Letters from the Good War

A running series of World War II letters written by a Navy Seabee who served in the South Pacific theatre taking the reader through the entire war experience.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Subic Bay Luzon, The Philippines


Dear Mom,

The rain is still cutting strong, and the clouds are black, low hanging, and miserable. What's important is we're dry. The tents are a success.

Last night the ice cream was a deplorable failure. It was too rich. Others have produced excellent ice cream. We in our tent just don't have the knack. But we are determined to try again.

There are five in my tent. On my left is a fellow from the home state, Brockton if you please, now residing in New Hampshire. Thirty-one years old, he spent several years in the army in Panama, has seen much, has worked at numerous trades, but prefers to remain a millwright. At one time he was wild, but settled down with a nice girl, has a one year old child that he has never seen. The man is a thinker, a pleasing talker, and tactfully frank. His way is odd, though attractive. His ambition is to own a New Hampshire farm, which his wife is now on the lookout for. I like him.

The fellow in his bunk to my right is my age and hails from Minnesota. Because of his naivete many underestimate his intelligence. Actually, he's quite clever. He's a wanderer, goes off for days at a time, and enjoys life. He has a keen and fantastic imagination. I get along with the lad well, and admire many of his ways. He's clean, but not neat, if you can understand such a combination. I'd call him a good bunkmate for our tent.

Next, is the man from Frisco who never hesitates to boast about his town. He's the fellow I wrote you about back in Hollandia. Just thirty-one, we dub him a bachelor. But he plans to be on the make, after he returns. As time goes by, he has become aware that his hair has been markedly reduced to a shallow, thin crop. On the plump side, he is conscious of the passage of the years. Although he's normally extremely good-natured, he occasionally blows his top, and takes a nip now and then, but he never gets drunk. He makes a likable bunkmate. I had worked for him on several electrical projects.

Lastly, we have a rebel from Florida who sports a white mop of hair that just won't stay back. He sees the world through a maize of fine blond hair. Talkative and fast moving, he's just what a typical Southerner isn't. When he's working, you'd think he was off to a fire, and he puffs as if was getting up enough wind to blow it out. Age thirty-seven, recently married, he was by trade an auto-body man. He never bothers anybody despite his exhortations and wild opinions. All of us get along with him.

So it's we five living intimately together and tolerating each other's company in pleasant harmony. Our tent personnel make up a quiet and intelligent group. All are satisfied. The only way to live harmoniously with others is to make concessions. With all of us doing so, everyone is happy.

I lost my chair in transit. Today I began making another, a better one, of course. Once it's built, I'll settle down to the easy state of my pre-Philippine days, and step out only when I'm bored.

My tiny laundry girl is washing the canvas for my new chair. Today, two more girls invaded our tent seeking to trade. They bring a bag full of life with them; everyone gets a portion of it. They have baskets full of fruit, mouths full of smiles, and happy voices. Earlier this afternoon my two Filipino friends, Junior, 13, and Penoy, 16 conducted a session in Tagalog with us. Penoy made up a list of useful phrases. On examination, I discovered that he was teaching me the words used to make love. I had some task setting him straight. In the meantime, my laundry girl (I'm chewing on a fresh pineapple) can't look me straight in the eye without blushing. Now I learn that Penoy and she are cousins. Why, why, I ask, am I always a matchmaker's victim? The pineapple is delicious.

It's now the end of an uneventful, dreary day, and tomorrow is Sunday. As yet, we don't know whether we will work. If we don't, and the weather is fair, I'd like to do some snooping about the countryside.