April 27, 1945
Luzon, P.I. [Philippines]
Dear Mother et al;
Got back from my 3 day pass to the city and discovered that the organization had moved on while I was gone. So I spent the night in the coconut grove with a new detail that was gathering up odds and ends. Caught up with the btry [battery?] the following day. It was an overland haul this time and a rough one, but still an improvement over troop ship travel.
Our new location is a hot hole; no shade as we’re on a plain with just low scrub growth around. Still have the mountains on the horizon, only now we’re looking at the other side of them. However our grass shacks from the former area were transported over here and are now in the process of being set up by the PCAU labor. Ours was the 3rd one up so we’ve been settled for two days now – there’s a hot bridge game in the making now and all of the unfortunate unhoused btry members that fit are sitting in, writing letters or kibitzing. We have electricity.
For awhile we were up to our necks in work setting up camp and otherwise keeping busy thus the reason for no letters.
However your alls’ mail has been coming in quite regularly. 9 days is the record for time consumed en route, to date. The APO switch over will made no difference. The packages however just don’t come. Got another pack of tobacco from you, though, Emily, and “Pitt,” Georgia [Emily and Georgia were two of his sisters], plus the snappy edition from Sara. Very satisfactory.
The trip to the city was enlightening in as much as it gave me a first hand picture of the destruction wrought thru total war. You’ll never have the real picture until you’re actually in the midst of it. It’s a god damn mess that hurts and then makes you mad. Try to picture the block of the Schenley Apartments [where his family lived in Pittsburgh] multiplied by several more blocks just like it, a mass of shattered rubble. Sections blasted completely away, others just shells with gaping holes, while in the midst just for incongruity a small Spanish styled residence, walled in and entered thru a wrought iron gate that opens into a lovely patio garden full of luxuriant growth and the usual naked babies which would have been squirting water if the city water system had been running, scattered thru it. All of this was untouched except for one hole in the wall. To the right as you entered was the resident itself while on the other side of the patio were the stables. One of our platoon CPs was housed there – the EM [enlisted men?] quartered in the stalls – tiled with oaken, hand carved swinging doors, while the officers were upstairs in the servants’ quarters – tiled, fresh toilet, etc. The servants’ kitchen served as a message center and switchboard set up. God makes us thankful for little things.
Instead of quartering at the rest camp I stayed with one of the gun sections from the btry I was once in. Got a kick out of living with the boys again. Did some shopping but prices were exorbitant. I still want to buy some other articles before I pack a box home. So have patience.
The deaths of the president and Ernie Pyle were shocks. The loss of both men was a real blow. I hope Truman does justice to the program. It would have been a revelation to have read what Ernie Pyle would have written after this was over, I’m quite sure. He had the picture.
Dave Truan wrote to me awhile back. He’s been shifted, along with his outfit, from the 3rd to the 1st Army and has been in on all of the river crossings in as much as he’s with a batch of bridge builders. Can’t say I envy him. By the way, I didn’t get to see J.D. Was led to believe his outfit is back on the line, from inquiry.
This is the end for the time being I reckon – keep real well all of you and please sent more T shirts – any kind, they’re excellent trading material and besides I’ve had every last one of mine disappear along with all of my handkerchiefs. I suspect an ex-laundry woman. Keep writing.
Don Hamilton was a newspaper reporter and a high school history teacher in Virginia.