Part 14: This is why they say war is hell


Members of the 43rd Cavalry pose while enjoying beverages, probably on Aitape in 1944.

Notes from a son: When I was 5 a friend gave us a dog I named Snoopy. He lived with us loyally until I was about 19, and due to the dog’s advanced cancer I had to take him to the vet to be put down. My folks immediately brought in a new, yippy little dog that I didn’t want or like, and and told me to paint the old dog house.
I did.
A few nights after Snoopy had been put down, the new dog was next to the repainted dog house growling fiercely at a bush after dusk. I figured it was an opossum. I shined the flashlight into that bush and I could have sworn I saw my old dog, even the bare spot on his tail from where he beat it against absolutely everything. Now, I knew I couldn’t have seen my dog, he was dead. Just the same I ran into the house with the new dog close behind and found my Dad, who was in his favorite recliner watching TV.
“This sounds crazy,” I said, and described what I thought I just saw in the back yard. “I know I’m just acting nuts and I miss my dog.”
I was waiting for him to tell me that yes, I was acting nuts, and I should go do the dishes.
Dad paused, then said, “You know when I wake up sometimes, at night, and come out to the living room? Sometimes, when I wake up, I see a dead Japanese soldier I killed standing over my bed looking down at me. I don’t know what you saw, but some things you just have to live with.”
And that ended that discussion.
Now, I don’t know what my Dad saw during those nights, probably a bad recurring dream, but I’d like to think that if that if that soldier did pay Dad a visit, it was because he was concerned about the way Dad was handling the outcome of his days in the Pacific.
Here we rejoin the 43rd Cavalry as they hold a bit of Aitape and make defensive patrols.

Sept. 1944

We had to go relieve some boys below the Drinumor River. It seemed kind of screwy sending only one platoon to an O.P. where there are Japs galore. We went on an L.C.T.
The first nite we were there, Jimmy and I dug a shallow fox hole. Just at dark we both laid down to talk until we had to go on guard.
I heard a branch snap so I looked up and saw a Jap getting ready to jump in with a bayonet. I yelled to Jim, and the Jap gave a yell and jumped. I had time to hit him over the head with the barrel of my M-1.
By that time, Jim and I were out, and the yellow joker had our hole. I figured he’d toss our own grenades so I shot him three times through the guts. He got up and started toward us. Jim figured he was going to surrender so he told me to hold it.
I waited until he was three feet from me, but he jumped again so I shot him through the chest and through the jaw. The last shot blew a big hole through the top of his head. He’s the only one who slept that nite.
The next day we saw he was armed only with a bayonet. He had our biscuits in his pockets, and our cigarettes and a book of matches saying buy war bonds, help end this war.
We buried him in our old fox hole in the middle of camp
We went on patrols and saw fresh Jap tracks all over. The first patrol we had one shot fired by a sniper. The second patrol we saw tracks on the beach heading for the jungle, only a few hours old.
We scattered and started toward the jungle. When we were almost there, Collins spotted a Jap running like hell and fired. Upon investigation we found that three Japs were drying out their clothes when we surrounded them. They left everything but their shorts. Pass got a pistol, Briholez a big flag and a few bayonets. We burned all the equipment and threw their big cans of biscuits into the ocean. Made in Australia.
A gun boat came down to see what’s up. We kept going down, so the boat called O.P. to ask how many men we had. When they reported 11 the boat said there were 12, one way back. So we had a Jap for rear guard.
In camp, our area is full of sand fleas and mosquitoes, everybody’s all het up and there’s nothing to help.
The dead Jap now stinks like hell; even in death he bothers us.
The boys are shooting at Japs strolling by every nite, but they don’t stop.
Lt. Marcotte went out about 100 yards from our fox holes and a sniper winged him and heaved a grenade. Nice neighborhood we live in. We sent him back by boat.
We have a Lt. from the 112th Cavalry in charge. Hall sent back that he’d have more men and Cole the next day.

Early the next day after I drank my coffee I got up to wash my cup and passed out cold. My chest felt like it was on fire. I went to the hospital by the P.T. gunboat and found that I have high blood pressure and probably something out of kilter in my chest. Stayed five days, then back. All I got was (unreadable).
I’m kind of dizzy, so I guess I’ll be shoved out of 2nd and into something else.
After I left the boys went on patrol and bagged a 2nd Lt.
Jutras pumped four slugs into him. They captured a Superior Pvt. who spoke good English. G-2 got plenty from him. It seems he’s one of a few left from about 80 from Wewak.
The boys were relieved by Co. 172 and I heard later they were hit by an unknown number of Japs and lost one man.

Last night the boys were on another O.P. and they killed another Jap just outside of the fox holes. Opened up with a machine gun. So we had plenty to talk about on our return.
The 3rd Platoon is back. Outz has scrub typhus so he’s gone. Mike came to the same hospital, he had 105 degree fever. Jimmy is also in the hospital with a fever. I have a fever over 100, so I guess I’m due for a return engagement to hospital as well.
At least the war news is swell. The 1st Army is through the Siegfried Line in 14 hours, 26 miles from Cologne. The Russians are too close for comfort. Should be over by Xmas.
Here we hit two isles, Palau and the northern part of Halmahera. The latter is ours, and opposition was negligible. At Palau we captured the best airport in the Pacific.
We’re in training now for open terrain warfare so we’re headed for the Philippines, probably Mindanao in the Southern Philippines.
We got a division commendation from MacArthur for our work here, so I guess we’ll be pretty well known.
I’m in the hospital again for Dengue Fever, I had a temp of 104 so for six days I felt kind of lousey. I had Mike and Shan for company. Shan was a malaria case. Transferred from 2nd to H.Q. Platoon. My attack wasn’t any too good, so I guess the boys figure I’m a non-combatant now.

We had some hell here the other night. Names were picked out of a box for rotation. Merritt, Miley, Frank, Eastwood, Hampton and Lamarre. Boy, they paled and almost passed out. They had one more drawing for a furlough and 12 of us put in for it.
The next day the brass hats at H.Q. changed plans, and a more disappointed bunch was never seen, from smiles to heartaches, but fast.
The plan now is to send guys who had more time in our advanced area. The 1st Platoon left New Zealand two days before us, so all of them go first before us. Fellows who paid a fine lose two days for every dollar paid, and one day for every day they were locked-up. Now we have nothing to look forward to at all. Our furlough is gone, too. Richardson took it, so I guess I’m here from now on.
Julius is now overseas, in England, I hope. Detroit lost the pennant by one day, the Browns are the new champs. Too bad, because they were our favorites here.
The guys were really drunk last nite from home-made brew and some rotgut they bought. They threw up all over the place. Now they’ll behave till pay day.


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