17: The Glories Of The Marine Corps.

Sunday morning[1]

Dear Girls,

This is my second try at a letter in the last week for you all–the first was started then lost in the shambles of that hut at New River.[2] I feel like a damn dog for not having at least sent you a note saying that I’m alright, my men haven’t shot me in the back yet or something–but really, you have no idea how busy I have been these last two weeks. I’m now Battalion Legal Officer, and that means a devil of a lot of extra work. I run all the courts martial, and we have an average of three a week–acting as both att’y for the defense & prosecution–have to draw up the charges, prepare the case, see the witnesses & accused, run the trial itself and see that the record is made out correctly–which is a long technical thing. It’s good experience and all that, but I really have plenty to do to train my own boys. The special training necessary to produce a weapons platoon–there is a lot of it, with night classes and a lot of conditioning hikes, obstacle courses, double time for miles, etc. And the hell of it is that I have, just have to do everything that the men do, only do it quicker & better. I have to get there first in the double time, and somehow always do–simply because there is no alternative. If I weren’t harder & tougher than all of them, then I wouldn’t be their leader. I don’t know how I go over those obstacles–do things I would have sworn I could never do–it’s really a surprising psychological phenomena. And if I don’t know everything about my weapons–if I didn’t, then they would have no respect for me–and they can ask some of the most abstruse questions! I have to be as omniscient as a seeing-eye dog and as strong as Bull Durham. It’s taxing, but it keeps you on your toes every minute, and keeps the whole thing very interesting as you can imagine. I like the boys. They’re good kids, very willing to work and to learn, in fact they’re only unhappy if you don’t give them enough to do. I’m enjoying this a lot more than I ever thought I would–and here at last I am beginning to realize what they mean when they talk about the glories of the Marine Corps. Quantico wasn’t it by a long sight. And I think that in time I’ll be a good platoon leader. My men like me, and we’ve worked out an excellent working relationship. I joke with them quite a bit, but am very strict on those who get out of line, with dirty rifles, etc.

George Smith sneaks up on Luther Diehl while Jeff Jowers looks on. New River, 1942.
Weapons Platoon hijinks: George Smith sneaks up on Luther Diehl while Jeff Jowers looks on. New River, 1942.

But this guard duty–we are the only organized outfit left in Tent City, so the 1st Sep. has all the guard–our company getting it once every four days.[3] It’s a lousy and very unpopular job–a hell of a lot of responsibility, with nothing back–it cuts into our training schedule very heavily of course. The last time I had it a new and much stricter Colonel took over charge of the post, that day. And came over and found the whole guard system in a hell of a state of disrepair. We all new [sic] that it was bad, but no one wanted to start to fix it up on his own­–so naturally I caught hell. I have never run around seeing so many Colonels & Majors in my life–missing property, everything out of order, rewriting all the instructions, and yards of red tape–of course they didn’t blame me personally, but I happened to be the one who did all the work– I was simply exhausted by the time that tour was over. Good experience–good experience.

On guard. It got cold, even in North Carolina! New River, 1942.
Pulling guard duty at New River. February, 1943.

I’m over at Hadnot this morning–we have rooms assigned to us–the most luxurious quarters you ever saw.[4] I don’t think the Battalion is ever coming over here, but a lot of the officers have moved over anyway. I haven’t because it’s 15 miles away, and I have to be on tap most of the time for night classes & legal work, but I am going to come out here Saturday afts. & Sundays–really no pleasure resort could touch it–we’re right on a bay–it’s 25 yards from this window–yacht club, officers can take sailboats out any time–individual rooms & bath–Beautyrest mattresses, desk, easy chair, brand new and tastefully furnished, lounges & libraries in each barracks, and a fancy ladies powder room in each barracks! And the Officer’s Club across the street has a beautiful bar, all sorts of fancy lounges, and a superb restaurant. I have never seen better food–and plenty of all the wartime shortages–wonderfully cooked–and the only charge will be the cost of the food–the rooms & all are free. And the food will only cost a couple of dollars a weekend–it makes a swell vacation at almost no cost in a very pretty spot–and it is very warm down here, seldom gets below freezing; tho it is cold about half the time, the rest is like a warm day in April–shirtsleeves in the sun. Usually gets quite raw & cold at night tho.

Oh, one thing I’d like, can’t get down here is some haliver oil pills.[5] Get quite a few of them, 60 or so, with added vitamins. I had that one bad siege, and another lighter cold–this weather is very tricky.


Time for chow–but I wanted to tell you all about everything down here–oh did I tell you that we won’t move out until at least March 1, and it was hinted by the Major, a good while after that? March would be just about right for me, but I know what you’re thinking.
Lotsa love,


Mother–your letters have been swell.


Date unknown, presumably sometime in February 1943.
[2] Officers of the 1st Separate Battalion competed to maintain the messiest hut, a game at which Phil excelled. He has recently relocated to new lodgings at Paradise Point.
[4] Hadnot Point was the site of the base headquarters and officer’s housing.
[5] Vitamins made from halibut liver.

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