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 an 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.
revealed. That is the title for
today. I saw a picture being made. It was a cheap western (three day wonder) but
for a beginning it provided plenty of amusement. They shot a singing scene and one with some
tough cowboy dialogue. In the finished
movie these are night scenes but they were shot in the bright daylight. (movie
was “Roy Rogers and Sons of the Pioneers’)
took me for a “jeep” ride that would have killed a horse. It seemed like the hills we tackled were
straight up. Some cars those jeeps.
after supper fixing a winch that had slipped.
too busy being a Hollywood playboy to tend to my diary. Two nights in a row I took in Hollywood. I would like to have taken in Earl Carroll
but my buddy was afraid to tackle anything so glamorous.
Earl Carroll was a famous nightclub at the time located on Sunset Blvd.)
Today saw me
tramping over to Uncle Ralphs. The
family was quarantined for scarlet fever for the second time.
I have to
get up an hour earlier (going on war light savings time) in the morning so I’m hitting
the hay early.
Doomed; Philippine struggle near end; Japs advance in Burma; Germans progress
in Lybia. Headlines, soblines. That’s the story tonight. Hell what a tragedy. The two great democracy’s tasting defeat today
for a war they won’t fight till next year.
Sacrificing a few men (brave men) today so they can better fight
Mc Arthur’s men die with their eyes still searching the sea for a sign of
reinforcements. Why does the Alamo need repeating? Why with a half a million men, trained
willingly, straining to go. Why, why,
why. What couldn’t a hundred thousand
men do now. Why will a million men have
to die gaining it back. Why Washington,
Why Roosevelt, Why Marshal.
now, today. I’m ready, give me the go
ahead sign. My chances of getting
through aren’t too good at best. Why
make me charge into established machine gun nests when I can prevent their
being emplaced by being sent now, today.
Let’s hold the Philippines today, to hell with winning them back
Every time I
hear a news release my blood boils. What
the hell is America doing. They
certainly aren’t fighting. Every
soldiers in the war zone is clamoring for airplanes while the aircraft
factories build them and ship them to a vacant field. I’ve seen many a lot full of completed planes
lacking only the order to send them into battle.
Surely this country has some men they can send
to Mc Arthur. I don’t approve of the
policy “let the Japs have the islands now we can win them back in
’43” In my thinking (by no means expert) it takes less men to hold the islands
than to get them back. What the hell
Roosevelt isn’t interested in the blood that going to be shed winning back land
that could have been held.
Went back to
work today. Drilled “shavetails” (a new lieutenant) during the afternoon
ending a four-day vacation. The class
was cut, there being just enough men for one-gun crew.
an Abe Lincoln tonight, writing by candle light. I pulled into this canyon camp
yesterday. Today has been rest day as
yet I haven’t restarted army life. The
life I left three weeks ago.
need of a short conditioner before tomorrow’s hike leads me to climbing hills.
Half way up
I found what sleeping till noon, what riding and what missing meals
accomplished for ones wind. I hope I’m
in better shape before I grapple with the Japs.
back in the harness two days. The second
section is slowly being organized again and should be ready for the Japs in no
time. The rumor still persists that
we’re going to get 155mm rifles and be transferred to the corp. troops. I’ m not a gun man myself and should this
rumor find ground I’ll try and transfer.
interest is being aroused in the Chris Madsen/ Jay Larsen climbing the Rocky
Mountains. They have placed numerous bets
that they can scale to the summit in two hours.
From here it looks like a tough grind but I think they’ll make it.
The Btry. celebrated a big occasion today. We were taken to town for a bath. Bathing has taken on the aspects of a
festival as we only get one once a week.
the 2nd 222 FA was transferred to the 1st Battalion, 204th
FA. We are to get 155 mm guns and be corps
More 28 year
old’s discharges coming back every day.
Chris Madsen and Jay Larsen made their climb
today. “A” Btry. Took time off and with
every available scanning instrument followed their advance. From rock to rock and limb to limb they
went. Every second of time elapsing gave
the “can’t be done” gamblers more hope.
As they neared the summit we lost them.
Just as the “you’ll never make its” were getting ready to crow, a upset
appeared on the crest. Larsen had made
it. Shortly after Chris made his
appearance. The official time was 1 hour
and 17 minutes. Chris and Jay shouldn’t
worry about Japs when they can walk the legs off a mountain goat.
(the mountain they climbed.
Chris Madsen became an officer with the 1st
Calvary and Jay Larsen was killed in Europe)
still goes on here. We as yet haven’t
received our 155 mm guns. The men don’t
care much for basic nor the concentration like atmosphere of this camp. It is hard to get to town but that has always
been one of my small problems. I still
take a short hike each night. I’m
anxious to get to some scales and measure my weight. I weighed 156 last week.
My diary has
certainly been neglected since I came to this camp in the hills. I miss more day than I hit.
visited San Diego Zoo. It just made me
vow anew that if I ever get enough money I’ll buy a large tract of land and
plant every species of animal on it.
Why I make
such vows I can’t imagine. Anyone with
as little a perseverance as I’ve displayed needn’t worry about ever being rich.
I try and
try maybe I’ll make it someday. Today I
wrote Major Brunger, tomorrow if that fails I’ll try the chief of staff. The secret of my ambition is a trip to the
war zone. I’m getting “basic” shocked.
Last night I
asked the first Sgt. to “break” me and put me on the instrument section. Tonight he tells me to report to the instrument
section as a private. The catch is, I’m
to remain a Sgt. but work as a private.
March 8, 1942
beautiful Sunday has been spent inking in my diary. I half accomplished the job.
The camp is
quarantined with “A” BTRY being confined to their battery. It has served one good purpose, namely we
didn’t have to go on guard. It’s a
scarlet fever quarantine.
As yet I
haven’t transferred but I desire more to every day. I’m “fed up” with close order drill, chemical
warfare and other basic drills. An
outfit that has soldiered for a year surely can be used somewhere. I wish they would ask for volunteers for China,
this lad would be the first.
March 15, 1942
interesting week. It went along regular
lines for four days. Then it suddenly
took a dramatic turn.It was late Thursday night when someone awakened
me. I mumbled a curse and went back to
sleep. However after persistent shaking
and shouting I was aroused. My waker
informed me that Lt. Moore wished to speak to
me. I wondered “what the hell” as I fell
into my clothes. The Lt. informed me
that I was to be dressed in my “going to meetings” clothes and to be at the
flag pole at 6:45 pm. It all lead up to
the examining board. I spent a somewhat “storm
Johnny at five am and we started shining our boots for what was to be an
At 6:45 am,
with mirrored shoes and high hopes, I assembled with the other candidates. BTRY. “A” was represented by Sgt. Loyd, Cpl.
Madsen, and Seely and myself.
gave us some tips, then we were off for LA and the board.
My turn came
at 3 pm. I walked into the room, saluted, gave my name, rank and outfit. Col. Merrit then asked me to take a chair, I
did. A number of routine questions were
shot my way. I sensed each one, and
fired the answer back, shooting as straight as I could. The problem being completed I arose, saluted,
about faced (sloppy) and left the observation post. Only time will reveal my score.
home was uneventful.
progress has been made in my instrument studies. We’ve had a number of problems that gave me
an understanding of “whats, what” at the OP (observation post—where you adjust fire)
I’m enjoying my new work.
Howitzer donned her new spring suit today.
It is very drab. Not nearly so showy as in other springs, but then this
is a war spring. Tomorrow she will
perform in a Btry. test.
April 6, 1942
I’ve come a
long hike since my last entry. At the
conclusion of my first day back in the basic harness. I’ll try and catch up.
El Monte Oak
Park ceased being home on March 28th. The days previous to pulling were labored
away striking tents and packing. The
last night there was dreamt off under the now familiar canvas of my pup tent.
sun of the 29th saw us chug into North Hollywood. The late blinking stars saw us leave.
bedded us down the second night. The
second section demonstrated their art by erecting the latrine. *(I still
remember the formula “2 ft. per man for *%8 of the command”)
day was spent rolling through orchards.
God kissed in the early spring.
Blossoms of white and pink erased the crimson of war from our
minds. How can men fight when such
was slept through in our one-night stand.
Then north to Yreka and on.
sun up heard good-bye California, hello Oregon echoed up and down the
convoy. It was a wet sun that saw us
drip into Eugene, Oregon. But “what the
hell” is rain when you’re having payday.
I slept sound on the sawdust and horse dung of a show barn.
floated open her dripping fairground gates and 1st Btry. of the 204th
swam in. Cement floors aren’t bad
morn and home again. Col. Duffin, band
and 2nd Btry. welcomed us in.
It was a pleasant trip, but its back to basic again with nothing the
worse but the seat of my G.I. pants.
April 7, 1942
dressed at 6:40. “Second section all present or accounted for” and pigging army
issued hotcakes by 7:17. Grub grabbing
over, mopping begins interrupted only by scavenger call. Eight fifteen “deep knees bend” takes over
followed in fifteen minutes by “Column right.” (marching) After a smoking
break “Chemical warfare” gets our attention.
Sixty minutes later we hop from mustard and lewisite to cleaning material. The morning ends at 11:30. Dinner is
scrambled after at 12.
rouses us from our midday naps at 12:50 and it’s back to cleaning material at
1. Howitzers are greased and daubed at
till 4. We polish ourselves for an hour
then give Old Glory five fingers and call it a day. Yep, a normal day.
April 9, 1942
here wasn’t long. We’re rolling out
Saturday for Yakima valley. Three weeks
will be “cannier hopped” away shooting live ammo. Rumors as to where we’re going after that
show to much Marco Polo to be recorded here.
are blood red with lines of war destruction.
The radios blot forth tales of ruination. Men are being killed. Men are being torn open. Ships are being drowned. Cities blown skyward. Booms, screams, thuds, death.
That’s war black side. That’s the pessimists view. War isn’t all hell. Science progresses. Men under the stress of winning the war
invent and perfect mechanisms and theorize that are lost on the golf courses
days. Because they have to improve,
airplanes are made better. Engines are
developed. Medical science, because men
must be saved to fight again, discover remedies, tries new theory’s. We build better behind the lines, so as to
destroy better in the front lines. When
the shootings over the progress in technical science is ours to adapt to civil
life. Does it out weigh that lost in the
Aril 10, 1942
read “9 to 12---R.S.O.P.” (reconnaissance, selection, occupation, position) At
8:15 I marched the 2nd Section to their howitzer and we made ready
for the problem. Captain Staker told me
to take charge of the BTRY. and bring them to the front when so ordered. The BTRY. being ready, I sat down to await
time, Bennett Madsen came running to the gun park with the message that John Sealy,
Chris Madsen, Loyd Adams and I were wanted at Headquarters. Suspecting that it
was something to do with Officers Candidate School we lost no time “lolly
dollying.” We were at Hq. shortly after
ten only to find we were too late for riding with battalion. Finding our own transportation, we soon left
for Fort Lewis Camp Headquarters. On
arrival there we learned that 1 pm would be the examining time.
The ordeal started soon after lunch period was
over. First came blood pressure and heart
beat. The dental clinic yanked me from
there. No sooner had I risen from the
dental chair when a pointed ten inch pipe was jabbed into my arm (left) and a
quart of blood taken. They call this
test a Wassaman. It should have been
named “Killerman.” The secrets of my
ears, nose and throat were revealed next.
Then came the big one. The one
test I was afraid of, the eye test.
Hurrah, I passed it 20/40. I give credit to a piece of paper with the
chart on. I passed that test 10 min
before I took it, when the doctor turned his back. The memorable line is: P.E.C.F.D.
I went on from the eye man to the x-ray man to the joint man. Everything was o.k. Second Lieutenant here I come. Thanks eye doc.
April 12, 1942
rivers, star high pine and snow topped mountains were the treats for my
eyes. The convoy trail led up from Ft.
Lewis, over the Cascade Mountains and down to Yakima valley. It was truly a scenic drive.
Camp Dirt in your food was a stomach turner after Ft. Lewis. Sage brush and dust are the two majority elements. We’ve pitched double tents making four men under one shelter. If the dust don’t get us the Jap never will.
Under the watchful eye of Mt. Rainier, I nothing’d away this Sunday. My “fart sack” held me long enough for two letter to be written.