Sunday, December 23, 2012

Letter From Bob, December 1942

Dearest Rosie:

This time I hope I haven't let you down the way I did on your birthday. I made sure to send this package ahead of time, and the clerk told me it should get to Seattle by Christmas. So if it's late, you can blame him!

I'll get to the enclosed book in a minute but first I'll tell you about what's been happening here. I gather from all the newspapermen we see running around Port Moresby that you folks back home have already heard about the big battle going on at Buna up on the north side of the island. We've just about got the Japs licked, but at a price. I'll give you a strange example: Our boys took a beating from the snipers at first because their uniforms were the wrong color, if you can believe that! The brass got them died the proper shade of jungle green at a dry cleaner in Brisbane, Australia, but that made the fabric so impenetrable the fellows started getting skin rot.

Everyone on the ground on our side's been hungry, but not as hungry as the Japs, whose supplies have been almost completely cut off by the Navy. I wrote before that the troops of the Rising Sun have been resorting to cannibalism of their fallen comrades. Now it's come out that they were eating captured Allied soldiers as well, after first using them for bayonet practice.

We're hearing that another reason the Japs here on New Guinea aren't getting supplies or reinforcements is the thrashing the Marines are giving them on Guadalcanal. The Japs have been trying to retake an airfield there called Henderson Field ever since the Americans captured it in August, and in October they made a last-ditch effort. The fliers based at Henderson drove off Jap air assaults, shooting down eleven fighters and two bombers in one day. And some sergeant named John Basilone made quite an impression on the enemy. His unit was attacked by a big force during one of the assaults on Henderson. Basilone oversaw two sets of machine guns. He kept firing and kept the gunners supplied with ammunition for three days straight without sleep. Eventually it was just Basilone and two other soldiers fighting, and finally Basilone was just shooting his pistol. At the end of the battle 3,000 Japs were dead.

Well, I've gone on long enough with the battle stories, and I expect you've had your fill of them by now in the papers anyway. So I'll tell you about the book. It's not the most romantic present in the world, but I hope you'll find it interesting. As I've written before there's not much in New Guinea that a fellow can send to the most beautiful girl in any bomber factory, but I hope I can make up in possible historic interest what's lacking in the hearts-and-flowers department.

It's a pictorial yearbook of some kind put out by the Imperial Japanese government, celebrating their "achievements" in 1942. The book is partly in Japanese and partly in English, for the benefit of their subjects in "liberated" Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaya and the Philippines. One of my buddies got it from a friend who got it off a dead Japanese officer in Buna. It's a pack of lies fresh off the press. Our C.O. gave me the go-ahead to send it to you; he said there were no secrets in it. Just, as he put it, "old news and old lies." He said you should show it to the girls at the plant so they can get a good look at what the enemy thinks of us.

As always, I would give anything to be in Seattle with you if I didn't have a job to do here. I'd throw away every coconut and every orchid for one hour under a plain old Douglas fir tree with my darling wife at my side.

Merry Christmas, and here's hoping the Japs don't get to make a yearbook like this one for 1943.

All my love,


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