My Life in the Service

The diary of Levi Chapiewsky

Letter to Editor

letter to editor 1

letter to editor 2 letter to editor 3

 

The Philippines
November 24, 1944

To the editor:

I do not pretend to be an expert at writing interesting news articles, but I know a story, simply told, by some boy overseas, is good reading material. I know that I like to read the stories that other fellows have written, and I wish more of them would send in a word or two. That may be a service man’s pint of view, bit I have hopes that you folks at home, who know us so well, find these first hand stories of interest. So therefore, my story and my expression of appreciation to the papers and magazines who print them.

We were stationed at an advanced base in the South Pacific, when the word came through. Those days of packing and loading were anxious and hectic days, and I must say, busy days. so much was to be done in so many days. There was a deadline. Finally all was done. Then, as is customary with army routine, we waited. We tried to play cards, even a ballgame, but efforts were haphazzard [sic]. Nerves were on edge, appetites were short. We knew a push was on and we were going to be in it. Our thoughts were roaming, not so much as to where we were going, but to the things we had left behind.

We loaded and pulled out on the same day, joining up with the task-force convoy. The tension eased and every one started to enjoy the trip. We scrambled for things to read, and card games were in full spring. Some of the timid boys played pinochle and five-hundred, but I want to tell you that there are plenty brave ones, so “crap” and poker took the lead and held it to the end of the race. Money has little value over here. It gets worn out and changing hands. What a thrill to be broke one day and rich the next. The joke was still on the guy who had the dough. It was his worry as to how he could spend or hide it, so that he might still have it to count the next morning. I assure you, I had few worries on that trip.

We slept where ever it was convenient. You would have thought the boys were direct descendants of the monkey, if you could have seen the places they had rigged up on the deck. “My Interesting Abode”, they were called. If some would have moved two inches either way, in their sleep, they would have found themselves fifteen lower on the steel deck, or else in the ocean. Still a bath would have been appreciated.

The trip was uneventful, except for the time we spent watching the Navy boys put their planes through practice antics that only a tailess [sic] kite could equal. The Navy can be proud of those fellows. the Japs were caught flatfooted, and it was in just a few places that the fighting was sharp, that that was just in the first few days. Our first morning in the bay was beautiful. The water was smooth and calm. Just a slight breeze floated across the bay. The morning sun flashed out with her gayest gown. The beach was a maze of men, equipment, and supplies. Everyone seemed lost, and were looking for their mothers. foxholes were springing up everywhere and in nothing flat. Our gophers have a lot to learn about digging a hole. In the afternoon, the hurry-scurry was still on, and the sun changed her gown to one of white – white heat. Wherever there was an open stretch of beach, men were bathing. There were frequent reports of rifles and machineguns [sic], but outside of that it was as tame as the Pilgrim’s Landing at Plymouth Rock. Around four o’clock a lone Jap bomber dove out of the clouds for a look-see. He didn’t stay long, but climbed back into the clouds without hardly a shot fired at him. I could write two pages on the different names and phrases the Nip was called. That was the Japanese prelude to a story we were yet to learn. The boys said, “What the heck, do they call this an invasion?”

That night the big guns of the Navy sent out their message again, and brother it takes a long time to read all that is written on those babies. It continued all night. The concussion pressed your clothes to your body, flopped canvas tarps and rocked our hammocks. The rocking lacked a woman’s touch, and no one slept. I am sure the Japs didn’t either.

The next morning, around nine o’clock, death and destruction fell from the sky. Planes were every where, and mostly Jap planes. here I want to take my hat off to those Navy Fliers. They weren’t practicing now. They were fewer in number, but they were all over. I can’t tell you what the score was, other the things that happened, but U would like to forget it. It was then that I had my closest call, but I can’t tell you about that either. It was a terrible experience, and I know that some one bigger than I, had pulled me through. Those of us, who didn’t get a change to Pray before we were in trouble, Prayed afterward. It was not embarrassing to look upward and say “God, I thank you.”

On the second day ashore, we built the first ponton bridge in the S.W.P.A. while under fire. In five hours all types of traffic were crossing in a steady stream. We have been told that that one bridge paid for the two years of training this company had had in the Statues. There have been other bridges since that, with conditions and results the same. for the next ten days, we lived in mud and water – and foxholes. We were shot at by snipers, bombed and strafed night and day, and ate out of cans. There have been two typhoons when tents were blown down, and everything we possessed was soaked with mud and water. No lights were permissible, and we sat there in the darkness, shivering like drowned rats, and looking the same. finally one of the boys said “Chip, how would you like a beer, with just the right amount of foam on top?”

Well, that broke the ice, and we joked until morning. I have never seen a situation, no matter how tough, but what some one springs a joke, and we all laugh. I guess that, and the letters from home, are the things that keep us going. I know this is true where ever our boys are.

We kept moving up with the infantry and the big guns, and you have, no doubt, read about the results. The bombings didn’t slacken until the P-38’s arrived. This is no reflection on the Navy fliers. They were fighting on two fronts, night and day, and had more than they could handle. They did a superb job, and saved us from disaster in those first days. The morning the P-38’s circled in the sky, cheers went out from the beach to the fighting fronts. The Japs threw that day’s score sheet in the waste basket, and headlines said “No game yesterday. Rained out.”

We are now settled in an area, and our work is mainly routine, and pertains mostly to maintenance and guard. To the read of us, natives are pouring in from the hills and other hiding places. The roads are lined on both sides with this migration. They come carrying mats, chickens, pis and babies, and probably leading a cariboa. They wear their only clothes, and in most cases, it isn’t very much. They are in dire need of food and clothing. Their common expression is “You got dirty clothes” We want blanket for my sister.”

For the first time in our overseas’ life, we had found some one to do the laundry, and boy they got it. We were kings at last. We had carried so many clothes for hudnreds of miles, and here at last, was a chance to get rid of some of it. Shirts, shorts, towels, handkerchiefs, mattress covers and blankets were dug out of duffle bags. A thriving business was in the making. They came with pigs, chickens, and eggs. Mouths were watering, clothes were disappearing, and the area became poultry farm. The cry went out “How do you like yours, sunny-side up or belly down?”

The roosters became fighting cocks, and bets were called night or day, and for any amount. Some of us called it sabotage. Our roosters only crow in the early morning, but these babies crowed all night. Instead of the 506 Light Ponton Company, we became known as the 506 Light Poultry Farm, doing business in springers, eggs, laying hens and fighting roosters. Well, the C.O. put a stop to that, and we had a mass chicken fry. It was fun while it lasted. We are washing our own clothes again. Who said there was justice in the U.S. Army?

Perhaps I should say a few words about the people, and describe somewhat the territory in which we live. The Filipino, as I know him, is very religious, and his morals are high. Practically every village of any size, has a church and a school, maybe both. The cities have many beautiful churches, and some are said to be over four hundred years old. He has had a tough time the past three years, and his attire is not so attractive, but every day brings some improvement. They are getting the the groove again. In the cities, the girls are getting out their pretty dresses from somewhere, are using lipstick and powder, and are wearing slippers. They appear typical to any American girl. The thing that shocked the most of us, and caused a great deal of embarrassment, is their utter disregard for personal privacy. Men, women, and children bathe within feet of each other, in the streams or around their wells. We had no other place to bathe either. We even tried “pail-baths” outside our tents, but they were there too. Now I call that a complication. What would you call it? The GI’s met the situation with grim faces. We soon found out that no one seemed to care or think anything of it, so we hid our modest blushes, and now we are one big, happy family. Still, you van stand on any bridge and look up or down stream, and pick out the GI’s. They are clustered to-gether like a group of high school kids with a new story.

We came in time for the Filipino to harvest for himself, the first rice crop in three years. He was happy. They were in their fields from dawn to dusk. The whole harvest was done by hand, and the grain was carried from the fields in bags carried on the top of their heads. The more fortunate ones fastened poles to the sides of their cariboa, and attach them around his neck with a rope or wooden yoke, and haul the load in a manner similar to the early American Indian. I could mention many ways in which his methods and operations are as old fashioned as this. So, though he is educated, speaks good English, and wears American clothes, his normal life is at least one hundred years behind ours.

The country-side, bruised as it is by war, is beautiful beyond description. From the invasion point, we traveled up a wide, beautiful valley of coconut groves, gardens and rice paddies. A lon, rugged, lavender colored range of mountains stretched lazilt to our left, and followed us all the way. There have been evenings when I sat in the back of my tent, and gazed at those mountains. Their peaks are always bathed in fleecy, white clouds, and through these clouds the evening sun casts mosaic patterns, and they “hep and jive” across the rugged contours. I think then, why can’t we go home? Why can’t there always be peace and quiet? With the coming of darkness, you can see the vivid flashes of artillery and mortar bursts, and long afterward the muffled explosion is heard. I realize then that the fight is still on. It must continue to bring back the things I had been dreaming about.

This morning we had another air raid. I had a ringside seat looking over the edge of my foxhole. to hear the ack-ack, to see robbons of tracers with planes zooming and diving, is a site not to be forgotten. We cheer, when our side makes a touchdown, and it continues when the ack-ack kicks the extra point. My foxhole was about five feet deep, but when it was over, it was three feet deeper. I crawled out and couldn’t see any of the fresg dirt from my recent digging. About that time, a buddy of mine, stuck his head out of his hole, which was about ten feet from mine. His face was splattered with dirt, and spitting and cussing he shouted “What the H– you mean by heaving all that dirt in my hole?”

I calmly replied “Brother, I was going down, and plenty fast.”

Another day has past. The sun is down. Chuck, Goosey, and Bill have tuned up their guitars. The evening’s songfest is on. Yep, there goes the theme song, Aloha. It is time for me to join them, so I too will say, “Aloha”, or as the Filipino would say, “Farewell, I love you.”

Pfc. Levi C. Chapiewsky 36834316
506 Eng. Light Ponton Co., APO# 72,
% Postmaster, San Francisco.

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Written by mylifeintheservice

January 7, 2017 at 2:13 pm

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