Wednesday, September 14, 2016

War Memories

My dad didn’t go into the Philippines during the main assault, but as part of the “mop-up crew.” Their job was to bury any dead Japanese that they came across and to root out any hold-outs hiding on the islands. One of the first things he came across was encountered while taking a stroll on the beach. There in the sun was a huge pile of dead Japanese, stacked up like cordwood, awaiting a bull-dozer to excavate a mass grave. As he walked by, he noticed the smell of the dead bodies and the flies swarming over them. He said that a deep sadness came over him to remember that each one of the young men lying there was some mother’s son.

They slept under shelter halves, buttoned together at the top to make what we would call a “pup-tent.” Each tent held two men. Several times, camps had been attacked at night by Japs running through the camps in the darkness, stabbing their bayonets into the tents where they thought a GI would be lying. Word soon got around to other camps, of course. One night, Dad looked out the open end of his tent and saw a “bush” that he didn’t remember from earlier. They were taught not to stare at something they were unsure of, but to look away and then look back. Otherwise, the human mind can convince itself of most anything. Not quite sure what he was seeing, he clicked off the safety of his M1. After a few more minutes, he was convinced everything was okay, clicked the safety back on and went to sleep. The next morning, when he told the guard, the guard said he’d heard the safety go off and was just waiting for all hell to break lose. Dad joked that if that bush had moved, it would have been a very DEAD bush!

Another time, it started pouring down the rain while they were sitting in their tents, out of the sun. They hadn’t had a shower in days, so nearly all of them grabbed a bar of soap and quickly lathered up. Then the rain stopped as abruptly as it had begun. Dad said that one feeling worse than being unwashed for days on end, is being in the jungle as soap dries on your skin. Of course, they tried to wipe off all they could, but they had limited success. Copyright 2016


Chickenmom said...

Thanks for sharing, Gorges. So many that come back from wars never want to talk about it.

Fredd said...

I served in the US Army from 1974 through 1986. During all of that time, shelter halves were still issued to each soldier. I am not sure when those went away (or if they ever did), but they were not much more than something to keep the rain from directly soaking you. Setting them up went quickly enough, but to secure them from the elements (wind and rain run-off), you had to dig a small run-off trench around them to keep the rain from draining into your sleeping bag.

In addition to these antique shelter halves, we also got standard issue mess kit, canteen and other old crap from WWII.

Gorges Smythe said...

I think they're usually the ones that had to do the killing, Cm. My dad never got put in that situation, though he would have done his duty in a heartbeat. He knew that he was blessed to have never been put into the situation.

Only the finest for our boys in uniform, Fredd!