Thursday, June 30, 2016

67) Trading Chocolate Bars for Bananas--Jan. 14, 1945

APO 321 Mindoro, Philippines

Somewhere in the Philippines
10:30 PM Jan. 14, 45

My darling,

Here I am again. It hasn’t been so long this time. I know that you understand why I didn’t write. Darling things are swell here now and peaceful for a change. This country is really beautiful. We live in a field with a nice stream very close and a good sized river about 1/4 of a mile from camp. There are some real high mountains way over about 25 miles from here with foothills & valleys and lots of little streams between. Yesterday I got the afternoon off and went up into the foothills where there are lots of Filipino farms. They raise corn, bananas, lots of veg., and pigs, chickens, some cows & of course rice.

I traded 3 chocolate bars for about 15 bananas. On the way back I got caught in a rain storm. The first time it has rained in about a week. I really got cold and wet. It really can get hot here in the daytime but at night & early in the morning it is really cold.

Dearest. I am getting so very anxious to get home to you. I think about it more every day now. I really can’t see how I will be home in the next 6 or 8 months. Something may turn up that will speed this rotation plan up and get it out of the rut. I love you so very much and I am prepared to wait as long as is necessary to be with you once again. Lets pray that once we are together again that we won’t ever have to separate.

I haven’t received any letters from you since the big bunch I wrote you about the other day. I hope you will continue to have lots of fun in your sorority. Bet you girls really pull off some crazy deals.

Well remember that there’s a fellow over here that is in love with you heart & soul. And forever.


P.S. My best to your Mom & Sister Anne. I really owe the little devil a letter. I hope she is as understanding as her lovely sister.

Goodnite my sweet.


  1. Bananas-- It is interesting to me that he mentions trading chocolate for bananas.  There were only two foods that I remember my father would not eat: bananas and cucumbers.  He always said that he like plantains, so perhaps these are what he was trading for.
  2. "Won't ever have to separate"-- It is clear that by now Jack sees himself as fully committed to Betty, but remember that when they last saw each other Betty was 16 and a high school friend.  Jack had his girlfriend "Libby" back home near the beginning of the war.  Now Betty was in college and of course dating and enjoying herself.  She was very outgoing.  At one point she had a somewhat serious boyfriend who gave her his 1st Lieutenant's bar, which she still had and gave to me before she died.  I wonder what she thought of the increasingly serious tone of Jack's letters.  She obviously was a dedicated letter writer and loyal friend.  When Jack returned after the war, they married within a year.  We'll get to that part later.  According to Jack's wish in this letter even death hardly separated them as they died within two months of each other.
  3. Photo Links of Mindoro---The Library of Congress has a Veterans History Project website.  Here are some links to photos of Mindoro during the war, taken by Denton Crocker who served with he Malaria Survey Unit of the Army.  Although they are not of Jack's camp, they will give you some idea of what the landscape looked like. Here are links to some of his photos-- you can view more on the Library of Congress site.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

66) Jack plans for he and Betty's future--Jan. 7th, 1945

APO 321 Mindoro, Philippines

Philippines, Sun. Jan 7th 1945
My darling,

I know that it has been what seems like ages since I’ve written to you. I might as well tell you that I haven’t felt like writing to anyone. Naturally you are the first one I am writing to now. We moved again as you can plainly see by the address. (APO 321) I really think this place is much nicer than any place we have been since this time last year.

We finally got a big shipment of mail today. I got about five letters and a swell package from you. I don’t remember if I thanked you for the nuts, they were swell. I received them at 72. We have really been jumping around in more than one way. Several places along the line we had a pretty exciting time of it. I was very lucky as was the way with most of us, and came through all OK!

I really don’t know how to say these things but I know you will understand. Darling anyplace I am anything I’m doing no matter how terrible things get you are always some place in my mind. Smiling and cheerful and waiting for me. Gosh! How could a fellow help but fall in love with you. I bet there are lots of fellows who have fallen for you. I know that when this ever ends there will never be anyone else that can take your place in the plans I have for our future. Wonderful plans darling just for you and I. I want to get as much happiness out of life while we are young as we can. Your letters have done wonders for me. Till today I didn’t care if I wrote any more letters or not. Then I got your letters and they seemed even more wonderful than ever. It is really a swell feeling to know that some one loves you that much.

You really must be having quite a time out at U of L. Honey please don’t run around so much in that kind of weather. You may get sick and I would worry myself to death. You must watch you health. All that fun and going to hospitals and service clubs is all right if you don’t do too much of it. You can hurt yourself seeing too much of certain things and people.

Glad you had such a nice Xmas. Mine was nothing to write home about but we did eat pretty good. We can’t have lights now so I will sign off now. I will write more soon.

I love you so very very much and miss you more.


My best to your Mom & Anne

New Seriousness--- I noticed that after the close call with the Kamikaze on his move to Mindoro, Jack's letters take a more serious tone. You can tell that this was a pivotal experience for him. He's weary of war and hanging desperately on to a vision of a future with Betty. The Kamikaze attacks near Mindoro and Luzon from mid December to mid January sunk 6 LSTs and damaged 5. At total of 24 ships of all types were suck by Kamikazes during this period. 
    From the Unit History---Many thanks to Ken Clark and others for their extensive information on posted on
    • The first of the New Year found the squadron again split in two camps. The Ground Echelon celebrated New Year's eve by watching the enemy become the focal point of our ack ack on Mindoro, and the Air Echelon, crowded into the Group Area, on Leyte. 
    • On the 5th, five of our planes landed on Mindoro because of weather and set up operations in a jeep on Hammer Strip (Elmore). On the 6th, the remaining ships flew up and started work in their new house. 
    • Mindoro lies nearly due South of the central part of Luzon Island. It is 1855 mi. northwest of Darwin, the starting point in the exploits of the squadron, and camp was set up on Mindoro on the 30th of December, 1944, two years and ten months after our first tactical camp at R.A.A.F. strip, Darwin. The island itself is oval is shape about 95 by 50 miles with an area of about 3,794 square miles, the seventh largest island in the Philippines. It is very mountainous in nature, the cultivated and populated areas being along the East and West shorelines and extending ten to fifteen miles inland. The mountain range along the middle of the island from North to South produces two different types of climate in the two lowland areas. 
    • The unit landed at the San Jose area via Mangarin Bay on the southwest corner of the island directly exposed to the southwest seasonal monsoons from May to October but at this time of the year, a very favorable climate. 
    • The town of San Jose itself was the sugar-refining center of the southwest plains and contains large factory buildings with bright roofs visible from the air for many miles. It boasts a network of small gauge railroads, and the area was devoted to sugar production before the war. 
    • The 9th set up camp on a deserted sugar plantation about two miles from town. Our campsite was a field overgrown with weeds that were 5 to six feet tall in places. These were quickly mowed down by hand with every available cutting implement and tents were set up in fairly even rows. A small road paralleled by a small clear creek on the South ran just to the North of the area, forming a natural boundary. The motor pool was set up across the road, thus insuring a rut-free entrance to the camp itself. 
    • Our mess hall, 90 feet long, made from sections of portable buildings, was divided into 2 sections separated by the kitchen. The smaller of the two divisions became the Officer's mess and club. Water tanks and a pump were set up alongside the creek and showers were built - the first since Gusap, and most welcome! A volleyball court was set up and Supply Officer J. Pienezza arranged with an engineering unit to have a ball diamond leveled off in the field south of the tents. Both sport arenas are now doing yeoman service. 
    • Two airstrips were in operation when the 9th arrived. Elmore strip (Hammer Tower) was located about a mile from San Jose, adjacent and parallel to the Bugsanga River. Hill strip (Freeboot Tower) was about five miles South near a branch of the railroad. Operations were set up on the latter strip. It is a 6,000-foot dirt strip running North-South with a parallel taxi strip and revetment area on each side. An excellent all weather gravel road runs from the strip to within a half mile of camp, and an equally serviceable secondary road was quickly improved to reach the remainder of the way. It is dusty, but much better than the mud holes of Leyte! 
    • This is the dry time of the year with a few rainstorms (usually the cloudburst variety) lasting for less than an hour. The temperature during the day is fairly hot, but a constant breeze makes it bearable, and at night it falls to a comfortable "one blanket" degree. Average rainfall for the area during the winter is from 5-10 inches, but in Summer reaches 200 inches! For operational reasons it is fortunate that this is the dry season, as a heavy rain usually puts at least one of the strips out of commission. 
    • Our 7th Fleet, assisted by the 3rd Fleet Air arm, was softening up the Lingayen Gulf area, and the 9th flew cover over large convoys streaming Northward. Rumor had it nearly every day that we had landed on Luzon, and on the 6th of the month the Navy occupied Lingayen Gulf followed by Army landing forces January 9th. The invasion was now an actuality. 
    • A gift of sports equipment sent to the 9th by Capt. Ralph Wandrey from home was put to good use, although the 9th lost its first softball league game to the 7th by a score of 3-0. Volleyball also again became popular. 

    Sunday, June 19, 2016

    65) Jack has to defend against a Kamikaze- Later, he would say, it was his "closest call."

    9th FS Unit History- Late December 1944

    December 26th our ground echelon left on LST 734 bound for Mindoro. On the same day the news was flashed that Mindoro was under attack by a Jap Naval Task Force. As far as tactical operations were concerned there was nothing of interest for the remainder of the month with only routine missions performed. The air echelon remained patiently at Leyte, occupying the area located near the ground echelon of Group Headquarters.

    The ground echelon had a very hectic voyage, not soon to be forgotten. Below Leyte the convoy of which our unit was a part, was subjected to constant attack by dive-bombers. The LST on which the outfit had embarked had a prominent place in the lead in the convoy. A Liberty ship nearby vanished in a terrific explosion after a Jap plane made a suicide dive on it. Another Jap plane crash-dived the LST containing our squadron, damaging but not sinking it. Several of our officers and men were volunteers on the ship's gun crews and casualties were suffered by them in the crash. A .30 caliber machine gun, manned by Sgt. J. Riley and Sgt. E. Poplansky did yeoman service and wings from the enemy airplane showed a large number of caliber .30 holes. 1st Lt. Les Nelson acting as plane spotter (as were 1st Lt. D. Fisher and 1st Lt. W. Lewis, Jr. at other turrets) was badly wounded by the crash. Private 1st Class D. Smith, who was performing the duties of an aid man on the deck, was also wounded in the action.

    The ground echelon landed at Mindoro on the morning of the 30th without further loss. The vessel was speedily unloaded and camp was set up. That night and the following had many bombings and many more alerts but no bombs fell close to our area. Thus ended another eventful month.

    Another Account About The Move From Tacloban to Mindoro 
    From: Protect & Avenge, The 49th Fighter Group in World War II, by S.W. Ferguson & William K. Pascalis. Schiffer Publishing Ltd., Atglen, PA, 1996.

    “On the night of the 25th (December), the men at Tacloban ate a Christmas dinner of canned turkey and fruit cocktail, then gathered up their duffel bags and crowded down to the San Pedro Bay docks.” The 9th Squadron and the HQ personnel settled down on board LST #734.

    “No one was sad to leave the muddy, mosquito infested Tacloban. The miserable Leyte airfield fared equally as bad in comparison to any New Guinea camp. Food had never been abundant nor good and many times, there was a shortage of potable water. It seemed everyone had some down with jungle rot, or malaria, or mild dysentery. The mail was much later than ever before. A shortage of bivouac supplies never allowed the men to even remotely modernize the camp.”

    “the LST officers asked the 49ers personnel to help man the ship’s AA batteries. The Navy only had enough life vests for two-thirds of the company. The Staff Sergeants chose senior sergeants and corporals from their sections to man the Navy guns.”

    On the 29th of December, as the 49ers convoy laid off the beachhead of Mindoro, the Japanese slipped through the air defense at mid-morning. “A kamikaze pilot even reached LST #734 bearing the 9th Squadron and HQ personnel.” The death plane’s course was thrown off by anti-aircraft fire and the broken kamikaze just glanced off the prow of the LST. Finally by noon the next day the LST’s were able to come ashore onto the Mindoro beach.

    LST 734- August 1944
    NavSource Online: Amphibious Photo Archive. 
    Gary P. Priolo © 1996 - 2006 NavSource Naval History. All Rights Reserved

    64) Background details- Late Dec. 1944 & Jan. 1945

    Mindoro- Doorstep to Luzon -Link to Wiki Article summarized here:

    Before the invasion of Luzon was to get underway, Gen. MacArthur needed a base of operations closer to the northern island than Leyte.  Mindoro became a logical choice for this strategy. Just south of Luzon, the island is covered by mountains, with a few narrow plains along its coast. Almost daily rains and high humidity, caused by clouds moving up from the south trapped by the high peaks made it a breeding ground for malaria and other tropical diseases. Furthermore, Japanese defenses on the island were minimal.

    Taking Mindoro proved a daunting task. Amphibious landings on its northeastern part were best, but were vulnerable to what was left of Japanese air power on Luzon, so this was ruled out. The town of San Jose on its southwest corner, though nearer to Mangarin Bay, Mindoro’s best deepwater port, was the spot chosen by his planners.

    The main threat for the amphibious assault vessels and supporting warships came from land-based Japanese kamikaze suicide planes. The Japanese had begun the deadly practice as a desperate measure during the final stages of the Leyte Campaign and perfected it by December 1944.

    On Dec. 13th, 1944, two days before the scheduled assault on the island, kamikazes struck at the naval task force ferrying the invading troops. The light cruiser Nashville was hit by a kamikaze, killing over 130 men and wounding another 190.  Other kamikaze attacks damaged two landing ships, tank (LSTs) and disabled several other ships.

    On Dec. 15th, the invasion of Mindoro began. The clear weather allowed the full use of American air and naval power, including six escort carriers, three battleships, six cruisers and many other support warships against light Japanese resistance. The paratroopers of the 503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team came ashore in Mangarin Bay with the landing forces, being unable to make the jump due to inadequate airstrip facilities at Leyte. Destroyers provided fire support for the troop landings and anti-aircraft protection for the ships in the transport area. Two LSTs (Landing Ship-Tank) were struck by kamikazes, abandoned and sunk.

    The defending Japanese forces on Mindoro suffered some 200 killed and 375 wounded. The 24th Infantry Division lost 18 men and had 81 wounded. By the end of the first day, Army engineers were at work preparing airfields for the invasion of Luzon. Two were completed in thirteen days. Together, the airfields allowed U.S. aircraft to provide closer direct support for the planned Luzon beachhead, striking kamikaze airfields, before the deadly enemy planes could take off, and enabled interdiction flights on Japanese shipping between northern and southern Luzon and Formosa. 

    Click here for Wiki article about Kamikaze

    Saturday, June 18, 2016

    63) Busy Betty-Studying and Service Work--Dec. 18th, 1944

    From Betty (Louisville, KY)

    Dec. 18, 1944
    Monday afternoon
    My darling,

    Please forgive me for not writing lately. I have been studying like mad. Unbelievable but true! We had our mid-term exams last week and I really had to study for them.

    I got two letters from you last week. The first one was dated Dec. 1st and the second one Nov. 26th. This is the first chance I’ve had to write in over a week.

    I’m going out to Nichols Hospital tonight from 7 to 9. I really feel like I’m doing some good when I go out there. Those boys really appreciate it. The funniest thing is you see a boy all bandaged up and in casts from his head to his feet and you feel so sorry for him. You think he must have been in every major campaign and have the Purple Heart, etc. Then you find he’s gotten drunk and driven his jeep over a cliff. You never can tell.

    Wednesday night we’re having a Christmas party and a slumber party out at the house. It should be a lot of fun. I’m going to have to sleep on the floor I know, so I’m going to take plenty of covers.

    It has been snowing off and on all day. I hope it’ll save some for Christmas. I like a white Christmas.

    We went up to see your family the other night. They’ll be so surprised when they get the presents from you that I bought. I hope they’ll like them. It’s awfully hard to shop for someone else.

    I have finally done all of my Christmas shopping. When I had finished yours I felt like I was through, but I hadn’t done any of mine.

    Next Friday night I’m going to the hospital at Fort Knox from 2:00 to 4:00. On Christmas Eve I’m going to Nichols again from 2:30 to 4:30. Seems like there’s always something to do. All the girls are coming home from school and it’s really swell to see them all again.

    Guess I had better start getting ready to go out to the hospital.

    Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. I think, in fact I’m pretty sure, I’m going to make my grades for the mid-term. Our grades come out Wednesday. We have to have a C average. I shouldn’t get any grade below a C, so I’ll make it easily.

    I love you very much and always will. Be careful and remember I’m waiting for you.

    All my love always,


    Nichols Hospital was a U.S. Army General Hospital. It was located in the south end of Louisville off Manslick Rd just east of the intersection of 7th Street Road and Berry Blvd. and was the biggest hospital in Louisville during WWII.    Click here for photos