36: A Series Of Headaches.

Camp Pendleton, Cal.
November 2, 1943

Dear girls,

This last week was again a pretty tough one. Amphibious operations, three two-day problems, each of them starting with a landing–and while the days are still pretty warm here, take-off-your-shirt warmth, the nights are getting damned chilly, especially for sleeping on the beach under one blanket.[1] So cold that I went on patrol all night rather than hit the sack.

Several days ago we had at least two days of rain, and immediately the hills started to get green again. A couple more rains and this country will again look like the paradise it was when we first came–lush green fields, velvety hills dusted with acres of nodding wildflowers.

I’ve been having a series of headaches with my platoon all of a sudden. I had a wonderful record so far as they were concerned–ever since I first got them, not a man AOL or AWOL, and in almost a year only one man had to come up before the Captain for reprimand; almost a perfect score, which was amazing. But about a week ago, one of my steadiest and most dependable men–Gosiewski, the man who waited on table, Mother, at the Officer’s Mess, decided to go on liberty for the first time in three months–got blind drunk, got picked up for disorderly conduct, resisted arrest and knocked down an MP–and he got off comparatively lightly.[2]

Then my very best NCO, my pride and joy–Corporal Svoboda, section leader of the mortars, got all fouled up in his personal life–his girl married somebody else, so he went AWOL back to Utah for four days to tell her what he thought of her, and had to be broken–now a PFC, and as such I have had to put him back in a squad, under the men he was commanding–a bad situation.[3]

Then one of my squad leaders, a new man in the platoon, just back from overseas, refused to jump from the 33 foot tower in the swimming course, then in the rubber boat training, trying to launch a rubber boat against a very heavy surf, seeing a big wave coming he jumped out of the boat, deserted his squad, swam in and walked up to the Captain and told him that he “just couldn’t take it.” I don’t know when I’ve been so furious–I immediately relieved him of his squad, and am sending him out of the company as soon as possible.[4]

And to top it off, my new second in command, Platoon Sergeant Loff [sic] and I don’t hit it off–he babies himself and bullies the men–if he hasn’t got blisters on his feet then his legs ache, and if his legs don’t ache it’s his stomach. I don’t like him, and neither do the men, yet he’s smart enough not to make any open mistake.[5]

And there won’t be enough furloughs to go around to let all the men get home again before we shove off–one squad leader has an incurable Samoan disease, a section leader is having his tonsils out, one man has chronic appendicitis, and another has bad flat feet and can’t march, another has a trick knee that was ruined on maneuvers, and another has painful shin splints.[6]

And all this has caused wholesale re-juggling of the squads, which is also bad.

I just didn’t realize how lucky I had been for a year. I just wish all this had happened long ago instead of at the last minute.

Oh well, with all of this, I’ve still got a swell bunch of boys, who I know will be a credit to me when the chips are down.

Wrote to Weyer a while ago.[7] Have been dating some Navy nurses, ensigns if you please, here at the Santa Margarita Hospital.[8] Got a letter from Ed Keyes the other day, and he is very happy–landed in the First Marine Raider Battalion, which just got back from Rendova, and will surely go out again very soon.[9]

Spent a very pleasant day yesterday, which we had off, back up in the hills, hunting with another lieutenant and a jeep–strange to say we were successful, we got a deer–successful in a way, that is, for while the chase was very exciting and all that, both of us were overcome with pity when we found out what we had killed–worse yet it was a very pretty little doe–neither of us had any desire to eat it, so we rather sadly buried it. And I’m quite sure that I will never go deer hunting again. It’s got to be something that can fight back, like a great big ferocious grizzly bear–that is, if anything at all. Didn’t exactly feel like great big rugged Marines when we were through, either.

Write soon. Keep writing all the time.

Love,
Phil

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FOOTNOTES:
[1] Amphibious exercises were held at Aliso Beach in Laguna, where 1/24 was designated as the regiment’s “Rubber Boat Battalion.” The intensive training, a holdover from the original Separate Battalion concept of studying Raider tactics, was unpopular and dangerous; “fortunately we never used the boats in combat, we would have been slaughtered” said one of Phil’s men.
[2] For “being under the influence of intoxicants, using profane and obscene language and striking an MP in Oceanside, CA” PFC Frank B. Goseiwski was restricted to base for 30 days.
[3] Cpl. John R. Svoboda is listed as AWOL from 21-26 October, 1943.
[4] The identity of this NCO, and whether Phil succeeded in having him transferred, is not known.
[5] Jay E. Lohff had quite the pedigree: China service, former drill instructor, and recently transferred from the 4th Tank Battalion. As a general rule, “old salt” Marines like Lohff and John Yaniga did not mesh well with the men of Phil’s rather high-spirited platoon. Lohff held on to this position until after the battle of Namur; he was then promoted to gunnery sergeant and assigned to the 81mm mortars.
[6] “Incurable Samoan disease” – Corporal Arthur B. “MuMu” Ervin, transferred from the Third Raider Battalion for filariasis. “Tonsils out” – Sergeant Frank A. Tucker, in Santa Margarita Naval Hospital October 27-31. “Bad flat feet” – PFC George L. “Flatfoot” Hall. Phil’s opinions on Ervin and Tucker will do a complete 180 after their first experience in combat.
[7] Unknown, possibly a friend from school.
[8] This was a convenient setup: US Naval Hospital Santa Margarita was on the grounds of the Fourth Division’s training camp. Currently Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton.
[9] Lieutenant Keyes’ Raider battalion was eventually formed into the new 4th Marine Regiment. He fought as a platoon leader in the battles of Guam and Okinawa, where he was wounded in action.

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