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.”
“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.
2 thoughts on “Letters To My Mother From WWII: February 1945”
Interesting that he mentions “Leaves of Grass”. He told me he read it in a fox hole where he was the only one still alive.
I checked the letter written on February 20, 1945 and I transcribed it correctly. Guess we will have to wait and see what happens.