Letters To My Mother From WWII: March 1945

Main Hospital In Manila

main hospital

Hospital Ward


March 4:  Editor’s Note:  Manila is officially liberated on March 4th. However, the city is devastated by bombing and the Manila massacre, in which about 100,000 people were killed.

March 7:  I hope this reaches you before the wire saying I was wounded on March 6th. I had five artillery shells drop close to me and I got hit in the right arm just above the elbow. As soon as they take an x-ray and they will get the shrapnel out. Yes, it hurts. However, I have the use of the arm as long as I don’t try to bend it. That gives me an oak leaf cluster and four more points toward rotation……a hard way to get points. I was lucky to get in a hole when I did. The kid next to me didn’t make it. I suppose he never knew what hit him.

I broke the stem out of my pipe and had to make another. It’s a crude looking one. Cigarettes are scarce. I have got one package in five days. I doubt whether the boys got any today. The front is no place to be out of cigarettes.

This is all the paper I have and my arm will not let me write too much.

March 8:  I have a mighty sore finger today. I got a hunk of shrapnel in it and never knew. I remember at the time my finger felt numb.

I have written a lot of letters today. My buddy James is in here now. He got it this morning. I wrote to his wife and mother for him. His hand is banged up a bit.

The Filipinos have a little stand outside the gates and last night I went out to buy a few boiled eggs.They wanted twenty-five cents for one egg. Guess you know what I told them to do with their eggs.

I slept good last night. Before I went to bed my arm pained pretty bad so they gave me a sleeping pill and I dropped off as soon as I finished my prayers. It’s good to sleep all night without having to pull guard. It’s good to sleep and to know that the Japs are not going to turn a rocket on you.

They are not going to take the shrapnel out of my arm. I suppose that in ten years from now it will start to work out. I wish they would take it out and I would be finished with it once and for all.

You have had such a long hard winter that I suppose you will have an early spring. Even now the days must be a little longer and perhaps a little warmer.

This Jap ink is no good. You don’t dare fill your pen with it and even after it is dry the darned stuff will rub off and make a mess.

Did your mother come for Edith’s birthday? I sure would have enjoyed the cake. This is sort of birthday for me. I left the states exactly a year ago. I had no idea at the time what would be in store for me. I only hope that I am home again next year at this time.

Editor’s Note: The following are two V-Mail letters addressed to Rev. and Mrs P.Ray Norton 

March 8:  Wounded again! This time it was shrapnel from artillery and I got it in the right arm. I heard it coming and tried to get in a hole, but it hit before I could get down. I was very lucky. The fellow next to me never knew what hit him. The shelling lasted for some time and I was scared. I didn’t dare move from the position I was in. I could see my right sleeve all covered with blood and I couldn’t feel my arm. I thought for a while that perhaps I didn’t have one. They have not taken the shrapnel out. My arm is very sore and pains, but I can use it as long as I don’t try to lift it up. I also got nicked on my left hand, but it wasn’t much.

March 9: I suppose you folks are anxious to hear how I am coming along. Just fine! They are not going to take the shrapnel out as it would be more operation than it’s worth. I find that I have a small piece working out of my finger and it hurts like a boil. The hole in my arm is about as big around as a dime.  I had a General stop by my bed this afternoon and ask me how I was doing. As a usual thing I pray enough and in times of trouble I feel that the Lord will watch out for me and so it’s not a habit of mine to pray much while under fire. The other day was so terrible that long before it ended I was praying. No more than five shells hit where I was, but I’ll bet five hundred missed by no more than twenty feet. I never want to go through that again.

March 9:  The shrapnel is working its way out of my finger. It’s worse than having a tooth come through. I still can’t bend my arm without a great deal of pain. The shrapnel in my arm can’t be so very large. it made a hole about the size of a lead pencil.

Remember the boy with the boots and spurs who rode home with you last fall? I guess he is in the Division now/ I am questioning every one I see in the hopes I can find him. It would be fun to talk to someone who had talked to you. Can you remember his name?

The letter I wrote on March 5th was returned to me. The fellow who censored it was sore at me and he took that way to show it. I am going to send it again and I hope it gets through this time. The only thing wrong with it is that I used both sides of the paper. paper is so scarce that they should overlook that.  Editor’s Note: This letter was written on two sheets of V-Mail and then folded and put into a regular envelope. I guess he couldn’t find regular paper.

March 10: I managed to wash out my jacket this morning. It was sure dirty and now if I can get my trousers washed I will start to feel a little cleaner.

I saw one of the fellows from the troop yesterday. If he comes again today he is going to bring me my mail. I sure would like to hear from you. I am anxious to get some pictures of Edith taken while she is standing up or trying to walk. By now she must be walking all over the house.

It is hard for me to write with my arm like this. They tell me to use it all I can though it hurts. I hope the shrapnel comes out before it heals up. I want to get it over with once and for all.

I had a General stop by my bed yesterday and ask me how I was feeling. He went through the whole ward and asked us if we had plenty of writing paper and if there was anything he could do for us. I had a notion to tell him he could send me home.

I had a sweet dream last night. I was either buying fishing tackle or else fishing all night long. Even if it was only a dream I enjoyed it. I can hardly wait until I can take you fishing. You will love it, I hope. If not you can stay home while I fish.

I hope it’s not winter when I come home. Lexington wouldn’t be so nice in the winter time. Of course we could still have fun because we would be together, but the country wouldn’t look so nice. The way I feel right now I would like to take a month’s vacation before starting to work. I will not be able to even though it would be fun.

I have been spending a little money. They sell bananas here and several other things in the line of candy. I want to send a few dollars to you whenever I can get a money order.  I guess I have two month’s back pay coming. Of course I draw very little now that you get twenty-five.

My eyes are heavy. I didn’t get much sleep last night and I am starting to notice it.

March 12:  It’s impossible to write with Jap ink without getting it all over everything. One of these days I’ll get a bottle of good American ink. At last I have my films all packed and ready to mail. The pictures should be back within a couple of weeks. I only hope that a part of them are good because that picture I sent was so bad. I look pretty chipper when I am caught up on my sleep. I am waiting for them to come and dress my arm. It feels good today and it’s starting to itch which should be a good sign. I will be joining my troop one of these days.

We had a good dinner today, chicken pie, spinach, fresh potatoes (the first in months), fresh pineapple, bread and jam, and ice-cold cake. That was a good dinner. They feed good, but I never eat much. I eat a big breakfast and that’s the only meal I enjoy. Perhaps I munch too much between meals.

The news from Europe sounds pretty good. I guess the Germans are having their hands full with the Russians and Yanks coming at them from every side.  The German people are having a chance to see how destructive war is when fought on their own soil.  Before the war ends Tokio will learn the same thing. I am anxious to get back and pick up my mail. I am not happy when I don’t hear from you. Of course, it always seems swell when I get several letters from you at one time.

How is your school work going? You will be in a good position to get a good job if you do decide to work for a while. That’s  not a hint that I want you to work. I am satisfied the way things are now.

I am bound to be home one of these days. I don’t expect to come before the end of the war. Nevertheless, I do not expect this war to last forever. I am anxious to see a force land on Japan. To my way of thinking that would bring them out of China. A war in Japan would be pretty bad because you wouldn’t be able to give the civilians a break. They would shoot you in the back.   I have seen all I want to see and I am ready to turn things over to the Marines. We rode a few miles in some beat up trucks and I see where the papers call us “mechanized.” Enough war talk!

I washed my clothes and took a bath this morning. First bath I had since I came in. In fact, it’s the first bath I had since I was in the hospital a couple of weeks ago. I was filthy!

March 13:  I am waiting for the doctor to come and look at my arm. I am going to try to get out today. My troop is resting now and I might as well be with the outfit. I can have the medic in my troop dress it and it will come along alright.

Ever since I have been in the Philippines I have wondered why they raised such a small banana. I found out the reason. They export them to China and the people there do not have much money and could not afford to pay for large ones. Glad I got that worry off my mind.

Next I want to figure out why they don’t raise cows over here. I think it’s due to the feed. They tell me a cow will not do well on this grass. I think they can raise feed here. Even in times of peace Manila hasn’t had a dairy. They use powdered milk.

It sure was cold last night. I thought I would freeze to death about five this morning. I had to get another blanket. In my dreams I fought the Japs all night long and your dad was with me. I have seen enough of that without dreaming about it.

We had fried eggs for breakfast and apples too. I will start gaining weight if they feed me like that. I will need to gain about thirty pounds.

March 14, V-Mail:  I just received your letter of March 1st and how you couldn’t make out about the hospital. Evidently you had not received my other letters telling you I was in the hospital. I was hospitalized twice last month for my stomach and dysentery (which I still have) and once this month for shrapnel in the arm. I know exactly how you must have felt. I am sorry.

March 14:  There were eight letters waiting for me when I got back. Chauncey’s Christmas box was here as well as one from my cousin in Detroit. All told I got three fruit cakes and two boxes of candy. All of it was good. I wrote to Chauncey (Editor’s Note: My mother’s brother) last night and thanked him for the box. I told him I was not interested in showing dogs. However, I did offer to let him go in with me on breeding a few. If he wants to show a few he can, but I don’t know anything about that end of it.

Tomorrow I have a pass and I’ll spend the day in the city. You know what city, but I can’t say the name. We got paid this afternoon and I’ll have money enough to buy you a gift providing I can find something nice enough for you.

I like the idea of you staying with Chauncey. The extra money would come in handy. I know of another race track between Detroit and Lansing. I could train there and the land wouldn’t be so high. In fact if we wanted to go there and build on a small-scale we could do it without going too far into debt. I have been thinking about it pretty strong. Even though I like Northville I hate to start out and be behind the eight ball. We will have plenty of time to decide between now and when we build. This is 1945 and in 1962 we are going to have a daughter ready for college and we want to be ready to send her. Editor’s Note: Turns out it was 1961 when I left home for college.

March 16:  I was in town yesterday and I am sending you a souvenir.  I think you will like them. I was very lucky too because I found a pen exactly like the one I lost and I bought it. I only had to pay $12.50 which was only a couple more dollars than it would have cost new. I ate everything they had and a lot of food like we used to get at the Chinaman’s. It was good but I ate too much. I weighed myself yesterday and I am darn near back to normal, 150 lbs. Whenever I weigh 150 I don’t worry, but when I drop down to 130 it’s time to worry. At the rate Edith is going she will have a full mouth. That expression, “Full Mouth,” seems turned around when I use it in regards to Edith’s teeth. In the equine  world it is right. I was going to buy a dress for Edith yesterday but I couldn’t figure out what size she would take.  You will notice that I am not using paragraphs, it’s a waste of paper and paper is as scarce as cigarettes. I am afraid that the  quartermasters are trading out cigarettes to the Filipinos. If we are lucky we get a package a day. Yes Flip, the cigar deal was black market. However, in that part of the world money would not have a great deal of value.

March 17:  What a beautiful morning this is. There is a cool breeze blowing and I have been reading, writing, eating bananas, and taking naps. Clair T stopped by for a while. He wants me to visit him tomorrow, but it’s too much effort. Clair T and I went to see a buddy of ours yesterday and found that he got killed early this month. The three of us used to be together at Fort Ord, New Guinea, and the Admiralty Islands. I never mentioned him because he was more Clair T’s friend than mine. I suppose Edith can do a pretty good job of walking by this time. I am darned near going to have a grown daughter by the time I get home. She is very apt to be afraid of me. Most of the fellows in the tent are sleeping. They were in town yesterday and I guess they had a big day. By golly, they deserve  to have a good time. They certainly earned one. It’s almost time for dinner and I am not the least bit hungry. I eat too many bananas. I thrive on them and I am terribly tired of G.I. chow. I have a bag full of books and I have been doing a lot of reading. When I say bag I mean just that. I have a weather proof bag and every time I find a book or magazine I save it until I have time to read it. Some of them I brought from Leyte.  I will have to stop writing now because I have run out of paper.

March 18:  Your letters of February 27th and March 5th came today. Mail seems very scarce.  As a usual thing we get lots of it while we are resting. Not so this time.  I went to church this morning and after church the Regiment had a memorial service for the fellows who were killed. Our Regimental Commander gave a short talk and then Taps were blown. I had tears in my eyes.

I wonder if you understand what I mean when I talk about Brigades, Regiments and such? The 1st Calvary Division is made up of two Brigades that are called 1st and 2nd. In the 1st Brigade there are the 5th and 12th Regiments and the 2nd Brigade is made up of the 7th and 8th Regiments. The Regiments are broken up into two Squadrons, the 1st and the 2nd. The Squadrons are broken up into Troops. In other words, E Troop is in the 2nd Squadron, 7th Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 1st Calvary and the 1st Calvary is a part of the 6th Army.

We had a taste of ice cream for dinner. What wouldn’t I give for a gallon of it. I know of a place in Lexington were we can get home-made ice cream. The people were old when I was there, but perhaps they are still in business. I only hope we do not have to go to Kentucky in the winter. Guess we will be glad to go any time.

I am wondering how much the Kentucky breeders will cut down on their stock now that they have stopped racing. It would be an ideal time to buy a young mare. I know several Bull Dog mares that could be bought at a reasonable price. Editor’s Note: I have no idea what a Bull Dog mare is. Could find nothing on Google.

You missed something when you couldn’t go to Steve’s place. Whenever Steve, John, and Wanda (Editor’s Note: Dad’s siblings) get together things are bound to happen. Wish I could have been there too.

We are supposed to draw a little beer this evening. One day we got ice-cold beer right on the line. I was in my foxhole drinking cold beer. That was something.

I am reading a biography of George Washington Carver. It is good. Trouble is I go to sleep when I start to read.

March 19:  One of these days I am going to make a drawing for you of how I would like our house. The sewing room could be fixed up so that it could be used as a spare bedroom. I have a lot of ideas.

You should be here and see the fruit I have on my bunk. I have been eating a lot of it. I have bought some fruit from the P.X. We are eating pretty good. We had fresh eggs for breakfast and steak for dinner as well as having it last night too. Oh Well, we will soon be eating field rations.

Laura Marie told me that she might not teach next year. She has an idea that she wants to get into the service. Foolish Girl! It makes me sore when they send girls over seas. I saw a couple in town the other day. They are having a lark. They should have been here a few weeks ago and they would have seen first hand what war is like.

Filippino Women

Filipino Women’s Guerrilla Corps Training, 1941


Lyudmilla Pavlichenko, Russian sniper who  killed a confirmed 309 Germans

jewish resistance fighters

Jewish Resistance Fighters: Warsaw Ghetto, 1943

March 20:  Yesterday we had a little formation and they pinned a few Purple Hearts on us. After it was over they put us in groups of ten and took our picture. I am not sure whether I will be able to get one of the pictures, but if I can I’ll send you one. I sent you the Purple Heart this morning. I kept the small ribbon I wear. The metal one is for civilian life and the extra ribbon in the box will come in handy when I come home. The one I have will be pretty dirty by that time.

I had a chance to go into the city today. There isn’t a great deal down there and every thing is so high. The best part of the town has been destroyed. I need the rest and I’ll stick around here. I have 105 bananas on my bunk and shouldn’t starve.

The rain season is drawing close. I hope we are all through fighting by then. I don’t go for all that rain and mud.

No mail from you. I did get two Christmas Cards and I received a V-Mail from your dad. Seems funny to get Christmas Cards in March. Dad said he was sending more film.

I think I have ring worm on the back of my neck. I have been lucky about not having any until now. My luck has changed I guess.

March 23:  Your birthday card reached me on my birthday. I’ll bet you couldn’t do that again in a lifetime. I hope I can spend the next one with you.

I expect the pictures back any day now. Both Blanche and your father are sending me film and I’ll be able to get them developed much faster after this. I carried that other film in my pack for so long and I was always afraid something would happen to it. I am going to try to get colored pictures of the flowers over here. They are beautiful. If I had some way of doing it I would press a few flowers and send them to Mrs Mosher.

Flip, the more I think of it the more I am convinced that Bellaire would be a good place for us. The first year after the war and perhaps the second building material is going to be sky-high. I’ll come back and we can make a trip up there and pick out a place and buy it. Land isn’t high and I don’t want too much of it because a lot of the soil isn’t good. I think it would be best to buy five or six lots right in Bellaire. As soon as we had them bought we could start to landscape the place and make plans for our home. In the meantime I could go back to W & B to work. As soon as the price of lumber went down we could build and if you want we could build a stone house. There are lots of stones up there. I do want a stone fireplace. A brick fireplace never seems right to me. My idea of a fireplace is a stone one with a Dutch Oven. We could keep a cow, a couple of pigs, about 500 chickens, bees, dogs, and what not. We could start out pretty free of debt. In fact I doubt whether or not we would have to borrow above $2000. I can get on the GI Bill of Rights. We could buy a trotter and have just as much fun, if not more, by keeping him at home and racing him at places close by Traverse City. If he was good he would have the chance to go elsewhere. The whole thing depends on you. I am anxious to hear what you say about it.

Editor’s Note: W & B; I think he means Whitman and Barnes Mfg. Co. that made tools. I do remember he worked there and had to leave because they put him in a shop with lots of windows.  At that time there was no sunscreen and he had Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.


Every thing over here is fine. I have a good foxhole and it’s dry. Can’t ask for more than that. I sure would like to be home, but I guess the war will be over when I come home. Lots of the boys have been here longer than I.

Remember our poem? Didn’t it go something like this?  First of all I love my God and next he who died on the cross. Had a trotting horse, good one too! Sure loved him like most men do.  It seems as though I left something out. Perhaps I’ll remember it when I come home.

March 24, V-Mail: Every once in a while I take to reading plays. I believe I enjoy them more than I do novels. I have just finished “No Time for Comedy” and “Margin For Error.” The latter is good, but the very last line is a scream all of its own. It is cool this afternoon, but last night was downright cold. When I went on guard about five I could hardly keep from shivering. I am afraid that one of these days it will start to rain.Well, how is that daughter of ours making out? I bet Grandmaggie would like to see her. I sure like my new pen. I got it reasonable because the fellows tell me they cost $12.50 in the States. That is exactly what I paid for it. You have a pretty name, Florence Norton. I always liked the sound of it. I liked to girl too, so I married her.

March 29:  Back in the hospital again. This time with a wound in the head. This is the way it happened. I sneaked up behind a Jap bunker (foxhole) and another fellow crawled around to the entrance and tossed a grenade into it. The grenade must have hit a case of TNT because we sure blew the hell out of things. I guess it blew me ten feet off the ground and it made a cut on the top of my head. All this happened yesterday and I feel fine today. I say fine…..I do have a headache, but I am lucky to have a head to ache. They had to cut all the hair off my head and I sure am a funny looking duck. I needed a haircut.

Flip, every now and then something happens in combat that has a funny side to it. The other day a bunch of us got fired on and we made it out only to find one man was left behind. We could see him and he was right in front of a Jap bunker. He was lying on his back, rifle at his feet and his face turned to the sky. We figured either he was dead or bad hit and I was the guy they sent back to drag him down. I made a wild run and got behind a tree about two feet from him. Just as I was going to grab him he said, “Don’t touch me. I am playing dead.” In spite of everything I had to laugh. My hat is off to anyone who can lie in front of a machine gun and play dead.

March 30. V-Mail: Yesterday I wrote the details, but in case this letter gets there first, I am in the hospital with a scalp wound. It’s a beautiful day and if it wasn’t for the flies I would take a nap. I didn’t sleep last night. I guess I have the jitters. I am out of air-mail envelopes again and have two sheets of paper left, so I have to use V-Mail. Once the campaign ends we will have plenty of paper. Say, do you like Muskegon? Mom sent me one of Jim’s letters and by what he said you must have told him you didn’t like it. Flip, if you don’t like it there tell me. I can’t do much about it, but I would like to know.. There are a lot of goats around here. In fact, there are a lot of goats all over these islands and a lot of them are brown and white. I had never seen a brown one before.

The following is a V-Mail letter addressed to Rev. and Mrs P Ray Norton and dated March 30, 1945.

I am back in the hospital again. This time it is a cut scalp I received on the 28th. I sneaked up behind a Jap bunker and tossed in a grenade. It must have lit in a case of TNT, because I blew the top of the hill off. I was blown several feet off the ground. I say “I” all the time, but there were three of us. Now if I was a Marine I would be able to come home because I have been wounded three times. I very much doubt whether my troop commander would give me a transfer out of the rifle platoon. I need some kind of a transfer, because a man can only take so much of this. I’ll end up a nervous wreck.


Letters To My Mother From WWII: February 1945


Editor’s Note: On February 1, 1945 the 1st Cavalry goes through enemy lines and then on to Manila. The 7th Cavalry is the lead unit. They reach Manila on February 3, 1945 and liberate 4000 civilian prisoners, British and American men and women,  from Internment Camp Santo Tomas. By the time they were liberated many of the internees were near death from lack of food. The internment camp had been in operation since January 1942 and is located in one of the buildings of the University of Santo Tomas.

When dad talks about combat is these next letters he is talking about the Battle of Manila which began approximately February 3, 1945 and lasted to March 4, 1945. There is a great deal of information online about the Internment Camp Santo Tomas and in his letter dated 2/9/1945 dad references a talk with a former prisoner. The fighting for the city became urban warfare and the Japanese acts of brutality toward civilians, including rape, beheading, mutilation, and burning of Filipinos locked in their houses, became known as the Manila Massacre. If you google Battle of Manila WWII you will find detailed information. The battle ended three years of Japanese military occupation in the Philippines.

Feb 8. Combat Zone:   I have not heard from you since the middle of last month. We haven’t had a mail call since then. My letters to you have been few and far between. I guess I have written one letter since the twenty-fifth of last month. I have been in the field with no time to write.

I have been in the hospital now for the last few days. They brought me in with a temperature of 104. It’s my stomach and I am mighty glad to be where something will be done for it. I have no idea how long I will be here, but my address is the same as always. I suppose you want to know exactly how I feel. I feel pretty good and I am able to get up and walk around any time I please. I have plenty to read and the rest is doing me worlds of good. My last days in the field were tough because I didn’t feel up to it. I was bound to keep on going and I did until I took a 24 hour ride on a tank and when I got off, well they brought me here.

By the time this reaches you the papers will be telling where we are, if they haven’t told already. It’s a pretty nice place. It’s easy to imagine this as being a part of America.

Editor’s Note: Written in red pencil and dated 10-3-1957: “The next time they took my temperature it was normal and they sent me back.”

Feb 9. Combat Zone: This morning I talked with an American prisoner of war that had just been released after spending three years in a Jap prison. What stories he had to tell. He was lucky to get through it all. I happened to have a five dollar bill in my pocket and I gave it to him. He was so tickled I thought he was going to cry. He will soon be in the states and he said he was gong to buy five dollars worth of malted milks and peanut butter.

We hear the Russians are close to Berlin and we hope the war over there will soon end. That will mean we can finish our job over here that much sooner.

It’s time for me to say good-night. I hate to write too much because the fellows around here have too much to do without censoring a lot of mail.

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from a letter dated 2-11-1945 and written to Rev. and Mrs. P. Ray Norton.

If you have been reading the papers you must know where we are. It has been a pretty hot spot. What beautiful country this is and it’s so much like America. Even the people here speak English so much better and we get to see American girls now and then. We have recaptured a lot of our boys and girls who have been prisoners here since the fall of Bataan. They were sure glad to see us and call us the “Yanks.” It gives a soldier a happy sort of feeling to talk with them.

Feb 11. Combat Zone: Yesterday they flew me back out of the combat zone. It was a nice plane ride and I enjoyed seeing the country from the air. I expect I will go back in a couple of days. There is no rest for the wicked. Editor’s Note: He is being hospitalized for chronic dysentery.

Last night I dreamed about …….censored word and cut out of the page. Nice dreams I must say, but too darned realistic. Any kind of dream is an escape from this life.

I still have my camera with me. Not only that but I have all the film and I am anxious to get it developed. We are fighting for a city now and it’s large enough to have camera shops in it so I’ll be able to get them developed

I suppose you wonder why I have changed over from printing. I feel that every so often a man should change some part of his life to keep it from becoming too dull. Does that make sense to you? For five years I have been printing everything and now I start out another five years, this one in longhand.

There is going to be a movie tonight and all the patients that can walk plan on going. I have not seen a movie since September.

I talked with an American woman this afternoon. She is the first American woman I have seen since last March. Indiana is her home state and she has been here for eight years. Her husband was a doctor.

It might be of interest to you to know that the girls around here are beautiful. They have nice clothes and look pretty much like the American girls. Don’t worry darling because there is only one girl in this world as far as I am concerned.

I have put on a little weight. I will soon be back to normal. Of course a fellow can expect to be a little lighter over here.

I sure slept sound last night. I have been sleeping where shells are bursting and even though they didn’t waken me they broke up my rest. They shelled the hospital a couple of times but without luck on their part. They did come too close for comfort. Back here it is so quiet that I feel like I am living in the country (I am).

I have often told you how well I liked our chaplain. He got it. He was such a fine fellow and was a real friend to all us boys.

It’s nearly dark and I am going to the movies. I wish you were here to go with me. As Archie the cockroach said, “Time time, said old king Tut, is something I ain’t got anything but.”

Feb 13. Combat Zone:  I haven’t very much time, but if I write this now it will go out tomorrow. You will be anxious to learn that I am back with my troop. They caught hell while I was away.

I received several letters today. Three from you. One was a Christmas Card from Laura Marie. She sent me a snapshot of herself.

The hospital business didn’t settle anything. I still have dysentery. Guess it will go away in time. Sure hope so.

Someone shot a Jap about thirty yards from here and no one buried him. He sure has a ripe smell.

Don’t worry about me Flip. Even though I may hate to go back to W&B I guess I can take it for a year or two. After this life it will be like heaven. I wish I could figure out a way to make a living in Northern Michigan. I can’t think of anything up there I would enjoy doing.

Feb 14. Combat Zone:  I spent a very good night and it looks like this is to be a day of rest. I have cleaned my rifle and later on I will shave and take a bath.

I  am sending you a check I received as a Christmas gift. Spend it on yourself because it’s your gift for Valentine’s Day. You shouldn’t have any trouble cashing it. I would like to send you a money order, but I will not be able to get one for some time. I need more money here that I used to spend. There are a few things to buy here. I am sending you some more invasion money. I leave it to your imagination in regards to the country they planned on spending it in. The poor nips will never get that far.

There isn’t a great deal to write about. This is a beautiful place and things have been anything but dull around here. I sure hope it ends soon. I have not heard news from Germany for the last two weeks.

Yes Flip, I guess I am an outdoor man. At least I have spent much of my life outside. Once we get a stable of our own it will be fun because both of us can be doing work we enjoy. We will never be rich, but we will be happy and we will do the things we want to do. It will be fun to just have each other.

I had a good drink of brandy yesterday. It made me remember Joe’s Cafe. Brandy, rum, and scotch whiskey seem to be plentiful around here.

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from a letter written to Rev. and Mrs P.Ray Norton also written on Valentine’s Day.

Dad, how in the world do you talk people into giving you checks for twenty-five thousand dollars? Editor’s Note: The money was for building a new church, Strathmore Methodist Church, I think. For those of the family who do not know, grandpa Norton very good at fund raising.

Thanks for your offer of a birthday gift. My family was very poor and being as how I was born in the spring, when farmers do not have much cash,  I have grown up without birthday gifts. However, if you want to send me anything at all I would enjoy a few of Guest’s poems. Cut a few out of the Detroit Free Press.  Editor’s Note: Bud Guest was a WJR radio talk show host with a daily morning program “The Sunny Side Of The Street.”  

bud guest

“Don’t Quit” by Bud Guest

I have just returned from spending a week in the hospital. I have been having a lot of stomach trouble. It’s nothing that a good apple pie and a quart of ice cream wouldn’t cure. While I was gone the nips made it pretty hot for my troop. We have seen our share of combat and we deserve a rest. I doubt whether or not we will get one until it’s over. Someone has to do the job and by golly the Cavalry has a pretty fair idea of how it should be done.

There sure has been a lot of suffering around here. I have seen kids that were starving to death. It’s not easy to look at and there should be a law against kids gong hungry. Not only the food question, but the poor kids get their share of wounds. You have no idea what it is like. Our chaplain got killed. He was a swell fellow and got it while trying to reach a wounded soldier.

While we were coming through the country on our way here I sure had my share of fried chicken, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes. The people were very good to us.

As I write this letter I can hear artillery shells screaming overhead. They make quite a whistle as they pass through the air. Sometimes the nips use their artillery on us and that’s when we hug the ground. If you have a hole to get in you are safe from anything but a direct hit.

Feb 17. Combat Zone, V-Mail:  We are still fighting. My hair is thick now compared to what it was. I am badly in need of a hair cut.  There isn’t much I can tell you. We have them on the run, but it’s slow work. Sometimes at night they shell us with artillery. It isn’t so bad as it was.

Feb 18. Combat Zone, V-Mail: It is hot this morning. I mean it is blistering hot! They tell us that our weather is coming during the months of April and May. The rains and planting season will come in June. I am on a hill and below me is a field of tomatoes. It’s not exactly safe to go down there.

Well Flip, the stomach trouble is over. Not exactly over, but last night I found out what the trouble was. Worms!  I think they are Pin Worms.As soon as I get out of here I will be able to see the doctor and get rid of the blamed things.

Editor’s Note: Written in red pencil and not dated: “This letter was written on a bluff overlooking the Pasig River, Luzon.”

Pasig River: 17 miles extending from Laguna de Bay to Manila Bay


Feb 20. Combat Zone:  The other night I got hit with a piece of shrapnel from a grenade. One of our men threw a grenade and even though I ducked as low as possible the detonation hit me in the back. It didn’t even break the skin, but it sure hurt.

We have spent the last few days on top of a small hill that overlooks a river with a village on the opposite bank. When we came here the town was filled with Japs and Filipinos. The Japs were dressed in civilian clothing, some of them were wearing dresses. We sent word to the Filipinos to leave town and the Japs wouldn’t let them go. We threw in a couple of shells and still nothing happened. We waited a few days and then we gave them the business. The Filipinos went one way, the Japs another and a big part of the town went up in smoke. We have an American Flag up there now, but there are still a few Japs in the town. I spent most of the day watching the show with a pair of field glasses. They have a rocket gun that they have used on us. It makes the most unearthly noise and when the shell hits, well it is far worse than artillery. I’ll be glad when we get it knocked out.

I imagine I’ll soon go back to the hospital to get rid of these worms. I haven’t told the doctor about them, but I will first chance I get.

Thanks for sending me the Washington Merry-Go-Round. Send it more often. It will help me keep up with the world.  Editor’s Note: This is a syndicated column started in 1932 and still running today on-line. This is the column that broke the story of General Patton and the soldier he slapped in 1943 and denounced the witch-hunt agenda of Senator McCarthy.

I am reading Canby’s biography of Walt Whitman. I always wanted to read “Leaves of Grass” and this will help me to understand it.

Editor’s Note: The following is a letter written to Rev. and Mrs P. Ray Norton dated 2-25-1945.

I am back in the hospital again. This time I am sure they will find out just what my trouble is and fix me up. I feel good, but I am not strong and I have lost too much weight.

In the ward next to me is a boy by the name of Agne Gustafsson from Sweden. He was in the Merchant Marines when the Japs came and so he fled to Bataan. With the fall of Bataan he was taken prisoner along with the American soldiers and has spent the last three years in prison. He will soon be on his way to the States and he is anxious to get there. He plans to make a trip to Michigan to visit the parents of some of the kids that were with him and I gave him your address and told him you were a mighty good cook. I am sure you will enjoy meeting him and he will tell you all about what happened over here.

The Japs gave us a good shelling the night before I came in. Shortly after dark they started to shell us with artillery and when that was over they opened up with mortar and machine guns. I mean it was some party. I fairly hugged the bottom of my ditch. I was in a ditch behind a high stone wall. The artillery missed the stone wall by inches. A couple of shells hit close enough to throw dirt and rocks on me. Aside from that I came through okay.

There are any number of Americans in this hospital. There are old men, young girls, babies, and women. All of them seem to be suffering from lack of food. They are a happy bunch.


Letters To My Mother From WWII: January 6-31, 1945

YANK US 1944 12 08

Editor’s Note: The letters are now stamped indicating he is no longer writing from a combat zone.

Jan 6:  I sure am glad that I didn’t get into the medics. I had a job of being litter bearer one afternoon and it wasn’t fun. I had to go through a place that the Japs had covered with machine guns. I would rather fight because at least you can take cover. I used to think that the war would end as soon as the Japs were sure they were licked. I don’t know. After seeing them fight I have an idea they will hang on to the last.

Banzi does not mean three cheers for Japan, as I thought. It means”May the Emperor live a thousand years.” I hope he does and that he spends the last nine hundred years suffering with the itch.

Jan 7:  Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from a letter written to the Rev. & Mrs P. Ray Norton, my maternal grandparents.

When I first hit this island and had that shell go off so close I lost my nerve. For awhile I thought it would be impossible to go on. I got over that while I was in the hills. Of course a Jap can still make me hug the ground, but I do not have that deadly fear that I suffered with at first.

Back in the hills we had to depend on air drops or pack trains for food and the pack trains couldn’t always make it on time. To make matters worse a Jap got in my pack one night and took my rations. Water was a problem at times. I went nearly three days without water. They had two canteens of water at the aid station, but it was for wounded men only. Our wounded had to go out by pack train and it was a long trip. One consolation was that the Japs were having it worse than we were.

Did I tell you about the church letter? We were trying to take a little hill and it was tough going. For three days we had shelled and tried to take it and three different nights we fell back with our job unfinished. The third night I came back very tired, thirsty, and down in the mouth. We had our one and only mail call in twenty-four days that night. I knew I would have a letter from Florence. They gave me three letters, one from the Trinity Church one from your church, and another from friends in California. I was mighty glad for the baseball news at the end of the letter.

Jan 7:  This is Sunday morning, but I do not intend to go to church. My stomach still feels upset and I am going to stay here and keep quiet.

I can tell you one thing right now. We are not going to be able to build a house as you have planned it. It would cost too much money and put us too far in debt. Our house will be a nice house and we will build it with the idea of adding on when we can afford it. As soon as this war ends there will be a big boom and I will make as much and spend as little as I can for the first two years. Perhaps even longer than that, because for a year or two building material will be high. I like a stone house when the stones are faced. When we get to Lexington I’ll show you a stone house that will take your eye.

Whenever you read something in the paper about the 1st Cavalry cut it out and send it to me. My mother does that. We are always tickled to read what they say about it in the papers. The truth of it is I know very little about what is going on. I have not read any official news since early December.

We had some real chicken fights yesterday. Everyone was there from the band to the Regimental Commander. E troop won with every chicken they fought. One boy won 1800 pesos. I didn’t bet.



I figured it up last night and I went 76 days without taking off my clothes except to clean them.

Your Christmas box JUST came and it was perfect. I am thrilled to death over the camera. I loaded up and have taken one picture of Clair T and I. In a little while I am going to take  a picture of James and his good fighting cock. I want to take lots of pictures of me and the men I am with.

The picture of Edith is perfect. What a fat little girl.  Editor’s Note:  SIGH! It seems that some things really do never change.

Jan 8:  I have just finished reading Martha Walker’s novel “Winter Wheat.” I enjoy a story like that where the characters seem so real. You and I will have a lot to read when I come home. I enjoy reading plays and it would be fun to read some of them together. Did you ever read Green Pastures, In Abraham’s Bosom, or Journey’s End? All of them are favorites of mine. There are so many things we can read and so many things we can do and if we are going to build we will have to spend several evenings with ourselves.

My stomach is lots better. I actually enjoyed my food today. I am plenty thin and need a lot of meat and beans. With four fingers I can reach around my thigh.

I left you a year ago tonight. I don’t dare think about it too much. I am not worried about when I come home. All I want is to just be able to come home when it’s over. One of the kids that I took basic with got it over here. We came over on the same boat. Several of the guys who came over on that boat will not go back. One of them was married and had a baby. You and I must never kick as long as I have my health.

Sweetheart, it’s nearly time for me to listen to Oliver Norton say good night to his girl back home.

Editor’s Note: Written in red pencil and dated 10-3-57 is the following:   Oliver Norton was my wife’s great-uncle and served in the Civil War. He was the first person to blow Taps on the bugle.

Jan 9:   I can’t seem to think of anything to tell you tonight. I guess this wasn’t a very interesting day. The troop moved to a new bivouac area and I spent the day working. We have a real nice place now with stone walks and all the tents in a line. It is very pretty. I’ll get a picture of it tomorrow.

Jan 10:  Our model troop area is finished and has been inspected by our Regimental  Commander. He said it was a work of art. After the inspection they read us letters from Gen. Cunningham, Gen. Mudge, Col. Finagan, and Col. Kirk. The messages were praise of the second squadron and E troop for the way they fought the Japs.

I hope we have a good dinner tonight. My stomach is empty. I have had a yen to eat a coconut cake for the past two days. Ordinarily I do not care for baked goods (I mean cake), but after going a year without it, well you can imagine how good it will taste.When I get back I am going to spent a hundred dollars on food the first week.

Editor’s Note: Mom told me this story about the Coconut Cake. It seems grandma Norton was told about dad’s yen for a coconut cake and when he got back to the states she made him one. It turned out that the cake was a horrible failure, and somewhat hard. Those of us who knew her knew she couldn’t bake worth a lick. But dad ate the cake with a smile on his face. Then after when he was alone with mom he told her that it was the worst cake he had ever eaten.

I never did read what Yank had to say about our landing. I would like to read that article. They exaggerate, all newspaper men do, and it’s fun to compare notes. I’ll tell you the truth about the landing…it was easy. I hate to think about the future. I am afraid that we will find it tough fighting in Formosa. Of course we may not go there, but it is between us and Tokyo and someone will have to go there. It will be too big a place to bypass.

Jan 11:  I have spent part of the morning taking pictures. I sure hope some of them turn out good. I will send the colored film home for you to develop and all the pictures that are not of me please send back. Not being used to the camera I expect the pictures will not be so very good, but if you can keep on sending film I’ll get some good ones someday.

I sure slept good last night. Scott knew what he was writing about when he wrote “Soldier rest! Thy warfare o’er. Dream of battle fields no more.” I am enjoying my food and my stomach trouble has gone. I had an idea it was just the result of being over tired.

I have lost my suntan. I had to wear a jacket this campaign and didn’t get much sun on my back. We didn’t have too much sun because it rained most of the time.

I have heard that all sports in the states have been stopped. Is that true? Editor’s Note: The 1944 Summer Olympics to be held in London England were cancelled because of the war.   If it is the breeders of Kentucky will sure suffer a blow. If it will help win the war I am in favor of it. As far as racing in Detroit is concerned, I think they will get that straightened out with the building of a new track. It matters little because we may race in Chicago. All of that will depend on our horse.

Jan 13: I received a nice letter from Mr. Moore who is employment manager at W & B. He wants to know what my post war plans are. I would be foolish to tell him the truth. More than anything else I want to get away from W & B someday. I hope you and I can buy a small farm within forty miles of Lexington. That is strictly a post war dream.

Troubles, troubles, now I have ringworm on my feet. We have lots of that over here. It’s my first time to get it. The foot powder that everyone sent me for Christmas is going to come in good now. I got 5 boxes of foot powder for Christmas. It makes the ideal gift. Did I tell you that Grandmaggie sent a shoe shining outfit. A putty knife would have been the thing, because I could use that to scrape mud off my shoes.

If you send more film I’ll take that camera into combat with me whenever I go again. What pictures I could get. Once, while we were in the hills, a bunch of Japs walked right into our bivouac area. After the smoke cleared away I counted nearly thirty of them that we killed. I had to go down and guard against any more coming and from where I sat that morning I could reach out and touch 7 different Japs. What a picture that would make.

P.S. I hope you get the rope I wanted.

Editor’s Note: Written in red pencil and dated 10-5-57, code for “I am going to Manila.”

Jan 14:  I have spent the day reading Mary O’Hara’s book “Thunderhead,” a sequel to “My Friend Flika.” It sure is a nice story to read. As a usual thing I don’t care too much for horse stories, but this woman knows her horses and can write about them.

They had some good chicken fights this afternoon. I saw one or two. I am pretty good at picking the winners even if I don’t bet on them. When we start P. Ray in his first race we will risk a little bet. I think it would be an ideal name for a colt.

When we get to Lexington here are a few of the horses I am anxious to see. At Calumet I want to see the old mares “Some Pomp” and “Nellie Flag” and by that time “Twilight Tear” will be there and perhaps “Best Blood.” At the Faraway we will see “Man O’War” and Mr. Jeffords good two-year old colt “Pivot” if he is retired by then. I could go down the line and list any number, but I am most anxious to see the mares at Calumet.



Man O’War and legendary groom Will Harbut

The soap you put in my Christmas box came in good shape. A lot of fellows who got soap in their boxes as well as food had the food ruined by having it taste like soap.

Jan 19: As you will notice, it has been five or six days since I have written to you. The rest was too good to last.

I have met a fellow from Boyne City. He is in the Navy. He went to school with my cousin. In fact, I know this fellow’s cousin. His cousin married Versa Brown, an old flame of mine back in 1929. Last night I went down to his room and he had a picture there of Versa and her family of five children.

I am writing this letter under the worst of conditions. For a seat I have a box so high that my feet are hanging. There is a steady stream of fellows going by and the light is bad.

Something has been sticking in my mind all day. I sometimes read articles about the soldier’s return from overseas combat and how the people treat him.  Most of the folks seem to think that we come back full of horror and resentment. In fact most of them seem to think we will spend all our spare time looking into space and recalling how some buddy was blown into small chunks. I wonder where they get that idea that we are a bunch of softies that can’t face life. I have an idea that most of the soldiers that return will bore their friends stiff with their stories about combat. Flip, I have an idea you will get tired of it before I am home a year.  Editor’s Note:  I remember mom telling me that she didn’t like it when dad told war stories because  he would then have nightmares and difficulty sleeping for a couple of days.

I had both pie and ice cream for dinner yesterday, chocolate cake today. If they feed me like that all the time I would soon be fat. A few days ago I was too busy to eat dinner or supper and about ten at night I found or stole a gallon of cherries. They were sour and I didn’t have sugar for them, but they were good.

I have been having trouble with my lower teeth. I take them out in my sleep and have to look for them in the morning. It is a hell of a note to get up in the morning and have to hunt for your teeth.

I received a Christmas box from Uncle Sam. Editor’s Note: NO….not that Uncle Sam. He sent me some Maple leaves along with other things. They were a dark red and sure did a lot for my moral. It seemed as if he had sent a little part of Northern Michigan.  I wrapped them up and carry them with Edith’s picture.

P.S. Another fellow and I play a game with poems. One of us will give the last few words of some poem and the other has to fill in the first part.  For example, I might say…..”Not a drop to drink.”

Editor’s Note: written in red pencil and dated 10-5-57, Not a drop to drink is code for “We are on the high seas.”

Jan 20:  I sure have been thinking a lot of you these last few days. Last night I got to thinking how lucky I was to have you for a wife. I just can’t figure it out. As a usual thing I try not to think about you too much because it makes me blue. However, I have let my memories carry me away these past few days. I wonder what you are cooking today. It would be fun to be there and grab a few hot cookies. I was always pretty good on the grab, wasn’t I?  Right now I am remembering a pitcher of lemonade you threw on me. Can you remember that? It was out at your house.

Well do I remember three months ago this morning. It was then we landed on Leyte.

We are having a good deal of rain. For the past three days it has been cloudy most of the time. It is much cooler that way. I long to see snow and ice. Guess they have snow-covered mountains in Japan, so perhaps the day will come when I will see snow.

Jan 22. Combat Zone:  Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from a letter written to Rev. and Mrs P. Ray Norton.  Now I know you wonder what I am doing. Sorry, but I can’t tell you. I am not fighting just now and it’s a darned good thing. I lost twenty pounds in the last campaign and a good strong wind would blow me away.

My mother cuts out and sends to me anything she reads about the Cavalry over here. What a line of dope the papers hand out to you folks. One clipping told of our being counter attacked by the Japs at one certain spot which I dare not name. I was there. My troop was the first to get there and the last to leave and although we looked high and low we never saw a Jap. Another thing that tickles me is when they say  we bitterly lashed out at the enemy. We creep, we crawl, we plod through mud and everything else, but we don’t lash out.

Actually some of the things that happen here are down right funny. For example, a fellow in our troop had a mortar shell light too close one night and a hunk of shrapnel went into his back. As in the case of most wounds he didn’t feel it for a while and when he did investigate he found his fanny covered with blood.  One of the boys in his foxhole put a bandage on it and it wasn’t until daylight that they found out their bandage wasn’t within a foot of his wound.

Jan 23. Combat Zone:  I only weigh 137 lbs now. I have hopes of gaining it back before we have to do more fighting.

The Russians sure are moving since they crossed the Vistula river. Perhaps the war over there will end this spring. We will still have a job over here, but we sure as hell can do it.

I have been thinking about E. Stanley Jones. Why didn’t he stay in India? I hate these people who try to do so much for some race of people and then when things get hot they put their tail between their legs and run for home. India needs men like E. Stanley Jones, but she needs them over there. I can hear you starting to sputter.

At last I have found out how to spell dysentery.  Editor’s Note: Thanks to auto-correct dysentery has been correctly spelled throughout this blog.   We call it “GI’s” which is much simpler and far more expressive. I suppose I could improve my spelling 100% if I put my mind to it. Some day I am going to be like Fred Allen and spell all words exactly as they sound.

We had a swell dinner: Roast beef, mashed potatoes, peas, soup, cherry pie, ice cream, raisin bread, and hot coffee. Wish the army could feed us like that. A man could sell me a gallon of ice cream and name his own price up to fifty dollars. I love it, but I sure as hell don’t get much of it.

I am still sour on the Red Cross. The morning we landed here the Red Cross had a field day. That morning, when we went to ships mess for breakfast, a Red Cross man was stationed at the door and he gave every man a stick of gum. He had a sour expression on his face and I didn’t hear him say Good Luck to a single man. At a time like that I would rather have someone wish me Good Luck than have them give me a gum factory.

Jan 24. Combat Zone:  Last night Fineout and I made some coffee. It was what we call deer hunting coffee and it sure was good. He made it plenty strong. There was a time when I didn’t like strong coffee, but after drinking army coffee for a year or so I have decided I like it strong once in a while.

My stomach hurts this morning. I have been having a lot of trouble with it. More than I have told you about. I would like to get in a hospital, but it seems impossible. I haven’t been able  to see a doctor much less a hospital. If it keeps on I doubt whether or not I could stand any more traipsing through the mountains. Don’t worry, your husband will be able to take care of himself even if he has to resort to skullduggery.

Jan 25. Combat Zone:  This sure has been a beautiful day. It has been so cool outside and I took a nap this morning and another one this afternoon. I had to stay up last night until after two this morning, so you see I needed a nap.

We are still eating good; soup, cake, pie, and all that. I have some K rations in my pack to remind me that it will not always be like this. Oh Florence, do you want to send me something that I can use? I love tea and we never get it in our field rations. We only get one hot drink in our rations and that is coffee for breakfast. I have often thought how easy is would be to make tea. I tried it a few times, but with only one canteen cup you can’t do it as the leaves never settle. If you could send me some tea bolls it would be the real thing. I could have tea. Black tea is preferred.

tea boll

Jan 26. Combat Zone:  It’s pretty close to payday again. Flip, do you suppose we will be able to save anything once we get our debts paid? I have no idea how much it costs you to get along, but it seems as though we should be able to save a little and we will sure be able to use it.

I will soon have one year of overseas service. By September I will be eligible for rotation. Right now that has very little meaning. So far I think E Troop has sent one man home on rotation. Should the roar in Europe end by next September my chances for coming home might be pretty good. At least it’s something to dream about. I feel as though I shouldn’t kick as long as I get home sometime.

Did you send me that Greek History last summer? It seems as though you told me you mailed it. I never did get it. I have been reading “The Outline of History” for the past few days.

I sometimes wonder if I write to you about the things you want to hear. I do my best, but Florence you must remember the conditions under which I write. If I could tell you where I am and just what I was doing it would be interesting. NO! I have to write about where I have been. Your letters are always so interesting to me that sometimes I think I fall down on the job.

Editor’s Note: Written in red pencil, not as a P.S. and not dated; “Landed at Lingayen Gulf the following day.”

Jan 30. Combat Zone, V-Mail:  Even though I hate to use this type of letter it is the only thing I have or can get a hold of now. I have moved. I can’t tell you where I am, but if you read the papers you will know by the time this reaches you. I spent most of the day with a Filipino fellow who reminded me of Uncle Sam and he cooked about like the Chinaman in Detroit. He sure is a good fellow and it seemed good to get food like we used to eat. This country is beautiful and under conditions other than this I sure would enjoy myself.

Editor’s Note: Written in red pencil, not as a P.S. and not dated; “On the island of Luzon.”

Jan 31. Combat Zone, V-Mail:  This is a beautiful morning and I have been helping the mess Sgt. by his request. I had big plans for today, but he changed them. The wind keeps blowing this paper making it hard to write. We are having very little rain. I am glad too, because for the past two nights my bed consists of a pile of rice straw. I am feeling fine and starting to gain weight.

Editor’s Note: Written in red pencil, not as a P.S., and not dated; “We are moving towards Manila.”



Letters To My Mother From WWII: January 1-5, 1945


Foothills of Central Mountain Range, Breakneck Ridge, Patrolled by 1st Cavalry December 1944.

Jan 3. Combat Zone:  This is the first letter I have written since the 9th of December. I came in last night from the mountains and this morning I had part of my Christmas. There were 30 some letters here as well as boxes from mom, your folks, Gorhams and Steiners. I spent Christmas day walking. I was out of cigarettes, lost my fountain pen and had one can of bully beef for my dinner.

Just now I am very tired. My stomach is upset and I have had dysentery for the past two weeks. I will get some rest now and will soon be in shape. As I look back on the last month it all seems like a dream. Within the next few days I will try to write about it. There was only once when I thought I wouldn’t make it. We had taken a little town and my platoon had moved out on a small wooded hill to watch a trail. We didn’t plan on spending the night there so we didn’t dig holes. Just as it was all most dark we saw what we thought were American soldiers moving down over the hill. There were so many of them that we didn’t dream they were Japs. In fact we yelled and told them to hold their fire as we were Americans. About that time they opened up on us with a machine gun and it was hell to pay. As soon as it was dark they moved right in with us and started yelling “Banzi” ( three cheers for Japan). We didn’t dare shoot and give our position away. We didn’t hardly dare to breath. One of them was so close to me that I had to take out my lower plate so he wouldn’t hear them chatter. We had to leave that hill about ten that night and I’ll never know how we got out of there with our wounded, but we did. Meyers was sick in the hospital and I was glad he was. It was no place for a kid.

We had mail call once. I sure wanted to hear from you, but I didn’t. You better send Maggie a wire because I may not be able to write to her for a day or two.

Jan 4. Combat Zone:  Clair T dropped by last night. I hadn’t seen him since the third of October. He came through the whole thing without seeing a Jap or having one fire at him. LUCKY BOY!

I went on sick call this morning. My stomach is all upset and I have dysentery. Eat K rations for 4 weeks and your stomach will go to hell. They gave me some pills and I feel better now.

In the last year I have noticed a big change in you. You used to write and say you were going to try and bake a pie or you were going to try and make cookies. Now you write and just tell me you made them. I guess my wife can bake as well as the next one.

I am going to write a little about a charge the Japs pulled on us. My foxhole was on a hill or rather a slope and in front of me it was more or less like a park with the grassy slope and coconut palms. At the bottom of the slope was a creek and beyond that the woods. It was a beautiful night with a full moon and I was dreaming of you with open eyes when a Jap walked from behind my hole and stood next to the tree right out in front. My buddy shot him and he fell about 15 feet in front of us and started to moan. Later on he crawled away and I didn’t kill him because I didn’t want to give away my position. All this happened before nine and the rest of the night was spent listening to Japs. They followed the creek bed down and all though you couldn’t see them you could hear them talking. Now and then two or three would walk right out in the open. One of them walked right to a tent on my right (we put a tent over the hole we dig) and held his rifle at port arms while he looked in. It was the last look he had in this world. We knew they were going to charge and we knew that we couldn’t stop them if they did. When at last they did charge our machine guns were on our right and the Japs would not have a chance. Just before daylight they were ready. One fellow blew a horn and they all started to scream as loud as they could and ran straight into the machine gun fire. My God, but you should have heard them scream! I will not tell you how many dead we counted the next morning, but they didn’t kill one of our men.

I hope I get a bunch of letters from you this afternoon. I am anxious to hear all about Edith’s first Christmas and about the good time you must have had in Virginia.

Jan 5. Combat Zone:  I have just finished re-reading all the letters I received from you and have thrown them all away. No place to keep them around here. I was up five or six times last night with dysentery. This morning I threw up and now I feel better. Rations, constant strain on your nerves, loss of sleep etc. sure raised hell with my stomach.

There is a fellow in the troop who used to spend his summers in Bellaire. There are lots of new faces in the troop now. I am glad my face is still in it.

Don’t tell Mrs Meyers, but Gerald isn’t having very good luck with his Christmas boxes. The food is all spoiled. People shouldn’t even try to send food over here because it just can’t stand the trip. I am still waiting for your box. It would be late.


Letters To My Mother From WWII: December 1944

Mud and War Together

Dec 1. Combat Zone:  This is the first letter I have written in two or three days. I tried a couple of times, but gave it up. My nerves have been sort of bad and I find the best way to steady them is to work. The other night, during a blackout, I killed and dressed five chickens. I did have a candle by which to dress them, but I had to put it out every now and then.

I was pleased to see you take an interest in E.Stanley Jones’ talk. Editor’s Note: A Methodist Minister and theologian who was a missionary in India and was pro Indian self-determination. I heard him speak in California. If I felt more like it I would tell you what I think of him and his ideas. He is on the right track as far as the peace is concerned. As for me, right now, I would settle for any peace that would give me twelve hours of untroubled sleep.

Dec 1. Combat Zone, V-Mail:   I was so tired when I wrote this morning. I slept two hours this afternoon and I feel much better now. I slept like a baby and the Sgt. had to shake me to wake me up. That is unusual.

I was paid today. They gave me fifty-one pesos ($25.50). I feel that I am rich. I am not going to send any home until the campaign is over. A little cash is a handy thing to have over here. These people are anxious to make a little money doing washing and what not.

I am going to write to your dad tonight. I am glad I have a dad even if it is an in-law. After being without one for twelve years it seems nice.

Dec 2. Combat Zone:  It rained last night, all night long. I am always glad when it rains at night because it keeps the Jap planes grounded. It is nice out this morning, but the mud is still deep. Why must mud and war always be together?

Your dad wrote that he was sending me some film in my X-Mass box. Several of the boys have cameras, so I can use it all right. The pictures I had taken in the Admiralty Islands never came back. They should be along one of these days. I have a hunch I will get a picture of Edith for X-Mass and I sure will be glad to get it. I wish I could have mailed you folks a box. It makes X-Mass seem so empty when you can’t give any gifts.

I sure eat a lot of rice. Three times a day a little girl brings me a plate of rice and another plate of fish. The fish are small and I mean small. They are only about 1 inch long and they are fried a golden brown. There are always a bunch of little boys around here. I let them play for a while and then holler “oudelay” and they jump through windows to get out. I don’t know the exact meaning of the word and neither do they, but they sure get on the ball.

I am going to cook some onions, rice and whatever else I can find. Nothing like eating good while I have a chance.

Dec 3. Combat Zone:  Talk of chicken soup; we had some last night that was tops. This is the way to make it. Cut up one chicken and put it in a gallon can. Add 3 onions, rice, salt, pepper, and boil slowly for 4 hours. Add one half pound butter and serve in canteen cups. I guess you think that all I do is cook chicken. Wish it was that way.

Filipino girls have it over American girls when it comes to walking. They are so smooth. It comes from being taught to balance things on their head. Two young girls, age 10 and 12, went to church this morning. I laughed to see them coming down the road. It was raining and they had one hat large enough for both of them to use. If I ever can I will send you one of their hats. They have a real wide brim which is protection from both sun and rain. The girls told me they would say a prayer for me at church.

Whenever one of the people here die they make a coffin for them and tie the coffin onto bamboo poles and carry it to the graveyard. The family tags along behind and they never seem to show a great deal of grief.

Here is a story for you. There is one old man who lives alone here and, as all Natives, he sleeps on the floor. Some of our boys have a post close to his house. The other night a bomb fell close and the boys heard the old man grunt, roll over, and go back to sleep. In the morning they found a million holes where shrapnel went through his floor. The old man never bothered to get up and that’s what I call keeping cool.

Dec 4. Combat Zone:  At times I wonder just what to write to you. The things that I would enjoy writing about are taboo subjects and the other things seem so uninteresting.

Last night I was with some colored engineers and they were as close to the front as they had ever been. They thought they were right on the front and were pretty nervous. At one time we heard a plane (American or Jap, I don’t know which) and they all jumped into a hole. Most of them work driving trucks, building roads and air strips, unloading ships and in general just plain hard work. Don’t ever let anyone tell you they do not work hard.

We had chicken again last night. We didn’t have any onions, but they tasted good. In fact we had one hell of a good supper because the troop sent us a big pan of fried pork along with the other things.

I bought a years supply of razor blades yesterday. I suppose you folks will send more in the X-Mass box. No need for me to grow a beard now.

There is a boy over here from Bellaire. In fact I know him well and would like to see him. Perhaps I will if they send me his address. Yesterday I met a fellow from Clair T’s squadron and he told me Clair T was still without blemish. At one time they were in trouble and I worried about him.

During the day I get along pretty good without being lonesome, but when night comes and I sit looking out into the dark I get an empty feeling at the bottom of my stomach. It is then that I miss you.

Dec 5. Combat Zone:  It’s funny how our minds work. You spend all your time dreaming about how our home will look inside and all I ever give it is a passing thought. My mind is always centered on what sort of material it will be built with and what the outside will look like. By outside I mean grounds and garden. I have always enjoyed a garden. If you will remember, I had one while at Champaign. There is one thing I want for sure and that is a large bed of horseradish. We used to have it on the farm and I love it. In a way I sometimes think I should have been a farmer.

Years ago I thought that when I had a home of my own I wanted a front lawn of Bent grass. Bent grass is used on golf course greens and it makes a real thick carpet. It takes so much care that I have given up the idea. Our lawn will be a mixture of lawn grass and Canadian bluegrass. The bluegrass will do well in the shade. I hardly suppose either of us have an idea of the work ahead. It will be worth it. Oh yes, I have been wanting to get a hold of some good Beech and make a bookcase. I think the heartwood from a Beech would take a good finish and if I can’t take a hammer and wood chisel and make a bookcase my name isn’t Ellison. They are nice dreams.

Remember the Sgt. in the picture I sent home last winter from Fort Ord? He jumped into a slit trench the other night and a bomb lit within fifteen feet from him. He never got a scratch. Editor’s Note: A slit trench is a narrow, shallow trench dug during combat for the protection of a single soldier.


Dec 6. Combat Zone: For some reason or other your letters are not coming through. I have gone several days without hearing from you. It’s just one of those things and I’ll be hearing from you any day now.

Yesterday we bought eight chickens. This morning we dressed them and the Mess Sgt. came down and fried them for us. By the way, our Mess Sgt. used to be a cook in the Kentucky Hotel at Lexington. He is from Lexington and you will meet him someday.  Editor’s Note: Written in red pencil is the following: “She did in 1947.”

I was going to send Steve and Jim some Filipino money for a X-Mass gift. We can’t send it home so that’s out. If I was in the states I would get them a copy of Kipling’s “Just So Stories.”

My arm is sore. They gave me a shot this morning. Every once in a while we get a shot and I never know what it’s for. We stay a pretty healthy bunch, so I guess they serve their purpose.

I had my boys hauling water for me while I scrubbed my kitchen. They are good workers and about all they get for pay is something to eat or a shot of hair oil. They love the smell of hair oil.

Cock fighting is still the main event around here. The boys will sure bet on a good fight. Sometimes the stakes run as high as $150.00. It’s a mighty healthy soldier who, in the midst of one of histories’ great battles, can take an interest in cock-fighting.

Dec 7. Combat Zone:   I have decided to buy a fighting cock and train him for a fight. I might be able to win a stake if I get a good one and train him so that he will be in good condition. I will not be able to do that until the campaign is over with, but it will be something to look forward to.

I had chicken again for breakfast. I still have a pullet left and that means chicken again tomorrow. It sure beats the spam the army hands out.

Your dad seems to enjoy putting a cane bottom in a chair. He should see the way these people make a bed with a cane bottom. They make the frame from wood and then weave the sleeping surface out of cane. I have been sleeping on one and they are pretty nice. Most of the people make mats which they spread on the floor for beds. The people who own this place must be well off because this is a nice house. They are living in the country for the time being. I guess it is quieter out there.

If everything goes right, by tomorrow I will be the owner of as fine a fighting cock as there is to be found around here. He has won has last four fights. I may not try to fight him for big stakes because I don’t know too much about fighting chickens. Later on I’ll go for the downs. Some chicken over here is going to pay off my debt to Wanda. Perhaps tomorrow I will tell you how chickens are trained and what the rules are in regards to fighting. It is very interesting.

P.S. Sure has been hot today   Editor’s Note: Written in red pencil and dated 10/3/1957; This post script meant “The Jap plans gave us hell.”

Dec 8. Combat Zone:  I am sending you a complete set of Japanese invasion money. The bills without serial numbers are the ones used at the time of invasion. The ones with serial numbers are the ones they issued after they had proclaimed the Philippines a Republic.

The man came around with his fighting cock this morning, but after a close inspection I decided not to buy him. I let him spar a little with another cock and he seemed too slow. Not only that but the man asked twenty-five pesos for him. When I pay that much I want to be sure I am getting something.

Any man who ever set foot on a race track has seen chicken fights. However, I never did realize how much there was to it. In fact, I am very interested in it and I am going to have a few at home if for no more than to fool around with. I think you will like them too. I certainly hope so. We can keep them at the stable which is the proper place for all game cocks.

If you get an envelope with just a piece of cloth in it do not be surprised. The holes will be where the shrapnel went through. When the war is over I will pin my service bar on this and with spurs and Grandpa Ellison’s spurs I will make a plaque.

We both lost our vote. That part matters little. We had a chance to take what ever stand we wanted to and that is what is important. I am satisfied with the administration now in office if only they would stand definite on some foreign policy.

I am reading “Drums Along The Mohawk.” It is very good in case you haven’t read it. I am looking forward to the day when you and I can curl up by the fire and read “Paradise Lost.” Several times during this campaign I find myself repeating some lines from the “Rubaiyat.”

“The ball no question makes of Ayes and Noes, But Here or There as strikes the Player goes; And He that tossed you down in the Field, He knows about it all – He knows – He knows!”

Editor’s Note: This is a translation by English poet Edward Fitzgerald of  The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.  In his letter dad correctly quoted the poem. The format is thanks to google.