll do that. All my love, FM.”
July 5, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “Darling, I got one letter from you today, exactly one month old. I was lucky sure enough for no one else got any letters. Today I had a busy day. I was up at 4 AM to stand watch. Then I spent all morning ashore trying to get some new records. And I came back to the ship, missed chow, and worked until about 7 PM tonight. I have to go ashore again tomorrow. Oh yes, I did take off about 30 minutes this afternoon to go swimming.”
July 8, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “My little Darling, I haven’t written for three day, but I haven’t had a chance. You see, I went ashore to get supplies and we stayed for three days. We really worked. I got a bunch of radio parts so now I’ll have some work to do on my radios. ... And when I got back to the ship today, I had a stack of letters waiting for me. I got 19 or 20 from you, darling. The earliest dated April 6th, the latest dated June 26th. So now I must be up to date, to June 26 anyway. I got three letters from my brother, Bert. I got three from Mama and four or five from Papa. Also I got one from Isabella. And you still love me, dearest. I still love you too. But, of course, I love you. You’re my girl for now and forever. The pictures you sent are lovely, darling. ... I’m so glad you’re going down to Nashville for your vacation. Mama said you might. She said Isabella was going to Washington at that same date on her vacation and maybe Betty Jo also. And Mama will have to work every day. I hope you don’t have too dull a time of it, darling. But you just get out and see the sights by yourself, if necessary. I should realize that by the time you get this letter you’ll be back home. In fact, you must have gone yesterday and now while I am writing this you will be at church in Nashville. I sure do wish I could be with you, darling. I hope it isn’t too hot there now. It’s the rainy season over here so it’s cool here now, or else I’ve gotten used to the heat. I think it’s a little of both. ... I hope you let Mama know exactly when you were coming so she could meet you at the train. I also hope you get to go back on as good a train as the Southwind or the Flagler and not one of those old hot coaches. ... What is the number of Chick’s LST? Maybe he’ll show up some where near me sometime. Bert writes that he is back in Calcutta. He has two battle stars but he asked me not to tell Mama he had been in any air raids for she would worry. He said he had plenty of fox hole time. ... Darling, my thoughts are with you tonight up there in Nashville. They’re with you all other times too. I love you. FM.”
July 9, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “Dearest, Well, I’ve had a busy day. Have you? I’ve thought of you down in Nashville now. I sure wish I was with you there. They have picnics and wiener roasts in the hills on these July nights and they are really fun. I remember. And some country church often has all day singings with dinner on the grounds. And what dinners they turn out! You never saw the like. What are you doing all day all by yourself, or rather what did you do? For you will be back in Chicago by the time you get this. ... We got a movie machine on our latest trip ashore and tonight we are going to have movies for the first time on this ship. ... Guess what? I got another letter from you today dated April 6, before I even left the States. No telling where it has been.”
July 10, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “Charlotte darling, And what did you do today, down there in Nashville? You better watch out or you will like Nashville better than Chicago! ... Darling, the very first time I saw you I didn’t think I’d ever be engaged to you. Of course, that was several years ago when I was in Chicago with Bro. Ritchie and the Lipscomb College Chorus. (Charlotte and Marge came to a College concert in which I sang with a group - 1940.) The next time I saw you, after I got in the Navy, I was disturbed a little because I knew I would fall in love with you if I saw very much of you. And after I met you I couldn’t help but see lots of you so you see it was inevitable. So long now. All my love, FM.”
July 11, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “Darling, I received your letter today telling about the ring. (Charlotte received the money order I sent and bought our engagement ring!) It sounds wonderful. It is wonderful!! The most wonderful thing that ever happened. My girl, wearing the ring that says she’s mine. I love you, sweet. ... Now that you mention it, I have thought about wearing a wedding ring, myself. I wouldn’t mind. In fact, I like the idea. I’ve never worn a ring in my life because I hated to have anything interfere with my fingers. But I’d like to get used to it, I really would. ... I’m hoping you had a good time on your vacation. I just got your letter saying you probably wouldn’t go to Tennessee. Mama wrote me that you would probably have a dull time of it since she couldn’t be home during the day and Isabella was going away then, too. Wherever you went, I hope it wasn’t dull. The idea of getting a cottage on a lake with Marge sounds fine. My family used to go to a cottage on the Warrior River near Birmingham when I was a kid.”
July 13, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “My Darling, Two more letters from you today and one from Mama. That’s positively wonderful. Now I’m wondering, did you did, or did you didn’t go down to Nashville on your vacation? I had just about decided that you were going when I received a letter saying you probably wouldn’t and now the latest says you probably would. Anyway, I hope you had a good time, sweet. What did you do? How was the train trip? Did you get lonesome while Mama and Betty Jo were at work? Tell me everything. ... Well, I guess it’s O.K. for me to say that the invasion I was in was at Borneo. We took a load of Australian troops in. It was a very tame invasion. Now we are just loafing around, getting repairs. No one knows where we will go next.”
July 14, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “Darling, Still wondering how much fun you had on your vacation. Some of these days we’ll have a wonderful vacation together. We’ll just have a vacation all the time! Reminds me of when I used to wish every day was Christmas! ... Sweet, if you couldn’t get a reservation on the Southwind for Saturday why didn’t you try the Flagler at the Dearborn station. It gets to Nashville faster than the Southwind. How was the trip back? ... I’ve worked pretty hard the last two days. Today we installed a new radio set and I got up at 3:30 AM the last two mornings to go on watch. And I’ve stayed up late every night to see movies. I saw “Around the World” with Kay Keyser, and “Andy Hardy’s Blonde Trouble” for the second time.”
July 17, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “Darling, Mama wrote that you had arrived there and that she was glad to have you. She said you would probably be lonesome during the day when she had to go to work. ... You are home from Tennessee by now, I guess, but I have just received word that you got there. So I am thinking very much about you and what you must have done during your week there. Did you have fun?”
July 19, 1945. Morning. On board USS LSM 53. “Hello Darling, Here it is 4:00 AM. What a funny time to write to my love. I just went on watch and I have nothing to do but sit here and listen for radio messages and there doesn’t seem to be any at this time of day. Doesn’t this prove that I am thinking of you 24 hours a day? I got a letter yesterday from my former college room mate, Gilbert Dimetral. He is in the Army Air Corps now, stationed somewhere in the Philippines. I might get near enough to him to look him up. You never can tell, I might. ... Don’t worry about me. I’m really getting along quite well. The days are passing by pretty fast. I’ll be home before long. All my love, FM.”
July 19, 1945. Evening. On board USS LSM 53. “Darling, Today I received another batch of old letters dated in April and May. I got the V-mail copy of the bond. Darling, I had no idea you would do anything like that. I’m just tickled pink. You are wonderful, you know that? We will save the bond for something extra special, O. K? I’ll have to read all your letters over again, this time in chronological order, to get everything straight and see if I missed anything. ... Now I’m on radio watch and I’ve just been swamped with messages. I’ve been trying to write this letter for a couple of hours. Finally everything is quiet.”
July 20, 1945. Om board USS LSM 53. “Hello Darling, Today two more letters from you, one dated July 11 which you wrote from Nashville. I sure hope you had a good time in Nashville. Did you get to see Ed Craddock? Darling, I still can’t get over that wonderful gift you sent me. We must save that for some extra special occasion. ... I received the nicest letter from Bro. J. C. Bunn of Seattle. He has been preaching in the northwestern states most of his life. He founded many of the Churches of Christ in that area. I boarded with the Bunn’s when I was in Seattle awaiting transportation to Alaska. I lived with them about three months. We have been corresponding regularly since then. He has one son who has been a prisoner of the Japanese since the fall of the Philippines in 1942. He doesn’t know now whether that son is dead or alive since he has had no word from him in about a year. Bro. Bunn sent several addresses of Churches of Christ which existed in the Philippines before the war. In all probability they are still in existence. Bro. Bunn also has a son who is an army doctor in Europe. Still another son is in Navy Boot Camp at Great Lakes or he is just getting out of Boot camp. He is going to radio tech. school just as I did and in all probability will be stationed in Chicago part of the time. Maybe you will see him. Bro. Bunn asked me to write him and recommend some church to attend where he can meet other young people. I’ll give him several addresses but will tell him that Northwest church has the most young people. His name is Merle Bunn and the address I have is Seaman 1st Class, Co. 608, USNTS, Great Lakes, Illinois. I wrote Bro. Bunn some time ago and told him that I was engaged to you, sweetheart. He says we must positively stop at his house and visit with him when and if we come through Seattle. He says the work in Alaska is coming along fine. Churches of Christ are now in existence in Fairbanks, Anchorage, Seward and several other places. ... I started this letter last night but there were too many interruptions. Now it is 4:00 AM and I am finishing it. I’m on radio watch.”
July 24, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “Darling, We’re on another trip. It’s nice and cool over here now. It’s cloudy all the time and it rains a lot. Doesn’t bother me though. I’d rather have rain than heat. I guess I’m finally gonna apply for midshipman’s school. That is if the Captain will recommend me. It would take months to go through even if my application were accepted. Several fellows aboard have had applications turned down recently.”
July 27, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “Hello Darling, I’ll recount some things maybe I haven’t told you. When I first came aboard this ship we were busily preparing for the Borneo invasion. But since then we have just been sort of a work horse or cargo carrier. We pick up a load here and take it somewhere else. Then go somewhere else to get a load to take somewhere else. Sometimes we carry trucks or ducks or jeeps or tanks or just plain crates of cargo. We carry most anything. So when the army wants something moved, they call on us. I’m sitting in the cab of a truck now writing this. It’s one of the coolest and most comfortable places to write. And we can pick up a very strong station nearby, today, on the ships radio. We have an outside loudspeaker connected to the radio and right now I’m listening to “The Great Gildersleeve.” It’s pretty good. ... Now the news is on and it sounds pretty good. Today the Allies gave Japan an ultimatum and told them exactly what they could expect if they surrendered and what they could expect if they didn’t surrender. If the Japs were smart, they would surrender now.”
For about six weeks after the Brunei Bay (Borneo) invasion we traveled from point to point along the shores of the largest Philippine Island, Mindanao, sometimes traveling all the way around the island. I remember names like Davao, Sarangani Islands, Zamboango, Cobago, Toloma, and Calaban. Sometimes we carried American soldiers and sometimes Philippine soldiers, other times just cargo.
Although the war was still going, the waters we traveled in the Philippines were considered to be quite safe at that time. We traveled on our own without convoy protection. There were many LSMs and LSTs traveling the same waters and we met the other ships and their crews at some busy beaches where we picked up supplies and cargo. There developed competition among the LSMs to see which one could get the most desirable food items, recreation equipment for the crews, and otherwise desirable things to have aboard ship. For instance, an LSM was not allotted a small boat to ferry people from the ship to shore or to other ships when at anchor. When we anchored in a harbor, we would have to appeal to another larger ship for small boat service in order to transact business ashore. So the LSMs were constantly trying to find surplus small boats that could be taken aboard for their own use. Also, when an LSM placed its bow on a beach, it was not allotted any kind of a surface vehicle for land transportation. So LSMs were constantly trying to find surplus jeeps they could carry on board for use when beached.
Our supply officer aboard LSM 53 was Lt. (J G) Katz who prided himself on keeping our LSM the best supplied among the entire flotilla of landing ships. In fact, Lt. Katz had acquired items which, it was said, were illegal for an LSM to have. Lt. Katz was well known to the staffs of the supply warehouses ashore as one who had to be watched carefully or he would be walking out of the warehouse without properly checking out the items. Some supply people simply said he “stole” many items. Our own crew was very proud of him. One day we were beached on a very busy beach with a number of other landing ships. Vehicles were traveling up and down the beach. Lt. Katz with a group of Seaman were walking down the beach when they came upon an unattended jeep. They looked around and saw no one attending the jeep. So they jumped in it and drove it back to the ship, up the ramp, and into the cargo deck. Then they hurriedly pulled up the ramp and closed the bow doors. We later sailed away very happy that we would now have the use of a vehicle to use on land. The very next time we beached our ship at a new location, Lt. Katz drove down the ramp in the newly acquired jeep. He went only a few hundred feet before being stopped by Military Police. They seized the jeep with the simple explanation that no LSM was authorized to have a jeep!
July 31, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “Darling, We’ve been at sea most of the time for the past two weeks. And I have had very little work to do for several days. I’ve been keeping myself busy painting around the radio shack and doing little odds and ends of jobs. ... Sweet, did you ever start back to taking voice lessons. You should if you have the time. You are certainly a busy woman. ... Darling, I have been thinking things over very seriously. And I’ve decided (at least, for the time being) that I ought to go back to school and get my degree as soon as possible. I definitely should have a degree because it is just one of those things one needs to do well in work or business nowadays. If I were to wait and try to go to school part time or go to night school or something of the sort, well, I just never would get the degree I know. ... Of course, I wouldn’t decide anything until I know what you want to do. So, darling, let me know what you think, huh? We will be married as soon as we can. Then, I’ll get myself sent to school by the government. I’ll have all tuition paid and about $75.00 per month in addition, perhaps more for a married man. Then I could work part time to make more money, enough to live on. Perhaps you would like to go to school too. You could if you wanted. I could get my degree in two years. Would you want to do that, darling? Do you think it would be possible?”
August 2, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “Darling, Here it is August already. It won’t be very long until autumn. But we won’t have any autumn because it’s always summer over here. I guess the land stays green over here all year around. We were in Port yesterday. I got liberty for a couple of hours. You know, ever since I left the States I have had liberty only three times for a total time of about 8 hours. It was 4 months ago when I left the States. Yesterday I just went for a walk down the road toward the mountains. But the trucks passing stirred up the dust so, it wasn’t much fun. There is some beautiful scenery over here. At one place we anchored the mountains hem the entire harbor. Some pretty tough fighting has taken place around here and I guess there is still some guerilla warfare. I think the Church of Christ was established here before the war and there are probably members of the church here. It will be another week before I get any more mail for we are at sea again.”
August 4, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “My Darling, A little work helps one, you know that? No time to think and feel sorry for yourself. We had a field day today. That is, we gave the ship an extra special cleaning and our ship is already the cleanest one I’ve seen in the flotilla. I’m seeing my share of the sea. Reminds me of the old song, “I joined the Navy to see the world, and what did I see, I saw the sea.”? We see very little land except at a distance. We are almost always within sight of a distant land. And we see lots of flying fish. That reminds me of the song, “On the road to Mandalay, where the flying fishes play.” And the porpoises play around our ship a lot. Sometimes they jump five or six feet out of the water. Most of the time the sea is calm but sometimes it gets pretty rough and then this ship really rolls. I only get slightly sea sick about once every two months now. Every night there is a beautiful sunset. Wanna come back down here on our honeymoon?”
August 5, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “Darling, Here it is Sunday morning. We’re in port now and we went ashore to attend the army church services. Some guy in a robe gave a sermon. This base is one of the nicest we have seen. The army camp is nicely laid out, there are flowers blooming all around and shrubbery is planted around the buildings that were here before the army came. The road is a nice long avenue, a little dusty, with overhanging palm trees. There’s quite a bit of traffic on the road, but I can just imagine this is quite a lovely place in peace time. There’s one thing to mar the scenery. There’s a sign on the beach which says “Same Old Story, There’s Malaria in This Area.” So when it gets night time we roll down our sleeves and button our cuffs. And we take an Atabrine pill a day just in case. It sure is nice to get off the ship and roam around where the flowers and the green things are. It gets tiresome just gazing at the steel sides of the ship, or the ocean water all the time. I’d like to walk back where we can’t see the ocean if we get liberty this afternoon. Darling, I miss you so much.”
August 7, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “Darling, We’re in port now. Half the crew get liberty this afternoon. Alas, I don’t. As soon as we pulled in the natives came swarming out in canoes to trade with us. They are good traders. They get plenty for everything they trade. They have bananas and pineapples and big swords and all sorts of things woven from palm leaves. They don’t want money. They want clothes or mattress covers and they won’t take anything but the best. But not much trading goes on for our boys don’t have anything left they can part with. Some of the natives have Japanese swords or rifles to trade. They want a pretty penny for them. There was something today that I had heard about but had never seen before. There were lots of natives trying to get us to throw coins in the water so they could dive for them. Men and women and little kids were all diving. Once a real little baby got so excited that he dived over too and the mother had to dive in and rescue him! This seems to be a nice place. Too bad I don’t have liberty.”
Atomic Bomb News Reaches Our Ship.
August 8, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “My Darling, This new war news about the atomic bomb is sure something to be concerned about. My first thought was that it will surely bring the war to a quick end. And I rejoiced in that. But if this force is as powerful as it is said, it disturbs me greatly. It seems hardly human to release it on any other humans. And such a force could destroy the whole earth. Of course, it’s not actually much worse than our other weapons. It is just a little further reaching. All our weapons kill people and the new weapon just does that more effectively. So we have won the war but what does that actually mean? It just means that we can kill better than the Japs, that we are more barbaric. Wonder if we can forget this in the years to come. Maybe we have progressed scientifically during this war but we might have gone backward in other ways. ... You know I was thinking along these lines back in 1939 when Hitler started his blitzkrieg into Poland. We were expecting something barbaric to start. I was just getting ready to go back to college for my second year and the news made me wonder what the world was coming to. I just heaved a big sigh when I awoke at 4:00 AM one morning with the newsboy shouting an extra newspaper edition outside my bedroom window. “Well, it’s started,” I said to myself! “That thing that we all fear has come to pass, and now we’ll all have to see it through to the end.” The so-called Christian world doesn’t even know Christ’s first principle: “Love one another.” So there lies the task of Christians. We have a force above all human force, the only force that can bring love instead of hate into human hearts. So long for tonight. I love you, FM.”
August 9, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “Darling, Now this day has been what I call a big day! To start with we came into a port. Then we got mail. I got just oodles and oodles of mail from you. It must have been 20 or 25 letters. And I got lots from Mama, Papa, and Bert. Also one from Dick. I have hardly had time to read them yet. I’ve just skimmed through them. ... But that is only the start. Guess who I saw? Yep. I saw your brother, Bob and talked with him for a couple of hours. Now this is how it happened: Your letter said where he is and it just happened that we have been there for the last three weeks, or around about. So this afternoon I had liberty. I asked the first soldier I saw where Bob’s outfit was and lo and behold it was very close by, about 12 miles inland on a beautiful mountain plateau. I caught a ride back there and in no time at all I had found him. He was sitting at his Battalion ball park watching the ball game. ... He looks fine. Thinner than I thought but he’s plenty healthy and tanned as brown as me. I guess he was surprised to see me but we immediately fell into conversation as if we had known each other all our lives. I had just received the color pictures from you and I showed them to him. He showed me all around his camp. You know, it’s the finest army camp I’ve seen in my life, bar none, and believe me the fellows there are proud of it. His Battalion just lacks 5 points to get a Presidential Citation, so I guess they will get it soon. He said you all couldn’t understand why he didn’t have enough points to come home. He has 56 points but he didn’t get any points for the Morotai invasion. He was there on D-day and he doesn’t know why he didn’t get the points. But none of them got any points for that. He has seen quite a bit of action, I gathered. But he and his outfit are none the worse for it. But he is one homesick fellow. I hope he gets to go home soon. ... Bob’s camp is located on one of the nicest places a camp could be located. It’s the top of the mountains on a wide plateau. There are hardly any trees, only grassy meadow. And there’s a breeze there always, I imagine. He said they almost freeze at night. Right now his outfit seems to be just marking time. He had just come in from a working party. They had been out getting sheets of tin off the old Japanese pill boxes. He told me lots about the Jap caves they have found back in the hills. ... And the news about Russia entering the war is good too. Maybe it won’t be long now. All my love, my darling, FM. PS. I may get to see Bob again later.”
August 10, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “Hello Darling, I told you yesterday about seeing Bob. Maybe that letter will go astray so I’ll tell you again. I enquired about his outfit and lo and behold it was only about 12 miles inland from the beach. I hitched a ride over and talked to him a couple of hours. He looks fine but I gathered he is pretty well fed up with it over here as everyone is, of course. Twenty two months is a long time to live in this jungle. He seems to like his work in the army for he sure talked enthusiastically when he showed me the gun he mans. I was certainly glad to see him and I’ll probably get to visit him again. Maybe I can get him to visit our ship next time. I sure do think he’s a swell fellow. ... Say, yesterday I got another letter from Gilbert Dimetral, my David Lipscomb College room mate, and he is close by too. I expect to see him soon, perhaps. In the mean time the poor fellow is running around on wild goose chases looking for me. It seems he got some mis-information from some office some where as to where we were. He had enquired so he could come see me. Well, his information is all wrong as he will find out when he tries to find me. I don’t have time to get a letter to him. You see he wrote me to meet him at a certain place on August 11. Well that is tomorrow and I’m hundreds of miles from there. Tsk, tsk!!! ... Darling I got the color pictures fine. I’m sending some back to you now. Say, those things cost quite a little bit I know. I’ll send you some money pretty soon to pay for them and to get some more made. I’m sorry I can’t send you any of my ugly mug but no one on board has both a camera and film. I can’t imagine what you would want with my picture. You aren’t going to use it in your victory garden, are you?”
August 11, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “Darling, Well, the only thing we can think of today is that the war will probably be over in a day or so. We heard over the radio of Japan’s offer to accept our terms. We are at sea now. The news from the States is that people are rejoicing. In fact, the whole world is supposed to be going wild. Well, the fellows on this ship took the news rather funny. There’s no celebration. Everyone just smiled. No one dared do more. If the war ends today we may be kept over here as long as 6, 8, or 10 more months. Someone has to ferry the soldiers around. Someone has to man the ships that evacuate them. It’s too early to tell yet.”
August 12, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “My Darling, There’s lots on my mind today, sweetheart. The war almost over is wonderful news. I’m filled more and more with thoughts and plans of what I’m going to do when I get back with you. I’m asking Papa to enquire about government jobs for which I may be eligible. And I’m thinking about every angle I can, about going to Alaska, about going back to school, etc. But mostly about how I love you, darling.”
August 14, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “Hello Darling, Well we have been anxiously awaiting definite news that the war is over, but, as you know, it has not been forthcoming. We have had our shortwave receiver operating the last couple of days. We listen to San Francisco about once an hour and we also listen to Radio Tokyo in hopes the Japanese will let out some word. We heard that you all got a false report but later it was corrected. It may not be long. But Honey, we won’t get to come home right away. We’ll probably be around these parts for six more months any way.”
The War Ends.
August 15, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “My Darling, Well, its here, the day we’ve been waiting for. We got the news over our short wave radio this morning a little after 8 AM. It was still August 14 back in the States, about 6 or 7 PM probably in Chicago. It just so happened that I was manipulating the radio when the flash came over. It was in English, then in Japanese, then Chinese, then Dutch, then French, and I don’t know how many other languages. I immediately called the duty officers by ship’s phone, informed them of the news, and asked if I could announce it on the ship’s loudspeaker system. I could hardly trust my voice when I announced it. ... The news was taken very quietly on our ship. Everyone grinned a big grin and that was about all. I don’t think anyone has begun to realize actually what the end of the war means. For a moment this morning I really thought I was going to cry. I’m glad it’s over but I find it hard to be very happy over anything connected with the war. In fact, about all I can think about is what it has cost, in lives, I mean. Everyone in the U. S., probably in the world, has a close friend or a relative who has been killed, and, of course, some families have been completely wiped out. I heard that total casualties for the whole world are about 55 million people.”
A little after we got the news that morning, we went into the port of Zamboango and tied up beside an Australian tanker to refuel. We had a load of American soldiers aboard. I learned after we tied up that the Aussies were quietly celebrating by breaking out some whiskey. This became apparent when the Aussies made the mistake of offering a friendly drink to a soldier or two who had climbed aboard the tanker. I’m sure it started in a very friendly fashion. But a couple of soldiers got “plastered” and after being ushered off the Australian ship, they kept climbing back onto the Aussie ship to get another drink. Very quickly they wore out their welcome and were forced off the Aussie ship. Then they began to request the Aussies to sell them some whisky. Their request, of course, was refused. The drunk soldiers began to curse and call the Aussies bad names. I saw and heard this going on through the open door of the radio shack. There were no duty officers on our deck since we were tied up and secure in our berth. The Aussie merchant seaman were trying to calm things down so they made no reply to the insults by the soldiers and soon disappeared from sight into their ship. But the drunk soldiers wouldn’t let up, and at least one of them climbed back aboard the Aussie ship and disappeared into the superstructure. Soon he was forcibly ejected from the ship by a couple of Aussie seaman. They were angry by now. Some American soldiers began to taunt the Aussie seaman. One of the Aussie seaman grabbed a hose, opened a valve, and began to squirt oil on the taunting soldiers. Of course the oil went onto the deck of our LSM as well as upon some soldiers. About this time, some of our officers appeared on deck and yelled “knock it off” to the Aussie manning the hose. He stopped the squirting oil and I guess some of the soldiers subdued their drunken soldier comrades. For a few minutes I was afraid there was going to be an international incident.
August 16, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 in Agusan harbor on Mindanao. “Hello Darling, We are just pulling into the harbor that is near Bob’s outfit. It’s 3 PM now so I won’t get to see him today. However, if we remain here tomorrow, I might get to see him. I’ll write you about it if I do, and I guess he has written you too, about the last time I saw him. Now that the war’s over I expect the censorship to be broken, but so far I haven’t heard of it. Maybe soon I can tell you more about everything over here. Well, the Navy’s discharge program doesn’t cheer any of us up very much for not many of us have been in the Navy very long. All we can look forward to is discharge within about a year and perhaps being given Stateside duty before our time is up. The war’s end has brought only a few changes to our lives aboard ship. We don’t blackout at night now, and I think we are beginning to breathe more freely. We can enjoy our trips around the islands now if we can only get the right attitude about it. We have no enemy to fear, no planes or submarines, although some of the Japs in the jungle don’t know the war is over. Who knows? We may make a trip to Japan later on.”
August 18, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. My Darling, It’s sure good to be alive in a world that’s not at war. ... You have probably heard about the Navy’s discharge program. We have to have 44 points for discharge and I have only 21. At the present rate it may take me a couple more years to get the rest of the points I need. Here’s the way it works. You get 10 points if you’re married. I’m not. Divide age by 2; that gives me 12. Divide months of service by 2; that gives me 9. So I have a total of 21 points. Of course, they must change this system now that the war is over because we are only supposed to be in for the ‘duration plus 6 months.’ ... I got the book you sent, ‘You Can Do Personal Work’ by Otis Gatewood. I’m reading it. It was sweet of you to send it. I’m also sending for a correspondence course to brush up on my mathematics. I’ve got to be right on my toes when I finally get out of here because there will be some good jobs open for somebody. Also I’m studying up on my radio theory so I may pass a test to get my First Class Radio Technician rating. If I have to stay in the Navy a while longer I might as well get as much advancement in rating as possible. ... I didn’t get to see Bob this time, but I wrote him a letter and asked him if he was getting to go home soon.”
August 22, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “Hello Darling, I’m glad the Navy is getting up a new point system. I told you how long it would take for me to get out under the present system. Maybe the new system will get me out sooner. Let’s spend my terminal leave on our honeymoon. That’s the leave I get when I am discharged. I’ll have enough money saved up so we can have a nice quiet but long honeymoon. In the country somewhere, perhaps a cabin on a lake, or in the mountains. If it’s winter I’ll teach you to ski. If it’s summer I’ll teach you to swim. ... We now are ferrying soldiers around to places where they can depart for the States. We have a load of soldiers aboard now who are trying to get transportation back to the States. ... I’ve only seen Bob the once. Maybe I’ll get to see him again. I hope he gets to go home soon.”
August 24, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 in Agusan Harbor. “Darling, Another wonderful day. Because this is the day we pulled into the harbor where we get our mail. And I had two weeks worth of letters from you. And I saw Bob again. As a matter of fact he was on the beach to meet me. It just happened he was down here when we pulled in. I rode back to his camp with him and had supper with him. Then he rode back down to the ship with me and I showed him around the ship. He couldn’t stay at the ship with me very long because it was dark and he wasn’t sure there would be very many rides back to his camp. He had to hitch hike in the dark about 18 miles. It feels like it’s further than that in a bumpy truck or jeep. ... Just in case you are in doubt, he is looking swell, even better than he did two weeks ago and let me tell you the end of the war has worked wonders for his morale. He doesn’t know when he will get home but he’s hoping soon. He still doesn’t have enough points to get out but, darling, I don’t think it will be long for any of us. We had a good time today talking and, well, just talking. He says he’s thinking of going back to school, too, when the war’s over. (I keep forgetting it’s over already!) He wanted to know when we planned to be married. I told him I didn’t know, of course, but that it wouldn’t be very long after I get back to you. All my love, FM. PS, Give my love to your Dad, too. Gonna be my Dad before long.
August 25, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “Little Darling, Here we go again. We have about 150 soldiers aboard camped out on top of the deck. They have set up their field kitchen and have put their cots all over the place. We have berth space below deck for only about 30 soldiers. They will be on board for several days then I guess we’ll go pick up another load.”
August 27, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “Dearest Sweetheart, The summer will be drawing to a close there in Chicago soon, I suppose. Have you had any cool weather yet? You are probably feeling sorry for us down here where it’s hot. But it’s not really so bad for us on this ship. It’s only hot during the middle of the day. In the morning and late afternoon it’s cool and actually, at night, we sometimes sleep under blankets. If we get back to the States this winter we’ll probably freeze. But then I’ll have my love to keep me warm. But we’ve heard nothing yet that even hints at us coming home. ... I had an application for Midshipman’s School all filled out ready to turn in when the war ended. So then I just tore it up because I’m not going to take any chances on having to stay in th Navy any longer than I have to.”
August 29, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “My Darling. ... I’ve read most of the book, ‘You Can Do Personal Work,’ and I think it is excellent. Just what is needed. I intend to finish it and perhaps read it again. I’m trying now to put a certain part of my time each day into concentrated Bible study. I should have started that long ago. I’m also studying my electricity and I’ll start the Mathematics correspondence course when it arrives. As you have probably guessed, I don’t have much official radio work to do right now. Think I’ll try to learn code if I can. Will I be smart then? ... I noticed in reading my official record yesterday that I enlisted in this Navy for two years! I had never known for sure because we signed so much stuff when we first came in and we were not allowed to take time to read it. That means my enlistment will be up next January 26th. That doesn’t mean, though, that I can get out then. I have to wait until six months after the emergency and I have also to wait to have enough points. So I really expect to get out next spring sometimes, perhaps from March to June. But I’m almost afraid to count on that. I’ll just have to wait and see.”
August 31, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “Hello Darling, Well we are going back to the port where Bob is. (I can say now that it was on the south side of Mindanao Island near a town called Agusan.) I don’t know if I’ll get to see him or not. I hope I do because it will probably be the last time I see him on this side of the Pacific. We’ve been ordered to a different place. It’s not a new place, though. It’s the same place I came to when I first came over here. (I can say now it was San Pedro Bay off Leyte Gulf, between the islands of Leyte and Samar.) I’m hoping to see my ex-college room mate, Gilbert Dimetral, up there. He is supposed to be there. We’ll be around there for a few days and then we’ll be off for parts unknown. Maybe Okinawa, maybe Japan, maybe the United States. Who knows? ... Well, I never cease to thank the Lord that the terrible holocaust is over. We’ve all lost much and no one has gained anything except ‘face’ and I wonder how much good that is.”
VJ Day, Official End of the War.
September 2, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 anchored in San Pedro Bay. “My Darling, I just heard, over the radio, the President’s speech proclaiming VJ Day. It’s Sunday morning over here but I guess it’s Saturday night back in Chicago. You are probably out making whoopee and painting the town red. We are now back to the place where I first arrived over here. (It was San Pedro Bay off Leyte Gulf, between Leyte Island and Samar Island in the Philippines.) There is to be a radio announcement soon giving a new point system for the Navy. I hope we get a new system soon because under the present system it will be a couple of years before I can be discharged. ... I’m listening to some vcry beautiful music over the radio right now. I heard part of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony the other night in a movie and it sounded wonderful even if the movie was ‘beat up.’ I am listening now to a Navy program which says 250,000 men a month will be released. The required points will be lowered from time to time and credit will be given for overseas service. So, maybe I will make it back by next spring.”
September 3, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “Darling, I’m fairly busy on radio communication watch tonight (anchored in San Pedro Bay off Leyte Gulf). Right now I’m listening to some good music on the radio. They are playing an orchestral arrangement of ‘All Through the Night.’ I expect we will be just sitting here at anchor for the next two weeks, so I hope to get mail from you.”
September 4, 1945. On board USS LSM 53. “Darling, Well, the army has decided there will be no more censoring of the mail but the Navy hasn’t mentioned it yet. Maybe in a few days I’ll be able to tell all. Our Captain (a full Navy Lieutenant) is being sent back to the States and we are getting a new Captain, formerly our Executive Officer. He’s a ‘funny’ guy and, in my opinion, not good enough to be Captain of the ship. It seems he goes out of his way to make things hard for us when it should be exactly the other way around now that the war is over. I’ve not met many really good leaders, officers or enlisted men, since I’ve been at sea. The officers seem to be so afraid they will be called down for something they do wrong that they do nothing. Also, one of our Bos’n Mates (a Chief Petty Officer) left for the States today. The ones leaving now are our best people, people who really led the ship. ... You should have seen the celebration here on VJ Day night, September 2, 1945. There are literally thousands of ships here in this harbor. (This was between Leyte and Samar Islands. I remember seeing maybe 10 or 12 aircraft carriers, several Battleships, a number of Heavy Cruisers, Light Cruisers, many Destroyers, and countless other ships as far as the eye could see. It was almost unbelievable that we had that many ships in the Pacific. And there was said to be a similar fleet with the Battleship Missouri taking the surrender in Tokyo harbor.) When it got dark all these ships began shooting off colored flares, sky rockets, colored signals and turning on all their lights. We did our share. The sky was just filled with bursting sky rockets for miles in all directions. It was truly awe inspiring, and all the ships were blowing their whistles too. It was so different from a few weeks ago when we kept everything completely blacked out at night. I doubt that there has ever been this many ships in one place before. All my love, FM.”
In hindsight, I must say now, many years later, concerning the men who had the most points at the end of the war were those who brought these landing ships over from the U. S. not long after the day of Infamy at Pearl Harbor. They were remarkable men. They had no Navy background to begin with. They came out of land lubber civilian jobs, took a few months training, and then sailed the landing ships down the Mississippi River from the factories where they were made. They sailed across the Pacific in early war convoys, and went into action in South Pacific invasions. The USS LSM 53, on which I served, had several Japanese flags painted on the side of the superstructure, one flag for each Japanese aircraft the gunners had shot down, and some for small Japanese boats sunk. One must remember that the LSM had only one bow gun position and was never intended to be a gun ship. The ship had been very active in Philippine invasions and probably in several earlier invasions. No one ever gave me a history of the actions of USS LSM 53. I only know first hand of its action in the Borneo invasion and in it’s final days of use. I was with it when it was finally decommissioned with honor in Saipan.
September 4, 1945. On board USS LSM 53, anchored in San Pedro Bay, Leyte Gulf, Philippines. “Hello Darling, Well, the lid is off this censoring business. I can write anything that I want. I’m almost afraid to. It doesn’t seem possible that there are no more submarines waiting for bits of information about where you’ve been or where you’re going. The enemy no longer cares how many men we’ve got at a certain place or how many ships because there’s no longer an enemy. It’s almost unbelievable.
“Well, darling, if I can tell you all I might as well get started. You probably know most of this already but I’ll say it all over again so you can piece it all together. After leaving the States on the Navy transport, the USS General Hershey, we stopped at Pearl Harbor for about four days. I didn’t see much of it because we couldn’t get off the ship. I’m hoping to go back by Pearl Harbor on the way home for I would like to get a better look at Hawaii.
“Then after about two more weeks at sea we came to a little atoll not more than 2 or 3 miles long. This was Enewetok that cost the lives of so many Marines. We stayed there for a couple of days and again we couldn’t get off the ship. It was a pretty island. There weren’t many palm tree left for most of them had been wiped off by gunfire. But the white sandy beaches were nice and the water was crystal clear.
“Another week at sea and we came to the Palau Islands. There was one big island with a mountain on it and several smaller islands. On of the small islands was the one which our installations were on. The large island was still Jap held. There were supposed to be about 10,000 Japs left on that island and we anchored only about 5 miles off shore. Apparently there was no danger. There were 20 or 30 ships anchored there. The Japs didn’t have any planes or big guns left. During the day we could see our planes dive bombing the big island.
“Another week at sea and we finally reached our destination, Leyte Gulf. We were put ashore on Samar Island, just north of Leyte Island. I stayed ashore there at a receiving station for just one day. Then I was sent down to San Pedro Bay aboard the USS Henry T. Allen for a little schooling and to wait around for my ship. That’s the story of my trip over. I had told you most of that already.
“San Pedro Bay is just off Leyte Gulf. On one side of the bay is Leyte Island and on the other side of the bay is Samar Island. While I was aboard the Allen I went ashore on Samar Island at a little town called Pirata. It was almost completely destroyed. All the houses, made of palm leaves, were full of bullet holes and there were several wrecked Japanese landing barges laying around on the beach. Another time I went ashore on Leyte at a town called Tolosa. I was on a working party that day and we went back inland on Leyte to a big Navy radio station to get some radio parts.
“Finally my orders came through for me to go to the USS LSM 53. They put me aboard a destroyer of the Fletcher Class. The LSM 53 was down at Morotai so I was to ride the destroyer down there. It was only a three day trip but they had target practice all the way down. And when a destroyer has firing practice there’s plenty of firing going on. I stayed amidships with my ears stuffed with cotton but still my ears rang for a long time afterward. A destroyer has five 5 inch guns and lots of smaller ones. In the last war this destroyer would have been called a cruiser, I think.
“Well I got to Morotai and aboard the USS LSM 53. You probably know by now that Bob was at Morotai for some time. I suppose he was able to write you about this. I didn’t see him there but he told me about being there the last time I saw him. He was there on D-day but it was some time after that , June 1st, when I was there. The LSM 53 was getting ready for the invasion of Borneo at this time. The ship was already loaded with about 30 jeeps and lots of Australian soldiers when I came aboard. The big convoy of ships was forming. On about June 5 we sailed out of Morotai for Northwest Borneo, known as the Brunei Bay area of Borneo. It was about a 5 day trip and we had a big convoy of about 400 ships in all. There were many transports with troops, lots of LSTs and lots of LSMs and LCIs. Also we had several Destroyers, Destroyer Escorts ahead of the convoy, and about 5 heavy Cruisers.
“On the morning of June 10th we were all there in Brunei Bay. We were up before daylight and when the sun began to come up we could barely make out the invasion shore about 10 miles away. It was a beautiful sunrise. And it was an awful funny feeling to feel the sun coming up on all those ships and know that the Japs were beginning to gaze on them too. We expected lots of opposition. No sooner had the sun risen over the hills then sure enough there was a big boom and a huge geyser of water erupted over near one of our Destroyers. It was a near miss from a bomb. Then we saw the plane way up high almost out of sight. He left without dropping any more bombs and without anyone firing at him at all. And honestly, that was the only opposition we had for the first whole day. About 8 AM the Cruisers and the Destroyers began laying a terrific barrage on the invasion shore of Labuan Island. It continued for a whole hour at the end of which time there was hardly a tree left standing on the shore. Then we made the landing without firing a shot. When we beached we couldn’t get very close to shore. The jeeps had to drive through several hundred feet of water. Then General MacArthur came ashore right in front of our ship. Newsreel pictures were taken and there we were as plain as day in the newsreel. We saw the newsreel over here and could even read the big 53 on our bow.
“After letting our soldiers off we went out to help unload a large transport. We got a load of soldier packs off the transport and took them in. There were no soldiers available to unload them and we didn’t want to stay there on shore all night when the Japs might try to sneak and do some dirty work so we unloaded the ship ourselves. It was some job. We had to stand neck deep in water and hand the packs in hand over hand. Almost all of them got wet. I hated to get them wet for the soldiers then had to sleep on wet blankets but we couldn’t help it. The next day we went back to Morotai, got another load of Australian soldiers and came down to Borneo again. After letting these soldiers off we left Borneo and haven’t been back since.
“While we were on the beach at Borneo, I went ashore right around the beach head area. There were several Jap pill boxes there and demolished houses. There was also an old cemetery. Strangely, most of the tombstones were untouched. The tombstones told of British sailors and soldiers who had died there as far back as 1815. Some told of fights with pirates, etc. It was very interesting.
“They buried one sailor who was killed on the Destroyer by the single bomb the Japs dropped. We saw the burial ceremony. The grave was only marked by a crossed stick. Two weeks later when we came back there was a quonset hut barracks built over the grave.
“After Borneo we came up to San Pedro Bay in Leyte Gulf again. We laid around Leyte Gulf for about six weeks getting repairs, etc. Then we went down to Mindanao for what we called a milk run. That’s because it’s so much like the milk man delivering milk. We went from place to place on Mindanao delivering soldiers. First we went to Parang, then Agusan, and finally Davao. Other places we went were Zamboango and Sarangani, Cobato, Toloma, and Calaban. Bob knows all about most of these places. It was at Agusan that I met him. Well, for six weeks we were sailing round and round Mindanao and we were really tired of it. All of these towns we went to were little places, some of them hardly discernable as towns. Davao and Zamboango were the only regular sized towns we visited and they weren’t very big. We saw hardly any other ships during these voyages.
“Now we are back at San Pedro Bay in Leyte Gulf. We aren’t doing anything at present but later we are to tie up to a repair ship for some repairs. We have been told we are to leave here September 15, but we haven’t been told where we are going. It possibly might be the States but our Captain thinks it will be Japan or some place north of here.
“Darling, I’ve written a lot. Probably you can’t make heads or tails out of it. Maybe you can make heads or tails out of this though: I love you. You’re wonderful. You’re beautiful. You’re lovely and I love you. All my love, FM.”
MOP UP TASKS AROUND THE PHILIPPINES.
September 7, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 in Leyte Gulf. Here I am on watch again. I’ve been out on a working party all morning. We left about 8:30 AM on an LCM (Landing Craft Medium). It’s a small boat about 45 feet long that we use to pick up provisions from larger ships. We went over to a Merchant Marine Ship, the “Cape San Blas,.” There we got enough dry food provisions to last us for weeks. Last night in the middle of the night we picked up our perishable provisions, such as oranges, eggs, potatoes, fresh or rather frozen meats, etc. During the last two months we have had all the good fresh fruit and meat that we needed. But before that it wasn’t so good most of the time. Later this week we are to tie up tie a repair ship for any repairs we might need. So we are going somewhere about September 15. We still don’t know where we are going. Hoping it’s home to you Darling but don’t be too disappointed if it isn’t.
Well I have plenty to do now that I am standing radio operators watch again. But I haven’t had much technician work to do at all and haven’t had any for such a long time. I also took over an extra job. That is book keeper for our ship’s service store. It isn’t very much work, that is if everything works out o. k. And I get $10 per month extra pay to handle it. I’ll probably not even notice that I’m getting the extra $10. But I’m not getting a chance to spend any of my money so I should be able to save up most of it. Guess what. I want to be sure I have enough for our honeymoon. Better be figuring out where and what we will do on our honeymoon, sweetheart. May not be so very long until it will be possible.
Hope to get some wonderful letters from you today or tomorrow. I got one dated August 24th just yesterday. Darling, you are mine and I belong to you. All my love, F. M.
September 10, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 in Leyte Gulf. Hello Darling, Just got your letters of August 26 to August 29. You little darling. You didn’t have enough money to buy stamps. You know, I have been in that condition before too. Well, I must say you are saving your money for a worthy cause. Darling, I want our wedding to be just like you want it to be. It won’t happen but once in our lifetime. So we must have it something that we can cherish. Really what kind of wedding we have doesn’t matter to me. Whether it is big or small, in a house, a church, or outdoors doesn’t matter to me either. It’s not that the wedding means nothing. You know it means everything in the world to me. I just say this so you will plan it just the way you want it. Because that’s the way I want it too.
I’m glad you met Merle Bunn. Also sorry to hear that he can’t continue in radio school. I got a letter from him today too. I wouldn’t, however, recommend that he sign up for four years just to get the radio course.
I love you, darling. I love you for your lips but I love you for more reasons than that. I love you for your common sense, your ardent Christianity, your lovable personality, and because you are somewhat like an angel. I guess I shouldn’t say you belong to me because a rough guy like me doesn’t claim to have anything common with a creature like you who must be the greatest of God’s creations. But please just let me love you. F. M.
September 12, 1945. Aboard USS LSM 53 in Leyte Gulf. Darling, Guess what? It’s now 4:00 AM. Aren’t you sleepy. I am. Yes, I’m on watch again. I have the radio tuned in to London and I’m listening to an English comedy program. A couple of comedians are on now doing some kind of double talk. Is it corny! They are also having an amateur program with people from all over the British Isles.
We still have no word about where we are going to shove off to in a few days. But the scuttlebutt is flying high. Lots of fellows are willing to bet that we are starting back to the States. One officer said we would be on our way by November 1st. Of course, he was guessing too. If my letters stop altogether sometime in the near future it may be because I’m on a long ocean trip. Here’s hoping.
They revised the point system and now give an additional 1/4 point for each month overseas. In about one month I’ll have two extra points. I’ll have 24 points.
I finally have gotten permission to go ashore to try to look up my former college
room mate, Gilbert Dimetral. I’ve been writing him and I know he is on
Leyte. But I don’t know exactly where he is located. But today I’m going ashore to try to look him up. Hope I can find him. Darling, I love you, F. M.
September 13, 1945. Aborad USS LSM 53 in Leyte Gulf. Darling, I’ve really had a good time the last couple of days. I finally got to go ashore and look up my former room mate at Lipscomb College. You met him in Chicago long time ago when we were there with the Chorus and Bro. Ritchie. His name is Gilbert Dimetral. I found his outfit just a few miles from the beach near where we are anchored. He is a medic in a combat cargo squadron. Everywhere they go, they go by plane. I was just in time to find him. His outfit has already left for Japan and he is to left here for a few days as the rear echelon. He will leave for Japan within a few days.
I went ashore early in the morning and found him pretty easy. I spent the day at his camp. We had a pretty good time. We went swimming in the surf on the beach in the afternoon. That night he came back with me to my ship and spent the night and all this morning aboard. We really had a time discussing old times and comparing pictures, etc.
All the signs look very good. I mean that it looks like we really might be heading back within a very few weeks if not days. We are starting to get the ship in A-1 order. We are giving it a new coat of paint, this time Navy deep sea blue instead of the old camouflage green. The officers have their suitcases and stateside uniforms out in the sun for an airing and told us enlisted men to air our uniforms too. We are taking on a load of fuel soon. There is still nothing definite but it sure looks like we are just about ready to start that nice long trip back across the deep blue Pacific. Every day ( and it will probably take a month) of that trip will be fun.
Doesn’t that sound good, Darling? I am so impatient I can hardly wait. Of course, it will be a big thrill just to see the good old USA again. You know, there is just nothing like it anywhere else. Since we have been out here we have missed seeing such things as sleek looking American automobiles, street cars, trains, paved streets, malted milks, ice cream, sleek looking American women, etc. Instead we have seen coconut trees, jungle, ocean, barefooted natives, grass houses, jungle trails, a few dusty military roads, a few little modern buildings in small towns completely demolished by by war, jeeps, trucks, tanks, warships, small boats, canoes, ...... well, nothing that is familiar back in the States. I’ll have to be careful like I was when I came back from Alaska. If I’m not I’ll get run over just trying to cross the street again. Except for a few hours at a time, I haven’t been off the steel decks of this ship. I’m really used to the roll and toss of the ship. I didn’t realize how much I am used to it until Gilbert came aboard yesterday and he complained about the ship rolling so much and I didn’t even notice it was rolling at all. Of course, it can roll even more than it is rolling now.
I just love you, Darling. So long for now, F. M.
September 15, 1945. Aboard USS LSM 53 in Leyte Gulf. Darling, Right now I’m on watch again. Not much is coming over now so I’m listening to the Opera Lohengrin. I don’t care much for Opera much less Wagner, but I am getting quite a bit of enjoyment out of listening to it this time. Maybe I’m just not well enough acquainted with the Opera to like it yet.
We are going to tie up to a repair ship called the “Cebu” today or tomorrow. We aren’t going to leave here on the 15th as we thought at first. Instead we are to stay tied up to the repair ship until the 21st of the month. So maybe we will be leaving here about that time, perhaps between the 21st of September and 1st of November. We’re still hoping that it will be the States that we are heading for. It might be.
I have forgotten whether I wrote to you about seeing my former college room mate. I must have written you about it. Anyway, I saw him and I sure had a good time talking to him. He came aboard ship for a night. He intends to go back to school after the war also. You remember Gilbert Dimetral, don’t you? He is married to a beautiful blonde from Dayton, Ohio. I met her about three or four years ago just before they were married.
You know, I used to like blondes best. I always thought I would fall for a blonde, and probably marry one. But somehow I forgot all about blondes when I met a certain brunette. Can’t imagine what it was I saw in blondes. Because my little brunette named Charlotte has every thing and then some and she is beautiful in any language. All my love, F. M.
September 17, 1945. On board USS LSM 54 in Leyte Gulf. Darling, Today I received two lovely letters and one card from you. I want you to know it really makes me feel wonderful to know that I have you are there waiting for me. And your letters are certainly the very things I need. It helps my morale to know that you are going to greet me at the door with your arms and your lips and your heart when I finally get back there. The only thing is that after I read one of your letters I am so impatient with the Navy and its slow system of discharge. And I’m impatient to get started back to the States because I know what a long trip that is going to be. More than six thousand miles of ocean and then more than two thousand miles of U. S. before I can get to you.
We are now tied up to the repair ship as I said we would be. We are getting some repairs to our engines, etc. It means we are getting ready to do something. I hope it doesn’t mean we are just going to sail around more here in the Philippines. I hope it means we are heading back to the States because no one knows and everyone is just keeping his fingers crossed.
In the news tonight General MacArthur announced that many of the U. S. bases here in the Philippines are to be abandoned. We have already helped to move men out of the bases mentioned in Mindanao. I hope Bob gets to go home soon. I think he will go pretty quick. It may mean that we will use our ship to re-deploy more troops from the abandoned bases. On the other hand, many say that our ship is too small to be of much use. We’ll see in the next few days. I do love you, darling. F. M.
September 20, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 on Leyte Gulf. Darling, The repair ship we were tied up to got orders to pull out for destination unknown so we are no longer tied up but anchored alone now. But, our repairs have not been finished and I think we are to go alongside another repair ship today. There is still no word about where we will go when we next put to sea.
I went ashore yesterday to the recreation area for liberty about three hours. It is a fenced in area on the beach. We are not allowed to leave that area when we go ashore. It is fixed up pretty nice. There are several baseball fields, horseshoe courts, volley ball courts, basketball courts and tennis courts with cement floors. But the main recreation for many men is drinking beer. The place smells like beer for a mile away. There are little stalls on one side of the area where natives sell trinkets, etc. I’ve been wanting to send my little darling a souvenir but I can’t find one that I feel worthy of sending. Once I bought a Moro dagger, some mats made of grass or palm leaves, (everything they have is made of grass or palm leaves and it is remarkable what they can do with this) a sort of sewing basket, and a little hand bag. None of the stuff is really much good but it will be a nice souvenir of the Philippines. So I will hang on to them and bring them back with me.
You know it is 4:00 AM now. I had to get up at 3:30 this morning to go on radio watch. It’s an awful feeling to be woke up when you are so sleepy. I didn’t know where I was when I first woke up. I think when I get home to that nice cold climate I will just sleep for about six months straight. All my love, F. M.
September 21, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 in Leyte Gulf. Hello darling, It’s the middle of the night again. The only time I get to write is when I am on watch and that usually comes in the middle of the night. I really do some sleeping tomorrow. I will get to bed about 4:00AM and then have to get up again at 6:30. Believe me it will be hard to get up then, but I will. Maybe I can get in a couple hours sleep before noon because it is coolest then. During the afternoon I could sleep quite a while but it is too hot then almost to sleep. It is pleasantly cool and easy to sleep during all the day except the afternoon.
We are still here in San Pedro Bay but we are now all ready for sea and I expect we will be sent on some kind of a run within a couple of days. We are all keeping our fingers crossed and hoping it will be the run back to America. That is all we can think about. We have used up all the subjects of conversation except when we will go back to the States and what we will do then. I am the luckiest one of the bunch because I have a sweetheart waiting to marry me when I get back. Some of the fellows have wives and children but I am satisfied for the time being just because I have to be. If I had my way we would be married tomorrow and I would never see the Navy again. Why didn’t we get married about a year ago. Then I could address you as “my darling 10 points toward a discharge” instead of just “my darling.” I love you, F. M.
September 22, 1945. Aboard USS LSM 53 in Leyte Gulf. Darling,
we’re still here and no one has said anything about leaving. A few LSMs of our Flotilla have left for other islands in the Philippines but most of the Flotilla is still here. That doesn’t look good to us for going back to the States soon.
My correspondence course finally came and I have almost finished the first lesson already. It’s just a review for me but it is necessary if I am to continue in school for I had forgotten almost all of it. If I can just get down to business I can really accomplish a lot out here by myself. I want to divide all my spare time just about like it would be divided if I were in school. For instance, I can spend one hour a day on my correspondence in mathematics, another hour studying radio and electronics which will prepare me for a better rate in the Navy and help in later school and work, and another hour studying the Bible, and another hour studying a series of books on harmony that I have access to here on the ship. I have always been interested in music and here is a good opportunity for me to get some good knowledge on the subject that will come in handy for me later in church work as well as just being good to know.
We have our little troubles here on the ship. We are so crowded. Its hot. Its monotonous. And these things make most of us cross and crabby most of the time. Some of the fellows seem to never be in any kind of a mood except a bad one. No matter what we have for chow, or how it is cooked, some of the fellows yell that it is worst stuff they have ever eaten. One of the fellows that works as a radio operator with us hardly ever let out more than a growl. We speak to him and he doesn’t answer, or if we suggest anything to him, he takes it as an insult. As a matter of fact, we are all this way a lot of the time. I find myself doing and saying things that can’t be calculated to do anything but annoy. It just happens and its awfully hard to keep from being that way.
I got one letter from you today dated September 13. Wonderful lady, you write wonderful letters, know that? I love you, F. M.
September 25, 1945. Aboard USS LSM 53 in Leyte Gulf. Darling, I don’t know if I can make this letter sound coherent or not. It’s the middle of the night again. I was just awakened from a sound sleep to come up here and sit for four solid hours to listen for radio messages. I hope I don’t fall off to sleep here in this chair but I could very easily.
About the status of our ship now, its still unchanged. We are laying to, waiting for orders and as yet they have shown no sign of arriving. In the meantime the deck hands are still repainting the ship. They are always engaged in some sort of painting, it seems. This time the ship is to be blue whereas before it was green to blend with the shoreline well.
Honeychile, I am certainly getting weary of this life. I won’t have any trouble getting into civilian habits. The one habit I can think of now is one involving plenty of sleep, despite all else. I love you, F. M.
September 25, 1945 again. Aboard USS LSM 53 in Leyte Gulf. Hello Darling, I’m a little bit more awake while I am writing this time. It’s almost 6:00 PM and I have been sleeping almost all day. It has gotten so that when I don’t have anything to do I just go and crawl into my bunk. If I sit around and do nothing I get so restless I can hardly stand it. But when I hit the “sack” I almost always go right to sleep and that sure passes away a lot of dead time. Nobody mentions anything much about getting underway now. We are just laying here at anchor about miles off the shore of Leyte Island. It will soon be a whole month that we have been here. In the meantime all the other ships are pulling out. This harbor really looks deserted compared to the way it was three weeks ago. There are still several hundred ships here, but they used to number in the thousands.
The weather has been unusually cool all this month. It gets very warm in the afternoon but it is very pleasant the rest of the day. We have lots of thunder showers around in the bay and even though we don’t always get the rain, the clouds and the cool wind makes you feel winderful.
I got one letter from you today dated September 17th. Now that is really good. Just 8 days from you to me. I can hardly believe that it is cold in Chicago already. But then the weather does some strange things in Chicago. Darling, I really regret that I can’t be there. I don’t know what to say about when I am coming home. In the meantime, all my love, F. M.
September 27, 1945. Aboard USS LSM 53 in Leyte Gulf. Hello Darling, Today I was looking over our operational plans for this month and there was nothing very good about it. It looks as though we aren’t even thinking about coming back to the States anytime soon. Our order now are to haul any soldiers and equipment that the army needs hauled here in the Philippines. But those have been our orders all this month and evidently we are not needed very badly or we would have been used before now. We have been sitting around all this month when we could have been underway a good bit of the time. I’m hoping most of the troops have been re-deployed by now and we can get underway for home very soon.
I sure would like to see you right now. You be sure to get plenty of warm clothes for the winter. I don’t see how you got through last winter. It was pretty cold and I don’t think you were ever dressed warm enough. Remember how you used to shiver and shiver while waiting for the street car. I’ll get you one of those Alaska Eskimo fur parkas as soon as I get a chance. You’ll be the envy of Chicago going around dressed like an Eskimo. It’s so warm down here that it’s hard to think of it being cold anywhere. All my love, F. M.
September 29, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 in Leyte Gulf. Darling, Well, we are finally going to move a little. It’s just a little though and not all the way back home. We have received orders to take a load up to Manila. We start today and it will take a couple of days to get there. I don’t know how long we will stay there. Probably just overnight. I hope we get some liberty for I would like to see what Manila is like. After we leave Manilla we will go over to Subic Bay. So I guess we will be sailing right by Corrigidor and we will be anchored right off Bataan. When we get through with the trip we will come right on back down here to Leyte. It will take about a week, I guess. That is the best I can do now. I sure would like to see something of Manila, but I am betting that we will not be allowed to get off the ship.
It’s in the middle of the night again. Seems like I get a lot of watches in the middle of the night. But when we get underway my lot will be a lot easier. You see I can’t take code for I am not a full fledged radio operator. While we are in port we don’t have any code circuits to guard (only voice circuits) but when we get underway we do have code circuits. I can work voice circuits but not code circuits, so when we are underway I don’t have much to do unless I have to trouble shoot something that goes wrong.
Tonight there is not much important business being discussed on the voice circuit I am guarding. So during the lulls in the messages one ship puts on his record player and we have a little music. Then some of the other ships come in and ask for certain records to be played. It’s fun. Just like a party line. Everyone can talk to everyone else and there are plenty of ships here to make it a pretty big party line. It usually is against regulations to play music and cut up generally on the air but no one seems to be paying any attention to regulations tonight. Of course, no one says anything that will identify who he is, so any irate members of the party line will not get a chance to turn them in to the authorities. When the war was on, this would not have happened.
Guess I’ll sign off for now, sweetheart. Oh yes, I meant to tell you before this but I didn’t think of it. I have written to Bro. Ritchie and I told him how we would like him to perform our wedding ceremony. I didn’t actually ask him to do it, but I told him I would write him more later. The reason I didn’t ask him outright was because I didn’t think we should ask him to make a trip to Chicago just for that purpose. What do you think, Darling. I’m always dreaming of you sweetheart. Wish I could be there with you, never to leave you again. All my love, Darling, F. M.
October 1, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 in Manila Bay. My Darling, You were wrong this one time, sweetheart. No we didn’t go to Shanghai. We came here to Manila instead. You see, the 7th Amphibious Force was broken up. Part of it went to Japan, part to Korea, part to China, and part stayed here. We are in the part which stayed here in the Philippines. I’m glad we didn’t go to China. We took a terrible beating to get here to Manila. There was a typhoon up north of the Philippines and incidentally it made the sea plenty rough down here in the Philippines. Day before yesterday we first hit rough water. It wouldn’t have been bad for a larger ship, but for our little ship we wondered if we would make it at all. We rolled so much a person couldn’t stand upright. e actually did some rolls as much as 50 degrees. The waves came clear over the bow and the spray went the whole length of the ship so that everyone on deck was soaked within a couple of seconds. When the bow hit a big wave, the whole ship would just shudder and shale like a piece of paper flapping in the wind. We hit the rough water in the middle of the night. We weren’t prepared for it. Things began to fall and roll all over the ship. One boy’s cot on which he was sleeping turned over. Another fellow was sleeping near a table and the table turned over on him and cut a big gash in his head. Drawers in the cabinets opened and the contents fell out. The radio shack was a mess. The radio operator sure had his hands full. While he was closing drawers in a cabinet, the typewriter nearly fell off the desk. When he grabbed the typewriter the waste basket fell over and emptied itself. A jar of battery water broke, a box of phonograph records fell over. Finally they got things tied down.
It was rough like that for more than 24 hours and there were only two or three fellows who were not sea sick. I was plenty sick. I went to bed as soon as I could and stayed there until the water got calm again. That was this morning, when at about daybreak we steamed past Corrigidor and down the length of Bataan.
Now that we are at Manila, I doubt that we will get to go ashore. I don’t think we will be here long enough. From about 5 miles off shore Manila is a beautiful city. There are no tall buildings over about 10 stories. I have heard that they look nice only from a distance. Actually they are pretty well bombed down. There are scores of sunken ships with just their masts sticking up, lying all around the bay.
Well darling, maybe I’ll get to go ashore. If I do I’ll tell you all about it. In the meantime I miss you something terrible. All my love, F. M.
October 23, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 in Manila Harbor. Hello Darling, Well, it’s the same old story. Here we are tied up right in the middle oif Manila and I can’t get off the ship. They allowed 1/3 of the crew to go ashore this afternoon for two hours. They could have given all of us liberty for several hours, but I guess they were afraid several of us wouldn’t come back, or something. The fellows who did go said it was good liberty, the nearest thing to the cities of the States that they had seen in a whole year. The city is pretty well destroyed but it is getting itself back together and beginning to function like a city again.
Darling, we really had a battle last night. Remember I wrote you yesterday that a typhoon was moving around in the ocean north of Luzon and on the way up here to Manila we hit some pretty rough seas. Well, last night a real storm hit here. I don’t know whether it was part of the typhoon or not. Anyway we were anchored out in the bay about 5 miles from Manila. We had the stern anchor down when the storm hit about 9:00 PM. The rain came down in a continuous downpour just like it was being poured out of a bucket. And the wind was blowing about 50 miles an hour so that the rain was really all horizontal if you know what I mean. Our anchor began to drag, that is it wouldn’t hold and it was dragging along the bottom. Consequently the ship began to drift towards the shore. Between us and the shore there were several other ships and also several sunken ships with just their superstructures sticking up out of the water. Visibility was limited to about 50 feet. We had to do something so the captain decided to pull up the stern anchor, turn around, and drop the bow anchor which he thought might hold better. We got the stern anchor up and after a few gigantic rolls as we went broadside to the wind and waves, we got the bow into the wind and dropped the bow anchor. Well, just as we did that, the storm suddenly got worse. The wind must have jumped to about 80 miles an hour. It nearly blew the captain off the bridge. He fell and cut a gash in his head. The bow anchor began to drag also and we began to drift toward the shore again. A man was up on the forecastle (bow) with power headphones on keeping in communication with the captain on the bridge to relay orders on how to handle the bow anchor. I was standing by with the regular crew by the bow anchor to do anything that I could. Well the man on the forecastle was only about 5 feet from the man operating the controls on the bow anchor but the wind noise was so loud that his yelling could not be heard. So I acted as go between. I would climb up the ladder to the man on the forecastle, have him yell the orders in my ear, then go down and yell them to the man in charge of the bow anchor. The wind was blowing so hard that I had to hold on to the ladder with all my might to keep from getting blown off.
Suddenly there loomed up right behind us another ship. We had drifted down on it and were about to smack right into it. We started pulling the bow anchor up in order to ger under way and move away from the other ship. But the anchor winch only moved very slowly moving the anchor chain only a few inches at a time. The captain gunned the engines ahead anyway to keep us from hitting the other ship. In the meantime the other ship suddenly became aware that we were near and started blowing its whistle and blinking its signal light at us. The other ship was anchored firm and was not prepared to get underway. We swung by that ship three times, each time from my vantage point a ship’s length away it looked like we would hit. The last time we must have missed colliding by only about 3 feet. But there was no crash and we moved away dragging our anchor. We finally got the bow anchor up and decided to try the stern anchor again. By then the squall was diminishing and we got firmly anchored. As the rain slowed we saw the lights of the city of Manila only about a quarter of a mile away. We started drifting about five miles from shore and ended up only about 1/4 miles (about 2 city blocks) from shore. We were in very shallow water but, thankfully, our ship only draws about six feet of water so we were not aground. We were practically in the surf. Mountainous waves were rolling by us and crashing into the seawall at the shore. But gradually the wind and the waves subsided and the next morning we felt like we were right in the middle of Manila. We were up most of the night and when I did get to bed I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t quiet my nerves enough to relax. There was no damage in the harbor but we learned that several other ships had the same problem dragging anchor as we did. Some small boats got loose in the harbor, some with people on them. But no one was lost as far as I know.
Today we realized that it really wasn’t as bad as we had thought at the time. Some of the really big ships in the harbor hardly knew anything had happened. The bad part about it was that we lost a good night’s sleep and got good and wet. I had worn foul weather clothes but the rain was so hard it wet me inside and out. Today we moved inside the breakwater and tied up right at the docks. Tomorrow we get under way and go over to the other side of Subic bay. Then in a day or two we are to go back to Leyte. I hope then we can start for the States.
The good thing about such a storm is that it makes things nice and cool. I had to sleep under a blanket last night. Sweetheart, I think of you all the time. I love you, Darling, F. M.
October 5, 1945. Aboard USS LSM 53 anchored at Subic Bay, Luzon. My Darling, It’s the middle of the night again. I have the midnight to 4:00 AM radio watch tonight. I doubt that we will get any radio messages during this watch.
We sailed around Bataan Peninsula day before yesterday and anchored in Subic Bay. It is the nicest bay we have been in yet. It is smaller than Manila Bay or San Pedro Bay down at Leyte. Tall mountains rise up on all sides. We are only a short distance from the sites of the Bataan battles in 1941/42. It is nice and peaceful here now. It is hard to believe this is where all that took place only a short while ago. We sailed close enough to Corrigidor to throw a rock to it. However, I was below deck at the time and only saw it from a distance.
We are going to beach sometime today top pick up some cargo. I’m kind of anxious to go back to Leyte because we don’t get any mail while we are away from there. We’ve been away almost a week now and it has been a week since I have heard from you. Your letters keep me going.
I saw the movie “Casanova Brown” aboard the ship the other night. It was a scream. Have you seen it? Gary Cooper plays in it.
There is a rumor going around now that the low point men on board will be transferred off the ship when it starts back to the States. This bothers me a bit because I am a “low point” man compared to most of the men aboard. I’ve been involved in the war almost from the beginning in 1941 but I have not been overseas this trip very long. I’m just marking time wandering around in a mist almost. I won’t really begin to live until I am back with you. I hope that won’t be long. All my love, F. M.
October 6, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 beached in Subic Bay. Darling, We are still in Subic Bay. We are beached now at the extreme northern end of the Bay and they are loading the ship with empty oxygen drums. We are beached in front of little village which the chart says is called “Subic” also. The towns here on Luzon seem to be nicer than those down in the southern Philippines. The houses are mostly covered with palm leaves. They make attractive houses and are just right for this climate. There are a few wood frame houses. The houses all have concrete foundations and ornately carved wood work decoration. They have little wooden doo-dads all over them that make them look very oriental. But they are little more than shelters from the wind and rain. They have large windows with no glass, only shutters which are shut when the rain blows in them. I suppose they could put glass in their windows if they wanted to, but it is so warm that no one would ever want to shut them. There are a few civilian automobiles around, just about to fall apart. Mostly the civilians get about with horse carts. The horses are small, what we would call ponies. The carts are two wheeled with canopies over them like the “surrey with the fringe on top.” The little horses go trotting by as if they have plenty of energy.
I saw all this from the lowered ramp of our ship. We are beached right in the middle of town, but we are not allowed to leave the ship. I sure will be glad when I am a free man again. The officers on this ship are certainly eager to keep us from shore leave at all times. I don’t know what they are afraid of. The few times I have been allowed to go ashore to meet someone I know, I have had to give a complete account of my family history. I am doing my best to be still in hopes that the ship will go back to the States soon or I will be transferred to another ship. I don’t believe it will not be quite so bad on another ship. All I want to do is get out as quick as I can. All my love, F. M.
October 8, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 enroute from Subic Bay to Leyte. Hello Darling, Here it is 5:00 AM again. Seems like this is the usual time I write. We left Subic Bay yesterday afternoon and we should get to Leyte sometime tomorrow. The sea is very smooth this time. Last week when we came through here it was very rough. It will be nice to get back to Leyte for that is where we get our mail. I should have a week’s supply of letters from you. We are losing hope that this ship will be ordered back to the States soon. Our crew members who have enough points are being transferred off to go home on troop transports and aircraft carriers.
Well, what is new? Have you got our wedding all planned? We can have it all planned except the date, I guess. Darling, I don’t know anything about weddings except the groom puts the ring on the brides finger and then he kisses her. You better see about the rest of it and tell me about it. We have to have invitations or announcements, don’t you think? Maybe we ought to have the announcements made up with the date left blank. Then we can fill in the date at the last minute and get them out. You know, sweet, I am very curious about that wedding dress you mentioned. I guess maybe I ought not to ask about it. Seems I have heard it is bad luck or something. My Charlotte is going to be the bride of the month. She’s to be the bride of my whole life! I love you. F. M.
October 10, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 in Leyte Gulf. My Darling, Well here we are back at Leyte and a lot of good it does us. We expected to get gobs of mail when we got here. But just before we arrived back here some dope heard we had gone to Manila and he had all our mail forwarded to Manila. Concerning the possibility of our heading back to the States, there are about as many opinions as there are people.
Darling, do you know, I don’t even know when your birthday is? I just thought of that. Oh, I remember it was in January, February, or March. But last time you didn’t tell me until it was upon us. All my love, F. M.
October 11, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 at Guiuan, Samar Island. Dearest
Darling, Well, I finally got a watch in the day time. Its 12:30 in the afternoon now. We are tied up to a dock in the little town of Guiuan on Samar Island. This is the town I first saw when I arrive in the Philippines on the troop transport last May, 1944. It sure has changed since then. The docks have been built up and bridges have been built out to islands off the main island of Samar. It looks civilized now. There are many ships here. Some are Liberty ships, some are other cargo and transport ships. We saw about a thousand men go aboard a transport yesterday, headed back to the States. I sure wish I was going with them.
The officers finally loosened up and granted us liberty. About half the crew is on liberty now. I am in the other half who hasn’t had liberty yet. Still no mail, Darling. I have been thinking a lot about what I should do about this school business when I get home. If I just go right to work after we are married, I will probably be able to get a medium good job. But I won’t be in any position to advance very far, especially if I want to stay in radio. I am a good radio mechanic now and I should be able to get work in a radio repair shop. However, I’ve had enough education so I can go back to school and finish with a degree quickly. I haven’t specialized in anything yet. The specialized part of school comes in the last two years. The deal the government offers can’t be sneezed at. So do you think you will mind having a school boy for a husband?
Now I’ve got to choose a school to go to. We are not going to be very rich while I am in school. And I am going to have to find work for part time while in school. We might stay in Chicago but the living cost there will be high. We might do better finding a school in a smaller town. But there is not much point in thinking in much detail about it now. We’ll never know what can be done until we get there and inquire around. No matter what happens, Darling, the one thing I’m sure I want is you. All my love, F. M.
October 14, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 in Leyte Gulf. Darling, I still don’t have any mail. A fellow went after the mail two days ago. He didn’t get back until today and he didn’t have any mail. The mail accidently sent to Manila isn’t back yet and no new mail has arrived from the States. Still no word about going home. There are lots of LSMs gathering around us. I like to see that for it surely means that we are not the only one to send on “milk runs.” Maybe they don’t need us over here any longer.
There has been a little excitement on the radio tonight. There was a boat wreck near us somewhere. It was dark. We couldn’t see it. There was a radio message for small boats to pick up men in the water. Later there was a message for someone to send a pull-motor to help revive someone. We couldn’t help because we do not have a small boat nor a pull-motor. We didn’t hear about the wreck until about an hour and a half after it happened. They did not send out the original alarm on our frequency. But the original message was picked up by some ships and some went to the rescue. I hope they revived the man. It was probably two small boats which collided in the darkness. Some small boats run around here at night without lights, which is against regulations, but they do.
I guess you have heard about the Okinawa typhoon with winds up to 230 miles an hour. Well, we didn’t feel it. Everything here is calm. It is hot though. The fellows who were in the Okinawa storm had a very hard time, we heard. Some ships were washed up right onto the land. I have seen that sort of thing. I was only five years old when I was in the Florida hurricane and then ships were washed up on land as far as ½ mile from the normal shore. I guess I told you about that. I don’t remember much about it because I was so young at the time. I didn’t know then I would have a wonderful lady like my Charlotte. All my love, F. M.
October 17, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 in Leyte Gulf. Hello Darling, You should really feel sorry for me now. I still have no mail. The planes aren’t coming in from the States, I guess, and our mail in Manila hasn’t returned yet. We are scheduled to leave here in the near future for the island of Palawan. That is another of the Philippine Islands, way down in the southwest Philippines. This ship participated in the initial invasion of that island about a year ago. That was before I came aboard. I only saw the island in the distance when we were on the way to Morotai, but I have never been there. It is said to be the least civilized of the Philippine Islands. Its inhabitants are Moros. They are Mohammedans. It will probably take us three or four days to get there, three or four day to get loaded, and then three or four day to get back to Leyte. We are supposed to pick up some troops that are on their way back to the States and take them to where they can get a troop transport.
Don’t worry about me getting good food, sweetheart. We have so many fresh things that they are spoiling on us and we have to throw half of it away. I shudder to think of it. It is the fault of our supply officer. He is afraid that we won’t have enough or that some other LSM will get more than we do. He gets way too much of everything. And it just spoils on us. We threw away about ten crates of potatoes today. Not long ago we threw away about 50 bags of flour that got full of bugs. Our flour always has bugs in it. You expect it at sea. The bread has dead bugs and you just pick them out as you eat. I think all Navy men know this. But this flour was the worst we have ever had. We have so much chicken and turkey in our cooler and deep freeze that we will never eat it all up. Oh we could eat it up if we had chicken and turkey every meal, but we only have it once or twice a week. Tomorrow we will draw more fresh provisions and we will have to throw out lots of what we have to make room for the new. And to think that the people of Europe and many other countries are starving. I think we ought to do something about it like writing to our congressman or somebody.
Stay as sweet as you are. I love you. F. M.
October 18, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 in the Sulu Sea. My Darling, We are right in the middle of the Sulu Sea now and will get to the town of Puerto Princessa on Palawan Island sometime tomorrow. The sea is calm tonight, only gentle swells. There was a beautiful sunset. The moon is shining down through a few scattered clouds and it is cool. If we were only closer to home it would be an ideal night.
Guess what? Today I was in the compartment where I bunk. I looked up and there was a pigeon. Some of the fellows caught him and now we have him in a box on the fantail. I don’t know how he got on the ship. He probably was flying somewhere and got tired of flying. So he probably landed on our ship at sea and somehow accidently fell down a hatch into our compartment.
I sure hated to go away from Leyte without our mail but it didn’t show up. And now we won’t get any mail until we get back to Leyte. I’m not standing
any radio watches on this trip because they are code watches and I don’t know code. So I don’t have much to do. I hope you are getting my letters sweetheart. Is it getting cold there now? All my love, F. M.
October 20, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 at Puerta Princessa, Palawan Island. Darling, We got here yesterday afternoon. LSM No. 1 and our LSM No. 53 traveled here together. Palawan is a beautiful island. Looking at it from a distance reminds me of an Hawaiian Island. It has tall mountains that seem to come up right out of the water. We entered a little harbor at the town of Puerta Princessa. There are a couple of other ships here but not much of a town. As usual it is not my time for liberty so I do not get to go ashore. I get some liberty when we are in Leyte which I do not take because there is absolutely nothing to do there.
Guess what happened. Yesterday we saw a bunch of fellows in a small boat paddling along in the bay. It was a sail boat about 25 feet long without the sail. The mast was broken off but it was a beautiful boat otherwise. They were towing an aviator’s rubber boat behind. They paddled over to our ship and asked if we wanted the sailboat. They said it had been given to them but they couldn’t keep it. We were really glad to get it. We don’t have a small boat except a 12 foot wherry that leaks like a sieve. We lowered our ramp and pulled the sailboat aboard. The fellows paddled off again in the rubber boat. It is a beautiful boat. The officers decided they would take all the rigging off of it and put an engine in it. So one of the officers went ashore and was back in no time with an engine from a wrecked jeep. The engine needs some work but soon we’ll have it in good shape. The deck hands are giving the boat a good coat of paint. Pretty soon we will have a motor boat of our own. The jeep motor will make a fast boat out of it. When the ship is underway we will hoist it aboard like a lifeboat.
Last night I saw two movies, “Janie” and “Incendiary Blonde.” All my love, F. M.
October 22, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 at Palawan Island. Darling, I last wrote you from Puerta Princessa two days ago and I don’t think the letter got off yet. We won’t be able to mail any letters until we get back Puerta Princessa. We picked up some Filippino soldiers while we were there.
We are to take them around to various camps on Palawan to replace Filippino soldiers who have enough points to go home. The Filippino army has a point system for discharge of soldiers also.
These Filippino soldiers are really a sight. Some of them are from the little islands in out of the way places. These soldiers don’t even wear their shoes though they carry them along with them. They have all U. S. Army equipment, of course. Others of the Filippino soldiers are from Manila and the more civilized places. They dress nicely and somehow manage to make their uniforms look like “zoot suits.” They are clean and neater than we are with fancy haircuts like movie stars. These Filippinos brought all their equipment with them which includes their chickens and their monkeys. Some of them had parrots but our Captain wouldn’t let them bring the parrots aboard. They are known to spread certain diseases. Almost every Filippino has a fighting rooster. We now have a ship load of them.
After we left Puerta Princessa we came down the east coast of Palawan stopping here and there to load and unload soldiers. Some of the soldiers that we took aboard have their wives and families with them. On the way we anchored overnight in a tiny little bay on Balabac Island, called Calandorang Bay. These are waters in to which ships seldom come. They are not charted very well. In this little bay was a little village, a lighthouse, and a radio antenna tower. The lighthouse and the radio station were in operation before the war. They are not in operation now. A wrecked Japanese freighter lies on the beach. It was wrecked not many months ago for it still has good paint on it. Some men from USS LSM #1 went aboard it but I guess it had been pretty well looted before we got here, by natives or soldiers. We saw signs here of old Spanish days before 1900. There is an old Spanish fort, now grown up in weeds. We have seen these old forts here and there throughout the Philippines. We have even seen wrecks of old Spanish ships.
We left Balabac Island yesterday and sailed up the west coast of Palawan. These waters are marked as uncharted on our charts. The west coast of Palawan is the eastern boundary of the China Sea. I guess ships did not come here much until the war. The west coast is almost deserted as far as villages are concerned. We came along the coast about 100 miles today without seeing even a native hut.
We made a short stop at an isolated American Coast Guard station. It is just a few tents on the beach with big rolling waves coming in to the beach. No ship can get very close. We anchored off shore and a native canoe came out with a Coast Guard Officer aboard. Later another Coast Guardsmen came out in a Duck (an amphibious truck) and loaded some more Filippino soldiers on our ship. There are about 24 American Coast Guardsmen at this camp and they have been there since the island was retaken from the Japanese almost a year ago. Almost all of them have enough points to go home to the
States but they haven’t been relieved as yet. Their only contact with civilization is a supply ship about once a month or some light aircraft that land on a little airstrip they cleared.
Later today we moved on up the west coast about 50 more miles to a small island just off the main island of Palawan. We are anchored off the little island now. I guess we will beach in the morning. There is an American Radar station here and we are to take some of the men and equipment away.
After this we will go back to Puerta Princessa, then back to Leyte about a week from now.
Its been a month since I got any mail and we won’t get any until we get back to Leyte. Darling, maybe I’ll be in the States for Christmas. The rumors are being revived! All my love, F. M.
October 25, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 at Palawan Island. My Darling, We are to get back to Puerta Princessa tonight or tomorrow morning. We spent most of yesterday loading up a radar station from a little island called Malapackun Island. It is a nice little island about 1 mile long and 1/4 mile wide with a big hill in the middle. It had a beautiful sandy beach on the east side while the west side was rugged with cliffs dropping off into the China Sea. We beached on the nice sandy side and most of our crew went ashore to look the place over. There were lots of coral formations all around and the beach was just covered with the most beautiful shells I’ve ever seen. We picked up hands full of the oddest looking and the prettiest colored. So now I have a present for you, a handful of shells from the most isolated place on earth (outside of the South Pole), Malapackun Island.
There was a small native village on the island. Most of the natives were Moro’s and very wild looking. The men wore loin cloths and big Moro swords. They had long shaggy black hair. They just stood around and watched everything with blank expressions on their faces. There were some more ordinary looking, fully clothed Filippinos. Civilization is leaking in, even out here.
We took off all the American soldiers and their radar equipment. All that was left were their empty grass houses. (Yes, even the American soldiers lived in grass houses out here.) It was really pathetic to see the American soldiers leaving the natives all alone. The native people all gathered on the beach to wave at us when we started to leave. A number of little children were standing around with their mouths hanging open as if they couldn’t believe we were really going to leave them. They have had such fun since the Americans came. Our soldiers gave them candy and gum, taught them games, and played with them. Big ships like ours came to the island and every day a little piper light plane landed on a little airstrip the Americans had cleared. I guess they had never seen anything like this before nor are they likely to ever see it again. One young native girl, very pretty, was crying. I guess she had fallen for one of the big Americans. These were the more civilized of the natives that waved. The more wild looking ones just stood there and stared. Somehow, the little boys and girls look just like the kids back home in America.
We left this little island about 3:00 PM and went back south down the coast a little way to a certain spot where we met a small 40 foot motor launch. Its motor was broken down. We took it in tow. I was told that the launch was used to run up and down the coast to take supplies to the guerilla soldiers operating in Palawan. The launch is loaded down with Filippinos and they are having a rough ride. The waves are pretty high, sometimes breaking over the launch.
This is a pretty long letter, isn’t it? But I must tell you about a little Filippino man we have aboard. He came aboard down at Balabac Island. He is dressed in trousers that look like pajamas and a polo shirt with the tails hanging out. He is only about 4 feet 6 inches tall and he carries a long Moro sword at his side. He keeps his head covered all the time with a G. I. towel which makes him look like an Arab. He is a Mohammedan and he looks very much like Mahatma Ghandi. He is barefooted and looks very old although he is very agile. He has big brown eyes and a very intelligent look on his face. He talks to us willingly enough and appears to be a very intelligent man. He knows the names of all the islands we are passing and knows all about the army and coast guard camps. We had begun to suspect he was a bigshot of some sort because the Filippino soldiers were taking special care of him. Yesterday at Malapackun island he stepped ashore and the people greeted him like royalty. They bowed to him and kissed his hand. The Moros here on Palawan have a king called the Sultan of Palawan. I’ll bet this is one of the king’s right hand men. I love you, Darling, and I miss you very much. All my love, F. M.
October 27, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 departing Palawan. My Darling, We finally finished up our work on Palawan Island. It was interesting but I’ll be glad to get back to Leyte and the mail that is awaiting us. We are on our way back and should be there day after tomorrow.
I told you about picking up the radar station. We already had about 50 Filippinos soldiers on board. We took aboard 30 American soldiers also from the radar station. Then we made another stop at Tami Point. There we let some of the American soldiers off and took more Americans on. Also we took aboard more Filippinos. Our ship was so crowded it was all we could do to walk through the decks. The poor Filippinos had no where to go and had to sit out on the open deck night and day, rain or shine. Some were there for four days. They ate army field rations.
At Tami Point there was nothing but jungle. But there were the soldiers on the beach waving at us. They had a group of Moro’s with them. The Filippinos call the Moros the “hill people” because they inhabit the mountains of Palawan. The Moro’s on the beach were naked except for loin cloths. Each carried a blow gun about 10 feet long. (This is the first time I ever knew that natives in this part of the world used blow guns and darts. I had heard of African natives who did.) Our little royal “Mahatma Ghandi” got off our ship here. The Moro’s were evidently waiting on the beach for him. When he got off they bowed to him and shortly they all vanished with him into the jungle.
An elderly white haired “white” man got on board our ship here with the Filippino soldiers. He wore army cloths but we knew he was too old to be a normal soldier. He was very tall and straight, although we learned later that he is 73 years old. We found out that he was originally from Indiana. He had lived here in the Philippines for 46 years. He had been on Palawan in the lumber business. When the Japanese came in 1942 he just moved back into the jungle with the natives. He lived there near Tami Point all during the Japanese occupation. He was now going out to Puerta Princessa and Manila to see his friends whom he had not seen since the beginning of the war. The Filippinos all knew him and seemed to treat him with great respect. When we got to Puerta Princessa a Philippine army jeep met him and whisked him away.
We also stopped and beached at Brookes Point. Here there was a small settlement and several nice buildings, also an old Spanish fort. The whole population came out on the beach to wave to us. Lo and behold who should appear on the beach but another old white haired “white” man who looked to be the twin of the man we had aboard. We found out that he was the son-in-law of the man aboard our ship.
We couldn’t get all the way up on the beach here so there was considerable water between the dry land and our ship’s ramp. The Filippino soldiers we were to take aboard had to swim out to the ramp with their luggage. They seemed not to have any trouble doing it.
We put everybody and everything ashore at Puerta Princessa. I was asleep when they unloaded the ship. This morning when I got up the deck was all clear except for one lone fighting rooster strutting up and down the deck like he owned the ship. The Filippinos had forgotten and left him aboard. So now we own a fighting rooster. Darling, I hope you enjoy the travelogue I have been giving you. I love you, F. M.
October 29, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 en route Palawan to Leyte. My darling Charlotte, Well, we were making good speed back to Leyte when all of a sudden the USS LSM #1, which has been accompanying us on this trip, broke down. We had to pass them a tow line and now we are underway again dragging the LSM #1 behind us. We can’t go very fast this way. We were supposed to make Leyte today but now we won’t get there until tomorrow.
I can’t hardly wait to get back and find the mail that should be awaiting me. It has been a month since I received any mail. And we are hoping there will be some word about returning to the States. I love you, darling. F. M.
October 31, 1945. On Board USS LSM 53 at Leyte Gulf. Darling, We finally got back here to Leyte and sure enough, our mail was waiting for us. I got ten letters from you, darling. I’ve only read them once so far so I’ll answer your questions after I read them again. I’ll read them at least five times so you see they are not wasted. Well, it looks like we aren’t scheduled to start back to the States yet. I hear that one LSM, the 134, is going back to the States. Someone said it had been sunk and raised and recommissioned. I guess they think it can just make it back to the States. So the LSM 134 is being loaded with high point men and the low point men are being transferred off. Five of our men will go aboard for the trip back home. I may not get back home for quite some time yet.
Darling, your letters are wonderful. They just make me anxious to get home to you. All my love, F M.
November 1, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 in San Pedro Bay, Leyte. My Darling, Now I’ll undertake to answer all those wonderful letters you wrote me. I might as well tell you the scuttlebutt first. I have heard that the quota of men assigned to an LSM has been reduced to 3 officers and 41 enlisted men. That means we will lose 3 officers and 7 enlisted men. I have a hunch that the radio technician (that’s me) may be one of the enlisted men that may be transferred. I base that reasoning on the thought that a radio technician is more needed on the ships that are larger than an LSM. That won’t be so bad. Maybe I’ll get back home to you quicker that way.
Sweetheart, I don’t know my ring size. I’ve never worn a ring in my life. Maybe I can find out my size by comparing my finger with someone else who does wear a ring. About the size of my waist? Well, I guess I might as well tell you that. It is 32 inches approximately. Now don’t you go an squander your hard earned money on anything for me, darling.
I’m so sorry that Lois can’t make your dress like you planned. I know you don’t want to wear someone else’s dress. Suppose I just do this: I was intending to send you about $100 for you to use getting ready for the wedding or whatever you want to use it for. So I will send it in the next few days, whenever I get a chance to get a money order. I don’t suppose $100 will buy a very nice wedding dress. I don’t know very much about those things. I guess, like anything else, you could spend as much as you want on one and it would depend mostly on what you had to spend. Look for the money order soon and let me know what you think about it.
Now for my best man at the wedding, I guess I will ask my brother, Bert, to serve in that capacity. That is, if he’s back from overseas. From what he writes lately, he expects to be back before Christmas. So I guess he will beat me back. I don’t know who else I would get for best man or for ushers. It shouldn’t be so hard, though. I can ask Woodrow maybe or some other friends in Chicago. You know, darling, we probably won’t get to have Brother Ritchie perform the ceremony for I don’t thin k we should ask him to come to Chicago unless we can afford to pay his fare there. And I think we should save a little money for the honeymoon, don’t you? Who else could we get? Brother Thomas, maybe, or Woodrow, or any other good preacher.
Darling, there isn’t a thing that I need except you. Could you bundle yourself up in a package and send that? Don’t send any records, for I would never get a chance to listen to them. We have a record player on board, but it plays over the ships speaker system and nobody like the kind of music I like. My few attempts to play a little good music always meets with boos. Besides we never play records anymore. We have a good radio station nearby and we play that over the loud speaker system all the time, almost all day long.
Have you found out about your jury service yet? I have never served on a jury. As a matter of fact, since I have come of age, I have never been settled in one place for very long. I have only voted in the national election and that only once. I guess I could claim legal residence in any one of several places.
I have seen some pretty good movies lately. I saw “The Picture of Dorien Grey” about the same time you did. The other night I saw “Jane Eyre.” You should see that. It is pretty good. Last night I saw “Presenting Lily Mars.” It wasn’t so good. And the book you are reading–I think I have already read “Green Dolphin Street.” We have “The Robe” in our ships library, but I haven’t read it yet. I love you, darling. F. M.
November 3, 1945. On board USS LM 53 at Guiuan, Samar. I sure have been busy for the last two days. Day before yesterday, down at Leyte, we got a typhoon warning. The officers got all excited as if the typhoon were about to strike within an hour or two. We tied everything down and got everything ready for rough weather. We doubled the watches and everything. But, after several hours, nothing happened. Then we finally found out the typhoon wasn’t supposed to hit until Sunday and it was only Thursday. So we relaxed a little. We still have the LSM #1 tied on and it has no engines. In case of a storm we have to take care of LSM #1 (with full crew aboard) with our tow line. It was determined we would make out better up here at Guiuan, Samar, about 30 miles from Leyte. There is a better harbor up here. So we came up here yesterday to await the storm.
In the midst of all our preparations, one of my radios went out of commission. So I have been working for the last two days fixing that. I just finished the repair. I wanted to be sure we have all the radios in working condition when the storm gets here. Now we have learned that the storm has veered off and is not going to hit us here at all. We may have a little wind but not much of a storm. Isn’t that a disappointment?
There is some scuttlebutt now that I may be transferred to another ship soon. It will probably be a larger ship. I hope it is one that hits the States very often.
Here is that money order that I promised you, darling. You can use it toward purchase of a wedding gown if you want, or spend it as you like. I hate to think of it, but it looks like we will not get to have that wedding this winter because I might not get back to the States until next spring or early summer. But we won’t know what will happen until I am transferred to another ship. So keep your fingers crossed. If we don’t get to go skiing this winter, we will sure be able to go the next winter. And we can have a very nice honeymoon in the summertime. You know I love you very much, don’t you? You are my everything. F. M.
November 5, 1945. Aboard USS LSM 53 in San Pedro Bay, Leyte. My Darling, There is no news to write about today. Everything is very monotonous and I am very homesick. I got your letter of October 23. As long as we are anchored here at Leyte, the mail rolls in right on schedule. The typhoon never did materialize. I think we are to go back to Guiuan, Samar, later today. We are to tie up to a repair ship for some more repairs. Seems we are always in need of some sort of repair. (These LSMs came over here from the States early in the war and have been in constant use ever since. A lot of parts have worn out.) I have heard no more about me getting transferred. I’m hoping it is true and that I really am to be transferred. It would change the monotony of things and make my time whisk away a little faster.
Darling, after we are married, you won’t make me get up at midnight to go on watch, will you? Or 3:30AM? It’s awful to take 4 hours right out of the middle of the night like this. And I won”t get to sleep very much during the day tomorrow. They will probably set up a special sea detail first thing tomorrow morning because we are to get underway for Guiuan, Samar. And it is almost impossible to sleep through that. In the afternoon it will be too hot to sleep. You are always in my thoughts. I love you, darling. F. M.
November 4, 1945. On board USS LSM 5 at Guiuan, Samar. My Darling, We are only a short distance from our Fleet Post Office at Leyte but I don’t think we will get any mail while we are here in Guiuan. However, there is a ferry running from here to Leyte, and the Officers may send someone on the ferry to pick up our mail while we are here. I hope so. We are going to tie up to the “Culebra Island,” a repair ship, some time today. I don’t know whether our repairs will take a couple of days or a couple of weeks. In the meantime I am going to try to get transferred to another ship. If I have to be transferred I might as well go ahead and get it over with. Another 6 men left to go home today. That leaves us officially short handed. It seems to me that the ship should be sent home before it gets too short handed to go home. On the other hand, we really don’t need such a large contingent of men to run the ship in peace time. The Officers seem reluctant to admit that. At least, no one is being held up when they have enough points to go home.
Do you see Opal and J. W. and little Sylvia very often. I wrote to them about a month ago and have received no answer yet. I have been sending my contribution to the church to J. W. to contribute for me at the Garfield Park Congregation. I figured that they probably needed the contribution more than other congregations.
Darling, why don’t you come on out here to the Philippines. When I get my discharge I could take it out here and accept one of the jobs the War Department is offering to civilians. We could be married and settle down in a grass house somewhere. O. K. I’m only kidding! This is one place I don’t want to live. Not because it is such a bad place to live but because there are so many better places. But I have heard that the War Department is urging American men to be discharged over here and accept civilian jobs, in the provisional governments I suppose.
However, I did write the Civil Service Commission to see what appointments are going to be open in the near future. I also wrote my last employer, the U. S. Engineer Department in Seattle to find out if anything is open there. I am still planning to go back to school, but I don’t want to pass up any chances. I could arrange to go to school later after we get established somewhere. You know what I think we ought to do? We ought to get a car and a house trailer and just be gypsies. Well, maybe gypsies part time then. All my love, F. M.
November 8, 1945. On board the USS LSM 53 at Guiuan, Samar. Darling, We are still tied up to the repair ship, “Culebra Island.” It is scheduled to start back to the U. S. on December 1. It would be nice if I could get transferred to it. I may never be transferred.
A couple more LSMs are scheduled to return to the States. But not us. If they don’t send this LSM back soon there will be no more crew to take it back. May it won’t be very long. In the meantime, as always, I am thinking of you, darling, wondering how you are, what you are doing. I really do love you, you know. So long now, sweet. F. M.
November 9, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 at Guiuan, Samar. Dearest Sweetheart, I got two swell letters from you today. Believe me, they sure do cheer me up. Our Captain just came back from our headquarters and says our LSM will be the first to start back to the States as soon as they start ordering LSMs to go back. He says the LSMs which so far have already left are the disabled ones.
I went ashore at Guiuan today to get radio parts. It was the first time I have been able to see the town up close. There is an ancient Catholic Church of white stone. 2 or 3 hundred years old. The houses are of wood with grass roofs and the houses are jam up against each other. There are all sorts of shops, just open stalls, with the goods hanging from walls or ceiling.
Darling, let me know when you get the money order I sent a few days ago. If it gets lost, I want to start tracking it down. I should have registered the letter. We saw a funny picture the other day, “The Horn Blows at Midnight.” Tonight’s picture is supposed to be very good, “The Valley of Decision,” a war picture I guess. I love you. You will have to marry me. So long now. F. M.
November 11, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 at Guiuan, Samar. Darling, It’s Sunday morning and I just got back from the church service held on the “Culebra Island.” The services were just like all these Navy church services. The Chaplain gave a good lesson on “Knowing Yourself.” Sunday morning is the time I get most homesick of all because it’s then that I realize I’m missing church. And I sure do miss it.
I’ve been away from home a lot and I’ve never been real homesick in the strictest sense of the word. I don’t ever feel homesick much for any particular place, just for people I love, my family, my new family (that’s you), and the folks in the church. Of all people, I miss you the most, darling. I’m looking forward so eagerly to the beginning or our home. The years ahead are going to be full and good. Darling, we must, more than ever, live for our Lord. We can help each other in this endeavor but you must especially help me. I am ashamed to say it, but I often have seemingly forgotten that I am a Christian. The problem is mostly selfishness and self pity. Stay as wonderful as you are, sweetheart. All my love, F. M.
November 13, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 at Guiuan, Samar. Darling, There is a lot of scuttlebutt going around that ten LSMs will start back to the States in two weeks and dear old LSM 53 will be one of them. If it is true, I may be put ashore before they go for I have only 25 points. Well, we’ll see.
We are certainly ready to start to the States. We have all our repairs done and plenty of fresh and dry food supplies. We have been painting the ship over and over again and now it looks new. I have made a list of all our extra radio parts so we can give them to other ships before we leave.
Say, I see in a newspaper that a college in Marietta, Ohio is offering to let the wives of former servicemen go to school free if the husband is enrolled under the “G.I. Bill of Rights.” Now that sounds like a good deal. Do you want to go back to school? If I am going back to school myself I don’t want my wife to sit at home without anything to do, or to have to work at some other job. It would be great fun going to school together. We could handle it some way if you want to do it. All my love, F. M.
November 14. 1945. On board USS LSM 53 at Guiuan, Samar. Hello Darling, (This letter is censored, a pure love letter from F. M. to
Charlotte. See the archives.)
November 15, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 in Guiuan, Samar. Darling, I’m in a right good mood tonight. I don’t know why. Have some hope of starting home soon. Today we refueled, got orders to get a full supply of provisions. Tomorrow we go back to Leyte. Rumors are going around that several LSMs are going home and we have good reason to believe we might be one of them. Sounds O. K, doesn’t it? But you know enough about the Navy by now to know that you can never foretell what will happen.
Tonight we have the movie, “Two Girls and a Sailor.” I never did see it. It was playing in Chicago when I was dating you, remember. But we passed it up. Seems like you said later that you saw it. Give my love to your father. How is he getting along? Do you hear from Opal and Woodrow and their “little crittur?” I love you as much as I know how. All my love. F. M.
November 17, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 in San Pedro Bay, Leyte. Little Darling, I got a whole passel of mail from you today, nine letters. Isn’t that wonderful? I also got your package. Thank you so much, darling. I tried some of the peanut brittle and it was simply wonderful. Cooking is something you really excel at. Once you said you were afraid I loved you only because you are a good cook. Well, I do love your cooking, but that is not why I love you. Frankly, I love your kisses better than your cooking. I love you because you are you.
Now I will take some pictures of myself and send them to you as soon as I get some film. Now and then there is some film available over here at army exchanges. I got a package from Mama today too. So I am having my Christmas a whole month ahead this year. There is still the possibility I could be in the States by Christmas, but not likely. Here is how it is. Several LSMs are going to leave for the States soon and I believe my ship will be one of them. By all rights, since I only have 25 points toward discharge, I will be left behind. But maybe it will be impossible to replace me with someone with more points. In that case I will stay aboard for the trip home. Keep your fingers crossed.
Darling, there is no way for me to send a cablegram. If it was a matter of life or death, I could probably send a radiogram. Maybe I can let you know immediately when I get to Pearl Harbor. Don’t worry about me, sweetheart. On the way home I must stop at Seattle, or San Francisco, wherever we dock. The crew will be wanting to paint the town red, but maybe I can break away and get on towards the east.
That dream you told me Marge had about our wedding, how interesting. And someone else took my place in the dream? Who was that? And your new clothes sound interesting too. I wish I didn’t have to wait to see them.
Sweetie, now you tell me you were in love with me when I first went down to Gulfport. You know, I thought you were at the time. But I wasn’t sure you really liked me. I was a little afraid if I said anything about being in love at that early date, it would ruin everything. My happy days started later when we both knew we loved one another.
Is Bob or Chick home yet? Both of them have enough points now, don’t they? I’ll bet they show up pretty soon. My brother Bert has enough points to be discharged as of today. He is in India, you know. I think he expects to get home by Christmas. All my love, F. M.
November 18, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 in San Pedro Bay, Leyte. Hello “Lovie,” A group of small ships just pulled out for the States. They were LCIs, Landing Craft Infantry, somewhat smaller than LSMs. One of our officers has a brother on one of them. I just received a radio message from him. He said, “We are now underway. Tell Joe so long for me.” I hope it isn’t long until we start back. The latest rumor is that the LSM 66 and LSM 128 are leaving tomorrow and that the low point men are to stay on board. That sounds good. I hope it is true.
It is kinda hot this afternoon but it will probably rain a little later. Of late, it usually rains every afternoon and cools things off. So long for now. I love you. F. M.
November 20, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 in San Pedro Bay, Leyte. Darling “Lovie,” Everything here is as it has been. No new developments. (A love letter,) F. M.
November 21, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 at Guiuan, Samar. Dearest “Lovie,” We are up here at Guiuan for the night. We brought up some men who are on their way home. From here they will go onto Aircraft carriers or troop transports. They are not our men, but men from other parts of the Navy. We are picking up our “water still” (distiller for making fresh water out of salt water) today so then we will be all set to go to the States.
I had the midnight to 4:00 AM watch last night so I spent a lot of today sleeping. There are a couple of young fellows on the ship who are planning to be married also, as soon as they get home. Neither of them is 20 years old yet and they make me seem like an old man. But they seem to know what they are doing. They think they have jobs lined up and are trying to plan now how they can buy a house and furnish it on the salaries they will make. Well, here I am planning to marry you with no job lined up at all, no plans to settle down anywhere in particular! Darling, if we go through with this school thing, it will be a couple of years until we can start thinking about a our own home, our own furniture, etc. Darling, you don’t mind if our plans are a little indefinite, do you? All my love, F. M.
November 25, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 in San Pedro Bay, Leyte Island. My Darling, It looks like the scuttlebutt was really right this time. Our little LSM is going back to the States. From the way we are making feverish preparations, it looks as if we may leave within two or three days. We are over on the north side of San Pedro Bay this morning near Samar Island waiting to take on more diesel fuel. We can take enough fuel on all at once to take us practically around the world non-stop. And it looks as if they are going to put as much fuel aboard as possible. We have several tanks which have not had fuel in them for over a year. Instead we have used them for ballast tanks, filling and emptying them of salt water as needed. So there is quite a bit of work involved in cleaning them out so we can put fuel in them. Also we are taking aboard more food supplies. I guess they want to have plenty to spare for we already have lots of food.
There has been no word about transferring me or anyone yet. Perhaps they won’t transfer anyone.
Darling, when we get to Pearl Harbor I’ll surely let you know by cable if possible. If there is about three weeks you don’t hear from me, you can assume, I think, that I am at sea on my way home. There is now way I can predict how long it will take for us to get back. We will probably go to Pearl Harbor and then to San Francisco or Seattle. I hope it is Seattle. But we may come all the way around to the east coast by way of the Panama Canal. I have never been to Panama, so I wouldn’t mind that. At any rate, I’ll keep you informed as often as possible. And please don’t stop writing to me for I may have to stay over here. I don’t want to miss any of your sweet letters.
Darling, maybe we can have that wedding sometime in January, February, or March. I won’t be out of the service but I’ll probably have a chance at two weeks or a month of leave. Still want to marry me before I am out of the service?
It will surely be wonderful when we dock somewhere in the States and they tell me I can have 30 days leave. And the day we are married will be the happiest day of my life, Darling. I love you very, very much. F. M.
November 27, 1945. Aboard USS LSM 53 in San Pedro Bay, Leyte Island.
“Lovie” Darling, Good News! I am coming home with the ship. Isn’t that wonderful. We have already received our orders and are all ready to go. We don’t know exactly which day we will leave but it will be within two or three days. Of course, most of us are very, very happy. But there are 7 or 8 most unhappy fellows for they are not getting to go. I was just lucky, I guess, that there were no high point men to replace me.
There will be 10 or 12 LSMs going together in one convoy. We still don’t know if we are going to the west coast or the east coast. But, as I said before, we will probably go to Pearl Harbor then to Seattle. After we get there, I don’t know what we will do. The ship will probably decommissioned. We may do the decommissioning, or they may turn it over to a regular decommissioning crew and we may be released to go on leave.
We will probably make it back to the States by about January 5. How would you like to get married just after that date? Give me time to get to Chicago. Maybe I will go to Nashville (or wherever my folks live by that time) for a couple of days and then I’ll scoot back to Chicago for the wedding. Then we can have all the rest of the leave for honeymoon. It just seems too good to be true.
After we are married, I may have to go back on duty for two or three months. So I may have to leave my darling under the care of her father for just a little while longer. That is, if he will take her back for a little while longer. Or I may just be at a shore base where I can take you with me. Then we will not end the honeymoon. I’m not going to leave you in Chicago in I can possibly take you with me. I understand housing is difficult. But I can get you a pup tent in the park. Will that we O. K? That will solve the housing problem. I read in the newspaper that a returned Marine did that in Los Angeles. Darling I love you, F. M.
November 30, 1945. Aboard USS LSM 53 in San Pedro Bay, Samar Island.
Dearest, We haven’t received the final word on which day we will leave. It could be any hour now. I expect we will be at sea by December 3, but that is not official. The awfullest thoughts come into my head such as supposing they cancel our orders, or suppose I am kicked off the ship to stay on this side of the ocean. So you see we are very anxious to get started.
I think often that this war has been mostly just waiting. That really is the thing that gets the soldiers and sailors down and furnishes the most mental casualties. I have been doing a lot of “waiting around.” We used to call it “sweating it out” in Alaska. I waited three months in Seattle, doing practically nothing, waiting to be sent to Alaska. Once I got up there, every time I went on a journey I spent twice as much time waiting for transportation as I spent going. Once I waited two month in the Aleutians for air transportation to the mainland of Alaska. That was not so bad for I kept right on working until the day I finally left. Then in Anchorage I waited 15 day for air transportation to Seattle. That was awful. Almost all I could do was sit on the side of my bunk and read magazines for 15 days. The departure time for planes was not announced ahead of time during the war. You usually had only about one hours notice. I was afraid to leave my waiting barracks for fear I would miss the plane. Over here in the Philippines we have spent about two months underway in operations while we have spent the other six months just waiting. That is about the average ratio, three times as must waiting as working.
Things aboard ship are as monotonous as ever. Today the only thing that has happened was that the officers examined each of our personal belongings to try to discover who took a 45 calibre pistol that is missing (if anyone took it). That made us all very mad but there was nothing we could do about it. We were told to unlock our lockers and then leave the room. We were not allowed to be present when the search took place. That is really against the law, I think. Everyday something of this nature happens which makes us wonder just how the Navy went about picking its officers anyway. I have seen very few that I would consider fit for the job. All I want is to9 get out and have no more of it.
Let me know if you got the Christmas present I sent in my last letter. I love you darling, F. M.
December 2, 1945. Aboard USS LSM 53 in San Pedro Bay, Samar Island. Darling, Well, we are still here. We still have no word when we will pull out. It will not be very long. We got a little bit of mail today. I just got one letter from Mama, none from you. The news from home sounds better and better. Papa is trying to get transferred to Nashville. If he doesn’t get to Nashville the family will probably move wherever he goes. We are all hoping that Papa will be sent to Nashville. Then the girls will be able to keep their jobs and Dick can go to Lipscomb to high school. Did you know that Dick is going to Lipscomb this year? Its his first year of high school.
Here I have been wondering where I would go to school after we are married and I never thought of Vanderbilt University in Nashville. But it seems to me that maybe that would be one of our best bets, darling. How would you like to live in Nashville for awhile? Maybe th housing situation will be better by that time. I have been hearing lots about the housing situation in Chicago. Mama says it is no better in Nashville. Nashville is relatively close to Chicago, only 10 to 12 hours by train. So if my darling got lonesome we could run up to Chicago most anytime. I think I will write a letter to Vanderbilt to see what they have to offer in Electrical Engineering.
We don’t have to go to Nashville, sweet. I am going to enquire about schools in Chicago also. I don’t recall the names of colleges in and around Chicago. Why don’t you tell me some of them and I will find out if they offer Engineering courses. Its going to be such fun, darling. We can have our own apartment but we’ll have to take a small one for two reasons: the housing shortage and our limited pocketbook. If we can’t find anything like that, we may have that trailer yet. But as I remember, it costs about as much to live in a trailer as it does to live in an apartment. Some day we will buy ourselves a home of our own, maybe one of those folding houses that can be crated up and erected anywhere. Someday when we go to Alaska, or settle somewhere, we will build our own house. In Alaska there are some lovely houses built of logs and native material that are positively luxurious inside with all modern conveniences. I am really excited about all we have to come ahead of us. I can hardly to get back to you and get some of these things started.
You should see me now, darling. I haven’t had a haircut in about 2 ½ months. Our barber went home for discharge. My hair is growing over my ears and down the back of my neck. I would sent you a picture of myself but I haven’t got film for the little camera yet.
Well, each time I write, it may be the last chance I get before we put to sea. I hope it is. The sooner I will get home. I am so lonesome for you. Why don’t you inquire around or look around for a winter resort where we can go for our honeymoon. We will probably have to put in for a reservation. We can’t do that yet, however, for I don’t know yet if I’ll get leave. All my love to the sweetest gal in the world, F. M. P. S. Just got word that we are to sail for Guam first thing in the morning. That is about 1200 miles from here and 1200 miles closer to the states. We are on our way. Hurray!
December 4, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 at Guiuan, Samar. My Darling, We left San Pedro Bay yesterday morning early in a large convoy of LSMs. But where do you think we went? Only 35 miles up the coast to Guiuan. We are really on our way back to the States though. We just stopped here to pick up freight for Guam. We may be here as much as five days though before we continue our journey. We may be lucky to reach the States by the end of February.
The morale of the men is about 100% better now that we know we are going home. We have lots of new men that just came aboard to fill up vacancies in the crew left by men going home. These men are very lucky for most of them just got overseas last month and now they are already on a ship that is going back.
Darling, it is somewhat of a let down to have to sit around here for another 5 days when we expected to be underway for the States by now. It just means that much longer before I can be with you. I love you. F. M.
December 9, 1945. Aboard USS LSM 53 en route from Philippines to Guam.
My Darling, It has been quite some time since I wrote to you and it will be about 3 more days until we get to Guam where I can mail this. Maybe you will forgive me. I have not written because I have been sea sick. We left Leyte and Samar on the morning of December 7 and as soon as we got into the Pacific it was rough. The first day I was awfully sick. The second day was not so bad and today I am much better. Maybe by tomorrow I will be able to enjoy the trip. The sea is just big rolling waves and it makes one think of riding the roller coaster, fun for the first couple of minutes but how would you like to ride a roller coaster for a couple of thousand miles. It gets tiresome.
The weather is ideal after I get used to the rolling and pitching. It is nice and cool even though the sun shines brightly each day. There is a brisk breeze blowing and I think I will enjoy the trip from now on. Especially since I know that home lies at th other end of the trip. We expect to get to Guam in about 3 days and I will try to write some each day to mail when we get there. I don’t know how long we will stay at Guam. We have a load of cargo to discharge there. The cargo is Marine Corps trucks full of radio equipment that was used in the Philippines. I may get to go ashore in Guam. I’d like to see what it is like there. It is supposed to be very nice.
We have a big convoy. There are 17 LSMs and one LCI with us. The LCI (Landing Craft, Infantry) has been converted into the flagship for our convoy. It is the smallest ship the Navy has which crosses the Pacific under its own power. It seems to be under water as much as it is on top of the water.
Each big roller sends waves washing across its decks. We don’t get any waves on deck but we get spray all over the ship. We really roll and pitch. I guess I am a real flying fish sailor now. After 30 or 40 days of this I won’t be able to walk a straight line after I go ashore.
Darling, it won’t be very long until I am home to you. It’s a 14 day trip from Guam to Honolulu and a 10 day trip from there to the West Coast. So I could be home by January 1 if we don’t lay around too long in Guam and Honolulu. We should be on the West Coast by the first or second week of January and maybe I’ll get leave by February. How does that sound, sweet. All my love, F. M.
December 12, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 at Guam. Hello Darling, Well, we are finally here at Guam. It took us 6 days from the Philippines instead of 5 as we expected. I really meant to write to you each day but the sea got rougher instead of smoother and I caught a bit of a cold. I didn’t feel well enough to get out of my bunk except when I had to. And food didn’t have much appeal to me so now I am back down to my old weight, I think. It wasn’t really stormy weather but plenty rough. Our ship was up and down like a roller coaster and some times it banged down so hard it nearly knocked us out of our bunks. Some times the bow of the ship stuck way out of the rolling wave into midair, then banged down into the trough between the waves so hard that the whole ship just shuddered. It sure was a relief to coast into the nice smooth water in the harbor here at Guam.
Guam is a nice looking island. I haven’t had a chance to go ashore yet since we just got in this afternoon. We did get some mail already. It was here waiting for us. I got four letters from you, darling, dated from November 28 to December 3. I am certainly surprised to hear that you were sick all that time and did not say a word about it to me until you were all well. And, you almost got put in jail! Darling, you sure do need me to look after you. Did you serve on the jury after all, or were you sick the whole time you were supposed to be on the jury? Did you miss ten whole days from work? It must have been awful to be sick that long, at home by yourself with no one to wait on you.
Darling, I wish I could get there by Christmas but there isn’t a chance. At least I am nearer home by more than 1,000 miles now. There is a dark note to sound here. It seems that 4 LSMs are to be left here at Guam to do some hauling jobs. That means that we might be hanging around here for several weeks if we are one of the LSMs picked for this work.
Have either of your brothers come home yet? I’ll bet Bob is there by now. My brother, Bert, will probably back in the States by Christmas as he was to leave India about December 6 or 7. Darling, just sit tight until I get back. It is nice to know that I have a wonderful lady waiting for me. I love you very much. F. M.
December 14, 1945. On board USS LSM 53 at Guam. Dearest, Well, here is the bad news that has kept my fingers crossed for a long time. I’m being put ashore here at Guam and I’m not coming home on the “good ole” LSM 53 after all. I didn’t get an inkling of it until last night. It had been thought that since we were already on our way back that we would all stay aboard until we reached the States. But last night the Officers called me in and gave me the bad news. They said they tried to keep me aboard but that the Port Authorities were taking all the low point men off. So, as disappointing as it seems, there is nothing I can do about it. I suppose it is only fair that the low point men stay and let the high point men get home first. But you know I am disappointed because I was looking forward to seeing you soon. But now, we will have to wait a little longer with that wedding, I guess. Remember, I told you that “anything can happen in the Navy.” Well, it did.
Darling, I don’t know what my new address will be or where I will be stationed. I haven’t gone ashore yet but I will go sometimes today. I’m glad I have gotten this far and did not have to stay in the Philippines. I’ll probably go to a receiving station here and from there I’ll go to another ship or a shore station. It’s nice here in Guam and if I have to stay, I’d like to stay right here at Guam. I’m liable to be sent to Japan, or most anywhere. I’ll let you know my new address as soon as I know it. Write you again tomorrow, all my love. F. M.
December 15, 1945. Aboard USS LSM 5 at Guam. My Darling, I’m in about the lowest fit of depression I was ever in in my life. I don’t want to make you downhearted also but maybe if I cry in your shoulder it will make me feel better. I really had no right to expect to get back to the States so soon. When we left the Philippines it seemed as if we were practically home and I was sure that I would go along with the ship (LSM 53). However, here at Guam, another LSM needed an RT (or so they thought) so I was the one to go. No one else was put ashore.
The LSM 5 is my new ship. But don’t let the number fool you. It’s a newer ship than the 53. And the sad part is that it is not starting back to the States any time soon. As a matter of fact, the ship has to spend two to four more months over here, so it looks like I am stuck. It’s a nice ship, better than the 53 in some respects, but that doesn’t help my disappointment in not getting to come home.
Now, my sweet, that’s just about enough of this crying. Things aren’t really very bad. The reason this ship is not going back like the other LSMs is that it used to be a training ship on the East Coast and only has about 10 months overseas duty. All the other LSMs are leaving after lots of war duty. So, perhaps this one will soon leave also.
I hear you have lots of snow there in Chicago. Guess you will have a white Christmas. Darling, I’m thinking of you always and love you with all my heart. Write you more tomorrow. F. M.
December 16, 1945. On board USS LSM 5 at Guam. My Darling, I’m about to get back into my old groove again. Life aboard this ship is going to be about the same with a few minor exceptions. One exception is the Captain. He seems to be a very fine fellow. He always has a cheery word for everyone. And he has a hand in almost everything aboard the ship. He even held church services this morning and preached a pretty good sermon. I don’t know what denomination he is. I’m sorry he will be leaving us in a few days. He already has enough points to go home.
We are to go up to Saipan tomorrow. It’s only about a 12 hour trip. I’ll let you know what Saipan is like as soon as I see the place. My Communications Officer said today that he didn’t think this ship would have to serve out its full 2 to 4 months duty here. So there is still hope that I’ll be home in a matter of months.
Yesterday I met a former friend of mine, Basil Overton, from Tennessee, whom I met in Gulfport. I knew he was aboard the LSM 143 and I saw it yesterday here in Guam and I went to see him. He is a fine Christian and intends to become a preacher. He had been married since I last saw him in Gulfport. I told him I was to be married soon, and I wished I had married before I left the States as he had. Just think, Darling, if I had married you before I left Chicago I could be coming home to you now. I would have ten extra points!
But we didn’t marry then, and the only thing I know to do about it is to marry you as soon as possible. Darling, I love you. F. M.
December 19, 1945. On board USS LSM 5 at Saipan. My Darling, Well, here we are at Saipan. We left Guam last night about dark and got here at daybreak so you see it isn’t very far. I’m back at my old job now, radio operator. The radio and radar on this ship is in very good condition so won’t have much technician work to do, as usual. I had one job to do on the amplifier system already. I had to fix an outdoor speaker. I had to rig a block and tackle and haul myself up about 20 feet in order to get the speaker down. It was really a job, but of course I got it done O. K.
I believe I like this ship better than the “53." I have a shop in which to work on this ship. I had no special place to work on the other ship except wherever I could squeeze in. We don’t have to get up in the morning until 7 AM or later. We eat out of plates and the KPs set the table for us. That is just like at home (well not quite). Anyway we don’t have a chow line and don’t have to eat from big trays. All the fellows are very nice and friendly. The ship is very clean. We have good laundry service, etc. So, it isn’t so bad.
And I have had two liberty’s since I have been aboard. I went over to visit a friend, Basil Overton. I think I told you about that. A couple of days later I went ashore at Guam. Guam is really fixed up nice. It has all paved roads just like the States. The first time I have seen paved roads since I left the States. The Naval base is very nice and will be even nicer as it is built up. I went to the recreation area. There are athletic fields there, a Red Cross U. S. O., a ship’s service store where one can buy quite a few little necessities. One can also buy beer and CocaCola. The U. S. O. is really fixed up nice. And believe it or not, it is run by white girls, American Girls! I must go back just to look at the American women. The only women we have seen in a long time have been native to the areas we have visited.
Oh Darling, you are the only woman for me. I’m a little bit optimistic. This ship may be back in the States sooner than is expected. Right now we are getting the ship loaded to go up north to Marcus Island soon. All my love, F. M.
December 20, 1945. On board USS LSM 5 at Saipan. Hello little Darling, We are being loaded with some kind of heavy stuff. I can’t make out what it is. We will probably finish loading sometime tonight and get underway for Marcus Island tonight or tomorrow. Marcus is up near Iwo Jima and I guess it will be nice and cool up there. A little cool weather will sure feel good. It is not so terribly hot here at Saipan.
There are Japs running all over this island of Saipan. The island has always been a Japanese possession. The Japanese prisoners of war just run free. They are wearing mostly G. I. clothes like our soldiers but in addition they wear a bit of red cloth on their belts to show they are Jap prisoners. A large group of them have been working down here on the docks unloading Liberty ships.
Tinian Island is in sight on the horizon. Saipan and Tinian are the only large islands near here. There are a few small islands scattered about. I don’t know what we will do when we return from Marcus. I think we will probably go back to Guam for repairs. I never cease to hope that we will start for the States soon.
Just think, only 5 more days until Christmas. But I have already had my Christmas. I received all my packages about two months ago. We will have a good dinner that day, I am sure. We always have good feeds on holidays. We will probably be at Marcus on Christmas. And we will probably be back at Guam on New Year’s day. How well I remember where I was last Christmas and New Year’s day. Sure wish I could be there this year. But, I think I’m leading a softer life out here than I would have if I were in the States. Know what I want for Christmas? You in my arms! All my love, F. M.
December 21, 1945. On board USS LSM 5 at Saipan. My Darling, Gee it certainly is monotonous here. I’ve been on watch for 12 whole hours, off and on, today and I’m beginning to get a little sleepy also. There has been absolutely nothing on the radio for us. It seems a shame to have to sit here and listen all day and then not have a single message. But this is the way it is most of the time.
A working party of Japs has been loading the ship all day today and at the rate they have been working it will be several days bef0ore the ship is loaded. First they put on board some mechanized equipment, then some stray boxes of cargo, finally several hundred cases of CocaCola and some bags of cement. And we are only half loaded. But we get liberty here as long as we stay so I should worry. If we are here tomorrow I will probably get liberty. There is not much to do on liberty. Maybe I can just sort of look the island over. That should be interesting. There are supposed to be some farms scattered about the island.
The island is really very pretty. It has a nice green mountain ridge running right down the center. Tonight there is a full moon and beautiful cloud effects around the mountains. It is a view that can be enjoyed. Wish you were here to see it. It would be a lot of fun traveling the south seas with my darling wife along. Maybe some day when we have seen all the beautiful places close to the States we will come out here to the south seas and see them as they should be seen. On a great big ship, though, so I won’t be sea sick. Darling, I love you so much. So long now and pleasant dreams. F. M.
December 22, 1945. On board USS LSM 5 at Saipan. My Darling, Well, the Jap prisoners are continuing with the loading of our ship. Today they put on some drums of fuel oil. It looks like they will finish out the load with that. Most of the island of Saipan has quit work for the holidays. They won’t go back to work until the 26th of the month. I’m glad they did. There is no reason why they shouldn’t for the war is over and there is no special hurry for most of these things. However, the Jap prisoners may keep working and we may pull out before Christmas for Marcus Island. I am hoping that we get to stay here over Christmas for they are having several Christmas parties ashore at the Red Cross U. S. O. huts that promise to be pretty good. There is to be a performance of the stage show “Kiss and Tell.” I saw it in Chicago long ago but I would like to see this version of it. There will probably be a good swing band and singers and a community singing. After that there is to be a Santa Claus and a grab bag with presents for all, so they say. There will probably be an awfully big crowd for all the ships in the harbor are invited.
I had liberty this afternoon and it is about the best liberty I’ve had since I left the States. I just moseyed around the island looking things over. The weather is very nice lately with the advent of “winter.” The temperature stays in the low 80's in the daytime and goes into the 70's at night. I started off on liberty by hiking straight up the mountain behind the beach. It must have been 2 miles and very steep but I stuck to the road all the way. That was pretty hot climbing but I needed the exercise. Lots of military vehicles passed but I didn’t flag any of them down for a ride. I had lots of fun just feeling free and smelling the good earth and trees. We are in southern climes so banana trees grow everywhere with big bunches of bananas on them. There are a few kind of evergreen trees that remind you of the north. They are very much like Christmas trees and I saw some soldiers cutting some of them for that purpose. From the top of the hill I could get a wonderful view of the entire harbor and way out to sea. You could see in the water the various colors that represent the various depths from the shore on out past the reefs to deep water.
At the top of the hill a truck stopped to pick me up without me even asking. I got in a rode a while, about 5 miles. All the roads of the island have been paved and are just like the highways back home. In fact there is a four lane highway running all the way around the island near sea level, while the other roads are only two lane. There is plenty of traffic, all military of course. One of the drivers told me that there used to be much more traffic than now. There are about 20,000 men on the island now and there used to be 120,000 men here before the war ended. No wonder they needed good highways. There are camps everywhere with permanent type barracks and full conveniences. Many of them are empty now. I hope the rest of them empty very soon so we can all go home. But I doubt if all of them ever empty for the Navy and the Army will probably keep a permanent base here.
After riding a while I got out and walked some more through very pretty country. Once over the hill I could see the ocean on the other side of the island. I didn’t get to visit the recreation area. Maybe I can do that later. Darling are you all well now? It was such a surprise to hear that you had been sick for such a long time. I love you. F. M.
December 23, 1945. On board USS LSM 5 at Saipan. My Darling, Here it is two days before Christmas. I heard “the Messiah” on the radio this afternoon. I t was performed by “Saipan University” which is an armed forces school for soldiers and WACs to go to in their spare time. There were over 100 voices, about 30 women and the rest men. The women were WACs and Red Cross workers. It was excellent. The soloists were as good as I have heard anywhere.
LSM 143 is docked near us here at Saipan. That is the ship Basil Overton is on. You remember the fellow I told you about that I first met in Gulfport and also saw a short while ago in Guam. We were going to get together today, Sunday, and have our own church service but I have not been able to get there yet today. We want to have communion but we don’t have the ingredients. I guess we need to ask one of the chaplains for them. Anyway, I hope to get over there before the day is over and we will see what we can do. Basil is a cook. The other day he scalded his hand badly. It was giving him quite a bit of pain when I saw him yesterday. I hope it will be better today.
And how are you today, darling. I’ll bet there is plenty of snow there now. Did you have a good Christmas? Christmas will be all over by the time you get this letter. We will have a big dinner and I guess we will get to go to the big party. Do you know I love you. So long for now. F. M.
December 24, 1945. On board USS LSM 5 at Saipan. Hello “Lovie” Darling, You know, it is remarkable how a little work can make you feel so much better. Today was my time to clean up the crew’s compartment and serve chow. About once each two weeks we have to help serve chow. We eat boarding house style. There isn’t much work to it, but it kept me busy for the better part of the morning. And I feel pretty good now. I have a radio watch this afternoon and another one tonight.
Tomorrow I will have liberty from right after chow until after the Christmas party tomorrow night. Some of the fellows went out yesterday and cut down an oriental pine tree. It looks very much like a little fir tree. They set it up on deck and decorated it with colored paper and stuff. It looks pretty good. Now, I’ll probably go swimming tomorrow afternoon. Did you ever go swimming on Christmas day? This is pleasant weather. It may be even better weather on Marcus Island. I guess we will leave for there the day after Christmas. Most of the people on the island have holidays today and tomorrow. We have a holiday routine but that doesn’t affect me much. I still have to stand watch.
Lots of the fellows have visited the Saipan University and gotten materials for correspondence courses like the one I am taking. And that reminds me. I have to work on mine. Darling, here is something you can do for me. Go to a bookstore and get me a book on harmony. I don’t want the fundamentals of music but the fundamentals of harmony. That is something I have always wanted to study and I don’t see why I am not doing it now.
When I left you, darling, I thought it would be longer than a year. But now, at least, the war is over and the end is in sight. Perhaps it will be no longer than a year until I am back. My darling, you are the dearest person to me on this earth. Your F. M.
December 26, 1945. On board USS LSM 5 at Saipan. Darling, It’s going on 1:00 AM and I have just come on watch. I really shouldn’t be sleepy because last night I had 11 straight hours of sleep. The officers loosened up for once and allowed us to sleep in because it was Christmas. We all took advantage of it. I don’t think anyone got up until 11:00 AM just in time to eat Christmas dinner.
We had a swell Christmas dinner. We had turkey and every thing to0 go with it with mince pie and ice cream for dessert. In the afternoon I went down to the recreation area and saw the play “Kiss and Tell.” It was an outdoor theater and it was kind of hard to hear. Otherwise it was good. After the show we had beer and cokes. I gave my beer away but I drank three cokes.
Then I went down to the beach to see how it was for swimming. I didn’t have my bathing suit but it seemed that about half the fellows were going swimming without them so I went too. The water was cool, seemed almost cold at first. Down in the Philippines the water always felt warm. This is much better. It makes swimming more fun. Have you ever been swimming on Christmas day? It was the first time I ever did.
The recreation area closed about 5:00 PM so I came on back to the ship and went back to the Red Cross hut later at night. They had a sort of a party there. There was lemonade, sandwiches, coffee, donuts and ice cream for refreshments. Santa gave each of us a little package containing candy and cigarettes. So I gave my cigarettes away but I’m about to make myself sick eating the candy. We had a community singing and a few fellow sang solos.
A good time.
What did you do for Christmas? Was Bob and Chick there? What presents did you get? Did you get my message? It was sent by radio from Guam to Pearl Harbor. I guess it went telegraph from there. Wish I could have been with you. We’ll be together for all our future Christmases. It has been two weeks since I have gotten a letter from you. It is because I transferred to another ship, I guess. Soon I will begin to get mail again, I hope. All my love, F. M.
December 26, 1945. On board USS LSM 5 at Saipan. My Darling, I had liberty again this afternoon. I’m having more liberty now than I’ve ever had. I really had a good time this afternoon. We took sandwiches and CocaColas and went for a picnic and sight seeing tour of the island. We used a G. I. pickup truck for transportation. The weather was just right. Not too hot, about 80 degrees. And a nice cool breeze was blowing. First we rode along the old invasion beach. It was full of shell holes with old 6 inch shells lying around everywhere. There were holes everywhere and wrecked pill boxes. It really isn’t too safe to fool around the beach even now for some of the old ammunition or mines might still explode. We didn’t get off the truck or take the truck off the road.
We are told that when our forces invaded Saipan they took the Japs by surprise by invading on the side of the island least fortified. We rode across the mountain to the other side of the island. There were rows and rows of pillboxes with 6 inch guns sticking out of them. Everything seemed to be in good condition on that side. The Japs never had a chance to use this armament. We got out and inspected some of it.
We had our picnic on a nice beach on the opposite side of the island from where we are docked. There were rolling waves coming in and crashing onto a reef. Inside the reef was a little lagoon ideal for swimming. Up the beach a little ways was a wrecked sub-chaser ship on the rocks. It had been washed up there during a hurricane, or typhoon as they are called over here.
There was an old two man life raft washed up on the beach so I used it to boat around the lagoon. I rigged a sail by holding up an old piece of plywood I found on the beach. It didn’t sail very good and I kept washing ashore with the wind and the waves. So I pushed the raft way out to the edge of the reef into deep water about a block from the shore. I was going to ride the raft in to shore with the onshore wind and waves. But lo and behold, when I got on board the raft I found we were moving against the wind, not coming ashore but going further out into the bay. The tide was carrying me out. I was perfectly safe as long as I stuck with the raft but I didn’t want to be carried way out from shore not knowing how to get back. So I let the raft go and jumped overboard to swim back to shallow water. I was swimming against the tide but after some vigorous swimming I got back through the reef into shallow water. I watched the current carry the life raft way out into the bay, but after a while it was washed back in to shore at another point on the beach. So much for the currents around a lagoon.
After that little adventure, we decided to go investigate the ship on the rocks.
We had to climb down ropes from a cliff and wade through waist deep water to get to the ship. The ship was in good condition. It was just sitting in such shallow water that it was rolled way over on one side. It just made my heart bleed to see such a beautiful ship laying there going to waste. It could be salvaged, I thought, but at great expense. The Navy had already salvaged some equipment from the ship. The radio and radar gear were gone and everything else of value except a few odds and ends. There were still lots of things scattered around the deck. I picked up some radio parts. I could have picked up 20 or 30 gas masks, but what would I do with them. There were steel helmets, ammunition belts, pack sacks, etc. laying around. I picked up a little side bag that officers carry. There was lots of good bedding laying around and books by the score. We got about 50 books for our ship’s library and I also got a good sheet for my bunk. Our ship’s Bos’n Mate who was with us got lots of rope and block and tackle to use on our ship.
Then we went back to the truck and started back to the ship. On the way back we rode right up to the top of the highest mountain on the island and saw the mansion that the commanding general built there. It is at an elevation of 1500 feet and it was so cool up there it seemed almost cold. It was a beautiful home of modern design with glass walls all the way around so none of the view was wasted. There was a beautiful sloping lawn and a two car garage. You never can tell what you will find out here.
It was a most enjoyable afternoon. Darling, I’ll be glad when we are together and can have good times together. All my love, F. M.
December 27, 1945. On board USS LSM 5 at Saipan. My Darling, We still aren’t fully loaded and ready to go to Marcus Island. I guess we will hang around here for a week yet. I don’t mind because it is pretty nice here. Liberty every other day and picnics with swimming, hiking, or whatever we want to do. Today I really loafed. I had a watch this morning but there was nothing to do. This afternoon I slept all afternoon. I had a full night’s sleep last night but I slept this afternoon like I hadn’t had any sleep at all. Now I am back on watch until midnight.
Wish I would get some mail. I have not had a single letter since I left the other ship. Are you receiving my letters regularly, darling? I’ll bet it’s plenty cold in Chicago now. And how is your work? Still interesting, I hope. And how are your father and brothers? And how are you, sweetheart? You aren’t getting any more colds or attacks of the flu are you? You know what? I wish I was back in the States and we were married and settled somewhere. Then I could take care of you myself and see that you didn’t get sick.
Stay as sweet as you are. F. M.
December 28, 1945. On Board USS LSM 5 at Saipan. My Darling, Finally we are loaded and I think we are going to pull out for Marcus Island this afternoon. We expect it to be pretty rough so I guess lots of us will be slightly sea sick. It doesn’t bother me nearly so much as it used to. It will take us about three days to get to Marcus. I hope it is nice and cool up there. It should be for it is about 600 miles north of here.
Well, darling, I’m not nearly so downhearted now as when I got kicked off the “53." I think I’m about to get adjusted to the “5." It is much better aboard the “5" than it was aboard the “53.” Just think, the officers actually arranged so we could take sight seeing tours of the island and have picnics on the swimming beaches.
Honey chile, have you seen any nice house trailers for sale lately. Don’t you think it would be kinda fun to live in something like that right after we are married, while I am in school anyway. Probably that will be what we will have to do because the housing situation is so bad. If we had a trailer we probably couldn’t haul it around because we won’t be rich enough to buy a car. But we could get it located and use it as a semi-permanent house. And with a trailer, we wouldn’t have to buy any furniture much for the trailer furniture is built-in. It would be small but I’m interested in having you close anyway.
From all present outlooks I will have several hundred dollars saved up besides my war bonds and I will receive my mustering out pay. Practically all I make is being saved now, for there isn’t anything to spend money for out here. I should be able to make as much in part time work as I will receive from the government. And If we are careful, we can get along on that for awhile, I think.
Now, Mrs. Perry, I’ll sign off for now. Pardon me for calling you Mrs. Perry. I haven’t any right to until after the ceremony, but you do belong to me now. We both know that. The ceremony will just be the way to let everyone else know, and the happy day that my dreams come true. Until then, I love you. F. M.
December 31, 1945. On board USS LSM 5 at Marcus Island. My Darling, Well here we are at Marcus on the last day of the year. We got here about 11:00 AM this morning and proceeded to come in to put our bow on the beach. About 50 yards from the shore we hit a reef and as we reached the beach we sank! That’s right, our dear old ship is now sunk in about 10 feet of water right next to the beach. The bow is up on the beach as it should be but the stern is completely submerged. The engine room has water up to the ceiling. Here is how it all happened.
Marcus Island is a very small island, shaped like an equilateral triangle and measuring only a mile on each side. It has no harbor at all, only one little opening in the reef that surrounds it. As we neared the island an army sergeant, called the pilot, came out to the ship to show us the way through the opening in the reef. We got through the opening all right but we couldn’t stick to the channel. It was too narrow. The channel was just barely wider than our ship. We were probably just going too fast. We strayed too far to the starboard and hit rocks on the starboard side, bang, bang, bang, and there were three holes in the hull at the engine room below the water line. We were almost beached so our momentum carried us over the reef and up to shore. The engine room filled with water in less time than it takes to say “skat.” The stern settled on the bottom. So far the water is only in the engine room which is amidship. No water has gotten into the crew’s compartment nor the aft compartments. So our personal effects are still dry.
I don’t know what will happen now. We will probably be here for quite a long time. They are going to try to pump the water out of the engine room long enough to weld a piece of steel over the holes in the hull. Then I suppose another ship will come and tow us back to a dry dock at Guam, possibly. Of course, all our engines are dead, the electrical power is dead, there is no ventilation on the ship, no drinking water, in short, nothing. We are getting drinking water from the beach and a small motor generator set is furnishing us with a little electrical power for a few lights for the men to see how to work. Tonight I will take my bunk out on the beach and sleep for there is no ventilation in our quarters.
More about Marcus Island itself. It is a coral island, formed by volcanic lava, sticking up just a few feet above the ocean, the top of a great undersea mountain, I guess. It is just big enough for an airfield. A Japanese possession, the Japanese developed it for air traffic across the Pacific. Most of the traffic comes in by air. The pilots will not attempt to come here when the weather is bad for they fear they might not find the island. It is hundreds of miles from any other airplane landing place. I don’t see any trees on the island at all. There is a little grass growing in the sand. All along the beach are Jap fortifications, tank traps, and revetments. I’m glad we didn’t have to capture this before the war was over for it would have been a very bloody battle. There are Jap barges laying all over the beaches, and Jap buildings in all stages of decay. I am told that we used to shell the island from big ships back in 1943 but we never attempted to take the island. It was surrendered after the war was over. So this is where we are stuck on the beach. However, it is under U. S. operation now as a busy airfield en route to Japan. I am eating meals in the airfield mess hall now.
But I can probably mail letters out to you. It is cool, about 70 degrees. That is very nice. Keep writing. I’ll get the letters someday. Tomorrow will be a new year and a great year for us, darling. Will write more later. All my love, F. M.
January 2, 1945. On the beach alongside the disabled USS LSM 5 at Marcus Island. My Darling, Here we rest. Today we are just getting the ship unloaded. Most of us worked most of the night last night unloading cargo. (There are no Jap prisoners here to do this work.) It was horrible work. A strong wind was blowing and many of the cement bags were burst. We wore goggles and handkerchiefs tied around our faces but it didn’t help much. I have such a lung full of cement it seems I can feel it down in my lungs. It has given me a bad cold. We never in the world will get all the cement washed off of us.
The work of repairing the ship is about to begin. Most of u think it is a hopeless job. We are trying to stop up the holes in the bottom. If we can do that a sea going tug can come and tow us back to Saipan or Guam. We are the only ship here at Marcus now. The only other sea going equipment here are two small boats and an amphibious truck. If we can’t stop up the holes, we may try to tow the ship back as it is with the engine room flooded. It will float that way. If we get the ship to Guam we can put it in dry dock and have a complete overhaul of the two big diesel engines and the engine-generator. That will take at least a month or longer. I’m not sure the equipment will be any good even then.
So I can’t say what will happen. Some Navy official is flying up from Guam now to investigate the possibilities. One immediate possibility is to de-commission the ship where it is. It could be hauled up on the beach and dismantled or taken out to sea and sunk. But I think we will probably take the ship to Saipan or Guam and dismantle it there.
I am still living in a little shack on the beach. I could stay on the ship but there is no ventilation in the crew’s compartment. I can still get into the communication room to use the typewriter as I am doing now. It is really cold out there at night. It rained in on me last night. I’ll have to fix that tonight. We are eating chow in the mess hall at the airbase now. It is pretty good. There are about 1,000 men on the base, some Army, some Navy, and some Marines. A Navy Captain is commanding officer. The base is maintained solely for the airfield. About three big air transports come in daily.
Darling, I’m still dreaming of you when I have time to dream. All my love, F. M.
January 4, 1945. On the beach alongside disabled USS LSM 5 at Marcus Island. My Darling, We are still in the same fix. We have made no headway as yet toward repairing the ship. We are eating chow at the mess hall on the beach. The ship is all cleaned up from the cement that came out of the broken cement bags. There is supposed to be a tug or repair ship on its way up here to take us back to Saipan or Guam. No telling how long it will take. And there is no mail. It has been almost a month since I have had any letters from you. Seems like a year.
It is really cold here. I had to sleep under three blankets last night. And in the day we have to keep our sleeves rolled down to keep warm. Now what do you think of that? Yesterday I had K. P. at the base mess hall. If have to furnish some of the K. P.s if we eat there. It was only for a day and I had all I could eat.
That just about sums up our position to date. I went to the island movie last night. The picture was “Along Came Jones” with Gary Cooper. It was about a cowboy who almost gets himself killed for the love of a woman. These women, they sure are a nuisance!! Wish my woman was with me now so she could be more of a nuisance.
Big airliners come in all day. Some are from the States going to Japan and some from Japan going to the States. The only ladies ever on the island are a few that come in and out on the planes. There are about 1,000 men on the island, Army, Navy, and Marines. They all live in the same camp and eat in the same mess hall. Darling, I love you, F. M.
January 5, 1945. On the beach alongside USS LSM 5 at Marcus Island. My Darling, Gee, I wish I could get some mail. We are all in the same fix. No mail until we get back to Guam and that may be a long time. I’ll keep writing to you because my mail goes out from here O. K. I used to keep a diary in Alaska. The Navy did not allow that while the war was going on. I had to turn in my diary when I left Alaska. It was supposed to be put in storage for me until after the war. I made inquiry by letter about it a short while ago and received word that they couldn’t find it. I knew that might happen. I could keep a diary now that the war is over. But, I will just write my diary in my letters to you.
We are still in the same fix here. Nothing we have tried has worked and the engine room is still flooded. We are still sitting on the beach. Today an expert on ship repair came up to Marcus by plane to survey our damage. We don’t know yet what he will report. We may yet be able to fix the holes well enough to get back to Guam. There is supposed to be a tug coming to pick us up.
Last night the LSM 428 came in sight over the horizon. We have been looking for it for some time. It has more cargo for Marcus. That LSM has been here seven times, I am told, and they are experts at landing on this beach. But I hear that they knocked a hole in their hull on one trip. Anyway, they can’t beach now and unload their cargo because we have the only beach slot filled up and we can’t move. They have to sit offshore and wait or unload into small boats. They have difficulty anchoring because a few yards off shore the water is too deep for anchoring. Closer in it is too close to the reef and if the ship drags anchor in rough seas it may end up on the reef. ( The underwater approach to Marcus Island are the steep sides of an undersea mountain.) I imagine they are wishing they could unload and get out of here.
There are probably no small boats here capable of unloading the LSM. A couple of days ago one of the small boats the island has here ( a 50 foot LCM) got away. I don’t think I told you about it. Another small boat, an amphibious truck, went out to get it. They found the boat and put a man aboard. But he could start only one of the engines and the rudder wouldn’t work. All he could do was drift with the wind and he was drifting even further from the island. So he got back in the amphibious truck and abandoned further effort. Later that night a larger patrol vessel, a PC boat that was tied up here, went out to look for it. They found it about 25 miles away. They couldn’t get a tow line connected to it because the sea was too rough. So they sunk it with gunfire to keep it from being a hazard to navigation. The one other small boat here got knocked into the reef the same day and received a hole in its bottom. They dragged it up on the beach to save it. So they are really having a hard time with their small boats.
You should see the planes that come in here. It makes your heart glad.
Big DC-4 passenger planes, PBY flying boats that can land on dry land as well as water, and a few C-47's (although this island is supposed to be out of range of most C-47s), and today several Lockheed passenger planes came in. All of them are flying the Pacific to or from the States. Just think, when this war started only one airline was flying Pacific routes and to span the Pacific was a great feat. Now there are several flights a day all the way across. I wish I could come home by plane. That would be the fastest and nicest way to travel.
Darling, How are you these days? You must continue to be careful not to get sick. I love you very much. F. M.
January 6, 1946. On the beach at Marcus Island alongside disabled USS LSM 5. My Darling, Here it is Sunday again. Everything is quiet here. No one on the base works today except, of course, the cooks. It is very cloudy and raining. I am having a hard time keeping my cot dry in the little shack on the beach. It is open almost all the way around and th rain comes in very easily. It is a little warmer than it has been.
There are three big transport planes sitting up on the runway besides numerous other Navy planes. I guess the weather is bad all over our Pacific area and they are sitting on the ground until it clears up. There are three other ships here now besides our disabled LSM, the LSM 428 waiting to be unloaded, and two PC Boats.
We got our movie machine working last night (despite our ship’s condition). I saw “A Bell for Adano.” It was very, very good. You should go see it when you get a chance. I had already read the book and the movie was better the book. It is about the occupation of Italy. I recently saw the movie “Marriage is a Private Affair.” I don’t recommend it. Now we have a choice of two movies each night. The movie we have aboard our own ship or the movie at the base. I sure do get to see a lot of movies. Darling, it seems like centuries since I’ve seen your lovely face. All my love, F. M.
Note: A letter seems to be missing dated January 7 or 8, 1946. In it I must have written about the LSM 5 being pulled off the beach by a tug and tied up to a buoy offshore. It floated just a little deeper than usual with the engine room flooded, but it was sea worthy to float safely. Then the USS LSM 428 was beached without mishap in the place where the LSM 5 had met its doom. The crew from the LSM 5 were taken aboard the LSM 428 to live in the compartment designed for troop passengers. That is, all of the LSM 5 crew except 4 men who are still living on the deck of the LSM 5 to handle the tow lines. Those four men have an army field stove on deck with them on which to prepare their meals. I don’t envy them, they are very isolated with no way to get off until another vessel takes them off. They are awaiting departure by towing to go back to Saipan. FMP.
January 9, 1945. On board USS LSM 428 at Marcus Island. Mu darling sweetheart, I’m still living aboard the LSM 428. I’m glad I wasn’t aboard the LSM 5 last night. The four men aboard had a rough night. About 9:00 PM a stiff onshore wind came up and the disabled ship broke away from her moorings. I don’t see how the drifting ship missed hitting the reef but she did. It was dark and I did not know the ship was adrift. I trust the tug crew noticed right away. In a short while the ship had drifted far out to sea. The tug and the repair ship both went after the drifting ship. Abut day break this morning they were back. The tug had the LSM 5 under tow with a big rope. The sea is too rough for the ships to anchor or tie up anywhere so they are just “steaming” around and around the area waiting for calmer weather.
All I want to do is get back to you, my sweetheart. All my love, F. M.
January 11. 1946. On board the USS LSM 428 on the beach at Marcus Island. My Darling, It’s beginning to get a little monotonous here. We are living aboard the LSM 428. It is still on the beach being unloaded. When it pulls out for Saipan in a day or two I suppose we will go with it. Our ship, the “5," isn’t in sight today. I think I told you about its breaking away from its moorings. The tug had to go out and pick it up. It is still too rough to tie up so they are sailing around in circles. It seems silly. They could have been half way to Saipan by now.
I’ll be glad when I’m out of this Navy. It’s too much like being in jail. Well, I’ve only got about three more months of this life and I’ll be out for good. April 1st should see me on the way home for discharge. It has been a long, long time since I got any mail. Has Bob and Chick gotten home yet? Bert should be home but I haven’t heard. And my folks were planning to move the first of the year. I don’t know if they did or not. Darling, I hope you are well and have not let the old Chicago weather get you down any more. How is your father? I guess he is still working as regular as clockwork. I love you. F. M.
January 12, 1946. On board the USS LSM 428 on the beach at Marcus Island. Hello Darling, Actually the LSM 5 has already started back for Saipan. After it broke loose from its moorings and the tug took it in tow, they decided to go on to Saipan. I’m still aboard the “428" and we will start for Saipan about noon today. In Saipan I will go back aboard the “5" either to help repair it or to dismantle it, whichever they decide to do.
And Darling, I should have oodles of mail waiting for me back in Saipan. Here’s hoping there are 20 or 30 letters from you. Darling, I love you. F. M.
January 13, 1946. On board the USS LSM 428 at Marcus Island. My
Darling, The “5" ought to be pulling in to Saipan about now but we are still here at Marcus. We were planning to leave at noon yesterday but as we soon as we got off the beach we got a request from some divers to help them in a job they were doing. They were trying to pick up an oil pipe lying offshore in about 30 feet of water. So we stayed over until today helping them. We are finally leaving at about twilight.
It has been nice and cool here. Guess it will be much warmer in Saipan. Here’s hoping we fix up the LSM 5 and start back for the State soon. If we don’t repair the “5" I doubt if I’ll get to come home for a couple more months.
I love you, sweet. It will soon be a year since I last saw you. All my love, F. M.
January 126, 1946. On board USS LSM 221 at Saipan. My Darling, Here I am finally back at Saipan. The LSM 5 is now in dry dock. I came down from Marcus on the “428" and here in Saipan I was transferred to live on the “221.” But LSM 5 is still my ship and still my address. Keep writing to the LSM 5.
Darling, I finally got some of the mail that is due me. I got a letter from Marge Zini dated way back in November. She told me about you being sick and not able to write. I heard about that from you already. My transfer from ship to ship has made all my mail go haywire. I got two letters from Mama, one from Gilbert Dimetral who is now back in the States and a civilian, and 4 or 5 letters from you, sweet, plus your wonderful Christmas card.
I learned that Papa has already been transferred to Cleveland, Ohio and Mama plans to go up to Cleveland as soon as Bert gets home. I guess Papa is still trying to get transferred to Nashville because the girls have their jobs there and don’t want to leave. Dick wants to keep going to Lipscomb. So I don’t know how it will work out finally. Mama says she is definitely coming to our wedding and probably the rest of the family will also if they can get off from work, etc. Now, we just need to set the date, but I guess that’s impossible right now.
I’m glad you got my cablegram. I couldn’t say just anything but had to pick from fixed texts. Guess you could call it a radio-cable-gram because it went by each of those systems in turn. Now darling, why should you get all excited and in a whirlpool? I guess it was exciting to have Bob home for Christmas. And I know he is really happy to be there.
I’m just tickled pink with my Christmas present, darling. I just have one civilian suit left at home and it is brown. I’m looking forward to the time I can pick some more. Thank you so much, sweetheart. Sure, darling, you can learn to swim. I can’t swim any great distance. But it’s not hard to learn. I go swimming very often over here.
I haven’t heard from Vanderbilt yet but I wrote a letter of inquiry to them about an Engineering course. But I’m worrying about getting home first. Gotta git my gal and git hitched. Darling, I love you. F. M. P. S. Tell Marge it really was nice to hear from her. She is one of my favorite persons.
January 18, 1946. On board USS LSM 221 at Saipan. Hello Darling, I’m just beginning to realize that you must have been awfully sick. I just got two more letters from you yesterday. My mail has been so slow getting to me that you had been well for a long time before I learned that you were sick. Are you sure that you are all well completely? But from the tone of your last letter you must be getting fat and sassy again.
The “5" is still in dry dock and I am still aboard the “221.” The latest word is that the “5" will be salvaged either in Saipan or Guam. It won’t be going back to the States. So I will be transferred to another ship or shore station.
Today I had Shore Patrol duty at the recreation center here at Saipan. Our ship has to furnish the shore patrol for one day because we use the recreation area so often. So my job was to keep order at one of the docks where the small boats come and discharge the liberty parties. Was I disappointed; no one was disorderly. Only a few boats came in and all I had to do was sit all day. It was tiresome.
Every other day we get liberty and I usually go to the recreation area, drink a couple of cokes and go swimming. Maybe go over to the Red Cross hut.
They have a piano there. I don’t play it. But there was a sailor there the other day who could really play, all the classics. I really enjoyed hearing him play. Let’s see, sweetheart. your birthday comes next month, sometime in the middle of the month, isn’t it? You haven’t told me the exact date, or else I haven’t received the letter yet. All my love, F. M.
January 19, 1946. On board USS LSM 221 at Saipan awaiting USS LSM 5 repair. Dearest Lovie, How is my sweetheart today? I see by the Navy News that the temperature in Chicago has been hanging well below freezing for the last few day. Have you been cold? Remember how we used to freeze waiting for the streetcar? Remember how we hustled along when I was taking you home at night? It was always nice and warm at your house. That was my last chance to get warm before the long drafty trip back to Navy Pier on the streetcar.
Today I went to the Recreation Hall and saw another stage play. It was really good but I don’t know what the name of it was. Grant Mitchell, the elderly movie star, took the lead. It was about a New England doctor and his family and their adventures with a bunch of artists and their paintings.
Went swimming for a little while today. Had to take calisthenics this morning. It was the first time for that in a long time so it will probably make me sore. The officers don’t want us too get to much out of shape. Now I’m on watch until midnight as I was last night. The only other thing I did all day was eat three meals and they weren’t extraordinary. The only thing wrong with this life is it is monotonous. There is a rumor going around that they are going to get us all back to the States 45 days before time for our discharge. That means I would have to reach the States in February. Sounds pretty far fetched. I’m not going to believe anything because I don’t want to be disappointed again. All my love, F. M.
January 20, 1946. On board USS LSM 221 at Saipan awaiting USS LSM 5 repair. My Darling, Got one letter from you today dated January 10 so you see this is just10 days. That not so bad under the circumstances. I’m glad that Chick is home now. So you have all your family home again except this member of your new family. Bert is probably home by now. So now I am the only one left to get home. That’s me, always late!
I understand that all the Navy men with two years service will be discharged. Well I have two years service this week, but the discharges won’t start until April and by then I get discharged on points anyway.
Are Chick and Bob having a hard time finding civilian clothes to wear. I hear that some places in the States the boys just can’t buy civilian suits. And I also hear that white shirts aren’t to be had right now. Oh well, if I could be discharged, I’d wear overalls. I went swimming again this afternoon. I’ve got to get real good at it because I want to teach you well. If we have our honeymoon in late spring or the summer we can go somewhere that the swimming is good. O. K? I’m still hoping for a honeymoon in April so we can go to the mountains, the Rockies or the Pacific Northwest where the skiing is good. They ski there until late spring and even into summer.
Guess your Dad is really happy to have all of you at home again. Mama writes that she feels a little sad cause probably all our family will never be home for long at one time again. But I wrote that you and I will see her often.
Darling, here’s all my love. F. M.
January 21, 1946. Aboard USS LSM 5 at Saipan. My Darling, I really am on the “5" today. We left the “221" and came on back to our ship. It is out of dry dock and beached. The most of the holes in the bottom are repaired and we have an auxiliary generator giving us enough power to have all our regular facilities such as water, lights, ventilation, etc. So it is just like it used to be except we can’t get underway. Our main engines and generator are still very must out of order. I guess it is definite that we are going to be towed down to Guam and there be decommissioned. At the rate we are going it will be April before we are decommissioned and I will be ready to come home.
They are having an investigation now to determine the cause of the accident we had at Marcus Island. The captain may get court marshaled. I hope not. But he was in charge and accountable. It is good to be back on my own ship.
It is a warm day here at Saipan, about 85 degrees. At night it goes down to about 70 degrees. It’s nice. It was cooler in Marcus. Wish I could be in Chicago and enjoy some of that really cold weather. What did Bob think of the cold weather when he got home? It was the first cold he had seen in a long, long time. I’m going to try to get liberty tonight to see a stage show. I’ll let you know about it. I love you, lovely lady, F. M.
January 23, 1946. On board USS LSM. 5 at Saipan. Sweetheart, I got another letter from you today. Oh, it was three letters in one. It sure is wonderful to hear you tell me you love me and want me back so much. Darling, I’m glad you got the coat you wanted. I wish I could be there now to see you in it. I hope it is a warm coat because I know how cold it gets in windy Chicago.
Everything aboard ship is just about normal again (except, of course, our engines won’t run). I think we are to be towed to Guam soon to decommission the ship. Then we will all be put ashore and/or distributed to other ships. Today is pay day. I am drawing more than $200.00. I’m rich! So long for now. All my lover, F. M.
January 24, 1946. On board USS LSM. 5 at Saipan (c/o F.P.O. San Francisco- Saipan.) My Darling, Half the crew went on a picnic today. The other half will go tomorrow. I’ll go tomorrow. It is to be a pretty good affair. Refreshments will be ice cream, sandwiches, cokes, potato chips (that th boy spent all day making), and lots of other stuff. It should be great fun, at least as much fu we can have out here. Now I can’t have much fun without you, darling.
A night or two ago I went to see a stage show, “Petticoat Fever.” It wasn’t much good. But after it was a good movie, “Johnny Angee.” And last night here on our ship I saw the movie “Kiss and Tell.” It was good and very much like the stage play. But even with all the shows and movies things are awfully monotonous.
Darling, I see pictures of these portable houses in all the magazines and they are really nice. Reckon we might have to have something like that ourselves at first. A trailer is very much like a portable house except not as large. I see in the magazines and papers that the colleges are becoming very crowded with veterans and their wives. The colleges are sponsoring housing projects so the students can have some place to live. At one college there is a large village of trailers. At another, a whole dormitory has been turned over to married students. Another was erecting portable houses in a little village near the school. So it looks like that is what we’ll be living in, sure enough.
But anywhere with my darling wife will be heaven. I love you so much, F.M.
January 26, 1946. On board USS LSM 5 at Saipan. My Darling, Got another letter from you yesterday dated January 8. So you think you could stand to live in a trailer. Too bad we can’t get a car, then we could take car and trailer on our honeymoon and really have a good time.
Now, sweet, you don’t have to worry about taking a bath in a trailer. The larger ones have built in bath tubs or showers. But, of course, the water connection is made to an outside source. The smaller trailers depend on the facilities for bathing and showering at the camp grounds where one stops.
Now, on our trailer house, if it doesn’t have a bath I will build one in myself. If worse comes to worse, darling, .... well!! Haven’t you ever bathed in a washtub? There was a time in our family when that was the only way. Oh, it’s not so nice, but it works.
Darling, I have been thinking. I will have about $800 or $900 saved up in bonds and money. If we buy a regular factory built trailer, new or even used, it will take every bit of the money. Now, if we could find a second hand “home-built” trailer it would come cheaper. I’m glad you are keeping your eyes open, darling. You can never tell when a good thing will turn up.
Darling, you are wonderful. I love you. I love your disposition, your personality, and your ideals, and your aim in life, and I just love you. Your F. M.
January 28, 1946. On board USS LSM 5 at Saipan. My Darling, Got another letter from you today dated 16 January. Not bad service. There is scuttlebutt that we will be transferred soon. We are doing absolutely nothing here now but sitting around waiting.
I have liberty this afternoon but I have to be the Shore Patrol. I hate that. Probably means I can’t go swimming. By the way, last night I saw the picture with Esther Williams and Van Johnson, the one where she teaches him to swim. All I can say is that Van sure learned to swim quick. With a teacher like that he should have been a slow learner, I think!!! I’m looking forward to teaching you to swim, darling. It really is very easy if you relax and are not afraid of the water, as was pointed out in the movie. I love you. F. M.
January 29, 1946. On board USS LSM. 5 at Saipan. Darling, Right now there is a Commodore and several other high ranking officers aboard out ship making an inquiry and inspection to decide what will happen to us in the immediate future. I don’t know, but it will probably be as we figured, that is, the ship will be decommissioned and salvaged at Guam.
Darling, I’m as happy as I can be about our plans. I’ll come to Chicago straight from the West Coast, if I can. Then we can make the final arrangements for our wedding. If I am a civilian, I’ll need to get come civilian clothes. Maybe there will be a chance for me to run down to Nashville to get some things I might want to take along on our honeymoon. We should be safely married within a week or so after I get there and then we will scoot away on our honeymoon. Then we’ll decide what next, work or school, or another honeymoon. Darling, I love you so much more than I can say. F. M.
January 31, 1946. On board USS LSM. 5 at Saipan. My Darling, Here it is another afternoon and I am going on liberty again. Guess I’ll go swimming again. There’s nothing else to do. A couple of nights ago I went to see a stage variety show. It was really good. “Jack Cavaugh Varieties” was the name of the show. Jack was the master of ceremonies and half the show himself. He is an old man who has been in show business since before the last war. Then there was a fellow who played the harmonica, another who played the electric guitar and directed the G. I. orchestra. He used to be with Harry James Orchestra. There was a magician who was really good. Oh, of course, there were some girls in it. One lady singer and piano player from Chicago. A little girl dancer, and last but not least, a beautiful set of triplets. You may have heard them on the “Hour of Charm” or you may have seen them in the movie “Here Come the Coeds.” They have good voices. Last night I saw a very good movie too, “The Affairs of Susan.” It was a scream! Darling, wish I was going to these shows with you.
The big shot Navy officers came aboard a few day ago and still we don’t know exactly what is going to happen to us. It looks like we will be just sitting around here until we get enough points to go home. We are giving away our equipment to whichever ship has need of it. It seems a shame to be sitting here doing nothing when we could be having such a good time at home.
You should get this about the time of your birthday. I wish you a happy birthday. Wish I could be there to give you a gift, a kiss, and a hug. Darling, there are no birthday cards around here, so forgive me for not sending you one. I love you. F. M.
February 2, 1946. On board USS LSM. 5 at Saipan. Hi Darling, I have gotten many letters from you in the last few days. I got five from you yesterday. I went swimming again today but even that is getting monotonous. I see a show every night but I wish there was something else I could do for a change. I have a Jap rifle and a Jap bayonet that I am sending home in a few days. I’ll show them to you when I get home. The rifle is pretty good quality and I wouldn’t be afraid to use it for hunting if I could get ammunition for it. But I hate to shoot a high powered rifle for it makes me deaf for a long time afterwards. I have my little 22 caliber rifle at home that doesn’t make much noise.
I received an answer to my letter to the Seattle U. S. Engineer Office regarding employment there. They said about what I expected them to say, that is, since I was employed by the Alaskan Department I should make my inquiries there. So today I got a letter off to the Alaska office asking about re-employment possibilities there. They may answer that I resigned my job and am not eligible for re-employment. But, I resigned only because I was about to be drafted, so that may make a difference. They may offer me a job. If they do, darling, how would you like to live in Alaska after our honeymoon? Maybe we could live in Fairbanks and go to the University of Alaska. This is probably a far fetched possibility. I’ve also written for information about other jobs in Chicago, parts of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and I don’t know where else. Yes, I have been writing quite a few letters. We’ll see what answers I get. In the meantime, darling, I think of you constantly. I love you. F. M.
February 5, 1946. On board USS LSM. 5 at Saipan. My Dearest, We are still sitting here doing nothing. And the end is not in sight, except that I should get moved towards discharge in April. Darling, the subsistence for married students going to school under the G. I. Bill has been increased from $75.00 per month to $90.00 per month. Isn’t that nice? Of course, it still isn’t very much but I think we can manage with that and what I can earn on the side.
Darling, I was overjoyed the other day to find an overseas edition of Wordsworth’s poems. You know, he must have felt about some woman just about what I feel about you for he made one of his best poems about her.
She was a phantom of delight
When first she gleamed upon my sight;
A lovely apparition, sent
To be a moment’s ornament;
Her eyes as stars of twilight fair;
Like twilight’s too, her dusky hair;
But all things else about her drawn
From May-time and the cheerful dawn;
A dancing shape, an image gay,
To haunt, to startle, and way-lay.
I saw her upon nearer view,.
A spirit, yet a woman too!
Her household motions light and free,
And steps of virgin liberty;
A countenance in which did meet
Sweet records, promises as sweet;
A creature not too bright or good
For human nature’s daily food;
For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears and smiles.
And now I see with eye serene
The very pulse of the machine;
A being breathing thoughtful breath,
A traveler between life and death;
The reason firm, the temperate will,
Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill;
A perfect woman, nobly, planned,
To warn, to comfort, and command;
And yet a spirit still, and bright
With something of angelic light.
He is just about my favorite poet. I guess I like the poems “My heart leaps up when I behold,” and “I wandered lonely as a cloud” (or the real name of the latter is “The Daffodils”) the best of all except the one above. I love you. F. M.
February 7, 1946. On board USS LSM. 5 at Saipan. My Darling, I got two lovely letters from you today. Two swell morale boosters. (Note th spelling of “morale,” honey. Oh, that’s all right, I probably misspell plenty of words myself. Just couldn’t keep from ribbing you.)
I just saw the movie, “The Great John L,” for the second time. I like it. Don’t know why, I just do.
Today we were told that most of us will leave the “5" in about a week. A few will stay to help decommission it. I may stay and I may go. I don’t know yet. If I leave, no doubt I will go to the receiving station here at Saipan. From there I may go to another ship, to a shore station, or I may just sit doing nothing much. They could send me home, but that is hardly possible as they just don’t send people home until their points are completed. So we will be patient until April. (Darling, I won’t be patient because I can’t be. Not with my lovely lady waiting for me.)
The typewriter that I often use to write with was given away to another ship so I just have to use long hand now. I love you, darling. I like to say it and I like for you to know it. F. M.
February 10, 1946. On board USS LC(FF) 370 at Saipan. My Darling, I’ve only been on my new ship one day but I know just about how its going to be. Not so bad. I will probably have plenty of work to do. There are about 8 radio transmitters and about 8 radio receivers, not to mention the radar and a few other electronic things. Some of th stuff I have never worked with before so I will have to learn it.
We are anchored near the beach where the “5" is beached. So I went over to the “5" last night and got my mail. I had a letter from you and a letter from Mama. I have jut found out that Bert is home and is going to enter Lipscomb next month. I was hoping he would do that. Mama is going to move to Cleveland about April 1st when the lease on the house is up. She has already quit working and I’m sure glad of that. She was working too hard I think. The girls will probably go up to Cleveland soon also. But I guess Dick and Bert will both stay at Lipscomb for school.
Mama always tells me about hearing from you, darling, and she really does like to get your letters. When she doesn’t hear from you I think she worries a little cause she asks me if you have been ill or anything.
Wish I could be with you there, honey chile. But it will not be very long now. There is a slight possibility that this ship will go back to the States soon but I’m not counting on it. I’ve had too much experience counting on things and being disappointed. Here’s all my love, darling. F. M.
(Note: Between February 10 and February 12 I was transferred to the U
SS LC(FF) 370. The ship is basically an LCI or “Landing Craft Infantry.” The ship was designed to land infantry troops on the beach. But the LC(FF) is an LCI that has been converted to serve as the flagship of a flotilla of LSMs. This makes it quite a special ship with a lot of electronics aboard so that the Commodore aboard can have good communication with the entire flotilla. The LC(FF) is much smaller than an LSM but it is really more seaworthy than an LSM. Its hull does better in high seas than the flat bottom of the LSM. The LC(FF) has an extra quota of very nice commissioned officer’s quarters. Although I am only a 2nd Class Petty Officer at this time, later to be 1st Class, there are not many commissioned officers aboard and I was given one of the nice ward room type quarters. Good deal!)
February 12, 1946. On board USS LC(FF) 370 at Saipan. My Darling, I’m gradually getting used to my new ship. In fact, it’s settled down to the hum drum already. I have a little more to do now than I had to keep me busy on the “5.” Incidentally, the “5" is still located about 100 feet from us so I can go over every day to get my mail. But there hasn’t been any mail in a couple of days. I ought to be used to going without mail but it’s always a new disappointment when I don’t get any. But, sweetheart, you have certainly been faithful in writing to me. I couldn’t ask any more. As a matter of fact, I don’t see how you find the time to write so often. You are always on the go so much. And the contents of those letters are so wonderful, darling. It is really good for my morale to know that you are so anxiously anticipating my return.
I love you, darling. F. M.
February 16, 1946. On board USS LC(FF) 370 at Saipan. Hello Darling, You remember me telling you about writing to various Radio manufacturers about jobs. Well, yesterday I got my first answer. It’s remarkable my getting an answer so soon for it had been only two weeks since I wrote. But, marvel of marvels, It was a letter offering me a job! Now what do you think of that? It wasn’t a wonderful job in that it pays only 30 to 50 dollars a week. But if I could get the higher $50 a week, I imagine we could manage on that O.K. It’s as a radio technician for Harvey-Wells Electronics Corp. of Southbridge, Massachusetts. Now how would you like to live in Southbridge, wherever that is? It’s probably a suburb of Boston.
Well, I’m not going to answer until I hear from some of the other places I wrote and until I am sure I want to go right to work instead of school. But it sure is nice to know that I can get a job if I want it.
And the Navy announced yesterday that the April 15th point score for discharge will be down to 29 points. That just conforms my belief that I will be start back to the States by April 4th and be discharged by April 25th. So it looks like we can plan pretty definitely on a wedding in May. What a glorious month May will be. I love you sweet. So long for now, darling. F. M.
February 24, 1946. On board USS LC(FF) 370 at Guam. My Darling, Most of the fellows got lots of mail yesterday. But, alas, there was none for me. I guess it just takes a long time for it to be sent to me from the LAM. 5.
Good news, I’ll soon be Radio Technician First Class. I passed the exam O. K. and will be promoted the first of March. That means I will get a little more pay during the last two months that I am in the Navy.
Last night I saw a really good movie, “Our Vines Have Tender Grapes.” The stars were Edward G. Robinson and Margaret O’Brien. You should go see it if you haven’t already.
Guess I will get liberty this afternoon. About the only thing to do is go swimming. And there is certainly a good place to swim. We have been having a holiday routine for the last three days. We just clean up the ship in the morning and take the rest of the day to do whatever we wish to do. But there is another ship anchored close by us that needed some work done on its radio so I had to go over and do the work. So there wasn’t any holiday routine for me that day. But I enjoy doing the work.
Darling, I dreamed about you last night. I’ll tell you about it some other time. All my love, F. M.
February 25, 1946. On board USS LC(FF) 370 at Guam. My Darling, How are you today? Wish I could get some mail from you. I got one letter the other day. It looks like if one letter can get through a lot more could also. Maybe it will come before we leave for the States!
That’s right. This ship is getting ready to pull out for the States. They are screening the ship (to take off those men who don’t have enough points). I will get to stay aboard this time, I hope. They could keep me over here for another month but I don’t think they will.
The nomenclature for my rate has been changed. Instead of “Radio Technician 1st Class” I’ll now be known as “Electronic Technician’s Mate 1st Class.” That is, I’ll be 1st Class Petty Officer on March 1st. Until then I’m still 2nd Class.
That’s about all the news. We may pull out for the States within a week. It is getting hot again. But the nights are cool so it isn’t too bad. I have a nice sun tan, going swimming so often and getting lots of sun even aboard ship. In fact, I am just about black. I hope you like me that way, darling, cause that’s what you are going to get. I love you darling. F. M.
February 26, 1946. On board USS LC(FF) 370 at Guam. My Darling, I’m starting home for sure in the next day or two. They finished screening today and they really stripped most of the men off the ship. But I unusually lucky in being among the few who get to stay aboard and come home with the ship. The latest news is that we may leave as early as tomorrow. So I’m trying to get this letter mailed now because we may not be able to dispatch anything else until we get to Pearl Harbor.
I guess we will leave without me catching up on all my back mail. Its been a long time since I have received anything. If we pull out tomorrow, I’ll just have to wait for my mail to catch up with me in the States.
I don’t know if Mama has moved to Cleveland yet or not. Probably not for she was to wait until April 1st. I don’t suppose I’ll have to worry about where to find you. You haven’t moved, have you? I doubt that we will make the States before April 1st because we will probably be detained in Pearl Harbor for a week or two. And then after we get to the West Coast it may be a week or two before I get leave. I’ll send you a telegram from Pearl Harbor, if possible, and then again when I get to the West Coast.
Today most all the men on the ship got transferred. Their replacements are coming aboard. In the meantime there is no one to do any work except myself and a couple of others. This afternoon I did yeoman work typing up transfer records. Then I stood a radio and signalman’s watch. Then I worked on the radar for a while. I have really been busy. To top it all off I dropped a bench on my toe this morning and practically squashed it. It has hurt terribly all day and I have been limping around and grimacing all during work. It knocked the toenail completely off. I squashed the toe once before and now it has happened to the same toe again. It will have little effect on my later life except my toenail will look funny for the next six months. Think you can stand me with a deformed toenail?
I guess I better stop writing now. So long for now. All my love. F. M.
March 9, 1946. On board USS LC(FF) 370 at sea enroute Guam to Pearl Harbor. My Darling, Well, I really am on my way home this time. In fact, right now I am right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean about half way between Guam and Pearl Harbor. So I won’t get to mail this until we get to Pearl Harbor March 16th or 17th. This is really a long trip. We have already been at sea nine days and we have seven or eight days more to Pearl Harbor. We are now located about 200 miles east of Wake Island. We passed close to Wake Island but didn’t see it.
It has been about nine day since I wrote to you, darling. I hope you will forgive me for I have been seasick all that time. Today is the first day that I have felt good. I was beginning to think I was not going to get over it during this trip. But finally I have my sea legs. I have lost some weight but I’ll probably gain it all back during the rest of the trip.
This is the longest sea voyage I have had in one piece. Our engines (we have eight of them) were not in too good shape when we started. Now two of them have stopped and this cuts our speed to about 7 knots. We are getting nowhere fast. One other ship is in convoy with us, an LST repair ship. Today the LST took us in tow. Some of our engines are still running so this helps the LST tow us faster. As a result we are making better time than we were under our own power. This may cut one day off the trip.
Darling, I don’t know when we will get on past Pearl Harbor because we will have to stop there for repairs. Then the trip to the States will take another two weeks. But we will be there eventually. We are longing for liberty in Pearl Harbor. I plan to go in to town and drink about 20 big milk shakes and eat 20 banana splits. I’ll keep you informed about the trip now that I’m up and about. I love you very much. F. M.
March 14, 1946. On board USS LC(FF) 370 at sea enroute Guam to Pearl Harbor. My Darling, Whew! What a trip. We are now 14 days out of Guam and we have another four or five day more. And poor me! I’ve been sea sick again. Looks like I’ll never get over being sea sick. I’m feeling some better today.
We are now being towed by the LST. In fact now, most all of our engines are out. We have eight main engines and only two or three are running. A few days back, in very rough water, our tow line broke. We had to fool around for a full day getting the tow line connected again. That cost us one whole day. Then there are heavy winds and waves against us that keep us from going fast. I’ll be glad when we pull into Pearl and this part of the trip is over. The sea is a little calmer today.
I’ll probably get a pretty good chance to see Honolulu and the beach at Waikiki. For we are likely to stay at Pearl Harbor for some tome getting repaired. There is a church of Christ in Honolulu and I may get to attend there at least once. I’ll be seeing you soon. All my love. F. M.
March 18, 1946. On board USS LC(FF) 370 at sea enroute Guam to Pearl Harbor. My Dearest, Tomorrow we get into Pearl Harbor. I sure will be glad. This has been a long tiresome trip. And I have been sea sick so much. I feel pretty well now but I’ll feel better when we get into the Harbor. We’ll probably be in Pearl Harbor quite a long time. I’ll send you a telegram when we get in. I can’t wait to get in to Honolulu to drink milk shakes, eat banana splits, and finish them off with ice cream sundaes. Isn’t that going to be fun? And I’m especially looking forward to all that mail we should pick up there.
We are getting all the Hawaii radio programs now and it sure seems funny to hear commercials on the radio again. The Armed Forces radio programs don’t have any commercials. The program on the radio now is “The Shadow.” So if what I am writing doesn’t make sense it is because the program is at an exciting spot. (A few minutes later.) The “Shadow” is over now. What a thrill! Whew!!
Darling, how are all the plans coming along? I’m sure I’ll be there some time in April. So, if you want we can have the wedding in late April or early May. And we can go anywhere we wish for our honeymoon. So long for now, sweetheart. I love you. F. M.
March 20, 1946. On board USS LC(FF) 370 at Pearl Harbor. My Darling, Sure enough, that bundle of letters was waiting for me when I got here to Pearl Harbor. I hope you have been receiving my letters regularly. Of course, I know you didn’t get anything from me for 20 days for that is how long we were at sea from Guam to Pearl. I got your sweet valentine card and eleven letters. Isn’t that some haul. Also I got letters from Mama and Bert.
Oh, so you are jealous of Esther Williams? Well, how are you coming with the calisthenics? Wish I could have seen you doing them. Lovie, I’m glad you quit working at the bank. You just take it easy once in a while. But I know you are working just as hard if not harder right there at home. I’m also glad to hear that you are having your wedding dress made. Darling, if you run short on money, I’ll send you some more. You just get things done the way you want them.
Sweetheart, I know how you feel about Bob and Chick. Wish you could get Bob to go to church with you. Then, maybe Chick would go too, and your father also.
I haven’t heard anymore from the letters I wrote about employment. I did write to the Raytheon Company that Chick mentioned but no answer yet. Thank you for mentioning that College in Columbus Springs, Ohio. I have faintly heard of it but would never have thought of it. I think I will write for their bulletin to see what it is like. I received a letter from Vanderbilt University in Nashville. They just said they were sending their bulletin and that I could start school in March, June, September or December.
Wish we could set the date for our wedding. But if we did it would probably have to be changed and that would be worse than not setting it. I’m afraid it will be a month or more until I am home. Of course, we want wedding pictures made, of the beautiful bride anyway. I’m all for a semi-formal wedding with the men in the ceremony in dark suits, but the guests dressed just as they want. I’m just wondering if I can get a dark suit. I have been hearing awful things about the clothing shortage in the States. I don’t think one can buy a suit in Hawaii at all. Bert said he had a very hard time getting any clothes at all and was still wearing army clothes. I have a medium brown suit at home, if it is still any good. I’m not going to worry about it. I’ll wear overalls if necessary.
Well, I’ll bet the Wiesen men are just furious with me because I am going to take away their chief cook and bottle washer. But they should know that cooks are in great demand and people go to great lengths to lure good cooks away, even marrying them sometimes. All’s in getting a cook nowadays.
Want to hear something about Hawaii? I just love it here, honestly I do. As a matter of fact, I got a bright idea last night. Why don’t I just ask to be left here in Hawaii and be discharged here? I could wire you and ask you to climb aboard a fast train or plane and come right on out here. Zip, you could be in San Francisco, and, zip you could be in Honolulu, and I would be meeting you at the ship docks or the airfield. We could be married by the Church of Christ preacher here and find a lovely little cottage by a some cove where the big white rollers come rolling in to the beach and the palm trees sway in the cool breezes. We could have a most wonderful honeymoon here. Later I could go to work here if necessary. Next September we could pack up and go back to the States. How do you like that for an idea?
But I got to thinking that it has been such a long time since I have seen my folks and you would have to make that long trip all by yourself. Then too the plans for the wedding would be scrapped and all our friends wouldn’t get to attend. So, I am shelving the idea for a while. O. K?
We got in to Pearl Harbor about noon yesterday. The sea trip was a rough 20 days. But the rough voyage makes the land feel good. I drew liberty almost immediately. I left for Honolulu by Taxi about 12:30 PM. We are tied up way out in the west end of Pearl Harbor and it is almost 30 miles to Honolulu. We are tied up to a tree near a cane field beside a dirt road. The taxi will take us in for $6.00 but with several sailors it’s just $1 or $1.50 each. The main roads are wonderful four lane divided highways all the way in to Honolulu. The traffic is very heavy. Honolulu is a lovely town, part very old and ramshackle where the poorer Chinese, Filippinos, and Japs live. But even this part of town is picturesque. The main part of town is modern like any U. S. city. The transportation system consists of motor busses and trolley busses like in Chicago.
The first thing I did was get a good haircut. Then I went to the soda fountain in a drug store and ordered a banana split. But they didn’t have that so I settled for a sundae. Two other fellows were with me. We walked all over town and looked at the beautiful civilian clothes in the store windows. Then we ate an early supper. Good tea to drink, but they didn’t have any milk. And ice cream for dessert. Later last night I had a couple of malted milks and a hamburger. I was hungry for I had not had anything very substantial to eat for 20 day at sea with a queasy stomach.
It seems that the preponderance of people a here are Japanese, Chinese, or Filippino with less real Hawaiian and Caucasian people. Lots of people seem to be of mixed race and I guess every race in the world is here. The Hawaiian men are big and tall and strong looking. But the people and the city seems to be thoroughly Americanized.
I will go out to Waikiki beach the next time I get liberty. We are to put our ship in dry dock tomorrow and perhaps in a week we will be ready to continue our journey to the States. If all goes well we will be in the States in three weeks, than a week or two or three or more and I will be home. I can hardly wait. All my love, F. M.
March 21, 1946. On board USS LC(FF) 370 at Pearl Harbor. Hello Darling, We went into dry dock today. It was my first time to be on a ship when it goes into dry dock. It was a floating dry dock. It fills with water and submerges. Then the ship enters and the water is pumped from the dock. This brings it and the ship up high and dry so that we can scrape and paint the bottom and repair the propellers. They scraped the bottom this afternoon. I didn’t have to do any of that work but I was doing something almost as tedious. I had to so a lot of clerical work because we have no regular yeoman, reports and typing of logs, etc. I have just about enough typing ability left to type this letter. Then I am going to rest on the typing for a while.
Well, I guess we won’t be here so very long after all. This is a Thursday and we may be able to leave for the States on Monday or Tuesday. I will get liberty tomorrow afternoon and I’m going to try to get liberty to go to church Sunday. I’m pretty sure they will let me go. Counting two weeks to make the trip (we will probably make it in less) from here to the States, we should be there by April 7th. I’ll let you know the minute we arrive in the States. I don’t know how soon after we get there they will let me leave to go home, but I will be trying for a leave just as soon as we arrive. So I guess I’ll get home some time in April. Hope nothing happens to delay us (knock, knock on wood).
Sweetheart, are you sleeping late these mornings since you are not working at the bank any more? I think I will get you up at the crack of dawn every morning after we are married. Cause I will be used to getting up early. Habit held over from the Navy. (Ha, Ha, that’s why I’m getting out of the Navy, so I can sleep in every morning!) I love you. F. M.
March 23, 1946. On board USS LC(FF) 370 at Pearl Harbor. My Darling, Yep, we’re still here in dry dock. I think we’ll be out of dry dock by the 26th of March. We should be able to get underway for the States a couple of days after that. We can leave as soon as we are ready.
I just started down to the base small stores to buy some clothing. I had to get a pass also permission to go on the base wearing dungarees. Well, after I had walked about a mile and was in sight of small stores an officer stopped me and asked to see my pass. My pass was in order except but he would not let me go in small stores in dungarees. So I had to turn around and go back to the ship and didn’t get anything at small stores after all. Whew!! Am I tired now!
Whatcha doing these day, Darling? Scrubbing and sewing and just working yourself ragged, I’ll bet. Now in our trailer there won’t be much area to scrub, will there? Guess I’ll have to think of something else to keep you busy.
Sweetheart, I love you so. How wonderful it will be back at home with you. I love you, F. M.
March 26, 1946. On board USS LC(FF) 370 at Pearl Harbor. My Darling, It has been two days since I wrote to you. I have really been on the go, working on the ship and running around Honolulu seeing the sights. When I saw this (Hula girl) stationary I just had to buy some!! How do you like it?
I must tell you about everything. Well, Sunday, I went to church. It is located in the most beautiful residential part of the city. Church is held in a former residence and it is a beautiful building with wide sloping lawns, beautiful flowers and shrubbery all around. I got there in time for Sunday School. They have a pretty large Sunday School. About 50 were there, I suppose. At worship there were about 100 present. Brother Homer Haley from California was there to preach. He is the regular preacher here. But last Sunday was his first Sunday for he had just arrived from the mainland. Bro. Haskell Chesshire had been the preacher here. I knew him, also his wife, at David Lipscomb College. Bro. Chesshire is still here, however, attending the University of Hawaii. He had only taken over the work here as a fill-in until Bro. Haley could come.
I like Bro Haley very much. He used to teach Bible at Abilene Christian College and he is a fine teacher. One reason for him coming over here was to start a Bible School for anyone who would attend. He plans to have many classes and many different Bible subjects both day and night. It will be conducted just like college work and credit may be obtained for it if desired. His purpose is to get as many young men who are now getting out of the service, as possible to come back over here, study to be preachers and at the same time work to establish churches throughout the islands. For those who want to go full time to school, they can attend the University of Hawaii and take Bible classes from Bro. Haley as well. Of course, he wants students from the islands too but at first the most of the students will have to be men and women from churches in the States. They already have several men who plan to come back here and a few already here. They tried to talk me into coming back. It sounds awfully good. But I’ve got my mind set on Engineering and the University of Hawaii has no Engineering school. If it had, it would be a really good opportunity for us, darling. It still is something to think about. What do you think about it, dearest? The housing situation over here is deplorable, as it is in the States. They plan to get some sort of a dormitory started, I think.
I also met fellow, in the army, who was a classmate of mine at Lipscomb. His name is Wilson Bryan. He had exactly the same classes as I had at Lipscomb. I really enjoyed seeing and talking to him.
It just so happened that they had a picnic dinner on the porch after worship. Of course I had to stay for that. At 3:00 PM they had a singing and after that Bro. Haley outlined his program for the school. After that I and several other fellows just loafed around porch of the building until church time at night. We did go out for a snack to eat before the evening service. In the evening we had a young men’s class at 6 PM, a regular worship service at 7 PM, and a song practice after that. It was quite a day. I sure enjoyed going to church again. Most of the members are servicemen and folks from the States who have war jobs over here. There were only a few members from the islands, maybe one or two Hawaiians, two Chinese girls, and a sprinkling of others.
And yesterday I went out to Waikiki. I had heard so much about it being a disappointment to many who went there. So I didn’t expect too much. The city is built all around Waikiki beach. The beach is in the city limits. In fact it is almost as if there is a second city there. Every thing is nice and ritzy, big hotels here and there, but very beautiful, built in a tropical style of architecture. It is sort of a shopping center with exclusive shops of all kinds, two large theaters, with palm trees growing all along the streets. Everything is very modern, like the lakeshore in Chicago almost. There are a few amusement joints catering to the sailors.
Waikiki beach itself is hardly any beach at all. It is like the little beach on Lake Michigan there by Navy Pier. It isn’t much bigger and the water is very shallow. There is a coral reef about 200 yards off shore and it is here that the big breakers hit. The surfboard riders start way out about a quarter of a mile and ride the waves in to the reef. The space to ride the breakers is very small and if more than 15 or 20 people go there at once it is crowded. I like to do things “whole hog” or not at all, so I rented a surfboard and tried my hand at it. I’ll have to admit, I didn’t do so good. I was just getting the hang of it when I really got too tired to do any more. A couple more trips and I could be doing pretty good, I think. There were eight or ten Hawaiian boy out there and they really knew their stuff. They could balance themselves on those little narrow surfboards with seemingly no trouble at all. But I always fell off one side or the other if I got up any higher than a laying down position. It took me quite a while before I succeeded in catching a wave. I finally got one and went hurtling in so fast I didn’t hardly know what was happening. I fell off about half way in to the beach, and the surfboard went on without me. I had to swim the rest of the way in and I was already tired. So I swam slowly on my back which is the most restful way to swim. So now I have ridden a surfboard on the beach at Waikiki, at the very spot where you see all the pictures of the beach. I’d like to get a chance to try it again. It’s great fun.
I got some beautiful colored pictures of scenes here on the island that I will send or bring home to you.
Well, we are almost ready to come out of dry dock now. And I don’t think it will be very long until we are on our way on the last lap. So if you miss my letters for another week or two you will know we are at sea. All my love to the most beautiful and sweetest girl in the world. F. M.
March 27, 1946. On board USS LC(FF) 370 at Pearl Harbor. My own darling, Well, I finally got another letter from Mama, no others. I don’t know what has happened to the mail situation. Mama and Papa are in
Cleveland now. The address is:
13328 Forest Hill Avenue
The girls are still at 1129 Cahal Ave., Nashville until the end of the month. Then I don’t know what their address will be. Bert is at Lipscomb, I guess. And Dick is staying with Aunt Fanny Belle. I think we went over to her house when you were in Nashville with me. Boy, are they all scattered around! Mama says she doesn’t have much work to do so she is going to work selling hats somewhere. But I doubt that she will work hard like she used to because she doesn’t have to any more. Everybody is self supporting except Dick.
Bert was kind of sick when he came home from India and for a month or more he felt pretty bad. So he went out to Thayer Hospital in Nashville and they kept him there for a while to give him a check up. He was feeling much better so Mama went on to Cleveland. I guess he got out of the hospital in time to start Lipscomb on March 18th.
Mama and Papa both will be in Chicago for our wedding, darling, and I asked Bert to be the best man. So lets have the wedding on a Saturday or Sunday. You suggested a Saturday once I think, and that’s just dandy to me. Bert could come up to Chicago on Friday afternoon and get back by Monday so he wouldn’t miss any school. But darling, how can I wait until my birthday May 18th to marry you. I may get my discharge or leave as much as three weeks or one month before that. Reckon we could have the ceremony about 10 or 12 days after I get there. We’ll have to get the license three days early, won’t we darling?
We should get underway in three or four days. Nothing is definite, however, for we are still in dry dock. I’m going to Prayer Meeting tonight. Maybe I’ll be here next Sunday, I don’t know. “Ui Ia Oe” (You are beautiful). “Aloha Au Ia Oe” (I love you). F. M.
March 29, 1946. On board USS LC(FF) 370 at Pearl Harbor. Hello darling, I spent a ling time last night re-reading a stack of your letters. I had so many I had to tear up some of them because they take up so much room. But I don’t have too many. I just can’t hear from you often enough. It would certainly be nice if I could get to you before you have time to write more letters. But I guess it will be some time before I get home.
We just this minute got out of dry dock. So we will be here in Pearl Harbor perhaps three more days and then we will shove off for the States. After we leave the next you will hear from me will be from California or somewhere on the West Coast.
I think I am going to get liberty today. This is the day I’m supposed to go eat at the Cheshire’s house. It will be nice to eat a home cooked meal again. Today I sent off the color pictures of Hawaii that I told you I would send. All my love, F. M.
March 30, 1946. On board USS LC(FF) 370 at Pearl Harbor. My Darling, I got three more answers from the applications I submitted for jobs. They were from Raytheon, General Electric, and Browning Laboratories. They each said about the same thing, my application was being considered and that I would be notified later. So I may hear from them and get an offer yet. I think I will write each of them again and give them a new permanent address. I guess I’ll give your address, darling. Do you mind? You will always know where I am and if we are away from Chicago together your father can forward the letter to us. Mama and Papa’s address is so uncertain that I don’t think I will give that one.
Well, it is rumored that we will leave for the States Monday. But I have my doubts. At any rate we will be leaving in a few days. So tomorrow, Sunday, I will probably get to attend church again. Last nigh I was out to dinner with the Chesshires. It was really good, home made biscuits, iced tea, and wonderful cocoanut pie for dessert. Of course we had other things but those were the highlights for me.
They have a daughter, Jeanetta, who is just three years old. She is a beautiful little girl and so lovable that you just want to hug her. See darling, I like children so much. We’ll have a lovely little brown eyed, brown haired daughter someday maybe huh?
You know, darling, I know something of what it means to love a small child. I remember how I loved my little brother, Dick, when he was a baby. I used to have nightmares at night where I dreamed that something to him. And I would wake up and think that if anything ever happened to him, I just wouldn’t want to live anymore. He’s grown up now and can take care of himself pretty well. I don’t have exactly the same feeling anymore. Of course I still love him dearly. And darling I love you dearly, more than anyone else. F. M.
April 1, 1946. On board USS LC(FF) 370 at Pearl Harbor. Dearest Darling, We are all ready to start for home now. We finished refueling so we might start tomorrow. By the time you get this I should be half way between Hawaii and the States. And a few days after you get this I should be in the States. I don’t know how long after that it will be before I can come home. But I’m on the last lap at last.
I suppose you read in the newspapers about the earthquake in the Gulf of Alaska that caused a big tidal wave here in the Hawaiian Islands. I think it hit California too and no telling what damage it did in the Aleutians. We here in Pearl Harbor never knew a thing had happened until hours after. The wave never came into the harbor at all. However, the radio said that one person was killed on the beach at Honolulu, one person killed on the beach at Waikiki, and much damage done to water front property. On the island of Maui eleven persons at least were drowned. At Hilo, Hawaii, much of the entire town is destroyed and the loss of life is yet unknown. It is strange that all this could go on and we here in Pearl Harbor not feel it at all. But Pearl Harbor has a small well protected entrance. The main tidal wave was probably about ten feet high. But we don’t have much data yet.
I went to church again yesterday, Sunday. In the afternoon we went riding around the island in a G. I. truck that one of the soldiers had use of. He took several from the church and we had a picnic on the beach. We rode through the mountains and through Kolekole Pass. It was cold up there in the mountains and it is cool all over Hawaii this time of year. Almost too cool to go swimming. We had a young men’s class, the regular worship service, and a song practice that night.
You know, darling, I wish that the University of Hawaii taught engineering. Then we might come back here to the University and also study at the new school that Bro. Haley is starting. But I guess we will have to wait to visit Hawaii again together. I really like the islands. The people are very nice. The native Hawaiians are really the nicest people out here I think. They have a wonderful sense of beauty, love flowers and nature, and are kind gentle people. At least that is the way they seem to me.
Darling, no need for me to tell you that I am so anxious to get home I don’t know what to do. It will sure be wonderful to sit in your living room again, see you walk into the room and feel my heart do flip flops. I love you, darling. Are you really going to marry me? F. M.
April 8, 1946. On board USS LC(FF) 370 en route Pearl Harbor to San Pedro, California. My Darling, Well, we pulled out of Pearl Harbor April 3rd so we have been out 5 day now. We aren’t quite half-way to the States yet. It will take us about 7 more days, I guess. We are the leader of a three ship convoy, another LCI and an LCS. And our destination is to be San Pedro, California. I don’t know exactly where that is except I understand it is near Los Angeles.
I have been sea sick as usual but it is unusually calm today so I feel pretty good. I sure hope it stays calm all the rest of the way. Our engines are running good but those of the other ships aren’t doing so well. If it weren’t for that we could make a faster trip of it.
I have been standing radar watch this trip. Although I am a radar technician it is my first time to stand radar operator’s watch. Seems I am a jack of all trades since coming aboard the “370.”
It won’t be long until I am on the train heading your way. I can hardly wait. I have been trying to decide in my mind just what sort of a schedule I am going to run when I get back. I guess I’ll get a train out of Los Angeles. And, darling, if you are convinced you want to spend your honeymoon in the Colorado Rockies, then, when I go through Denver, I can try to make some arrangements for us. Maybe we can get a place down near Pikes Peak, or perhaps a cabin in Rocky Mountain National Park. Think you would like that, sweetheart? I’ll have to specify a date for reservations. Maybe by the time you get this letter I will know exactly when I am coming home. Then we can set the date for the wedding and I’ll know what date to reserve accommodations in Colorado.
Then the next stop will be Chicago. That’s what I’ve been building up to for a whole year so I will not miss that stop. If I can tear myself away from you, darling, then maybe I ought to go to Nashville to see about my clothes and things. Mama will probably go down to Nashville then. I can see her, my sisters and brothers, and be back in Chicago within a couple or three days.
Then nothing should hold up our wedding. We’ll get the license a day or two before the wedding. How does it sound, baby? It sure sounds wonderful to me, whatever way we work it. Darling, I love you, know that? F. M.
April 11, 1946. On board USS LC(FF) 370 en route Pearl Harbor to San Pedro, California. Darling, We are getting closer and closer to the States. Today was 64 degrees with hardly any wind and the sea was as smooth I’ve seen it this far out. I got my “blues” out today and washed them in the washing machine. I even washed my pea-coat. Hope it doesn’t shrink. I sewed all the loose buttons back on everything and also sewed on my first class stripes. I’m not a bit sea sick now. We have just 4 more days to go until we pull in to San Pedro, California. Almost everyone aboard is available for immediate discharge so I’ll be pretty busy doing yeoman work necessary to transfer men to a separation center. Then, after a few days, I ought to be sent to a separation center myself. I’m going to try to get a 30 day leave first. It will be like getting an extra month’s pay. It really doesn’t matter just so I’m a civilian soon.
Darling, I’ll send you a telegram as soon as I know when I am starting home from San Pedro. Then you can set the date for the wedding. I love you, F. M.
April 12, 1946. On board USS LC(FF) 370 at sea five hundred fifty miles off San Pedro, California. Darling, It has been a beautiful day. The sun has shone warmly and the sea is calm. We made about 250 miles yesterday and that is the best we have done on this trip. So we are almost sure to reach San Pedro by Monday, April 15th.
All day I have been washing and pressing my clothes. There wasn’t anything else to do anyway. My uniform is in pretty bad shape, practically worn threadbare, but I won’t have much longer to wear it anyway.
So what are you doing these day? It has been so long since I have heard from you. I hope a lot of mail is waiting for us when we get in. I guess I’ll have to leave everything in respect to our schedule as uncertain today as they were yesterday. There is no way I can find out now when I can start home. I’ll just have to wait and find out later. All my love, F. M.
April 16, 1946. On board USS LC(FF) 370 at San Pedro, California. Hello Darling, Surprise! Here I am back in the States at last. We had a rather pleasant trip from Pearl Harbor here. At least the last portion of the trip was pleasant. We came in today about noon so we haven’t any late data on decommissioning the ship or when we will be able to leave for discharge. I think the boys who are eligible for immediate discharge will be able to leave tomorrow. The rest of us may have to do some work toward decommissioning of the ship. But that shouldn’t take long.
Just hazarding a guess, I think I should be able to leave here for Chicago within a week or ten days, maybe sooner, maybe later. I am not eligible for immediate discharge but I lack only 1/4 of a point so I think I will be able leave very soon.
We are in San Pedro harbor, about 4 miles from the town of San Pedro itself. About 16 miles away is Los Angeles. About 6 or 8 miles away is the town of Long Beach. It can be seen from the ship and it looks like a nice big city. I can see 15 or 20 buildings which are 15 stories and some are skyscrapers sure enough. Laguna Beach is only a short distance from here and Hollywood isn’t far. Fifty miles inland are 10,000 foot mountains and good snow for skiing so if I have time I may catch a bus back there just for the fun of it.
I am to get every other day liberty and it is to be overnight each night. So I should get a pretty good chance to visit around the countryside. I’ll like that for this is my first time in this part of California. Darling, don’t think I am not anxious to get back to Chicago and you. When they turn me loose to go back east you may be sure that no grass will grow under my feet as I make my way to the train station to get on the train for Chicago.
I have been thinking about our honeymoon, dear. If you really would like to spend it in Colorado in the Rocky Mountains, then I could probably stop for an hour or two in Denver and make some arrangements for us. I might be able to get a cottage or a cabin in Rocky Mountain National Park. Or, if not that, maybe I can get something in Colorado Springs or Manitou which is on the slopes of Pikes Peak. The tourist season out there really doesn’t start until June, so it shouldn’t be hard to reserve something for us during the month of May.
Also, as soon as I notify you that I am starting home, you can go ahead and set the date for the wedding. Any date you set will be O.K. with me, but please make it soon. I like the idea of having the wedding on Saturday. Then maybe Bert can come up from Nashville. I’ll send you a telegram as soon as I know when I am starting for Chicago.
I haven’t received any mail yet. I don’t know what has happened to it. When you write to me, write to the same address but write in the corner of the envelope “Ship now in San Pedro, California.” Darling, I’m awfully anxious ro get home to you. All my love, F. M.
April 20, 1946. Postcard from Lake Arrowhead, California. Darling, I got 72 hours off, came up here to do some skiing but there’s no snow left. It’s a nice place but only fair without you. I love you. F. M. (Picture of Lake Arrowhead.)
April 20, 1946. Postcard from Lake Arrowhead, California. Darling, We are one mile up here in the San Bernadino Mountains. Went hiking and boating today. Going horseback riding tomorrow. Lovely place for us to honeymoon but too far. Colorado will be like this. F. M. PS, the snow is mostly melted. (Picture of skiers on a trail.)
April 22, 1946. On board USS LC(FF) 370 at San Pedro, California. My Darling, To ease your mind, I always get your letter, sweetheart. Sometimes it takes several weeks but they always come. Today I got yours of April 4th. I’ve been here several days but only gotten two letters.
I got back to the ship this morning at 3:00 AM from a 72 hour pass. I had the finest time since I left you, darling, but it would have been much better if you had been along. I’ll tell you all about it.
I decided, when I learned I could get a 72 hours off, to go to the mountains and go skiing. I was going alone but at the last minute two other fellows decided to go along with me. So we went down to Long Beach to make inquiries about where to go, etc. The “Auto Club of Southern California” gave us a map and told us where to go. They said there wasn’t any snow left there at all but we decided to go anyway to Lake Arrowhead, high in the mountains.
First we went to Los Angeles which is an hour’s ride. Then we got a bus for San Bernadino which is a three hour ride. It was dark when we got to San Bernadino so we spent the night there in a hotel. The next morning we took the “Mountain Auto Lines” to Lake Arrowhead. It was only a two hour ride. We climbed up to 6,000 feet on the highway. The ride was fun with beautiful mountain scenery all the way. Lake Arrowhead is about 5,200 feet altitude or one mile up. It is a swanky, lakeside community with a nice little village and lots of homes all around. It seems that most of the people live here all year around. All the houses are built of the same style architecture, like a Swiss village. We got a real nice room in the Village Inn.
The lake itself is one of the most beautiful mountain lakes I have ever seen. It is about a mile and a half across. The first afternoon we were there we rented a small motorboat and explored every little niche and corner of the lake. The water is a beautiful blue and sparkles. That night we went to the little neighborhood movie and played a couple of rounds of miniature golf.
There was still snow laying around in the sheltered places and lots of snow above 8,000 feet altitude on surrounding mountains. But we didn’t have time to climb up that high for skiing. Even though the snow was still laying around it was very warm and a lot of people were out in bathing suits, some even swimming in the icy waters.
The next morning we had the most fun of all. We got up early and went horseback riding. I had not ridden since I was 12 years old. So I was kinda wondering how good a horseman I would be. It turned out that after I got into the swing of it, I could ride as well as I ever could. We had three fresh horses that had not been ridden in two months. They had been U. S. Cavalry horses. There were a little wild and tricky at first but we had no real trouble handling them. Each horse wanted to go first and they all wanted to run away as fast as they could. When one horse ran ahead, there was absolutely no stopping the other two until they caught up. Once when I dismounted, my horse tried to keep me from getting back on. But we held him and I got on again.
We rode all morning up to a mountain peak that looks down on the lake and all the surrounding country. That was new to me, climbing a mountain on horseback. One place was so steep we had to get off and lead the horses. From the top of the mountain we could look right down on the lake. We could see snow capped mountains all around. I think the horses also liked the view.
That afternoon we had to go back, so in the short time we had left at the lake we took a speedboat ride. It was the fastest boat ride I ever took and was fun.
Darling, we’ll do all these things together soon. If we go to Colorado on our honeymoon it will be like that. Think you can ride horseback?
Well, Lovie, I should be starting home about 8 days from now. I’m trying my best to get off sooner. I have written a letter that has to go about 100 miles from here to San Diego. It requests permission to release me to go to the separation center. It hasn’t been sent yet because the Captain has to sign it and he isn’t here yet. But I’ll send it airmail in the morning, the 23rd. If I’m lucky I’ll get an answer on the 25th and be able to leave immediately for the receiving station on shore. I may get to leave there on the 26th. But, ... things may not happen that fast. It may be the 27th , the 28th, the 29th, or the 30th before I can leave. Anyway, it won’t be long now. I’ll let you know immediately when I’m ready to leave.
Darling, all the time I was at Lake Arrowhead I was thinking how I would like to have you with me. I just love you, darling. F. M.
April 26, 1946. On board USS LC (FF) 370 at San Pedro, California. My Darling, It was so good to hear your voice last night. You sounded just the way you always did, just wonderful. Your sweet voice has just the soothing qualities to sooth the savage beast in me. I guess that is just about the happiest I have been since I saw you last. No kidding, I was walking on air the rest of the evening.
I’m glad, darling, that you finally got to set the date of the wedding for the 11th of May. Now all I’ve got to do is try not to be late for my own wedding. When I get to Chicago I’m going to have to do some fast mailing of my invitations. And I’ll have to get the marriage license about three days ahead of the wedding, won’t I? And doesn’t Chicago require blood tests or health certificates of some sort? We can go down together and have that done. Let’s see, there are probably about a dozen other things we’ll have to work out and talk over. There’s flowers for th bride. (What kind of flowers do you want to carry, darling?) And flowers for the bridesmaids. And we can go to town together and pick out our wedding rings. I’ll tell you what. When I get there I’ll try to get a room at the YMCA up on Irving Park Blvd. Then I’ll be near you and won’t have to spend half my time riding the streetcar to your house.
Darling, it’s certainly fun to be planning for the greatest occasion of my life, so far. But after we’re married each day will be greater the first. Darling the most wonderful thing just happened. Just as I was writing the last paragraph, one of the fellows came in and handed me two letters from you. One dated April 20th and one dated April 22nd with the letter from the Seattle church enclosed. Both letters were special delivery but, of course, there is no special delivery service out to the ship. Thank you anyway, darling, for trying to get them to me quickly. Your letters mean practically everything to me if I can’t actually be with you. I think the reason the letters reached me so nicely is because you wrote in the corner “Ship now at San Pedro.”
This afternoon at 5:00 PM we are going to get underway for San Diego. It’s about 100 miles south of San Pedro just at the Mexican border. So from now on write “Ship at San Diego” on the letters. Maybe on liberty I’ll get to take a little ride over into Mexico. Wish you could be here darling, for California is a very wonderful place. But I am very lonesome for you.
That letter from the Northwest church in Seattle was from one of the elders, Bro. Hudson. I sent them a contribution for their building fund for I used to worship with them and felt I ought to help them a little. I told Bro. Hudson that I was being married and he urged us to move to Seattle and try to get my old job back there. Seattle is a fine city and we may wind up there some day, but I don’t think I want my old job back.
I’m also glad Bro. Thomas is going to perform the ceremony. I like him very much. I also would like for Woodrow to be an usher. Bert hasn’t written yet whether he can come up and be best man. If it should happen that Bert can’t be there, I would like for Woodrow to be best man. Do you think you could talk to Woodrow and explain the situation? I’ll write him a letter also.
Darling, I’m sorry to hear about the disaster to the bridesmaid’s dresses that got ruined at the dyers. The music you planned sounds good. Sounds like you are working pretty hard getting ready for that wedding. That’s O. K., darling, as long as you are having fun. Wish I could be there to get in on some of it. Now I’ll bet you are plenty stuck up after that shower the folks gave you. Looks like we won’t start our married life empty handed. We are certainly blessed to have so many Christian friends.
If I am married in my uniform I may like to borrow the blue trousers of Chick’s uniform. My jumper is still in good condition and the trousers aren’t too bad either for that matter. It might be a better idea for me to be married in my uniform. I never really had much use for a dark suit except on rare occasions.
It will be quite warm in Colorado in May. It is not far from Colorado to the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. So maybe we can go to Colorado and take a little side trip down there. I thought especially of Colorado because it is not so very far from Chicago and because I will be able to go through there and make arrangements for a cottage or some sort of accommodations. Chances are I won’t be getting an answer to this before I leave California so I am going ahead and make arrangements when I go through Colorado. Then if we don’t like the place we can go somewhere else later.
Darling, I’m sorry about Chick causing you so much worry. But try not to worry too much, do everything you can and we can pray to the Lord to help us. I like Chick and think he’s a fine fellow. When I get back maybe we can find something specific to do to help. Your father’s and Bob’s influence will amount to more than anything else, probably.
I’m awfully sorry to hear about Bob’s recurring illness. I think the malaria will slowly die off but it may take a long time. What did the doctor do about it? Bert hasn’t been well since he got back from India. He spent some time in the hospital in Nashville. I don’t know what his trouble is. I think he is about over it now.
You have heard so much about sunny California. Well, it hasn’t been cloudy at all since we have been here, but here on the coast it hasn’t been sunny either. You see, during each night a heavy fog comes up and it stays with us all day, lifting just slightly about dark in the evening. The sun can hardly shine through it all. If it weren’t for that it would be downright hot, but instead it is cool. The fog blanket covers Los Angeles and even clear to San Bernadino. When we were over there a few days ago we could look down from the mountains and see a solid blanket of fog over the cities below us.
The last couple of days the fog has cleared up somewhat. People are swimming and sunning on the beach at Long Beach. We really are closer to Long Beach than to San Pedro. So Long Beach is where I usually go on liberty. It is a very nice town of about 225,000 people. I went to a concert of the Long Beach Philharmonic Orchestra a couple of nights ago. It is an amateur organization but very good. I think they have a paid director. His name is Resta. Joseph Piastro, violinist, was the soloist. I enjoyed it very much.
Well I was hoping I wouldn’t have to take any more sea trips in the Navy, but I have to stick with the ship down to San Diego where it will probably be decommissioned. It will only be an overnight trip. Hope I don’t get sea sick. I think the water is calm. All my love, F. M.
April 27, 1946. On board USS LC(FF) 370 at San Diego. My Darling, I’m just a little bit disappointed today. To be truthful, I’m a whole lot disappointed because I was hoping to get started home today. But it seems as though I can do nothing but wait until May 1st. So I might as well make the best of it. In 8 or 9 days I’ll be with you for certain. And I’m happy just over the prospect of that.
We came down here to San Diego during the night last night, got in early this morning and toed up to a pier in the Naval Base here. The trip was very calm and I was on the helm most of the way. So I was up all night. But I slept most of the morning so I’m not really very tired now.
Now all the sailors tell me that San Diego is a horrible “dump.” But I’ve always heard, when I was a civilian, that San Diego was an exclusive winter resort. So now I think I will just go and form my own opinion. Half of the crew has a 72 hour pass this week end. But I had one last week end so I can’t go this time. I may be able to go downtown for a little while tonight and go to church tomorrow.
“Lovie,” it sure looks like I’m not going to get there any too soon. But I still expect to get there 5 or 6 days before the wedding and that will be enough, won’t it? Darling, I hope you are in a better mood than I am these days. I should be the happiest man in the world but I’m so anxious to get there with you that every time something happens to hold up my travel, I get to feeling sorry for myself.
Darling, I sure love you so. I hope you are happy and well now. You sounded wonderful over the phone the other night but you sounded a little bit forlorn, I thought. So long for today, sweetheart, I love you. F. M.
April 30, 1946. On board USS LC(FF) 370 at San Diego. Dearest Sweetheart, Well, I guess it is all settled. I leave the ship tomorrow. I’ll leave just as early in the morning as I possibly can. I’ll go to the receiving station and they will arrange my transportation to Chicago. I certainly hope they can get it all arranged in one day. If so, I will be home by the night of May 4th. But I may not make it that soon. I don’t know how they will arrange my transportation. Maybe they will give me travel time and let me travel as I see fit. Or they might stuff me in a troop car with a couple of hundred other fellows. But it makes little difference to me now, darling. Just so I get there quickly.
I have seen quite a bit of San Diego. Also I went down to Mexico and spent three hours in Tijuana. San Diego is what I would call a “wide open” town. It is not so pretty as Long Beach and is just a little larger, I think. Downtown it is a typical sailor’s town. There are dozens of Army-Navy clothing stores, hundreds of bars, all kinds of shooting galleries, roller coasters, and two feature movies.
I wen to church Sunday night. I couldn’t make it out Sunday morning for I was on duty. I went to the El Cajon Blvd church which is the largest in San Diego. Guess who I met at church? Remember Fred Pollack? Opal and Woodrow will remember him I am sure for he is from Opal’s home town. He was in Manley Pre-Radio school when I was in Secondary at Navy Pier. And he came to Garfield Park to church. Remember he and I and you were over at Opal’s house for a Christmas party. Well I was sure surprised to find that Fred is now a commissioned officer, an Ensign. He left Radio school because of the end of the war and got a commission instead. He was recently married while he was home on leave. He told me about his wedding. They had the same kind of music we plan and someone sang “Because.”
I also met two old Lipscomb College friends, Sidney Hooper, now a Lieutenant in the Navy, and his wife, Roberta Schrader, both from Nashville. They were married only a few months ago. The four of us, Sydney, Roberta, Fred, and I went over to Sydney’s house for a snack after church. I told them I was being married soon and the talk revolved about weddings and especially their recent wedding. Someone sang “Because” at their wedding too. It was Bob Neil. Brother Ijams, former President of Lipscomb, performed the ceremony.
Last night I went to Tijuana, Mexico. It is only 14 miles from here. I sent you a couple of souvenirs from there. A picture of one of my buddies and I and guess what else–Nylon Stockings. There must be millions of them down there and since they are still scarce in the States I thought you might like some. I got one pair Mexican made and one pair American made. Hope you think the shade is O. K. and the size is alright. I remember you have a size six foot.
In Tijuana there are nothing but bars and curio stores. It was interesting but not really Mexico. We had most fun at a café. The service and the food was good. Two “Caballeros” with guitars played and sang to each table individually. They had a remarkable repertoire of Spanish songs. They did “El Rancho Grande” for me.
Some day we will take a trip to Mexico, darling, and see the whole country. All my love, F. M.
May 1, 1946. Camp Elliott, California. My Darling, I’m finally at the Receiving Station awaiting transportation to the Separation Center. I left the ship early this morning. and got here just before noon chow. It’s about 10 miles outside of San Diego in the desert hills.
I got the surprise of my life when I got here. I am informed that I must be discharged at Memphis, Tennessee whether I like it or not. The reason I can’t be discharged at Great Lakes is that I haven’t changed my address officially to Chicago. And the only reason I had not done that is that I was unable to. We had no Yeoman aboard ship and no one knew what had to be done. I was told all this by an enlisted man. I demanded to see an Officer about it, having told the enlisted man that Nashville was no longer my home, that Chicago was now my place of residence more than any other place. The Officer was busy and refused to talk to me. The enlisted man said nothing could be done. I weighed the matter in my mind and decided to go quietly.
I am sure I could have done something had I insisted and had simply refused to go to Memphis. However, if I had insisted, I was afraid I would be held up some days. As matters stand now, I will probably get set up for transportation to Memphis either tonight or in the morning. I wanted to go by Nashville anyway if I had time before the wedding. So now I should be a civilian in Memphis by the 5th or 6th. I’ll keep you informed how things are progressing. As soon as I’m in Memphis I’ll streak for Nashville, grab my “civies” and whatever else I want, and then streak to Chicago. I wired you that I would arrive about the 9th. Believe me, darling, I intend to be there earlier if possible. I’ll probably fly after I leave Memphis. I’m just a great deal disappointed that I’m not to see you for some days yet.
But it is best not to worry or get excited about it. Our wedding is supposed to be a happy and wonderful affair. Of course, it will be, darling. Even if I am delayed in reaching you until the 9th. We’ll just do the best we can and laugh and be happy. Cause I’m going to be a civilian. And I’m going to have you for my wife. It seems almost too wonderful to be true. Maybe I’d better pinch myself to see if I’m dreaming.
All my hopes of traveling across the country alone are out too. There are about 2,000 or 3,000 men here for transportation today. And about 200 of them will be going to Memphis. So we will have our own troop car hooked onto one of the regular trains, probably. So I can’t speed up this part of the journey. You can’t reach me by wire or letter now while I am in transit, but please write me a nice long letter giving me all the news and developments concerning you and our wedding. Send it to my Aunt’s address and I’ll get it as soon as I reach Nashville. Send it to: 1518 Ashwood Avenue, Nashville, Tennessee.
Now you don’t have to worry about making the final arrangements for the wedding. I intend to be there in time for that. I mean arrangements for such things as the flowers, the photographer, etc. I’ll be there in time to get the license, too!! I’m not so well up on weddings and I’m apt to forget some of the most important things.
And the invitations, I haven’t forgotten them. I guess mine should be sent about May 7th. So I’ll ask you to mail them for me, at least as many as I can think of the addresses for. The rest will just have to wait until I get there. Here are a few addresses I can think of. The rest of the addresses I foolishly packed in my seabag and I can’t reach it until I get to Nashville.
Mr. and Mrs. A. E. Perry, 1555 Eudora St., Denver, Colorado.
Mr. and Mrs. Walter Perry, (Can’t think of the address.)
Mr. and Mrs. Richard Elliott, c/o 1555 Eudora St., Denver, Colorado
Mr. and Mrs. Roy Perry and Miss Frances Perry, Creighton, Alabama
Mr. and Mrs. Andy T. Ritchie and Family, c/o Church of Christ, 3460 14th Street, N. W., Washington, D. C.
Mr. and Mrs. Robert G. Neil, Battery Lane, Nashville, Tennessee
Mr. and Mrs. Charles R. Brewer and Family, c/o David Lipscomb College, Nashville, Tennessee
Miss Mary Alice Merritt, 119 North 21st Street, Wheeling, West Virginia.
I have many more friends and relatives to send announcements to. I’ll count on you to send these 7 for me. Something else you can do for me is pack about 30 invitations in a box and send them to Nashville so I can finish sending them from there. If you receive this letter too late, then just forget it and I’ll mail everything after I get to Chicago.
Darling, looks like most everything is being left up to you. Wish I could be there to help. It occurred to me that you might run short of money by now, sweetheart. I’m about broke right now but I’ll be paid at Memphis. Keep all the bills you can for me to pay when I get there. Sweetheart, do you want to have a wedding cake? If you do, order one and I’ll pay for it when I get there. Can’t think of anything else except that I love you, dream girl. So long for now. All my love. F. M.
May 6, 1946. Memphis, Tennessee. Darling, Well, I get my new rating first thing in the morning, you know, Civilian First Class. I already have my “duck” sewed on my jumper and today I finished almost everything, my physical examination, interviews, and lectures on the dangers of civilian life. In the morning I get my final pay and go through the mustering out ceremony. Then I’m off like a streak of lightning.
Tomorrow is the 7th of May and I should be out of the base by 10:00 AM. I have already made arrangements to leave for Nashville on the 2:30 PM plane (if I can get space). It isn’t guaranteed. I should be in Nashville by 4:00 PM. I have already made arrangements to fly to Chicago arriving there Wednesday morning, the 8th of May. I don’t know what time I’ll get there for I don’t know what plane I’ll be on.
So that’s the story, darling. You probably won’t get this letter until I’m almost in Chicago. I guess we’ll really be busy those few day before the wedding, won’t we, darling? I’ll pick up few pieces of civilian clothes here in Memphis during the few hours I have before the plane leaves. I’ll get enough to tide me over and make me feel a little bit like a civilian. Then I can pick up the rest of what I need with you to help me, huh? I’ll probably be married in my dress blues.
I love you, darling. See you in a few hours. F. M.
(The following letter was waiting for me at my Aunt’s house on May 7th when I got to Nashville.)
Chicago, May 4, 1946. Dearest, The days are quickly passing. Soon you will be here with me. Are you as anxious for that time as I am? I guess you are.
Now darling, I must tell you of my latest crime. It is a federal offense at that. I opened the first letter that came for you, from Bert. That was right after your wire came telling me that you may not arrive until the ninth. I didn’t think it would be such a good idea to wait so long to know whether Bert was going to be our best man. So I opened it and read enough of it to learn whether he would be here. He said that he couldn’t come. Then the next day this airmail letter arrived from him. So maybe he has changed his mind. I just won’t open this letter to find out, cause I just feel so awful about opening the first one. So will you let me know as quickly as possible. Oh yes, the other night I put Bert’s second letter in the mail box. Of course, I marked it “return to sender.” The next morning it came right back here. Guess I’ll forward it to your Aunt’s address. I forwarded two letters from your folks. Sent them to Bert’s address. I was sure you would get them that way cause I knew you would stop off to see him.
Darling, I was so let down when I got that wire. At first I thought we wouldn’t be able to be married when we planned. I was under the impression that each person had to be a resident of a city at least three days before obtaining the marriage license. Next morning I phoned the marriage license bureau for information. They informed me that there is no waiting period. People can be married the same day that they obtain their license. I also asked him if the State of Illinois considered valid a health certificate obtained in Tennessee. He said yes, if it went through the State Board of Health. So if you don’t think that you will have time for that here you might find out about it while you are there. Of course, you can have your exam at the Public Health Institute in the morning and get the certificate by afternoon. Whatever would save you time would be best.
How do you like these announcements? Pretty nice, aren’t they? Guess you must have thought we only had invitations printed. I knew you would want some of the others, so we have them both. You told me you would need forty, but darling, don’t mail them yet. That is done after the ceremony is over.
Now about the plans for the wedding. I have made final arrangements cause a few days just aren’t enough to take care of something in a large city like this. A person really must make plans ahead of time. There won’t be much for you to bother with when you get here (except me). Friday night we will have the marriage rehearsal. Our octet will also be there. They have worked hard to make this their songs nice. I have a little gift for each of the girls. But I don’t know what we ought to give the fellows. Have you any ideas? Then you will want to give Woodrow some sort of a gift (if he will be best man. Otherwise, Bert.) That is customary.
I ordered the flowers today. The florist said that very few would take an order for a wedding the day before a holiday such as Mother’s Day. Flowers also are extremely high at that time. So I’m doing the best possible. We can rent the candelabras from the florist also. (By that time we might be forced to use candles anyway.) The palm decoration will be delivered to the church. The bouquets and Mama’s corsage will be delivered my house. She and your Dad can use my father’s room while they are here. You could stay at the Thomas’ home. They have an extra room. Also, they don’t live very far away, so it won’t be long for you to get over here.
Darling, don’t you think your mother would be happy if she could at least see you for a little while on that day, I mean Mother’s Day. They will probably stay here and go to Northwest Sunday. Couldn’t we too? I think she would like to see at least one of her kids on that day. Maybe I’m just sentimental, huh?
Another thing, darling, we will have to go somewhere after we are married won’t we? That is taken care of too. But I think I’ll wait till you are here to tell you where we can go. It will be very nice and I know you will like it. It won’t cost you so much as you might think either. Well that is all I will tell you.
I have been planning on having a wedding cake for quite some time. But darling, the reception is not your responsibility. That is mine. Now dear, everything is arranged, even for the photographers. I made an appointment following the ceremony. Then we will come back to the reception for a little while. Then, dearest, we can leave and be alone. Just you and I. I love you, sweetheart. Soon we will belong to each other for good. All my love forever, Charlotte.
I arrived in Chicago in the late afternoon of May 9, 1946. I rented a room at the neighborhood YMCA which was just a few blocks from Charlotte’s home. Then I hurried over to her apartment and knocked on the door. The door was opened by a beautiful slightly familiar looking girl. (I had been carrying her picture with me all over the Pacific.) She was extending her arms to greet a slightly familiar looking stranger. I was overwhelmed with the thought, this is the girl who waited for me and who wants to marry me!
I was half expecting Charlotte to tell me that the wedding date had been postponed because I was so late. No. Charlotte had everything arranged. I was scheduled to go down the next day to get health department clearance and a marriage license. Charlotte had already gotten her health clearance and she had phoned to make sure the office would be open when I got there the next day. Charlotte would go with me and show me the way. But Charlotte also had some bad news. The church building in which we had been scheduled to be married had caught fire and had partially burned down just a few days before I arrived! The wedding ceremony could not be held there. With that news I expected that, perhaps, the wedding was postponed after all. But no. The minister, Brother J. D. Thomas, had offered to have the ceremony performed at his house. Charlotte’s friends at the church had volunteered to clean and prepare the house for the crowd of friends who were expected to attend the wedding ceremony. The wedding reception after the wedding was to be held there in the minister’s house also. There was to be no postponement of anything. I felt a deep sense of gratitude to Charlotte’s many friends, many of whom I had met a year or so before during my Navy assignment in Chicago.
My bride-to-be had everything arranged: a new specially made wedding gown for her to wear, brides maids chosen, gifts for the brides maids and the best man (I had chosen the best man, a former college class-mate, by mail), a choral group and soloists to sing at the ceremony, and even an appointment with a photographer to have our picture taken right after the wedding! Charlotte’s brothers, who were now home from the war, had secretly made our reservation at a luxury lakefront hotel for Charlotte and me to spend our wedding night. All I had to do was show up! Many of those involved did not know how close I had come to not showing up on time!
Once when reminiscing with Charlotte about her arrangement of all the details that made our wedding come off smoothly. She added to the list of things I had remembered, “Yes, and I had to cook dinner for your parents and your brother!” You know, I had forgotten about that! You see, my parents and younger brother followed me a day later from Nashville to Chicago to attend the wedding. Charlotte and her father had invited them to stay at their house. But, of course, the task of caring for them fell mostly upon Charlotte who did all the cooking and house keeping for the Wiesen family. So the night before her wedding Charlotte prepared a sumptuous meal for the Perry and the Wiesen families. I suppose she fixed breakfast for them the next day also, her wedding day. I was not there because “our culture” at that time said that the bride was not to be seen by the groom on the day before the wedding. (We were doing everything, inasmuch as possible, “according to Hoyle.”Do you see why my heart wells up with pride and admiration for this woman who condescended to marry me? (Years later it finally occurred to me that I had stolen the house keeper of the three men members of the Wiesen family, although it was with their permission! )
An excerpt from the Autobiography of Francis M. Perry, born 1921.