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