February 22, 1944

Tuesday

In Old Oklahoma with John Wayne, was the picture show last night. It was very good, included some darn good shooting. As one of the boys who’s disgusted with the war said. “If we could get some guys to shoot like him, it wouldn’t take long to end the war. Ha! Can’t blame him. He’s been here a year and a half now, and has done nothing but dig ditches since arriving in this area.

The intelligence officer was telling us of an outstanding personality around here. A P-38 pilot, 20 years old, and a Lt. Colonel with 2 Purple Heart medals, a Distinguished Flying Cross with five oak leaf clusters, the Air Medal with eleven clusters, a Distinguished Service Cross, the Legion of Merit and the Silver Star.1 The ribbons and medals must cover his whole blouse. Some men are born heroes I reckon. This one refuses to go home before the war is over.

The same Captain also gives hope in Charlie’s case, missing in action. Evidently 90% of those flyers missing in this area, escape somehow.2 There is a briefing for our crew at 1800 o’clock tonight. Guess it’s time for chow if I’m going to make that meeting. We may find out something about our ultimate goal in this area. So far, it’s Rabaul all the way with no other objective in the running. New Britain and New Ireland are among our objectives. I believe we’re on the move in the South Pacific area now. However, this is only my opinion, which is usually pretty poor, as a rule.

Wrote another letter to Bonnie tonight, I marvel every day, the way her courage before to carry one as a man should, she is the still: and me? Maybe the ingredients?

Quite a break today, one can of grapefruit juice, 3 packages of gum and 1 Hershey bar.3 Hooray!

Hope that cool breeze continues for a while. Makes a man feel much better.

Have had a sniffling cold for three days. Drank two cans of grapefruit juice and one can of tomato juice. I hope that kills the blamed thing.

Well guess that’s all for today. Have to get these blankest shaken out and erect my mosquito netting. Damn those skeeters and bugs, they bite the hell out of me no matter what precautions I take. Ah Well!

Wish I could write down the ways and means of escape from these islands, and the Captain told us today. However that cannot be written down, security reasons.

Wrote Bonnie, Tom and Lula and Dexter, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, and Bobby letters tonight.4 Have been too lax in writing, must do better in the future.

Understand the Japs broadcast the No. of an American Plane and the names of its crew to all and sundry in this area. They go on to say they’re going to knock it down and so, no matter the cost to them. They’ll carry out their boast if they have to crash their planes into the one they are after. Some crazy people, these Nips.

Well, it’s goodnight again, until tomorrow.

Notes & Commentary:

1 I have been unable to identify any 20-year-old Lieutenant Colonels let along any 20-year-olds flying P-38s. The list of medals also seems exaggerated. Common practice was for highly decorated pilots to be brought back to the United States for appearances at War Bond drives. Identification of this pilot would be very much appreciated.

2 “Charlie” is not further identified. As will be seen later in Wayne’s Journal, the recovery of those that are listed as missing in action was problematical. Most planes ditched at sea, generally with wounded combat crew members.

3 Beginning in 1943, Hershey began producing a Hershey Tropical Bar able to withstand the temperatures of the Pacific Theater. I find them hard and not as tasty as a regular Hershey Bar, but in a hot environment, there is no other choice. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_military_chocolate.

4 In his letter to “Dad, Grandma, Granddad and Ethel”, Wayne wrote:

We are in the process of getting more needed training, and even though the hours are nicely distributed, we have plenty of studying and memorizing to do on our own time.

Ha! You’d get a kick out of watching me. I have a bath towel which I use to wife the sweat from me with, and I keep it pretty well soaked. It’s pretty hot here, especially for one who’s been used to the better cold climates all of his life. My clothes are simply soaking wet, a fact that I don’t a bit appreciate.

Letter from Wayne A. Gray (Sgt. Wynne A. Gray, 13th Bomber Command Training Center, APO 719, c/o Postmaster, San Francisco, California) to Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Grays Sr. and Jr., (52 Garfield Street, Denver 6, Colorado) dated February 22, 1944, South Pacific; held in 2014 by A. Gray.

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8 Responses to February 22, 1944

  1. Pierre Lagacé says:

    This seems bizarre as you pointed out…

    I have been unable to identify any 20-year-old Lieutenant Colonels let along any 20-year-olds flying P-38s. The list of medals also seems exaggerated. Common practice was for highly decorated pilots to be brought back to the United States for appearances at War Bond drives. Identification of this pilot would be very much appreciated.

    Like

    • a gray says:

      Scuttlebutt and rumor pervade.

      Like

      • The 20 year old Lt-Col might be an exaggeration of Tommy McGuire, who was then a 23 year old Captain and received all the medal mentioned except the Legion of Merit, according to Wikipedia. He was later awarded the Medal of Honor.
        The other possibility is Dick Bong, also a 23 year Captain in February 1944. However, Wikipedia makes no mention of him receiving the Purple Heart and the website linked below says that in February 1944 he had just returned from a lengthy leave in the USA.

        http://acepilots.com/usaaf_bong.html

        Liked by 1 person

      • a gray says:

        Thank you, Martin, for your research and the link to AcePilots.com. Diaries and journals are written “after the fact” and often at the end of the day. It is likely that Wayne was trying remember and put down on paper what he had heard that day. New to Guadalcanal and only 10 days from having been at Hamilton Field outside San Francisco, I feel certain his mind was a swirl with new sights, sounds, smells and people.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Lloyd Marken says:

    From Colorado to the Pacific. That would hurt.

    Like

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