CHERISHING OUR VALLEY 2013
The veterans who built the San Fernando Valley at the conclusion of World War brought with them incredible memories almost incomprehensible to the modern generation. Bit by bit, by photographs, diaries, letters and our archive of oral histories, The Museum of the San Fernando Valley continues our never-ending work to record their lives and their impact on us today.
Recently an important friend of The Museum gave us a collection of Valley memorabilia, in which there was tucked away this letter to Ethel from a soldier named Ralph. (Trust me, we will not give up until we find who Ethel and Ralph were.) The letter is now in the archives of your Museum and another evidence of our American journey.
APO # 72
27 Nov. 1944
Lots of water has passed under the bridge since you have last heard from me and many things have occurred. In the first place I went to the Admiralty Islands again for last minute preparations and then got started on the long boat trip which finally land(ed) me in the Philippine Islands. the trip there was really quite a nice siesta. In the first place we ate like kings (perhaps fattening us up for the kill.) We had steaks, chick, turkey, US hamburger and even had sundaes and Coke Cola every day. Boy, it was like seventh heaven after years of missing such delicious food - I really made the most of it.
Took sun baths every day and enjoyed the scenery which was beautiful. Our convoy was more than the mind can imagine, for miles it spread out so you thought that your vision of ships would never end. We listened to the news every day and heard of the Jap Fleet not too far away and our victories in Europe and etc. but we had a job to perform and just clamped our teeth harder.
When "D" day came - there was hardly any interference - I watch with breathless awe the display put on by our Navy and Air Force as the battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and etc. shelled the Island with everything including rockets. It seemed impossible that any human being could ever stand such a bombardment and live to tell about it.
After they finished, our planes from the carriers went to work strafing and bombing in order to knock out remaining strongholds. It was one of the most spectacular sights I've ever seen.
I was given order to debark with my section one hour after the initial landing.
I got some sandwiches of salami for the boys, and we then proceeded to climb down that rope ladder with a full pack - boy, that was no fun.
We got one of the small boats and wend in for a landing. (Incredibly, I was not nervous in the least - guess I was just too excited.)
The beach wasn't good enough to allow the boat to hit the shore so we had to wade in about 7 Ft water holding our rifles about our heads in order to get through. Lots of boys lost their rifles.
Half swimming - half running, I finally made it and boy was I relieved.
As I hit the shore all I could see were dead Japs littered all over the beach - trees knocked down - debris, and almost every pillbox and strong point knocked out. Little grass huts had been knocked all over the place. For awhile the stench and sight of all those dead made me a little sick to my stomach, but I soon got used to it. There's so many sights that I could describe, but censorship forbids, so you'll just have to wait until I get to see you.
The first thing we did was to dig in - and some even used their hands and nails to make foxholes. After a while I took 3 clerks with me and went a little inland where I could handle casualty reports. We stayed well behind the infantry and went through the grass huts where the Japs had lived. What a surprise I had when I discovered that they had more US products than their own it seemed - Skrip ink, Lifebuoy soap, pencil sharpeners and etc. Of course we started to pick up all sorts of souvenirs - and there was plenty.
I had just found a "1000 stitch Jap belt" which they wear around the body as a good luck charm from their sweetheart - when, "Ping, Ping, Ping" and some shells went through the hut. Boy, let me tell you, I really hit that floor. It was a Jap sniper somewhere, and it really gave me a shock. After awhile we could hear him scurry away - the infantry probably took care of him. That incident ended any desire I had for souvenirs, so I went back to my fox hole and took it easy.That night three of us dug a deep hole and stood guard each two hours.
The next three days were more like a nightmare - thank God, I was lucky. Ceaselessly Jap bombers would come over to bomb and harass us. As might it was impossible to sleep as they were always over us. Together with our Ack Ack was impossible to sleep as they were always over us"
Note: This is a type written letter, possibly a duplicate sent to several people. "Ethel" in the salutation was in clear type while the rest appears to be a carbon copy. The conclusion of the letter has two lines that are blurred and possibly repeated. A second page designated as Page Three" is clearly a typed original. It has a dozen paragraphs each addressing a different person. Toward the conclusion there are two interesting comments:
"We have Tokyo Rose over the Radio and at all times she tries and hurt our morale. Here's one she pulled a few days ago - a little vulgar, but quite cute. Quote: 'I'm getting mine' 'The girls in the States are getting theirs' 'The girls in Australia are getting theirs' 'Are you getting yours?'
Another one she cracked was that in Australia they were making a new town and calling it "Yankville" and putting all the American children in it. She it's probably double the population. Oh well, she does put on the best music on the air and gives us a laugh at times."