Today’s blog is from a book I wrote based on my Dad’s letters to his family during the second world war and the following year while he tried to make it back home.
I found the letters a few days after he passed away, and learned a lot about a man who I thought I knew pretty well.
The setting for this letter is that he was in California being processed out and it is really the first time that he talks about the future. He also had some interesting insights about the war which I would have never guessed from his later life. More later about that… here is his letter:
Tuesday July 2, 46
Dear Mom Pop.
Well, here it is the 2nd of July and I still don’t know anything yet. I just finished washing my clothes and I’m watching them now so that somebodies little fingers don’t get them. I might go on liberty tonight but I don’t know yet. Jimmy Dorsey’s band is at “Swedes” dance hall in Oakland so maybe I’ll go. I met a guy that I knew when I was a freshie at school. He is going to Alaska (poor boy). I’m glad my time is almost over. The kid that used to work for me that was a 3/C SK is stationed here till Sept. and another guy that made Cook 3/c is on a ship. So I’m glad I didn’t get my rate. Medsger, the guy from West Newton is gonna stop in to see you, he just left this morning so sometime next week I suppose he will stop by.
Don’t mind the writing, but I’m leaning against a board and its kind of awkward. Did Burkhart see you yet, or didn’t he get home yet? I’ve seen all the latest movies and I’ll have seen them all by the time I get home, so I’ll be able to tell you the right ones to go to. Well, the street cars are on strike in town and it’s a long walk to anyplace. We took a taxi once to Frisco and never again – there too crazy a drivers.
I didn’t tell you this before but I was in a Jeep wreck about four days before I left Manila. Burkhart, myself and Ogie. Ogie was driving and believe me he is quite a driver, he turned us over and it started right up so you can see Jeeps can really take a beating. I’ll tell you all about it later. Its really funny what happened.
I was gonna get you all presents here in Frisco at the “City of Paris” a big store you have probably heard of it. But things are so darn dear it isn’t funny. I didn’t get paid as I’m trying to skim along on a little bit so I won’t regret wasting my money but when I get home I’ll get you all something.
What did you think of the Atomic Bomb anyway? I think it was a waste of a lot of time and money. I think the O.P.A. should have stayed on too. Did you know that an old car like my old one is worth 3 or 4 thousand dollars here? That’s not right I figure. Well, this will be my second fourth away from home so I don’t know what I’ll do. I got liberty that day but I don’t know. You know those cable cars that go up and down the hills in town are really fun to ride, they go real fast and stop on a dime. We rode one one night and I kinda enjoyed myself. Chuck Lanks and myself went to Oakland on Sun and went bycicle riding and then we rented a row boat and I rowed for almost two hours and was I dead. Sun bight we had a lot of fun though.
Its hard to find good clean fun in Frisco though. Either you’re bad or its hard to do anything. Girls (I mean good girls) won’t have anything to do with you. I can’t say I blame them much as the sailor has a bad reputation on California. I saw the picture the “Outlaw” and I thought it stunk out loud. I wouldn’t see it again if you paid me. No acting, no nothing, just plain lousy. I had a watch last night. Yes, I still get watches. I guess everybody is back home now and settled down. But I’m not, can’t figure it out. I guess they just don’t know who I am. If I wanted to I’d go up to the old man and tell him off, but I like it here (ha-ha) Chow is darn good. I had a piece of watermelon.
I haven’t figured out what I’m gonna do yet. I’d like to get back to the plumbing shop at the Tube Co. and go to Tech school at night in Pittsburgh and be a registered plumber but I don’t know. I’ll know better after a few days at home. I don’t know how I’ll get my diploma. I’m gonna see Dr. Larson and try and take some kind of a test or something. I think I can work it our some way.
That is one thing the Navy has taught me that there is nothing impossible. You can do it if you try and in the Navy, you don’t try, you do it. I suppose the ole town looks the same. The kids are still as bad and the neighbors are probably still thinking up crazy ideas. Well, I’ve got to eat chow pretty soon so I’m gonna close for now, but I’ll write again soon.
Love, Your Son
May God be with us always and give us strength to carry on.
So what kind of civilian did John turn out to be? The full story will have to wait for another time. He was a father to five children, a successful salesman for Mack Trucks, a loving and devoted husband to his wife Sue. In later life he came to see the reasoning and use for the Atomic Bombs. Their use was actually instrumental in him coming home since the bases in the Philippines where he worked were the primary staging point for the invasion which would have caused untold numbers of additional deaths on both sides.
The young man who served his country and wanted so badly to return to civilian life spent the rest of his days in service to that great country and its people. Deep in his heart, the young man they called Butch was and always will be a great American hero. His love of country never left him and on the day of his funeral, he was surrounded by the all of the saints who had gone before and those who are still working on their wings.
God Be with you always Butch,
Love, Your Son Bob
7 thoughts on “Love, your Son Butch ~ Father’s Day Memories”
He was also a great father-in-law! Beautifully written, Bob!!!!
I am sorry to read he passed on so early in life. While I am still getting acquainted with your father’s history, my two neighbors were WWII US Navy and US Marine Corps combat vets. They both passed not too long ago. I hope your father was not subjected to combat nor had nightmares.
Thanks for the thoughts. Dad had a heart condition (as did his Mother) which caused him many problems too early in life. He was scheduled to be on the USS Indianapolis on her last mission but was pulled from the draft just before the ship sailed because of a botched tooth surgery from boot camp a few months prior. The Indy was carrying the last critical components for the Bomb that hit Hiroshima and of course was sunk shortly after with the loss of most of her crew. Instead, Dad was assigned to the Philippine Sea Frontier and was on his way to support the invasion of Japan. Life sometimes goes in circles. I was a career Navy submariner and my last submarine before I became an officer was the USS Indianapolis (SSN 697) in Pearl Harbor.
I am reworking a book I wrote about his letters and hope to publish later this year. If he had any negative effects from the war, it was probably the same that many men had, trying to come to grips with the Japanese as a people and not as some kind of monsters. The training in boot camp and beyond was very harsh on the view of the Japanese and I am sure was intended to try and stiffen the backs of so many boys from Christian homes. War is a horrible thing and those who have been in combat have so much inside. One story about Dad that is in the book was about a man he met on a business trip in the sixties. It was a very long plane ride and the man who was next to him was from Japan. It was the first time since the war that Dad had been that close to a Japanese person. During the course of the flight, they discovered that they had both served on opposite sides in the same theater. They shared stories, and then shared addresses of their children. For the next five years, I had a pen pal named Kazuo Kiyozuka from Kita-gii Tokyo. We lost touch when I went into the Navy and I have been unable to find him since. (Even Google didn’t help) He once sent me a wonderful bamboo calendar with Mt. Fuji as the background picture. It was in my mind when I went up to the Fifth Station on my first visit to Japan. I have been to many mountains but still consider Fuji the most inspiring.
Thank you again for your responses. Maybe we will meet someday.
I really like your blog so I am nominating you for The Reader Appreciation Award. You don’t have to accept the award if you’re not into that, but I think your blog is awesome and I am tuned in for your next post. Keep on Blogging! (The post is http://wp.me/p2eEip-oE here)
Thanks my friend. I am honored to be able to present my small stoies to people who seem to appreciate them. It has made a lot of difference in my life.
Reblogged this on theleansubmariner and commented:
Wow, its been eight years since I first posted this story about my Dad. So much has changed in my life since that day. One thing hasn’t. He is still my greatest inspiration. Happy Father’s Day Dad.