In September 1942, the US Marines were in the midst of their fight with the Japanese defending their tenuous hold on the recently captured airfield on Guadalcanal, an island in the Solomon Islands of the southwest Pacific Ocean. The Japanese were determined to recapture the airfield and to drive further southeast in order to cut off communications with Australia. A US army division, the 43rd from New England, was ordered from its training camp in Mississippi to Fort Ord, California, and then overseas to the South Pacific to help stem the Japanese advances. My father, Wilber Bradt, was the second in command of an artillery battalion of the 43rd.
On this date in 1942, September 23rd, the division was in a frenzy of activity because it would be sailing off to war only 8 days hence. The tension is building, training with live ammunition has been intense, and new equipment and men have been acquired. The division has high priority for supplies and men as the army works to bring it to a full state of readiness for combat. Late on this Wednesday evening, Wilber wrote to me—I was 11— giving me a taste of their activities this day. Here is a bit from that letter:
“We have been loading freight onto boxcars all day and the men are pretty tired. They are busy cleaning rifles in their spare time too. Did I ever tell you the Army puts melted grease all over its guns whenever they are in storage? It makes each gun a big greasy glob that must all be cleaned off. It sure is a mess but it stops rust.
“Son, I am proud to have a boy like you to go to war for. I know you will do all you can to keep “the home fires burning” until I come back. I’m sorry to be away from you now but I would be sorrier and so would you if I were trying to keep from fighting for my country.”
Stay tuned for more of Wilber’s reporting in the following days.