Sunday, September 28, 2014

11. 'The navy gets the best of everything'

On his return to his outfit from convalescent camp, my dad expected to see the graves of some of his comrades. Of the war
he wrote: How I wish it were over.
This letter is the longest my parents left from the World War II years. My father, 1st Lt. Charlie Pride, wrote it at sea after his long convalescence in the military hospital and rest area at Hollandia, New Guinea, in 1944-45. The ship was headed for Manila. In a letter published in an earlier blog post, Dad mentioned his work as a motor pool officer at the convalescent camp. In Manila he was to become chief of Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s motor pool.

The letter is six pages long, and the pages are full-sized U.S. Navy stationery with the naval emblem atop each one. The dateline reads “Sometime, Somewhere at sea.” My mother Bernadine and their daughter Bonnie, who was nearly 21 months old, were the addressees. They were still living with her parents at 147 Davis Road in Fairfield, Conn.

Mom wrote on the envelope “Started about June 5 Postmarked the 14th.” But because Dad mentioned going to church on Sunday, I think he started the letter on Saturday June 9. The war in Europe had been over for a month, but the Japanese were hanging on.

Here’s the letter:
                                                                                  Somewhere at sea

Darling Bern & Bonnie,

Can’t say much about anything except that I am feeling fine and comfortable. Instead of writing you everyday I will write more on this when I think of something new to say. It will save money on postage and we can’t send them anyway until we disembark.

This is the smoothest riding ship I have ever been on. We have been out quite a few days and I don’t even feel the least bit woozy. In fact my appetite is tremendous, but that must be on account of this navy food. We have steaks, chicken, pork, good pastries and ice cream. We can also buy ice cream and Coca Cola at the ship store, so you can imagine how fat I’ll be when we get there. Do you mind if I am a little fat?

No, there are no women aboard, darn the luck. I’ve yet to get on a ship other than that hospital ship where there was any female personnel aboard. I suppose that makes you happy. Well to tell the truth I don’t care myself. There is only one little girl for me and no one else could ever take your place. I love you with all my heart and hope and pray that it wont be long before we are together again.

There are four bunks to a cabin and one army cot. I am sleeping with four captains so you know who is sleeping on the cot. I don’t mind though. I have a nice mattress on it, and a pillow. Another wonderful advantage is the fact that I can pick up my cot and go up on deck to sleep, which I do. The heat in the cabins is terrific. I also enjoy the sound of the ocean and being able to think of you and Bonnie – the peace and quiet.

Here's a photo of Bonnie that Mom had sent to Dad . . . 
Black out regulations are very very strict. We can’t even have lights in our cabins with the port holes closed after sun down so you can imagine how we have to grope around. Most of the officers have a lot of enlisted men to take care of inspection of their hatches and stuff. I was lucky. I was O.D. [officer of the day] the first night out and have had a few jobs since but as a whole I am taking it easy. Not that that’s unusual for pappy, right?

. . . and here's what Mom wrote about "little Stinky" on the back of the photo.
The heat is terrific and we are running into rain. What luck. It is now rainy season in the P.I.’s [Philippine Islands] so you can imagine the fun we are going to have building a camp in the rain and mud. I guess everyone on board but me is looking forward to getting there. I’d rather have stayed where it was comfortable. I’ve never been on this particular island before but I think my old outfit is still there. I guess I’ll get to see Elliotts and a few other friends graves. I get sick when I think of it. How I wish it were over. I love you.

I hope to see Paul soon. That’s at least something to look forward to, someone we both know. That makes it nice, knowing you know him too. This navy stationary is pretty good compared to ours, but then the navy gets the best of everything. Now I’ll have to get some air mail stamps so I can use these nice envelopes.

Today is Sunday. I just got came from Church services on deck. It was a Lutheran service too. Surprised? [The Nordstroms were Lutheran. Dad was Presbyterian but seldom went to church.] The water is a beautiful blue, an unbelievable color, looks like blue ink. We see quite a few flying fish and some sharks too. They sure are sinister looking. I guess they follow the ships and eat the garbage. I’d hate to fall overboard. I wonder if they like dark meat?

Just so you can follow my travels on the map, I can tell you the different places I’ve been, since it’s not against censorship regulations as long as your outfit is no longer there. My first stop over a year ago was New Caledonia, then Milne Bay, and then Oro Bay and Buna where I spent a month or so, then Finchhaven, the Admiralty’s (Los Negros, Mauna & Howie Islands), New Britain, Leyte and Samar, and then I was evacuated you know where, and here I am on my way again, so you can see I’ll really have been around, and believe it or not I’d much rather have stayed at home with my honey.

I am very blue and lonely for you darling. You are constantly in my mind and I feel it in my heart that we’ll soon be together again. That is all I ask of life. We have about the best understanding of anyone I know and I have the sweetest and best wife in the world.

We officers have it quite nice on board. We eat in an air cooled dining hall with colored stewards to serve us. We eat at tables family style. Each state room has a tile bath and shower. Of course fresh water is only on certain hours of the day, but we do very nicely. They also have a laundry service for officers and believe it or not our khakis are pressed and stacked. I can’t get over it. It sure feels good to put on a nice clean crisp uniform. We must wear khakis at all times. They also have a barber shop with a real chair. I know. I tried it yesterday. All they need is a barber. My head looks like I forgot to take my helmet off but the chair was worth it. It sure felt good. The pay-off is all of these services are free. Yes, all of them. We aren’t even allowed to tip the stewards. Oh, boy, the navy.

In October 1944, Dad had landed with the First Cavalry at Leyte just south of Tacloban. He was wounded
on the island of Samar. Although this letter doesn't say so because of censorship rules, I believe the ship
delivered Dad to Manila, the capital, on the west coast of Luzon. It landed around June 14, 1945. 
We have a movie in the dark mess hall nights. They are real old and class “B” pictures but we go anyway. The heat is unbearable. We have a lot of fun singing “old favorites” before the show. I think it’s against navy decorum. I guess they frown on us, but who cares. We have to stand at attention when the captain comes in. They blow a whistle. We also have to be in the dining room five minutes early and then we can’t sit down till the captain takes his seat and if anyone comes in late they have to apologize to the captain and ask permission to eat. Some fun! I laugh to myself. I guess I’m just a civilian.

Col. Solomon is in charge of all troops aboard. He is alright too. Maybe that’s why I can take it easy. We play quite a bit of pinochle. No money involved either. I’ve only got about four bucks to my name anyway. They sure have some hot poker games going on. Makes my mouth water to watch. My room mate, our adj., Capt. Darkow, won $700.00 yesterday. I’d faint if I ever won that much. I am glad I am cured cause I would have lost my shirt, I could see from watching all the hands, so I guess you never have to worry about pappy becoming a habitual gambler. [Dad’s “cure” was short-lived, as subsequent letters in this series will show. Later in life he gambled almost daily at gin rummy.]

I do like our small games at home, though, don’t you? Remember how sore the Cowperthwaites got when they lost 50 pennies? I don’t seem anxious to see or to like any of our friends anymore, just you and Bonnie. I love you with all my heart. I can’t figure out why I feel that way about the Fogarty’s and others, but I wouldn’t care if we never saw them again. In fact, how do you feel about Vermont or the West Coast? I think we’d like either, don’t you. I love you.

Nothing much new. Land is constantly in view. We should pull in either tonight or tomorrow, so I guess I’d better taper this epistle off so I can mail it quickly. Had a funny incident happen yesterday. I had three bottles of beer in my pack and of course hot beer doesn’t taste so good. Capt. Darkow and I decided we’d like a cold one, so I went up and asked the steward if he thought he could get us some ice. “I don’t know I’ll try,” he replied. I told him I had three beers and I’d give him one. He said, “I know I can get it now.”

I hope to have a whole flock of mail waiting for me. I am always anxious to hear from you and to hear of Bonnie’s antics. We are running into quite a few tropical storms. I guess we’ve really hit the rain belt again. You really wont mind if I come home with web feet, will you darling? I love you oh so.

Well I now have over 13 months, only five more to go. I hope it flies. I long to feel those nice arms of yours around me. Just think, we’ll have a new and better honey-moon, lets make believe it’s our first, O.K.? We’ll really do things up brown. Maybe we’ll go to Miami beach if it’s winter. We’ll shoot the works, formal and all. What do you think my sweet wife? Gee, I sure do love you.

I am going to miss these meals. We even had fresh turkey yesterday. It sure was good too. By the way, I got weighed yesterday, 175 stripped. That’s about right for my height. Still wear a 32 waist too. I guess I’ll lose a lot more when we start to build a camp. That sure is a job, and everyone works too!! Even me.

Guess I’ll sign off for now till I get the time and place to write again. I hope it’s soon. I love you very dearly. Bonnie too, Kisses

                                                                          Your very own

Next: Glory be to the atomic bomb.

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