Red Toon Letters (Pt. 6): Red Shoots The Sun For The First Time

Amphibious Training Base

Little Creek Virginia


Today has been very nearly a complete loss, but I had a lot of fun. As usual we mustered and marched off to the class that wasn’t there only this time three of us got a boat and went out to the YAG 17, a training ship anchored out here in the bay & climbed aboard. The boat that took us out was to pick us up at 11:30 but never showed up til nearly one. We missed chow at noon and I’m nearly starved now. We did have a lot of fun there though. By the use of a sextant, an almanac, two compasses, a pelorus and numerous tables we were able to conclude that we were anchored in Chesapeake bay. Theoretically we should be able to “fix” our position anywhere by the same means. Terry, the star student, came out at the end of his figuring just where we were. If we’d been where I figured we wouldn’t have hadto miss chow.

Went fishing after chow yesterday & caught an eel got a lot of mosquito bites.

I’m lonesome and in love with you.


We looked up the USS YAG-17 (below) on which Red first shot the sun. (This was a key responsibility of deck officers at sea. Periodically shooting the sun told the navigation team the ship’s  precise location. If they  knew the ship’s current location and the location of their destination, they could set an accurate course to that destination.) It had been a privately owned vessel before the war and was commissioned by the Navy as a training vessel in 1943. Note the landing craft astern; cargo netting hanging over the side for debarkation/embarkation drills; and the four sets of steps installed to help troops get over her tall bulwarks from the training nets.







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


Red Toon (Pt. 4): Letters Home

Amphibious Training Base

Little Creek, Virginia

July 1943


Sunday P. M. here & still a madhouse. We are still in the process of getting settled. I’ve been “settled” three times so far & ended up right back where I started. As I told you we’re in Quonset huts, 16 to a hut. There is no place to put anything & its awfully dirty otherwise everything is fine. I’ve been reading the book off and on. Its good but “modern” I believe is the word that is used. Went out on a boat yesterday, only a 38 footer & it tossed around quite a lot. We all took turns running it & practiced some landings. We’ve a lot to learn. I went to a show here last night saw “China” it was pretty good. They have a very nice theater here.

Do you remember me talking about Schmidtt? Hard luck we call him. He among others is at N.O.B. Some of the fellows were over  there last night & said that these fellows there went out on a Destroyer yesterday & Schmidtt got caught between a railing and a gun when a turret started to swing was knocked off & fell to the deck below. Result one broken arm and three broken ribs. No damage to the destroyer.

How is Janice? Can you tell yet for sure about the color of her eyes and hair. What schedule is she on & does she still sleep all night.

It’s funny how hard it is to write a letter here. People are continuously running in & out & the floorboard bounces up & down like a boat. This might explain why my writing is so illegible.

I saw a plane crack up Fri P.M. here, wasn’t pretty to watch carried five men down with it. That same afternoon a plane towing a target had the tow cable part when the target hit a tree & the cable whipped around and knocked a hole in one of the huts two removed from mine. No one hurt this time.

Well its about muster time again hope I hear from you soon.

                                                                                           All my love


Mail call was mighty important to these men. This letter reminded me of my Dad’s letters when Warren mentions the absence of mail from home. Whenever the men were transferred to a new posting, rerouting of mail from the old to the new destination was SLOW. It would become worse, of course, when they put to sea. Sailors aboard ship frequently complained about receiving no mail for weeks at a time and then receiving 15 letters in a mail sack when it finally caught up with them.

About the time Red wrote this letter, a Japanese submarine in the Pacific sunk the Australian hospital ship CENTAUR resulting in 299 dead. Shortly thereafter the U.S. began submarine warfare against Japanese shipping.

The History Place World war Two in the Pacific (http://www.history