From my father's World War II memoirs. Posted in honor of veterans everywhere.
This is the New Georgia doughboy, returning from the front. He's wearing his green-and-brown-mottled camouflage suit - the one he has been wearing continuously for the past three weeks. It has seldom been off of him, even to be washed - the rains take care of that. If his unit happens to be anywhere near a creek, he washes himself, but that happens only once in a while. Oh, yes, and that camouflage about his face is not really camouflage. Can he help it if the dust, kicked up from the road, sticks to his sweaty, bearded face? All available water is used for drinking, but even with the supply on New Georgia augmented by purified water from neighboring islets, he has to exercise rigid economy. His daily supply which he carries with him in two canteens doesn't last very long in New Georgia's baking sun and steaming jungles.
This doggie, like most of his buddies has been in combat for around twenty consecutive days. That means that during that time he has no hot food. His meals when he could get them, were C rations eaten right out of the can. Sometimes his fare wasn't even that sumptuous. Sometimes he subsisted on a bar of D ration chocolate a day. Now he returns, stripped down to barest essentials, without even the light battle pack he started out with. He still has his faithful M-1 Rifle with possibly some ammunition left, his precious water, first aid packet, and sulfanilamide tablets.
He trudges along the dusty road, his trousers legs rolled up to just below the knees, revealing a dirty, soggy, reeking pair of green canvass jungle boots. He walks along the road which Army engineers and Navy Sea Bees have hewn out of the jungle. But the soldier doesn't always find the road dry and dusty; all too often he slogs through channels of knee-deep mud which must serve as travel routes. On this isle of the dead and living dead, the stench of this mud suggests that decaying bodies are blended in with the soil, but the smell is more probably from rotted vegetation. When it rains in New Georgia, this is what the soldier eats in, sleeps in, lives in. Now, as he walks along with expressionless eyes focused on the ground a few paces ahead of him, his presence adds a poignantly personal touch to the procession of peeps and three-quarter tons which are laden with supplies for the front. Daily he (for "he" represents all such front line men) passes our gun positions with an air of mingled apprehension and respect. He dreads being near them when they fire, yet he wants to get a good look a t the guns that probably helped save his life. "How do you guys stand it? How do you stand the noise?" he asks with a seriousness that dumbfounds us. How do we stand it! He's been sniped at, mortar-shelled, has our artillery barrage seventy-five to one hundred yards ahead of him, and he asks us that! He comes up to the guns once in a while when there is a lull in the firing, and pats a howitzer affectionately. "I could kiss these babies," he says with a wan smile. Once he asked if we'd let him pull the lanyard that would send a 95 pound shell on its destructive mission. He was tickled as a kid with a new toy when we let him fire on the next fire mission.
He sits and exchanges a few words with us; he's never very talkative - sits and broods a lot. As he gets up to leave, his valedictory usually is: "Keep shootin' them out there. It sure is good to hear them land." Though they go through hell, that is all that he and his buddies ever ask of us, that we keep shootin' out there, and they'll carry on their share.
- Ken McLintock (1929-2000)
Battery A,146th Field Artillery Battalion, 37th Infantry Division
January 1942 - October 1945
Urban Renewal: "Pacific Driftwood"