Saturday, November 17, 2012

Letter From Bob, November 1942

Dearest Rosie:

I am sorry beyond words that it's been so long since I've written to you. All I can say is that it's a measure of the kind of hell we're seeing that I've been kept from the most important person in the world, even on her birthday.

This "Kokoda Track campaign" as the brass are now calling it, has been frightful on both sides. We're flying air support over the jungle and the mountains, threading the needle through narrow valleys carpeted with trees that seem like they're reaching up to grab you out of the sky even as you're roaring by at hundreds of miles an hour. All the while another fellow's chasing you in a plane with Rising Sun "meatballs" painted on its wings, trying to kill you while you try to kill him. It takes a lot out of a fellow.

But it's the Japs on the ground who are really taking it on the chin. The Aussie troops are telling us they've found hideous things as they advance toward the Japs' main base at Buna. It turns out our enemies are running short on supplies. The few who've been captured are clearly starving, all ribs and bones and hollow eyes. They've eaten their pack horses and now they're devouring the corpses of their dead comrades. The Aussies say the Japs call the latter "white pork."

It pains me to write these things to you, but I cannot be anything other than honest about how it is here. If any good comes of these tales, maybe it will be to inspire you and your friends to keep fighting as hard for victory on the home front as we do here in the jungle.

But I should stop being all gloom and doom! I can tell you I scratched my head for a good long time trying to figure out what to get you for your birthday. As you might imagine the shopping opportunities in Port Moresby leave a lot to be desired. No matter how hard I looked they were fresh out of Mainbocher dresses, every single time! And although we're surrounded by beautiful tropical flowers that make even the sorriest corrugated tin shack look like a Matisse painting when the sun's out, there's no way to send any of them to you. You'll have to wait as always for the rhododendrons and cherries to bloom in Seattle.

I finally hit on an idea: It turns out a few of the fellows here are pretty good artists. In their small bits of free time they've taken to painting what we see around us every day. I got a watercolor for you from a sailor. I call it "Landscape With Coconuts and PT Boats." I hope it survived the journey unscathed and that you like it. It's a pretty sure bet that you're the only gal on Tillicum Road SW who's got one!

Well, I've got to finish this letter and try to get as much shut-eye as I can in this furnace-like heat and drumming rain (the other fellows in the unit have been joking that since I'm from Seattle the rain shouldn't bother me, but these firehose downpours are nothing like the misty drizzle we're used to in the Northwest). I've got another mission early tomorrow and the Zeroes will be waiting. Just know that the Japs may slow me down from writing but they'll never stop me from thinking of you as long as I'm breathing.

Your loving husband,


1 comment:

Judith Works said...

I heard a rumor that they really were cannibals - ghastly. Hope you get the painting.