55: The Ripe Old Age Of 23.

Rest Camp in the Pacific
March 16, 1944

Dear girls,

Experience? Yes Gretch, you’re right. I’ve had a lot now at the ripe old age of 23. More than most, and built on a foundation of a solid and happy childhood. I like it–if there’s anything I can’t tolerate, it is intolerance–and nothing gives wisdom and broadmindedness as readily as does Experience. I’d like someday to be in a position to advise people–be an old sage because I had done and seen it all myself. I don’t know, though, nobody ever takes the advice of others–anyway, that’s what I’d like to feel able to do when I finally do settle down. Be able to help other people, if they want it. Remember when I used to be the family Conservative, Mother–maybe I still am in some ways, but I’ve gotten so that I welcome a change–in place and in experience–new things. And somehow I’ve gotten around to where the thought of just going out on my own hook, and looking for any kind of job without the security of special training doesn’t worry me at all as it did when I left college. In other words, though I think (know) that I would do well in law, and would like it if I got in the right branch, it doesn’t loom up as the only thing that I could do. I have enough confidence now in my own ability to think that I should have no trouble in making a go of it in any one of a lot of fields. And two more years of law school, still preparing to live, before I make my own way doesn’t sound attractive at all. I figure that I’ll be at least 25 before I get out of this–I don’t see how the war can end and I get mustered out in less than a year and a half or two. I’d be 27 by the time I started. That’s not good. But I’m not worrying about it. As I said, I’m confident about it all. And it will work out, as you always say, Mother.

Thanks for the letter from Eleanor–quite nice of her, I thought.[1] You know sometimes your letters get to me in as little as six days! Others take two weeks–10 days seems about normal.

Another of Aunt Kit’s swell letters, and one from Rusty–that I can’t quite figure out. She seems to have changed somehow. I still want to see her again before it’s settled.

We missed our liberty, because we failed to pass Colonel Hart’s inspection.[2] Things are very G.I. around here–I expected a relaxation on that stuff on the theory that all hands are tired, to some extent at least. But hell no–it’s worse than it ever was. And it’s the petty stuff that I can’t stand. The one thing that makes it positive that I won’t stay in the Corps in peacetime.

That is pretty harsh punishment–it makes it 19 days with no liberty–not that 9 AM to 10 PM is much liberty time anyway, but the boys cry for all they can get, naturally.

One of my corporals and another man have the perfect setup–what I want to find. He struck up with a native, and was invited to his house–very clean and nice. The old boy has three daughters, two of them very pretty, and they organized a barbequed pig picnic for the two Marines. The girls played and sang and did the native dances–long flowing black hair and decked in flowers – the old man insisted that they come again next liberty, piled them with fruit to take back to camp. They’re the two most envied men in the company, naturally. Sounds like Nordhoff and Hall, doesn’t it?[3]

This won’t effect [sic] my Captaincy at all, mother–in fact, that reorganization that I told you about calls for fewer Captains in the Corps. I won’t make it for many months now. Hope for it, thought, because it might mean a trip back Stateside to train new men–that’s what they used to do, anyway. I would like very much for that to happen shortly after our next operation.

 

Love,
Phil

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FOOTNOTES:
[1] Phil means Eleanor Roosevelt. One of the casualties he alludes to in previous letters was young Stephen Hopkins. Phil wrote a condolence letter to the Hopkins family–care of the White House–and the First Lady sent a note to the Woods, expressing her gratitude to Phil.
[2] One veteran recalled that the colonel was three hours late to his own inspection, during which time the men had to stand in formation–and be showered with red dust from passing jeeps. Mistaking the source of the discoloration, Hart proceeded to tell each man off for “rust” on his weapon before canceling liberty. A “liquid lunch” was suspected, but never confirmed, and many was the bitter Marine complaining about “Old Rusty” that evening.
[3] Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall, authors of The Bounty Trilogy, who traveled to Tahiti for “research and inspiration,” then wound up marrying local women and settling there.

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