December 19
 1944 | 1945 | 1946| Years After
 January - Part 1 | January - Part 2 | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October-December

A New Year and New Hope

Senator Connally
Howard on Abilene's Lytle Lake
Christmas 1943 had come and gone. Christmas gifts, via the San Francisco Fleet Post Office, had been mailed well in advance to send the season's greetings overseas from home. Among them was a fruitcake baked-in-a-tin made by Mother, who knew only too well the precise number of days since Guy's last letter. The reality was that almost two weeks had passed. Still, the family maintained a vigilant watch for any bit of news on the radio or in the newspaper that might give some clue as to the location of Guy's squadron and their activities. Mother's letter writing network had grown to include families of pilots Guy had trained with hoping that the information exchange, which often included newpaper clippings, might prove beneficial to either or both parties.

Now the New Year had arrived. A time of new resolutions and new beginnings where last year's troubles and worries are hoped to be discarded with last year's calendar. The new year brought a particularly icy and windy West Texas winter so opposite to the humid, balmy Solomons where news of events ran agonizingly days and sometimes weeks ahead the happenings back home. Time stood still each day until the postman's arrival which held precious hope for a letter, any letter with news. The beginnings of a growing, nagging anxiety grew with the passing of yet another day with no letter from Guy.

Out of the blue, New Year's Day brought an unexpected surprise! Mother was at home just wondering where Guy was and what he was doing when - Flash! She heard the following over the radio from KRBC via Melbourne:

"The Marines have a new fighter squadron nicknamed the 'Bulldogs' and they are the pride of a Bougainville base. In two days of combat last week the Marine Corsair pilots downed 24 Jap planes. Skippered by Major Rivers Morrell, Jr. of San Diego, Calif. The squadron attacked Rabaul in New Britain. The pilots adopted the nickname from the Major who was known as Bulldog Morrell when he played football for Annapolis in 1936-1937. Morrell's men made their first attack on Dec. 19th when they escorted heavy bombers. But it wasn't until this week that the Bulldogs had a chance to tangle with the Japanese. About 40 zeros were waiting over Rabaul when the American Corsairs swept in over the target Morrell says the sky was full of dogfights. That was the day when three Bulldog pilots accounted for two Japs apiece and 11 other American Marine Fliers downed one apiece. Typical of the Bulldog quality of his men, Morrell explains in the action of one pilot. '1st LT. Thomas Tiffing with a Zero on his tail said the midsection of his left wing was struck but he swung and dived at the enemy plane and knocked the Zero out of the sky.' The Bulldogs who chalked up two planes each are 1st LTs. Roland Marker of Kansas City, Mo., Charles Schwartz of San Pedro, Calif., and Robert Anderson of Abilene, Texas. In addition to Tiffing's Zero, singles were scored by 1st LTs. Lowell Wilkerson and Walter Straughn of Beaumont, Texas, Ennis Walden of Corpus Christi, Texas, Robert McDonlaugh of Reno, Nevada, Robert Foote of Dallas, Texas, John Barton of San Angelo, Texas, William O'Brien of Brooklyn, New York and 2nd LT. John O. Sullivan of Kansas City, Mo."

Though there was no mention of Guy, Mother was thrilled just knowing the location of her boy. She went straightaway to the radio station to copy the newscast verbatim and hurried as fast as she could walk to the bus station to tell Howard and Dad. Immediately, she sat down and wrote letters to Roy and V.J. in Corsicana, and also Jean who was visiting her parents in Big Spring. A new optimism arose despite the winter chill. All of which was so very opposite to the humid, balmy Solomons where time ran days and sometimes weeks ahead of home. Still, the daily increment of no letters from overseas bred the beginning of a growing concern.


Major Gregory "Pappy" Boyington
On January 3, 1944, Boyington and the VMF-214 Black Sheep once again tempted fate as they embarked on a fighter sweep mission near Rabaui. Somewhere near Rabaul, his squadron ran into a large number of Japanese fighters and even though Boyington was able to shoot down three of them himself, his wingman, Captain George Ashmun from New York , was hit and went down. Eventually, a hail of machine gun fire pummeled Boyington's Corsair and presumably downed his plane.

After the squadron’s air battle, no one could say whether Boyington had survived but an intense search hadn’t turned up any sign of him. Assumed dead but listed as missing in action, he was “posthumously” awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross.

   January 6 from Howard
January 6, 1944

Dear Brother:

I hardly know how to start. This is the first letter I've written this year and so I missed the year. So much has happened and you've shifted around so much lately and I've been gone so much that I've kinda lost track. I don't know what I have told you and what I haven't. I suppose you have heard that I went to Union City Indiana after the first of the new buses. You should see her. She's really a honey and handles like a million dollars.
Hooray for the Bulldogs! Sunday morning after check-in and before I went home to bed I went by the newspaper to get a paper before I went home and did I find a pleasant surprise on page two. I'm enclosing a copy of it. Naturally I knew then just what I had been dying to find out. Exactly where you were and the action you might be involved in. I highballed it over to the store and woke up Mother and Dad and they were tickled to death. I'm not positive but I think I know John Barton of San Angelo. Tell Bob Anderson that I gave his mother and dad one of the clippings and they were very happy. We're really proud of you fellows. I think if we were any prouder we'd surely bust.
This after noon while the buses were gassing up a "Corsair" flew over and Boy Oh Boy! Did it look keeno. What a Honey! It looked like a big seagull streaming through the air. I wish that it had stopped over at the airport and I could have seen it up close.
In the clipping I'm enclosing I underlined one five word sentence. Let's pray to God that that one little sentence can be included in more and more dispatches from the Pacific, "The squadron returned without loss." Always remember that from not only me but every red-blooded American, the very best wishes for all the luck and breaks in the world go with each and every one of you on every mission you fly. And with you a part of my heart and soul will always be with you wishing you well in every move you make. Every night when Dorothy Jean says her prayers she has a special prayer that I thought you might like to know about. She says, "Dear God. Take care of my Uncle Guy and bring him back to me someday." To that All I can say is Amen.
I know that what I have just written isn't what you might expect in a letter from me, but it was on my mind and I just could not help saying it. Knowing me better than perhaps anyone else in the world you'll understand I'm sure.
Congratulations on having been promoted to the rank of First Lt. I was so glad to hear it. How soon before we can expect a Cpt. in the family? Please forgive me, Brother, I've just discovered a horrible mistake. The knife which you wrote about was not mailed. I'm terribly sorry. I'm getting it off the first thing tomorrow morning and including something that may make up for its being s late. Just have those heathens to keep their guts handy until the knife gets there and it'll be glad to cut them out for them. I'm mailing it Airmail and marking it "Request Package". That may help some.
By the way, when I was bringing in the new bus the other day and came past the Grand Prairie Base I picked up a couple of sailors and one of them knew you. He said that he worked in the control tower and remembered you well. I don't recall his name, but he said that at that time there weren't very many classes there and he got to know every man very well.
Well, Brother, I guess I'd better begin tapering this letter off to an end. It's 3 AM and I'd better get home and get some sleep.
Isn't there some guy out there who can take you guys picture and develop it or send the negative home to me and let me make some prints from it. Look around and inquire around and see if there isn't. You know how crazy about pictures we are. I'm going to write again soon and send you some pictures. I don't know how they will fare during the trip but maybe you can get them in good order.
Write whenever you can spare the time. It really gives me a thrill to hear from you. By the way before I forget it, Dorothy Jean Shaw is working out at American Airlines here and told me last night to be sure and tell you hello when I wrote to you. She's just as pretty and nice as always. I don't think she's changed a bit.
Until you hear from me again, Brother, remember I'm with you all the way. And the best of regards to all the Marines at Torokina Field and all over the Pacific. The best of luck to them, "The Devil Dogs who will take The Yellow Devils out of the Pacific".
"Thumbs Up"
Your Loving Brother,


   January 11 from Mother
Letter No 37 Abilene Tex Jan 11, 1944

Dearest Brother,

I want to tell you how sick I was about my last letter. I wrote it Saturday afternoon and mailed it . Yesterday morning (Monday) it came to the bus station with the mail for postage. I had forgotten to put a stamp on it when I mailed it. I surely felt badly about it because it could have been in the San Francisco post office by that time if I hadn't been so careless. I could hardly eat my dinner I was so aggravated with myself. It surely won't happen again. Your dad stamped it and sent it on. I am still keeping Dorothy Jean. Jean is better though. Yesterday she said, "Grandmother, I think of Uncle Guy all the time." I said, "I do, too." Your dad is getting as bad about picture shows as you boys used to be. Wants to go nearly every night. Of course I enjoy good ones. Sunday night we saw Mickey Rooney in "The Human Comedy". It is about a year old and I'm sure you have seen it but we hadn't. I thought it was very fine. In a newsreel we saw them working on the first airfield on a Bougainville base. It was all muddy and sloshy and we figured it was Torokina field as I read in the paper last week that it was built on a swamp.
Last night at the Paramount we saw Betty Grable in "Sweet Rosie O'Grady" in Technicolor and a newsreel showing actual combat scenes of Arawe. This morning we heard a program on the radio by the Marine band. It of course was very fine.
Roy will be in Corsicana until about Feb 10. He is surely hoping he will be sent close around here but he may be disappointed. I hope not though. Verla Joyce sill be so disappointed if he is sent too far away for her to go.
I had a very nice long letter yesterday from Aunt Lulu. She asked about you boys and where you are. I'll write her soon because she was surely good to me when I was in her home. Honey it has been fifteen days since we have had a letter from you. Guess you are where you just can't send mail but I do hope we hear from you soon. Each day I look forward to the next thinking I'll get a letter then. I know you will write when you can because have been mighty sweet about writing. Darling I must close as I'll barely have time to get this in today's air mail. I do hope you are well. I'll write you again in a day or two maybe I'll have more time then and can write a better letter. Remember I love you and I'm oh so proud of you and all the things you have done and learned. You have really studied and worked hard for years.

Your loving Mother

In addition to the letters and articles that tell the aftermath story, excerpts from sister-in-law Jean's diary (labeled with    ) will also be included in the chronology of events for 1944.
John Kemper relates the diary's origin:

"A short time after I first spoke with Dad (Howard) about my plans to begin researching Guy's life and service, he retrieved an old diary he had kept put away for about 45 years and gave it to me. He told me Mom had faithfully kept the daily journal of the day-to-day goings-on of family and friends as a means for Guy to someday catch-up when he eventually was found and returned. Her entries begin on January 12th and continue for about 40 weeks. The entries begin to show gaps in September (possibly due to Mom's health issues) until they finally end in October at about the time of a hospital stay. The diary was written in a Dailyaide: The Silent Secretary 1944 ('A practical way to an orderly day'), a portable personal organizer available at the time. It was a small, hardbound book having a blank lined page for each day of the year. It was produced by F.W. Woolworth & Co. for a period spanning at least two or more decades.

Writing the journal became a daily ritual for Mom. She put her heart into this gift for her 'brother', to keep a kind of contact, and perhaps also cope with his disappearance. Eventually, as hope of Guy's return began to wane, the diary only served as a continuous reminder of his loss. Almost 13 years later, when packing to move to Arizona and the diary surfaced, Mom insisted on throwing it out. Fortunately, Dad captured the book and hid it away where she couldn't find it. Dad recognized and admired their mutual friendship telling me they were as close as any real brother or sister could be. He added, "If I hadn't known both of them as well as I did, I could have been very jealous."
Guy and Jean   Jean hiding behind Guy
"Brother" and "Sister" - Guy and Jean
As a devoted young housewife and mother at age 23, this journal represents my mother's perspective of family, the community, and the world during those times. Her Irish heart, wit, and zest for living are well reflected in her writing. It is a unique blend or humor, sorrow, family and world history, and often, just plain rambling and gossip. Her writing style is how she spoke with the frequent use of dashes for punctuation. The transcriptions attempt to preserve that style."

Back | Top | Next