Letters To My Mother From WWII: April 1945

Battle Manila signman01s

Editor’s Note:  Within a month (Feb 4-March 4, 1945) Americans had crossed Luzon’s Central Plain, taken Clarke Field and were approaching Manila. The highest priority were the POW’s and internees at Santo Tomas. Yamashita at this time evacuated Manila for defenses prepared in the mountains. He left troops in Manila to take a toll on and tie down the advancing Americans. The Japanese troops left in Manila turned on the defenseless civilian population. They seemed to have decided that if they were going to die they would take as many Filipinos with them as possible. The Japanese targeted and killed an estimated 100,000 Filippino citizens in an outpouring of mindless violence which has become known as the Rape of Manila. The city had to be taken block by block n vicious hand-to-hand combat. Manila is said to be the most heavily devastated Allied city net to Warsaw and Stalingrad.

April 1: Easter Sunday! This morning I walked down to the beach to a sunrise service the Filipinos were having. It was beautiful. While they were having the service the fishermen came down and prepared their boats and nets for the day’s catch.  It was the most impressive scene I ever saw. The beach, the men going out in their boats, and in the background were the mountains raising out of the mists. You could almost see him there on the beach calling out, “Follow me and be fishermen of men.”

Just in case you have not received the other letters I will tell you I am in the hospital for scalp wounds I received the 28th of March. I feel pretty good, but I have headaches and I am pretty nervous. During the day my nerves are all right, but when it gets dark I get jittery. It’s hard for me when I hear a gun go off. I guess it’s got me down. I don’t know how I’ll make it when I go back, but I’ll make it some way. If I can manage to stay away for a couple of weeks I may feel a little more sure of myself.

I suppose your folks will drive to Muskegon after church today. I hope dad gets some good pictures of Edith. She must be some Miss by now and I have an idea I’ll see a real change in her.

The Maple sap must be starting to run. I hope we can have some hard Maples on our place. They are an ideal shade tree and it’s nice to have a taste of syrup in the spring.

Sometimes I wonder when I will come home. This war can’t last forever and it’s going to be a mighty happy day when I get off the boat in Frisco.

April 3:  I didn’t write yesterday. My headaches didn’t seem to let up so they put me in a plane and sent me back here. It was a nice ride, but didn’t last over ten minutes. I felt like crying all day yesterday. It’s from the shock, I guess.

I saw an eight month old American baby boy this morning. I was surprised to see how large he was and with Edith five months older she must be a pretty big girl. I have an idea I will be surprised to see my daughter. The war is moving so fast that perhaps I will be home by Christmas. I have an idea the war in Europe will be over when you read this letter.

We sure were in a beautiful spot when I got wounded. There were coffee trees all over the place. When ripe coffee looks a lot like cherries. I recognize most of the vegetation here, but it took me a long time to make out what bread fruit was.

I have a lot of magazines to read. I read for a while this morning. I have a lot of catching up to do on my reading.

April 4:  I managed to buy some air mail envelops this morning. I spent my last dollar. I have a lot of money loaned out and a month’s pay coming.

Last night I met a couple. He was with Pan American Airways, before the war and was living in the Philippines when the Japs came. Both he and his girlfriend were put in prison camp. They were married a week and will soon be on the way to the states. We all went to the movies last night and he spent the morning over here talking with me. She is going to write to you when she gets to the states.

I didn’t sleep very well last night. I fight too many battles in my sleep. There is too much noise around here at night. That may sound funny to you, but you must remember the front lines can be quiet at night and you never hear anyone talking.

They are fixing my lower plate while I am here. They were too loose.

I haven’t written to mom for several days. I wrote her after I was wounded, but paper has been so scarce. I can get plenty of it now. I am going to lie down and try to sleep. It’s important that I rest a lot.

April 5:  I have had my breakfast, shaved, taken a shower, and it still lacks a little of being eight. I feel tops this morning. I slept like a baby last night and didn’t dream.

I spent several hours last night talking with an American that has lived in the Philippines for forty-five years. He has a large cattle ranch on one of the southern islands. After talking with him and a few others I wonder about our giving these islands independence. They lack unity.

All the little girls come to this ward to play. We can’t get the big girls to come. It’s nice to have a bunch of American kids around. Most of them are too small to remember America and some of them have never been there.

I am anxious to hear the news. I have an idea the month of April is going to bring big things. This war could end any time. The main thing is, will the Japs give up or fight to the end? I guess we are pouring it on pretty heavy and we will have to see how much they will take. I am always dreaming of the day I can come home.

April 6:  I feel pretty clean and fresh this morning. They have nice showers here and I enjoy my morning shower. I used to enjoy taking a bath in some of those swift streams we had in Leyte.

For the past few days I have been watching an old fellow that is in another ward. He was an old man, pot-bellied, and long white hair that came down to his shoulders. I made up my mind he was either awful dumb or else very smart. Yesterday I had a chance to talk with him and he sure is a smart man. For the last thirty years he has been a lawyer in Manilla and from him I learned more about the situation over here than I had been able to find out before. Like every one else he spent the last three years in prison, but while he was there he read “The Fall and Decline of the Roman Empire,” and that kept his mind busy. I am to see him again today.

I didn’t get much sleep last night, but it’s cool and I should be able to sleep today. I get my teeth back today. They are bound to bother me for a few days because they will be re-lined.

April 7:  I feel very well this morning. My head ache last night was short and mild and I slept like a log. I have my teeth back now and they hurt in one or two places.  That is to be expected. I am going to have an x-ray of my stomach. After all the stomach trouble I have had I thought it might be smart to check up. I will have to go without my breakfast the morning they x-ray my stomach and I hate that.

We had a movie last night. I can’t remember the name of the picture, but it was rotten. There were some fellows in front of me that made the show funny enough for me. Whenever one of the actors would go into a strange room they would yell “Watch out for the booby traps.”

Last night I talked with a mining engineer. He was from the Cripple Creek gold fields in Colorado, but has been over here for eight years. There is lots of gold in these islands. He also explained to me why the lumber market is so bad. These islands have some of the best timber in the world, but it’s hard to market it with profit. There is not a true stand of any one kind of tree.

My last letter from you was dated March 12th. I don’t know when I’ll be going back to my troop. It will not be for a few days. Before I came in I heard we were all going home this summer. Of curse such stories are in constant circulation over here and I can’t put any faith in them. I would be happy if they would just pull us out of combat for a few months. The Cavalry has sure had its share of fighting and we have not had a lot of soft spots picked for us.

How long has it been since you were on a horse. I am sorry you have not been able to ride as much lately. As soon as we have our own place I will try to get a horse for you. I would like to get some sort of combination horse, one that you could drive, ride, and jump a little. To be a good rider you should have a chance to drive a little. That helps you get the feel of the horse’s mouth.

April 8: It has been exactly 469 days since I have seen you. I left Washington 67 weeks ago last night. I was lonesome and I took the time to figure it up.

Guess I’ll be going back some time this week. In fact, all I am waiting for is the x-ray. I am anxious to get my mail because I’ll have a lot of letters from you. It sure is a hard job to write a letter. Some of the fellows only write home once a week. I try to write every day even if there isn’t much to tell you.

Last night they had a softball game and after that we all went to the Red Cross tent for cokes. We get lots of cokes over here. Of course, they are made with ice water because we lack carbonated water.

I hear your name mentioned plenty often around here. They call the Filipinos “Flips.”

There is a fellow over here that looks exactly like P. Ray. The next time I see him I am going to ask his name. Could be some member of your father’s family.

The Red Cross gave me a pipe yesterday. It isn’t a very good one, but I was glad to get it and it will help out with the cigarette shortage. I have written very few letters here. I spend most of my time reading. I will partly catch up on that.

The laundry just came and I am going to try to get a clean pair of pajamas. Yes, I have to wear them. You might be interested in knowing I no longer lay down. I lie down.


Hospital Worship Service Flyer Included in April 8 Letter

April 9:  I get my x-ray taken at eight, consequently, I have to wait until afterwards for breakfast. To me, that is the big meal of the day. If my stomach is ok, and I sure hope it is, I will be leaving here in a day or two. My outfit is back in the hills and it will take me a week to find them. I may not even join the kitchen. Editor’s Note: He is referring to the mobile Field Kitchen.

I have a hunch that when the snows come to Michigan  again the Japs will have given up. I have talked with others over here and some of them share my view. I sure hope so. I would like to get home in time for Christmas.

Honestly, it’s going to seem good to get back to W&B. At least it will be good for a while. I always had a hard job there and I suppose the work will be hard on me for a few weeks. It will sure be a help to have something like that to come home to.

I couldn’t tell you before, but James got wounded too. By this time he must be back from the hospital because it was just shrapnel in the shoulder.

April 12:  This is the first letter I have written in two days. My x-ray turned out ok, so I am on my way back to the troop. I left the hospital a couple of days ago, but it may be a few days before I get back.

It sure is hot! Along about three in the afternoon it gets so darned hot that a man could almost melt. It’s cool in the evening and a fellow can sleep.

I met a fellow yesterday who was from West Branch Michigan. My uncle, Jay Ellison, used to be a barber there. We had a lot of fun talking about fishing, hunting, and Michigan winters.

The Red Cross gave me a pipe and I am breaking it in. What a job. I have a good supply of cigarettes and pipe tobacco. While I was in the hospital I traded candy bars to the Chaplin for cigarettes. I am also taking back six plugs of chewing tobacco for a fellow in the troop.

I have spent the morning reading the Book of Mathew. This afternoon I shall read Mark.

Friday the 13th:  It’s pretty hot today, but I have just cooled off with a bath and I’ll write before I get hot again. It’s  hard to think of anything to write about. The censors here would cut my letters pretty much. Our troop officers will let us say darned near anything.

I am going to ask our doctor for a transfer into some non-combat outfit. I am afraid my nerves will not stand much more. I would like to get away from the whole thing.

April 14:  There isn’t much news over here. I was sorry to hear about Roosevelt. He most certainly picked a bad time to die.

April 16, V-Mail:  This will have to be short. I got back as far as our kitchen yesterday. This morning I am going on up where the boys are. Found a bunch of letters from you waiting for me here. There were only six from you, but I had about thirty letters here all told. I’ll write to you just as soon as I have time, which may be before dark today.

April 16: I told you I might write before dark. The letter will be a race between me and the sun. In a way it seemed good to get back up here with the boys. When I say up I mean exactly that because I am on top of a high hill.

I left the states in March and not February. So I simply made a mistake when I put the date on the letter. Sorry.

I am not too much of a carpenter and I am going to be too busy with other things to have much spare time. Nevertheless, we can fix up some of the furniture for a starter. We will make out all right, but Flip, we may not be able to put six thousand into building alone. I can’t tell for sure and we will have to decide when the time comes.

How is our little night owl? Why shouldn’t she enjoy staying awake at night to talk to you? Her pop used to enjoy doing the same thing. Guess pop would enjoy doing it some more.

I received a nice letter from your mother. She wrote it on my birthday. Yes, I am thirty-one years old. I feel like a two-year old colt.

I will finish this in the morning. The sun won this race.

Editor’s Note: The following letter dated April 18, 1945 and addressed to Miss Edith Louise Ellison.  I’ll write to you today instead of writing to your mother. You can let her read it, that is if you want to. It’s a pretty warm day. I have spent the whole day in my foxhole. I have a little shade here and I have been reading letters and trying to get caught up on some ones I owe. Yes, I am at the front, but it’s a pretty quiet front and I might add it’s pretty safe.

Talk about cold. It sure can get cool here during the night. I am on top of a hill and , of course, that makes it that much cooler.

What time do you get up? Seven? That would be eight pm over here and it’s just dark by then. I spend about three hours out of the night pulling guard while my buddies sleep and then they pull guard while I sleep. Guess you are quite a talker at night (Editor’s Note: Maggie, stop laughing!) and I wish I had you here to entertain me at night. Your mother tells me you have a habit of staying awake during the night to talk. What’s the matter? Can’t you talk enough during the day? You can talk to me when I come home, but you better let your mother get some sleep.

Guess it’s just as well for you to stay with your mommie. I wouldn’t be giving you very good care. I have not washed my own face for three days, so you would suffer for a bath. Water is something you never miss until you get someplace where you can’t get it.

I just took time out to make a cup of coffee. They sent us some coffee grounds and we boiled it in a mess kit. We are eating C Rations just now, but they are pretty good and we have not had too many of them, at least not enough to be sick of them.

April 20:  I am back in the hospital again. My headaches kept on and I have lost too much weight. In plain words I just can’t go on any more. When I returned from the hospital the last time the Squadron Doctor I shouldn’t go up where the troop was, but I felt as though the boys would think I was gold bricking so I went up. I couldn’t eat or sleep and at night my imagination would run wild. It’s a hell of a feeling to sit in your foxhole and see Japs when you know there are no Japs there. I have a feeling I will never see combat again. Guess I have reached the point where I can no longer take it. Flip, don’t think your husband is a quitter. I have been through plenty of hell, but I can never do it again.

So Meyers will be home soon. You will like him. Now if you talk nice he might take you to the movies and I sure wish he would. Tell him that his troop is no longer the same, and he was lucky to miss all of this. He will have a lot to tell you. Of course, we were not always together, but his troop is in the same squadron so he will be able to give you a fair idea of where I was and what I was doing.

Yesterday I received rolls of film from dad. That will mean more pictures. I will have these developed in town because the army is too slow with their work. You will have a lot of pictures of me if I ever get them back. Your dad always writes his return address and my address on a slip which he puts inside the package. So many packages are lost because people do not do that.

So you think I have the wrong slant on the WACS. Perhaps I have. More power to them if they can make a lark out of it. I don’t like them and I don’t suppose I ever will.Yank nurse

American Army Nurse


American Pilots

We have a swell troop commander now. He came over with the division as a Sgt. and has worked his way up the ranks. My platoon officer (he censors my mail, but not this one) used to be my platoon Sgt. If I had wanted it I could have been a Sgt.  Nay. Nay!  A Sgt on the line is a tough job. I want to finish out the war as a Pfc. or even a Pvt and when it’s over I want to be able to come home

April 21:  I couldn’t get to sleep last night until they gave me a pill. My head feels pretty good this morning, but my legs have ached a lot. If I could get a few months of real rest and food I would be alright again. I will never gain any weight on this GI food because I can’t eat it. I have decided P. Ray’s son-in-law has to start looking out for himself and he can do a pretty good job of it.

What are your plans for the summer? I wish I could help you make them and then help share them too. This will be the last summer you will have to spend without me. It wouldn’t surprise me if I got home this summer. It’s a long chance, but well worth thinking about. A trip to Lexington would be pretty nice during September.

Thank’s for sending me a clipping of Edith Louise Ellison’s birthday. It seemed very nice to see my daughter’s name in print. It makes her seem a little more real. Strange as it may sound I still have to stretch my imagination when I think of her. I hope to see her before she is two, because she must be in the cute stage right now.

I got pretty tired this morning so I wasn’t able to finish this letter. It’s nearly dark now. Back there you are just getting up. It makes you seem so far away.

They took my blood count today and I have better than four million RBC which is good enough blood for anyone.

April 22: I am not exactly in the mood for letter writing. I have spent most of the day reading a couple Thoroughbred Records and an old Time Magazine. I sure get a great deal of enjoyment out of the Thoroughbred Records that manage to reach me now and then.

I feel pretty fair as long as I stay on my bed. The only time I leave it is to go to meals and the latrine. I do not eat very much, but I get fruit juice and vitamin pills. Yesterday they had bread pudding and that tasted real good. Flip, do you get tired of my aches and pain? I wouldn’t bother you with them, but you say you worry if I do not tell you.

The ward boy is a good Jo. He is interested in horses and spends a lot of time talking to me. I have been where they have nurses, but I prefer a GI to a nurse. Nurses are all right, but they make me miss you all the more. With you for a nurse I would get well fast.

Regardless of how small our house is it will be larger than a foxhole and that’s exactly the way I feel about it. After six months of combat I feel as though any sort of home would be nice. However, you will have to watch me for the first six months, because I’ll be wanting to shave, cook, and everything else in my helmet.

April 23:  It’s a small world. I find my doctor over here to be the same one who gave me my examination when I went to work for W&B. I sure was surprised. I am now on a soup diet. I asked for it because my stomach seems to revolt against solid food.

Our daughter should get on a horse this summer. If I was there she would. I could let her ride on the saddle in front of me or else ride bareback and let her ride behind me. I can hardly wait to teach her to ride.

I told you once about a horse in Lansing we would breed to when we bought a mare. His name is Stormscud. He had six colts last year and one of them won which isn’t bad when you consider the mares he was bred to. One of these days I am going to write his owner and find out about the other five colts. Perhaps they were not even trained.  You and I are going to be in the market for a brood mare as soon as we go to Lexington. We may look at a few while we are there.

I hear from Eddie every now and then even if it is in a very roundabout way. He never writes, but we have had several replacements come in that took basic in his troop. He is a Sgt. and the same old guy. I hope he is in Lexington when we go down.

News is scarce.  Once a man gets away from his troop he is lost. I would like to be with them, but I have decided to stay away until I am well. A man has to be in tip-top condition to take this. It’s foolish to try and fight when you feel so downright lowdown and miserable.

It’s time for soup.

April 25:   Did Edith ever get the bonds I bought for her? I bought them while I was on the boat coming from the Admiralties. It was on that trip I got to know Meyers. He can tell you how we used to go to church at night, sleep out on the deck, and how I would raid the kitchen at night for coffee. If I knew his address I would write and tell him to take you out to dinner or something. As it is, you will have to depend on your own charm.

I will have a lot of stories to tell when I come home. I am afraid you will not find me the silent kind who will brood and never tell anything about what I saw. Without a doubt, you and the kids will get tired of hearing me hash over the war.

I have received two letters from Aunt Jo and never have answered them. I should write and tell dad I received the film. I owe a lot of letters, but it’s sort of hard to write. Sometimes I think it would help if I wrote my letters in story form. I tried that on you last fall and put the address on as Detroit instead of Muskegon Heights. The blamed thing came back.

Ask Meyers if he remembers Chaplin McKnight. Editor’s note: The Chaplin’s name was originally censored. Dad wrote the name in red pencil at a later date.  I know he does because both of us liked him so well. One night the Japs were throwing rockets and mortars on us and Chaplin McKnight got out of his foxhole to help a kid that was wounded and a mortar shell hit him. Only a couple of weeks ago he preached a sermon saying that because he was a Chaplin he was not immune to bullets, but his strength was in the fact that wherever he went his Lord was with him. I always liked that guy and I miss him.

April 26:  Would you like to know what has been troubling your husband? I have Yellow Jaundice and have an idea I have had it just about all winter. Yesterday my urine turned black and my eyeballs turned to a nice yellow color and the doctor was quick in telling me what it was. I had a short plane ride and now I am back where I will get good care and most important the proper food. The only drawback is I will not be able to get my mail. I will write to you every day and try to think of something to tell you.

I get plenty of fruit juice here. With jaundice you lose all interest in food, but I go for ice-cold fruit juice and eggnog. There is a shower close by and I will be able to enjoy that. I may not be able to do as much reading as I would like because my eyes will not stand too much of a strain right now. My eyes are the one part of my body I have always taken care of.

There is a fellow here out of the (censored) Cavalry. I told him I just came from over seas and he has been busy telling me all about what happened. I even have an MP giving me the low-down.

They just brought me some ice-cold tomato juice. It sure was good even though my stomach hurts now. Pain in my stomach no longer worries me because I know what the pain is and when it will end.

I’ll bet the days are pretty nice back there. It would seem good to feel spring in the air and to ear the sound of a woman’s voice. I would even enjoy helping you clean house. I used to help Helen and I am pretty handy cleaning wallpaper. I will some day have to prove these words. Guess I hadn’t better talk too much.

April 27:  One of the fellows here had a few air mail stamps and shared them with me. I have been having to write and send them “Free” so I suppose this will beat a lot of my other letters to you.  Editor’s Note: This letter of April 27 was postmarked May 1, whereas,  the  April 26th letter was postmarked May 4.  In case it does I will give you a few facts about where I am and what I am doing. I am in the hospital and have Yellow Jaundice. I guess I have had it all winter and it must be the seat of all my other troubles, My eyes are a nice golden-yellow.

It is very hot here during the afternoon. The mornings are cool, but you know how hot a tent can get late in the afternoon. We have the sides rolled up and that gives us good ventilation. The days go by fast. I am only supposed to get up for chow and to go to the latrine, nevertheless, sometimes in the late evening I walk down to the Chaplin’s office and have a “bull” with some of the fellows who hang around there. There are a couple of fellows from the troop here, but they are in different wards and I never get to see them.

We have a nurse in the ward. She is an onry looking cuss, but has a heart of gold. She has plenty of work to keep her busy.

Trout fishing in Bellaire will start tonight at midnight. I can remember how Steve and I used to look forward to the opening of trout season. We would get up long before daylight, eat a breakfast of bread and milk and be down to Shanty Creek by sun-up. We never caught many fish, but it was a day just as important as Christmas or the 4th of July. Neither Steve or John seem to care for fishing now. It’s not that way with me. I do not care much for trout fishing , but give me a boat and Lake Bellaire and I’ll show you fish.

April 28:  I saw A Tree Grows In Brooklyn last night. It was a pretty good picture and as late a picture as I have seen. We see a lot of pictures that are old and then we see the same ones over and over. I was thinking last night when I came home I would love to take you to the Fox or some place nice and see a movie. I am going to appreciate a lot of things that I have never appreciated before.

Doc tells me I will be here for several weeks. I may write to the troop and have them forward my mail. They will do it if I ask them to. I hate to think of going two months without mail from my sweetheart.

Now that I have time to spare I may try to draw plans for out house. I don’t know much about it and expect you to have the big “say so,” but I will give you an idea of a house as I would like it.

Did John come to see you? He said he was going to sometime this winter, but I know John pretty well. He would be glad to come, but around people he does not know he is quiet.

April 30:  I’ll write now and after it’s dark and cool I’ll walk out and mail it. I feel a lot better, but I still have a yellow look and I take it plenty easy.

I ran into a friend of mine this morning and he was going back to the troop, so I sent a note to the mail clerk and told him to send all my mail down here. It may be a week before I get it, but it will give me something to look forward to.

You don’t know how to can chicken do you? Please don’t learn how. I get my share over here. It’s pretty good, but I am tired of it. I’ll bet you think I kick a lot on the food. Darling, that’s the only thing I have to kick about.

Saturday would be Derby Day only I guess there will be no Kentucky Derby and I am sorry. No matter where I am my thoughts always turn to Kentucky the first Saturday in May. Perhaps we can go down some spring.

I am in bed 13, would you call that lucky? At least it’s as cool a place as there is in the tent.

I guess it’s all over with in Europe; all but the shouting. It will soon end over here. As soon as it’s over I’ll start hot-footing it home to you and Edith.

1945 Kentucky Derby Winner Hoop Jr. Winning time 2:07. Jockey Eddie Arcaro.

1945 Derby