80: Tell My Mother And Sister.

Thursday August 10, 1944

Sweetheart,[1]

This is just a short note. So much has happened in the last few days that I shall have to take off more time to write and tell you about it.

We came ashore Monday the 7th. Sunday the day before I received a letter from you mentioning Phil’s death. From it, I gathered that you had written me an earlier letter about it which I had not received. That was the case and the earlier letter was received yesterday. In that letter you suggested that I try to contact Phil’s unit and get any word I could about him. When I received your letter on Sunday, I decided to do just that, and although we were aboard ship I made arrangements to come ashore early Monday morning to get what information I could. I knew the Marines would be changing location and was anxious to contact the unit beforehand.

I got ashore early Monday morning and started up from the dock inquiring of any Marines I saw where I might find Phil’s unit. At first I had no luck, but after I had gone about a block a Marine finally said, “There are some men from the 24th over there sitting by the side of the road. Maybe if you talk to their officer he could give you some information.” I introduced myself to him, and he said his name was Wood– 1Lt. Roy Wood. I said I had come to inquire about a Lt. Philip Wood in the 24th whom I understood had been killed in action. He looked at me a moment without saying anything. I went on, “Phil’s mother and my wife are sisters. I thought that if there was any word about Phil that I could pass on to his mother, she would appreciate it.” (I also thought to myself that although Phil’s buddies might intend to write Margaretta, in the press of other thing they might overlook it or forget details which might still be fresh in their minds. I also thought, maybe they’d never have a chance to write. Things have been moving fast.)

After a pause that seemed ages Roy Wood said to me–“Phil was my best friend. He and I went to boot camp together, bunked together and were together continually until he was killed.” Roy said, “Phil was too brave for his own good.” Roy had command of a rifle platoon and it was his job to go forward in the first line of attack. If he needed mortar support he would notify Phil’s mortar section and they would drop shells in the area designated. Although it was not necessary for Phil to go forward with Roy, he always did so in order that he could pass back to his unit the correct direction to fire. Since the job was dangerous, Phil felt that he should do it himself rather than pass it on to an enlisted man, as he might well have done. And Roy said, “Naturally I was glad to have him along for company. He was always cheerful and cool-headed.”

“One time on Saipan a heavy artillery shell fell a few yards away from us and the concussion knocked Phil into a hole and me on top of him. As son as we knew what had happened we felt ourselves all over to find out whether we had been hit. When we found that we had nothing more than a few bruises, Phil jumped up with a laugh with some comment about a miss being as good as a mile and we continued on. That’s the way he was.”

When Phil was killed he was leading a detail of eight men into a cave to flush out some Japs. There were civilians in there so they were withholding their fire to let them come out. It was a dangerous job because the Marines knew that the Jap soldiers used civilians as hostages and fired from behind them. As Phil advanced into a little declivity a Jap sniper on the hill above hit him–in the side just above his right hip–went thru his stomach. He fell and his sargent–Irvin [sic]–went in to get him. He was killed too. Seven in the party were killed and the eighth, a corpsman, got out with a shot thru the shoulder. Phil has been recommended for the Silver Star, Sargent Irvin for the Navy Cross.[2] Roy Wood said under any other circumstances Phil would have gotten the Navy Cross, but there were so many acts of heroism among the Marines on the island that the Navy Cross was given only in the most exceptional cases. As far as Phil was concerned he would have preferred that one of his men get the award rather than himself anyway.

He told me about Rusty. He said that Phil was not married, despite the notice of his death in the NY Times stating so.[3] He had a worn and sweaty copy of the clipping in his wallet. He said he was to have been best man at Phil’s wedding.[4] He had gone up to LA (I think it was–although on second thought it may have been elsewhere) to make plans for the wedding. Everything was set, but Phil was delayed in getting from camp to LA on the day he was to have met Rusty. Transportation facilities were poor. He was five hours late and when he got to the station Rusty and her father had come and gone. Phil got a telegram from Rusty stating she had returned home and also a letter implying that her father had frowned on the marriage.

He said Phil seemed to snap out of it in time, although he never had another steady girl. He was happy and buoyant and outwardly did not show his disappointment.

I went up to the camp where Phil’s Company was stationed. They were preparing to move out. I spoke with Captain Irving Schechter of Smithtown NY, a young lawyer, who was the Company Commander. He was very fond of Phil and gave me a picture of him which I shall send to Margaretta. I also spoke to Lt. Fred Stott (who said he was going to write Margaretta on his way back on the ship) also Sgt. Plitt. Capt. Harry Reynolds (the other in the picture–the girl in the middle is Harry’s friend) exec. officer of the outfit and now hospitalized as a result of wounds had a nervous breakdown when he heard of Phil’s death. He looks like a husky six-footer–the shock must have been severe.

I also spoke with the Sgt. who enjoyed talking with Margaretta when she visited Phil in Calif. They were all very fond of Phil and I know they spoke from the heart when they said they missed him.

Coming back from camp I was riding in a truck which picked up some Marines along the road. They happened to be from the 24th, knew Phil and said all his men were very fond of him. “He was a swell guy.”

He performed his job well and bravely. He was loved by his superiors and subordinates. He was a man’s man. What more can a fellow accomplish in his life whether he lives 23 years or 73 years?

His family can be proud of him. His last words–“Tell my mother and sister.”

I shall.

Returning to the dock I found my own outfit had left the ship to come ashore. Here we are. More later-good night.

Your loving Sweetie
And of course a big hug & kiss to Sweet Doodle & Dear Jim and your lovely self.[5]

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FOOTNOTES
[1] This letter, addressed to “Sweetheart” from “Sweetie,” is probably from Lieutenant James Hazen Hardy Jr., USN to his wife Isabel (Rapp) Hardy. James and Isabel were Phil’s uncle and aunt. At the time, Lieutenant Hardy was assigned to the Pacific Fleet Radar Center in Hawaii.
[2] While Phil was indeed recommended for the Silver Star, Sergeant Ervin received no decoration for his actions on the date of his death. He received the Navy Cross for the battle of Namur, and would receive a posthumous Bronze Star for a different event on Saipan. Lieutenant Hardy has probably conflated the two in recounting Roy’s story.
[3] It is interesting that the Hardys were unaware of the Rusty saga.
[4] In his initial letter describing wedding plans, Phil named Lt. Endecott “Oz” Osgood as his best man.
[5] Presumably the Hardy children, Judith (age 9) and James III (age 13).

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