February 28, 1944.

Monday

Dear Bonnie,
Another day has passed as it seems they must, and finds me very in love with you. That’s a simple fact and inalterable to me. Odd, isn’t it, how one’s affections will cling to a person, through the thicks and thins of life.

Heard a big commotion tonight over at the mess hall. Thinking someone was injured, I made haste to get there. Almost human cries were resounding in the night. You may be sure that I was very much surprised to see what I did. Some Sergeant had a pig down and was holding its hind legs with one hand and tickling it with the other. The pig was flopping all over the place and laughing! Believe it or not!

We went flying today for the first time on Guadalcanal. It was quite an experience. To begin with, we had to wait for the ground crew to change a tire. After they finished, we taxied from Carney Field towards Koli [Field] where our planes take off because of muddy conditions on our field. It’s a long way over. We took the wrong taxi strip and ended up on a country road about two miles from Koli. Got stuck trying to turn around and had to send back to Carney to get a Cletrac1 to pull us out. Afterwards, we took the plane on down to Koli and took off. As usual I said the Lord’s prayer just before leaving. Our first experience in taking off on these movable metal strips and it was quite an experience.2 Certainly makes a hell of a racket. It’s like running into a pile of tin cans with a larger can for a vehicle. The plane we took was as close to a wreck as anything I’ve ever seen. No wonder having five hundred and 75 combat hours on its engines. At any rate, we made it ok.

Wish you could have seen the parts of Guadalcanal that we were privileged to witness. We rode for a time down the coast at very low levels. Counted eight cargo ships that had been sunk here. Some were high in the water and some could be seen lying on the bottom. It was a damn shame to see all those proud ships sitting high in the water, covered with rust and seemingly lying in a huge circle of oily water. Hulks not worth anything anymore. I laughingly wished at the time, if anyone can laugh over tragedy, that Lizzie could have them for scrap.3 We also saw hundreds of wrecked landing barges used by the Army and the Marines as transportation to get on the Island. One could mentally visualize those brave boys dismounting from their fiery steeds and running in, courageously to meet the enemy. The toll must have been terrific. Here and there about the island, we could see wrecks of planes which still lie untouched after all this time. Truly, a battlefield is a saddening sight. Wreckage litters the surrounding waters as well at the land. Never saw quite so many bomb pits and shell craters before in my life. What a trial those attacking this island must have had. It’s criminal that wars are allowed between people who surely know better.

This island is thick with jungle, with a little flat country to change its aspect here and there. The mountains rise to a maximum of 8,000 ft. and are so thick with jungle it’s impossible to penetrate to the ground through its protective screen.

There are several coconut plantations here as well. They are complete huge tracts of coconut trees, stretching for miles of unending beauty. On the edge are huge big houses, which the planters evidently owned. These seemed untouched since the planters left.

An unidentified plane gave the Island a scare and we were forced to come in. Was a little tired of flying for one day, anyhow, we landed roughly, as Fincham hasn’t flown for a full month. When we hit the steel mesh, the racket was terrific but everything ended safely. However, the racket sounded as if one big tin can crashed into 5,000 smaller cans.

Well, darling, I read the 23rd Psalm before getting under the mosquito netting for a good night’s rest. After we put the pinch on the candles, which light our domicile and get into bed I take my wallet and flash light and study your features, using the only picture I have of you, so far. Then a half an hour later after musing on the day’s experiences, I say my prayers. I pray as thousands of others do, for a blessing upon every member of your family and mine. Then darling, I ask that peace be upon the world soon and we be united once more. How I yearn for that latter request.

Notes & Commentary:

1 The “Cletrac” was the M2 tractor manufactured by the Cleveland Tractor Company. It was widely used at U.S. Army Air Force bases throughout the world. See: http://olive-drab.com/idphoto/id_photos_m2_hst.php.

2 The landing strip at Koli Airfield was constructed of Marsden Matting. Marsden Matting was a prefabricated, steel matting developed shortly before World War II for the rapid construction of temporary landing strips. During landing and takeoff, the matting vibrated and oscillated creating quite a racket. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marsden_Matting. The following link shows the construction of a landing strip using Marsden Matting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_heqdlC7B4.

3 “Lizzie”, Elizabeth Gibbons, Wayne’s nine-year-old sister-in-law, was an active participant in wartime scrap metal drives.

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