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.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Visit to Manila

Dear Mom,
You shouldn't be writing to C.B.D. 1082 much longer. Before our leaving for Manila Saturday afternoon, a verbal order was issued stating that a good number (about a dozen) of the dredge crew would be sent to Samar to fill the complement of another dredge (the Indianapolis). After returning this afternoon, we hear that the dredge will be beached and its entire crew (some twenty men) quartered here at the 102nd while awaiting transfer into the 102nd, to Samar, or home. All are in a quandary, which is nothing new.

Our weekend in Manila and vicinity was great. We saw those that remained of the 113th gang. Our arms are sore from the vigorous handshaking and our bodies are weary from the tiring ride home. I drove to just outside Nielson Airfield (over 100 miles) where the 113th was located and was dubbed Barney Oldfield even though I never went over fifty. Irish Hurley, who drove back, went out of his way to find every hole and rut. There were four of us including Al Basil from, yep, Winchendon, Mass. and Tony (Guinea) Gianno from Staten Island.

After we got settled in Manila, the weapons carrier was available for anyone who wanted it for his personal use. So my old friend Ray Albrecht of the 113th, my host there, accompanied me to Sta. Mesa to visit my friends, the Riveras. My being used to thumbing on dusty roads and riding in everything, including dump trucks, it was quite wonderful having transportation so handy - just hop in and drive away.

The four of us received an ultr-cordial reception from the boys. When the usually reserved Raymond saw me drive up to the chow hall, he screamed and talked incessantly all evening. I stayed in his tent during the visit; we were continually together, going to chow, to a show, and visiting with my other friends. Most of the boys, many of whom I'd have liked to see, had already gone home. Like the 102nd, the 113th consists of the youngsters of the outfit, a mere remnant of what there once was. The officer staff was unrecognizable and few. No one worked, nor did they intend to.

I said my last goodbye to the Riveras. Again, they overwhelmed me with a marvelous reception, making it hard to leave. I doubt if I'll ever visit Manila again. For me everything there is done. There goes the dredge. As I look down the bay, I can see a tug pulling her over to Olongopo for beaching. Very shortly I expect to be working for the 102nd.

Yesterday afternoon Mickey Bell (from Worcester) joined me on my short back country excursion to the swimming hole. We wandered barefoot through the fields, followed mysterious paths, and talked to the strangers that lived in huts that were scattered about. My mastery of the local dialect is now sufficient enough to carry on an interesting conversation. It has been very helpful breaking the ice with strangers.

I just ate and now for a siesta.