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