Notes: I suppose Fort McDowell was the one on Angel Island. Secret Command by Edward Sutherland starred Pat O'Brien and Carole Landis. Halmahera Island is the largest of the Moluccas, now part of Indonesia; the Japanese had a naval base there in the war. Moratai Island is also part of the Halmahera group; the Japanese had airfields there; the Battle of Moratai lasted from when Uncle Len is writing in September 1944 to the end of the war in August 1945. In Palau, the Battle of Peleliu (codename "Operation Stalemate II") took place from mid September to the end of November 1944. T/O might mean "table of organization and equipment", OCS is Officer Candidate School, and OP is probably observation post. This letter is typed on a typewriter.
Sunday, Sept 17, 1944
Well here it is another week gone by, thank goodness.
Life has stabilized it self down to a steady routine here,
except for a few little moments of excitement now and then.
Yesterday they killed a centipede a least six inches long in
the tent next to ours. It was one of the ugliest creatures
I have ever seen. They have a very wicked pair of fangs or
pincers which excrete poison. When a man is bitten by one they
give him a strong done of morphine, and even then it does'nt
always relieve him of a great deal of agony. Last night Lt
Gassner (the officer I work with) and I were playing cards,
when suddenly he stopped and said look down there. Not two
feet away was a snake about four feet long, for a second we
sat motionless, the simultaneously we removed out presence form
the tent. We cut his head off with a machete, and damn if that
body did'nt know that the head was gone, and it wiggled under/a
box. It had a broad flat head, but we believe that it was not
poisonous, however we did'nt know until after we killed him.
These little incidents happen daily, the other day I felt some-
thing on my neck so I flicked it off casually and then found it
was a spider about two or three inches across.
I have a 35mm Kodak camera that was issued to me, and the
other day I shot some pictures. They turned out pretty good.
I got some fair shots of the natives we have around here al-
though they are a little small in the photo. They are shy and
afraid of having their picture taken, and you have to surprise
them. The hardest thing to get is paper to print them on, I
am going to find out if I can send the negatives home and have
them printed there, if so, I will ask mother to send you some
of the prints, especially the ones of the jungle, our tent, and
me with my butch haircut.
Pardon me I have just returned from a show, SECRET COMMAND.
I saw this at McDowell, I never dreamed I'd see it out here again.
Friday morning we went up and observed the 155 medium artillery
firing on the sides of a volcano about three and a half miles
away. Their fire is quite deadly, they adjust quickly and lay
down a neat pattern. The volcano was a real live one with steam
rising out of the top and fissures in its sides. Through the
glasses you could plainly see the lava flow. We had to go up
a trail to the top of the hill that was the OP. The trails
around here are really rugged. They claimed you could still
smell that peculair odor the Japs leave, but I could'nt notice
it. However, beside the trail lay an upturned helmet with a
bullet hole right through the center, a grime reminder of other
days. I am getting it fixed up so I can go on a patrol up
the coast to a certain mission in enemy territory. As soon
as we get a report of some more Japs in the vicinity, they
will probably send out another patrol. I want to go along,
just once, to see what the interior looks like. This is patrol
takes a couple of days or so.
I am afraid I won't stay with this outfit, when they push
off on the next campaign. There are two teams here although
the T/O only calls for one. The other officer outranks me
by several months, plus the fact that it looks like eventually
I might lose one or both of my men to OCS. I would like to
stay with them and see one operation at close quarters, however
it might be a better deal to stay behind, because the team that
stays may even be sent down to Australia and reassigned to
higher headquarters. Gassner is married and says he does 'nt
partciularly care to see any landings.
From all reports the war in Europe is moving along well.
A report this evening said they had penetrated the Seigfred line
in four places, and patrols are only 28 miles from Cologne.
You have undoubtly heard that we have hit the Halmaheras at
Moratai Is. and also Palau. We had been looking forward to
this event for some time down here. When the war is over in
Europe and we can really move down here in full force, it is
going to be beautiful to watch the slaughter of those little
yellow bastards. If we can meet their armies on some open
terrain suitable for mechanized tactics, we should be able
to hand them a hell of a pasting.
How is fall coming in the eastern states? I imagine it
is quite pretty. Well write me when you can get a chance.