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Health and Comfort From the Red Cross
My Youngest Son gave me a Birthday card that was as Nice a card as this eighty six year old has ever received. Pinned to the card was a Large pin back button that said, “I’ve Survived D-mn Near Everything”. I mounted that pin on the back of my desk. I looked at it today, thinking back to when I was sent to the Pacific during World War II. I landed on Guam after the island was secured and remember this seventeen year old that had never left the state of Colorado and was now on a tropical island where the enemy was still being hunted down, captured or killed.
There was hardly a tree standing, shell holes everywhere and Japanese equipment laying all over the place. Not realizing the danger, I and some friends crawled into Japanese fighting caves and climbed onto the light tanks used by the enemy, we pried open the top hatch and the stench drove us away from the area. Close by was a bridge over a stream that had a sign that said, “Built by the 123rd SeaBee’s”. We went into the town of Agat and were stopped by Marine MP’s that told us to leave. To this day I do not know where the Jeep we were driving came from. Driving back to Agana we passed by a spit of land that stuck out into the ocean, the road went right by that spit of land and an old sign pointing to the 3rd Marine Division Headquarters.
Later we were put on working parties and were used to raise tents and Quonset huts. At evening chow, standing in line while sentries checked the line for possible enemy soldiers, we were told they sometimes snuck into the line hoping to get food. In one area we worked were great piles of supplies, all covered with tarps. When pulling a tarp off of one pile, the boxes of rations had been opened rations removed leaving the boxes to maintain the tall pile without seeing anything removed.
During times of downtime, we swam or went to places we were allowed to go, there was a dance being held at one of the towns (unbelievable) but because we weren’t 3rd Marine Division Marines we couldn’t go. Later I saw in a Leatherneck Magazine pictures of that dance. Then came another exciting adventure, we were loaded on a C47 (Douglas DC3), we sat on cold aluminum seats with no safety straps available. The plane took off, my first airplane ride, I looked at the wide expanse of ocean and talked with a friend who was also having his first airplane ride.
We came to an island, it didn’t look big enough to land a small plane on the runway that ran from one side of the island to the other. I believe we were told we were landing on MogMog, Ulithy Atoll. Tents were being pitched, slit trenches and p-ss tubes were being made larger and more abundant… with our help. Ulithi was the largest natural anchorage in the Pacific and was used to stage out the ships being used in Invasions.
The Philippine Invasion had happened without our help, we still wanted to run into battle even after viewing the vast Grave Yards of American Marine Dead on Guam. When you enlisted you were ready to go, but had to attend Boot Camp where you learned to be Military and obey commands, to shoot, to march. Then you had to learn battle tactics because you can’t go into war without knowing how you must do this or that in tandem with 4, 13 or more men. Your body aches, you have headaches, and your legs don’t want to work but you make them work. Now you are overseas where the enemy is and you don’t have to do that, Then someone says, “The time is coming, then I’ll watch your crying faces wishing you were back home.” We all say, “You’ll never see us cry or want to go home until the War is over!” “Yeah, Yeah”, he says.
There’s a ship with smoke coming from it and no one is helping some Sailors unloading boxes of ammo. My friend and I go over and help, the guy is wet from head to toe with sweat so we go aboard and I go down into the hold and put ammo on something I was told to and people above take it up, and I last about 15 minute or so and I come up and someone else goes down. An hour, more or less, goes by and we are on the flat floating dock with the ammo we have brought up and out. A Navy Lieutenant comes on the dock, compliments us, takes our names and leaves. We later get a letter of commendation and we hear the Navy Lieutenant got a Bronze Star, we hadn’t seen him until he came down and got our names.
Later all our records were blown up, we were declared Missing. It took me 6 months to get my back pay, during that time I got $5 Health and Comfort from the Red Cross (when I could find them).
Sometime later, I got called into the Office and showed a Letter of Indebtedness from the Red Cross. With my explanation I was told the office would inform someone who would straighten out the mess. Well, truth be told, I was suckered into accepting Office Hours which would inform the higher ups of the problem (how dumb can an 18 year old be?) So I did, I lost a stripe and soon everything was honky dory except I was minus a stripe, and I had to pay the Red Cross their d-mned $15.00 for all the trouble they caused giving me Health and Comfort for three months (when I could find them). If you didn’t know it, we still had to buy our two cans of beer daily and cigarettes (unless you wanted to smoke those old ones from the C-rats with the black spots on them).
Any way it took forever to get my Pay Records and all the junk they needed to move us about when they wanted to. H-ll! I came over here to Fight a War not borrow Health and Comfort from the Red Cross, so I could have a Beer now and then, maybe General Sheridan was right after all; “War is Hell!”
GySgt. F.L.Rousseau, USMC Retired
This was Guam when I arrived in 1944!