THE CALL TO ARMS
“Never in American history was an event more anticipated yet more of a surprise than the attack on Pearl Harbor,”…. Time Magazine.
Against my father’s advice, I dropped out of college and enlisted in the Army of the United States of America on February 17, 1941 at Letterman General Hospital in San Francisco. Like most everyone in America in early 1941, I thought war in the Pacific was imminent and I believed it would be best for me to enlist early and get myself into something I liked. I had three years of college behind me, at San Francisco State, with a major in physical education. I had studied anatomy, biology, and some medicine and decided the medical corps might be the answer.
Unfortunately, I received very little training and in September of the same year, I asked for a transfer to the infantry. During this time, I met men with whom I would serve in Manila and then later on Bataan. I got my request, and never was a transfer so immediate, and for good reason. No sooner had I joined my new outfit than we received orders to move out. We were going to the Philippine Islands across the Pacific.
On September 26, we transferred from Letterman to Fort McDowell and a week later on October 4 we sailed for the islands. During this week, I truly enjoyed my last look at San Francisco, my hometown. In the evenings with a couple buddies, I would walk up to the summit above the fort where beneath a full moon I could look out over the town, the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, and to as far away as other cities on the bay. The weather much of that week was warm and clear and lovely. I made a dollar on a bet when Joe Louis floored Nova.
One-day two friends and I got passes to the city. We enjoyed abalone sandwiches on Fisherman’s Wharf, a banana split in North Beach and then had dinner with my family. My whole family had not been together like this for some months; it would be even longer before we were together again. That night on the way back to Fort McDowell my friends and I made wishes and for good luck each of us tossed pennies into the bay. I spoke my wish aloud and then later in the barracks I faithfully recorded it in my diary. I hoped that we would all have experiences of value in the islands and would return to the U.S.A. Two months later when we were thrown into a world we had not thought humanly possible, those wishes would seem naive and far away.