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Tom's War Years

 

Letters Home

I recently opened up a bundle of letters I had written home
during the war, most of them to my mother, a widow,
who resided here in Columbus, Ohio. In effect,
she became my pen-pal, and I tried to share with her many of my
new experiences. As I was reading them, I was also
amazed at how good a psychologist I was at the
tender age of 20 or so. My mother was a perfect worry-wart
about my being in the service and I can't believe
how skillfully I allayed here fears. Enough said
for now. Here is a sampling:

 

 

Company 1963, O.G.U.
Great Lakes Naval Training Station
Great Lakes, Illinois

February 18, 1944

Dear Mother:

Hello Old Top! Here's a letter from a sailor! Guess what? I've been on KP for two days now. Practiclly the entire barracks was in for it. The worse part about KP is getting up at 0400 am. We don't get through until about 0700 am. One good thing about it is we get plenty to eat. I work on the line serving food. We've had pretty good chow since we've been here - not to speak of quanity.

For breakfast this morning I had two Texas grapefruit halves, a box of wheat cereal and milk. bread and butter, bacon, fried mush and syrup, and coffee. Also milk and a piece of French toast.

For lunch, I had a bowl of vegetable soup, salmon loaf, au gratin potatoes, stewed tomatoes, fresh vegetable salad, two pieces of apple pie, bread and butter, and coffee.

For supper, I had a bowl of soup, a big helping of spaghetti, green beans, carrots, aspharagus, lettuce salad, breead and butter, coffee, and Delicious apples. I forgot the ice ream. See what I mean when I say we're getting enough to eat!

I'm hoping that I'll get drafted out of here pretty soon. Some quartermasters get their training here at Great Lakes.

It is very cold up here, real winter weather, in fact. The newspaper says it will be about 5 degrees above zero tonight. In some places the snow is piled up waist high. It is a very pretty scene for most of the barracks have white tops.

I read about the attack on Truk this afternoon. That is great news! I certainly hope that the venture meets with success. Truk, you know, is Japan's Pearl Harbor. If we take this group of islands, it will put us right on the road to Tokyo and a clear cut victory. I think Mr. Tojo is going to fold up in double-quick time. After all, his empire is a temporary and flimsy one that is spread over thousands of miles.

I miss you. Maybe if I am stationed not any further away from Columbus than here I can come home some weekends. On the other hand, I might get sent out of here any day now in the opposite direction.

Give my love to David and Da. And loads of love to you.

Tom

P.S. Be sure and write. Tell me what you decided about a job. Don't let everyone influence you so easily. Do the thing you think best.


Company 1963, O.G.U.
Great Lakes Naval Training Station
Great Lakes, Illinois

Wednesday, March 8, 1944

 

Dear Mother:

You can always be sure of one thing, scuttlebutt is strictly composed of G.I. pipe dreams - super imaginings of curious and wondering minds. We aren't going to Maryland. It's going to be Newpoert, Rhode Island. That's official. We were up early this morning and rolled all our gear. It is now loaded on a baggage car. I don't think we will actually leave until after noon chow.

From Chicago to Newport (Rhode Island) via Providence is a full 24 hour trip, and it will probably be closer to 30 hours. As far as I know, we will go on a regular troop train.

Newport won't be so bad. It's on an island, right on the ocean. New York and Boston are both close enough to go to on liberties. It's not far from Woodshole, either.

I'm writing this in the lounge at the Hostess House, which is ultra-modern and enjoyable. They have a fine cafeteria. I had a second breakfast of waffles, coffee, and orange juice.

Don't forget to write soon.

Love,

Tom

Company 1591, Quartermaster School
United States Naval Training Station
Coddington Point
Newport, Rhode Island

May7, 1944

Dear Mother:

Gosh, it was good to hear your voice and talk to you on the phone last night. The only thing is, I always get sort of homesick after a call home. It's too bad the connection wasn't any better, but the telephone at my end was an old one and sort of hard to talk into.

I hope you are well and happy. Remember, I never want you to worry about me. I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself. Also, you must realize I'm pretty lucky to get this four months' training and school.

Sunday night when you called, I had just gotten back from a movie at the drill hall. Sunday was our duty day so we didn't have any liberty. We did have liberty Saturday night though, and last night too. Both times I only sent into Newport.

Yesterday, we had to attend a memorial service for the late Frank Knox. Enclosed is the program. Sunday afternoon, I walked over to see the old Revolutionary ship, the Constitution,. It is a commissioned ship and has a crew aboard, even though she never leaves port.

We're on early shift this week. This morning we had drill. Tonight, we have supervised study. I don't know if I'll be able to stay awake or not.

For lunch today, we had roast beef and dressing, mashed spuds, green beans, vegetable soup, bread and butter, apple pie and milk. Very good! The suppers aren't very good though. For breakfast this morning we had half a grapefruit, fresh scrambled eggs, Kellog's Krumblies with ,ilk. hot cross rolls, bread and butter, and coffee.We get lots of graspefruit and oranges.

Haven't you or Da been to Gulfport? If you could write and tell me what it's like down there I would appreciate it. We'll probably leave on the tenth. I forgot to ask you if you got Jonsey's picture - and what you thought of her?

Everything in Gulfport will be the same as the setup here. Only difference will be the change in climate. We'll probably graduate a week later, making it around the 15th of July. Then, I'll probably get a 5-day leave, possibly with two days traveling time extra. After that, everything will depend on what I get into. Certain specialized duties require additional training. In that category are submarines, PT boats, and the amphibious forces. The ambibs aren't so bad. They make up all the landing craft used in invasions plus plus many kinds of auxilliary ships. Huge LSTs (Landing Ship Tanks) are part of the amphibious forces. On the other hand, I might get assigned to anything from a tug boat to a battleshop.

Usually, you have to wait for your ship to be built, outfitted, and commissioned. These (and us) are what is known as pre-commission crews. Often times they have to wait for as long as six months. During that time, may guys apply for and get additional liberty to go home.

When they finally go aboard their ships, they go on a shakedown cruise - which may take them into South American or coastal waters for several months.

Just don't worry about it. When and if I do go aboard a ship, have full confidence in my own faith. Write soon.

Love,

Tom

 

 

Tokyo Bat Area
Japan

September9, 1945

 

Dear Mother:

At the first break of dawn today I saw the imposing majesty of Fuji San, the towering volcano that overlooks all of southern Honshu. All night our long colu,m of LSMshad nosed their way through the approaches leading to Tokyp Bay. Don't think for a minute that I wasn't excoted for this was the culmination to a week's eventful sailing. The first three days out of of Manilawe rossed and rolled in the wake of a fierce typhoon that had raised havoc throughout the northern Pacific. Not a day passed that we were't buzzed by fast fighter planes swooping low over our masts and we often saw big super-forts high up in the sky. The last three days of the trip saw us dodging numerous mines in the choppy water.

It was pitch black out when I was on watchthis morning at four and there was a stiff wind blowing which was causing the waves to pile up. At about six=thorty I obtained a bearing on Fuji San. By this time we were pitching and rolling violent;y and great sheets of spray were flying over the forward part of the ship. As the sun came above the horizon I could see the irregular hills and cliffs forming the mainland of Honshu.

Up until eight o'clock I didn't have much time to look around for I was very busy receiving light messages, plotting our course, assisting the OD.I did notice large numbers of strange white birds skimming low over the rough sea. After a breakfast of fried ham and eggs, toast and orange juice, I finished off my other duties in double quick time.

Up on the deck again - so this is Japan - I still find it hard to believe that the war is overThe way I had felt, it would never end - just one of those things that go on forever and ever. To tell you the truth, I was more surprised when the Japanese called it quits than when they first started the war. And there we were entering Tokyo Bay without a gun manned.

The invasion was originally planned for the fifteenth of August and we were to have been in it. Bwcause of bad weather it had been set back a month. If ever I had expected to see Japan it would have been under battle conditions. I repeat that I still find it incredible to belive, and I can hardly believe that I was fortunate enough to go through this without seeing more action. Before seeing it through to a conclusion I had expected to go through all kinds of hell.

How here we are in Japan which probably constitures the most important thing that ever happened to me.

As we entered the outer bay, a small junk came flying by on the wind - probably fishermen. A little later we saw a squad of of American destroyers laying out to sea and they were followed by a British battlewagon and destroyer.