Boy, do the States look good from here! Especially, since I expect to see you and Billy in person next month. I’m going to call you up tonite, if the telephone exchange is still there and if it isn’t too crowded.
We’ve been to Japan and thru hell, but we’re still going strong altho’ we lost several men and suffered considerable damage. Remember the first carrier raid on Toyko? Well, we were part of the huge task force that went in. We did all of our operations at night and got in pretty close.The second night we were within 65 miles of Tokyo, approximately southeast of it. We didn’t run into any trouble up there, tho’. We did see a couple of Jap planes shot down ‘way over on the horizon, but none of them bothered us. We had two general alarms but they were secured almost as soon as we got to our GQ stations. The fatal one came on Feb. 21st, just about 5:30 PM. We were just going to chow. At the time, before I let this get away from me, we were down around Iwo Jima. The invasion had started on the 19th and on the 21st, we were due to start supporting operations. That day we sailed within 15 miles of Iwo and could see it off our starboard beam there was quite a bit of smoke rising off of it, so I guess the war on it, was getting pretty hot. We were still in sight of it when we got hit. About forty Jap planes were involved in the whole attack. And we and three destroyers were alone, since we’d left the main task force to lone-wolf it. I can’t go into any details, ’cause I’d be writing for a month if I did. I’ll write more later and tell you a lot in person. Anyway the Japs were all mostly suicide planes and tried to dive in on us. They had to be blown up before thay could be stopped. Only a few actually got to the ship, thank heaven and our gunners The attack lasted about three hours and during that time several “jeep” carriers (CVE’s) showed on our horizon and immediately got under attack. Two were hit and one of them blew up and capsized in about twenty minutes. I guess very few of those boys got out. The attack finally ceased, and we had to land a few of our planes. The flight deck on our bow was all crumpled up and we couldn’t put the planes back aft up there, so we had to throw them in the drink. Most of them were ruined with schrapnel anyway. (By the way, I work in arresting gear, the stuff that stops the planes they land on board.) After the alarm was over, we proceeded to Eniwetok Atoll, to send some of our wounded by plane to Pearl Harbor and transfer our gasoline off the ship. From Eniwetok went to Pearl and then to here. I’m sure glad to be back, but I sure feel sorry for those poor boys we had to bury in the drink. There was a lot of them who were burned to death or were blown apart. Several died of burns or wounds on the way to Eniwetok. I was on a burial party that sacked up a few of them. I knew two of the boys and it gave me a funny feeling to put them in the sacks. A 5 inch shell is put in the sacks with them, so that they’ll sink.
I’m on the second leave party and our leave starts April 15th. It will take about four days for me to reach Cincy, so i’ll get ther on the 19th. My leave will be up on the 12th of May so that means I’ll have about three weeks at home. I can hardly wait.
This letter seems sort of junbled up to me, but maybe you’ll get some sense out of it. I’ll write again later. I wanted to be sure to get this one off tonite.
I love you,
I found this letter mixed in with some old pictures that she had of my kids, my brother’s kids and my sister’s kids. Dad never really talked about his experiences during World War II. I have heard pieces of this letter, many years ago he told me how they buried bodies at sea. Many years ago he told me about his duty with the arresting gear. I think what is new information to me is his breathless and jumbled account of events that are fresh in his mind.
He has been gone from this world for many years now. I could hear his voice as he spoke breathlessly to my mom. And yet he is careful with his calligraphic circles for periods and dots over his i’s. I want to have a conversation with him about these horrors he witnessed. I want to thank him for giving me life. .
He was born May of 1920. He was twenty-four when he wrote this letter to Mom. He was home on leave for his birthday. I imagine it was a great party. I want to ask him about it. Billy was born in 1943 (2?) – he was six years older than me. Dad and I were about the same age when our first child was born. We have a lot of parallels in our lives except I stayed out of Vietnam.
Carpe Diem. Life is short. Ask the questions when you still are able.