Robert (Bob) Moody
Memoirs and Pictures Taken by Sgt. Robert (Bob) Moody
Mr. Robert Moody
3 Eleanor Road
Walpole, MA 02081-3110
This narrative isn’t going to dwell so much on my early life as it is my time in the Army Air Corps. I’ve often wondered about what my two great grandfathers did when they were in the Civil War, so perhaps some progeny will have the same wonderment about my life in the service.
Nothing notable happened on that day of my birth. I suppose my parents and my six year old brother, Lowell, thought my birth was somewhat notable but that is beside the point. I doubt if anything notable has ever happened in that sleepy little town of Orleans, in southern Indiana. I have visited there often for my father and his parents and other relatives are buried there. But I left there when I was six years old so many of my memories of the town were formed from those visits rather than from my childhood.
My father lost his right hand in an industrial accident in the late twenties and shortly after, due to the depression, the factory shut its doors. So, we relocated to Bloomington where chances of finding work were much better. Unless one has lived through a depression it is hard to explain just how it affects a person’s life. But one either survives or goes down in the dust of despair.
In the late thirties war clouds were hanging ominously over Europe. I think most Americans were hoping that we could stay out of the conflict simply by aiding our allies with material goods. But then on that fateful day, December 7th, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and we were suddenly thrust into the middle of the conflict.
Patriotism brought out a rash of enlistments in the various branches of the armed forces. But these still weren’t enough so the drafting of young men started. At first all men twenty-one years of age and older were required to register for the draft. This was later reduced to twenty and then to eighteen. Thus, on the 20th of October 1942, I was told to report for a physical exam at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indianapolis, Indiana. It surprised many people when I passed the exam for I was a skinny fellow and not exactly the picture of health. But I did pass and was duly inducted into the armed forces. I was given an immediate two-week furlough in order to “get my affairs in order.”
And so it was, on the 3rd of November, 1942, I entered active duty in the service. Thus began a period that changed my life completely. I returned to Fort Ben on the 3rd for what were probably the busiest few days of my life. My arms were punctured with more needles than I care to remember. I was issued two sets of clothes from dress O.D.s (olive drabs) to work clothes, shoes, and underwear; in other words, everything I would need in my life to come. Then came the indoctrination into the Army way of doing things. Obedience to higher authority was stressed, and to a buck private, everybody was higher authority. And I was assigned a new number in my life: ASN35563922.It seems like I used that number almost every day.
Then on the 6th I was told to pack everything in my barracks bags for I was shipping out. I had no idea where I was going but I was soon to find out. Sometime before midnight our train pulled into Jefferson Barracks, Missouri and that was to be my home for the next three months. J.B. was a basic training camp for the Army Air Corps on the outskirts of St. Louis. I liked J.B. for I lived in a nice warm barracks as opposed to tents along the Mississippi River that some of the fellows had. I enjoyed the marching in formations and the close order drills. We learned the basics of handling a gun on the rifle range. We were being trained as support troops instead of front line fighters.
Christmas was very different for me that year. It was my first one away from home. The mess hall was decorated and the food was great and plentiful. I went into St. Louis after eating and spent most of the rest of the day at the USO center there for service men.
I had my share of K.P. (kitchen duty) and details (work groups) but even that could be enjoyable. The day after Christmas I was told to report for detail in our dress uniform (khakis). This was most unusual for all other details the standard outfit was our green coveralls. The breweries in St. Louis had furnished 3.2 beer (light alcoholic content) for our Christmas feast. Our detail that day was to return the bottles to the breweries. And soldiers were not allowed off the base unless they were in dress uniform. The breweries had pitchers of ice cold beer to quench our thirst. I wasn’t much of a drinker but I sure enjoyed that detail.
Basic training is not only physical but it is also mental. We underwent many tests to see just what might be our qualifications for advance training. And all along we were indoctrinated with the idea that Air Corps men were the elite of all the service people. Then one day I was notified that I was being transferred. My orders said that I was going to Boston, Massachusetts to undergo schooling for general drafting and map making. It also read that I was being promoted to PFC (private first class). That meant my pay would jump from fifty dollars a month to fifty-four dollars.
So, on the 21st of January, 1943, I again boarded a train for the trip to Boston, arriving at the terminal in South Station the next day. A truck was there to pick me up and I was transported to 29 Brookline Ave. Our living quarters there were on the second floor of a business building. Instead of cots we had double deck beds and in the front there was a day room (recreation room) complete with a jukebox. We ate at another building a few doors down the street where a bunch of Engineers were housed and ate. The Engineers didn’t like the fact that we had been promoted and they hadn’t. We had to march to school every morning and back again in the afternoon. I would guess that it was three or four miles each way. The school was the Franklin Technical Institute. We soon settled into a routine. We were given box lunches, which we ate in the auditorium of the school. We started for school about seven in the morning and we used to sing in cadence to our marching. But that didn’t last long for the residents along the way objected to our waking them up. One day a car hit one of the men in the rear of the platoon. He wasn’t injured but after that we had a police escort to and from school.
Our course was called general and topographic drafting and most of our schooling had to do with the making of maps. During one week of our schooling we were required to go to Franklin Park for some of the job training. We had to start at a fixed point in the park and by shooting azimuths, make a circuit of the park and, if we did it right, come out where we started. It was very cold that week but we survived by doing one section and then ducking in to the lion building to warm up. We attracted many children during the week and I’m afraid we filled their heads with a lot of tall stories. One of the favorites was that we were drawing up plans to make an airport at the park. Who knows what they told their parents.
I had many good experiences in Boston. There were no details to pull and we had a permanent pass to leave the dorm as long as our grades were up to par. Kenmore Square was just a few steps down the street and we could make connections for anywhere in Boston from there on the trolley. I had my indoor roller skates with me so I soon found the location of all the rinks in the area. And it was there that I met my future bride. I talked her into giving me her address. We didn’t see each other again for I graduated and was shipped out shortly after that. But we corresponded with each other and one thing led to another. Her letters made life much more bearable during my time overseas.
A few days before graduation our instructors gave us a list of bases to which we could be shipped. In the annals of Army history this is almost unheard of. The choices ranged from Maine to Florida, to Texas, Ohio, Virginia, Louisiana and a couple of other bases. Also on the list was a base in Indiana. Indiana? I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the list. The catch was that the choices would be doled out with the man with the best grade standing would be given the first choice and so on down the line. Two men were to be sent to Indiana. As luck would have it my name was one of the two to be sent there.
And so it was, on the 19th of April, which in Boston is Patriots Day, Marathon Day and the opening of the season for the Red Sox. I was scheduled to leave. But I had no idea what time of the day I would be shipping out so I had to stay around our quarters. It was six in the evening before the truck took Merlin (Bunny) Rabbitt and me to South Station to catch the train for New York City. There we transferred to a sleeper for Fort Wayne, Indiana arriving there the next day.
At last I was back in Indiana. I had hoped for at least a three-day pass to go to Bloomington but that wasn’t to be. My mother and sister-in-law, Anna, came up and I was able to get a pass into town to see them. Alas, I was destined to be at Baer Field, Ft. Wayne for only two weeks when I again got orders to ship out. This time my destination was the air base in Laurenburg-Maxton, North Carolina. There I was assigned to what was to become my permanent outfit, the 375th Troop Carrier Group. And I was to be a member of the Intelligence Office of the 57th Squadron. Bunny was assigned to the 58th Squadron so we kept in touch with each other.
It was at this base that I took my first ride in an airplane. Our outfit had C-47 transport planes and our mission was to move men and supplies to the forward bases. One of our planes was scheduled to fly to another base in North Carolina to pick up a spare propeller. Bunny and I got permission to go and so we hopped aboard. I’ll never forget the thrill of that first flight. Then on the 1st of June our whole outfit moved again. Where, you ask? Back to Baer Field, Ft. Wayne, Indiana. This time we traveled by air, in our own planes. I was really in the Air Corps now. And so it was, I was back home again in Indiana. This time I did get a three-day pass to go to Bloomington. What a proud day that was for me, to go home for the first time, in uniform. On my return to base, we had very little spare time for we were involved in preparing for overseas duty. We didn’t know where we were going and there were rumors galore. We were issued carbines, gas masks and all the paraphernalia for war. We turned in the carbines before we finally left the States and I never saw it again. Then on the 17th of June we boarded a train that was to be our home for the next five days. The air echelons left by plane for they had to fly our planes over. There were no sleeping facilities on the train; we either slept in our seats or, as some did, lay down in the aisles at night. One car was designated the mess hall and we filed through there for our meals. We wended our way west through Missouri and on in what seemed like an endless journey. I remember seeing the Great Salt Lake and standing guard duty on the rear platform of the train. I was covered with soot and bathing was out of the question for we were running out of water. The only time we were allowed off the train was high in the Rocky Mountains. We had a snowball fight; one of the few times I have seen snow in June. We finally arrived at Camp Stoneman, California on the 22nd. We were restricted to camp since our stay there was to be brief.
Brief it was, for on the 26th we boarded a ship for the first leg of our journey overseas. Being a landlubber from Indiana, this was the biggest ship I had ever seen. But I was soon to find out that it was only a ferryboat taking us across the bay to San Francisco. There we boarded a really big ship, the Lurline. This was a luxury liner that before the war plied the seas in regal styles for the rich and famous. It was at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii a few days before the harbor was bombed by the Japanese. It had been converted to a troop ship and put into duty for Uncle Sam. We set sail for points unknown to us the following morning. And I got my first view of the Pacific Ocean.
I was fortunate to get a bunk on the promenade deck and mid ship. The bunks were canvas and arranged in tiers of four. I got the bottom bunk, about two inches from the floor. You couldn’t sit up for the bunk above you was less than 3 feet above. The trick was to kind of roll into your bunk. But I got used to it and it wasn’t too uncomfortable. We had to have our life preserver with us at all times so I used that for a pillow. During the day we could look right over the rail and see the ocean. At night we had to put wooden covers over the top part due to blackout regulations. And being mid-ship we did not feel the roll of the ship as much. When we hit the warmer climes Bunny and I enjoyed watching the flying fish alongside the ship.
We ate only two meals a day but the food was very good and we could have all we wanted. Much of our time was spent in the chow line. I remember going down the broad staircase to the “grand ballroom.” That was our mess hall. We were restricted from going on the topmost deck of the ship for that was where the nurses were quartered.
Since the Lurline was a fast ship we traveled alone; no convoy for us. The disadvantage being that we had no protection from any enemy submarine. But we spent only fifteen days making the trip without seeing any other ship or sight of land. They printed a daily newsletter for the troops with all the latest news and current location of the ship. It soon became apparent to us that we were headed for the South Pacific. On the 5th of July we crossed the equator. To celebrate we were served a dinner of turkey and all the trimmings AND strawberries and ice cream. We found out later that this was a rarity on troop ships. Another strange occurrence for us happened during the night of the 8th of July. When we got up the next morning it was the 10th of July. We had crossed the international dateline and had lost a whole day. Then on the 13th of July we saw our first land. We soon found out we were going up the Brisbane River and realized we were seeing Australia.
We took up quarters in Brisbane in what was once a racetrack called Ascot, now called Camp Doomben. We slept in tents with wooden floors with makeshift mattresses filled with straw. Although Australians spoke English, their accent was strange to us and we didn’t understand many of their expressions. So, our first day was filled with a meeting in the grandstand to explain to us the language and customs of the people here. Our days were mostly filled with small details mostly loading and unloading materials. Once in a while I got a pass to go into Brisbane. Found a skating rink there but it was very poor quality. Although it was July it was very cold. The seasons are reversed below the equator so it was wintertime there.
We were destined to be in Australia for only a short time, so on the 27th of July we boarded the H.T. Allen for our next ocean voyage. This ship was smaller than the Lurline so the living space was a little crowded. Four days later we docked at Port Moresby, New Guinea. Our camp area was several miles outside of Port Moresby in the jungle. The kunai grass was so high that one person had to stand in the jeep to direct the driver where to drive.
We set up a tent and soon settled into life in the jungle. We found out that mosquito netting was a necessity if you wanted to get a nights’ sleep. We didn’t sleep too many nights in Port Moresby area for on the 4th of August we loaded everything on our planes and took off for Dobodura, New Guinea. It was here that we got our first real glimpse of the horrors of war. We were in territory now that had been re-captured from the Japs. We built our tents off the ground for when the monsoon season hits it really flooded the area. We went into the jungle for small trees to make the floor of the tent. We got some heavy wire mesh for our Intelligence Office so I requisitioned three pieces for our floor. There was sure plenty of fresh air.
Our first mess hall was a tent and we ate right out in the open. One day some of the fellows had a problem with their appetite. While we were standing in line several natives came through the area. That was OK but the leader of the pack had slung over his shoulder a three or four foot lizard all skinned and ready for them to cook. We had many experiences with the local wild life. One day a wallaby came hopping through the camp. A wallaby is a small version of the kangaroo. Or ‘roo as the Australians call them. Another day a wild boar came charging through. That is one animal I wouldn’t want to fool around with. The jungle was filled with all kinds of exotic and colorful birds. And flowers were plentiful; too, many of them looked like wild orchids. I remember our first Christmas in New Guinea we went out in the jungle and gathered all sorts of flowers to decorate the mess hall. It made the holiday seem a little more real.
Every time one of our planes went on a mission they had to have a grid map with codes on them so they could radio their position if they were forced to land in enemy territory. Part of my job was to put the codes on these maps each evening for the next days’ flights. The pilots were supposed to turn in these maps at our office when they returned from a flight. But oftentimes they would forget and I would have to get a jeep and go down to the line (the airstrip), find their plane, crawl up into the cockpit and retrieve the map. Many times I made up the maps around eleven or twelve at night. And many times I was up at 4:30 the next morning to hand these maps out to the pilots. We kept the codes in a small safe in our office and once a month we would get a new set of codes. Another part of my job was public relations. At one time, I had to file 25 stories a month to be sent to the hometown paper of the fellows in our squadron. That meant I had to get records from all of the fellows much like a personnel department would have. I soon learned the names of the newspapers in all the major cities in the U.S. I had never learned to type before but I soon learned the hunt and peck system. I got pretty good at it as long as I didn’t have to follow copy. In those days we didn’t have copying machines and we had to make carbon copies of everything.
We also had a radio in our office with earphones. Once a day our Group headquarters would give out all the latest news at slow speed. I was soon able to type the news and post it on our bulletin board for the fellows to read. One wall of our office was always covered with maps of the South Pacific and we had to keep it posted of the positions of all our troops. This was mainly for our information and to brief the pilots before they took off on a flight. Many times I was able to go on these flights with my boss’s permission. So I got to see a lot of the South Pacific that way.
Another chore that I had was to file a daily report of the flights made that day. That had to be made up and delivered to Group headquarters each day. And each month we had to file a history report with Group. I sure fought the war on paper, didn’t I?
John H. Pennock was the Officer in charge of our Intelligence Office and Ralph Eckels was his assistant. After the war Pennock returned to civilian life and eventually became the Chief Justice of the New York State Supreme court. Melchor (Mike) Perdido was the chief non-com. He had a S/Sgt. rating and was a very good fellow to work for. He was a Filipino with an American citizenship. His parents were still in northern Luzon on the Philippine Islands. I remember that as soon as their area was liberated he was given permission to go see them. After the war he returned to New York City and we corresponded until his death in the late 90s. We also had a Sgt. Howard Hughes and Sgt. Guion Downing in our office. Downing was demoted in rank for dereliction of duty. Shortly after I was promoted to Sgt. the rank I retained until I was discharged. Hughes was transferred to Special Services and we acquired a Cpl. Ethan Hansen.
Everything was done alphabetically in the service so that is why Jim Martin and Jim Nelson and I were thrown together and became tent-mates and friends all the time we were in the squadron and after we were discharged. Jim Nelson died in the early 90s but we still correspond with his wife in Littleton, Co. Jim Martin now lives in Largo, Florida and we hear from each other at Christmas.
It was at Dobo that we got our first real taste of war. We were all required to dig fox-holes by our tents for protection against air raids. But most of them were just small holes until one night we were given reason to change our plans. Often the alarm was sounded for either a yellow or red alert but nothing ever came of it. A yellow alert meant prepare for a possible enemy air attack. A red alert meant that an attack was imminent. We soon became inured to the alarms and seldom got out of bed during an alert. But then one night, shortly after an alarm had sounded, we heard bombs exploding not too far away. We soon realized what was happening and dived into the fox-holes. The next day there was a run on Quartermaster for shovels and we all made more elaborate fox-holes. I remember we got logs from the jungle to put over the top of ours. We had several raids after that but fortunately the closest one was about seven miles away. And there were a few day-time raids, too. I remember one, especially, when a lot of Jap fighters came over and we stood near our shelters watching the dog-fights overhead. We could see the ack-ack exploding in the sky and we cheered every time an enemy plane was hit. You would have thought we were watching a football game the way we were cheering.
Another incident that brought the war closer to us was a trip some of us made to nearby Buna. Buna was the sight of a terrific battle against the Japs. I remember seeing stubs of trees that had been hit by exploding shells. But the thing that impressed me most was the smell of death. To this day I have a Jap helmet that I picked up that day at Buna.
I was also fortunate to be able to attend a tribal dance in New Guinea. This was a gathering of several “tribes” of natives in the area. There was much dancing and singing by the men. The women were merely on-lookers. Most of the men wore what we now know as the afro hair-do and it was decorated with anything colorful that they could find. Their faces and bodies were also painted in often grotesque colors and fashion. The only music I can remember was the drums, often three or four feet long. They resembled hollowed out tree trunks with some kind of material over each end. Many of us tried to bargain with them to get one of the drums but that is one thing they would not part with. I still have an arm bracelet that one of them wove and also an afro comb.
Life was getting to be routine in Dobodura but then one day we got orders to move back to Port Moresby. We were to trade camping areas with a Bomb Group. We were to leave our tents, buildings, jeeps, etc. and move into their camp. In many ways we got the better of the deal for they had a beautiful outdoor amphitheater and two clubhouses; one for the officers and one for the enlisted men. It was nice to work in an office with cement floors and screened windows. One could call it modern by New Guinea standards. But our stay there was all too brief for our next move was to Nadzab, New Guinea. Again we hewed our existence from the jungles.
We were becoming veterans of the fight against the Japs by now. We posted the maps daily showing the advancement of our troops up the coast of New Guinea. To counter-act the ravages of malaria we were given an atabrine pill every day when we went to eat. Between the sun and the pills our skin turned a yellow-brown. The only water we had to drink was also treated. We kept canteens of water in our tents and re-filled them from large lister bags that hung conveniently around the area. But these were out in the hot sun all day so the water was always warm.
We soon realized that our outfit was much more fortunate than many of the troops fighting this war. We had planes going every week to Australia, taking troops on furlough and bringing back supplies. And they brought back many things for our own use, like fresh eggs and milk and, yes, liquor. After a diet of powdered eggs and milk this was a refreshing pleasure.
While at Nadzab I got a two week rest leave to Australia. The plane left on the 18th of July, 1944 and we made it to Ipswich, Australia on the first leg. The next day we went on to Sydney. Since the seasons are reversed below the equator, it was wintertime when we arrived. The first thing I had to do was to apply for some winter clothing. Another fellow from the outfit and I got a room at a hotel in a section called Kings Cross. I think the thing I enjoyed the most was sleeping on a soft bed and on sheets. Time and money both seemed to go very rapidly but it was a relaxing time and I guess that was the whole purpose. Finally on the 5th of August we caught one of our planes for “home.” We got as far as Townsville, Australia. When we hit bad weather and the pilot decided we would stay over. We must have stayed at some transient camp for I don’t remember another hotel. It was three days before the weather cleared. I remember a skating rink at Townsville very well. It was most primitive. You skated through one door, around that room and through another door and around that room being careful not to get your skate wheel caught in a crack in the floor. By the time we got back to Nadzab, I had been reported AWOL. I had to get a statement from the pilot to clear my name.
We had a tragic experience at Nadzab. Early in July 1944 one of our planes was lost on a mission. We had no idea where it was. So for the next several days whenever one of our planes was available it was sent up on a search mission. I went along on these missions to help the crew look. We took the doors off the plane. I tied a rope around my waist and tied the other end to the other side of the plane opposite the door. The pilot flew up and down the Markham Valley at an altitude lower than the mountains on either side. With the rope taut, I stood in the doorway with a pair of binoculars searching the sides of the mountain and the land below. We had no luck in finding the plane. Some nine months later it was found in northern New Guinea. All the crew had died.
Our next move took us to the island of Biak. This island was under the jurisdiction of the Dutch so there our pay came in Guilders. The island is located just off the northern coast of New Guinea. There was an abundance of coral, which made wonderful material for runways for the planes. It was on the island that we had a rather harrowing experience. One day a Marine office came around and told our C.O. to keep all the “flyboys” in their tents. It seems several Japs had made a suicide landing on the island and he wanted us out of harm’s way. The next morning I had to go somewhere in a jeep and I saw the results of the landing. Alongside the road a bulldozer had dug a big trench and lying in the bottom on stretchers was twelve of fifteen dead Japs. Going along the row of stretchers were several Marines and a captured Jap, evidently identifying the dead ones. When I returned from my errand the whole area had been covered over. We stayed four months at this base and then moved on to Peleliu. This is an island in the Palau Group further out in the Pacific. If we thought Biak was small we changed our minds when we saw this island. One day Nelson, Martin and I got a jeep and drove around the island. I think it was twenty miles in all. It is truly a spit in the ocean.
In the meantime MacArthur and our troops were advancing after a landing on the Philippines. And on the 19th of January 1945 we moved to San Jose, Mindoro in the Philippines. What a big difference we saw. We drove on cement roads after months of dirt or no roads at all. And the people were different and many of them spoke English.
I was destined not to see much of Mindoro for I developed an infection in my cheek and on the 19th of April 1945 I had to be admitted to the 165th Station Hospital, APO 321, Mindoro. It was not like any hospital you have ever seen. This was just a tent with a series of other tents set up from each side of this central tent. I was a walking patient so each day I had to get up, clean up and rake around my bed. And I walked to chow each meal in a bathrobe. I got in the habit of putting on my shoes without socks and I developed another infection in my heel. This grounded me and from thereon I was served my meals in bed. Either Martin or Nelson or both came to see me almost every day and brought me my mail. I felt there was no reason to worry the people at home about this so I never mentioned it in my letters. It was several years after we were married that I happened to mention something about it to my wife. Needless to say, she was quite surprised. While I was still in the hospital my outfit moved up to Clark Field on the island of Luzon. This was about 60 miles north of Manila. Martin and Nelson packed all my stuff in our tent and moved it up for me. But I didn’t know where they moved to at the time. I was finally discharged on the 21st of May. Not knowing where I was supposed to go, I hitched a ride down to the air-strip and waited until I saw one of our planes. I hopped aboard and made it to Luzon.
We actually lived in a house at Clark Field. What an experience after two years of sleeping in a tent. Somewhere I have a picture of me sitting in a chair out in front of our house. I don’t remember much about my time in the Philippines except that we were very, very busy. The war was progressing favorably and lots of troops and supplies had to be transported to advance bases.
Less than three months later we moved to the island of Okinawa. Again, I don’t remember too much about Okinawa except that what I saw was a lot of mud. I do remember visiting a cave where the Okinawans had buried their dead. This was a custom with those people.
It was while we were on Okinawa that the war ended. Our planes had dropped the atom bomb on Nagasaki and then a few days later one was dropped on Hiroshima. They were devastating to the civilian population but it must be kept in mind the same devastation they wrought on Pearl Harbor and the many American lives that were saved by not having to invade Japan proper. If we thought we were busy before we found out that was only a prelude to what was to come. The mechanics hardly had time to service the planes for they were flying almost continuously flying men and supplies to Japan.
On the 15th of September an advanced echelon of our outfit started the move to Japan. Seven officers and three enlisted men made the initial move. Victor Mole, another enlisted man and I were the three enlisted men. We took a jeep for the officers and one for the enlisted men; all three of us were sergeants. On the flight up we flew within sight of Mount Fujiyama. What a sight. Our destination was Tachikawa airfield, which was a suburb of Tokyo. Just to be sure I carried a .45. When we arrived the three of us enlisted men were assigned to sleep in a huge building that housed several airplanes. This building once housed the Mitsubishi Corp. There were four JU88s that were being assembled and several smaller Japanese fighter planes. We set up our cots in one corner of the building. One of the first things we did was to go through the desks and see what souvenirs we could find. I found a Japanese typewriter and a box of type. I brought the box of type home with me. What a load. Also, got a nice Jap cup and another little china knick-knack.
We didn’t have much to do so one day the three of us took a ride into Tokyo. The third member of our trio was a newcomer to our outfit and I don’t remember his name. He did the driving and he found out that when he speeded up the jeep and then let up on the accelerator it would back-fire. Spotting a group of Jap civilians walking along the road he speeded up and as we came alongside he let up. The noise of the back-firing caused the Japs to panic and they dived for the ditch. Now it sounds like a terrible thing to do but you must remember that we had been at war with these people for several years.
We made the approximate eighteen miles without further incidence. We drove right into downtown Tokyo, around the emperors’ palace and through the Ginza. Everywhere we could see the effects of the bombing raids. The buildings were in ruin and there was chaos everywhere. We saw Japanese soldiers and many civilians but no American Military Police so we were glad we had our side-arms with us. We stopped a couple of times. The adults ignored us but a few of the children came over to our jeep. We had a couple of candy bars, which we gave to them.
Then we decided we had better head back to Tachikawa. But how did we come? We were lost. Then we spotted a Japanese policeman. Unfortunately he couldn’t speak English but he did recognize the name Tachikawa. So he drew us a map showing us how to go. But you know what? He wrote all the direction in Japanese. But we were still able to follow the map and we arrived back at our base.
Just five days after arriving at Tachikawa I was told to hop a plane back to Okinawa for I was going home. What great news that was. But I have always been glad that I got to see Tokyo even though I still remember the terrible devastation our bombs did. C’est la guerre!
On the 20th of September 1945 I was assigned to the 387th Bomb Squadron, 312th Bomb Group for my trip back to the states and on the 27th I boarded the Admiral Coontz for the journey I had been looking forward to for more than two years. I was assigned to a room holding seventy or eighty men again sleeping in bunks arranged in tiers. The ship held some 5,000 men, all from the Fifth Air Force. During the first day I received somewhat of a shock. While walking on the deck I heard over the loudspeaker, “Sgt. Robert Moody report to..” On the way to report, I saw one of the officers from my outfit. He kiddingly asked me if I was in trouble already. Anyway, when I finally found out what it was all about I was told that I was in charge of my section and that I was to supply five men every day to work in the officer’s mess. I went back to my section, explained it to the men and asked for volunteers. None of these fellows were rookies so naturally I got no response. So I had to pick the men for the first day. Then two things happened. The men found out that they were having pea soup and cheese sandwiches for their meal and then the first group came back and told the rest of the men what they had to eat; which was a lot better. For the rest of the voyage I had no trouble getting volunteers. Since I wasn’t a rookie either, I decided I better go check up on my men….always around mealtime. So I ate good, too.
The monotony of the trip was broken one day when a loose mine was spotted floating in the ocean. The ship stopped and the gunners started shooting at it trying to explode it. With all those men on board they didn’t want to get too close. But I don’t think they were the best shots. We had a laugh for the ship would roll one way and the shot would go over the mine. Then the ship would roll the other way and the shot would ricochet off the water before the mine. Finally, after many unsuccessful shots we continued on our way.
We were originally scheduled to dock at San Francisco but on the arrival there were told there was no room for us and we were to continue on to Seattle, Washington. The same thing happened there so we finally ended up in Tacoma, Washington, arriving at Fort Lewis on the 14th of October. My stay there was short for on the 17th of October I arrived at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. I received my discharge there on the 21st, just three years and a day after my induction. At long last, I was a civilian again.