13: Dungarees And Boots.

Sunday night
(December 13, 1942)[1]

Dear girls,

Well, I’m all set–in our hut here, that is, but we don’t start work until tomorrow. There has been so much wild scuttle butt [sic] that you don’t really know what to believe, but from all soundings I’ve been realizing the setup sounds very much as I thought it would be. We have a bunch of rookies, I think, tho I haven’t seen them yet.[2] And we will probably stay here at least two months training them. In fact, I am giving a series of lectures on chemical warfare–about which I know very little, yet.

The place is cold as the devil, and expensive eating, and way out in the middle of pine & Spanish moss swamps; but they all seem to like it pretty well–especially for its informality. Wear dungarees and boots all the time.[3]

Sabini is shipping out tomorrow.[4] R. I. Wood is, strangely enough, in charge of the platoon next to mine. And I really thought I was rid of him this time![5]

Shattuck bunks next to me, but will soon be with his wife–four others of us in here, none of whom I new [sic] very well before, but they seem like good guys.[6]

My train ticket down cost me $6.08! How, I don’t know–but I didn’t get in here until eight last night, what with late trains, standing four hours for the bus and all–late.

Love
Phil

Editor’s Notes:

NewRiverOrders

The Marines chosen for New River completed their classwork at ROC on 2 December, 1942, and were granted ten days to get to their new post. On 12 December, after being welcomed aboard their new post, they received their assignments. With few exceptions, they would all become infantry platoon leaders. A handful joined the administrative staff of the newly-forming Camp Lejeune; a smaller handful still were quickly sent off as replacements to units already in the Pacific. About half reported to the camp of the 23rd Marines, to help train and build the Corps’ newest regiment. And the remainder hauled their seabags to a curiously named unit: the First Separate Battalion (Reinforced).

The camp of the First Separate Battalion (Reinforced) at New River, North Carolina.
The camp of the First Separate Battalion (Reinforced) at New River, North Carolina. Photo from the collection of John Waytow, HQ/1st Separate Battalion (Reinforced)

The battalion (which the officers quickly abbreviated to “First Sep”) was a new concept in Marine infantry training. Based on the Raider model unit, which was then being tested on Guadalcanal, the Separate Battalions (Reinforced) were envisioned as a commando-style battalion, capable of making fast landings and securing beachheads without the impedimenta of a full-scale amphibious assault. The (Reinforced) referred to the pack howitzer batteries integrated into each infantry battalion. Training for the officers and men of these units was correspondingly grueling. As a concept, the Separate Battalions (Reinforced) made sense, but as Corps doctrine moved away from the Raider mentality, the special units became redundant. Eventually, despite their specialized training, the battalions would fight as line infantry.

That was all in the future for Lieutenants Carbeau, Eddy, Fox, Johnson, Keyes, Kretowicz, Lincoln, Noonan, Nugent, Osgood, Rutledge, Shattuck, Shaw, Small, Stiles, Stott, Sullivan, Swoyer, Wood, and Wood.

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The lieutenants were further split into companies. Ed Keyes, Endecott Osgood, Chase Small, Phil Wood and Roy Wood reported to a strapping second lieutenant who introduced himself as Harry Reynolds, acting commander of Company A. “Big Harry” appointed Small as his temporary executive officer; Osgood, Keyes and Roy Wood were placed in charge of the three rifle platoons. Phil Wood’s assignment was slightly different: he would lead the company weapons platoon, of machine guns and mortars.

New officers at New River. This may be the Company A contingent. Roy and Phil Wood are standing second and third from left.
New officers at New River. This may be the Company A contingent. Roy and Phil Wood are standing second and third from left.

That night, Phil Wood, Keyes, Johnson and Shattuck threw down their belongings and staked out their racks in a pasteboard hut. The next day, they would meet their Marines.

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_____

FOOTNOTES
[1] Recorded by GWW as New River, NC. December, 1942. Phil was attached to Company A, First Separate Battalion effective Saturday, 12 December, 1942.
[2] Phil is referring to the enlisted men of the battalion; his estimation is correct.
[3] Marine Barracks New River, NC–soon to be re-named Camp Lejeune–was established as a training facility for the First Marine Division in April, 1941. As indicated, the camp was still quite primitive in December, 1942–although this was partially by design.
[4] Sabini was bound for the Raiders; Phil would not see him again. He later received the Navy Cross for service with Company F, Second Raider Regiment (Provisional) on Bougainville in November, 1943.
[5] Roy I. Wood (no relation) was a classmate from Quantico assigned to the Third Platoon; Phil’s platoon (weapons) was sometimes referred to as “Fourth Platoon.” Despite Phil’s initial reaction to this development, the Lieutenants Wood eventually became friends.
[6] Howard Francis “Fran” Shattuck was another Quantico classmate; the other roommates included Edwin J. Keyes and Theodore “Ted” Johnson.

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