By Way of Explanation
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.
Tuesday, December 30, 1941
The caravan headed south again at seven o’clock. Near Pismo Beach we saw a battery of 155 mm rifles with muzzles pointed out to sea. It gave one the impression that maybe the U.S. was going to be invaded. Those Japs certainly have scared someone.
We were met outside L.A. by a police escort which took us in to North Hollywood. Our camp for the night. (I hope) is North Hollywood Playground. We erected pyramid tents to shelter us from the California moonlight.
Streaking through the air above us is the fastest interceptor plane in the world. It is the P 38. If we only had more of them in Manila, the Japs would be doomed. This is the first time we had seen one of our modern planes.
Wednesday, December 31, 1941
For a place publicized as the land of sunshine it has certainly been cold. A large number of men complained of sleeping cold and during most of the day we have worn our overcoats.
It has been an uneventful day. Pay day usually falls on the last day of the months but today can’t even claim that distinction. There has been no work today, nothing. No passes are being issued. Tonight we are told to take off only our shoes. I would think if we’ve got any Navy at all we shouldn’t fear a Jap invasion. I think it’s merely a case of “big shots” liking to call “Wolf Wolf”. I hope we don’t slip up when the real wolf comes.
Tuesday, January 6, 1942
My diary has been missed pretty constantly of late. I have no excuse to offer but laziness.
Since my last writing I have moved from N. Holly to Burbank where I am taking a regular shift at guarding Lockheed Airplane Plant.
I had a turn at Sgt. of the guard and now am Sgt. of Fourth Relief.
A number of us toured the Lockheed Plant where we observed the making of the Hudson Bomber and P-38 pursuit ship.
We had payday since the Tuesday with its usually drinking hell raising.
Hell but it’s cold.
January 8, 1942
Hell, but guard duty is getting tiresome and it looks like there’s going to be no end of it. We were issued the English make rifle (Enfield) today, which is the guard duty rifle. Most of the men in the outfit would rather be defending the Corridor-------- ducking Jap bullets than here, defending Lockheed and ducking civilian admiration (around since the war).
January 12, 1942
This is surely a helliva place to be keeping a diary. Oh, I could keep a good one about sleep, eat and freight trains but I mean an action diary. One where men fight, sweat, fall and die. One where airplanes dive, machine guns rattle and “hell” is on the loose.
Guard has had a slight change for the worst lately. We now have an alert period prior to going on duty. We dress, put on our equipment and stand ready for action. We’ve also initiated the practice of turning in our gun belts after we come off duty. It seems that they’re afraid to trust soldiers with bullets.
January 16, 1942
Nothing changes around here but the odor in the latrine. For a time our nostrils were treated to the sweet aroma of chloride of lime. Lately creso with its apply blossom odor has been tingling nostrils. The inhabitants of this end of Burbank are getting the experience I used to get when the wind blew from Freddy Larsen’s pig pen. (the latrine was in an open field.)
Life has settled into a well worn rut. Each day it wears a bit deeper. I spend my hours off duty reading old magazines. It amuses me to read prophesies that haven’t amounted to a damn.
Harry Whipple was reinstated today and put back on guard from which he was taken a number of days ago for shooting holes in his tin helmet. I hope his fingers doesn’t get itchy again as most my relief is scared stiff as it is.
January 17, 1942
Daylight hours were of the old stock. I found some hidden ambition and built me a cloth hanger. It is plainly the job of an amateur wood smith.
Action came under the cover of darkness, mostly in the form of drunks. Wilber Rasmussen (became an instrument navigator and shot down over Germany---survived) snored most of the night, causing nothing but noise and a slight breeze. In answer to a frantic call from post #2, I hurriedly rushed there. On the highway under the headlights of passing cars two soldiers were battling toe to toe. For a brief moment I broke the fight up but as they still persisted in the fighting and being a man that enjoys a good scrap, I let them go to it. I didn’t again intervene till one gladiator started looking for a better weapon than his hands.
Later in the evening I was called out to remove one of my guards who had surrendered to the “Sandman.” Just as I get him back to camp post #17 called for assistance. Roughly waking three men I dispatched them to the aid of #17. No Japs were killed or captured and we suffered no casualties.
January 20, 1942
Today has been my first shift on alert under the new “mess” up. We now walk 2 hours and off 4 hours. We keep this up for seventy-two hours, then we go on alert. While on alert we don’t leave the Btry area or remove our clothes. These lasts twenty-four hours. After completing this program, we are rewarded with a twenty-four pass then back to the rut.
(Joseph Matson, Charley Wright, Bennett Madsen, Burt Hafen, Bert Reusch on guard/garrison duty)
It was twenty years ago yesterday that I first revealed my personality. Twenty years I have inhabited this world. Twenty years a member of society. Twenty years behind me, and nothing to show but six feet, and one hundred and fifty pounds. What chance have I with Orson Wells and the Quiz Kids around.
January 22, 1942
Today has been my day off. I spent it in a military manner devoting my working hours to cleaning my leggings, pistol, howitzer. My leisure moments were wasted “shooting the bull” or trying without success to write letters. The hardest work I do in getting a letter started.
Rumors are once again being flung, we are now going to leave for Bakersfield, time unknown.
The captain mentioned the possibilities of getting a commission to me this day. I have everything to gain and nothing to lose by such a venture and I think it highly probably that I will try.
January 26, 1942
Tonight finds me in a new role. I’m playing on a stage for removed from my buddies of BTRY “D”. I’m alone but for my driver Del Ray, his baby Prime mover and my darling Helen Howitzer.
I’m to act as instructor at the 40th Division Officer Training School. My subject will be “Director of Cannoneers” of the 155 mm howitzer. It’s very comical to think I will teach those who in a few weeks will teach me. (The officers of the field artillery units 142nd, 145th, 222nd, those that were part of the 40th division, all went to training school to brush up on field artillery activities).
Since my last writing I’ve put in a bid for a commission. I don’t stand too good a chance of getting in, but what the hell.
Farewell guard duty.
January 27, 1942
I never would have known it if I hadn’t been told. I still can’t believe I’m training R.O.T.C. cadets fresh out of college. Some have attitudes lower than a 21-dollar man. I heard one man say he got the bars by playing football and judging from the basic question he asked me, I believe him.
Our living quarters are good. Just below my window is a bridal path which is galloped over by Sunday horses ridden by Sunday cowboys. The meals here have one outstanding trait, no desert.
January 28, 1942
Everything went according to scheduled today. My students are progressing satisfactorily. They have arrived at the “prepare for action” stage. Tomorrow they will see a demonstration by what was once a “crack” gun crew, not apt to be tomorrow.
January 30, 1942
I learned as much today as my students. I saw a cradle lug (part of a 155 mm howitzer) torn down for the first time. This class has certainly been a good review.
The 145th FA has been issued their 105 mm howitzer. There are four of them here and I examined one. They look and operate like a fine piece of artillery. The shield is small and doesn’t offer much protection. Uncle Sam isn’t building defensive army.
(105 mm howitzer)
February 1, 1942
Payday yesterday, no one around today. I went over to North Hollywood and got my money, saw some of the gang, their pulling Monday morning.
Worked yesterday morning with the officers. I examined an armored car that drove by and I don’t think very highly of them.
I started this day walking guard and spent the duration working on my howitzer. I cleaned and repacked the Belville springs.
The word came out today that the 222nd is to lose its Howitzers and get the 155 mm gun in exchange. Hell, nothing goes my way. (The Howitzer lobs-shoots on an arch. Guns shoot forward-into the hill)
(like many rumors that were batted around, this one never happened. This was a confusing time for everyone)
February 3, 1942
I can’t explain why I don’t write every day. I intended to scribble a few paragraphs last night but old man “put off” got me by the shoulder, result no entry for what was a very interesting day.
Yesterday dinner time I ate in Walt Disney’s Studio Café. The people looked very human, no mice at all. I had tried to crash Warner Bros. but was unsuccessful.
Today has been one of all play. We weren’t called upon to do any instructing till 4:30. The before dinner part of the day was spent reading. One article was a reprint of a German flyers diary. He was extremely cocky and full of pure “Aryan” baloney. When this scuffle is over, I’d like to shove that diary down his throat. The idea that Germans are the only ones enthused enough to fight.
February 4, 1942
I hit all the moods from deep anger to high humor this day. I was angered by the pitch of killing at reading of the fiendish murder of a cute six year old girl. When the varmint is captured the cruelest method of death by torture should be his lot. It is incidents such as this that make me wish we had a dictator, only under a dictator do they get their deserved punishment.
The day also saw some laughter. Sgt. Leland Gregorson (Ceder City) and I borrowed a “jeep” and scouted hither and yon about Hollywood. It was great sport zooming past civvies and darting in and out of traffic. Laughter repels want for a dictator.