April 8, 1943 (Thursday)

“Button,” Espiritu Santo

Finished packing and wrote a few letters, one to Claire McCahey, as follows:

Claire dear, 

Received your letter a little over a week ago, and I can’t say I was overjoyed by its tenor. I can’t really blame you as you’re only reflecting the apathy of your millions of fellow citizens. 

Don’t you realize what’s going on? We are, this very day, barely holding our own! Our civilization and culture are tottering on the precipice. Thousands of us are watching our rich, red blood soaked into the slush of the jungles and the sands of the desert and beaches. And for whom is this happening? For the 120 million people “back home’ — people who need the urging of sentimental spectacles to buy their governments bonds, people who strike for higher wages and grumble over rationing. People, who despite the overtaxed railways, vacation as usual — in between playing at war work. People whose nation needs them as factory workers, twittering away their days in blissful ignorance — maybe using up precious gasoline. You know how many gallons of gas it takes to get my bomb-laden plane off the field into the air? 200 gallons of 100 octane! 200 gallons in less than two minutes! Your soliloquy on Tippie floored me. The poor dear! Only one doctor, a nurse, an oxygen tent, neo-prontosil, and a soft white pillow to die on. If my missing fellow pilots had 1/10 of his care they might be here today. They might not of bled to death in their planes or died of malaria stumbling back through the jungle. You know where I live? I live in a tent in the midst of a steaming, mud mired, jungle. Bullets and flies all day, bombs and mosquitoes all night. Poor food — and on and on — none of us mind so much, till we begin to hear of the people back home and their lack of comprehension. No, none of you will understand until you each lost a son, a brother, or a father — and even then some of you won’t understand.

I’m sorry, Claire, that I had to jump on you this way, but your letter drove me to it. I would like to hear from you again — in a different vein. 

Had a very charming letter from Carol not long ago — at your instigation? Hope that this finds you all well — and happy. 

As ever, Jim

Well, I guess that’s the end of that. And to think I damn near married her once. A swell kid, in a nice simple way — but not for me.

Off to Cactus tomorrow. All hell is breaking loose up there. The Japs are moving their air power in.

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