Thursday, February 2, 2017

Lee R. Christensen WWII Diary coninued..........

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.

February 5, 1942
Hollywood 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’)
Mayor White 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.
I worked after supper fixing a winch that had slipped.

February 8, 1942
I’ve been 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.

 (The 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.

February 10, 1942
Singapore 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 tomorrow.
Why should 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.

Let’s fight 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 tomorrow.

February 11, 1942
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.

February 12, 1942
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.

February 16, 1942
I’m pulling 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.
Feeling in 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.

February 18, 1942
I’ve been 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.

February 20, 1942
Great 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.
Yesterday the 2nd 222 FA was transferred to the 1st Battalion, 204th FA.    We are to get 155 mm guns and be corps troops.
More 28 year old’s discharges coming back every day.

February 24, 1942
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)

The training 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.

March 1, 1942

My diary has certainly been neglected since I came to this camp in the hills.  I miss more day than I hit.
Today I 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.
Good night.

March 5, 1942
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.

Sunday, March 8, 1942
This 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.

Sunday, March 15, 1942
A very 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 tossed” night.

I woke Johnny at five am and we started shining our boots for what was to be an eventful day.

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.

Major Urel 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.
The trip home was uneventful.

March 22, 1942
Some 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.
Helen 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.

Monday, 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.

The mid-day sun of the 29th saw us chug into North Hollywood.  The late blinking stars saw us leave.
Fresno 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”)
The third 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 beauty abounds.
Marysville was slept through in our one-night stand.  Then north to Yreka and on.

The fifth 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.
Centralia floated open her dripping fairground gates and 1st Btry. of the 204th swam in.  Cement floors aren’t bad mattresses.

The seventh 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.  

Tuesday, April 7, 1942
Awake and 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.
A whistle 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.

Thursday, April 9, 1942
Our stay 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.
The papers 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 
in peaceful 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 gun smoke?

Friday, Aril 10, 1942
The schedule 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 the command.
At this 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. 

Sunday, April 12, 1942
Raging 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.

        (Yakima Valley)

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.

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