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, May 18, 2016

Arriving Home

                                                                                     Morning 12/15/45
Dear Mom,
Being here is a sweet thing to contemplate. Though weary from standing in line, pushing about, and anxiety, I couldn't get to sleep right away. My mind brimmed with the happiness of realization. And now it's not so hard to wait when waiting is only a matter of days. What are days when compared to months and years of waiting? My patience is drained because these are such crucial days, but this impatience is far more bearable than the nearly futile impatience over there.

Of course, everyone would like to be home for Christmas. There's a real effort being made to get us there by then. However, we don't know what or when transportation will be available. Meanwhile, we reside in warmly heated naval barracks just ten blocks from the heart of the city. And quite a city this is

more impressive than New Orleans. Compared to what we've been used to, the facilities are heavenly. The chow is elegant. Before I left Subic Bay I weighed 169 when tropically nude. [pre-Seabees weight: 150] Last night in full uniform I also weighed that, indicating that I probably lost a few pounds on the voyage. With milk flowing liberally and foods long since missing from our diet plentiful, I should thrive and be able to combat the cold more easily.

It seems that the Seattle natives find the cold as repugnant and hard to take as we. The weather has been unusually frigid, not only for this region, but for the entire nation. Wherever I've been from Gulfport to the P.I.s.

the weather has been unusual. I now assume that the unusual is usual, what else? But the cold hasn't been as fearful as I expected. The fourth and fifth days out were the worst. A wool lined jacket borrowed from Ray which I wore over a tropical jacket over a velvety sweat shirt over a regular shirt over a skivvy shirt, sustained me beautifully. Now I feel invigorated and at home in the Seattle air.

We are being issued a pea jacket free of charge today. Last night I wore my blue uniform, still intact through it all, and my infamous army jacket. Strictly against regulation, it was an appalling combination but mighty necessary.

I walked down the street dreamily gazing and smiling at the civilians, curious and awed by the beauty of the delicate white complexions of American girls. It was almost as if I had never seen such creatures before. Everything was both strange and familiar: strange in my recent life, familiar from a life more distant and nostalgic. At times it was as if I had never left the country, as if I went to sleep in L.A. and woke up in Seattle and the South Pacific was only a dream, or some concoction of the imagination. There's a kind of continuity between L.A. and Seattle with no interim. Except that now I see things with a strange, childlike awe. This awe, which applies to everything I see, is a distinct pleasure. Last night, I was ridiculously overwhelmed by it and had no idea how to handle it. So I returned to the barracks in time for taps, instead of staying out until reveille, discouraged with myself, overcome with unfathomable pangs of sorrow.

We are permitted to leave camp every night and our daily duties are academic. Despite arriving here weary early in the afternoon, I had to go out last night to telegraph home on the same day I arrived. Although there's a pay station in the barracks, I elected not to phone, not because of the expense, but because I couldn't deal with the presence of your voice and not you. After I adjust to things, I may yet muster up enough courage to phone.

Under the circumstances the voyage was fine

extraordinarily short and comfortable. The ship was big, bigger by 110 feet than the West Point, and fast and famous. Constantly ahead of schedule, we had to slow down to an agonizing 14 1/2 knots not to arrive too soon. So we had big, fast ships both ways. We aren't pikers, that's for sure. Examining the armored splendor of the Hornet [an aircraft carrier, the second by that name] kept us occupied the first few days and the monotony was considerably relieved by three movie showings a day and frequent games of pinochle. I listened earnestly to a roundtable discussion presided over by the captain on the current labor squabbles. Managing to take a hot shower every day, easy to do on this ship, I kept clean which is essential to being comfortable.

I have no address because my station here is temporary. I'll do all the writing and avidly.

My love to all of you, Hughie


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