Letters Home from the South Pacific

Corbett, Robert P., EN-1, U.S.S. LST 552, 1944-1945

My dad and his four brothers all served in the US Navy during World War II. Eldest brother James D "Jimmy" Corbett enlisted in September, 1935 From 1936 to 1939 he served on the U.S.S. Colorado. The Colorado was a part of the July 1937 search of the Marshall Islands area of the Pacific Ocean for Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan who were trying to fly around the world.

He also served on the oil tanker U.S.S. Cayuma in the Pacific Ocean from 1940 to 1942 and on a minesweeper. From 1944 to 1945 he ran a naval maintenance and repair shop for diesel engines at Milne Bay, Papua, New Guinea.

Brother George D Corbett joined the Navy on May 16, 1944, at Albany, and attended diesel training school. He served aboard the landing craft USS Algorab and was discharged Oct. 14, 1945 at the rank of fireman first class.

Younger brother Joseph A "Joe" Corbett served as a Navy Underwater Demolitions Specialist, while Gerald D "Jerry" Corbett served aboard a destroyer, USS Purdy.

Dad's parents saved their sons' letters home, and those he wrote after September 1944 were saved. These letters were apparently sent as V-Mail , as they appear to be photostatic copies of the originals, smaller, and printed on photosensitive paper.


This first letter showed evidence of censorship... five places where words were cut out with razor blade ... Since he wrote on both sides, parts of the opposite side were also excised... there was a touch of water damage that made a couple more words hard to read, so I made my best guess. LRC

Sept 29, 1944 Dear Mother and Dad, As you will probably remember, today is my birthday. Over here, it is just another day. This is the first time I have been able to send a letter in a month. It has been just a month since I received a letter too and there is no telling how much longer it will be before I hear from you. There is a saying, that no news is good news but [XXXXXXX] hold true in this case. There are a lot of things that I would like to tell you but the censorship regulations prevent me from saying them. I guess you can just about guess what they are.

I can tell you now about crossing the equator. [xxxxxxx] you heard about what they did from Jim and Ed and several other fellows, but I never thought that I'd actually experience it. It was really quite an initiation. We were presented to the court and tried for some wrong doing. Mine happened to be " impersonation of a sailor on the high seas."

The final part of the initiation was where I had my hair cut off and then was thrown in a big tub of water covered with oil and paint. there were fellow standing all around the tub with [xxxxx] you couldn't get out until you hollered shellback. With those swabs pushing you in the face it was a hard thing to do. I happened to be one of the first to go through sp I help in the initiation after that. It was really a lot of fun. I hope that you are all well. Don't worry when I don't write. We are out to sea a lot of the time. so it's impossible to mail a letter. Well I guess I'll say so long for now. Take care of yourselves,

love to all Pat. P.S. I'll tell you about a liberty we had the other day. It wasn't exactly what you cold call a liberty although I did feel good to get on 9land?) We went ashore in the small boat. [xxxxx] there wasn't anything on it ??????? jungle. All the rest of it was a beach. I 9went with?) the fellows in my section. We went in swimming first and then we picked up a lot of pretty shells on the beach. I am going to try an make a string of beads out of them.

On one side [XXXXXXX] the breakers were about fifteen feet high. We went way out but I fell into a couple of holes so we headed back for shore.

There is a lot of coral in the water and some of it is beautiful It would be nice to put in the garden if there were some way of getting it home. There were a few coconut trees [xxxxxxxxx] so we climbed one of the trees amd chopped a few of them off. We drank the milk that is in the center of them and it tastd good. we were pretty thirsty because it was all we had to drink while we were. [xxxxxxxxx]


February 24 (1945?) 'Somewhere in the Phillipines" Dear Mother and Dad, I received your letter of Jan. 24 a few days ago and I feel like a heel for not answering sooner. I have given up all hope on the mail situation. If I was sure of getting just one letter from you every two weeks I would be perfectly satisfied. I like to hear from anyone who wants to write to me but its not the same as getting a letter from you. I know it isn't your fault. Everyone on the ship is in the same boat.

I was glad to hear that Jimmy got his leave. I suppose he has already left again by now. I'll bet you all had a swell time. The change in climate must have been pretty tough on him. I guess he told you everything you wanted to know about me.

We have been having things pretty easy for the last couple of weeks.

Did Jim and Jerry ever get a chance to meet. I know Jerry would be very disappointed if he didn't get to see Jim. I have already been on the lookout for George's ship. There are a lot of that type of ship that travel with us so I'm sure I'll run into him soon.

I got a letter from Lyle Mather. He is at Ft Ord, Cal. and expects to be coming over here soon. He's anxious to come says he is sick of being transfered around so much.

It's to bad that Joey feels the way he does, but I guess everyone is about the same. I don't mind it over here too much, but would like to trade with him just for the change. It does get monotonous when you hang around one place to long. I guess the best change for him would be to the states for a month and then come over here.

I'll write as soon as I hear from you again, maybe sooner.

love to all,

Pat


March 5, 1945

Dear Mother and Dad,

Well, the mail finaly came through. I recieved five letters from home today ranging from Feb 1 to Feb 20. The first one I opened had the news about Brick. I was almost afraid to read it for fear that it was bad news. When I finaly did read it and found out that he was safe, I was so happy that I nearly cried. It gave me a funny feeling all over. I can just imagine how his family must have felt.

I recieved the letter of Lyle Mather. His P.O. address [cut out by censors] from where I am but I heard that his outfit has moved. However, if I go ashore again, I'll see if I can locate him. I did get a letter from him dated Dec. 1, but he was still in Cal. at that time.

I imagine I have been pretty close to George Gravelin at times. No doubt he is around here somewhere. I wonder if he knows the number of our ship.

You really must be having an old fashion winter up there this year. I hope they still have them when I get back home. Maybe Brick and I can celebrate by breaking windows with snow balls or hitching on the back of cars.

I hope Jerry is able to get his diploma. (Jerry Corbett was in his senior year at Watertown High School and only 17 when he left school to enlist- editor) That was the main reason I didn't want him to come in the navy. I'll bet he is having a swell time in Florida living in a hotel and all. I hope he makes out OK in school. If he is going to range finding school he will most likely get aboard a larger ship. Maybe a battleship or a carrier.

(The bottom third of this page is missing. There are no further pages.)


March 14, 1945

Dear Mother and Dad,

Well, here I am again. I haven't much to say but if I write a little, often, you will at least know that I am out of trouble. We have been having quite a vacation the past few weeks. It has been comparitively cool here lately. We have plenty of rain, so I guess that's the reason. Last night I had to use a blanket. It was the first time in months. I received a letter from Anne today. (Anne Livingston was his high school sweetheart. She later married Gordon Alton. - editor) She is in New Jersey going to school. She didn't tell me any details except that she was taking teleprinting, whatever that is. I really can't think of any more to say now so I'll close. I hope everyone is well. Love to all, Pat


April 30, 1945

Dear Mother and Dad, I have put off writing to you because there really isn't much to write about. I received a letter from you the other day of March 23. I was surprised to hear that Jim is back out here already. (By 1946, Jim was in charge of the diesel-generated power system at the US base on Guam. - editor)

Let me know what his address is as soon as you get it. Maybe I'll have the good fortune of running into him again. I suppose Joe will be coming home soon, now that the war in Europe is just about over. Did Brick get home yet? I guess he must have been hurt pretty bad if he is expecting a discharge from the army. I can't make any comments on your predictions Dad, but quite a few of them have turned into actualities. I am fine and in the best of health. I hope you are all the same I will write again as soon as possible.

love to all.

Pat


"Central Pacific"

August 28, 1945

Dear Mother and Dad,

Well, our mail has finaly begun to catch up with us, so I suppose we will be shoving off again soon. I received one letter from you of August 1st. I'm glad you had a swell time on your vacation. It was too bad the rough weather prevented you from doing any bass fishing. I'll bet you would have had good luck in Canada.

I still can't tell you where I am, but I can let you know that I was at Tulagi Island in the Solomons. There is nothing there to write about, It's just another island covered with jungles. I was there a year ago, too.

I went ashore here the other day with two fellows from the ship. We got one beer and found a nice shady palm tree. We sat there and drank beer and shot the bull until the small boat came back to take us to the ship.

I don't suppose Joe was able to make it over here before the war ended. I was kind of glad he didn't, I think he was a little too anxious to get into the thick of things.

So you're running for supervisor again. I guess they need a good guy like you in there to keep the old Ninth Ward from going to the dogs. I want to see all of those bad roads and so forth in good shape when I get back. Good Luck!

Well, I can't think of anymore to say now. Mom, take good care of that bad arm. I'll be expecting a letter from you as soon as your able to use it again.

love to all,

Pat


August 31, 1945

"Central Pacific"

Dear Mother and Dad,

I received your letter of the 23rd today. Our mail service would be ok if we would stay at the same place for any length of time. We have been here about 2 weeks now. I guess they don't know where to send us now that the war is over. The pictures were swell. I've been waiting a long time for you to send me some good ones of you and dad. I had some but they weren't nearly as good as these. Eleanor seems to be looking pretty spry. The boys have been pretty lucky to be able to see one another so often. George has been exceptionally lucky about getting leaves. I'm glad he is able to get them. I thought that when he came overseas he would be stuck here for 18 months. I guess he has still got a lot of time to spend in the Navy unless they change the point system. Well, I have got to chow down now, so will close.

love to all,

Pat


Sept 11, 1945

Dear Mother and Dad,

Well, now that censorship regulations have stopped, I should be able to find plenty to write about. At the present, we are at Ulithi Islands in the Western Carolines. Incidentally, we landed here on "D" Day with the 81st Army Division.

As you have probably read, it has become one of the important Pacific bases. The islands and the reefs that connect the islands form almost a complete circle and makes a wonderful anchorage. Most of the atolls are very small and very bare except for palm trees. The water near the beaches is very clear. You can see the bottom in sixty feet of wate.

Ulithi Islands are called the playground of the Pacific. It is considered as the long lost paradise Isles, the kind you see in the movies.

There is a small tribe of natives. They are comparitively light complexioned and the women are fairly good looking. I have never seen any of them myself. The navy moved them from the Island of Mog Mog to another smaller island and then restricted it from servicemen. They left a doctor and a pharmacist's mate with the natives. The chief of the tribe is crippled from infantile paralysis. The disease was believed to have been brought by the Japs. The Japs also took all of the young girls away with them when they left.

We go to the Isle of Mog Mog on liberty. After drinking your ration of two cans of beer you can go swimming or play ball. It's usually a little too warm for the later though. There is a lot of coral and pretty colored shells on the beaches which the fellows send home for souvenirs. Well, I guess that's enough about Ulithi.

We have just been informed that we rate five battle stars and the Philippine Liberation campaign bar. We also rate a couple more campaign bars but I don't know which ones. We have been on six invasions: Anguar in the Palau's, Ulithi in the Carolines, Leyte, Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, La Paz, Luzon, just a few miles north of Corregidor, and Okinawa.

We would have been in the Invasion of Mindoro but we were at Milne Bay, New Guinea at the time having the ship repaired from the bomb hit we got at Leyte. It was at Milne Bay that I met Jimmy (his brother, James D Corbett).


Jimmy Corbett

We have been strafed, bombed, had mortars land all around us, fired at by snipers, and we also passed directly through a minefield. The mines were so close you could see them from the rail only about twenty feet from the ship.

Our skipper was awarded the Silver Star at Leyte for unloading our cargo while under constant air attack. We really worked hard to get the supplies off that day. We are credited with shooting down three Jap planes, two twin engine bombers and a zero. We also got credit for assists on a fourth plane at Okinawa. This plane came out of the clouds almost directly overhead and began diving directly at our ship. Our guns opened up at him and about halfway down he made a slight turn and landed about one hundred yards to our starboard, alongside another LST and crashed into the sea. We couldn't tell why the plane turned. The pilot might have been hit and lost control or he might have turned towards the other LST because her main deck was loaded with supplies. Whaterver the reason, we felt lucky that he missed us and the other LST.

We don't know where our next stop will be but the scuttlebut is Okinawa. I have a feeling that if we should go there, our next step after that will be the States.

I haven't heard from you since we left Eniwietok in the Marshalls. That was our last port.

I hope you are all well and feeling fine. I am in A-1 condition myself.

love to all

Pat


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