Tag Archives: Banga ISland

Part 15: Sailing home at last

Notes from a son: Not all of John Steve Moses’ World War II stories involved death, and many of the antics that might have led to time in the stockade were not recorded in these notebooks. One day I pressed Dad to tell me something funny that happened in the Pacific.
Dad said that even after he was busted down from corporal he would still be called upon to take the lead on some recon or demolition missions. Part of the Recon Trooper’s job was to get rid of structures that could be used by the enemy, sometimes in advance of a larger body of troops. That sometimes meant going on patrol under a full moon and greasing-up with what he called “axelgrease” against moonlight. If one brought a watch, a patrol leader was to check the men and make sure the watch faces were hidden under the wrist to avoid a glint from a moonbeam. That’s how he often wore his wristwatch after the war.
On one patrol they were tasked with torching a missionary village so the enemy couldn’t use it, the way the Japanese did at Ugli Village in 1943 when Pap Morrell fell on the beach to enemy machine gun fire.
One building in the abandoned settlement looked like a church or a school, and there was an attic space. Dad was the one who went up the ladder with his rifle fully loaded. He popped open the trap door and above him was a dimly-lit figure with an upraised arm. He let loose a whole .30 caliber clip, and came down covered with plaster.
Dad had just taken-out a life-sized statue of Jesus Christ holding a small American flag over his head.
“Will you look at that,” said one of the guys. “Moses just shot Jesus.”
Other stories involved foraging for food in Officer Country. Let’s face it, when you teach a bunch of guys to sneak around and improvise, and then try to feed them tinned goat meat while officers got recognizable chow, that’s asking for trouble. Supply trucks must not have moved too fast behind the lines or been well-guarded, and at least once the officers found goat meat waiting for them, Dad said.
Despite what he said about swimming in shark-infested waters, he later fondly recalled taking a dip while guys on high ground with rifles kept an eye out for predators.
After the foxhole incident, where the Japanese soldier with the bayonet jumped in, Dad once recalled that he rigged special booby traps around his foxhole to keep that from happening again. Guys would call out when it was time for him to pull guard duty or go on patrol, because nobody was going to walk right up to his special security system.
Below is the end of Dad’s combat career.

October 1944
It’s been exactly two years overseas today, two years of hell and fun. If our luck holds out we’ll come out O.K. I have to admit we have pulled out of tight spots.
I’m the driver of a command car now, big-time stuff.
The Japs are going to town in China, losing their airports fast. I believe instead of the Philippines we’ll all end up somewhere in China. Anyplace would be better than these God-forsaken islands.
MacArthur finally hit the Philippines and had quite a beachhead on Leyete before the Japs woke up. Our Navy is giving the Japs a lesson in basic naval warfare. They’ve had three good scraps so far, and the Japs are coming out second best. Some Navy bigwig predicts now we’ll even hit China because we can use airports. Only 700 miles from Hong Kong and Shanghai now.
We have our area built-up really classy. All the tents are in a line and we even have flowers planted in front of tents. Now that we’re set up we’re sure to get orders to tear it all down because we’re moving again. We never get moss on our feet.
(Name unreadable, starts with an ‘S’) was taken sick with fever, which later developed into scrub typhus and got serious. He died today, Oct. 30, and had been unconscious for the last few days. We’re really going to miss him because he was one man in a million, the life of every gathering and a swell ball player. He lived in St. Louis. Now his folks are going to hear of his death instead of his rotation.
I got kind of sick again last nite. I still can’t get over my attack while at Yakamo. I believe I’ll go on sick call tomorrow to see what’s up again.
Nurses came in last week, and with them came trouble and rumors galore. They don’t think much of us GIs. During their initial appearance at a movie they came with .45 caliber pistols and had officers with them with loaded carbines.
Trouble came later when two enlisted men tried to get in their quarters while drunk. Both have about 11 counts against them, good for a vacation in Leavenworth. Only officers can enjoy their company. As representatives of American girls, they stink.
Our radio officers who stayed on O.P. with Aussies are being forced to move O.P. because a group of Japs are on their trail, Japs from Wewak on patrol or something.
The next day our planes bombed the village our O.P. had been in, and there’s no word from our boys as to where the Japs got to or if the bombs did the work. The boys are due back in camp between the 1st and 5th. Of November.
Another rumor last nite was that 18 natives raped three nuns on the island across from us.
The penalty for that is death by hanging if it’s true but, if true, it’s more than just.
Radio Tokyo scoffs at our claims, but not with the happy tones she used when we were at the Russells. From all appearances, Japan is in one hell of a spot, and her good friend Germany has plenty of headaches, too.
The boys are out on a four-hour hike now, there’s a nice, full moon but it’s very unlikely to be appreciated by tired men. I stayed behind in camp because I don’t believe I could take it.
It’s payday tomorrow, and the next day will start our 26th month overseas.

Here are some shots Dad took, most likely at his final post. The guys in the top photo are “The Bassey Group,” comprised of 1st Lt. Chapman, 1st Sgt. Wasp and S/Sgt. Sciarra. When Dad wrote notes on the back of the photos, Wasp and Sciarra were in the hospital.
The middle photo is a military vehicle labeled “Good Old Horse.” The 43rd Cavalry was mechanized.

The bottom photo shows a soldier next to a gun and gun emplacement, and simply is inscribed: “It works.”

November 1944
I got some negatives back I took while on patrol – three short because they showed Japs unburied at a village we burned to keep the Japs from using. And our censors are afraid the Japs wouldn’t like it. Boy! Are we suckers.
Natives are banging away on drums so some ceremonial dance is going on across the river. I sure hope they’re not mad at us tonite. I’m sleepy and I hate to be disturbed.
Lt. Ouzts killed a 10-foot snake. That would be nice to find on your pillow.
(NOTE: Lt. Ouzts is most likely Alamo Scouts team leader Wilmot Ouzts. That new unit set up a training camp in New Guinea before being deployed to Luzon. The elite Alamo Scouts led the famed raid that freed U.S. prisoners who endured brutal imprisonment after surviving the Bataan Death March.)
I went on sick call and was sent back to the 118th again, my third trip. Let’s hope it’s my last. I’m here for observation of syncope, whatever that is.
I saw plenty of movies here, two in the rain, and there are softball games every nite.
I don’t know what the docs found, but I was sent to the 37th Station hospital. It’s very nice here, beds, pillows and mattresses. The chow is O.K. and the treatment is the best so far. More check-ups, blood tests and high blood pressure.
We had nurses here, but before I got here they moved. Tsk, tsk. The doc told me I’m to be evacuated either to Hollandia or French Haven.
I was back to camp on a pass to see the boys, almost like going home. I had five Xmas parcels I split with the boys. I felt kind of funny leaving camp; I may never see some of my pals again because no one knows where I’ll end up.

Aboard the Hospital ship H.S. Maetsuycker:
I boarded the Hospital Ship in the harbor, really a lulu and comfortable.
One good point is it’s not crowded and the food was excellent. They even had ice cream and fried chicken. They had beer every afternoon. I swapped mine for root beer. The nurses were really swell to us boys and did everything to sheer us up.
We left the harbor with all the lites on. It seems funny to go this way when we’re used to blackouts.
We stopped over at New Britain to pick up a patient but since they had only one we kept on going. We sighted land late afternoon and pulled into Finschhafen and docked alongside another ship. We stayed on overnight but got off after breakfast and came here to 237 Sta. Hospital.
It looks O.K. The nurses are friendly but, as usual, they’re checking my blood, etc. There must be something wrong somewhere. The doc asked all kinds of questions, it could be here I’ll get results.
They have a Red Cross here, we heard Negroes sing last nite, pretty good.
Capt. Brown, in charge of the ward, diagnosed my trouble as a bad case of nerves, etc. He’s a nice guy for a medic. Gave us lectures most every day but claims in time we’ll be O.K. I hope they don’t believe I’m too sick over here, but it’s tough not knowing when we’re so far apart.
Editor’s Note:
Here’s a little bit about the hospital ship from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Maetsuycker_as_hospital_ship.png:
00 Dad's Journal Hospital ship

The Maetsuycker, a Dutch Registered vessel, 4,131 GRT, 361 ft 6 in (110.2 m) in length,[1] owned by Koninklijke Paketvaart-Maatschappij (KPM) of Batavia, Dutch East Indies was completed in 1937. She was converted to hospital ship at the cost of the Dutch government, crewed by Dutch Officer’s and Javanese (Indonesian) sailors to treat transport 250 patients.[citation needed] She sailed under the control of the US Army for intra-theater use, but was a Dutch hospital ship flying the Dutch Flag and certified by the Netherlands Government under the Hague Convention. She served in New Guinea and the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA) as part of the SWPA Command’s permanent local fleet with the local “X” number[Note 1] 12.[2][1] Maetsuycker officially became a U.S. hospital ship at a ceremony 4 February 1944 with an address by the Consul-General for the Netherlands. U.S. Army medical personnel staffed the hospital facilities.[6]

I was at the 237 for only 26 days when the transfer came in for the 13th General Hospital.

December 1944
The 13th General Hospital is pretty good. the nurses and doc s treat us as humans. Boys are leaving from here to the states. It sure makes us feel funny to see fellows leave for home.
It’s December here. Capt. Michael claims I need plenty of rest, etc., we’ll see. The mail is very slow, although a few packages did come through,
On Christmas Eve we went to Midnight Mass, my third Xmas overseas. Christmas Day was hot as hell. We have a tiny Xmas tree on the nurse’s desk. I put a can of Spam under it, but she didn’t appreciate it.
I got the best Christmas gift a guy could ask for. Doc told me I’d be boarded at 1 o’clock. I went before a board of a captain and two colonels, and I believe I’m on my way home. Now it’s only a matter of time before I get on board a ship for home and the folks. It still feels like a dream.
I was given a bag of woolens, etc. that brings (unreadable) one step nearer. Now we’re all anxiously waiting for a boat to go back o.
I’ve seen plenty of movies, but last night’s USO show was tops. Saw four Conoly Cover Girls featuring “Conoly Jones.” It was really O.K., even if I sat on a hard bench three hours before the show.
New Years we came in quiet and we had few casualties by drunkenness. It seems liquor is mighty scarce here.

January 1945
We boarded the Bosche Fontaine on Jan. 6, 1945 and sailed immediately – a Dutch troop transport.
We had 600 patients on board, including WACs and nurses as patients.
I felt pretty good seeing the lights of Finschhafen fade away.
I had quite a coincidence on board ship when I found another John S. Moses. Both of us are Pfc.s, so as a result he took all the K.P. on the way over. I lived the life if ease. That’ll teach him to steal my name.

Editor’s Note: When the John S. Moses who got stuck with double K.P. finally met my Dad, he had some colorful words to share.

I was on board ship 21 days and the meals were pretty good. We had only one alarm. Some psycho patient was let out for air and decided to jump overboard. He was caught ion time but his life jacket fell overboard so some sailor gave the alarm (Man overboard!) the ship stopped dead and bells started clanging.
For a while I figured we’d been attacked by subs or planes, but everything turned out O.K.
We had abandon ship drills most every day – really nice days – and plenty of sunburns resulted.
There were plenty of flying fish and, every once in a while, we’d see a tanker off in the distance plodding along
The sea got heavy as hell a week out of Frisco and the boat seemed to be doing a balancing act. I saw an aircraft carrier going out into the Pacific. We heard a direct broadcast from the States for the first time in years. It sure sounded swell – we heard the Post Toasties program.
The morning of Jan. 26 we all got up earlier because land was to be sighted. It sure felt nice to even see a light off somewhere. Our pilot pulled up in pitch dark and headed us in for shore.
We saw land at dawn and everybody realized we were home at last – home up to now was a word in the dictionary.
We pulled into Frisco Bay and that Golden Gate never looked better. When we sailed under it everybody cheered – with the exception of myself. I was too choked-up.
We got off the Bosche Fontaine at about 10 a.m. they had a band play while we disembarked. We got into the hospital buses and found a woman driver. She got us to Letterman General Hospital, so she couldn’t have been too bad.
We really rubber-necked and looked at everything. The States sure looked plenty O.K.
We had our first meal as soon as we hit the wards – we went to a beautiful mess hall and had fresh food galore – most of us ate to excess.
While we lined up to get into the hospital Red Cross workers gave us a pint of milk and a sleeveless sweater. That milk sure went over swell.
I sent a telegram home, and to Violet.
We went all over the place, and everyone agreed Letterman is one swell hospital. I spent the first night at the Red Cross, played hearts and lost.
We saw a swell stage show put on my civilians from Frisco nite clubs at the Red Cross. Buses took us to a hockey game. We had on hospital uniforms so we stood out. We got a swell welcome from the people.
We saw Frisco on a sightseeing bus, pretty good. We also attended a concert at the Symphony Hall or something, we heard the Dan Cassan Chorus. We finally found out we were to be split up and sent to hospitals all over the states – I’m to see Wakeman Gen’l & Conv. In Indiana.

February 1945
We got on a hospital train and started off closer to home. They had beds fixed in coaches, so we slept and looked at the states all the way.
Even our meals were served by ward boys, so as a whole our trip was swell. I saw snow at Sacramento, Calif. and went through Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.
I got to Wakeman at nite on Feb. 2. It was colder than hell. I was sent to the convalescent area.
Some fellows took off pronto. I hit the hay and called up home the next nite. It sure was nice talking to the folks, and Violet.
I took off on a pass a week later and almost got stopped by the S.P., but I got through O.K. (The pass was forged.)
Mom and Louie were waiting at the gate. It felt good seeing them, even if I looked like something the cat dragged in.
I had a 15-day furlough and got sick immediately – malaria sick. I was home 6 days and spent 7 in the Fort Wayne Hospital. I must have scared the hell out of everybody.
Liz came over to see me but I was O.K. when she arrived. I got a 7-day extension.
I had plenty of passes from the hospital, so no complaints.
I was sick as hell on my birthday, Feb. 26, but since Violet, Olga, Pearl and Elaine came over to help eat cake I came down – I went to the hospital the next day.
Elaine gave me a wallet. Bab’s scared stiff of me or something.

March 1944:
I got engaged to Violet on March 9.

John Steve Moses, in uniform, with Violet Margaret Moses in Detroit, Michigan on Easter of 1945. They were engaged on March 9 of that year and were married until he died on May 1, 1983.

John Steve Moses, in uniform, with Violet Margaret Moses in Detroit, Michigan on Easter of 1945. They were engaged on March 9 of that year and were married until he died on May 1, 1983.

April 27, 1945:
I got a 17-day leave again while the other guys start in processing for discharge. I had malaria again, but not too severe. It seems “furloughs” and “malaria” come about even for me.

June 1945:
I went before two boards prior to C.D.D. I believe I’ll be out and a civilian by July 4th.
Dentists fixed all my choppers, even made new ones for the missing ones. No trouble with them at all, since I leave’em in my foot locker.
I was discharged from the Army on June 22, Friday, at 1 o’clock – that’s all.


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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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Part XIII: Back to the work of war

July 5, 1944

First Platoon is ready to leave at any time, going on advance. I hope we stay for last for a change.
I spent July 4th under better circumstances than last year. Most of the fellows were in Auckland, and most imbibed heavily. As a result, many a sick fellow woke up this morning.
First Platoon is guarding the equipment on the docks. The ship came in last nite, so maybe we are on our merry way again.
Aaron is going home because of jungle rot on his hands.

1st Platoon departed on a ship called “Sea Dog” or “Sea Devil,” destination unknown. Now we’re all packed and ready to go on short notice.
I’ve been kind of sick lately, temp around 95 degrees, too low for comfort. Our vehicles are on the dock now ready to load. I guess this is our last weekend here. I went to Auckland Saturday but it was too damn crowded and almost impossible to get into the movies. Everybody was stinkeroo.
I got a quart of whiskey as a gift for my work as typist. I gave it to Mike. He was so surprised his eyes bulged-out.
Second and third parts of the platoon got orders to pack up, so we really moved things fast. At 6:00 we started off for Auckland for the last time, for who knows where.

We got down O.K. and found we are to sail on an old Liberty Ship converted into a troop transport called the “U.S.S. Carlos Carrillo,” one of the worst ships we ever sailed on. To make matters worse, we found we were to have sailed on the “Matsonia,” but due to last –minute changes we ended up on this garbage scow. The food was lousey and we had lines a mile long before we could reach the hot box called a mess hall or galley.

The ship in 1944 was not old, but it did look the part. The S.S. Carlos Carillo, at least among my Dad's bunch,  won the 43rd Cavalry Recon Troop's vote for least favorite troop ship. U.S. NAVY PHOTO/SAN FRANCISCO BAY

The ship in 1944 was not old, but it did look the part. The S.S. Carlos Carillo, at least among my Dad’s bunch, won the 43rd Cavalry Recon Troop’s vote for least favorite troop ship. U.S. NAVY PHOTO/SAN FRANCISCO BAY

Everybody was sea-sick for the first three days, including myself. Later on we could eat, but the chow was so bad no one could eat it.
We knew we were heading or New Guinea, a place called Aitape. The Japs are trapped there, but fighting to break out. The first we saw of New Guinea was Moresby Bay, where we anchored all day and pulled out at nite. It’s very hilly and looks like hell. The next day we pulled in at French Haven. It was the same as the other place. I had K.P. here, had to haul garbage cans to the stern and leave them there to dump at nite. I never worked harder in all my life. Two days later we pulled in to Aitape, where we saw 16 ships anchored. We stayed onboard all day because other ships had priority on unloading.
We got off the Carillo and loaded onto an L.C.T. and pulled ashore. The beach was very sandy and we walked ¼ mile to camp (as set up by “”1st H-Q,” for us there were only two tents available. There were no cots, but the cooks were anticipating our arrival and had a swell dinner prepared.
I found we’re on the right flank of the front lines. It’s quiet in our sector, but on the left the 169 and the 172 have trouble, but so far the score is 272 Japs to 5 of us.
Marcotte and the 1st are on a three-day recon patrol now. The sun is so hot here it even gets in the shade. We’re digging-in the M-8s and M.G.s in case the Japs attack. We’re pretty well set up, 6 men to a tent and, best of all, we have cots to sleep on.
The 20th Jap division lost to our O.P.s. They’re probably going to try to hit us as an escape through the swamp.
The patrol is back. They report that the Japs are eating snakes, etc. in the swamp and, according to the natives, hanging themselves.
We have movies here every nite lites are on all over the place. One would never believe we are only 5 miles from thousands of Japs. We all look like (unreadable) and have out hair out to the bone and our mustaches are getting fuzzy.

August 1944:
The 3rd Platoon was ordered to relieve the 32nd Ran. We had to walk 6 days behind the Jap line to reach O.P.
1st Platoon headed back from an 8-day patrol. One man had malaria. I hope a news correspondent is along. They’ll probably have a story on us. Our 2nd Platoon reached its objective, the 32nd boys were on the way back when ambushed by the Japs. It seems the natives double-crossed them.
The natives are reportedly being held as prisoners, and will probably be shot for dead.
So far, 4 men from the 82nd. Recon have made their way back to camp. The rest are not accounted for.
We’re working our area now, plenty of work but getting on pretty fair. Movies all over the place. Can see one every nite.
Our artillery really is banging away. It’s sure nice to listen and not be on the receiving end.
I went to the airdrome today and saw a group of P-38s taking off. There was plenty of activity.
Rotation is now very much in doubt, according to plans now only two can leave per month. So I guess we’re here for the duration.
Mail won’t arrive, so I guess we’re sort of screwed-up.
The war in Europe is drawing to a climax and Japan is being hit 600 miles from home now. They lost lot of planes and ships last night when out task force hit them. I believe we’ll hit the Banin Isles and we, the 43rd, will hit some isle before long.
The boys are going pretty far past the Drinumor River. So far, 10,000 Japs are counted dead. This place should be cleaned out soon.
First Platoon is out on a 30-day recon. Now only the 2nd is here, plus H.Q. We’re reserves to relieve the 3rd. or, if needed, to use the M-8s. Rumor has us getting more vehicles.
I am now a gunner on a 37 in M-8 so maybe we’ll go somewhere yet on patrol.
Japan and the Philippines were bombed, the latter for the first time. Japan is due for some more headaches.
There’s still no place to set up my darkroom so chances are I’ll develop only my own film. There’s no chemicals here at all, so that’s another headache. This war is really provoking at times.
Mail comes once a week. Seems to me we deserve better service than that, very good for our morale.
I shot up plenty of .30 caliber slugs to try out my new rifle. It’s really a swell weapon. Too bad a few politicians weren’t lined up in the sights.
We swam in the ocean yesterday, but it’s not much fun when you have to keep an eye out for sharks.
I was up in a plane two days straight, dropped rations to the 1st Platoon. It’s really nice way above the clouds. Those were my first two rides, but they won’t be my last.
We’re building a ball field now, we named it Morrell Field in memory of Pap.

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Part XII – Replacement troops, and getting ready to go back

Notes from a son:
Dad didn’t record specific stories here about people he met in Auckland, but he said some of them would invite American servicemen right into their homes and feed them. He talked a lot about the green landscape and pretty houses, but he never went back for a visit. I suspect that’s because of all the other stuff he’d have remembered from that time. He didn’t get back to Auckland, but he did indeed master horseshoes.
As his World War II service journal continues, I learned that Dad knew how to type, at least well enough to keep him out of going on maneuvers.

April 1944

There are no American WACS here but plenty of nurses. All are officers, so the enlisted man is out of luck.
Wearing bars does make an officer superior to an enlisted man. Except up in the islands where bombs and bullets make no distinction. There, everything is palsy-walsy. But that’s life for you. We’re democratic alright, in some things.
Cpl. Davis is on his way to the states on an emergency furlough. To us he seems lucky, but maybe he’s not at that because his Dad is dying.
Since Capt. Dall left Capt. Hall is our C.O. but he has yet to get his two bars and methinks he is trying hard enough.
There are plenty of places to go in town for the enlisted man:
 The Catholic Services Club – very good.
 The Red Cross – too crowded.
 Government House – not bad.
 The YMCA – quiet.
 The YWCA – I’m not allowed to enter so I don’t know, but I know I’d like it.
The movies are plenty, and I was in all, but The Civic is tops. The interior is really beautiful and the roof resembles the sky at night, complete with stars, clouds that move and a moon. It’s very nice and could compete with any back in the states.
Our A.W.O.L. cases are not too bad, two are still out for quite some time now. Three are in the stockade for two months. They got a dirty deal. And there’s one awaiting courts martial. I hope he keeps his stripes because he’s a swell guy.
Last mail I heard Farmer is going overseas, I believe it’s England or France. Too bad, because he is too young to learn to kill.
Plenty of boys are low on money, so Cablegrams are going back home for more dough. I sent Mom flowers for Mother’s Day, and got a rosary from Violet for my birthday. She’s someone I aim to go home to.
I’ve been developing a lot of film for the fellows here. It’s getting so I can see like a cat in the dark. There are no rumors yet as to when we’re due to leave New Zealand.
I finally heard from Farmer, he crossed the Atlantic to England. I hope he’ll be as lucky in combat as I was in New Georgia.
A big push is expected any time now. England must be jammed with Americans. The papers say the casualties are expected to be very high.
I’m afraid my Brother Julius is coming here somewhere, especially if he goes to Virginia. I sure hope it’s not true.

May 1944
This may be the month of May, but it’s so damn cold it’s not funny. We have our kerosene stoves on all nite but even then I use 5 blankets, two issued, two I got from the 25th Recon boys and one I talked our supply sergeant out of. We’re having fun with our kerosene stoves. Some guys filled up with diesel and in the morning everything was lousey with soot. They looked like Amos & Andy.
I have a new job now for the past week, doing typing for Lt. Atkinson, the claims officer for the division. It’s pretty fair so far. I get out of a lot of work, and it’s pretty interesting, something new for a change.
We have two new officers, Cole and Israel. The rumor now is we’re going to the Philippines. If so, I doubt many of us will be alive when the rotation policy comes into effect next October, 24 months overseas.
We had a speech by General Wing. He says we’ll see action again before too long. Very encouraging. He said the rotation policy is even now in effect and boys are going back monthly.
All we have to do is stay alive and our turn will come.
We’re getting new men daily to replace the ones we lost. I hear rumors we’re to be mechanized and will have armored cars soon.
The Infantry is now on maneuvers, but Hall says we’re not going. Three men, Allen Anderson and Ames, are going to 502 New Caledonia soon. Big shake-up in the troop. Men are being busted all over the place. Anyone could wake up now and be a Cpl. or Sgt.

May 5, 1944
Effective May 5, Lamarre and I are Pfc.s, very touching for us two ex-corporals. Mike was busted to Pvt. LaJoie is still a private. Poor guy deserves new ratings. Now you don’t know who to cuss for fear he may be a Sgt., as if any of us give a damn.
Drivers are going to get new vehicles, so I guess our mechanization will become a reality.
I had to stand guard Sunday, and a nicer nite would be hard to find. I had a beautiful full moon, but no one around to share it with, only me and my dreams.
There were three auto accidents in Troop over the weekend. Passerelli hit four cows and wrecked his Ford. Billy hit one cow, and “Karescky” cracked his up too. Lefty had to be pulled out of a ditch too, so that alone proves there’s plenty of liquor yet.
We have a Troop party at Hamilton Friday nite. That will be one nite I want to see.

Later in May:
I went to Auckland again on Saturday and took in two movies with Joe, and stayed a while at the Catholic Club. I had fun listening to Baptists sing on the corner of Queens Street. They really go in for it here in a big way.
Mail is lousey, so bad, in fact, we’ve just about given up hope of receiving any.
We have new M-8s now, three to start with and one half-track. So I guess the word Mec. will finally be a literal fact.
I’m still doing a lot of typing for Lt. Atkinson, and it seems our boys are having plenty of accidents. Some of them are really lulus, these New Zealand people are really out for our money.
We had our troop party at Hamilton and beer flowed like water. We had a swell dance band, but being a non-dancer I just watched the capers of the gang. Everybody but Chuck and I was polluted but, strange as it sounds, there wasn’t one fight.
Lt. Hall (Now Capt. Hall) played the trumpet. Precusser was really good on the sax.
After the party about 5 kegs of beer was brought back to camp. All day Sunday and Saturday the few who stayed behind stayed by the kegs and really drank.
The Troop is scheduled for three weeks of maneuvers around Rotovia, they’ll really freeze nights up there. Being assistant to the claims officer is now paying off. I’m to stay behind.
I believe we’ll sail off some time after that, where nobody knows or ventures to guess.
Division called up and told us to stop putting our identifying number on crates. It could be we’ll finally move out of the South Pacific.
Cassin was finally taken by the Allies, sounds like they’re going great guns all over. I still believe we’ll be thru France before the year’s up.

June 1944:
The boys all left for maneuvers and, from the reports they’re sending back they’re having it tough. It’s not only cold, but our new Captain makes them stay out in it. They even had snow up there.
Our radios really sizzled with news that they opened-up the new, long-awaited front by invading France. The Germans were so surprised they haven’t recovered yet. It came on June 6. Now they have quite a foothold. The Russians are going after Finland, should knock them out by July.
Back to our party with the Japs, we hit the Marianas Isles 1,500 miles from Japan and 600 from the Philippines. We’re bombing Guam, so it looks like the climax is soon to come. New B-29 bombers hit Japan itself, and only lost four more thru Jap fire. So it looks like Tojo has something to worry about now that we’re in his back yard.
We have our worries, too. Our new rumor has us going to New Guinea to a staging point from there to take another rock from the Japs.
That’s something nice to look forward to, considering we have only three months to go to be eligible for furloughs home via the Rotation Plan.
I was to Hamilton both weekends the boys were on maneuvers. It was good to wake up in a hotel room and not have to get up unless I wanted to.
Rumor also has it that New Zealand will be given back to the New Zealanders. A lot of Kiwis ( New Zealand soldiers) are back for good to work at essential jobs. It seems funny, considering that there’s no indication that this war will end soon.
New Zealand’s servicemen resent the Yank’s popularity with the girls, but it’s their own fault. To see anyone duller one would have to go to a museum, and to their girls I guess we’re something new.
Anyway, some husbands came home too, and a few boys were sort of caught making themselves at home. Funny now, but some of us will probably fare the same.
Have only two A.W.O.L.s now if reports are true. Gray got caught. Wasn’t worth it if he’ll get three months in the stockade, losing chances for rotation.
The boys came back from maneuvers Friday night and a more disgusted bunch couldn’t be found anywhere.
Our outfit was the only one to stay three weeks as a whole group. Now we’re all looking forward to 5-day passes, but I have doubts we’ll get them. We were scheduled to stay in New Zealand for three months, and we’re on our way to the fourth now. We’ve got plenty of ‘recreational’ equipment, so civilization will probably be a memory soon. I’m still assistant to the Claims Officer. We had a new accident from Troop last nite. Halverson hit a 6X6 with a civilian car.
I had guard duty again Friday and Saturday as a quiet weekend was had by yours truly. Thursday was “Infantry Day,” so we all got off., but on passing the 169th Infantry we saw them drilling, so I wonder whose day it really was?
The mail finally made an appearance. I got 22 letters in two days, and none for the two weeks before. Everything’s O.K. on the home front, I hope.
Rumors as to an early departure are flying thick and fast. New Guinea lies ahead, by the consensus of our Troop; Port Moresby to Duna, to Wewak would be the main landing points, according to guesses.
Our outfits are packed and most everyone is ready to go, but leaving will be tough again. We had about six shots so far, I got the last four at once. Too bad we didn’t have bayonets to defend ourselves. By now we’re probably immune to any disease known to man plus a few yet undiscovered. Probably for our own good.

July 1944:
We had three-day passes, so Auckland had me for a guest. It was O.K. to sleep as long as I wanted to, and to top it off, chow in bed.
We have a 35-mile limit, so quite a few of the fellows were in town. I’m sure a few bartenders were taxed to their limit.
They have a funny system here. Bars are open 10 — 2 – 4 — 6 daily and closed Sunday. They’re losing plenty of pounds, but blue laws are enforced even over here.
Mike just came in from town, was to “church,” so he says.

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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 since 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.

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.
00 Dad's Journal karaka-war-memorial-hall-5

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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)

00 736px-USS_General_John_Pope_AP-110
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.
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.

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.
00 Mothball 800px-USS_General_John_Pope_(AP-110)
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.

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.
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 Ughele 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.

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.

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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