15. They Joined The Outfit To Fight.

Sunday morning[1]

Dear Howard,[2]

A long slow answer to your swell Christmas gift–this is a beautiful writing packet, and I’ve been using it freely on Rusty and Mother–but I wanted to wait thanking you until I had some time to tell you about what I’m doing. And time is hard to get–you have no idea how terribly busy we are, 24 hours a day, every day.

I’m getting a lot out of it, though. You see we’re handed these new boots, who have been taught nothing but discipline and close order drill, and we have to teach them how to fight. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? I thought so too when I first came down here, but that means teaching them map reading, tactics, field work, guard, functioning of the weapons–I have a weapons platoon–two machine guns and two trench mortars. For the first two months I lectured myself–and them–blue in the face. Hour after hour of it. One day I did a grand total of ten hours solid–five or six was not unusual. But now at last they know enough to try to put it in practice in the field–and we are out all day and a couple of nights a week. It’s a rugged schedule marching 15 or 20 miles a day, with all equipment, then running (and I mean running) through company and battalion problems in the heart of the most dismal damn swamps you ever saw–Spanish moss, black water and cold black mud–sitting in a foxhole at night, without moving for two hours, temperature 18° as part of training in patience–this will be a rugged outfit by the time we’re through.

I didn’t enjoy those six months in officer’s training–I didn’t know what the Corps was like until I got down here–but now I am really enjoying myself, I am surprised to say. I suppose it’s because I’m interested in what I’m doing, getting a big kick out of teaching and leading, making decisions for my boys, getting them to both like me and respect me. Which I think they do.

It’s all good training and good experience and I’m not wasting this time the way I thought I would be. Also I’m Battalion Legal Officer, run the courts martial and advise on income tax, divorces and all manner of things that I know nothing about. Naval Law is utterly different of course, but it never hurts to keep your hand in something connected to your field, and this is as close as I can get.

As to our plans–we’ll be here for another month or two, then to San Diego for several more months before we shove off–at least that’s the way things look now. The boys are very restless–they joined the outfit to fight and it doesn’t look as thought we’re going to see action this year. One consolation, though. When we do, we’ll be ready for it.

This letter has been rambling and disconnected, but it is still early in the morning and no breakfast.

My very very best to Martha and the family, and thank you again for the writing kit.

Love,
Phil

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FOOTNOTES:
[1] Date unknown, but believed to be in early February, 1943, as Phil has had his platoon for approximately two months. Possibly written the same day as the following letter to Margaretta and Gretchen.
[2] Howard Rapp, Phil’s uncle.

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