12. Love In Wartime.


Dear Girls,

Well Rusty has gone back–I may not see her again before I go. It leaves an awfully empty feeling–blank and low. Probably we will get to see each other again, but this brought it all more sharply into focus. We have of course found ourselves wondering whether it is worth it, wondering why we shouldn’t be satisfied with a little house that was peaceful and natural. The world says that we wouldn’t, but I’m not so sure. Certainly a lot of the boys would make the exchange if they knew what was in store for them.

Love in wartime is romantic in the finest sense of the word, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy or enjoyable. It makes for a blue dreaminess, sudden desires to do wild things–a restlessness thrashing against a steady longing.

The less time they give us to think or feel about things the better off we are.

I have a double room reserved for Saturday night in case the Timmis thing doesn’t work out, or probably we could stay at [Caviers] and you two stay there–but we will be able to work something out.

We’re looking forward to you all. Bring Al down if he wants to come; even if we don’t get another gal, the five of us could have a lot of fun.[2]



Editor’s Notes:
In the late summer of 1937, on a slow local train, a gangly sixteen-year Phil Wood sat beside a pixie-like redhead from Indianapolis. She was on her way to Swarthmore College for freshman week, as was he; she was as lively as he was awkward, with a quick laugh and bright red hair; real name Anne but everyone called her Rusty. Phil never stood a chance. He was utterly smitten before the train arrived at Swarthmore.

Rusty and Phil were an item for most of their time at Swarthmore, and showed every sign of being together for the long haul–a fact that concerned members of both families.

Gretchen Wood was suspicious of her big brother’s first serious belle. “He must have invited girls to the school dances, but he certainly did not have a girlfriend [in high school], unless he led a secret double life,” she wrote. “I wasn’t carried away by Rusty’s charm, but it wasn’t until 3 years later… that I began to dislike her. He was so insanely smitten, and she kind of ruled him.”

Nor was all well in the Davis camp. Anne’s mother died in childbirth, and as a result she grew up very close to her father, Paul Gray Davis. Mr. Davis was a well-known Indianapolis lawyer , and evidently worried about his daughter marrying below her station–what could the scion of an impoverished actor’s family offer his daughter? Phil’s concerns over finances seem to have been motivated, at least in part, by a desire to prove himself to Rusty’s father; perhaps his decision to attend law school shared a similar purpose.

Still, nobody actively disapproved, at least not yet. At the very least, Mr. Davis could appreciate that the pair hadn’t paid a binding visit to the Post chapel, as some of Phil’s classmates were doing.

In the next two weeks, Phil’s company finished their training. The pinnacle of fieldwork was a mock amphibious landing and assault while aircraft buzzed overhead and dropped sacks of flour, then a fighting retreat back to the shoreline. Their yearbook concluded, “The men return to the barracks and the knowledge that their ten weeks as student officers is over, and that in weeks, months, and years to come they will have an opportunity to work further “problems” where a wrong answer will bring a swift death and the correct solution will send the hellions of Hirohito to their doom and turn back the Hitlerian legions of the damned.”

Phil received this diploma at his graduation.
Phil received this diploma at his graduation.

Final class standings were posted, graduation attended and diplomas received. There was a brief respite as the administrative machine determined which man should go where. On December 10, 1942, Second Lieutenant Philip Emerson Wood, Jr. received orders for his first post.

He was headed for New River and the Fleet Marine Force.


[1] Date unknown, presumably early-mid November, 1942.
[2] Albert Tate, Jr. “Little Al” Tate was a poker buddy of Phil’s from Yale, originally from Louisiana but living in New York while attempting to enlist despite poor eyesight. Gretchen “saw a lot of him and fell in love with him” during this time.

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