Friday, December 13, 2013

Letter from Bob, December 1943

Dearest Rosie:

Once again we're apart at Christmas, and once again I'm unable to send you a present. But in a way I suppose I have. It's just not one I can wrap in a bow and pop into the mail. It's a whole Jap base, tied up with ribbons of steel instead of paper.

Rabaul's been a fly in our soup for a long time. It sits across the Solomon Sea from New Guinea, on the island of New Ireland. After they seized it from Australia the Japs built an immense naval base there on the edge of a sunken volcanic crater. Japs from Rabaul have been harassing our ships and airfields from Guadalcanal to Bougainville.

Well, MacArthur's had enough, and we're in a position now to let the Tojo know that in no uncertain terms.

"Rosie" and I and the other P-38s escorted fleets of B-25 Mitchell bombers attacking Rabaul. We came in skimming low over the jungle hills to shoot up the anti-aircraft guns and bomb the base itself. We flew high over the Japanese supply ships that twisted and turned through the sea far below in a futile effort to evade us.

Although the Imperial Navy still holds Rabaul, we've pounded it and the smaller bases surrounding it nearly to dust, and I suspect it won't be much of a threat in the future.

But there's no rest for the weary. The good news is, I'm out of the dogfighting business. The mechanics have stripped out "Rosie's" guns and replaced them with cameras. Needless to say I can't tell you exactly what I'll be doing, but I'll be saying, "Here's looking at you!" to a few Japs.

Of course I'd a million times rather be looking at you. Knowing I've got furlough coming almost makes things worse. Somehow, having something you long for with all your heart and soul placed directly before you but not quite within reach makes the lack of it more sharply painful. Not knowing when I'd be home was just a dull ache, like the false dawns we see here before the real sun comes over the horizon. Having an actual date and waiting for it to arrive is far harder to endure.

But endure I will. C.O confirms I'll be on my way back on New Year's Day! I'll telephone you as soon as I get to Australia. In the meantime, stock up on all those little ordinary things that we used to take for granted. I'd trade a mountain of breadfruit for a bowl of razor-clam chowder, and a bushel of coconuts for an apple. Oh, and be sure to get plenty of firewood. We're going to need it, since I'm planning on spending most of my leave inside with you.

Your loving husband,


Monday, October 7, 2013

Letter From Bob, October 1943

Dearest Rosie:
You're no doubt pretty mad at me for not having written in so long, but for once I've got an excuse. Seems I came down with a small case of malaria. Nothing to worry about, and the doc says I'll be good as new, but it was rough for a while I have to say.

I've got no one to blame but myself. We're all supposed to take malaria pills regularly as New Guinea is so thick with mosquitoes that no amount of netting and ditch-draining will ever get rid of them. We're advised to keep our sleeves rolled down and our long pants on, but the sap who came up with that rule never spent months where the temperature and humidity never move off the 100 mark, to say nothing of chasing Japs around for hours every day in an unventilated P-38.

You've probably read about our recent successes at Salamaua and Lae. After heroic effort the Aussies have driven the Japs out of their big bases there. Lae, of course is where Amelia Earhart departed on the last leg of her round-the-world flight five years ago. My buddies and I flew air support for these operations, thought the boys from Down Under had the toughest job.

Well, I got so caught up in the action that I forgot a dose of malaria pills, despite the warning signs the doc put up:

Sure enough, a few days later I woke up feeling like I'd been simultaneously hit by a jeep, tossed into Puget Sound in February and roasted like an ant under a magnifying glass. I don't remember much after that except dreams about as bizarre as the image I just described. I was laid up for a couple of weeks, but thankfully the docs pulled me through. They gave me a talking-to about the pills that I won't soon forget, but after what I've been through I'm about as likely to forget a dose as the Japs are to surrender tomorrow.

So here I am, back in fighting trim, but with one remaining problem: Your birthday. You've patiently accepted my feeble efforts for the last two years, but alas there's even less to buy in a hospital tent than there is in a New Guinea village. But fate's a mysterious thing. While I was lying on my cot the CO came by and told me I'm eligible for a furlough! Won't be until early next year, but if you don't mind my banged-up carcass for a belated birthday present I'll be all yours!

They tell me I was calling out your name while I was delirious with malaria. I don't remember it, but I have no doubt it's true. When everything sane seems to be slipping away I know that you are the one thing I have left to hold on to. Now I'll just be counting the days until I can hold on to you in person!

Your loving husband


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Letter to Bob, August 1943

Dearest Bob.

The letter-writing guides they give us are full of helpful hints: Keep it light!" "Talk about family!" "Tell them about doings around town."

But I'm sure none of these things are what you really want to hear, and if I wrote them you'd be reading the pamphlet, not a real letter from me.

I thought and thought about what to write. Finally, I decided to imagine it's a usual Sunday, since that's my day off from the factory and the only one to which a few tattered shreds of life before the war still cling. I'm sure that if you could be magically plucked away from New Guinea and parachuted back to Tillicum Drive for 24 hours, it would be on that day.

I picture us having coffee together, snitching sections of the newspaper from each other as we always do. In my dream there's no war, no "communiques" or dispatches." No maps with snarled arrows circling each other around unpronounceable place names. No black wreaths enfolding lists of dead Seattle boys.

Since it's a warm August day, we'd walk to the beach to watch the white sails blossom on the sea. The destroyers belching black oily smoke have vanished, and the ferries hurrying across the water are filled with picnickers instead of tired, grubby factory girls.

We'd walk along the waterfront and stop at the soda fountain. You'd point out how the shadows are stretching further across the streets now that summer's ending, then laugh and tell me I had a spot of ice cream on my nose.

We'd stroll back to the house. Instead of cartoon Japs on every telephone pole reminding us to buy war bonds and save scrap and not talk, there'd be announcements for garage sales and babysitters.

I'd fix you dinner. A big juicy steak, with buttered potatoes. Stormy would meow and wind her way around the table legs. You'd feed her bits when you thought I wasn't looking.

Then night would come and there'd be no more talk.

It doesn't take much to shatter this reverie: A glance at the paper, a turn of the radio dial, a walk down the street past all the bungalows with star flags in their windows. But my heart is strong, and the dreams are safe inside it until you come home and make them real again.

All my love,


Friday, July 26, 2013

Letter from Bob, July 1943

Dearest Rosie:

They've moved us away from the "big city" of Port Moresby to a small spot on the other side of New Guinea. I'm not supposed to tell you where it is, but even if I did it wouldn't matter. No one but the natives has ever heard of any of the places in this part of the world.

We're spending most of our time chasing Zeros up and down the coast, scrambling to intercept the Japs when they come buzzing over the horizon from their big base in Rabaul. Old Man MacArthur's undoubtedly got some grand plan up his sleeve, but whatever it is it's not obvious to us jungle pilots.

As usual it's a test of our speed and firepower versus their maneuverability, like hawks plunging down on sparrows. Except these "sparrows" are buck-toothed bastards who'll machine-gun a parachuting pilot without batting an eye.

I used to think I was above saying things like that. I told myself I'm not one of those-blood-and-guts fellows. But watching your friends die changes a man forever. I worry sometimes, Rosie, that you won't recognize me when I come home. When I was studying architecture all I dreamed of and cared about was the earth: Houses and streets and trees and the little bungalow I'd build for us when we were married. I never thought about the sky except to admire a sunset. Now I spend all my time there and it's a beautiful but hateful place. It's full of stars and steel, raindrops and drops of blood. I just want to be done with it.

I'm sorry if I seem down. Haven't been feeling like my old self recently, and a little unwell the last couple of days. Nothing to worry about, just the usual sort of thing that happens when the cook decides to get "creative" with Spam and coconuts.

Going to lie down for a bit after I mail this, then back at the Japs. "Rosie" has at least one 50-caliber shell with a Nip's name on it.

As always I miss you more than I have words to tell. I picture you and Stormy (forever as a kitten though of course she's grown into a big cat now!) and our house, even when I'm skimming above the tops of the palm trees and over the icy Owen Stanley Mountains. I promise that when I return I'll never leave you again for anything.

Your loving husband,


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Letter From Bob, June 1943

Dearest Rosie:

I wish I had some sort of dramatic battle or heroic accomplishment to describe to you, but lately it's just been one long, dreary slog between us and the Japs here on New Guinea. I'm beginning to wonder if we'll ever retake this misbegotten island.

So I decided that for once I write about something light, since there's little enough of that to go around.

You've likely seen pictures of the nudie cartoons they're painting on planes these days. Some are pretty amusing, and the fellows in our squadron have been pestering me to get one and give my trusty P-38 a name. Our ace pilot Richard Bong has named his Lightning "Marge" after his sweetheart back home. He hasn't let anyone paint any cartoons of her, not that there's room on his plane's nose anyway what with all the kills he's racking up:

Well, I'm no slouch, but I'm no Richard Bong either, so there's a little room left on my Lightning's nose. When that copy of the Saturday Evening Post with Rosie the Riveter on the cover finally made its way to New Guinea, after all the teasing died down our resident Rembrant (who drew comic books before the war) offered to paint it on my plane. "Hell, no," I said, "My Rosie's beautiful!"

I showed him your picture. Three days later the sap had the gall to come back with a risqué drawing! The only thing that kept me from popping him one was reminding myself that he's a bachelor. I told him in no uncertain terms that even though you're the world's most beautiful Rosie the Riveter you're a respectable woman.

Finally, he showed me the rough sketch I've enclosed. I like it, and I've agreed to let him paint it on "Rosie"'s nose. Now the other fellas, as well as the Japs, can get a good look at what I'm fighting for.

I hope you're not offended. It makes me happy to think that the last thing any Jap I shoot down will see is your smiling face!

All my love,


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Dear Mrs. Wilcox

"Dear Mrs. Wilcox. It's hard to write a letter to someone you'll never meet, especially when it's about how her husband died. But you deserve to know, so I'll give it my best.

Joe was in my squad, and you could never ask for a better buddy. No matter how tough things got he never complained. We were cold, hungry, and sometimes more scared than we'd admit, but Joe took it in stride. We all liked him. He was generous. He even gave one of the sweaters you knit for him to a fellow who didn't have one. I think he might have saved that man's life, as we didn't have enough supplies when we first arrived on this miserable frozen rock, and some fellows died of exposure.

Of course Joe talked about you all the time, how he missed your cooking and your picnics near Mount Rainier. I've never been to Seattle, but Joe made it sound like a wonderful place, even with all the rain! He was incredibly proud of your work building the Flying Fortresses we see every day here in Alaska.

But I can tell I'm stalling, and I'd better get to why I have to write this letter.

On May 29 we thought we finally had the Japs on this island licked. Most of them were dead, and their last remaining troops were bottled up in a tiny area around Chicagoff Harbor.

But I'm from Texas, and I know what happens when a rattlesnake's cornered. He strikes. And being the snakes they are, that's exactly what the Japs did.

The night before, one of our scouting patrols made it behind the Jap lines. They almost didn't make it back, either, because the saps forgot the password when they returned to camp; the sentries didn't let them in until the patrol started yelling "Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Yankees, Joe DiMaggio!" Anyway, the patrol had a fantastic story: They saw Japs in their camp swilling sake, shouting and jumping up and down like madmen. One fellow saw them shooting their wounded. Something bizarre was happening. The patrol leader told the lieutenant, but he ignored him. Japs are always doing crazy things, who can understand them? But the patrolmen figured something was up, and they went from foxhole to foxhole telling our men what they saw.

At about 3:00 the next morning Joe and I were in the chow line when we heard a horrible screaming racket. A thousand crazed Japs came running down the hill straight at us, hurling grenades, firing rifles and waving bayonets tied to sticks. We ran for our weapons, but a Jap caught Joe. They fell down on the tundra, kicking and punching each other savagely. Joe was unarmed, but the bastard Jap had a knife. Somehow he twisted around and shoved it into Joe's chest. All I can say, Mrs. Wilcox, is that the knife went to Joe's heart so it was over quick. I was able to grab my revolver by this time, and I shot that murderous sonofabitch right in the face and sent him straight to the hell he came from.

Mrs. Wilcox, your husband was not alone. The rampaging Japs went on down the valley, screaming "We'll drink your blood!" They found one of our medical stations and cut the ropes holding up the tents, so the wounded GIs were tangled in the canvas and couldn't escape before the Japs hacked them to death. They also bayoneted men who were in their sleeping bags.

Finally, the Japs reached an engineering unit on the far side of the valley. The cooks and the bulldozer drivers were able to mount a defense and machine-gunned a bunch of the attackers. The rest of the Japs blew themselves up with their own grenades.

When it was over the valley was littered with corpses. I even heard the chaplain say of the Japs, "I'm glad they're dead, really glad. How can I go back to my church when I've got it in me to be glad men are dead?"

Well, I'm not a man of God, so I have no problem with dead Japs. My goal in life is to produce a lot more of them.

I can't tell you how sorry I am that Joe's gone, and doubly sorry that you have to hear about it from as poor a writer as me. Your husband and all the other brave men who died on this stinking rock will surely be avenged, and I pledge to you, Mrs. Wilcox, that I will do everything in my power to make that happen.


Pfc Phillip Bolden

Monday, May 27, 2013

Letter From Joe, Late May 1943

Dearest Betty. I'm sorry to say I don't know what day it is here any more. One freezing, foggy, blowing hour just seems to run into another, and it feels like we've been here a hundred years instead of just a couple of weeks.

It's an awful slog fighting the Japs. They're clinging to this miserable speck of rock as though their lives depend on it, which I suppose they do since the Japs don't believe in retreat or surrender. The Army Air Force keeps dropping leaflets on them (I've enclosed one for you). They tell me they read as follows:

"The kiri leaf falls. Its fall is the omen of the inevitable downfall of militarism. With the fall of one kiri leaf comes sadness and bad luck. Before spring comes again the raining bombs of America, just like the kiri leaves fluttering to the ground, will bring sad fate and misfortune."

A lot of silly words wasted on a lot of paper if you ask me, but I'm only a private and not a general, so what do I know?

Actually I do know one thing the Japs understand, which is a grenade. Since I last wrote to you we fought our way out of the aptly-named Massacre Valley and up onto the high ground. The Japs were dug in on the valley walls, but we got a lucky break. The artillery gunners behind us fire smoke-screen rounds. The Japs thought it was poison gas, and scrambled for their gas masks. That gave us time to lob grenades into their positions and do a little bayonet work.

A photographer got the enclosed picture of some of my buddies in action:

This is pretty much what it's like all over the island. We've been in shallow trenches like this one at times:

But we've also got tents, and hot food and fuel. Heck, the Army's even trying to boost our morale by taking us to the movies, if you can believe that! Here's our "limousine" from the front to the movie tent:

Betty, I've got to admit that Hedy Lamarr is almost as beautiful as you!

Well, that's it for now. We've got just a few remnants of the Japs bottled up around Chickagoff Harbor. Our sergeant says we'll likely be going at them to finish them off in a day or two, so with any luck this will be my last letter from this frozen lump of dirt.

Give my best to Rosie, tell her I see lots of P-38s like her lounging, coconut-juice drinking husband Bob flies in that tropical paradise of New Guinea (she knows I'm joking).

See you soon. All my love,


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Letter from Joe, Mid-May 1943

This is a horrible place.

Betty, I don't know how to sugarcoat things since I don't have a lot of fancy words like the college boys, so I'm not going to try. You'll just have to hear it like it is, but I know you can take it.

We were pinned down in the Massacre Valley for days after we landed. We only got a little way inland before the Japs started shooting us from the hills. We had beach artillery that fired back, but the ships in the bay couldn't do anything for us because it was too foggy. I spent the most miserable night of my life lying in a freezing, muddy streambank trying to stay out of the machine-gunners' sights. Some fellas a few hundred yards away tried to keep warm by setting fire to the stocks of their rifles, the only thing they had that would burn. They were dead by morning. I heard one of the officers say the Japs have fur-lined boots and uniforms and plenty of kerosene. All I can say is, I hope they'll all stay nice and warm in the hell we'll send them to.

We slowly made our way up the valley, a few yards at a time, holding on to each other's cartridge belts. We're supposed to be linking up with another unit that landed in the northern part of the island, but it's been unbelievably slow. A buddy told me he heard that when that Northern Force got to a camp the Japs had abandoned, our fighter pilots didn't realize they were our boys, and killed a bunch of them by bombing and strafing. He said he also heard the Japs killed their own wounded by injecting them with morphine and throwing grenades into their medical tent.

Thankfully we've got what you might call a camp set up now. We've got a little stove, but the mud floor's pretty nasty. It's been tough getting supplies in because the vehicles keep getting bogged down in the mud and the muskeg, but it seems like we're secure for the time being.

Don't you worry about me. I got those socks and sweaters you knit me and they sure feel good. I'm putting all my mind to staying safe and winning this thing. I've got to go now, but I promise I'll write again as soon as I can.

Love, Joe

Monday, May 13, 2013

Letter from Joe, May 1943

Dear Betty

Just a quick note to tell you we've arrived at Attu Island. I thought when we were building the Alaska Highway last year that I'd seen the most Godforsaken country in the world, but the Army's determined to prove me wrong. After we're done here the only worse place they could send me is Hades.

Actually Hades might be a bit of an improvement; at least I wouldn't be shivering as I write this the way I am now. The Army got it wrong about how cold it is here. Most of us are still wearing the uniforms we had when we left California, which are feeling pretty flimsy when it's blowing forty miles an hour and sleeting.

We came ashore at a place called Massacre Bay. A lovely name for an equally lovely place. So far the landing's been a perfect example of what the fellows call FUBAR, since everything in the Army must have an acronym. It means "Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition." We have maps that only go a thousand yards inland, and only a few photos of the interior of the island since reconnaissance planes can't exactly take pictures through the eternal fog here.

At least the Japs are leaving us alone for the time being. They're hiding up in the hills like the cowards they are. And a good thing, too, since we all were supposed to be ashore today and the boats are still unloading.

I've stuck a few photos in here for you. I don't know if the censors will let them through, but what use any Axis spies would have for pictures of scruffy soldiers on muddy rocks and snow is beyond me.

Don't worry a bit about me. When the cold and the scenery get me down I just pretend we're having one of our picnics on Mount Rainier when a summer squall come through. I imagine your face under that silly knit hat of yours, and the basket of huckleberries you always pick.

Well, I've got to go as there's a lot of work to do. They say we'll lick the Japs here in just a few days, so with any luck this letter will barely beat me to Seattle.

All my love,


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Letter From Bob, April 1943

Dearest Rosie:

Something huge just happened, and I was a big part of it, but the censors won't let me tell you what it was! You cannot imagine how hard it is to keep the secret, but I've got to trust the Army when they say there's a good reason not to tell. All I'm allowed to write is that I hope you'll read something in the papers later and think of me.

The other thing that's tough is the knowledge that it's our second wedding anniversary, and once again I'm not with you. I'm sure you've had the same thought I have - we've been apart longer than we've been together. It's not the worst thing the Japs have done from the world's point of view, but it's the worst thing they've done as far as I'm concerned.

It's been a little bit of "Old Home Week" here at the base. One of the pilots in our group, a fellow by name of Rex Barber, turns out to be a fellow Oregonian. Not from the "big city" of Portland where we were born, but a tiny town called Culver in the sagebrush country east of the mountains. Exactly why is a military secret for now, but mark my words, he'll be famous someday.

Turns out there's also a fellow from Seattle at our base. Of course the Negroes are in separate quarters from us, but out here the far corners of the world people rub shoulders more than they would back home. I got to chatting with this Al Hendrix, who tells quite a story. He was born in Vancouver, B.C. to a family of vaudeville performers who settled in Seattle. He misses his wife Lucille something awful; they were married a year ago, just three days before he shipped out to Georgia for basic training. At least you and I had six months together before I joined up! He says the very worst of it was when his son Jimmy was born last November. He couldn't get enough leave time to get back to Seattle to visit his family, and his sergeant threw him in the stockade to boot to keep him from going AWOL. Now he's stuck out here in the jungle 10,000 miles from a son he's never seen.

It hasn't been any easier to find you an anniversary present this year than it was before, so I hope you'll forgive me for repeating myself. I've enclosed another watercolor of the local scenery. There are several fellows around here with real talent, not that they've got a lot of free time to use it. I have another piece of artwork that may amuse you, but I'm saving something for my next letter.

They showed us another one of those "Why We Fight" movies at the base the other day. Of course we all want the same thing, but I can tell you that every man out here has his own private reason for fighting as well. Mine happens to be pinned inside my P-38's cockpit, next to the altimeter:

Happy Anniversary.

All my love, Bob.

*Image: Watercolor by James S. Crafts, Milne Bay, New Guinea, April 1943.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Letter From Bob - The Battle of the Bismarck Sea

Dearest Rosie.

It's a long trip over the Owen Stanley Mountains to the Bismarck Sea, especially when your beloved P-38's cockpit cooling doesn't work. Like most of the fellows here I've been flying in nothing more than shorts, shoes and a parachute, but it's still a sweaty business.

As you may imagine, though, the perspiration isn't all from the jungle heat. Our CO says the newspaper boys have been crawling all over MacArthur's headquarters, so I expect you've already read about our big scrap with the Japs last week. How they were trying to ferry thousands of fresh troops to New Guinea from their big base in Rabaul, and how we stopped them.

But I doubt those newsboys wrote much about what we really did. They like to make everything look easier and simpler than it is.

A lot of the work was done by the fellows in light bombers like B-25s, A-20s and Bristol Beaufighters, retrofitted with heavy guns so they could attack like fighters. The Aussies and Americans flew right at the Japanese transports a just a few dozen feet above the waves, veering back and forth so their guns raked a wide swath of the ships' decks. At the last instant they'd drop their bombs, which had fuses just long enough to allow the bombers to escape the blast.

My buddies and I were mostly protecting the big Flying Fortresses, which dropped bombs on the Japanese transports in the more usual way. I have to tell you, Rosie, things didn't go all our way the first day. A pack of Zeros jumped one of the Fortresses and damaged it so badly the crew bailed out. And what did the godforsaken Japs do? Why, they shot the crewmen as they parachuted down. Three of my squadron peeled away to go after the Japs, and they were shot down as well. These were guys were my friends. We ate together, played cards together in the barracks during thundering jungle downpours, drank beer together and talked about what we'd do when we got home. Now they're gone, and I watched them die.

I've enclosed a picture of one of my buddies. His name was Bob, too.

Capt. Robert Faurot with his P-38, before he was shot down in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea.

But I had no time to mourn. We were back at it the second day. I remember thinking of my buddies as we flew back over the mountains, my heart hardening with each steamy mile. I'd be lying if I said revenge wasn't on our minds.

This time the convoy broke formation when the bombers arrived, which made the transports' anti-aircraft defenses less concentrated. The ships twisted and turned violently, trying to escape. We saw two burning transports collide. The bomber crews saw Japanese troops on the ships' decks lined up with rifles, but the guns on the planes had greater range so the Japs were mowed down before they could fire back.

It was over in 20 minutes, most of their fleet sinking. We returned in the afternoon for another 20 minutes and finished the job. Eight transports and three destroyers went to Davy Jones' Locker.

Now comes the part that's harder to write about: For the next couple of days, we had orders to "mop up." This meant shooting up any lifeboats, barges or rafts we found. Our guns raked the sea whenever we saw anything floating that looked like it had Japs on it, throwing up red fountains. I didn't enjoy it, but whenever I hesitated to pull the trigger I thought of my dead friends.

I suspect the Japs will never try big convoys like this again; I suppose they'll stick to submarines, though how they'll be able to move large numbers of troops that way only Hirohito knows.

I'm sorry to write such grisly things to you, but war is changing all of us here, as I imagine it's changing you. I only hope we can forget all of these things when it's over.



Saturday, February 9, 2013

Letter to Bob, February 1943

Dear Bob:

I'll do my best to follow the letter-writing tips set out in the pamphlet you sent me. I imagine the last thing you want is tidings from the bomber factory (the most interesting part of the day is when the foreman yells at one of the girls for sinking a row of rivets too deep), so I'll try one of the other recommended subjects: "Pets."

Stormy and I miss you to pieces but we're getting along all right. We're both engaged in useful war work: While I'm away building Flying Fortresses she's curled up in a box next to the furnace, dozing in the warmth of the pilot light. She needs to rest up from an exhausting night's labor of keeping the bed warm enough for me to turn the heat down to government-recommended levels.

We both enjoy listening to the radio, but we seem to have different tastes. I dance around the kitchen to Artie Shaw while I'm cooking, but Stormy hides under the coffee table and won't come out until I put on something quieter like Glenn Miller. We do sit together on the couch during news broadcasts. Stormy seems particularly attentive when Churchill's on; it must be the British accent.

Of course we both hang on every word about New Guinea. It seems you and the other flyers and Allied troops are having great success. I'm glad the Japanese have been pushed out of Buna (I know more now about the geography of New Guinea than I do of New York), and I hope they'll soon be gone from the rest of the island and the whole of the Pacific.

I know you've got to be brave, but please fly carefully. Stormy and I are counting on you to come home in one piece. When you do, we'll dance around the kitchen together like this whole war never happened.

Your loving wife,

Monday, January 14, 2013

Letter from Bob, January 1943

Image courtesy @son_of_sandor

Dearest Rosie:

Well, my big news is that I've made my first "kill." I see as I write that line it's a horrible way to start a letter to my wife. I nearly tore up the page and started over, but I suppose there's really no hiding what war has made of us, and you might as well know.

I'd been in a few inconclusive dogfights; the Jap Zeros can turn more tightly than our P-38s, but we're faster and can climb higher. It's taken us a while but we've finally figured out how to fight those sons of the Rising Sun. We climb above them and pounce. Our C.O. says we're falcons nabbing pigeons. And that's exactly what I did to to that Jap. I fired my guns at him while he sped beneath me. His wing shattered and the plane spun to the ground like a maple seed. I didn't see a parachute but I didn't stick around to look, either.

On a pleasanter note, I've met some interesting people here. There's a pilot by the name of Richard Bong who hails from Wisconsin and seems to have quite a knack for flying a P-38. The other fellows told me that when he was in training in California he got grounded for flying a loop around the Golden Gate Bridge, making a low-level pass down Market Street in San Francisco, and blowing a woman's laundry right off the clothesline in Oakland. Boy, would I like to have seen that! He's already gotten two kills, a Zero and a Nakajima, even though he claims he's not a good shot. I think he's just being modest the way so many from the Midwest are.

I know I haven't been much of a correspondent. My New Year's resolution is to do better, and it seems the Army's here to help. They've distributed a handy letter-writing guide, which we're supposed to pass along to our families. I'm happy to oblige, though I hardly think you need any assistance. Anyway, I wouldn't care if your letters were nothing more than weather reports - anything you've written is my most treasured possession.

Well, that's all for now. I promise I'll be writing more frequently.

All my love, Bob.