Letters To My Mother From WWII: July 1-23, 1944

Roy Ellison (Max’s Father)    Margaret Ellison (Mother)

July 1-23, 1944

July 16:  Did you miss my letters? This is the first one I have written this month and this morning I got a pack of letters from you and mom which was my first mail this month.

Editor’s Note: So why hasn’t dad written to mom for  two weeks? The division remained in the Admiralties until Oct 1944 in order to provide security as bases were developed.  During this time mop-up patrols were conducted. My guess is that dad was on one of these mop-up patrols 

I had a hell of a good time and lived like a king. Killed fish with hand grenades, wrapped them in banana leaves and baked them under the sand. I bargained with the Natives for a quarter of freshly killed pig and cooked it the same way. The Natives kept me in rice and all told I ate like a king, most of the time. The jungle was beautiful even though it was hot, lots of mud and rain. I saw several green parrots, grey monkeys, and beautiful moths. I had a great feed of paw paws that I roasted in a bed of coals.

I have a few souvenirs to send you. I am sending a belt with the design of a tiger worked on it. It is a friendship belt and is made by friends of the Jap who wore it. The tiger is supposed to represent his strength. Inside you will find a couple of Jap coins. I am also sending an officer’s canteen. I sold a bayonet for a pound. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that a Jap isn’t afraid to die. If you get the drop on him he will do some squalling.

I didn’t sign the pay roll this month, consequently, I will not be paid until August and I’ll be able to send you plenty of money. We will pay your school debt this year and have it off our minds. I didn’t mean for you to buy dishes now, but thought you would wait until after the war.

The Native guides here are something to see. They can find a trail through a jungle where no trail seems to exist and I’ll swear they can smell a Jap. We were wading down a creek one morning when suddenly our Native guide told us to take cover. We sat in the stream that was up to our waist. Sure enough Japs were coming down the trail. How he knew, it is more than I know.

Tomorrow or tonight I may write more. I am pretty busy just now cleaning up my equipment. My uniform will not look too bad when I come home. I’ll have two silver stars on my service strip.  Editor’s Note: The language governing the award of the Silver Star calls for gallantry in action in combat against an enemy and must be performed with marked distinction.

July 17: I have beer on my breath. We are right on the ball over here and since Saturday night I have had four bottles of beer. It is rationed, but just to get a bottle now and then is something.

Yesterday they had thin blades at the P.X. and I got a couple of packages. That was a real find. I also managed to buy a few air mail envelopes. I tell you Flip, this is alright over here.

I have written several letters tonight. I have a good book to read, but I can read it during the day. We have a few books in our troop library, but we could use more. I guess there isn’t more than a dozen books now, but we have lots of magazines. Some place around the house you will find “The Fall and Decline of the Roman Empire.” I did not pay too much for it and if it isn’t too much trouble please send it. I know very little about that period and this would be a good time to learn. I would like to have Vol. Two of the Greek Histories, but would not want it over here because it might get lost.

We have had trouble with the light and just got it going. I lost a lot of time while fooling with it. Not only that, but another fellow and I have been talking horse. His name is James and you will hear me mention him fairly often from now on as we are pretty good friends. His father was a first cousin of Jessie James and James tells me he can remember Frank James after he was well on in years. On this last patrol James couldn’t find enough to eat until he started camping with me. I filled him up with rice, fish, and pork. I have developed a great taste for chocolate. We get it in our J Rations along with a can of powdered milk. Did you ever see or use powdered milk? For cooking purposes it is the real thing and with it I can make hot chocolate.

One night I made my tent  on the beach. The tide was out and during the night the tide came in. I was just out of reach, though the water would have reached my feet had I not curled up and tucked them under my stomach. If you get back in the grass the gnats will eat you up, and if you sleep on the sand the crabs will crawl all over you. James and I were sleeping on his rain coat and by morning we found where at least a dozen had dug holes in the sand under the rain coat. One of those crabs can make more noise than a man crawling and they sound exactly like a man crawling. I will always swear that I saw a young kangaroo. James and I were sleeping and I was awakened by something on my chest. At first I thought it was a big rat and I let out a yell. He made one hop and landed on James feet and with one more hop he was ten feet outside the tent and lost from view.

I killed a snake that could have been a coral snake. He resembled a coral snake in all ways with the exception of his color not being the bright red and yellow bands, but dull brown and grey bands. Back in the bush I saw several snakes that looked like moccasins. Some of them must be bad because the Natives fear all of them.

I always had an idea that the jungle was filled with birds. That isn’t true and when you do find birds you find them in bunches or flocks. There are lots of parrots and a small bird that looks like a swallow. In the evening you see a great number of bats; some of them being much larger than a crow. Another way in which the jungle differs is that it is hard to find dry wood to burn. Though the brush is thick it is made up of palms and plants that rot instead of dry. There are a few hard woods, but when they fall the rain and heat soon rots them. The best fuel is coconut husks. They are hard to start, but once they do burn they hold fire for hours.

I spent a night in a hut with several Natives. It happened like this. We had bivouacked in an area where we knew there were Japs. The Natives slept in a hut and the back door opened on a trail that led into the brush. It would have been easy, but bad for us, if a Jap would make use of the trail. The Native police boy and I took turns squatting where we could watch the trail. At first it was plenty dark and in my imagination I could see and hear a million Japs. Several times I was on the point of firing, but my nerves held good and a full moon came up to scare all my worries away. I hope I am not telling you anything that they (Editor’s Note: censors) will cut on me. I guess being a little scared isn’t too big a military secret. I came over here to kill Japs, but let me tell you this – the first time I saw a Jap with his head half blown away I was pretty sick in the stomach. It’s only the first time that bothers you.

July 19:  Clair T and I have been chewing the fat in the last half hour. We spend most of our time in some  big argument. Do us a favor and find out what year the S.S.Titanic sank and what kind of bomber do they make at Willow Run. I think the Titanic went down in either 1911 or 1913. He claims it was around 1908. Editor’s note:  Titanic went down in 1912. Willow Run produced Liberator Heavy Bombers.

I have K.P. tomorrow. I don’t mind K.P. over here as there isn’t a great deal to do. I guess I’ll have it Sunday too, but that will be a punishment. The First Sgt. caught me without my leggings on tonight. We do not have to wear them during the day but they must be on after five P.M. Editor’s Note: Leggings were used to protect the lower leg, to provide ankle support and to keep dirt, sand, and mud from entering the shoes. I have no idea why the men were made to wear them at night and not during the day. I am not used to having them, but after I do K.P. a couple of times I’ll remember.

I took another four dollars off your school debt today. I still manage to make a little money now and then. I guess I have about nine pounds that I have made in the last few weeks.

Last night we had a rain and a strong wind. This morning I found all of your pictures out in the mud. I have washed them and they are none the worse for wear.

There are some happenings in these parts that I can’t write about. I’ll have some good tales to tell you when I come home and remind me to tell you about the time some of us traded a dog to the Natives. It happened in Finchaven and it’s a darned good story. Don’t get me wrong, when I say things happen I mean among us fellows.

One of my tent mates is in the hospital with Malaria. We have very little of it around here, but now and then someone has a mild case. The Atarine we take each day keeps it pretty well suppressed.

When mom works you must have the house pretty much to yourself. Do you get lonesome? Bellaire is such a small town, but I like it.

James and I are gong to the Red Cross after coffee.

July 21:  My nose is playing me a dirty trick. I can smell fresh raspberries and I know there isn’t one within a thousand miles.

I didn’t write yesterday. I took a couple of shots yesterday and they made me feel pretty stiff and sore. Editor’s Note: Was he out on patrol when he took those shots? I started to write, but I felt blue and tore it up and went to bed. I would hate to give anyone the impression of being blue. I would like to be home, but I am not discouraged.

I am anxious to hear whether or not your folks got the one hundred dollars I mailed them. The mail service is pretty bad. When I figure it up I have only received about forty letters from you since I left the states. I have not received any mail in the past five days with the exceptions of a church letter from your dad’s church. A short time ago I received a letter from one of the men in your father’s church. His address was on Marlow, but I couldn’t figure out his name. He didn’t write anything (just a note) but he sent me several religious tracts.

It’s nearly time for your folks to come north. Where are they going to stay? I wish I could be there to take dad fishing. I am afraid the fishing season will be pretty far gone in August.

It’s nearly time for retreat. We stand more formations here than I ever did in the states. The 1st cavalry division is on the ball. I have not heard much was news, but what I have heard is good. We seem to find a little more defence as we draw closer to Japan. Of course, that is to be expected. I’ll be home next summer you can bet on that.

It hardly seems possible that I haven’t seen you for seven months. It seems only yesterday that I heard you say “Good luck trooper.” I sure hated to leave you that day and I was pretty glad you didn’t cry until I was gone.

One of these days the army is going to have to make me a new lower plate. I have had this one two years and I was only supposed to wear it six months. The past few months they have bothered me to a certain extent. I am going to try to hold out until I reach the states. They wouldn’t be able to do the work here and I might have to go back to Finchaven. God Forbid. I never did tell you much about that place. It was all mud and maggots. I have seen the ground between the kitchen and mess hall covered with the varmints. None of us would go to the mess hall unless it was to steal something. We stole hams, cases of eggs, flour, sugar, coffee, pineapple, peaches, butter, bacon, and anything else we could get. One day they raided us and got three truck loads. For breakfast they used to feed us cold C. Ration hash and no coffee. Don’t get the idea that every place over here is like that. Far from it. Where I am now, it’s as clean as you could wish and the food is well prepared. This division is noted for being clean and is sort of a show outfit. I notice that the fellows all take pride in it and you feel so much better when things are clean.

The mail just came. There were two letters from you dated early June and three letters from mom that were dated the last of June and one mailed on the 4th of July. There seems to be little difference between V-Mail and air mail as far as speed is concerned.

Your dad will find old man Schoolcraft is some character. I hope you like the lake. Remember that your daughter’s great great grandfather used to row a boat from there to Elk Rapids after his mail. I am going to write to my brother Steve now.

July 22, V-Mail: This is a hot Saturday afternoon and I have hardly moved from my tent. After I finish this I am going to take a shower. It’s fairly cool in the tent, but don’t step outside in the sun unless you want to get pretty hot. Your picture seems to be a favorite among the boys. Every once in a while some one looks at it and whistles. It takes up too much space and I do not have it out all the time.

July 23.1:  A Col. Green from Alexandria sent me a copy of Rev. Blakemore’s Easter sermon. I enjoyed reading it. Did you hear it Easter Sunday? We have a good chaplain here. He never puts force in his sermon, but he talks with ease and in a manner that makes you feel he is familiar with the subject.

A friend of mine came over from another island this morning. Just now he and Clair T have gone swimming. After dinner we are going after shells. We have to wait for the tide to go out.

I wish you would start numbering your letters. You will notice that I have put a number one behind the date. My next letter will be  number two. That way we will know whether or not we are caught up on the mail. Clair T and his mother work it that way and he always knows just how many letters he has on the way and whether or not they all got here.

It would be nice if Laura Marie could come up for a week. You would have a lot of fun. My mother, I know, would be glad to have her. I can just see you two having a swim in Lake Bellaire. She has met Florence Culver a couple of times.

What does Uncle Ed think of Edith? He likes kids. At least he always thought a lot of his own grandchildren.

Grandmaggie and Uncle Ed

Grandmaggie and Uncle Ed (Husband #2)

I seem to lack ambition. A couple of times I have paid someone to do my washing. If it’s a cloudy day I feel like working, but when the sun is out I like to stay in my tent. Our tents are open on all sides and are pretty cool. There are several coconut palms around here but they do not give much shade. A lot of them had their tops blown off and they are just trunks sticking out of the ground.

Yes I like the outdoor life. I seem to thrive on it and it’s going to be funny when I come home. We will not have the equipment to dehydrate our food and I’ll have to eat fresh vegetables and eggs, and drink milk right from the cow. In the past three months I have not eaten over three potatoes that were not dehydrated and I haven’t had fresh milk since I left the states. I am not kicking because I don’t mind it. In fact dehydrated potatoes are good and powdered milk is plenty good to cook with or make hot chocolate. One night I didn’t have chocolate or sugar so I put powdered milk in water and heated it. It made a good drink. Promise me one thing darling, never cook carrots for me. I have had enough.

When I am home from hunting mom always asks me if my gun is loaded. It would never do for her to be here. While on patrol I slept with my gun under my blanket. I wanted to keep it dry and close by. Be hell to have a Jap sneak in and shoot at me with my own gun.

Mom sad she was going to send me a box of cigars. I’ll let you pay her. I hope they get here all right.  Anything you send me will be a good investment. I hope you can get some fine gold chains. You could send them in an envelope. I’ll be sending you a hundred and fifty dollars in another week. That should be some help.

Your idea of a freezing unit sounds good. Your cooling room would be 35 degrees, but how large would a freezing unit be? I wish I could get some definite information on it. My idea has been to build a cooling room that is well insulated and have the freezing compartment inside that. However, I want an extra-large freezing compartment. It would have to hold more than we could use ourselves because if we could sell seven hundred quarts of raspberries in the winter time we could clear well over two hundred dollars which would pay operating costs. I say raspberries because you can raise a lot of them in a small space and when they are fresh they bring a price. Not only that, but they are easy to take care of and can be harvested fairly cheap. By that time Edith would even be of some help. Editor’s Note: Already he’s got me working in the field. Dream on dad.

The dog question is still in my mind. We could build a small kennel and only keep two or three bitches. If it didn’t pan out or show profit we would not be out much because the kennel could be converted to a chicken house. Our main thing would be horses and I hope that in time we will be able to drop everything else. Until that day comes we will have to make a living the best way we can and Flip don’t think for a second that we will not make it. It will mean work and plenty of it, but we will be together and I think we will be happy.





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