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.





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.