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New Guinea, Leyte, Corregidor, Mindanao---Letters from WWII

Discussion in 'What Granddad did in the War' started by RRokey, Dec 12, 2013.

  1. RRokey

    RRokey New Member

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    My mom and I compiled a book about Dad’s WWII experiences in the South Pacific. He fought as part of the Anti-Tank Company in the Thirty-Fourth Infantry Regiment, which was part of the Twenty-Fourth Infantry Division.

    TITLE: Bark at the Moon: Bert Rokey’s Letters from the South Pacific, 1942-1945---How a Soldier and Sabetha, His Kansas Farm Community, Survived WWII

    CO-AUTHORS: Cleta Gresham Rokey and Robin Rokey

    AVAILABILITY: https://www.createspace.com/4086789

    Also available at Amazon.com

    In addition to Dad’s 275 letters sent home from the war, the book contains excerpts from my grandmother’s farm journal, which she kept throughout WWII. These documents provide a clear view of how our soldiers and their loved ones on the home front coped with the war.

    Our final source was firsthand accounts from Dad’s last surviving Army buddy, O.G. Mayo, who died at age 91 only three days after we finished the final chapter. As one of Dad’s buds from training camp in Hawaii through the New Guinea campaign, the retaking of the Philippines, and the end of the war, O.G. lived just long enough to tell his and Dad’s story. Read more at the link given above.
     
  2. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    Welcome to the forum, Anything you would like to share here?
     
  3. RRokey

    RRokey New Member

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    Is there a tutorial for adding photos somewhere on this site?
     
  4. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    This may help;
    http://www.ww2f.com/forum/39-photo-gallery-support/

    There are a couple of ways to upload, Sometimes I upload to picasa then copy the url? Others times I've been able to simply copy and paste the picture. Not sure why or how that works. I'm sure someone else will be along to explain a lot better than I can.
    Anxious to see some of your posts as I'm kind of interest-centered on where your Dad was.
     
  5. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    You can upload using the tool bar just above the text box. However, there is a size limit per post. Biak indicated one way around the size limit. Use an image hosting website (Picasa, Photobucket, ImageShack, etc.) and then just paste the URL they provide for your photo.
     
  6. RRokey

    RRokey New Member

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    Bert Rokey (my dad) trained in Hawaii, began island reconaissance off the northeast coast of Australia (the book relates how well the Aussies treated American soldiers), then to Goodenough Island on the way to the Battle of Hollandia in New Guinea, a short jaunt to Biak (where it turned out his units weren't needed), then Leyte through Mindanao and the end of the war. Fortunately, he missed Corregidor due to hospitalization for wounds, malaria, fever, exhaustion, and skin sores. As O.G. Mayo relates in our book, the Battle of Corregidor exacted heavy losses on American troops.


    Bert Rokey (right) and buddies buttering popcorn with an improvised popper, Mindanao, 1945:

    [​IMG]


    An excerpt from Bark at the Moon: Bert Rokey's Letters from the South Pacific, 1942-1945---How a Soldier and Sabetha, His Kansas Farm Community, Survived WWII:

    The banana groves Bert mentioned were actually fields of abaca plants, which the soldiers hated because of their extreme density. Low visibility and broiling heat added to their misery as they hacked their way through these fields. Collapse from heat exhaustion and sudden very close-range machine-gun outbursts threatened them every step of the way.

    Bark at the Moon available at https://www.createspace.com/4086789

    and also at Amazon.com

    [SIZE=18.285715103149414px]Mobile mess facility, Mindanao, 1945. Note the cursed abaca fields in the background:[/SIZE]

    [​IMG]

    On the web, I found this modern photo of abaca fields in the Bicol Region of southern Luzon:

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-cUY_D82nfgM/UYI7Ri8huXI/AAAAAAAADNc/xeRaaJQvw8k/s1600/DSC01729.JPG

    Also found this modern photo of banana fields to show how similar they look to abaca:

    http://images.travelpod.com/tripwow/photos/ta-00b1-7ada-bfae/banana-fields-anse-cochon-st-lucia+1152_12893505967-tpfil02aw-17796.jpg
     
  7. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    Well! It appears I'll have to put this one on my "Things I want for Christmas List". :) Anytime (I'm) Biak is mentioned my interest is piqued. It also looks like your Dad was in many of the places my Uncle was during the trek up to Japan.
     
  8. RRokey

    RRokey New Member

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    In this photo, Bert Rokey (my dad, on the right) is showing Jack Gresham (my grandpa) the only Japanese souvenir he brought home from the war: a pair of binoculars. The photo was [SIZE=18.285715103149414px]taken in 1947 a few months before my parents were married.[/SIZE]

    [​IMG]

    [SIZE=18.285715103149414px]Below is an excerpt from Barking at the Moon: Bert Rokey’s Letters from the South Pacific, 1942-1945---How a Soldier and Sabetha, His Kansas Farm Community, Survived WWII (starting with a letter Bert wrote to his mom on April 30, 1945, about two weeks before Mother's Day):[/SIZE]

    Guess I won’t send you anything as usual. Lots of guys send stuff home but grass skirts and some of these native trinkets I don’t think you’d like anyway. A couple of times since I’ve been over here, I’ve had a bunch of shells gathered and was going to string them up like beads for the kids, but every time we would move out or something would happen. Lots of guys send home a bunch of Jap stuff. I don’t know what they want with it, guess I’m not much for souvenirs. All I hope is that you get that shot gun. I’ll be satisfied with that. So long for now.
    All My Love, Bert

    Bert did bring home one other souvenir. It was a nice pair of binoculars that he said, “I took off a dead Jap and used in the war.” We used it for at least twenty-five years before we bought a new pair. O.G. Mayo told me he never took anything off a dead Japanese because he was afraid it was a booby trap and he might lose a hand.

    Our family used this pair of binoculars for years in Kansas while I was growing up in the fifties and sixties---for bird and game hunting, for birdwatching (something Dad got me interested in when I was very young), and even on vacations to the Colorado Rockies.

    In New Guinea, before and after the Hollandia campaign, the rains were notorious and torrential. Here's another excerpt from the book (Dad’s letter of January 24, 1945, with explanatory interpolations inserted in brackets):

    Woke up last night with the rain blowing in on my face. Quite a storm. Then it slowed down to a steady rain and hasn’t stopped yet. I sure am lucky to be here in a decent bed and a good roof above. [“Good roof”? Well, yes, compared to Leyte! At least in the 105th General Hospital he had a tent.] Sometimes I wonder how the good Lord lets it rain so much. Guess there is a reason. [O.G. told me that once when it was pouring down rain, he asked a native, “When is your dry season?” The native replied, “You’re in it, Cowboy!”]
     
  9. gunbunnyb/3/75FA

    gunbunnyb/3/75FA Member

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    welcome to the forum. look forward to any thing else you want to post about your dads service in the pacific.
     
  10. Big_Al

    Big_Al Member

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    Yes, me too.
    I took the opportunity to visit the link you posted for the book and I think I just may be placing an order.
     
  11. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    The excerpts from the book are excellent. Letters of the period are always appreciated. Thanks.
     
  12. RRokey

    RRokey New Member

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    From Dad’s letter to his mother, written on July 22, 1945:

    I’m sending you a paper that explains what the 34th did on Corregidor. I’m not sending it just because it’s a decoration, but more or less to give you all an idea what it takes for an invasion. Even this one was on a mighty small scale. Yes, Mom, I realize I was lucky to be lying there in the hospital that 16th day of February. There, I lost almost all the best buddies I ever had. I couldn’t believe it when I came back to the Company. Not bragging, but just our battalion did more than did the whole regiment of paratroopers put together when you figure they killed the biggest share of the nips on the island.

    The “decoration” Dad mentioned is titled “RESTRICTED: HEADQUARTERS, UNITED STATES ARMY FORCES IN THE FAR EAST.” It is a list of unit citations “by [executive] order of the President,” dated 8 May 1945. Note that this was near the end of Truman’s first month as Commander-in-Chief. The citations are too detailed and the units too numerous to list all of them here (the book contains the entire document), but Dad proudly underlined his own unit: “3d Platoon, Anti-Tank Company, 34th Infantry Regiment.” Here’s part of the citation itself:

    These units, organized as a task force, distinguished themselves by extraordinary heroism and outstanding performance of duty in action against the enemy from 16 to 28 February 1945. This force was directed to seize the enemy-held island fortress of Corregidor, one of the most difficult missions of the Pacific War. A long prepared and fanatical enemy, strongly intrenched in numerous tunnels, caves, dugouts and crevices, awaited the assault in commanding and extensively fortified positions. The small dropping area for parachutists was bordered extensively by sheer cliffs, with resultant variable air currents and eddies; and previous bombings and naval gunfire had [unintelligible word, probably “hit”] trees and shrubs close to the ground, creating hazardous stakes which threatened to impale descending troops. The approach by sea, through shallow water known to be mined, led to a beach protected by land mines. At 0830 on 15 February, the initial assault was made by parachute drop on terrain littered with debris and rubble. Heavy casualties were sustained….

    There is much more, but the document ends like this: “by command of General MacARTHUR” as well as acknowledgments of Major General Richard J .Marshall and Colonel R. E. Fraile.
     
  13. RRokey

    RRokey New Member

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    Excerpt from Bark at the Moon: Bert Rokey's Letters from the South Pacific, 1942-1945---How a Soldier and Sabetha, His Kansas Farm Community, Survived WWII (end of the section on Corregidor):

    On February 16, 1945, just three days before the Battle of Iwo Jima began, the small island of Corregidor was invaded by the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment and the Third Battalion of the Twenty-Fourth Infantry Division’s Thirty-Fourth Infantry Regiment....

    O.G. Mayo told me that the Third Battalion was on Corregidor nine days. He said,

    When we landed my platoon had 35 men, and when we left there we had 14. Francis Titus got sick and left early. The others were wounded or killed. When we got back to camp they didn’t want to replace all our men with rookies, so we platoon leaders got to pick some experienced men from other battalions. I needed a squad leader and I wanted either Karl Thoeming or Dewey Lewallen from the First Battalion. They were like Rokey and had refused higher rank, but I asked them anyway. Thoeming said no, but Lewallen said he would do it, so from that time on, Lewallen was with us in the Third Battalion. [Bert was in the hospital suffering a relapse of “jungle fever.”]

    O.G. Mayo was awarded the Silver Star for his service on Corregidor. He told me this story:

    I went to a public gathering the other day and saw this old guy wearing a cap that had “Corregidor” written on it. I walked over to him and asked, “Did you fight on Corregidor?”

    “Yeah,” he sez.

    “I was there,” I said. “How long were you there?”


    “Nine days,” he sez. “How long were you there?”

    “Nine days,” I said.
     

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