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,


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