Letters before October 20, 1944.
October 1.44: I sure have received a lot of letters from you this week. I guess I get one every day. I am sorry that I haven’t been able to answer all of them. Last night we got six cans of beer per man and had party. The troop went hog-wild.
I have a mattress to sleep on now. John A flew back to the states and left me one that he bought a couple of weeks ago. I hated to see him go, but he sure is a lucky boy. That’s what money will do for a guy. Not only money, but a senator for a friend. Clair’s brother was in to see him yesterday. He is in the Navy and it was the first time they had seen each other in over a year.
Don’t get it into your head that I am fighting. I am not even close to a Jap, but I am busy.
Calumet Farm sure has a good three-year old filly this year. Her name is Twilight Tear and she has had her share of wins. Their stable has won $480.00. so far this tear and that isn’t hay. I am anxious to see their band of broodmares. When I was there they didn’t have many outstanding mares and now they have the best bunch in the states.
October 2.45: Letter #26 came today. I got a big kick out of you telling me about the horses Aunt Mary used to drive. Tell me one thing. How in the world do you put kicking straps on horses heels and then drive them? Either you or Aunt Mary got mixed up there.
I am glad you are going to school. It will help you pass the time away and give you something to think about. I realize that you must be under a nervous strain, but please darling don’t worry too much about me. It will not help me a bit and only make it tougher on yourself. Just say a prayer now and then.
October 4, V-Mail: I have just had my breakfast and cleaned up a bit. Later on I will have to work.
I’ll be thinking of you on the 7th. Editor’s Note: Wedding anniversary? You never even mentioned remembering me on the 17th. Is that the way we start out? Just between you and me, it sort of got me down. Perhaps I didn’t get the letter. It better be that. Editor’s Note: Is he referring to September 17th? Was that his birthday? If so, I understand. I don’t think mom ever remembered my birthday unless I reminded her of it days in advance. As an adult….never. How about the rest of you?
October 5, V-Mail: Talk about eating, yesterday for dinner we had strawberry ice cream and for dinner coconut pie. This isn’t the Army! I would have given five dollars for a quart of ice cream.
October 11, V-Mail: I have been too busy to write every day, but I write every time I find the time and am not too tired. Now don’t you and mom get it in your head that I am fighting a big battle. I am not. I am just working hard and have little spare time. I am eating extra good. I had five lamb chops for dinner. This morning I had all the oranges and apples I wanted.They sure were good.
October 12, V-Mail: If you save my letters until I come home I will tell you where I was when I wrote. You would laugh if you could see me now. How do you like having a military secret for a husband?
Letters after October 20, 1944
Editor’s Note: You can use the timeline I put together in order to figure out where he is when he wrote while in Leyte. See Uncensored Letters. Unfortunately, he never wrote it down.
October 23, V-Mail: I can’t tell you where I am. If you read the papers you will know without my telling you. Honestly, there is so much to tell you that I wouldn’t know where to start and I would not be able to tell you until I get home.I had a hunk of shrapnel cut my shoulder, but it was an open cut and didn’t hurt to speak of.
October 26, V-Mail: I sure manage to keep covered with mud. Every time I hear a plane I dive into my fox hole and the bottom of it is muddy. I have a good place to sleep. At least it is dry and well protected. We have been lucky about eating. Our kitchen manages to keep up with us, so we have hot meals fairly often.
I always said I would hate to take a beach. I came in on the first wave and got a big thrill from it. Since then I have learned to have more respect for these Japs as fighting men. I hid behind a coconut tree one morning and Lexington KY looked ten million miles away.
October 26, V-Mail: Just to let you know I still have two feet stuck in the Philippine mud and I am all right. The cut on my shoulder is healing fast and I’ll be able to carry a pack in a day or two. I am with the troop and have been with them except for one day and night. The Japs have bombed us several times. Guess they want us to go home. The people here were sure glad to see us.
October 26, V-Mail addressed to Mr and Mrs P. Ray Norton: Well your boy has both feet deep in Philippine mud. There is a lot to tell you, but I’ll start by saying I no longer have any barber tools. I had them in my pack and a sniper made it so hot for me that I left without getting my pack.
We have had air raids and they scare me to death. I dug a fox hole so deep that I hit water and have to sit in mud when I get in it. I was under a coconut palm when the Japs hit it with a mortar shell. It put a dent in my helmet, knocked a piece off my gun stock, and cut my shoulder. I was lucky I had my helmet on or I wouldn’t be telling about it. I suppose you read all about the show in the Philippines. I saw it first hand.
October 27, V-Mail: Edith will be 8 months old tomorrow. It hardly seems possible that she is that old. I lost the shaving brush you gave me for Christmas. Not only that, but I lost my hair brush, barber tools, ten-dollar pipe, a picture of you, and my toilet equipment. I had it in my pack and a Jap was making it hot for me so I left it and wasn’t able to go back after it. It’s funny, but without a doubt, you have read and heard more about this battle than I have. Aside from my own squadron I know little of what happened.
October 27: I am not exactly sure but I think it is the 27th. I received letter #22 from you today. I didn’t number this letter as you will notice. I do not have the slip that I keep tally on.
I never did tell you his name, but you remember me telling you about the 1st Sgt. I used to run around with while at Ft. Ord. He was one hell of a good fellow and he gave me the Bible I have now. Well the poor guy hit the beach with the 112th Cavalry and was killed. You expect things like that over here, but I feel bad about it. We used to have some good times together and he always called me Brother Ellison. He always wanted some on to play “Malguania” for him on th e piano.
P.S. Do you still read the paper every morning? Editor’s Note: Pretty sure this PS means something.
October 31: I managed to find a few sheets of paper, so I’ll write for the first time in about four days. I think about you all the time, but never have the paper to write on.
I imagine you and mom are pretty worried on me. I only hope my letters reach you soon and then your worries will be over. I am very anxious to learn how the states took the news of this invasion. It was a big one. Some said it was as large as the Normandy Invasion. I don’t know. It was big enough for me. The night before landing I went to bed with a funny sort of feeling. In spite of everything I slept good and the next morning I felt fresh and ready to go in. My nerves seemed very steady and although I was afraid it wasn’t “fear.”
The next morning I was hiding behind a coconut palm when the Japs hit the top of it with a mortar shell. I was plenty scared then, but didn’t know I had been hit. There was a big ditch of water there and I slid down in the water, because I was afraid there would be another shell. When I got out I found that shrapnel had hit my helmet, gun pack and a piece of it had cut a gash in my shoulder about a half-inch deep and an inch and a half long. An aid man put a dressing on it and told me to catch an ambulance. It was late afternoon before I went into town and I was cold from rain and mud. The hospital moved so fast that day that I never did find it. I did find Doc. Brown and he gave me some food and told me to sleep some place where it was dry. I found an old slaughter-house and slept on the slaughter block. A tank driver brought me two quarts of Sake “Jap Wine,” and I had a swell time all by myself.
I started looking for the hospital again the next morning. I guess I didn’t look very hard. They were bombing a hill outside the town and I watched that for a while. After that I walked around the town, washed my face in a Native’s house and was treated like a king. Later that afternoon I said “To hell with being wounded” and caught a ride out to where my troop had dug in for the night. By the way, I will get the Purple Heart.
We have been bombed some. They never seem to hit anything, but they scare me at times. I watched a dog fight one day. The Jap’s plane caught on fire and he bailed out. His chute was on fire too, so he had to come down without it. He made a fast trip.
I rather like the country. It isn’t as hot as it was in the Admiralty Islands and most of the people can speak some English. They are very clean and I notice the girls wear slips. At least they have them hanging out to dry. The girls are fairly pretty and in the city they seemed dressed and clean. Of course their clothes are all patched and some of them are dressed in burlap,but they do it with a style that seems very much American.
The country is beautiful. The lowlands are wet and covered with coconuts, bamboo and grass. The hillsides are cut up with small patches of corn, sweet potatoes and whatever else they grow. There are lots of chickens, ducks, geese, pigs and a few horses. The water buffalo is their work animal. He is well named because he spends most of his time in a mud wallow with only his head sticking out. They work them, ride them, eat them and I guess they milk them. A man would never starve in this country.