61: A Good Leader.

5 April

Dear Girls,

Thank you so much for the pictures–they aren’t the best in the world as pictures go, but there are a couple I like very much. The one of you Mother on the park bench is especially good, though it does betray your age–though I must say you look very well for 32![1] Really, Mother you were looking very pretty–I like that hat–I hope that both of you have gotten a few gay colorful numbers to wear for Easter.

These are pretty poor of course, but the only ones I have now. They were taken on the ship on the way back, and we weren’t feeling very chipper. One good one though of Major (now Lt. Col.) Schultz, our new Bn. Commander. He was Col. Dyess’ executive officer, and as good a man as Dyess was, “The Dutchman” is much better–the best CO we’ve had yet. It’s hard to tell just what goes to make up a good commanding officer–thoughtfulness for his men, sense of humor, intelligence, willingness to work & fight the higher ups for breaks for his Bn–he’s got them all, though.[2]

Combinations of battalion officers aboard the SS Robin Wentley, February 1944.

Big Red Dyess was a good leader, especially in battle–he was fearless almost to the point of foolishness–he did not have to be up front, but personally led the attack–I saw him killed just as he was standing on a little knoll, waving his men on to the final attack. But he was harsh at times, and forgetful of the small troubles of the men.[3]

tojomascot

Have I told you about our mascot–Company A’s–a Jap bulldog that we found on the island when we got there–he’s a perfect Marine mascot, English bull, and very friendly–loves to go on hikes and will tug & growl all day if you hold on to the other end of a rope–carries a rope around with him in his mouth so that you’ll play with him. He’s battle-wise too, naturally, and as soon as he hears firing he calmly crawls into a hole or under something. His name must have been something Japanese that sounded like “Mike,” because that’s what he answers to. Loves to ride in the company jeep. The company carpenter has built a super doghouse that he has taken to. Since he’d seen action he was made a PFC, but was broken because he was AWOL for two days, and when brought up before the Captain he made a God-awful smell.[4]

"Tojo" originally belonged to a Japanese soldier on Roi-Namur. After the battle, one of the company's animal lovers (or souvenir hunters) rescued him and smuggled him back to Camp Maui.“Tojo” outside the Captain’s tent.

Remember how Blackie used to panic over guests at Minturn?

I want very much to read “Good Night Sweet Prince”–a few new good books like that would be the only thing I’d need from home. Though if you could find a .45 caliber automatic or revolver pistol I would like one very much. Not a “.45 special” –a “.45 regular.” If you had to buy it, it might cost as much as $50 if in good condition, but it would be worth it. And I could always sell it for more than that out here. I don’t know where you could get one, but keep your eyes open. We don’t get them issued, but they are mighty handy for the close-in jungle fighting that we will be doing next time–not, I promise you, for several months though.[5]

Love
Phil

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FOOTNOTES:
[1] A little joke from Phil.
[2] Maynard Conrad Schultz served as battalion commander until 16 June 1944, when he was killed in action on Saipan.
[3] Phil and Dyess did not have compatible command styles. The late commander gave Phil a lackluster fitness report, and while he noted he would be “glad to have” Phil in his outfit, he did not “particularly desire to have him.” There is also an interesting indication that Phil was after a regular commission–despite writing home that he had no plans of making the Corps a career. Dyess rejected the application.
[4] The little bulldog was eventually (perhaps inevitably) renamed “Tojo,” and was the darling of the enlisted men. Unfortunately, when higher authorities caught wind of him, Tojo was sentenced to quarantine, and his fate after the spring of 1944 is not known.
[5] The irony of the situation–a Marine officer asking his mother in New York City to find him a firearm–seems odd, but was not terribly uncommon. Pistols were highly desirable in the Pacific, especially after the M1 carbine became the standard issue, and Marines went to great lengths to acquire them. For example, George Smith received a .45 from his girlfriend’s father, a Great War veteran, and kept the weapon hidden until the day he landed on Saipan.

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