March 25, 1945

Sunday

On Palawan Island in the Philippines, Wayne writes of the events of the preceding days and his move from Morotai in the Netherlands East Indies to Palawan in the Philippines:

March 25, 1945

Nothing all this livelong day but rain and mud and more mud than ever. It was a dreary day spent in preparation for the forthcoming move. Packed all my baggage (my B4 and barracks bag). We loaded up the baggage and headquarters equipment in the wee small hours in preparation for a six a.m. trip. We were caught in a vicious rainstorm while returning to our area, and so arrived pretty darn wet. It was good to get in bed at last, believe me. The old bones were pretty tired today to say the least. We were awakened at four, had chow and left for the planes. Traveling clear to Wama strip1, we were very thankful to get aboard the plane. Soon, we completed our takeoff and set a northward course. In half an hour of terrifically bumpy weather, we returned to Morotai. Very glad to postpone takeoff in spite of the mud and disagreeable ground positions.

After returning to our area, we immediately hit the sack in an all-out effort to make up for lost sleep. We skipped lunch, partaking instead a K rations, the overseas GI’s “pause that refreshes”. More sack time, suppertime and a bull season concerning the book Forever Amber2 which one of the boys had. So on into the evening.

Nine o’clock came; and with it a Jap air raid. Honestly, my hair is still standing on edge. We were sitting peacefully on our cots when the 90s3 went off, thus announcing the enemy. We snuffed our candles immediately and walked out into the night to see what cooked. A searchlight beamed into the cloudy sky and merely reflected back to earth. About that time, we caught the first drone of engines. Tex and I went back inside the tent and lay as flat as we thought possible on the mud and sawdust floor. All of a sudden we heard the thweat, thweat, thweat, thweat of the bombs. Russell, his first air raid fascinated him, had remained outside until the sound of the bombs filled the air. When the rains came, so to speak, he made one headlong dive into the tent as a string of four landed nearby, bursting like the crack of doom.

After each detonated, our ears were more acutely alert for the sound of the next bomb, and our fingers clawed for the earth trying to get deeper than we were, which was really ground hugging. The three of us, shook so much it seemed that the inside that tent was alive. Small wonder we hugged tightly until certain no more bombs were falling. Then we crept out of the tent looking all about us, expecting half the place to be blown up. It wasn’t but three hundred yards away was a large fire which seemed to light up the entire area. One look, a snap thought as to what a strafing attack might do to us and with one accord, we ran for cover slopping through the mud and stomping our way clear to a huge pile of logs, a hundred yards away from our home. On the way we passed a couple of fox holes filled with water and men! We threw ourselves into the thicket and waited.

As a result of our nervous contact, the loose branches about us shook. So we didn’t notice the snake lying across the branches above us. When we did, I crawled out of there but fast, saying “To hell with the snake, I’ll take the Japs.” Tex and Russ, however, merely turned over and lay there with eyes on the snake saying, “To hell with the Japs, we’ll take the snake!” Half an hour of terrific suspense passed eerily until all clear sounded. Then we returned to our tent and went to bed.

All night long, the stories brewed until there were a couple of humorous one’s in the air: One fellow ran for cover and lost his shoes in the sea of mud. One boy stuck his head in a barracks bag like an ostrich. Another one was talking to an officer, heard the A.A. and dove for the ground even before the bombers came in range. The old boys got down on the ground as close as man to wife, shuddered and waited. In the morning, the one who put his head in the bag said to the diver, “Did you see those old guys hit the ground and shake?” The diver replied “Well I sure did. Maybe when we have as many missions as they have, we’ll be nervous too. It isn’t something, I’ll put up with you!”

In the a.m., we reported again to Wama strip for departure. We were three minutes late, just in time to watch our C-47 pull off the strip. Like a blue streak, we returned to the old area, where we ate several cartons of K rations and took sort of a siesta. In the afternoon Russ, William Pever of Pennsylvania and Benne and myself dug a slit trench down the middle of our tent. Tex watched us and jeered, “What’s the use of that, they won’t return tonight.” We just kept quiet and continued to dig. That night the alert sounded, and we made for the foxhole. There we found Tex already in, the baby. The alert was a false alarm. And, Tex was first in the hole he didn’t dig!

On the morning of the 25th we finally got off the ground and arrived at our destination. A bundle of nerves. Strain from flying is really beginning to tell on we old men!

What a beautiful place. Thousands of coconut palms and a magnificent beach, white sand and luscious looking. The beach is nice in that the water is no more than three feet deep nearly a half mile into the lagoon. Sea breezes pour in from the ocean, stirring fine particles of sand into dust, but that, after all, is better than knee deep mud. A million coconuts are also here and the palms wave refreshingly in the breeze.

Filipinos seems to be pretty scarce around here; but I’m told they’re here. Puerto Princessa, the town is demolished. The population is 35,000 souls. A penal farm is here, as well as leper colony. This place is famous in this war for the simple fact that 150 American prisoners were doused with oil and gas, herded into building in the village and put on fire by the Japanese.4 Two survived. Nice people our enemy.

The Filipino kids seem to like this area very much if I don’t say. Always get into everything, you know. I hope they don’t visit us too often.

The rumor today is good. I am grounded from flying at the present time. That can mean only one thing, I hope. I’m on orders the first of the month for transport home. Hooray! My fingers are crossed, but seeing is believing and I haven’t seen as yet.

Am on C.Q.5 as I write this tonight. Am very tired. Have written Bonnie a letter and it’s now time to sleep an hour before I wake the squadron! Amen!

Notes & Commentary

1 Wama was an airstrip on Morotai that ran parallel to Pitoe airstrip.

2 Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor. According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forever_Amber), it sold 100,000 copies its first week and eventually sold over 3,000,000 copies. The Catholic Church condemned it as being indecent and 14 states in the U.S. banned it as did Australia in 1945. It was the best selling novel published in the United States in the 1940s.

3 90 mm anti-aircraft artillery.

4 The reality was far, far worse than what is suggested by what Wayne wrote. See “Survivor: Corporal Glenn McDole and the Palawan Massacre,” Leatherneck June 2009 (http://www.marineheritage.org/Survivor.pdf : accessed 21 March 2015). See also “American Prisoners of War: Massacre at Palawan,” originally published by World War II magazine, published online, September 5, 2006. HstoryNet. (http://www.historynet.com/american-prisoners-of-war-massacre-at-palawan.htm : accessed 21 March 2015). The wholesale massacre by the Japanese of prisoners of war at Palawan led to Allied efforts throughout the Philippines to rescue Allied prisoners before even more could be murdered.

5 Charge of Quarters.

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