PROLOGUE – Tony’s pre-war life
CHAPTER 1 - BEGINNINGS - A SOLDIER IN THE MAKING
October 1, 1942 - October 20, 1942
Enroute to Basic Training – the trip across the United States from home (Long Island, New York) to California. The train troop transport, desert maneuvers, heat, Issued clothing and equipment. Live show by Hollywood notables.
The first leg has begun, and along with it has come many other firsts. I am now a member of the Grand Order of Eaters and Manipulators of Consumme in Dining Cars.
CHAPTER 2 - FORT ORD, CALIFORNIA (Part 1)
October 24, 1942 – February 13, 1943
The Pacific at last! Gets uniforms, detailed descriptions of several furloughs to San Francisco and trips to Carmel and Monterey, tooth extraction, first Thanksgiving and Christmas away from home, maneuvers, hospitalized for a cold.
Want an idea of what these Arkansas travelers are like? One of the sergeants the other day was having a helluva time getting them to march in straight lines. Finally, in exasperation, he burst out with, “Four straight ranks – like four rows of corn! My God!”
CHAPTER 3 - FORT ORD, CALIFORNIA (Part 2)
February 15, 1943 - May 6, 1943
Another tooth pulled, forced marches, field problems, goldbricking, finances, machine gun practice, gift packages, inspections, guard duty, the only received letter that Tony saved, the Hollywood Canteen.
… they told me to change into my “A” uniform at once and report to Captain Kennel… You can imagine what was going through my mind. They were going to make me a colonel. They were going to court-martial me. MacArthur was in trouble again. These assumptions all proved incorrect, however, as we were driven to the Main Garrison and were enrolled in a class in motion picture operation.
CHAPTER 4 - CAMP CROWDER, MISSOURI
May 7, 1943 – Thanksgiving, 1943
Trip from California, skating rinks, furlough, drill, Tulsa, Oklahoma
You know, you almost had a private for a son! But this is how it happened. The other day there was a hike scheduled and many of my NCO buddies decided that it would be much more enjoyable at the Service Club, so off they went. I was planning to join them but at the last minute decided that a little walk wouldn’t do me any harm, so went on the hike, instead. And when we got back something happened that never happened before. They called the roll. As a result all the absentees awoke the next morning to find themselves brand new buck privates. That must be what is called Providence.
CHAPTER 5 – TENNESSEE MANEUVERS
November 26, 1943 – June 11, 1944
Xmas Eve ’43- … we were right in time for the kids’ little Xmas play and maybe that wasn’t a thrill! I turned around to look at the rest of the G.I.s and had quite a shock. Now, when we’re among ourselves we seem to look pretty presentable but put us alongside of some clean people and ohmygod! No shaves for a week, hair mussed, clothes filthy! If we didn’t look like a bunch of cutthroats! We almost scared the kids to death!
CHAPTER 6 - JOURNEY TO WAR
July 1, 1944 - November 3, 1944
Ft. Riley, Kansas to Denver, Cheyenne, Salt Lake, Camp Beale California, journey across the Pacific Ocean, put into Milne Bay, New Guinea for orders
Diary entry - Crossed equator at longtitude 178 deg. West. Observed King Neptune Ceremony and higher officers and USO girls really got the works. Was introduced into the Ancient Order of the Deep as a Trusty Shellback.
…At a native village a half mile or so from here there was a pow-wow. It began with the most weird chanting I have ever heard but it was in perfectly blended harmony rather than the haphazard affair that Hollywood would have it. All night long it rose and fell, sounding sometimes like Palastrina’s “Pope Macellus Mass” and at other times like a certain part of Borodin’s “Prince Igor”. As a whole it was Slavic, and no mistake – and then the drums. God, but I never thought that drums could have such a power over you. First the little ones – bang, bang, bang. Then the bigger ones – boom, boom, boom. Then the big berthas which rumbled across the island and made the whole place vibrate. Not for just a while but all night long. The natives call the festival “sing-sing”. Sounded more like Bellvue to me.
Diary entry - At night were bombed and strafed by twelve Zeros. Heavy tracer and flak. Bomb landed in road in front of Gen. MacArthur’s HQ, two blocks away. Left building clad in dogtags.
CHAPTER 7 - SHATTERED INNOCENCE
November 5, 1944 - February 25, 1945 Leyte, Philippines, combat zone
I have not yet experienced war! God, man – what do you take this for, a Ladies’ Aid Clambake? And what do you think I’ve been doing all this time so that you may sit at your desk and write letters like that? I’ve had bombs land so close that they showered me with debris. When the tracers were cutting the grass I’ve been so close to the mud that I’ve had to spit out quantities of it. I know what it is to see the place you’ve just quitted go up in a crescendo of flame. I’ve missed getting mine by a mere whim which happened to lead my feet in the right direction…. I’ve seen sights beastly and gory but only one made me deathly sick... I know what it is to sit up all night with your finger on the trigger, waiting for an airborne attack – waiting and waiting for God-knows-what. Waiting!… I live in a rice paddy that has been fertilized for centuries with human manure so that every time you kick up a clod of dirt you want to heave....
... God, I’m crying like an infant.
CHAPTER 8 – CONVALESCENCE AND THE END IN SIGHT
February 26, 1945 - May 29, 1945 Hospital, Irving Berlin show, comments on Roosevelt’s death, reactions to European news
So this morning they hail me down and say, “Whatcha religion?” I told them Buddhist. Then they come up with, “How much insurance yagot?” Here’s the rub, I thought – full insurance, pills and iodine; half insurance, only pills; no insurance, that’s all brother! …The doc tells me I’ve got jaundice so I know as much as I did before.
…To be perfectly blunt, I went off my noodle for a spell. The morning after writing these first few lines I was repairing a telephone so nice and serene like, when something snapped and I managed to wreck a goodly portion of the shop before coming back to earth. Fortunately there were no witnesses and I managed to dump most of the remains into the salvage box before anyone showed up. After that I behaved myself but was in an awful fog, which has lifted only during the last few days. Since nobody knew from nuttin’ I kept quiet and so kept out of the hospital. Everybody jokes about blowing their top but take it from me, it ain’t no fun.
…The Pacific is a gigantic hotbed of guys, each offering innumerable reasons why he should be the first to get out. I refer to the announcement of details of the point system with regard to eligibility for discharge.
CHAPTER 9 – PEACE, POINTS, AND COLD MILK
May 31, 1945 - December 4, 1945
Life in the Philippines, death of Roosevelt, VE Day, Japanese surrender, the points system, awaiting transport home.
…The Filipinos are coming away from this war with more money than we have. When we first came they told us, “Americans very rich – Filipinos very poor!” Now the shoe is on the other foot. F’rinstance, the other day I am fighting with my lighter trying to make it work, but no good. Then a dirty native in a burlap shirt and bare feet whips out a shiny new Ronson and lights me up.
…I am very tight. Very tight, but a brief word is in order. A few hours ago the announcement came over the radio concerning the Jap offer of surrender with the proviso that they be permitted to retain the Emperor. …When the news flash came at about nine o’clock this evening the whole top blew off this island. The ships in the bay turned on their lights, the ack ack blew off, flares shot up and the lid was off in general. Luckily we had a large supply of beer at the club which was doled out and augmented by alcoholic beverage of undetermined origin so that we are having a swell time.… By way of anti-climax we all gathered around the radio Sunday morning to listen to the surrender ceremonies and Truman’s message which followed. …After the program was all over and the speeches had all been said we turned off the radio and went back to work, quitting at our usual time. VJ Day was just another day over here with business as usual.
… It may seem odd to you but one of the first things each man is going to head for is a nice, tall, cold glass of MILK! The liquor can wait.
…EXTRA EXTRA – the 66 point men left today! Orders for 60-65 point will be out Saturday, Dec. 1st! Set another place at the table! I’M COMING HOME!
EPILOGUE – Tony’s post-war life