Red Toon (Pt. 5): Letters Home

Red Toon went to war in the Pacific as Assistant Boat Group Commander aboard the attack transport USS Leon APA 48. Together he and Boat Group Commander Joe McDevitt would lead their division of 140 sailors and officers through five amphibious assaults…and then they all came home.

The book All Came Home tells the story of Joe McDevitt and the crew of the Leon based on letters Joe wrote home. This blog post is the fifth installment of Red’s story. He wrote the letter below to his wife Norma as he trained with the Navy’s amphibious forces in 1943 prior to reporting for duty aboard the Leon in February 1944.

Amphibious Training Base

Little Creek, Virginia


I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to hear from my family. I received a very nice letter last night though & am much surprised at the way Janice is growing. Do babies usually gain that fast? Did that walk hurt you? We’ve really been SNAFU here this week. The organization here isn’t too good & sometimes ones sense of humor gets some pretty severe jolts.

The first thing I noticed was in our huts. I told you about the three moves. Well after we got all settled they decided to paint the place and simply tore everything to pieces three days in succession. We had quite a time finding our things after. We never know when we muster in the mornings what we’re going to do that day & will have our orders for the day changed two or three times before we start on anything. So far the work hasn’t been too hard but moving has been sort of tiring. We wonder if they are actually trying to teach us something or if they are just giving us busy work.

Our instructor is really a “swell egg” a chief Warrant Bosun, been in the navy for years. He has an enthusiasm for this work that is catching.

His favorite method of teaching is to get us in the boats & get us out on the water & it’s very effective. You can’t believe how some of these boats will toss around! They only draw about a foot of water & when the waves are running 8 ft. high or so we really get a ride. If you can imagine going up & down 8 ft. and going forward at the same time about 8 – 10 M.P.H. you get the idea. These boats will run right up on the beach & need only a few inches of water in order to move. They actually dig their way through sand bars. Be pretty good to run up & down the Sangamon in.

We go out at night and run all over the bay without lights etc. then try to find our way home. The boat I’m running now is 36′ long & is powered by a 250 H.P. Diesel. Lots of power and noise.

Today we’re being examined by the medical board to check for mental and physical fitness for this work. We just finished a very personal questionnaire, wanted to know how old we were when we first practiced masturbation, how old for first sexual intercourse, how old when you quit wetting the bed among others. We’ve been doing a lot of ribbing of each other about this.

Well its about time for my examination so will send this on.

Can your “ailment” be explained in a letter? I’ll destroy the letter.

What about color of eyes and hair? You still haven’t told me.

I told you our daughter had too good a judgment to take any of that old formula & I knew she wouldn’t have to.

                                                                                                  All my love


That 36′ landing craft Red was training on was an LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel). Red’s ship, the Leon, would carry 24 LCVPs and two LCMs (Landing Craft Mechanical) which were 50′ landing craft.

A crew of four sailors could carry thirty-six marines/soldiers in an LCVP or more in an LCM (See below; click to enlarge.) Alternatively, the LCM could carry a medium Sherman tank plus soldiers. In either case, these were welcome reinforcements to men tied down on the beaches by enemy machine gun nests.


LCM loaded with assault troops


Leon debarking tank and soldiers at Angaur



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