A Letter From A Patriot: Red Toon Letters (Pt. 9)

Nov. 5

Dearest Wife,

I am afraid I haven’t been too good about writing lately but maybe you will find it in your heart to forgive me when you hear my side of the story. Honestly I haven’t had time to write at all & probably won’t have much time for another week. We’ve been going to sea early in the morning and staying all day then attending classes at night. By the time class is over I’d get shot if I turned on a light as everyone sort of falls in bed & dies til reveille.

Being an A. B. G. C. does have some advantages. I won’t have to stand any more watches on the docks. I have three officers in my staff, i.e., Engineering & I don’t know for sure how many men – 36 I hear. Thank God two of my Engineer officers are engineers! I can’t yet figure out how I got the job, I hope the fellows don’t wonder too much too.

I’m glad you got to go to a ball game & I want you to go all you want. Now about the drinking you thought Jack might be making inferences…I’m innocent believe me. I haven’t been “blotto” or whatever you call it since a certain New Year’s night you remember.

We had liberty tonight is the reason I have time to write. I didn’t leave the base, went to a show here—first I’ve seen for quite a while—& am getting ready to go to bed. Guess I’m getting old but I noticed that of the seventeen men in our group that had  liberty seven of us stayed in so I’m not the only one who was somewhat pooped out.

Incidentally I’m not as tired as I might have inferred in a previous letter—I had quite a dream about you the other night.  

Norma, I’m very glad you feel about this business as your last letter showed, it means a lot to me. I’m proud of the part I’m playing in this war & am willing to make any personal sacrifice necessary to help preserve the kind of life we once knew.

That kind of living I want again & believe that the only way to have it is to fight for it. Fighting for it I realize can be done in many ways but I do feel that the way I’m doing it is the way I’d be of the most use. I never did feel that as a “specialist” I would ever know enough to develop enough skill at some one job to rate being considered indispensable & therefore kept away from the battle areas. I do know that thousands of young men have tried to develop themselves along certain lines merely to have something to hide behind but I don’t feel bitter about those  fellows only sorry for them.

Sometimes I will admit the business of strikes etc. sorta gripes me but we can’t all let our feelings get the better of our heads. Pardon me my sermon but I had to “blow it off” to you. Maybe all our troubles will be ironed out some day.

Gee I wish I could see you, I’m kinda lonely tonight. It’s the first time I’ve had time to think in a week. It’s funny about running these boats, they take a lot of concentration especially when we are running at about twenty knots in a column no more than one boat length apart. After an hour or so of that one’s nerves gets a little frazzled. They have no brakes.

Was up about half the night last night getting one repaired. Get all new ones Monday and our crews so my worst days should be over for a while.

                                                                                                             All my love,


I didn’t ask a thing about Janice but please keep writing about her. She’s second only to you. Incidentally, I didn’t even know it was November till today.

[We had to do a little research to clarify Red’s A. B. G. C. rating. It stands for Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (gasoline handler), signifying (we guess) completion of special training for handling gasoline or boat fuel.]

This is a mighty important letter. Red bares his soul to Norma here,  expressing as best he can his motivation and sense of patriotism. I am reluctant to share such private thoughts between a man and his soul mate, but I believe Red Would approve:

“I’m proud of the part I’m playing in this war & am willing to make any personal sacrifice necessary to help preserve the kind of life we once knew…That kind of living I want again & believe that the only way to have it is to fight for it.”

I knew I’d heard another American hero express a similar sentiment. I needed a while to find it…but I did. It is the last two sentences written by E. B. Sledge in his classic, With The Old Breed:

As the troops used to say, “If the country is good enough to live in, it’s good enough to fight for.” With privilege goes responsibility.





A Reservist’s First Promotion: Red Toon Letters (Pt. 8)

In early November, 1943, Red Toon was still at Little Creek VA learning how to (man)handle the Navy’s landing craft before heading out to the Pacific. Sometimes he had time to write long windy letters home, and sometimes he wrote just a short note. This one was a short note, but he sent big news.

Novmber 3, 1943

Dearest Wife,

Have been pretty busy this week too. Got your letter saying you made it. I’m awfully sorry I couldn’t be home when you took Janice in. Maybe it’s just another grandchild, but I bet they loved her. I had sorta dreamed about carrying her in myself to show her off to my folks. Sentimental I guess but I’m awfully proud of my family, my wife & my daughter.

I got a watch for Jack but don’t know whether he’ll like it or not. Its shock proof anti-magnetic & waterproof. Its also automatic, that is need never be wound. I don’t know what Jack will think of that. It doesn’t have a sweep second hand but I couldn’t find anything else. Notice when you get it if it’s still on correct time, I’ll set it before sending.

Now for some good news. I got a promotion of sorts. I’m now Assistant Boat Group Commander in charge of Engineering. Engineering of all things! Mr. Terry and I were the two picked from our group. I knew he would be one of the two but my getting it came as a very distinctive surprise. Its a break in a way, it means a spot promotion to Lt. j.g. when we pull out so I’m very much pleased. It also carries a lot of added responsibilities & in Engineering at least will certainly contain some headaches.

I started this letter after Taps last night & got chased to bed so am finishing this morning. Nearly time for muster. Will send M. O. for $50 probably some time today.

I’m glad you got a suit. I wish I could see you in it. I wish I could see you. I love you.


For many servicemen, especially those youngsters away from home for the first time, missing special family occasions made for hard duty. Red had already missed the birth of his first child, Janice; now he had missed her first visit to his parents’ home in Cisco, Illinois. A year or so later, somewhere far out in the Pacific, Red’s cabin mate, Joe McDevitt, would learn of the birth of his first child too. Shared experiences like that brought men close together.

So Mr. Toon and Mr. Terry became Joe McDevitt’s first Assistant Boat Group Commanders. But we’ve heard about Mr. Terry in earlier letters. He began his career with the boat group but was such an accomplished navigator that he  would be transferred to their ship’s navigation team.  So from November of 1943 Joe McDevitt and Red Toon worked together as a team. The Boat Group Commander led the first wave of boats to the beaches; the Assistant led the second wave. Between them, the mission was always the same: Boots on the beaches…any beach, anytime.

We searched Red Toon’s album and found  one picture of Mr. Terry. He is pictured below with two other officers. They are from left to right:

Lt. (jg) Jesse Schwartz (bottom), Boat Officer & Watch Officer, Baltimore MD

Ensign Charles R. Reeve, Boat Officer & Boat Gun Officer, Winton Merced Co., Calif

Lt. (jg) Orville W. Terry (right), Asst Boat Grp.  Comdr. & Boat Communications Officer

Schwartz Reeve Terry CLEAN

Lt. (jg) Orville W. Terry (right) August 1944





Red Toon Letters (Pt. 7): The Bridge Game

September 1943

Amphibious Training Base

Little Creek, Virginia


My Dearest,

Have been very busy lately for a change. This so far has been a very interesting job but gets tiresome. Long hours of tearing here and there in a small boat under a broiling sun or a driving rain shouting your head off at other small boats gets to be quite a strain. Through a series of misunderstandings I was marooned on the beach night before last from dark to two o’clock in the morning most of the time in a downpour of cold rain while wearing shorts and a sleeveless shirt. What a wet cold miserable human being I was. After a shower aboard ship I “crawled in” and slept until darned near noon the next day went out again all afternoon and fairly roasted under the blazing sun. It’s all good fun though.

I’ve finally been relieved of my job as Mess Caterer. That job is only supposed to last three months & I’ve had it nearly six simply because I hadn’t put in a howl. Joe McDevitt has the job and he’s howling already. We’ve had a lot of fun kidding him about it saying that’s what he gets for griping so loudly about his food. There shouldn’t be any more classes in recognition now either and maybe censorship will be lifted soon so I shouldn’t have anything much to do.

The bridge tournament isn’t over now but it may as well be for Heybeck & I. We won three straight then lost three straight and have two more to play. It looks like Robinson & Hubona have it pretty well cinched with over 10,000 points. The difference is what is figured.

I got your letter about Janice. I am very much concerned about her but not at all about the possibility of living somewhere besides the mid-west. I would like very much to live in the Lake States or Florida or the west and wouldn’t be afraid to go anywhere and start over from scratch as long as I can be with you!

How do you like those clippings and plans? I thought they might be nice for a home idea scrapbook.

                                                                                                       All my love


The members of Red’s bridge group were familiar names to us: Heybeck, Robinson, Hubona. They were officers who would soon complete their training and serve together on Leon. We have some information on each of the them (and several others) drawn from Leon’s August 31, 1944, Log entries. We are also pleased to display pictures of Heybeck, Robinson, and Hubona (among others) from the Toon Family Collection. If you know these young officers, i.e., if one is your Dad, your granddad or your uncle, we would like to hear from you. Let’s work together to tell their stories!

The first photograph below includes Lt. George A. Robinson (left) and Lt. (jg) Frank D. Heybeck. Robinson was Leon’s Debarkation Officer and an “L”   Division Officer. He was from Key West, FL. Heybeck (Red’s bridge partner) was a Watch Officer, Assistant Navigator, and “N” Division Officer. He was from Harrington, IL. This picture was probably taken during a watch shift aboard the Leon somewhere in the Pacific.


Lt. George A. Robinson and Lt. (jg) Frank D. Heybeck


The last player in their foursome was Lt. Michael Hubona from Charlottesville, VA. He was an Engineering Watch and “A” Division Officer.  He is shown on the right in the group picture below. Along with Hubona are Lt. (jg) Robert T. L. Jones (left), Engineering Watch Officer and “M” Division Officer from Sanatorium, NC, and Ensign Bob P. Roberts, Asst. First Division Officer, from Fort Madison, IA.


We can’t vouch that Robinson and Hubona won that bridge game, but Red sure  thought they were a cinch.