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A couple of Pacific war stories

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  • A couple of Pacific war stories

    I was over at my father's place today because my sister drove up from Merced which is about 114 miles south. Can't recall the last time I was with my sister at my father's but had to be going on 10 years. So I arrive and my sister makes me a sandwich and the three of us sit down at the table and things start to go back in time. His grade school, my sister's grade school dealings with nuns, his cars over the years ( I bought his last one last week) and then we hit his service. He had three short stories that none of us have ever heard and for 91 his memory is very good.

    First story starts out about a Captain Black. He was regular Army, a West Point graduate, and had been a Captain for five years now. First learned of him when in Texas training. After Texas he left for New Guinea where their battalion was split up. Apparently the Captain was adjutant to the Colonel. After New Guinea they were shipped to Hollandia for R&R before Leyte. So now my Dad is on Leyte and they have chow set up a little bit inland. As per my father the officers would go to the head of the line while everyone else was behind. They see Capt. Black walk up and get in line at the back. They were puzzled by this right up to when the Captain said out loud would you gentlemen up front care to join me in the line. My father assumes they are all gentlemen because they all turn around to look and then all trudge back to where the Captain is. Those officers didn't like the Captain but all the privates thought this is a pretty nice officer.

    Now still on Leyte one day a Lt. comes up to them and says it might be a good idea to build a bridge across this creek or whatever it was. All the soldiers moan. LT. says those palm trees would be good and so they start cutting. My father is in water up to their chest along with all the other little creatures found in water on Leyte. They are dropping in the logs and they disappear below the surface. Eventually enough get in to create a solid bottom. The Lt. complains that they are not moving fast enough just as Capt. Black walks up. Hearing that the Captain suggests the Lt. get in the water and show the men how to do it. One leads by example and not by command. Now the Lt. moans and gets in the water at which point the soldiers slow down to keep him in the water as long as possible.

    Apparently the Lieutenants were a problem in this battalion. There were three that my father said were real jerks. Because of issues the Lieutenants called a meeting of themselves in a large tent. While in there two shots rang out and went through the top of the tent. Everybody piled out of the tent thinking it was Japanese. No, it had to be a private or town who fired the shots. They were never discovered but the Colonel addressed the whole battalion. In his address he said he would court martial and shoot anyone who disrupts the smooth running of this battalion. My father said after that the battalion had never ran smoother.

    Now my father is in Japan and it is April 1946 and it is his turn to go home. Him and another Staff Sergeant have to go down to the depot to check in and it is where Eight Army HQ is in one of the few brick buildings that is still standing. He said there were two elevators so it must have been three floors at least. We were talking about good tasting water from Hetch Hetchy which brought this story up. So he tells about lister bags filled with water and chlorine creating some of the worst tasting water there is. So in the lobby of this building is a large lister bag with many nipples to draw water form. He takes a cup, along with Zack, and turns to him and says "this water tastes like shit". A fellow in fatigues says "yes it does Sergeant" and my father looks up and the fellow says "it does taste like shit". The smiling fellow was Gen. Eichelberger surrounded by non-smiling aides. My father says to the General "I would have thought you have your own water, Sir?" The General asks " do you think I walk on water?" My father replies "if I were a three star General I would hope I could walk on water as well as you do, Sir". The General responds " I can see why you are a Staff Sergeant". Meanwhile Zack is shitting in his pants. My father was the consummate salesman who knew how to smooze one when needed.

  • #2
    Those are tremendous!

    Thanks for sharing.

    By any chance did you record the discussion>

    If you did you may want to share with an archiving service...Story Corps or the US Army Infantry museum for starters.

    You may want to ask him to redo if you can.

    Regardless, those are the best kind of war stories!
    “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
    Mark Twain


    • #3
      No, it was not recorded. This was a spur of the moment visit. When we sat at the table to eat the talk was about a 7th grade nun that drove my sister crazy. Apparently my sister cleaned the convent a lot that year which I never knew. Mainly because she slugged a girl bullying another girl. That made my father bring up the time he slugged a kid who was bullying another smaller kid. Only here the teacher walked in, saw what happened, and then walked back out leaving them. The teacher later said that boy deserved what he got as he was very anti-semitic towards that classmate. My father went anti-semitic? What's that and the teacher said you'll learn one day.

      The talk then went to water taste around here and that is when he brought up the lister bag and then the stories came forth unexpected. I would need to ask him to repeat the stories while having a tape recorder. I remember another story of his about playing ball with Pee Wee Reese while in Tacloban I think. Then another about some Navy guys he befriended on an LST in Lingayan Gulf and was able to get, for him, great coffee. Plus a sailor on board who was minimally qualified to be in the Navy. Can't recall that one too much.

      Another story about landing in Japan in the first few weeks and getting to set up in a concrete building that was a silk factory and now full of lice. How they used the Japanese to unload the ships that came in to drop off supplies and never had to worry about theft. They put a senior Japanese man in charge and consequently no one stole anything to cause him to lose face and face the consequences. Far cry from the theft in the Philippines. Then how he got his points in order to leave and ship home. A Captain called him in to give him a promotion in a billet he wasn't qualified for along with a friend of his. Asked why and told because one he didn't complain like that SOB son of a Congressman back in the States, and two you climbed the palm trees to lay line while the Japanese shot at you.

      So the Congressman's son had enlisted back in New York I assume like my Dad. Went to Fort Dix and then to an Army base in Texas for training. After training one was to get one week leave to go home and visit family before shipping out. My father, and four others including the Congressman's son didn't. Now they arrive at Camp Stoneman just up the road from me today or what is left of it. The Colonel is pretty upset about this situation. The Congressman's son says he'll talk to his father. My Dad said what can you do it's the Army and off they go to Fort Mason to catch a troop ship.

      One last story I recall is when he arrived in Seattle after leaving Japan. Everyone piles aboard a train bound for Fort Dix. Each car has a Sergeant in charge to make sure no one gets left behind. The train then leaves making stops along the way at small towns like Casper Wyoming. Here everyone piles out looking for the local bar and it is my Dad's job to make sure they get back on. This goes on all the way to Philadelphia where the tables get turned. My father and three other Sergeants miss the train because of a bar.They flag down a taxi and tell him to catch the train. They arrive at the gates of Fort Dix at the same time as the train and jump out. This is seen by a Captain who rushes up and reads them the riot act and threatens to court martial the lot. At that point the Colonel walks up and tells the Captain he is going to do no such thing. These boys are mustering out and heading home to their families and tells the four to take off.

      When I took him out for his 90th birthday, to a restaurant we first set foot in back in 1972 and a favorite, he immediately smoozes and makes friends with the waitress. Before we leave he is talking to that people at two other tables. Definitely has the ability to make meet people easily as only the best salesmen do. No doubt explains his service.

      I'll see if I can record.


      • #4
        That's tremendous!

        If you have a smart phone (iPhone, Android) they can voice record.
        “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
        Mark Twain


        • #5
          Thank you for taking the time to relate these stories, they are priceless!