February 21, 1944


I finished that letter to Bonnie yesterday and also one today. Lieutenant Bishop, who shipped from San Francisco a few days after we did, collected two letters from Bonnie for me at Hamilton Field, California. Otherwise I’d have waited a couple of weeks before receiving the letters. It was so damned good to hear from my wife. That little girl can bring me out of the dumps in no time flat. She’s so darn wonderful that it is no wonder I married her. Wish she had gotten a good a bargain as I did. There are absolutely no complaints on my part, whatever!

Bonnie mentioned the fact that she received a letter from Tommy, my brother.1 He evidently, is joining the Navy this week. Don’t think they will accept him because of the fact that his index finger was blown off by a railroad signal torpedo when he was a kid. I advised Tommy against it when I saw him in Cheyenne,2 a few days before leaving the states. Three of us, Verne, Bobby and Wayne, are enough out of one family to be in the armed services, notwithstanding the fact the Sullivan’s famous sons were in all at once: and were killed in action.3 The Sullivans are in a tough position later on when their sons could add comfort to their old age. Memories are nice; but a real live son is much better.

We finished our armament course today. We should be finished with all our classes by the first of March.4

I am mad today as well as happy. Picked up a cold and have been blub-bubbling all over Guadalcanal. It knocked me out of a trip to the beach today.

They called the show off last night and disgusted most of us. When the electric lights are not available, evenings are long and dreary. A fellow gets tired of the talk of brother G.I. soldiers when the conversation is nine-tenths sex and one-tenth occupation.

Russell and I had quite an argument over marriage today. He doesn’t know what he is missing. He’ll be well educated someday. Expect him to crawl when that time comes. He just argues to get me started to begin with.

The 90 millimeter anti-aircraft has been going off all day. The noise is terrific. They were shooting at a target dragged by and airplane. Our gunners appear to be pretty good. The guns will flash a spurt of red fire, seconds later a puff of smoke and another spurt of fire will be seen in the sky.5

There must have been one hell of a lot of ships sunk here at one time or another. Hulks are prominently displayed at the north end of the Island. Some are grounded on the beach. Others at deck level in the water. One ship that looks like a submarine has its bow stuck out of the water. Evidence of war is everywhere about. Expect to see a lot more of it before long.

Doc received a bill in the mail from a concern in the states. Said he was going to write back and tell the guy to come and get it.

Denver, Colorado is a wonderful place.6 Of all the hundreds of armament graduates of Lowry Field7 that I’ve spoken to, not one has spoken has had a derogatory word against the city.

All the men here are anxious to get to a forward combat area. Who isn’t? I want these missions in so I can get home the wife and family. All the airfields but one are knocked out at Rabaul, New Britain. We can take care of that one too, but it will always be a menace until our Infantry has taken the place. There are still some 20,000 Japs on Bougainville Island, but their airfields are all knocked out. Our policy there seems to be of one starving the enemy out.

Wonder why the Japs are building a landing strip on Duke of York Island when there is no possible way to supply it with food or aircraft?8 Maybe we’ll find out some of these days. Possibly they shipped aircraft in there before we got to them in that area. Could be! There is absolutely no way to estimate those lousy yellow sons of Hirohito.

Rabaul was at one time, a great vacation place of the New Zealanders and the Aussies.

Intend to see the show tonight. The name of it is In Old Oklahoma.9 It also looks like rain. Not conducive to a good time in our open-air theater.

There is one little dog, a terrier on this island who has 600 flying hours, believe it or not.

Staff Sergeant Stanley Seehorn, of Spokane, Washington was sitting by the orderly room sweating out a supply line. He got to rummaging around in the dirt; and dug out a lot of 30 cal. machine gun bullets, evidently used on the Japs year or so ago. Bloody business this Guadalcanal.

I have been reading the Bible rather diligently. Men get religion in an awful hurry here. Personally, my belief in God has always been solidly placed, have always wanted to read the Bible from cover to cover. Now is the time.

Wonder why they seem to be rushing us through this school. Oh well, we will find out sooner or later.

One of the boys said Beaumont was strictly Mississippi. Another retorted, “Any fool knows it is a city in Texas”.10

Wonder what’s going to become of the B-25 G & H.11 They say it’s not a bit effective. A colonel took a “G” up yesterday for test firing. He spun in and was killed.

Notes & Commentary:

1 Thomas Alva Gray (1917-1980).

2 Family members frequently met troops moving by rail when the train made scheduled stops in nearby cities. This could have been the last time Wayne and his brother were together. In order to meet him, Wayne’s brother drove 100 miles, one way, from Denver, Colorado to Cheyenne, Wyoming. With gasoline rationing in effect, this 200-mile round trip was significant. Gasoline rationing was in effect and such a trip would have required probably at least 14 gallons of gasoline. The general population was allowed 4 gallons of gasoline a week. This trip required almost a month’s worth of gasoline ration stamps to make. Would you give up your right to purchase gasoline for a month in order to visit your sibling for a few hours at most? See: http://www.alumnibhs.com/old%20geezer%20photos/ww2%20ration%20stamps.htm.

In April 2021 a heretofore trove of letters surfaced.  Among them was a letter dated February 20, 1944 from Wayne’s wife, Bonnie, to his brother Verne.  According to Bonnie, the layover in Cheyenne lasted four hours.  Meeting Wayne in Cheyenne were his father, his stepmother, Tom’s wife and son, an aunt and uncle, and his grandmother.  Bonnie wrote “he felt like a big shot with all those people meeting his train”.

Since Wayne’s brother drove north from Denver to visit him when he came through Cheyenne, Wyoming, it is highly likely that Wayne’s train came through North Platte, Nebraska. If you don’t know about North Platte and the North Platte Canteen, you don’t know of the spirit that pervaded the U.S. during World War II. See http://www.ww2hc.org/videos/canteenkuralt.wmv.

3 “The Sullivans” is a reference to the five brothers who lost their lives in the Battle of the Solomon Islands when the light cruiser on which they were serving, the USS Juneau (CL-52), was torpedoed. Only ten men survived the sinking of the Juneau. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sullivan_brothers and http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq72-2.htm. The loss of the five Sullivan brothers was memorialized in a movie, The Sullivans, released in February 1944 and starring Anne Baxter. See: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0037323/?ref_=ttfc_fc_tt.

4 Wayne flew out of Hamilton Field, California on February 14. He arrived at Guadalcanal on February 17 after passing the International Date Line. He has been on Guadalcanal for only four days. Much of his time has been spent in training classes to prepare him for combat duty.

5 Anti-aircraft artillery defending Guadalcanal against Japanese air attack. See: http://olive-drab.com/idphoto/id_photos_90mm_aaa.php.

6 Wayne was born in Denver on 14 April 1919 and enlisted in the Air Corps there on 24 March 1942. In 1944, his grandparents, Daniel Thomas Gray (1865-1949) and Etta Elizabeth Roberts (1869-1965) were living in Denver as well as other relatives.

7 Lowry Field, then on the east edge of Denver, was a United States Army Air Force (USAAF) training base during World War II. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lowry_Air_Force_Base.

8 See: http://www.pacificwrecks.com/provinces/png_duke_of_york_islands.html.

9 In Old Oklahoma was released in December 1943. It starred John Wayne, Martha Scott, George “Gabby Hayes”, and Dale Evans. According to Internet Movie Data Base, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0036038/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1, “Cowboy Dan Somers and oilman Jim “Hunk” Gardner compete for oil lease rights on Indian land in Oklahoma, as well as for the favors of schoolteacher Cathy Allen.”

10 Staff Sergeant Beaumont was a tent mate.

11 For information regarding the North American B-25 Mitchell and its many variants, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_B-25_Mitchell.

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14 Responses to February 21, 1944

  1. Pierre Lagacé says:

    Wonder what’s going to become of the B-25 G & H.11 They say it’s not a bit effective. A colonel took a “G” up yesterday for test firing. He spun in and was killed.

    Interesting information for an airplane buff.


  2. Pierre Lagacé says:

    That model kit will never be the same anymore.
    Do you have pictures of Wayne’s planes?


  3. Pierre Lagacé says:

    About this…
    Family members frequently met troops moving by rail when the train made scheduled stops in nearby cities. Charles Forbes recounted his mother seeing him at a train station.
    He told his sergeant . . .

    “Hey that’s my mother! I have to see her.”

    I can’t remember if he got off the train to say goodbye.

    Charles Forbes was one of the most decorated Canadian heroes.



  4. Lloyd Marken says:

    Out of the brothers who was your father. I understand where Wayne is coming from but I also understand how hard it would have been for Tommy to not serve. My maternal grandfather tried 3 times to join the military during World War II. They wouldn’t let him on medical grounds. Eventually the RAAF responded to his request late in the war saying he was admitted as meeting entry requirements but as the Australian military effort was now changing strategies he was now surplus to requirements. He had begged and repeatedly tried to gain entry even as a clerk in two different towns. He kept that letter for the rest of his life. The population of Australia was 7 million during the war, over 1 million of them served in World War II. Did Tommy make it into the Navy?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. a gray says:

    Tommy never served in the military. His missing index finger, he was missing most of it, kept him out of the military. Not mentioned by Wayne in this entry is yet another brother, Harry, the youngest of all, who would eventually enter the Army at age 17 and serve as an infantryman in Europe. My father was Verne.


    • Pierre Lagacé says:

      I was going to ask you that question… I have the answer.

      Tommy never served in the military. His missing index finger, he was missing most of it, kept him out of the military.


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