Monthly Archives: February 2014

Part XI: Auckland R&R

Notes from a son: If my father’s version of growing up was true, and I’ve no reason to doubt his stories, my paternal grandfather was a moonshiner in Pennsylvania as well as a coal miner. Apparently he wasn’t always very nice when he was on the shine, leading my Dad, the eldest, to one night leave him passed out in the snow. Dad said as the boys got older they teamed up to set matters straight. By the time I met my Grandfather, in 1968 or so, he was a nice old man.
Due to Dad’s experiences growing up he developed a dislike of alcohol and the behavior of those who drank to excess. He hated going to business events where people would drink and try to drive, or pressure him to drink.
It was only natural that, at 24 and older than many of the men around him, he acted as a big brother of sorts. He held cash for some guys who just couldn’t keep from gambling and drinking away their payday, knocking some of them down if they tried to get their cash back before they were sober.
He said they always thanked him later.
(I’m pretty sure some of the antics and observations in this part of the journal were one of the reasons Mom never got to read it.)

February 1944
We got ready to disembark at 2:00 o’clock in the morning, but the boat wasn’t unloaded right away because the New Zealand dock workers are on strike. Yes, even here people can’t seem to understand there’s a war going on.
We got off at 3:30 a.m. and marched down deserted Auckland’s streets. How different from our first visit, when crowds lined the streets and cheered the Yanks. The town is about the same. It looks very familiar and no changes were noticeable. We marched to the train station and then waited for our coaches. We had two apples apiece while we waited.
We loaded on, and got on our way when the sun started peeping out. Then we saw our first fog, and even that looks good. We got off at Papakura and onto trucks to our new camp at Karaka North, 7-and-a-half miles away. When we go to camp it was day-lite.
The camp was very nice, located on the bend of a river. The scenery was perfect, and there were plenty of facilities, showers, day rooms, etc.
And, of course, there’s our sheep and cows staring at us.
We have one inconvenience. The 25rd Recon is still in the huts, and sin e the ship can’t be unloaded they can’t load on, so we have to erect perambular tents to sleep in until they leave, destination unknown.
The mess halls are very crowded with two Recons here. Some of the 25th Division guys are hard-up for money, so our boys are buying wrist watches.
Some guys are really suckers.
We don’t have to sleep on the ground because we got old, beat-up cots from some salvage depot. They were easy to fix. All we had to do was put brand new cot covers on the frame. It’s colder than hell here at nite.

Later:
The 25th Recon finally moved out, so we moved in. Collins, LaMarre, LaJoie and myself are in one hut. A screwier combination can’t be found for love or money.
We can’t leave for town for three days. I guess we’re quarantined to see if any malaria cases will pop up.
Capt. Dall read off rules for behavior, and a list of off-limits places, also our pass policy. It sounds O.K. Comes the great day, we’re off to see civilization at close quarters.
We went down to Auckland by truck, no trains for us. Now we get bus service to and from camp.
The first day in Auckland I felt funny. It was too crowded and noisy for my jangled nerves. People are still in a hell of a hurry, but so am I, to get me where, but fast.

March 1944:
I’m seeing the town very often and only a few things have changed. Prices are up. Meat will be rationed. And people are now accustomed to seeing Americans and don’t seem as friendly, but I guess we who have been in the jungles must seem goofy to them, too.
However, the girls are still man-crazy, as long as he has pants, he’s welcome. But back home we read of girls doing the same, so I guess they’re the same the world over. Of course, there are plenty of good ones, too.
We have about 9 civilian cars in camp now. Prices are high, but the boys are well-heeled. Back home we’d call them “junks,” but here they’re worth pounds. A pound is still worth $3.24 in our money. The only troubles with those cars are the tires. Some of them are on their last threads.
I had my first three-day pass. I went by train to Hamilton with Lajoie and Lamarre. It’s a nice town, not too big and there aren’t many other soldiers here. I had a yellow braid put on my cap. Now we look like soldiers. I feel funny with creased pants and wearing ties – the evils of civilization. Oh well, we can take it. May it last for months.

Later in March:
We’re hearing plenty of this 18-month relief bill. Mom and all seem to believe I’m on my way back. Contrary to reports they’ve been hearing, we’re over here for 24 months before we’re eligible for the states. And then only if they have space, and if we’re not needed. What a laugh. It shows what lengths politicians go to to get votes. I guess our people are too gullible for their own good.
Our mail is lousy, but we still write home to boost-up civilian morale.
I had a seven-day leave, so we went by truck to the Potoma New Zealand National Park, a sort of resort town.
People here are very friendly. The Red Cross got us rooms at the Commonwealth Hotel. The rooms are very nice and the prices reasonable. I got a double room, so Allen and I shared the room.
We met a girl there named Nan. She was a blonde and had more curves than the Penna. Highway She was really well protected, because 12 of us were there and she liked all of us. However, Kelly and I only took her out in the day time to go swimming and to play tennis.
Too bad this damn war doesn’t end so we could go home and see our own gals.
The girls here are as pretty as ours, but something’s lacking. They’ll never beat our American girls.
We went to the Cabaret Dance Hall to see the dance, the music was good and girls galore. Kelly and I flirted with every one of them, a few cuties, too. In fact, I stole one away from a staff Sgt. when he went to the men’s room.
The moral: Men, don’t leave your women, even if you have to.
I took plenty of snapshots. Two waitresses at the hotel consented to pose, so we obliged. The smaller one was cute and insisted on sitting on my knee. I know folks back home won’t believe me.
We visited hot water wells and geysers. We had a Maori woman for a guide. Boy, was she a snow artist. Maoris are natives of New Zealand, dark skinned, a sort of Polynesian type.
Some of their girls are beautiful, nicknamed “Night Fighters” (P-38s) because they’re so fast, and B-24s, the ones who are sort of fat. Plenty of Americans find solace by going with them. I have yet to hear a complaint. The Army has a law against it, but so far no one bothers to enforce it.
I rode a lot of bicycles. My legs really got a workout for a change.
All good things come to an end, so we headed back for camp and a week’s rest before we start in training again.
We’ve been here six weeks now. Our food is excellent, plenty of fresh meat, milk, butter, ice cream and plenty of liquor, beer and wine — and the boys are taking full advantage of it.
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Part X: Heading for R&R in New Zealand on one sweet ride, after a lot of muddy camping. (Recon Troopers do not make for natural M.P.s)

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USS General John Pope (AP-110) docked at B/S Pier 6, US Army Port of Embarkation, Hampton Roads, Newport News, Virginia, about to sail with troops and cargo. this photo was taken immediately before her maiden voyage. SOURCE- WIKI

Read about the fate of the USS General John Pope: http://maritimematters.com/2010/05/passage-on-the-u-s-n-s-general-john-pope/

Notes from a son: I had no idea I’d sailed past the troop transport that took my Dad to New Zealand for an R&R he talked about as a good time during a time he didn’t like to talk about. While covering efforts to save the USS/USCG Glacier from breakup, I’d seen the Pope at anchor in Suisun Bay’s MARAD Mothball fleet. The ship served through the Vietnam War.

February 3, 1944:
We left Munda Feb. 3 in a rain storm that lasted all day, everybody was soaking wet. We were in an LC2 this time, and the voyage was surprisingly smooth compared to the L.S.T. we arrived from the Russells on. They served cheese and meat sandwiches, plus some liquid alleged to be coffee. There weren’t many good appetites once we hit the open water.
We came to Guadalcanal the next morning and, as usual, the move was scheduled with rain. We haven’t had a dry stretch now for two days. We had mail call before sailing – I had 41 letters. Guadalcanal is now really built-up. There are good roads and plenty of buildings.
I saw Henderson airport and Carney Field, both of them really big. Later we saw a fighter strip manned by New Zealanders. If the Japs could see this place now, they’d really see what they’re up against.
We camped about 23 miles from the beach where we landed, put up camp and was really ready for bed and chow, but the lure of movies was stronger so we went by truck to see “The Big Shot.” I saw it once before in happier times, when I was a civilian.
The mosquitoes are really bad and getting too bold for their own good. We’re moving again tomorrow. I was issued four cans of beer and two Cokes, so for the first time since the states I had Coke again. Some of the fellows really had plenty of beer, and headaches.
Saturday morning the great, big trailer trucks loaded up all our equipment and we were off again, this time to stand guard over division equipment prior to loading on ship.
New Zealand is now pretty definite. After that, who knows?
Our new bivouac place is the muddiest place you ever saw. You really walk around in ankle-deep mud all day, shoes wet and torn.
I was issued new clothes, 2 sets of cottons, 1 set of woolens, so I guess now we’re really going.
I pulled guard 2 on and 4 off for a 24-hour period and, as usual, rain. I believe we start loading-on tomorrow. Our C.O. is getting a transfer to air cargo. Nuff said.
I saw some brand new troops from the States get off the President Johnson, and I never saw any bunch so dirty and disgusted. They were on the Johnson 41 days before they could decide where to land. I sure hope we don’t go back on this ship. It really smells, literally speaking.
A P-38 crashed while taking off on the strip next to us. The plane was demolished and the pilot burned to death before the fire could be extinguished. He did manage to crawl on the wing, but that’s all. A hell of a way to die, never even had a chance.
Later:
I pulled guard duty again, this time guarding division supplies. I never saw so much junk in all my life.
I had two real, honest-to-goodness fried eggs, our first in quite some time. It was swell, but it wasn’t quite enough.
We still have our rain. It’s really disgusting the way our area is muddy. We slip and slide all over the place. No washing clothes, because you’re just getting muddy again.
Our ship finally pulled in, and it’s really a big baby. It sure looked nice coming in – New Zealand, here we come.
I’m still pulling guard, I saw most of the 103rd loading onto the General Pope, or Polk. I guess we’re next.
Some of the fellows saw a real, honest-to-goodness USO show complete with girls, Francis Kay, Mary Elliott, some Spaniard and Ray Milland. It must be safe here if they come here.
I saw a task force pulling out to invade Green Island. I took pictures of the boats. I hope they’re luckier than we were in New Georgia.
We loaded onto the Pres., or I believe it’s the Gen. Pope at three o’clock in the morning. We were ready right after breakfast, but we had to wait damn near until morning again.
I was so disgusted a pulled a blanket out of my barracks bag and slept near the pier until it was time to go. I was handed a meal ticket while going up the gangplank. Big time stuff.
Our fellows were assigned to bunks two decks below,
Crowded but clean, New Zealand here we come.

Later:
The Gen. Pope is a new ship, very clean and pretty fast. There’s very strict discipline here because it’s run by the Army.
We have Marines on for guard, etc… some of the boys really gave them trouble, took the cockiness out of them.
Our troop had M.P. duty all the way over. For guys who have nothing to do with M.P.s,… we really got it. Now I know how the poor devils feel.
The chow on this ship is fine, nothing to brag about. We had plenty of weak coffee and no cases of sea-sickness this time. The boys are in good humor, and morale is very high.
One drawback was the strict blackout regulations. We had to go below decks before dark.
What made it worse: Even the lights below deck were put out, so we had to sleep.
I met plenty of old friends from the 103rd Infantry and the 118th Engineers. We really had some bull sessions.
We’re having trouble with some of the boys sitting on life preservers. It seems the big shots don’t want them to be comfortable.
The day before sighting land everybody was busy polishing shoes that really looked screwy after all the months we lived in mud and dirt. We saw birds all day, so land can’t be far; to-morrow is our 5th day at sea and last.
The next day everybody was up early to see if we’re near land, but no luck. Our ship seems to be going around in circles, I guess it’s waiting for escort into the harbor.
At noon we finally sighted land. Nothing distinguishable, but land again. I really feel good.
We sighted Auckland later on and closer to land. The houses look beautiful to us. After all, it’s been 18 months since we left civilization.
We steamed into the harbor and docked. I was so excited I forgot to eat my supper. A band played us some American songs and all around us we could see people staring at our ship.
The ferry boats going to Davenport and Bayswater passed by close, and we saw our first white girls. They seemed glad to see us, because they waved all the time until we were out of sight.
Auckland really looked like heaven. For the first time in over a year we could relax, see lites all over, and take it easy even if a plane flew overhead.
All of this makes us feel so good. How will we feel when the war’s over and we’ll dock at Frisco? We stayed on the ship all nite but slept very little, because things seemed like a dream come true.
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USS General John Pope being towed to temporary dock. Also named: USNS General John Pope (T-AP-110)

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Signal Corps Book II – Part IX: Busted from corporal to private

Notes from a son: Before we begin the last 10 months or so of Dad’s time in the 43rd Cavalry Recon Troopers it’s time for a quick shout-out to the USO performers Dad has noted in previous chapters. They went often to jungles and hospitals and the going could get tough. One guy paid his own way for a while.
You can see him in action on YouTube in a documentary, and in the scores of movies where his name often appeared above the title on the posters. He was one of the performers who went places that didn’t have good accommodations. Joe E. Brown tirelessly traveled to keep the troops in good humor with his comic antics. The documentary I saw this morning has “Up the Solomon’s Ladder” in the title. Brown, whose son was killed during pilot training in 1942, traveled at his own expense to entertain troops until the USO was organized. From Wikipedia: “On his return to the States he brought sacks of letters, making sure they were delivered by the Post Office Department. He gave shows in all weather conditions, many in hospitals, sometimes doing his entire show for a single dying soldier. He would sign autographs for everyone. Brown was one of only two civilians to be awarded the Bronze Star in WWII.” He died in 1973 just shy of his 82nd birthday.
YouTube also has an official reel detailing the history of the 43rd Cavalry called “43rd Infantry Division in World War II: Winged Victory on Foot.” (The “Winged” part was added by a certain Gen. Wing.)
The U.S. Signal Corps. also produced one called “The Price of Rendova,” which was made in 1944. Newsreel photographers were present at the dedication of the military cemetery on Munda, but I could not find that reel. It’s likely in the National Archives.

Back to the story:

January 1, 1944
I’m starting my second book of events so far in my Army career. Let’s hope 1944 will prove to be the year of victory for us. Mail is awfully slow, a hell of a start for the new year. Folks are going nuts around here on details. We have a command inspection Saturday, so everything has to be spic and span.
We have to dig the latrines again. The order came out we can’t use the sea-side-view toilets anymore. Very funny.
We went to Kahali Isle to fire .30 caliber machine guns. Our squad is really O.K., except Blingo, and he tries so that’s all a guy can ask. Sure is fun blasting at targets, those guns really throw the lead.
We had a very satisfactory command inspection, but for me it wasn’t so good. I was notified I’m busted to private again. The only reasons for it I know are that I’m too quiet to suit the captain, and I refuse to yell at my men. If that’s the case, I guess I’ll be a private forever. It was tough letting Mom and the rest know.
I slept over Q.M. Saturday prior to going to the Russells Isles on a five-day rest. I saw a USO show at Geary Field, Jackie Heller, Lou Parker and some jerk named Frankie Berg. The show was O.K., in fact, the best yet around here.
I boarded an A.P.C. Sunday at noon for the Russells, and slept on deck all the way over it was really rough, and those A.P.Cs aren’t too big. We had pretty good chow for supper, and only one man was sea-sick. Had Lt. Ontz in charge. We arrived in the Russells early Monday Morning and rode to 152 FA Camp. The tents we got were really muddy and the skeeters were worse than on Munda.
We saw movies every night there and most of them are really new. I slept or wrote letters all day and the chow was swell, there was fresh meat often. The Sunday before we left we each got plenty of real, honest-to-goodness ice cream, our first in a long time, and it was good.
At noon we boarded an L.S.T., one of the slowest boats in captivity. We rolled all over the damn ocean, but only the recruits we were with got pale around the gills. Poor guys were on their way to Bougainville to man anti-aircraft weapons. Really sad cruise, seeing as how young they are. But they’re doing O.K., so I guess they can’t be too bad.
We stopped at Munda to load-up. One good thing about L.S.Ts is the chow and good coffee.
I had another rare privilege. I got a warm shower and shave, something we don’t usually have. Lt. Ontz flew to Guadalcanal and claimed he had a good time, met Randolph Scott and the two of them got soused proper. The Lt. got us two cases of peanuts and candy bars, and brought plenty to give the fellows at camp. We came back to camp late Monday late, go three chunks of pie so I was satisfied.
I had to tell the fellows all the news from there. The Russells have really changed. They have beautiful roads and three swell harbors. It’s really a nice place now.
We met some brand new C.Bs who had been there just 24 days, from Frisco, mostly Negroes. They sure had the pep. When we told them we’ve been overseas for 17 months they really got pale.
Rumor has it we’re moving again, but which way nobody knows. I hope it’s New Zealand again, at least that’s civilized.
The movies are pretty fair here, too. They had an air raid here while we were at the Russells with one man from the 169th killed in bed. We had a raid in the Russells, too, but Poland and I thought it was the Marines practicing so I slept right on. Found out it was the real McCoy.
When we came into Munda Harbor we found out a few Japs in a life raft were shelling our escort ship. If so, it shows what silly extremes the Japs go to. We saw shells bursting in the water but had no ideas to our welcome.

Later:
A seaplane ended that raft escapade in short order.
We moved from to Munda Tuesday from Banga preparatory to moving to Guadalcanal. As usual, we had our usual rain.
We went to Munda on detail, but the rest of the outfit couldn’t get an LCT, so we were alone. It’s a lucky thing we got tents and cots, because it really rained. We have to wait for ships to take us to Guadalcanal, and the heat here is terrific. It’s worse than we had anywhere else because we’re out in the open where the engineers used to be.
I went to the graveyard to see Pap’s grave, took pictures and got away with it. It seems they have laws against taking them.
I hear rumors the 18-month plan has passed. If true, we’re due for relief, but I don’t believe it.
Japan admits it’s impossible to hold Rabul, so I guess we’re doing O.K.
Capt. Dall came back today, and we hear we’re moving tomorrow. I rode all over Munda in a Jeep. They have very good, hard-surfaced roads, but it’s very dusty along the coast.
There are a lot of negros now manning the anti-aircraft guns. In fact, a negro division is coming up to relieve us.
We can’t go to Guadalcanal today because no boats are available as yet. Another day to (unintelligible) alive. The boys are really gambling – hundreds of dollars. I’m holding $400 now for the boys. New Zealand money, so they say.
I was all over Munda Airport. Boy! It’s really a lulu, there are bombers and fighters galore. One came in from banging Rabul with one motor shot and a big hole through the bomb bay door. The bombardier lost a leg, but no planes were missing. It seems opposition in the air is almost negligible. If things keep on the same way we’ll have this war over with.
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Part VIII: Securing the island

The website bayonetpoint.150.com describes reconnaissance troopers in this way:
“The Squadron was constructed for fast, mobile operations, fanning out ahead of the Armored and Infantry divisions. Its somewhat light makeup proved less useful when, as was often the case for reconnaissance units, it found itself called upon to plug gaps in the line or hold terrain that would test an infantry battalion. It may also have benefited from an improved anti-tank element, as the 37-mm guns of its M8 Greyhounds and M5 Stuarts were obsolete in that role by 1943, and the M24 light tank, with its more capable 75-mm gun, did not begin to arrive until late 1944.”

When the recon troops were called to hold the line at Arundel Island, the going got tough.

July 1943
I went with a Marine captain and lieutenant to show them where an American bomber plane had crashed. While investigating the same, a sniper opened-up on us. We searched the area around us but there was no sign of the jerk. The Marines weren’t exactly too brave. I hurt my back when the sniper fired, so I had to miss our next patrol. The boys got two Jap officers, but one of our native scouts got killed.
Ybor got a beautiful sword, Passerlie a pistol, Gray a pistol and the Saint a watch. Six got away but we got their food, American rations and New Zealand butter. Sure was good.
Lt. Marcotte went out to see the booby traps I set and had the dubious pleasure of getting shot at by a sniper. The bullet made a nice nick in his helmet.
Ugli Village was really OK, in time. At full moons the natives came to sing and dance for us. Only the men. We saw their women, and they’re really not bashful. They wear only a cloth below. Up above their breasts stick out like headlights. However, we were warned not to mess around because they have their own ideas how to punish a foolish soldier.
Duncan and I went dove hunting, and while there I found four eggs, real chicken eggs, the first I’d seen in ages. So when I got back to camp I got bacon from Mooney and fried all four. Boy, what a treat. After eating dehydrated stuff for so long it was worth a million. Gave some to Gleason – the remainder of my squad – and he has a purple heart. Boy, my boys really caught holy hell. How I missed getting something will forever remain a mystery.
Rendova is getting bombed daily. On Munda our boys really hit something. The Japs were dug in so deep our tanks couldn’t blast them out. We had lots of our boys killed and plenty wounded. They finally had to use flamethrowers to get them out.
The Japs used to sneak up to our foxholes, drop in a grenade or jump in with a knife to cut or stab our boys. It’s times like this when nerves start to crack. Jake, another of my squad, went nuts and almost shot Sgt. Anderson and Lt. Marcotte. Two deserted us, and now I hear they’re back in the states. Sure a lift to our morale. Dodd, air machine gunner, deserves every credit possible. He stood by his gun and, although in plain view and exposed to Jap fire, kept his gun going. Sorry to say he, too, cracked, and he’s back home.
Out of almost 200 we still have 143 men. Our platoon alone lost 13 men for good. When Sherman said, “War is hell” he never heard of New Georgia.
Our censors relented, and now we can write home about where we’ve been. It would be pretty hard to let the folks know what’s really here, so most of write only about the good parts – and heaven knows that was very little.
Now we’ve been ordered to Banga Isle, a place where quite a few of our boys were ambushed. We had to go on O.P right opposite Munda Airstrip. Here we saw what a waste war is, equipment of all kinds, both ours and the Japs, were all over the Isle. There were plenty of dead Japs and Americans laying around. The boys had to bury them because of the stink. This sure must have been an awful battle.

Munda battle aftermath

Dad said shell craters were often used as mass graves after combat. Dead Japanese soldiers are being placed in such a grave here, likely on Banga Isle in 1943 during the duty described above. Note the men in the background apparently disposing of more remains. Photo taken with a Six-Twenty Kodak Brownie Junior camera, film souped in Dad’s combat helmet to avoid the censors. Photo Copyright 2016, John R. Moses

It seems funny to see one of our fellow Americans laying by our feet rotting away, and back home his folks are still believing he’s alive and well. At times one wonders of this isn’t a nightmare.
While on Rendova, at Ugli Village, our scouts brought in a Jap they caught. As much as we hated Japs, no one even thought of hurting him. His name was Yatai. He was about 5 feet tall, not too thin, black hair and a corporal. He had awful sores on his feet. We treated his wounds and I got him a cup of coffee. He must have never eaten the way he drained the coffee. We then asked him questions galore. For answers we got nothing.
We gave him this pen and he wrote his name and other things in Japanese. We turned him over to G-3 for a going-over by Jap interpreters.
If all Japs treated our boys like we treated Yatai everything would have been O.K.
I got a silver ring from Roberto Nenga, an ex-cannibal, for some cigarettes. He’d caught some Jap washing clothes, so he sank his tomahawk in his head and took the ring. Nice fellow. I got him and the chief to promise to keep Pap’s grave fixed-up, and if I know them, I’m sure their word is as good as gold.

August 1943
After our Banga O.P. we were ordered up to Arundel Isle next to Kolombangara. The north end was still in the hands of the Japs. We went on daily patrols but saw no action. We investigated about 50 isles around Kolombangara for any possible Jap O.P.s. On Kolombangara there’s an estimated 10,000 Japs trying to evacuate to Chiosel or Bouganville. Our air force was sinking barges by the score. Our 155 mm long rifles were hammering away at them day and night, and we heard the shells going over our heads whistling on their way.
Pistol Pete, our name for Jap artillery, opened up on us fairly often. Good thing he had a lot of duds. Our C.P. on the Diamond Narrows is directly opposite the new airstrip the Sea Bees are building.
They’re having trouble up north with the Japs coming over from Kolombangara so Third Platoon is set up there, and our platoon goes on the secondary line. Have Otto in my foxhole right by the barbed wire entanglement. The 3rd Platoon reported five wounded, including Lt. Atkinson, and three shell-shock cases.
They really had a tough time up there. Jap snipers were all over, and they tossed grenades in our holes all nite. It’s a good thing their knee mortar ammunition isn’t too good. Our 155s were hitting close to the lines too, boys really had their tails dug-in. A new mortar B.B. came up to try out their new 4.4 mortars. They’re really lulus.
On our line we stood 24-hour guard. For two men in a hole, that’s really hell after a while. Here’s where we had air raids galore. We had no anti-aircraft guns, so the Japs came in and bombed away at their leisure. We had 21 raids one nite. It’s really an eerie feeling to hear the planes dive, then hear the bombs whistling down at you. Then’s when you pray and hope for the best. One big 500-pounder hit about 200 feet from us. The only casualty was a big bat killed, and the Saint got a bloody nose.
We finally got Arundel secure, so we were relieved by the 172 boys. Sure was one hell on earth for a while.

October 1944:
From that secondary line we moved to the C.P. for a while. There was no bombing, but Pistol Pete came awful close. Then the whole troop moved to Banga again. There was plenty of work policing-up and fixing-up our new area. There were still plenty of air raids, in spite of night fighter planes and anti-aircraft guns. We got all of Kolombangara on the 6th of August without firing a shot. So now I believe Bouganville will get it somewhere around the 25th. We’ll probably have to take over Chiosel, too, because it probably has some Japs from Kolombangara there.
It’s rather discouraging for us not to get a rest. From all indications we’re here for the Bouganville push, too. Nice future ahead. Now I’m in charge of O.P. I have four men, Shein, Otto, Mike Lajoie and Gagmon. We missed the first movie because of O.P. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen one. I let Gagmon and Otto sneak back to see it. Shan, Mike and I rowed over to see our second movie. It sure was nice to see one after five months of nothing.
Our second week on O.P. we had a peach of an air raid last night, Oct. 29. Heard these damn bombs whistle down past us again. I have two nice skinned elbows from hitting the dirt. The rumor is that Bougainville is about to change hands any day now. Hundreds of planes keep going back and forth to bomb the hell out of the place. I sure am glad I’m on Uncle Sam’s side.
We can get Welch’s Grape Juice now at the P.X. I should have a schoolgirl figure soon, according to Irene Rick’s promises over the air.
We’ve had a few more air raids and a few more eggs laid but little damage was done. We’ve been relieved of O.P. duty and now we’re back in camp. After three weeks of being on your own, camp routine is kind of tough. There are rumors of Bougainville getting hit twice now, according to Lt. Dall. They hit three isles nearby and now Bougainville itself got it.
Tonight’s rumor has the Jap navy catching hell; I hope it’s true. It’s going to be kind of tough getting the Japs out of Bougainville, but we’ll get’em before long.

November 1943
We can have lights on now at night, so we can see to read or write.
I’ve been working on a seaside latrine – cool breeze for your cheeks while you’re doing your business, and since the ocean tide goes out you never even have to flush the damn thing. It’s very convenient, to say the least.
We worked on the rifle range today, Nov. 2, and went on “patrol problems;” we had men shooting Jap weapons over our heads while we tried to spot their positions. It was very interesting, but darn hard. At least we had no casualties.
Then we saw a very good movie, “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” The next night we had one beaut of an air raid – our guns really went to town.
We started getting our Christmas packages Nov. 3.We’re still getting a few air raids. The other night our gunners threw up everything but the kitchen sink at the Japs They really screwed away, too, after that reception.
We saw a show at the Marines, Joe E. Brown in “Chatterbox.”
Pass, Mike, Gagman and I represented our platoon at the dedication of Munda Cemetery. It was really a beautiful sight, and one to remember. They gave a 21-gun salute for the dead from each outfit. I sure got a funny feeling when we heard Pap’s name called off as being the first killed in our outfit. They had newsreel men taking photos of the whole ceremony.
Later we saw a movie again at the Marines, Fred Astaire in “The Sky’s the Limit.” It was very good for laughs, and the gal with him sure had her bumps in the right spots. What a picture to show us here.
Most of the fellows got sick and had to be rushed by boat to Munda. They got ptomaine poisoning. I guess I was lucky because I didn’t get too sick. Neuman is going to Munda today to get a checkup. His nerves are all cracked, and gunfire affects him too much. I believe he’s due for the states. War neurosis. The poor kid had tears in his eyes when we shook hands with him, and with Pap gone it looks like the old gang is all busted up.

Later in November, 1943
Bombers and planes of all types are going back and forth to Bougainville. The Japs are really getting a pasting. We saw another movie last night. The trip to Kolombangara was called off due to ptomaine poising for half of the troops. We’re going to patrol Kolombangara tomorrow. I shot an .03 rifle today to qualify for team and got two bull’s-eyes out of three shots.

Later in November:
We went over to Kolombangara last Wednesday and returned Friday. We went on patrol over nite and saw plenty of bivouac areas and strong pillboxes, plus big guns on the coast.
Lt. Marcotte and Johnson’s patrol saw fresh Jap tracks near the waterhole, which proves there are still Japs there. My squad saw nothing. We had to carry H2O over five miles in five gallon cans, quite a trip.
I got nine more packages Friday and Saturday saw a movie. We’re hearing strong rumors of going to New Zealand to reorganize under Gen. Kreuger. A fine future in store if that’s true.
We saw a double feature Saturday and played softball at Geary Field on Munda. We lost 7-1… to the M.P.s, of all people.
Our softball team was still on the losing side, we lost two more. Lots of movies lately.
We’ve been hearing about a few Jap diaries that were read. Very interesting. They all knew they were doomed.
I saw a P.40 go overhead, the motor missing something awful. I heard it crashed. I hope the pilot is safe. The report is he has hit while up in Bougainville.

December 1943:
We’ve been seeing more movies, some a waste in taking-up cargo space. Packages are coming in very nice. I have more candy than I know what to do with.
The rumors are strong now for us going back to Caledonia and, eventually, on to New Zealand.
We hear the Japs are taking a beating up in Bougainville and elsewhere.
I got word my flag finally got home. Boys were on O.P. again, my turn next month.
There’s plenty of rain and wind but it’s sunny again now. We heard a 103 7G band play pretty good. I had to drop out of the softball league, there is no field for practice. Our basketball team beat the Navy 24-12.
Violet wrote a very nice letter. Now all I need to do is relax again.

Later in December:
The Japs are really catching holy hell now. All types of planes are going up to Bougainville and New Britain, and most of them return. New Britain has been attacked by our ground forces. Old Tojo says it has to be held by all Japs – or else. It’ll be ‘or else.’
We’ve been seeing a lot more movies and our basketball team’s O.K., only the damn Marines can beat’em.
On Christmas Eve we sang Christmas carols, then put on a show of our own, really had some fun for a change.
I’m playing a lot of horse shoes, and have a lot to desire in my playing. Christmas Day was spent very quiet again. That is, for us. Our bombers really went up to visit the Japs in full force.
Today, Dec. 26, we’re to see a USO show. I have my fingers crossed, because they’ll probably be some outcasts from Hollywood.
Part of the 1st Platoon is going to Wana Wana on O.P. duty. That’s where the dusky maidens cavort at dusk, but from rumors we hear they’re too hot to handle – that is, the consequences are.
Later:
I just got back from the USO show. Three men, one played a swell accordion. Buck Harris, ex-cowboy Hollywood-style, sang and played guitar and a big, fat guy sang quite a few nice songs and he was really O.K. One was Bob Dearborn and the other Paul Baxter.
I believe I’ll get a five days leave to the Russell Isles. Rumor has us going direct to New Zealand.
I believe our new Lt. Johnson is going to get the heave-ho to another outfit. Strictly G.2.
We saw two movies Monday. “Keeper of the Flame, Tracy-Hepburn and “Edge of Darkness,” Flynn –Sheridan.
The Marines hit Cape Glouster, New Britain with no casualties. Marines relieved on Bougainville, all Army now.
I’ve just been informed that I’m to get a Good Conduct Medal. Also got two cans of beer per man. Mail O.K. — more damn candy that Saunders in Detroit.

January 1944:
Well, 1943 finally went where all good years go. According to news commentators, 1944should see the end of hostilities. We had our annual turkey dinner. Pretty good. It seems funny we can have it once in a while and can’t have it oftener.

(And so ends the first of two Message Book M-105-A notebooks Dad had procured courtesy of the Signal Corps, U.S Army. The question I hope will be answered in the next book: How did a corporal who is about to get a Good Conduct Medal wind up a buck private and happier for it by the time he was discharged? Dad always said he didn’t always write down the ‘good stuff.’)

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Part VII: Straight into a patch of jungle hell or, as the Army later called it, “no serious opposition from the enemy.”

Notes from a son: The events that happen next and those that follow pretty much shaped the rest of my father’s life. This was the beginning of a long-term and untreated case of PTSD, the foundation of a deep rage that lived in him just below the surface. He never left the house if he could help it on the Fourth of July. He didn’t watch war movies. I wasn’t supposed to play with toy guns around him, or have friends over because they’d make too much noise, or startle him. Ever.
He hated fireworks, allowing them only occasionally. His July 4th, like most other nights, involved a lot of Phenobarbital. He shared some of that annually with our freaked-out beagle-basset, dachshund-schnauzer dog, who also hated July 4th.
And he had nightmares.
When I first read this journal at age 16 I didn’t comprehend the magnitude of what I was reading. Transcribing this section now at age 51 after decades of studying military history was like watching a train wreck in slow motion.
So here we are, at that point in the 1940s-vintage Hollywood war movie when the hero is supposed to find great glory. Former Pvt. And now Cpl. John Steve Moses was an untested and low-level leader in an Army Recon demolition squad that had just been moved up for its first real action. The date header was changed from June 12, 1943 to Oct. 7, 1943, because he checked the notebook in with his personal belongings before moving out to combat. This was his first chance to record what had happened. He might not have known that this was called Operation Cartwheel, a battle to take Munda that would last into August and cripple the Japanese air operation http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_munda.htmls .
October 7, 1943
The reason the date was changed was because I just now got back this diary. I had it packed away because we were moving up to New Georgia to see just how tough the Japs really are.
I’ll begin with July 2, when we loaded onto an L.S.T. Sure had fun with those 105 shells. We started out in early evening, and a choppier sea would be damn hard to find. We really had our ups and downs, and I was a bit seasick and pulled Corporal of Guard from 11 p.m.-2 a.m. That was hell in itself.
Our convoy was spotted by the Jap fleet and only God himself helped us get away. We headed back for the Russells during the nite, but at dawn we again started toward Rendova. We stayed in Wickham Anchorage all day, exposed to any Jap recon plane, but luck again was on our side. We started out to Rendova again and this time dawn found us in Rendova Harbor.
Our 155s were already zeroing-in and we could see dive bombers blasting the hell out of Munda Airport.
This was July 4th, the day to celebrate back home. Believe you me we certainly got our share of fireworks. Immediately after lunch while still onboard ship waiting to unload, a nice formation of bombers came over the mountains of Rendova. I counted 16 and for all we knew they were ours, but when all our guns and guns around us started shooting, we knew we were in for some fun.
Bombs fell right alongside our ship, six in a row. I dived underneath a truck but I was no safer there because after the raid was over I saw the truck was loaded with T.N.T.
It sure was something seeing those big bombers get hit and blow up in the air. One had his tail shot off, and floated down for what seemed like ages. There were burning planes all over the place. I saw the first shot our boys fired hit the first Jap, and down she came. This was the first time these Navy boys ever saw a Jap plane, and they really did damn good.
The final score was 13 knocked down and our fighter planes took off after the three that got away. Never heard how they made out.
Note: An official tally counted 12 planes shot down by anti-aircraft fire. The 16 were part of 100 bombers that had started out to defend Japan’s Munda installation. The others didn’t make it to the battle.
After the raid we saw the Japs had hit the ammo dump and quite a few Sea-Bees and sailors. One had both of his legs blown off, the other had a hole in his back you could put both of your two fists in. He died about an hour later. Also had quite a few shell-shock cases.
Our Captain met us and we loaded onto two small barges for Ugli Village to relieve the 172 boys who were up that way on O.P. duty. Upon nearing the place we saw some men running around on the beach but no one seemed to know who they were, so we headed to the pier of the village. We lowered the ramp and went off about 100 yards to put our packs down so we could unload the barges when all hell broke loose.
Jap machine gunners hidden in the village opened-up on us. Bullets flew all over and around us,
God only knows how I got behind a big hunk of coral right on the beach. Jap bullets were whistling right over my head, and where they hit close, pieces of coral really flew. Most of the boys were still on the two barges, so they fired their m.g.s as best they could, but most of the time we were in between two lines of fire and in equal danger from both.
Pap Morrel was by me when the Japs opened up and got hit in the gut. Seeing as how he fell on the beach where the Japs could still see him, Shanahan and I crawled over to him and pulled him where we were. Boy, those bullets came close. On checking-up I saw Shan didn’t have a gun, Allen lost his and Keith besides me had only his .45 pistol. I almost had to knock him out because he had the damned thing aimed at me and I was in more danger from him than I was from the Japs.
I had a couple of clips from my Tommy gun and got ready to fire. Upon pulling the trigger I found the damn thing wouldn’t fire, so that was really nice. All I could do was hug the sand and listen to bullets fly over my head.
Saw G.J. Collins get hit in the leg when he tried to get to the barge and also saw D. Senna get hit over the left kidney. Poor kid really had a gaping hole there. As for medical aid to Pap, all we had was some sulfa powder we sprinkled on. He really was in a bad way.
Senna was again exposed to enemy fire, so Gray and I crawled over to him and dragged him out of the water. Couldn’t do a damn thing for him. Sure is something to hear the two boys moaning, and all we could do was pray for them, and us, too.
Sgt. Anderson was going on the barge, so I took his Tommy gun. Imagine how we felt when the two barges took off and left 7 men stranded on the beach. Had about 11 men on the other side who crossed the river when it started getting dark. They thought we were on the boat, so they never even bothered looking for us.
About an hour later I heard a noise on the pier. It was kind of dark, but I could see a big Jap outlined against the sky not more than two feet away. He evidently thought we were gone because he wasn’t too curious.
He kept poking his bayonet into the shadows, and when he was coming too close for comfort I decided to shoot.
I had the Tommy gun on full automatic and aimed for his guts. I squeezed the trigger, but, again, my second Tommy gun failed to work. Luckily for me and the rest he didn’t hear the gun click because the surf was too loud. After a time he finally decided to go away. By that time I wasn’t in the mood for anything.
The Thompson is a wonderful weapon, but for me the things are a jinx.
After it really got dark I decided to try and go and see if we could get help. I knew the boys were somewhere around. Couldn’t go across the river because I honestly believed that, too, was held by the Japs. So Glen and I took off and sneaked around the pier for the ocean.
Shan didn’t have a gun so we gave him Gray’s “03.” That left us with no weapons at all. Gray and I swam fully-clothed down the beach about half a mile, went past our own guards and as luck would have it no one spotted us. We crawled on the beach and decided to stay there until morning. It started raining and, even though we were in the tropics, we were cold. We huddled close to try to get warm but gave it up finally as a bad job.
At daybreak July 5 we moved and hid along a trail. Gray slept while I guarded. Heaven knows why, neither of us had any weapons. I saw four men go past, but it was too dark to see whether they were ours or not. About 10 minutes later I saw a few more go by, but I didn’t take a chance because I still couldn’t see for sure.
When it got lite I heard noise again coming down the trail. I crawled closer to see for sure and when I saw the U.S. canteens on the web belt I yelled at them.
Imagine our surprise when it turned out to be our Capt. Dall, Lt. Marcotte and some 172 boys on patrol. The captain sure was surprised to see us. When I told him there were five more men behind he sent out men to find them.
Pap Morrel was already laying on a table when I came back. I tried to cheer him up and tell him he’ll be O.K., but he only smiled and didn’t say anything. He died a few moments later. I couldn’t quite realize he was gone. In fact, things happened so fast I doubt any of us even knew what was going on.
Gray, Todd, Gagman and I dug Pap’s grave. That was the one of the hardest details I ever had, or in fact any of us had. All of us there had tears in our eyes because Pap was a man anyone could be proud to call a pal. To Newman and me he was like a brother.
They’d found Newman, Garret, Shan and Allen when they went to look where I told them. They were O.K., but Senna was hurt pretty bad. “Hollywood” Holmes got hit with the other bunch and Echols and Otto Gleeson caught some ricochet bullets. None serious.
The boat came back at about 10 with Lt. Hall. The rumor back at Rendova Harbor was that we were all dead. And it was only with God’s help that wasn’t true, because later on we captured a Jap who said there was 90 Japs there on the 4th fighting against 7 of us left on the beach and 11 who crossed the river.
Set up “booby traps” all around camp and dug in 2 men to a hole. I teamed with Newman. We took turns at guard at nite and heard Japs yelling in the jungle.
We saw lites on the island across from us. Porky Wishard opened fire and the Japs screwed-off. Left signal lites and equipment by the barge they left grounded in the canal. It really was some nite. Men were panicky, shooting at every sound. I didn’t fire, but I can say I wasn’t feeling any too good.
After our initial encounter with the Nips we saw them every once in a while, but they never did even try to come close to our area. Had two patrols out daily to recon the area, but they were up in the hills, so no one had a bit of rest.
2nd Platoon ran into 13 Japs and believed they got them all. 1st Platoon came to reinforce us and they were more than welcome. After 2 weeks they were off to Munda, but before they left they ambushed one Jap. About 14 got away.
Lt. Marcotte, Kal and I took our squads and went out with natives to scout an area where Jap tracks were found. After walking about 6 miles we found fresh trails so we sneaked in and saw 8 Japs in and around a lean-to.
Kal’s squad went to the left, mine went to the right. When we opened up it was really a sight to see these Japs get hit. Two of them opened up on us but they didn’t last long. One not too anxious to meet his ancestors took off to my right. Took one shot at him with Pap’s rifle and had the satisfaction of seeing him hit the dirt.

Left: Cpl. John Steve Moses holds a captured Japanese battle flag. Right: Making friends with the Aussies, likely in New Guinea.

Left: Cpl. John Steve Moses holds a captured Japanese battle flag. Right: Making friends with the Aussies, likely in New Guinea.

Our total was six Japs dead, two wounded that got away. I got a flag, a bayonet and a small radio from there and numerous other souvenirs. But Capt. Dall turned my radio in to the signal corps, so there went the best thing I had.
John S. Moses with captured flag
We felt pretty good when we came by Pap’s grave. Newman and I made a cross for Pap, carving in his name, July 4, 1943 and Chester, Pa, his home town. I bet his folks were really shocked to get the news.

Here’s how the U.S. Army summed up those days in the official regimental history book:

On July 4, the 1st Battalion, 172d Infantry had completed
its advance to the Barike River, leaving its Anti-Tank platoon
and a detachment of heavy weapons in security of Zanana.
During the period of July 4 to July 6, the balance of the 172d
Infantry, and the 169th Infantry (less Anti-Tank Company)
and two Engineer companies moved to Zanana by daylight
with only minor artillery opposition during the boat movement.
Patrols were sent north and west from the beachhead
covering the right and rear of our advance.
No serious enemy opposition was encountered enroute to
the Line of Departure until July 6, when the 3d Battalion,
leading element of the 169th Infantry, encountered serious
opposition in its zone approximately 300 yards west of the
Barike River.

00 Dad with friends WWII

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