57: Absolutely Cold Blooded.

30 March

Dearest Aunt Kit,

You all have been simply wonderful to me–letters are the focal point of every day out here, and yours are always an event–letters that capture your spirit and tell of home and the people and places that I love–my second family–and the pictures–bless your heart for the pictures–I have made them into a little album that always sits on my desk.

Yes I have a desk–we’re really very comfortably set up here. Tents to be sure, but they have concrete floors and lights. And we have our Officer’s Wine Mess, and good chow and open air movies every night. In fact it feels like heaven when we get in from our regular bi-weekly two-day maneuvers. It seems to rain, with painful regularity, every time we go out, so that we have to sleep in a couple of inches of water. That is really a hell of a feeling–I know of no way to be quite so acutely uncomfortable–field work, long hikes, inspections and guard duty fill up our days so regularly that we’ve been here almost a month and a half.

In a lot of ways I resent the swift passage of time in the service. It seems like time wasted, when I could be getting on with the business of living. I’ve gotten a lot out of these two years–experience, training in self-discipline, learning to tell others to do things and automatically expect it to be done. It’s all good, I’m glad I was forced to do it, but I don’t see how the next two years can be as productive.

It will be two years too, Aunt Kit. No use kidding ourselves. The Central Pacific looks good now, but there the emphasis is on sea & air–when the war gets back on solid land instead of coral it will move very slowly again. They’re dogged little devils–they will not give up, no matter what the odds–nothing could have been more hopeless than their last hours on Namur, but they still fought very well, groggy as they must have been after that bombardment. They organized two strong counterattacks that night, which is hard to do under the very best conditions–one of them charged out of a pillbox we were storming, armed only with long pikes which they use for bayonet practice. Their weapons had apparently been destroyed by the bombing.

We found some evidence of hari-kari and a few tried to surrender–unsuccessfully, but on the whole they fought to the last, trying to attack whenever they could. It will be an incredibly long and hard job to root them out of every hole between here and Tokyo, even if we do get complete air & sea mastery.

Funny about the surrendering business. They seldom try it because they’re afraid they will be tortured by us–and we’re fearful of their tricks and don’t like to take chances. So we don’t take any–our Battalion didn’t take a one, though at least fifty offered themselves.[1]

These boys aren’t bloodthirsty–just absolutely cold blooded. Surprising, for they are all so young–much younger than the Army. I imagine it’s simply because they don’t want to take unnecessary chances.

This is truly a beautiful spot, Aunty K–if you and Uncle Ham ever decide to do any extended traveling, you must come here–the earth is fabulously rich–these tropical plants grow strong and thick, the jungles are friendly and cool and dripping with enormous sprays of snow white orchids, bamboo forests, breadfruit, mangoes, banyan, guava, banana–all producing all year round and thickly tangled up & down these hills, fed by innumerable cold little streams.

Our tent sits under a tremendous shapely tree that is now bearing a cloud of huge flame-colored blossoms with waxy petals and a scent as heavy as that of the gardenia–the sea lies below us–several miles away but it looks as though it’s right at our feet–and we can see two glorious mountain ranges at our backs–a light purple, flecked with the shadows of clouds.

You would all love it here.

Your Phil


[1] Phil may or may not be exaggerating for Aunt Kit here. Only about fifty of the 4000+ man Japanese garrison survived to be taken prisoner, and it is not known if any of these were taken by 1/24.

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