Letters From Red Toon (Pt. 10): Becoming A Warrior

Red Toon was finishing up his last days of amphibious training at Little Creek when he wrote this letter; it wasn’t dated but the contents suggest September – October of 1943. He sounds  like a junior officer learning the ropes in a program where the pace and intensity of training were picking up, and with good reason. The war strategy in the Central Pacific envisioned amphibious conquests of a string of Japanese strongholds in the Solomon islands, the Carolines, the Marshalls, the Marianas, and the Palaus. Speed was essential, as were overwhelming force and two new offensive capabilities.

The first capability was the fast attack aircraft carriers (think mobile airfields) that were now available in sufficient numbers to provide their own air defense while decimating virtually any enemy air power. The second was the Navy’s growing amphibious forces, soon capable of landing marines and soldiers in overwhelming numbers…any beach, any time.

Each operation began with relentless air attacks by bombers and fighters from  the carriers against Japanese strongholds with airfields.  When control of the air was achieved, the fleet arrived and amphibious forces landed marines and soldiers in overwhelming numbers. The Japanese fought to the last man, but once they had lost control of the air and surrounding seas they were inevitably overwhelmed. Next construction battalions rebuilt the airfield—even before the fighting was over—for land-based allied aircraft. Finally, those land-based and the sea-based aviators organized for the next attack on a Japanese airfield 300 miles deeper into the Central Pacific.

But the Navy was still short of amphibious ships and forces in 1943. So training at Little Creek and Ft. Pierce, FL, was fast and furious. The fleet was waiting…

Of course, even with all the hard training, there were sometimes other things on those young mens’ minds.

Amphibious Training Base

Little Creek, Virginia


Your voice tonight has made me very restless, all the old longings are very strong tonight. I love you so very, very much. I was afraid you wouldn’t be home tonight, just a sort of feeling & to hear you were & to hear you and Janice too made me feel terribly lucky and terribly important too.

She sounded almost as if she were fussing or was she playing? Either way I got a tremendous kick out of hearing her. Your voice made me better able to sympathize with fellows who get so homesick they go over the hill. I’ve got a touch of the blues tonight, guess hard work will cure it though.

I seem to be a sort of middle man here. I sure see more people “blow their top.” Interesting today to act as a go-between between our Flotilla Commander & the base maintenance staff. I think I told you before that most of the men here who hold down the top training jobs are “Mustangs” i.e. old time chiefs of long periods of service in the navy. They were commissioned full Lt. and placed in charge here in general then formerly a reserve officer was in command of the base. The ensuing friction was largely responsible for the SNAFU here. Well the new boss here seems to satisfy their leathery blustery souls, he’s an Annapolis man of a family that’s been navy for years so things are smoothing out. There is still a lot of swearing at situations and each other. Of late I’m catching it from both ends of the stick.

Flotilla Commander swears at me & tells me to go tell that so & so off over in base maintenance. I listen dutifully enough, go traipse over where I’m sent & deliver my spiel. It invariably causes a storm. The person involved swears quite fluently & viciously at me & ends usually by telling me to go back & tell that _  _ _ where to get off.

It gets a little wearing sometimes but I have to admit some of these fellows here can beat my Dad even & that’s going some. You should hear me go to town when I catch it for something my division officers or men have done. The officers then in turn spread it over pretty thick with the men and the men – well, nearly every barracks has a dog. See why I go to church?

I’m glad Jack likes his watch. As far as I know he won’t have to wind it normally, just the motion of his arm should keep it wound but it can be wound if necessary.

I’m glad you’ve been able to stay at Betty & Jack’s as long as you have. I hope they know how much I appreciated the way they helped us out of our troubles. I get quite a bang out of their liking Janice so much & do think they should definitely do something about a new girl of their own.

I think you are doing the sensible thing regarding the credit due at Boyds. Frankly I’d forgotten it. Please don’t hesitate to spend whatever you please of whatever you have. It certainly won’t do us any good if it isn’t used.

Cold enough to snow here but none has fallen yet. Sure glad this watch is inside & feel sorry for those outside tonight. I have the bad watch tonight 12 – 4, didn’t get to hit the bed till 10 last night & won’t get in till 4:30 then up at 6. Bet I just make one broad trail today.

Oh yes, I seem to have fallen heir to this job of mustering the men & marching them from their barracks area to the field. It seems that when I bark out something like “pick up that step” or eyes off the deck” or “stand steady there” I sound very ornery. In fact I’m known as a very definite hard-nosed son of a _ _ _ so I’m the guy who acts as drill sergeant or whatever. Whoaie what a noise I make!!

When the powers that be say that that’s the kind of leadership they want then that’s what they’ll get. I’m still safe though as I don’t take myself seriously even if the men do.

I received a very nice complement tonight from Mr. Schwartz. He said I was the only man in the outfit who could get away with it & he’s getting so that he jumps when I yell. He told me also that the group had decided I was logical man for the job & there was no griping. Quite a relief to me. I don’t intend to sound conceited above but let me explain that by logical he meant because of age, minding my own business, staying out of petty squabbles, etc.

About liberty I don’t know. So far for our group we’ve had liberty two nights since we got the men & I had work to do both nights. A fellow told me today that in some of the other groups the Assistants got quite a lot of liberty. I don’t see how they do it unless they just fail to take care of their job which is I’m afraid what happens too often. That always makes me hot. We’ve got too many damn people that can’t yet realize there’s such a thing as ones duty to his country & fellow man that’s got to come first then he can take care of his own pleasures. I think people like that are the ones that are dragging this war out & indirectly causing men to die every day.

Honey you and I are in many ways too simple & everyday to realize that there are actually educated people in this world who actually don’t give a damn what happens to their neighbor or his son & yet have a clear conscience & are perfectly care free about shirking their jobs or doing them in a half – _ _ _ manner. Well that’s off my chest. See why I go to church?

Tell Jack the watches still exist, even oftener than before but I don’t have to stand outside down at the docks… & also about the spot promotion. I don’t get the jg as I understand it till I leave Norfolk after having been through Ft. Pierce. You see, we go there and come back here then leave from here. One more thing, an officer never has furlough, he has leave. What a joke!!

Well I certainly have been windy tonight. I love you.

                                                                                                      Your husband


 These letters tell us the kind of man young Red Toon was. Recall that as a high school science teacher he was a stern task master who nevertheless respected his students and was himself respected by them. As a junior reserve officer his personal skills showed again at Little Creek where he was the logical choice for drilling young sailors hard; he could get away with it because he respected them. And he also earned the respect of his fellow officers. When he was selected for promotion, there was “No griping.”

We have one last letter from training camp, and then we’ll tell you some stories about Red’s feats in the Pacific.















One comment on “Letters From Red Toon (Pt. 10): Becoming A Warrior

  1. GP Cox says:

    These glimpses into the past, like time-travel, help us to comprehend the world as it was back then and what an outstanding generation they are (were).


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