Friday, May 27, 2016

52) Setting up camp at Tacloban--Oct. 28th, 1944

Tacloban, Cancaboto Bay, Leyte, Philippines
APO 72 Leyte, Philippines

Somewhere in the Philippines
October 28th 1944


I guess this letter will explain my not writing for the past two weeks. We had a nice smooth trip up here on an LST. I guess you have read about them. The landing was pretty easy and the people sure were over-joyed to see us. The last letter I wrote you was written on board the ship and taken off in a small boat. We have really been seeing the air battles lately. We saw several Nip planes shot down. Just like the NewsReels you see back home. Only much better.

I hope by this time you have receive the money I sent. Let me know as soon as you get it.

I suppose that by now you are all settled in school and doing nicely. We are supposed to get a big bunch of mail some time today and I sure hope there are some letters from you. I haven’t had any mail in two weeks. Speaking of mail and letters I might as well tell you my new APO number is 72. The rest of the address remains the same.

Our temporary camp is in a nice coconut grove. It is really shady every place but the place I picked to type out this. The sun is getting so hot I think I will move.

Our pilots have really been going to town on this business of shooting down planes. I am happy to say that we are once again in the lead with 214 and the boys haven’t slowed down a bit. Sure is good to be in a top outfit.

Darling I think I will let this sit till I get the mail that is coming to me then I will finish it.

Next day—I am unable to get the use of the typewriter this morning so I will just continue on another piece of paper.

Darling I received 3 letters from you today, 1 Oct. 5th and two Oct. 12th. Boy! Did I enjoy the pictures, that makes 5 pictures I have of you. Still isn’t enough though.

Some of the fellows just outside the tent are digging a well for water to wash clothes with & for showers. They are sinking gas drums in the ground. The ground here is different from any we have run across so far in this part of the world. You can go down from 4 to 10 feet and you have a well. Isn’t so good when you want a dry fox hole though. They have two barrels in the ground now and water already. Guess I will have to find time to dig one for our tent. We really have been very busy here lately. I was on guard duty last nite and didn’t have to work this morning.

The people over here are really civilized compared to the natives in New Guinea & The Netherlands East Indies. Three out of four speak enough English so that you can understand them & most all of them understand us.

Next time you see Bob tell him I am sure glad to hear that he finally got his license. Hope you get a chance to fly with him.

I have enclosed some pictures we took on our trip to Australia. I have numbered them and will list on another sheet just what each one is. Some of them were 35mm and are very small but better than nothing.

1) This is the little motor train they run between two towns in Australia. We called it the Toonerville Trolley

2) Beer Call at one of the local Pubs. They sell beer only twice a day

3) This is Lt. Pienezza and myself taken on the airfield down in Australia the day we arrived. This is the fellow who is directly over me. He is from Alabama

4) This shot is of the trip down flying across the Owen Stanleys. That body on the cot is yours truly. It gets cold at that altitude!

5) Lunch while crossing the Coral Sea. That’s an apple in my hand. We took this on the return trip. No apples to eat going down.

6) The railroad station in the little town we went to.

7) One of the main streets. Notice the air raid shelters behind the man on the bike.

8) Guess you can tell the bird easily but the little fellow on the left is a Wallaby

9) Close up of the same Wallaby

10) One of twenty fours that I happened to see

11) Yours truly the little fellow not the skull

12) Main thing of interest on this are the –“No your wrong” I mean the autographs

Well darling I will have to close this for now and I will write again as soon as I can.

Honey remember that I love you so much that nothing will ever be ok till I can be with you. I want to get out of the Army as soon as I can and get back to you so we can spend all our time with each other like we should have done before.
Yours till the end of time,

I was only able to locate 3 of the photos that Jack mentions in the letter
"Yours truly, the little fellow, not the skull"

"One of the twenty fours that I happened to see"

"Guess you can tell the bird easily, but the little fellow on the left is a Wallaby"

  1. B-24 Liberator photos---The two aircraft photos Jack enclosed in this letter are of B-24 Liberator bombers. Identified by the artwork, they both belong to the 90th Bomb Group of the 400th Bomb Squadron, nicknamed the "Jolly Rogers."
  2. Ralph Loftin account of Leyte Landing---One of Jack’s friends and fellow airmen, Ralph Loftin, described the landing at Leyte, just two days after the island was invaded by the Allies, as the most exciting part of his three years of service in WW 2. “They were still having a naval battle and were still shooting at each other,” he said. “Kamikaze pilots were heading for the ships constantly.” “The fellows and I were ducking down all the time. We were seeing four of five Japanese planes falling at a time.” Loftin also got to see Gen. MacArthur who came over to watch the men laying down metal planking along the beach on Leyte. -“Statesville man spent 23 years of his life in the military”, by Donna Swicegood, Statesville Record and Landmark, Dec. 24, 2005. 
  3. Pilot Richard Kirkland account of landing at the Tacloban Airfield--- When 9th FS pilot Richard Kirkland arrived on the 27th he said that the sight was unlike anything he had ever seen in all his years of combat in the Pacific. There were ships of every kind and some were still smoking from being hit by kamikaze attacks. Kirkland writes, “Dozens of landing craft (LST) lined the beach, which was bristling with antiaircraft guns. Looking inland, I saw the smoke of artillery fire, the flash of exploding shells and billowing columns of smoke. The palm trees along the beach had been shredded, and the entire area looked as though a tornado had struck it.” The pilots asked for clearance to land but were told that the airfield was closed, because it was filled with crashed Navy fighter planes. When their carrier had sunk the Navy planes had tried to land on the Tacloban strip, which was basically a field of mud and had crashed. The 9th pilots didn’t have enough fuel to go back to any other airfield so the commanding pilot told the ground crews to bulldoze off the Navy planes and make room for them to land, which they did. And the 9th pilots landed on the short 1500 ft. of PSP (pierced steel plank) that the ground crews had gotten down. That was about 700 ft. short of what was officially required for a P-38 but all the planes landed safely. from: “Terrors of Tacloban”, by Richard C. Kirkland, Flight Journal, Air Age Publishing, Summer 2003