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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Part VI: Enjoying the propaganda from Tokyo for its comedy value

Notes from a son: Dad took things personally. There was no larger view of war, no “I’m one of millions fighting for a greater cause” B.S. They were dropping bombs on him, not the U.S. Army, and they were going to get it. In this section of his journal he learns that a friend from Detroit was killed in the Pacific, and his reaction was a vow of vengeance to come. He also expresses disgust at rumors of U.S. Marines killing prisoners on Guadalcanal. This was before Dad saw anything more than air raids and uneventful combat patrols. He was just named P & D (Pioneer and Demolition) Corporal. He’d never heard the peculiar buzzing of hot lead passing close to one’s head, seen comrades fall, been under enemy fire, and emerged from an LST into the unknown.
Yet.

April 1943, Benaki
Listened to Tokyo, Japan’s English radio broadcast. Announcers speak very good English, especially the one on Zero Hour. He’s perfect. News a direct contradiction to ours, very amusing. Zero Hour is meant to break our morale, in between suggestions about our girls back home they sure play swell jazz.
Beautiful moonlite nights, but dangerous because Japs seem to think so, too. Getting lots of mail from all over. Pretty nice.
Palm Sunday, April 18 – woke up to hear the damn bugle blaring away. New order came through for bugles, Etc… Going into garrison life, so maybe we won’t be bothered by the Japs for a while. I hope we don’t have to go looking for them again.
Palm Sunday not so good – 7 air raids after dark. Hear we’re moving to a new area. Was to police coconuts half day Wed. New area O.K>, looks good but we sure will have plenty of work moving.
Went past American soldiers graveyard. Sure was a funny feeling to think tomorrow you might be under one of those white crosses. Found movie place back of area. Pretty lucky. Our new will be on a point surrounded by water on both sides near radio warning system. Worked G-2 all day on bomb shelter.

April 25, 1943 – Easter
Easter pretty fair. Air raid afternoon. Japs tried to give us a few Easter eggs. So far, no dice. Saw movie Sunday. “Joe C. Brown.”
Everyone mad at Japs killing aviators that bombed Tokyo. Americans took Ellice Isles near Gilbert Isles.
Coconut crushed Marine’s head when it fell from tree. More dangerous than the Jap bombs.
Still having air raids, but no one seems to care anymore. Was watching swell movie, “A Man to Remember” when about ¾ thru Japs interrupted. Now I’ll never know how it ended.
New area cleaned, dug garbage pit. Moved to new area Wednesday. Soon as we took tents down it really rained, got soaked then was wet all day. Was helping Shan move things and made 6 trips altogether. Was really tired at nite. Came back in nite with no lights on. Have swell view of ocean and cool breezes keep coming in day and nite.
Rumor has it we’re shoving off in 6 weeks. Another rumor: Gen. Wing has a bet we’re home in July. I hope to God he’s right for once. Mail coming in Swell but have no time to answer except to Mom. Pat still allergic to writing.
Payday April 30: $133.20. Sending $20 home when Tenelli gets money order. Old Rommel getting his seat hot in Tunisia. Made news Easter Sunday when Japs came over at noon, our planes beat the hell out of the Zeros. Woke up last night and heard a hell of a racket. Japs came over and bombed somewhere. Just so they miss us, I won’t care.

May 1943 – Benaki
Started to build bomb shelter to hold 20 men. Hard digging in coral. Saw Ernie Ladas photo in Times killed in Pacific area. Someday the Japs will pay in full, believe me.
Still on bomb shelter. Been using jackhammer and fingers are really sore. Got two nice burns.

May 5, 1943
Received mail and a Christmas package from the Lutheran minister Zulay. Toilet articles he sent sure came in handy. Candy melted over everything.
Everything quiet lately, news from Africa very good. Rommel concedes defeat to our troops. Now Europe’s next. Hear rumors of going back to U.S., or ahead to New Georgia, then relief for us that’s left. Had four consecutive air raids last nite. Ack –ack fire looks pretty at nite. No mail for 9 days then 21 at once. Had to go on recon to Alacon Isle to investigate smoke seen. The source of the smoke was a tree hit by a 155 m.m. shell. Nice trip in ocean on Higgins boat. Saw fish of all sizes and shapes. Tried to hit’em with boat hook, but no dice.
2nd Division returned to area from Pe(illegible). May mean something. Going for H2O with Shan most every day. Boy our roads are something to see. Can see Guadalcanal very good from here. 37m.m. taken by platoon to point to guard cove. Had target practice on 37 m.m. about 9 rds. A.P. one round canister. Gun needs bore sighting, a little off.

April 18, 1943
One year of service today. Seems like 10. Lt. Hall squelched most of our good rumors. According to him we’ll next take New Georgia. Have new name now. “Barracuda.” Our new code name. Our motto now ought to be, “We’ve been hooked.”

May, 1943
Sgt. Marcotte got a direct appointment, now known as Lt. Marcotte. Mike Lajoie getting the works, had a summary court martial, paid a fine, and now he’s to be confined two months in guard house. And all for a silly thing that could have easily been overlooked.
Had quite a few bombings, last night was the worst. Had three raids, and the ack-ack was terrific. Had shrapnel falling all over, and boy they’re really mean looking. No one hurt. No one hit by shrapnel and bombs, but two (Illegible, looks like bulls) got killed and lots of cows are dead. This damn full moon is really raising hell with us. Have a couple of bombings every nite, some fun. Ur big bomb shelters sure are nice to get in.
Some ack-ack fire hit Jap bomber and what a pretty picture that made when it exploded in mid-air.
Friday had a problem firing all our weapons. Had my 37 and got direct hits on target with A.P. Cannister shot really mowed down the bushes. My Tommy gun was really hot when I got through, fired 180 rounds in a little over a minute. Two fellows hurt when hand grenades went off. Not too serious. Sat. had to blow up dud mortar shells, 81m.m. Sure is a ticklish business, but being in a demolition squad, that’s our job. Hear rumor of me getting transferred to 1st Platoon in charge of P and D, Means a Cpl.’s rating but I have my doubts. I’m not the one to get any breaks. So far, I’ve been getting it but good.
American Forces captured Attu. Japs must be jittery, and old Shicklegruber probably got a fit.
Sunday: Big event on my army career. Have K.P. for the first time since my induction. Not bad, stayed clear of it over a year. Went to relieve 1st Platoon outpost on 37 m.m. at P-T Base. Had guard only one day. Had to move back to camp equipment and all. Something seems to be brewing. 103rd Infantry back in Guadalcanal.

June 1, 1943
Effective June 1, I’m to be P&d Corporal. I hope I can do what’s expected of me. First detail I had was to get a log 30’ long. Men seem to be satisfied, all but one, and he’s liable to be picking up his teeth any day now. Went for log down Water Hole NO. 3 way past Blue Beach. Saw two observation planes take off airport. Lots of British Spitfires on landing strip. Probably indicates that British will take over here, and we’ll go ahead.
Getting hard exercises for one hour per day, and getting a lot harder daily. Can’t say the same for myself.
Pap and Newman out on search for Japs. Being a non-com prevents my going along. SO far we’ve always been together, hope it stays that way. Getting all kinds of jungle equipment, so we’re due for a push. Probable places San Isabel or New Georgia, could be Recarta Bay, too. Oh well. Maybe after we chase the Japs off, those that are left will get a rest in some civilized place.
Saw a sailor getting buried in our cemetery. Getting mighty popular lately.
No trouble from Japs in over a week, thank God.
(Later in June)
Was notified by Anderson from here on I’m officially a non-com. Had one sweet time this morning. Had to go on a patrol. Net results a good wetting and not a dry stitch on any of us, really rained. Everyone tired.
Sure had some time cleaning my Tommy. Pap and Newman still out. Wonder what’s up.
Been getting the true story of our glory-grabbing Marines. The Army chased the Japs off Guadalcanal but they hogged the glory.
Carlson’s Raiders were really nothing but butchers. Found 400 Japs in a hospital including one high-ranking officer. Murdered every one of them instead of taking prisoners. Army has no use at all for Marines and we seldom hesitate to tell’em in plain English. They get beer, candy and popular brands of smokes while here the boys get nothing but Chelsea cigarettes. Seems to me we’re getting the works. But every dog has his day. Ours is coming.

EDITOR’S NOTE:
Here’s where I come to regret that bit about not censoring anything Dad wrote. His story about Carlson’s Raiders may be an amplified account of what is described below during part of the Raiders’ mission on Guadalcanal. The group that did this non-prisoner-taking ambush was accompanied by a local guide who had been tortured and left for dead by the Japanese Army.Excerpt from:

Gung Ho: The Long Patrol

By R. R. Keene – Originally Published November 1992
– See more at: http://www.mca-marines.org/leatherneck/gung-ho-long-patrol#sthash.n9TXlrle.dpuf

“The Japanese were pulling back, recoiling like a hand from a flame. Carlson’s men were doggedly pursuing them, whittling away at what was left of the 230th Infantry Regiment.
On Nov. 12, SgtMaj Vouza led a war party of natives and Raiders along barely perceptible native jungle trails near Asimana. a village on the upper Metapona River. From the river came the sound of splashing and men laughing.
The Marines and natives smiled at each other. This was going to be almost too easy. A company-sized force of Japanese had taken the time to refresh themselves in the river and bathe. For the Japanese, bathing is more than a cleansing of the body, it is a social ritual of pleasure and relaxation. It must have been too tempting even for officers and noncommissioned officers who should have known better, for those men, too, were naked in the water, temporarily forgetting about the horrors of war. Even their pickets were too busy watching the bathers to hear Carlson’s men silently surround them.
The last sounds they heard were the explosions of grenades, the slap of bullets and their own screams. The massacre turned the river red in less than a few minutes. No one survived and 120 bodies, white except for their infantrymen’s tan, dotted the shoreline or drifted pathetically on the water.
– See more at: http://www.mca-marines.org/leatherneck/gung-ho-long-patrol#sthash.n9TXlrle.dpuf

Back to the journal, where the invasion preparations are going strong, and the guys are passing around wild stories to pass the time:Heard two reports of how native girls marry in San Isabel, use “cats eye” shells for money on the island, so before marriage a girl goes out on the island and sells her body to men. Idea being the one who has the most shells must be the most desirable, so she gets her choice. Another cute custom around here is the best looking virgin gal is called the “Belle of the island,” but she can be bought for 12 pounds cash or two pigs. Wonder how come we never hit such a place. In my spare time I’m going shell-hunting for the cat’s eye variety.
Later in June:
Having an awful lot of rain. No more radio news, scout cars turned in. Believe we’re soon on our way up. For some of us it may be our last trip. Morale of troop is very high, can’t say the same for yours truly. Mail O.K. Some even get parcels. Seeing as how everything is rationed I haven’t the heart to ask anything of Mom or the rest.
Getting lots of classes on everything. Really toughening us up. Even have to swim a lot, one subject we all like.
Heard some men were already on the way to New Georgia. We’re due to get going any day now. Have very bad gash on leg and cuts all over my hand. Fell on coral. Boy, it’s razor sharp.
Had a raid by Jap planes Sat. One young fellow in a Grumman Wildcat had to hit the water about 150 yards offshore. Plane sank immediately. Pilot O.K. Guess he’ll live to die another day. He was confused. He thought we were Japs on the bank. When we waved he said it was his happiest moment.
Been shooting .50 cal machine gun Saturday afternoon, me, Pap and Sam. Sunday wrote letters before noon, after noon fired .03 and Tommy gun. Shell blew up in Tommy and darn near knocked my head off. Fired about 150 rounds of .30 cal. Not bad.
Had U.S.O. show Friday afternoon. Hollywood actor Jim Burke, a magician and Bob Gilchrest the singer. Pretty good. Saw movie “Stage Door Canteen.” Not too good, anyway it was a bit better than nothing.
Next week should see a few changes.

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Dad’s Service Journal, Part V – Dogfights above

March & April, 1943 — Hurry up and wait

Notes from a son: After one particularly crappy day during my teenage career as a clerk in a hardware store I let off a disgruntled rant to my Dad about some of the managers and the poor quality of training there. There wasn’t a lot of sympathy. He said, “If you’re working there, you’d better make sure it’s the best store it can be, because you’re part of it.”

He was 61 then, and 24 when he wrote this account of World War II in the Pacific.

Clearly, the older version of my Dad would have smacked his younger self for complaining about officers the way he did in this journal. A little research did indicate that the General Hester he sometimes complains about was relieved of command after this campaign for getting bogged down, and he never had another combat assignment. And he’s no fan of commissioned officers for the most part. This entry period, the time just before the New Georgia invasion, is below.

Repainted 37 and helped dig garbage pit. Had most of Saturday afternoon off.  Eight men transferred to H.Q from second platoon, Little Red, Cook and Strife. Going out on a mission tomorrow morning to capture Jap radio system in jungle. Had one swell time going through jungle. Everyone was exhausted, but not even a trace of Japs. Found one Parker pencil in gun emplacement.

Saw two movies, “Prison Farm” and “Saints double trouble.”  Shows how much we care for Japs when they have large concentrations on New Georgia only 30 miles away. Plenty of Japs overhead flying at all hours. Washboard Charlie came over at 4:35 Wed. morning and we were up at 4:30 so he got screwed this time.

Killed a 4-foot snake.

Baglio's Home Sweet Home

A soldier named “Baglio” poses next to his new foxhole, possibly on Benaki. The wooden sign reads “Home Sweet Home.”

Photo by John Steve Moses

April 1943

Got paid $33.20, mail call, letters and about a bushel of papers. Had a swell raid before noon. 5 Japs down, 1 of ours lost. Pilot bailed out safe. Sure hit the dirt when one dived at us, got hot reception our .50 cals. Later found out it was one of our Grummans. Heard G-2 radio report of actual dogfights from pilots. Some fun. Right now, April 1, 12:30 noon, we’re seeing one hell of a dog fight, there are planes all over us, the whole damn skies are full of them diving all over the place. Motors whining and their machineguns really making a racket.

One now going down in flames. All are cheering here. This is really like a movie scene. Seems hard to believe. Wonder if Benaki will hit the news tonight. Watching this sitting by my foxhole. If I had to get in I’d sure get wet. The damn thing is half full of water.

April Fools Day really came in nice, saw a double feature already. Wonder what Mom would say if she knew where her Sonny was, 35 miles ahead of Guadalcanal, closest outpost to New Georgia. Only the Navy and Japs know we’re here.

Next step New Ga.

Sure have lots of rain lately, mud ankle deep and a cement pavement here would be next thing to heaven. Heard some G-2 stuff form a Lt. at H.Q.  During the second air battle we saw 5 Jap Zeros on the tail of a P-38. The pilot was heard to scream thru radio, “They got me Russ!” They did, as was later verified. If anyone tells me the Jap Zeros are no good there’ll be a murder committed. They can out-climb anything we have.

April 1943

Air raid again 10:30 Sat. morning. Listening via radio to pilots up above. Using all kinds of code words. The flight C.O. is called Knuckle-head. One of the planes reporting leak in gas line, ordered back to Henderson Field, Guadalcanal.

Starting out on mission to other islands for four-day search for Jap radio. Should be fun living with ants, scorpions, spiders, crabs, flye frogs and even alligators. One of the pilots just reported, “This God-damned thing is starting to sound like a threshing machine.

Marched to beach and loaded our things on Higgins boats. Was supposed to land on small isle next to one where Japs are, but no place to land so we landed on Takina Isle, the place where we’re supposed to find the Jap radios. Me, Pap, Mike and Newman built shelter with four shelter halfs and leaves to sleep on. Rained like hell all nite. Damned the one who made the shelter halfs. All they do is strain the rain into smaller drops. Somebody’s sure making money out of this war.

All day Sunday we searched isle. Rowed to point in engineers rubber boats.  Used oar for first time in life. Our 511 radio went on the blink. (Note: The SCR-511 was a radio on a pole designed for the U.S. Army Cavalry, even though there were not a lot of uses for horse charges in the Second World War. The Mechanized Cavalry apparently inherited these radios for use in the jungle.)

No Japs. Had jungle rations for supper, very good cans of meat, cheese, powdered milk, sugar coffee, cocoa, cigarettes, crackers, candy, peanuts, gum and even dried fruit. Only trouble was we had to split it 8 ways. Our “C” Rations are lousy. Hash, stew or meat and beans. Other can has dog biscuits, sugar, simulated coffee, “D” rations one candy bar. 600 calories one meal.

Searched Isle again Monday, same result and soaked again at nite. Tuesday walked over hell and back, found one bivouac area recently evacuated, probably by Malta troopers. Got jungle hammocks to sleep in, sure are tricky. Shanahan fell out twice.  Have ample protection now, so no rain. Got 16 letters Wed.  Have plenty of cuts and bruises already. Climbed a cliff yesterday that was a honey.

Got very warm and (illegible) so stayed behind today. Left for camp 2:20 during one swell air raid while we were on open water. Had ack-ack fire over our heads, watched dogfights most of the way over. Hiked back to camp. Sure felt great to wash up and put on clean clothes. Mike killed one snake and IU saw two big lizards 3 feet long. Toads kept us awake there with their singing. To sum it all up it was hell and our Capt. Didn’t help matters a bit.

April 9, 1943

On alert. Rumor has it the Japs are going to launch an attack on Benaki. What a Welcome they’ll get.

Japs disappointed us, thank God.

Officers made our platoon build them a shower. I hope someone fills it with tar. Sunday, still no mail from Guadalcanal, 7 of us in a tent now laying around and arguing. Got Jeff Mernet, Pap, me on one side, Mike Newman, Shanahan on the other. Argued about “Care of Babies” last nite.

Having 2-3 air raid alerts every nite, getting used to it now. Two radio men had a dream and saw what they called a Jap prowling by officer’s latrine. As result we now have 18-man guard 2 hours on & off. Sure is the nuts.

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Service Journal Part IV: The Russells – Coconuts, malaria and air raids

00 Dad with machinegun

Pvt. John Steve Moses, 26, poses with a machine gun on an unknown South Pacific island.

The following is Part IV of a verbatim transcription of a journal my father kept during World War II while serving in the U.S. Army’s 43rd Cavalry as a Recon Trooper in the Pacific Theater.

Transcribed by John R. Moses

February 1943

Left camp about suppertime in trucks for Noumea, arrived about 10 and immediately got on Higgins Boat and was taken to S.S. President Hayes. Had to climb up landing nets and that with all equipment. That’s one climb to remember.

Got bunks just above water level. Hot as hell down there and just as crowded. The Hayes is a new ship and looks pretty fair. Got on board Feb. 12 but didn’t sail until the 15th. Had a detail to break out food for the trip. Kind of tough, but we had plenty to eat extra.

First day we got 5 gallons of ice cream. That alone was O.K., but that was all we got because every noncom we had got wind of it and the steward said no more, so that ended our ice cream. Banana flavor, too.

Had a few practice drills for abandoning ship. The rest of the boys had to climb up and down landing nets. Such cussing I never heard. Us boys on detail somehow managed to get away without joining them, even if Lt. Atkinson tried his darndest to make us. Poor Ack-Ack. Nobody seems to mind him.

Sighted San Christophe Isle after noon Feb. 17. From here on the waters are known as Torpedo Junction by the sailors. Lighted by a few flares around us. No one seemed to know where they came from and saw signal lights off the coast. Then came the alarm. Our convoy, consisting of 6 destroyers, the President Hayes, Adams, Jackson and Crescent City, the (illegible) was being attacked by Jap torpedo planes.

Tracers from the 20 m.m’s really lighted up their planes. Our ship, the Hayes, was lucky, they got three planes, the rest got two out of 7, so the final score was 5 out of 7 and no losses on our side. Don’t know now whether I was scared or not, but a few bombs did drop awfully close. Japs then turned tail and scrammed. Slept up on deck rest of the nite.

Saw Guadalcanal in the morning, lots of coconut trees and jungle. Landed by Higgins Boats on the 18th. Had a busy day unloading and sorting our supplies. Was really tired when nite came, ate C rations all day. Can see Florida Islands from here. Slept on ground and got soaked proper, everything wet in morning.

In morning loaded our stuff on Higgins Boat to move up the beach again. Unloaded about 10 miles up the beach near Henderson Field. Had to move stuff three times because of the damn tide coming in. Lots of Marines here. Saw one with a long Jap sword and another with a pistol. Not bad.

Had to load up again on big Barge No. 323, the Omaha. Sure is big, and can carry plenty, had all our vehicles on board and tons of stuff besides about 250 men. Slept in tent with Marines overnight, one gave me his own blanket and he was cold all nite. Slept on the floor and damn glad of it, outside it rained all nite. Slept next to Lt. Barnett.

Sailed off to another place, anchored right off Tulagi all day in a hot sun. Swam in 200 feet  of water and enjoyed it. Our Capt. Dall swims like a fish.

Started off about 9 o’clock on Feb. 20 for the Russell Islands, Third Platoon on another boat. Had 4 hour .50 caliber machine gun guard in a down pour. I cussed everything and everybody in sight. Later heard Tulagi was bombed the same nite we left. Arrived on Banika Isle of the Russell group. Nothing but coconut groves all over with a little two-by-4 jungle. Our Camp site is right by the jungle line.

There are millions of flys here on the coconut trees. Place is owned by Lever Bros. soap company. If you ask my opinion, they can have it. Have coconuts here galore. Tired of eating them and drinking their milk. Water is scarce. Have to dig wells, for no streams.

Celebrated my birth day in the army, 26 on Feb. 26. Wonder where my 27th will be spent.

Date of arrival here was the 20th. Rumor has it 1500 Japs evacuated just before we got here. Pier is bomb wrecked but so far everything’s peace ful here in February. Mail is coming thru, but no more parcels. Congress doesn’t believe we soldiers deserve anything from home. All we’re giving them is our life.

Finally got our place looking swell, policed-up coconuts and have our fox holes dug in case of an air raid. Listen to the radio on scout car every nite. News very good for our side.

March 1943

Russell Islands

3rd Platoon moved out with the 169th Infantry, so now we’re in three places at once. 3rd on Pavuvu Isle and H.Q. and 1st on Guadalcanal. Best news of Pacific War yet. On March 3, our air force destroyed 12 Jap transports, 8 destroyers and 102 planes. We lost one bomber and three fighters. Our convoy being bombed was in the news twice already.

(NOTE: From Wikipedia – The Battle of Bismarck Sea: All eight transports and four of the escorting destroyers were sunk. Out
of 6,900 (Japanese) troops who were badly needed in New Guinea, only about 1,200 made it to Lae. Another 2,700 were rescued by destroyers and submarines and returned to Rabaul. The Japanese made no further attempts to reinforce Lae by ship, greatly hindering their ultimately unsuccessful efforts to stop Allied offensives in New Guinea.”  The U.S. Army Air Corps and the Royal Australian Air Force carried out the attack. Japanese casualties: 8 transports, 5 destroyers sunk; 20 fighters destroyed, 2,890+ dead. U.S./Australian losses: 2 bombers, 4 fighters destroyed; 13 killed.)

March 6 we had our first taste of bombs. Don’t know how many came over but 7 never returned, met their ancestors in a hell of a hurry. A few of the bombs came too damn close for comfort. Since then we’ve had raids about 3 times a day. And in the middle of the night it’s not exactly fun getting bombed.

On the 10th we had a peach of a raid, saw a Zero get hit by only 3 bursts of a p-38 and it hit the ocean. Knocked down quite a few. Had to stand guard 2 hours last nite, 2 Jap pilots on island. At dawn we searched the jungle with no luck. The Navy finally got both. And walking thru that damn jungle is no picnic, so thick you can’t see 10 feet to either side or ahead. Full of big lizards, spiders and big swamps.

March 14 the 1st Platoon finally got in from Guadalcanal, and they sure brought some rain with them. Now we can go out and wash our clothes. Due to shortage of water here we have to catch rain water in cans and in shelter halfs to wash in. Have about 200 gallons now. Engineers drill for drinking water. Not bad.

Damn Japs flew over us three times at exactly 8 o’clock and ruined our listening to the 15 minute news broadcasts from Frisco. We use one of the scout car radios. Reception very good.  Sure sounds good to hear from the states.

Got two packages, one from Elaine and form Lizzie. Mom wrote Julius (Moses, Dad’s younger brother) is in (the service) from Feb. 11, 43 and that Pat’s in the WAACS.

March 15 H.Q. came in, now we’re all here and everything’s being reorganized by the looeys. So far they’re leaving us alone. Got paid $33.20 for Feb. Can’t spend money here except at the P.X. for candy. Got two more packages, Lizzy again and Mom.

Have quiet here lately, only 1 alert, but these parrots here are aping our signals and we are having a devil of a time telling them  from ours. Two whistles mean Jap planes over Solomon area, three means planes over island.

English left in such a hurry all their cattle was left behind.  Never saw such thin, scrawny cows and calfs. Shot one and ate it. Meat very tough. Gen. Hester heard about it. Now we stop eating meat, and he probably starts to.

Just now been informed of my second I.Q. I took in New Caledonia, final score 131, now Andy’s only got me beat by 1 point. Got some cookies from Mom, kind of crushed but made quite a hit with the boys and me. Sent $50 home.

Sat., March 20, 1943

No raids lately because of the full moon. Still policing up coconuts of all the screwy things to do. So far we’ve picked up a few million, usually pile them up, and one day we’ll never forget we had orders to pour gas on them and burn it. Really made a nice smoke, and probably was the cause for our first air raid.

Had a court martial about 150 feet from our tent, 3 privates, went thru all the usual pomp and ceremony but the all-officer jury probably knew the verdict before hand.

Some of the boys coming down with malaria and a few other diseases common to the tropics. Had a taste of malaria week after we hit Russell Islands. Took enough Atabrine to cure an elephant. Take half of an Atabrine pill every nite. Was to get water with Shan and like a dope dropped the water trailer on my left hand. Got deep gash but no bones broken. Better luck next time.

Have loudspeakers in trees for us to hear the radio nites, becoming a regular ritual. Everybody listens to news casts and argues about it later. I say the war will end in July. Of course, there are disbelievers all over.

Had two more air raids last nite, getting so a fellow can’t get a good nite’s sleep anymore. Got good and wet when Shan and I went past Blue Beach for water. Roads very muddy and slippery, hit two coconut trees. Sure was fun.  Been having plenty of air raids at all hours of nite and early morn. Recon plane flies over with motor sounds like an old washing machine. Nicknamed “Washboard Charly.” Sure is some feeling, always waiting for some thing, not knowing what. One minute we’re sitting here and not knowing if you’ll be alive the next.

Hear rumors of us invading New Georgia Isle. Bet that will be one hornet’s nest. Mail is lousey, haven’t heard from home in over a week now. Thunder last night woke me up and, so help me, I thought we were being bombed by the Japs again.

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