I told my father recently that they may simply have to blitzkrieg her and do it so fast she doesn’t realize at the time– and deal with the backwash later, but I figure earlier suspicions are much more likely: it will not happen until Grandpa dies.
Thankfully, I don’t think this will happen. My folks went to visit my mom’s parents again, to help Grandpa with various arrangements, including hospice care and such. They will make a slow, transitional move to an assisted living facility near to them. I am not sure on all the details.
Dad came by (Tuesday) with a floppy disk. He is still working pretty feverishly on stuff for my grandparents. He has taken it on himself, somewhat, to be the family historian, and this disk, he said, was supposed to have some of Grandpa’s Marine stuff. He left for Fred Meyer after that, since that was the only store that was doing digital transfer of slide photographs (to optical disc). I told him he should be sure to make backup copies, either to Dropbox or some sort of computer media storage.
Grandpa is part of that generation Ken Burns talked about, about that generation of World War II soldiers that are slowly dying off. I opened up a document called “My Marine Corps Life”, in which he says he wrote up November 2003, nearly ten years ago. As I read, it seemed to flesh out what little he had told me of his experience in the Pacific conflict.
The day after the declaration of war I knew I was to be involved. The USMC seemed the place for me with their good looking uniforms, the type of battles they had been in previously and too my girl friends brother was in the Marines stationed in Guam. So off to the recruiting office I went with out saying any thing to any one…
Interesting. Well, I always knew that Grandpa preferred to enlist rather than be drafted. I didn’t know he did it so sneakily.
…Goodbyes and all took place in Delta and then in Ephraim. I do not remember much of it, but I know there were bye byes galore. Too Mom asked, “What should we do with your clothing and stuff?” I said, “Give it to the Russians”. They were one of our country’s friends and were in desperate need. I guess that was about it.
This is in stark contrast to the Cold War theater that dominated my early childhood, that constant idea that we were struggling so hard against Soviet Russia.
As we got off the train and was standing in lines, a fellow from Idaho and I were talking and someway every one walked away and we two were wondering where they went. I said why don’t you ask that guy (a Marine) and he said why don’t you, “I stutter”, so as a fool I did, and this is the response I got “What the hell do you want? Get that dumb gum out off your mouth, stand straight, shoulders back and look me in the eye”. I know I passed a little water and started to gain a lot of experience but fast. Too, I began to wonder where all those good-looking Marines were, as all I was seeing guys with all their hair cut off in old baggy dungarees.
Well, I guess like all young men, Grandpa’s idealism was crushed a little by reality.
Everyone was issued 2 dog tags, worn around the neck. Dog tags are your identification with your name, serial number, blood type and religion. You were Catholic, Jewish and every one else was a (P) for Protestant. I being a Mormon a P was not right. As soon as I could speak out a little I had my dog tags changed to include may religion as LDS.
I guess the “otherness” of our religion has stuck out for a long time. I am grateful accommodations are better, now; even Catholic hospital networks allow me to state my LDS preference.
One of the patrols we went on was to be about two and one half days, so we took three days worth of C-rations and off we went. After a couple days, it became obvious that it would be impossible that no way were we going to reach our destination. So food became a problem with forty men on the move. We used our hand grenades to catch fish, which amounted to very little. I remember I shot two cockatoos, cooking them with my salt tablets and were they ever good. Now whenever I see a cockatoo, I think of the time I ate them.
As a kid, I thought Grandpa was weird for eating something most people now consider a pet. Now I understand a little better how it had to be for survival.
I saw a native whom I had met before we went to Bougainville who often wore “Marine clothing” rather than the brief native garb. When I first met him he came to our camp and said he had killed X number of Japs. He was friendly and spoke some English. He was asked how he killed them and he said “they (the Japs) asked if I would get them some coconuts so they could get a drink from them. As they were looking up the palm tree I would slit their throats.” It seemed a little fishy, so one of the Marines asked him, “Why don’t you bring back a little proof”? So a few days later he did come back to our camp. He had a sand bag and dumped out two Jap heads. That of course was proof enough and I have a picture of the heads being dumped out.
I’ve seen the picture. ‘Nuff said.
I had many grueling experiences on Bougainville, but there is one I would like to share that probably saved my sanity in the years to come. Shortly after our landing and a fierce day of combat, evening was setting in. We had dug our fox holes, had made contact to our left and right and oriented our line of fire for once darkness set in. All of our patrols were supposedly in, so any thing out front would be the enemy. All at once my fox hole buddy (as we called them) and myself spotted men in front of us and both of us fired at the same time. Right after firing, word was passed that a squad of our own men were coming in from patrol. At such close range and we were both good at shooting, and the men we were shooting at went down immediately. You cannot begin to know how we felt shooting our own men. What a burden to carry for one’s life. But soon (but yet it seemed like an eternity of time) the burden was lifted as we both had missed our intended target. Through the thicket of the jungle and the vegetation, our bullets were deflected. What a blessing as He was looking not only at the intended target, but we the shooters too. To this day, I feel God saved those men, as well as the sanity of my fox hole buddy and myself.
So how did this save our sanity, or at least mine? 1st We thought we had hit them as we are both excellent rifle marksmen. 2nd They hit the ground as thou they had been hit. 3rd We had missed. Therefore when ever I shot at the enemy I had the satisfaction of knowing that I may have missed my target and he the enemy hit the ground as any good soldier would do to reduce the size of the target. He will decide who dies and who will survive. War is war and is HELL but we do have a savior, thank goodness.
I don’t recall him ever mentioning this. It’s probably about as much he’s ever said about the grim, gritty reality of war. I learned in high school that there was heavy propaganda efforts that encouraged his generation not to talk too much about those ugly realities.
The story comes to a very abrupt end and seems to be unfinished.