5: Difficult As The Devil.

Sunday night[1]

Dear Folks,

Gretch, dear, your letters have been a joy–always amusing and newsy–and you both still seem to be busy in one way or another, even tho I’m not there. No, I’m definitely here–as I am slowly beginning to realize. Difficult as the devil–almost as hard as believing that I’ve really been here for a week. I still am enjoying myself a heap–and we’ve done quite a bit of work so far–a lot of training and drill. I even like that, tho I’ll probably tire of that soon. Drilling in the rain all Friday, vaccinations which left me and everybody else feeling low and sore in the arms, which pretty well knocked me out yesterday, and still feel a little logey.

Incidentally, I haven’t mentioned it, but the doc failed to pass me on the physical–9 lbs. under–though he said that he didn’t think that there was much doubt but that the Company commander would give me a waiver; asked the sergeant and he agreed.[2]

This is a few minutes before taps Monday–and I just want to get this off to you, and to welcome the letters–as time goes on, I find less & less time to write­–more drill–bayonet practice today; 2 hours of drill with rifles in the broiling afternoon sun–and we just got in from detail. So far no marked or special physical weaknesses, but I am tired. One thing, tho–this lasts 10 weeks, not 3 mos.[3]

I’m so busy–we have studying to occupy every [of the] free minutes, that I don’t think there’s any point in your coming down until I get the commission. But I’ll be up in 3 wks or so.

Love,
Phil

Editor’s Notes:
Phil’s weight would cause problems intermittently throughout his service; this was be the second time his thinness would be perceived as frailty and threaten his career. Asking “the sergeant” for permission underscored the awesome authority of a topkick like Thompson, who could circumvent requirements for “the need of the Corps.” Fortunately, Phil seemed to adore the food at every one of his duty stations, as he was probably under instructions to fill his plate often.

Of course, a long session with a bayonet in the July sun was a quick way to burn the extra pounds right back off. “Bayonet work is somewhat sickening for the gentler souls who are taught to bash in a man’s head with various thrusts, to jam a bayonet into the throat and to counter and parry an opponent’s weapon,” proclaims the 12th Reserve Officers’ Class yearbook. “Then comes hours of running the course against straw dummies lined up for the various types of thrusts and strokes. The ‘Spirit of the Bayonet’ becomes a live thing as men growl at the inoffensive dummies and cut to ribbons the gunny sack soldiers. At the end of the allotted time men are qualified to drill future enlisted Marines and to understand the importance of hand to hand fighting when it is either you or the other fellow.”

PFC Phil has just accounted for a full squad of “inoffensive dummies and… gunny sack soldiers.”

The candidates were being rushed through a simulacrum of boot camp; they had no prior military experience and, as the quote above explains, were not only learning for themselves but for future students. By August 1942, this system was deemed unsatisfactory; the training schedule was later modified to include recruit training for all candidates, and the length of time spent in OCC and ROC were adjusted accordingly.

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FOOTNOTES
[1]
 Letter undated, but probably from July 26-27, one week after arrival at Quantico.
[2] The six-foot-three Phil Wood tipped the scales at 138.5 pounds. This, plus his narrow chest, nearly kept him from the service–until a waiver for “23.5 pounds under standard weight” could be obtained.
[3] Training was accelerated to speed more men through the system.

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