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.
Sunday, April 19, 1942
The week in review. Monday morning R.S.O.P. Afternoon 37mm firing. A welcomed rain settled the evening dust. Tuesday morning Bn. R.S.O.P. with its camouflage nets and fox holes. Military courtesy and map reading ever bored into us while we shivered in a cold breeze during afternoon.
Wednesday R.S.O.P. (can’t you see we have one every morning). Following dinner lectures were given by trained non coms. Thursday mid-day saw us firing 37mm guns again. Second section fired 19 rounds. The first section fired a round that was very unusual. On pulling the trigger a weak blast was faintly heard. No projectile came screaming from the tube. It was plainly a misfire. They waited ten minutes then tried extracting it. The shell came out but the lead remained in the tube. Even the mighty Col. Duffin has tried to dislodge it but it still remains firmly and disobediently in the 37 mm. tube. Friday afternoon saw a return to lectures. Saturday, ah sweet Saturday. It wasn’t the second sections day. Mrs. Prime mover (the truck) was in bad shape, disagreeable and put puttering. Col Daniels had reason to complain to the section for not following fire commands. Guess the Chief of Section is slipping. Lastly, the camouflage net was knifed to allow simulated fire. Saturday, hell I wish I could of slept. Sunday no R.S.O.P. and bore talks. The hot cakes were exceptionally good this morning. It might have been the blue plum jam instead of the thick syrup that we so commonly use on them. Baseball came into my schedule at about 9 am. It was a good workout.
After a Sunday dinner of turkey I showered. The water certainly felt good and the dust removed. After seeing the dust in the air it’s easy to see why we get so dirty here.
Wednesday, April 22, 1942
Wind, dust, dust, and wind, a monument to April 22, 1942. The wind came strong and the wind came weak. Always the cold and the dust were with it. The cold chilling, the dust blinding. We will be well trained for meeting the enemy in a Sahara sandstorm. Blow on ye dust winds.
It’s apple blossom time in Yakima valley. The trees are proving to God that not all is bad on earth.
They’ve snowed forth with miniature angel wings giving to the mad mad world a baby kissed perfume that’s lost in gun smoke. Man will again be man when he can enjoy an Apple Blossom Time.
Helen Howitzer worked out yesterday. She spit four lead pellets into the air. She belched flame and smoke. Her innards were black with burnt powder. She wore a gun smoke perfume. Helen was in her glory as an old maid shooting gossip to the world.
Sunday, April 26, 1942
The second week at Camp Dust has been blown into eternity. The days have been long and dusty. The nights short, too short and cold. The wind, ill as it may seem to be its doing good by fertilizing the apple blossoms. Yes, it is a truly bad wind that does no good.
I made a brief appearance in Yakima Thursday night. My mission was to buy flowers for mother. I telegraphed her a dozen red roses. Filmland held my attention for a couple of hours. It was a Western mining camp show with a new setting, Alaska.
Most my nights are talked away near the one sided heat of camp fire. I vow every morning to retire early but it’s always late when I reach the “don’t leave meekness” of my bed roll.
We had a salad of apples and raisons that tasted extra delicious for dinner. The only meal I can pick about is breakfast. (my spelling getting bad.)
Monday, April 27, 1942
The tent shook. The earth shuddered. The stars trembled. There it was again. Snoreblur. Then deathly silence. Had the “squinteyes” come? Was that their heavy artillery laying down a barrage. Once again. The moon turned pale. The stars blinked. My heart double timed. Why had they raided defenseless Camp God Forbid? Snoreblur closer and closer. The clouds did number one in their pants and fled. Still Snoreblur. Come, come Jensen wakes up and get a new start. No need of causing a black out in Los Angles.
BTRY. “A” had test day today. The weather was wet due to Jensen scaring the clouds. He couldn’t scare the wind and cold. Both were with us till retreat. The long lost sun then made a brief appearance. The test problem went over in a fair way. Coalminer Feck was unable to pierce the rocky ledge chosen for our fox holes. Let’s go to bed.
Tuesday, April 28, 1942
The air was cold. The rubberized raincoat was colder. Goosebumps puckered up on my ice blue skin. I unsuccessfully attempted to shrink so small the raincoat wouldn’t touch me. I shivered for the monthly physical. (another short arms inspection-about every 90 days or less)
It was a good ballgame. Hard fought and close. The score was 1 to 0 favor B Btry. The bases were loaded. Creed was winding up his fast ball. The O.D. (officer of the day) intervened, stopping the game, order of Col. Duffin. To hell with Duffin.
Wednesday, April 29, 1942
We’ve trained on the 155 howitzer for 13 months. We’ve worked hard through dust and cold. We’ve fired in daylight hours, simulated fire at night. Now we have really fired them at night.
The problem was a high burst adjustment. Howitzers were taken to the firing ground after dinner and made ready to shoot. The sun was well down when the fun started. “ No. 1 adjust”, “shell shrapnel”, “correction 100”, “time 2-1”, “base deflection”. “No 1 one round”, “quadrant 3-5-0”. The precision working of the gun crew echoed through the night, “cut”, “ram”, “set”, “fire”. For a quivering instance the place was alight. The shell was on its way.
21 seconds later, far out into the night, the sky gave birth to a ball of light that lived oh so short. End of problem. March Order.
Thursday, April 30, 1942
Cpl. Seeley is well on his way toward Utah and home by now. He has been trying since last Monday to get granted an emergency furlough today. This is a blitz army.
The rains came. They have made short work of the dust. I hope they don’t make a nuisance of themselves.
The boys of the second section tried drowning their section chief this morning. It seems that he threw water on them from the safety of his cab. They foxily waited for him to emerge, then let the water fly. The odds were too great and the Sgt. got wet.
Sunday, May 3, 1942
A very extraordinary day. I have written four letters. Who would have thought it possible for me?
Most of the men are in town drowning their sorrows. Those that are still here have been sleeping their sorrows away.
We were paid Friday and given the afternoon off. You guessed it, Duffins away.
Last night I happened into a dice game. I put one dollar aside that I’d give to the game. With beginners luck I won eight dollars.
The rumor around now is that Col. Duffin is looking for a guard duty assignment for the am. It might be that we will pull before too much longer.
An artic wind is blowing tonight. Open those blankets here I come.
Monday, May 4, 1942
The second section has been very much in need of some camouflage poles. Leo Truscott and I noticed some piping that looked cut out for the job. Late Saturday night, we removed them to the safety of our prime mover. On examining them this morning, I found them to be chromium steel of very high grade. So good and much too expensive for hold up our camouflage net. So tonight under cover of darkness I will return them.
The men were all tired today. Joe Bautros slept through one class and a rest period while the class enjoyed his slumber.
Sunday, May 10, 1942
Tough week that last one. Tuesday and Thursday were normal. Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday were some of labor.
Wednesday umpires peeked from behind every sage brush. It was 1st Bt 204th FA test day. Airplanes, from their perch above, scanned the earth surface for us. Stop watches ticked away the seconds as we went into position. Everything was watched, nothing went unnoticed. First section fired 15, second section fired 3 rounds. It was a good test and one weaker outfits had failed on but not 1st Bt 204 F.A.
Friday was showdown. Uncle Sam checked up on what he had issued his fighting men.
Saturday! “Let’s get those guns to shining men.” “Wonder where the hell my clean socks are.” “Lend me soap Bill.” The back of this truck looks like a madmans nightmare, slick it up Jensen.”
Saturday inspection! Helen passed.
The baseball team played a game with a town team today. They took the band with them and plan on having a bar-be-que.
I explained some of the secrets of Helen’s mouth to Lt. Sharp this afternoon. He hasn’t had any experience of a 155 before but he’s willing to learn.
Capt. Staker has gone and Lieutenant Nickanecky has taken over C.O. (commanding officer) duties.
The biggest rumor in months has us going to Tennessee about the 10th of June. Sounds like a good go.