Friday, December 30, 2016

Lee R. Christensen's World War II Diary

 I started my diary 8th December 1941.  Not because that is the day after Pearl Harbor, but because that was the day the 2nd Battalion 222 Field Artillery Regiment was scheduled to leave for the Oakland (California) Port of Embarkation and the Philippines Islands, code name “Plum.”

     The attack on Pearl Harbor 7th December drastically altered the schedule but it was 3 days before new orders were issued.  In the meantime, we left Camp San Luis Obispo on schedule, motored to San Francisco, crossed the Bay Bridge and spent 4 days at the Oakland Army Base waiting for new orders, unloading our equipment and moving out to a new assignment.

     When this diary starts, I’m a gun Sgt in Btry “D”, 2nd Bn 222 FA Reg. 40th Division.  When the army modernized the Infantry Division in early 1942 Btry “D” became Btry “A” 204 FA Bn-a separate FA battalion.

     Btry “D” (which became Btry “A”) was a Utah National Guard unit federalized 3rd March 1941 and from Mt. Pleasant, Utah.  It was still 65% men from in and around Mt. Pleasant on 8th December.

     I don’t know how good an Army unit had to be to be sent to the Philippines fall of 1941.  But I’ve always thought being selected to go 6 months after going on active duty was commendable recognition.  However, after passing the GHQ tests and being selected, all our over age-in-grade officers were reassigned, one of whom was my father, Major Lee R. Christensen.  We lost the officers’ who made us good.
    The officers we lost went on to lead service units overseas.  The Battalion, at the 204th, regrouped, lost many men to other services, OCS, Air Force, and Cadres but earned 5 battle stars in the ETO.  (European Theatre of Operation.) By then they had modern equipment; radios, jeeps, machine guns and a 155 howitzer that was not a rusting relic of WWl.

Friday, December 19, 1941
Today has been my day of rest.  I slept most of the afternoon.  In the evening I washed my dirty clothing and listened to rumors saying we were leaving in the morning.

Saturday, December, 20, 1941
Today dawned as an ordinary day.  For the first while it propelled along that line.  Suddenly the word came that we were to pack, load and pull out.  Everyone jumped to the task and Benicia Arsenal became a memory at 4:30pm.
Our new home is the Presidio at San Francisco.  We moved into new barracks, drew our beds, sheets and mattresses and made ourselves at home.  It seems we are to be the “gypsy” soldiers.


Sunday, December 21, 1941
Four more days till Christmas, four more days to the greatest day of the year.   In all my eighteen years, I have never missed a Christmas.  My nineteenth year is going to be different.  Christmas seems farther away than Mars.  I haven’t wondered what Santa was going to bring.  I haven’t been busy buying presents and gifts for family and friends.  Yes, Christmas for me in the year 1941 is going to be much different.
This day has been very ordinary.  Ordinary is hardly the word.  Very undecided fits better.  We were told to get ready to head for a new home.  By night fall they had ordered us five different times on what to take with us, all different.  A man doesn’t stay in the army 9 months without getting used to that.
Our home here is somewhat crowded.  I’ve had some of the men double deck their beds.  Our stay is going to be brief as we’re told that there is a new place awaiting our arrival.  Probably leave about Wednesday.  We’re right under the Golden Gate Bridge with San Francisco bay in front of us.

Monday, December 22, 1941
What’s that damn noise and what time is it?  So I thought as I reached for the alarm clock which read five o’clock.  Five o’clock hadn’t seemed early the night before especially when a shower was planned before breakfast.  Now in the early, cold damp, foggy morning, five o’clock seemed earlier than the birth of time.  With this thought paramount in my mind, I cuddled farther back into the blankets to sleep until six thirty.
The early afternoon found me peering with intense curiosity at a Christmas present sent to Cpl. John Seely.  John had intended waiting till Christmas to open it, but “curiosity killed the cat” and he opened it.  It contained not a billfold, pint of whiskey or razor but two books and a pamphlet.  The books were titled “Articles of Faith” and “Book of Mormon” the pamphlet “Church Hymns”.  It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to learn in years to come that the boy who set Mt. Pleasant on its heels with his escapades is now bishop.   Even tonight he began getting ready to convert the Second Section.  Right now he is snoring to the tune “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam.”

Tuesday, December 23, 1941
It was a meek and somewhat hushed up sound from the Revelry gun that jarred me into reality this morning.  It is not often that the Revelry gun fails.  Mystery was aloft.  Perhaps the Japs had sabotaged it while we slept.  It was all cleared up later when a regional official brought a statement of charges down against Cliff Brewer.  The charge said Cliff owed Uncle Sam seventy-one cents for a muzzle cover that had been blown to “pollen dust” in discharging the Revelry gun.  Cliff had pulled the trigger.

“D” BTRY was short of men today (daily occurrence).  In the absence of no one better Sgt. Charley Wright allowed me to service a truck.  It was greased, washed and gassed with my unsteady hands.  A few more days and I can expect an invitation to the “grease monkeys club”.
Grandmother and Grandfather Christensen remembered their grandson who is risking his limbs and life for freedom, democracy and Roosevelts fourth term by sending him a delicious box of candy and a lifetime Eversharp.

Wednesday, December 24, 1941
The recreational facilities of the Y.M.C.A. were discovered today.  I enjoyed a workout in basketball.  I prepared myself for the trip to Manila by a swim.  I sharpened my aim with a game of pool.  The enjoyment was cut short by an order sending me to the barracks.  It seems that the “jitters” had reached headquarters.  They fear a Jap attack.
I talked with mother during the evening.

Thursday, December 25, 1941
To walk my post, that has been my main thought this Christmas day.  I went on guard from 2 pm till 6.  I got in a short swim and a workout on the poundings bags.
I received sisters Jane’s and Ruth’s Christmas present.

Friday, Saturday, December 26-27, 1941
Still alive

Sunday, December 28, 1941
Spending last day here in Presidio.  My trigger finger itches more every day.  The Japs have raised our emotions to the point where we could kill everyone, women children included.  I only hope I get a chance to level down on them.
I splashed around in the Y.M.C.A. pool again today.  I’m hardly ready for a swim across the Pacific.

Monday, 29, 1941
Packed up my belongings and bid farewell to Presidio this morning at seven o’clock.  I had risen early and was eager to shake the dew (no dust at Presidio) from my heels.  The gypsy caravan (officially the 2nd BN 222 FA) was again on the move.
At three thirty I saw the familiar two fingers Hollister Hill in the distance and knew that the old hunting ground of Camp San Luis Obispo was near.  My heart beat didn’t increase as I came nearer, my “adams apple” did not rise.  Not being sentimental I don’t give a damn for San Luis.

After a somewhat tasty but meager supper, I took off for the once booming town of San Luis Obispo.

Chow line 
Examples of Chow Time In the Field.

Like a ghost town it was.  No care free, hell bent soldiers were drinking away their small funds.  The bars were lonesome, the motion pictures were being shown to and empty house.  San Luis Obispo has lost its gold mine. 
I sipped a number of gin fizzes, there being nothing else to do.  Even one fizz makes my teeth feel as though they haven’t been brushed in years.  It is a mystery to me why men like the “demon” alcohol.

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