• U.S.

Only One Answer?

4 minute read

Dear Mother and Dad:

This is one letter I hope you never get! Funny way to start a letter, isn’t it? But . . . if you do get it, that means that I have been very unfortunate.

Tomorrow I will have the great honor to participate in Uncle Sam’s first move of retaliation against the Japs. And believe me I can’t wait! Oh boy, oh boy, have they got a surprise coming to them.

We have been preparing for this for a long time and now the time has come to quit practicing and start doing! At dawn tomorrow we are going in and land United States Marines by the carload onto the Jap-held Solomon Islands!!! And I hope the Jap Fleet comes to the rescue, because we’ll land all over them, too!

And the bets! You should hear them bet who is going to be the best machine-gun outfit, which rifle company will pick off the most snipers, etc. … I don’t think in history a bunch of men have gone into any engagement as cold and calm and confident as this group. There’s only one answer. It will be successful.

As I write this, I want you to know that I’m not writing because I have any premonition of anything happening to me. I’m just writing this because, in case I do get mine, you’ll know I got it like a man, with a clear conscience, and I am not afraid to die for my country. . . .

Your fond and loving son,


Not many days after a young machinist’s mate on the transport George F. Elliott wrote these lines, his parents, Mr. & Mrs. Henry A. Glorch of Chicago, did receive the letter. It had been forwarded by one of Henry’s shipmates, who added this note: “You have lost a fine son. I have lost a fine buddy.”

Into many U.S. homes, by last week, there had crept the sharp, paralyzing understanding of Solomon Islands warfare that personal loss alone can bring. But even in those homes, there was bewilderment. When it all started, it was going to be so easy; it was to be offense, our turn; oh boy, oh boy. . . . Then, like a slow jungle mist, doubt came home.

After 65 days the Navy had let it be known that three U.S. cruisers had been sunk, taken unawares at night and potted like ducks. The step-by-step victory campaign back up through the Pacific Islands wobbled dangerously on the first step. Then this week came a shock: news (41 days late) of the sinking of another precious aircraft carrier, the Wasp (see p. 28).

Despite its Midway victory the Navy was still far from supreme. Families at their radios, domestic commentators over the coffee cups were asking questions. Again came the doubt that has sickled over so many “victories.” News came of the command appointment in the South Pacific of aggressive Vice Admiral William

F. Halsey, a fighting man. But the people saw the shift more as evidence of previous bungling than as a hopeful sign.

The people began to feel that they had not paid enough attention to the fateful events in the Pacific. Perhaps even the managers of the war in Washington—the High Command, the allocators and the priorities-makers—had not paid the problem the first-priority attention it deserved.

But they were paying mind now. Into the White House came the Naval High Command, summoned to confer on the Navy’s ordeal by fire, as the Japs smashed again & again on & around Guadalcanal. Present: Admiral William D. Leahy, the President’s counselor on strategy, and Admiral Ernest J. King, COMINCH. Theirs was the problem of wresting out of the shadow of defeat the great expectations of the late Machinist’s Mate, Henry Glorch, and the people who shared his spirit.

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