Leo B. Hoschler's WWII Diary

Leo B. Hoschler's

World War II

Diary

My dad died a few years ago and he left this hand-written diary of his overseas experiences.  He was called the "old man," as he was well-beyond draft age when he enlisted.  He was a Sergeant in the Marines and taught navigation.  In 1945 he was finally shipped out for the Pacific War.

I'm posting this as I read it for the first time, and will be adding to it as time passes.

Everything on these pages are COPYRIGHTED.

 

Aboard –Harry S. Taylor—A.P.

 

            Feb. 14, 1945, San Diego Waterfront

 

      Arose early on this clear cold morn at Miramar to prepare for which will probably be my last day in these states for many a day to come.  It’s difficult to forecast or even wager a hope or promise for events to come as one wishes to satisfy their own future yearnings.  Much can and will happen during the coming year of global war.  I’ll venture a guess right now and that is that the slant-eyed Nip will have had more than enough a year from this date and that he along with the Nazis will have thrown in the towel.  May my venture at prognosticating be a blessed reality.

            Muster at 7:30 this morning on the field with full equipment in preparation to board the boat at Diego waterfront.  All this is really and very new but not very agreeable or exciting experience for me.  Yet I manage to laugh my way thru the rough spots knowing from a backward glance at the last five years the rapidity with which time pats you on the back or kicks you in the a—and passes on.  To be sure it cannot last forever.  Hell!  It can last quite some time though, can’t it?

            Saw Vera (my dad's first wife) last eve here at the base at the Red Cross bldg. for which structure and pleasurable conveniences available for the waiting wives or families of Marines here. They can be whole-heartedly as housed and justly censored from which chosen quarter criticism may come. (I can't figure out this hand-writing.) It’s a hell of a place and I felt embarrassment at having Vera see all that we the famed Marines were able to offer in this short visit to this base. 

     Vera looked lovely last nite as she always does in her outstanding well chosen attire which coupled with her infectious personality go far to make of her the remarkable woman that she really is. “Pop” Coddington, Dean Irby and their respective men also at the reception center last eve and while a somewhat light air I gather prevailed I think that I can say with some degree of self-assurance that much of their gay mood was camouflage, the same as was the men’s. So very nice to be with Vera but so much to say in so little space to say it and then later so much self-recrimination for not having said the things or not having remembered to say things properly as one felt. 

     That’s a common affliction of humans, so I understand by all that I have ever read or written during the past years.  Hated like hell to see her come and get it must be so.  I am happy in the consolation of knowing that she can well take care of herself.  And so, adieu to my wife until God only knows what future time.

     Finally loaded at Miramar - checked off and then the convoy moved out to the docks at Diego which was about an hour and a half trip.  Arriving at the dock and boarded the transport with some misgiving and trepidations.  The overwhelmingly crowded quarters fore-warn a not at all pleasant voyage.

     The heat in the quarters below deck where the condition is a condensed one, with inadequate ventilation made them practically unbearable.  Add to that the black outs after sundown and restrictions on the upper decks and Hell! 

     This may be a good breaking in period for more adventures to come once wwe arrive where ever we are destined.

     Chow seemed fair this first day but perhaps because I have had more than my usual amount of exercise today.  After evening chow and lights out just idling around the upper decks as the heat is difficult to face below.  Holding some light conversations with a few of the boys, looking agt the lights of Diego for the last time in some while.

     Dirty as hell but no opportunity for a shower or even a face rinse.  No fresh water at all except for drinking.  So endeth my first day off the soil of the U.S.A. and tomorrow something new.

February 15, 1945, Aboard G. Taylor, At Sea

          Up early this clear pleasant morn.  No washing of any part of the body so just erased it from the mind as a necessity.  Chow seemed very flat and unpalatable.  On board all hands so cleared the docks and soon out into the inner harbor.  A few good-bye waves and best wishes from both sexes of dock workers as they stood by to watch us up anchor. 

     Soon passed North Island Naval Base and soon passed the narrow jut of Point Loma which will probably be our final view of American Terra Firma for a few months at least.  A warm stiff breeze blowing from West by North and soon we have passed from the green waters of the coastal shoals to the deeper blue that signifies deeper waters.

     Quite some heavy land-swells and white caps in evidence.  Looks like our first day may be a rough one.  Air raid practice after a few miles out with sleeves as the targets towed by land based B-26.

     We make about 20 knots although the ship could do much faster.  I understand that it is capable of 22 knots.  Of course we slowed down to accommodate some slower vessels.  Many wan and expressionless faces soon in evidence with less hilarity that was evident at the time we left the harbor seems to portend plenty of early sea sickness and a lot of uneasy stomachs at the moment.  The ship rolled considerably but I felt no butterflies or feathers in my belly cavity.

          Dinner chow – roast beef, boiled potatoes, spaghetti, and chili – not too bad.  A few cases of sea sickness in evidence at noon chow as one sees quite a number of ship-rail wooers.  How they seem to love that iron rail and the affection that soon blossomed into an intimate embrace between many others and that cosmopolitan receptacle so fondly known as the “G.I. can” is indeed a sight to behold.  I found myself eyeing the picture with no cold indifference as evening came along and the greater part of over 4,000 troops were having their gastronomical difficulties.

          The odor is very unpleasant at best and if one has never had the experience of literally skating on a deck surfaced with sour, smelly, slippery human vomit it is indeed an experience well missed.  My hope is that I may continue to respect the charms of the picture and have no actual part of the experience. 

       Perhaps it were better to call it a day and make the best of the situation in a hot sack below deck – so, so long until tomorrow.

February 16, 1945

At Sea Aboard Gen. Harry S. Taylor

          Well, I guess I made last nite OK didn’t I?  Plenty rough though with the ship enjoying itself in an orgy of pitching and tossing.  Still (can’t make out word) to me was because of the excessive heat coupled with a naturally nervous disposition.  It was good to hear the call of reveille and that is a strange truth.  Well, anyway, up very early as per usual carrying with me to the upper deck and at last!  Fresh air, the dull flatness of perspiring bodies and the sour aroma that is bed partner to the symptoms and results of sea sickness.

          Having donned my life belt and made my way to the upper deck in utter darkness and complete unfamiliarity of the ship I was greeted amply now and then, about every three feet to be injured with barked shins and a few other jolts here and there to the anatomy, but not without some honest to God guessing.  Brother!  How I laid it on with plenty of good Christian endeavor.  Managed to wash my face and brush my teeth this morn and it proved to be a pleasant example after an absence of about two full days.  Did you ever become tolerably filthy and bsence of about two full days.  Did you ever become tolerably filthy and  then be presented with the ecstasy of a scrubbing of the molars and a bathing of the brawn.  God!  The inexplicable beauty of it all. 

         After I had immersed and felt wholly fresh in spite of the relatively small area subjected to the exhilarating experience in ratio to the whole I was ready for a try at the morning chow and so put myself in position to be at the head of the line when the call came thus, “Compartment Eight, Fall in Compartment 8 – port side, main deck for mess formation.”  That was and is the call to chow for compartment 8 in which I am bunked (I mean “canned.”)  Chow was not too bad and I took on enough to warrant my taking it easy until noon.  After chow and after 8 o’clock compartment muster I went above deck to enjoy some good air.  A fast, high sea is running again today.  Looks like stormy weather with billowy clouds, gray sky and lower broken cumulus scudding across the face of the seemingly endless back drop.  My stomach is out of sorts this morn and I have a cold and severe headache.  The number of sea sickness cases have not diminished as observed by the thinness of the chow lines.

          This seems to be an excellent indication of the day’s health of the ship troop personnel.  I decided not to go to sick bay for my ailment thinking it is due perhaps to the inadequate ventilation.  Morning chow was aired with suspicion by the majority of the troops and soon after mustering period and once again on deck I was treated to a spectacle that I shall have to live many a year in a fast changing world to ever experience again.  This was the general heaving, puking, vomiting, throwing your cookies, or whatever you may call it underway over all the ship; on the decks, stairs, sleeping compartments, mess hall, in “GI” cans, helmets, canteen cups and over the rails.  Jesus!  What a mess.  The decks were wet and slippery with a thick mass of half digested conglomerate that seemed a great deal more grease than I remember having been a part of our eating mess. 

          An odor, sour and pungent is over-powering everywhere on this 15,000 ton raft and while my digestive organs have run either very faithful or inordinately stubborn, I find the good companions protesting and wishing to expel their late unwanted guests by name of “chow.”  For certain the sight and accompanying odor of all this mess is much more difficult on my constitution than the constant tossing and pitching of the ship that has become really more severe than on the first day out.

          Looks as if we run smash thru a cyclonic condition.  The ship doctor announced on the loudspeakers (P.A.S.) that to feel better, it is best to remain in the cool air above decks and most important to keep something on the stomach at all times.  Sounds easy as hell but damned if one does not feel as if starvation would be an ultimate in denied earthly pleasures.  Food.  DWJ.  Sounds OK to me.  I was doing alright.

          Me thinks considerable is due to my biology or self-hypnotism.  At least I have made up my mind to partake of my daily portion of bread and what else regardless of my attitude towards the crap.  That is the big problem to many a man aboard here today.  So went this day and so now to say good nite (to who?) and strive for that mere pittance of sleep that comes so reluctantly to this soul, even under pleasant circumstances.

February 16, 1945, At Sea

          And so dawns another day and looks as if it is going to be much better than the two former for all persons on this tub.  The sea has subsided and the sky is clear with a vivid blue that has its counterpart in the depth of the water beneath us.

          A brisk warm breeze from the south makes for a pleasant period of relaxation on deck providing one can find the cu. Ft. needed for the body which are very few cu. feet indeed.  Most of the men are spending their time just lolling around, if it can be called that.  Every foot of space that is not restricted to the troops seems to have been reserved for long past by at least two good souls, either Marines or Sea-Bee.

          There is a ship’s store that opens up here about 10 A.M.  But it has a daily ration and the first few in line are the favored ones.  Also there is a Coke and ice cream line that opens at 11 A.M.  This line moves quite rapidly and brother is it well subscribed to.  Not bad either, in fact with the heat it is a great treat.  I think we really all appreciate this little luxury.  Yay!  Business is good.

          Prior to coming on board ship each man was provided with a small cloth bag, compliments of the American Red Cross.  The contents of which were thus:  One sewing kit, two packs of cigarettes, candy, playing cards, and a book, either detective novel, biography, or other interesting reading to satisfy a cosmopolitan crowd.

          Reading is scarce and now by trading volumes, one man to another etc. as they are finished by the individual there may be ample reading material for some days to come.  I find myself reading a yarn spun by Ellery Queen even tho – I am not addicted to mystery novels.  It’s OK – it passes the time and that bids fair to pass slowly and heavily on this trip.

          Chow has little variety and thus I expect it to be a routine experience from day to day.  Line Company, or rather sea-going Marines are the regular guard on this ship.  Naturally they seem to us to be plenty chicken shit.  They are supplemented by a guard detachment from the troop Marines.

          Dick Eberly and myself are on the compartment cleaning detail and so we may avoid that (?) guard detail.  I have a persistent cold and headache that are probably resulting from little sleep and excessive perspiration.  Also I find myself with a sore and tender left nostril with an unnatural swelling taking place.  It is very irritating—wonder what the hell it can result from?  I must report to sick bay and see the doc about that tomorrow.

          Wrote a letter to Vera today which will be mailed from Hawaii once we dock there.  All mail is strictly censored now that we have left the States and so what we can say is going to be very little of very little.  That about sums it up.  I find myself thinking of the States and home in terms of Vera.  That is my real interest in this war.  Naturally I have one.  I guess everyone must have one.  All the little interests combined are the power that is going to be the deciding factor of this Pacific War in our favor.  Yay!  That is my reason for being here and that thought alone should be sufficient to sustain my moral and physical life during my stop overseas. 

          Such devoted stakes in home and family gathered together as a unit the world over to cooperate in this global conflict is what gives the life and power to the effort.         

I find myself in the state of becoming coated with layers of grime and divers forms of dirt, but in this predicament I have the solace of many more.

          Enough for today, so long until tomorrow.

February 18, 1945, At Sea, Aboard U.S.S. General Taylor

          After three days at sea this voyage has already become routine and quite monotonous. Much rain and plenty of heat day by day.  Spend most of the time just wandering aimlessly about until some square foot of unoccupied space offers a little shade and relaxation which is usually very short lived as the sweepers on this ship are forever manning their brooms and it seems as if the call for “A clean sweep-down fore and aft” is forever being piped.

          Guards provide the sweepers and thus if one should be so fortunate in finding a favored spot to lay out the carcass the pleasure is usually of short duration because of the above ship board institution. 

          No chance to shower other than salt water an d even the drinking water is very hot and flat that is available to the enlisted men.  Naturally the “Coke line” really gets a big play at 5 cents per cup or 10 cents for a Coke float.  Also, some of the boys are in the habit of buying the beverage by the gallon.  I guess they really get their thirst quenched in one try, as far as Coke is a quencher.  Pinochle or Bridge games are the rule here during all of the light hours as are also the games of chance, primarily poker and “Black Jack.”  Some of the boys seem to be doing very well and I understand that a few of the fellows with a p0rofessional turn have already banked a considerable sum with the ship’s financial offices.    It’s OK if one is fortunate with luck.  As for me, I’m too damned broke to even consider entering any of these games, much as I am tempted a few times.

          Weather is not too unpleasant as long as a breeze is in evidence which is nearly constant. These steel hulls do get hot as hell through and below decks it is really bad.  I’ve noticed that as usual the officers fare well.  Their chow is naturally of the best and served by colored waiters.  They sleep in separate bunk rooms above deck and the sacks seem commodious and the rooms cool.

          Well, that’s democracy in the armed service.  A waste of time to be too much concerned with the affair at this time as I am but just started on my overseas tour of duty.  The ocean is a beautiful sky blue and phosphorescence that ijs clearly seen in the foaming brine whipped up by the ship’s hull during the dark hours is something to draw one’s attention.

          Chow lines are long but they seem to move quite rapidly.  It is not too bad considering the great number of men to be fed here.  Of course we all think that it should be better.  Not much more to write of today, so more tomorrow.

February 19, 1945

          Every available space on the upper deck is occupied by sleeping forms at nite as the men seek to find relief from the Rat Holes.  I tried it last nite but because of the heavy intermittent showers I went below deck and have determined that regardless of conditions down there I shall “sweat out” the rest of the voyage.

          It could always be worse – and that’s a truth.  Much conjecture and opinion being offered by the boys here as to when we shall arrive Pearl Harbor.  They say it’s a five day trip but with our zig-zag tactics which are to provide some added protection against enemy submarines as well as our necessity of slowing pace to allow for the accompanying ships may warrant more  time than generally allowed for.

          The day’s routine is the same.  My nostril became infected, my face was swollen this A.M. so that my right eye was closed.  The doctor prescribed sulpha pills and a heavy dosage at that.  Already this eve after some hot packs during the day I feel much relieved and am comfortably certain that tomorrow will find the condition about cleared.

          I hope so as it was quite painful and miserable to say the least.  Hell, I’m supposed to be quitge a hardy cuss so it’s just a minor thing as far as I’m concerned.

          That’s enough for today so, so long until later.

February 20, 1945

          Understand that we will arrive for sure at Pearl tomorrow or maybe late tonite.  Hope so, as there we will be able to get some fresh water showers.  Without a doubt my body is in a more filthy state than I can ever before recall.  Too, it may get worse.  My infected nose seems completely recovered.

          The ship’s news bulletin tells us a major invasion by the Marines in a little isle called Iwo Jima, just 700 miles from Japan.  Well they are getting there and damned close at that.  Maybe we will be in the thing ourselves sooner than we think.  I guess that’s what we are looking for, so bring it on.    

February 21, 1945, Pearl Harbor

          Sighted P.H. this A.M. for the first time about 7 A.M.  Diamond Head loomed distinctive and as I had pictured it so often in print and news reels.  This harbor does not seem so very large.  Some of the hulls of U.S. ships that were caught in the Dec. 7 attack are still to be seen.

          There is a tremendous display of naval power here and after we have tied up for docking we seek a spot on the deck side where we can watch the parade of these many vast and varied ships in and out of the inner harbor.  Everything that floats from row boats, barges, to great carriers, battle ships and cruisers.  I know nothing of these naval ships and so I may learn something during the next few days here.

          There is a question as to how long we shall be in here.  We all hope only a short while.  Some men debarked here but there are more to come aboard soon including a group of army nurses.

          Our lines are connected to the fresh water mains here and enjoyed the luxury of the first real shower in a week’s time.  Got some letters written, censored and mailed here.  More tomorrow.  Good nite.

February 23, 1945, Pearl Harbor

         I can well group this day and the next 5 into a few brief lines.  The days are unvarying in their activity aboard ship.  My time is consumed as was the first two here.

          Movies have been set up on the dock and many of the men get an opportunity to try their sea legs on the deck of Hawaii.  I prefer to remain on the boat rather than fight my way thru a milling crows, stand in a movie line for hours and listen to “salty” M.P.’s bark half-assed orders.  I manage to find enough to read, write plenty of letters and get plenty of rest, such as it is.

          Dick Eberly (another navigator) and myself have managed to avoid all guards and miss-men details.  We are the only two to have so managed out of a great number of men of all rates aboard.  I hope our good luck holds out.

          Every day our names are called on the Public Address System to report to the Marine Guard office, but we so far have disregarded the call.  I hope we can continue to pass it over lightly.  At least we intend to try.  Also, we are given to understand that there will be no diaries written.  I say, “They can go to hell.”

February 28, 1945

Aboard Ship

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

          Finally cleared this port after a week of monotonous routine of doing nothing.  All that can be seen from aboard this ship had become so familiar to the eye after the first two days that one was longing for the sight of new views.

          Weather has been pleasant, some numerous showers and hot when but little breeze but fairly comfortable above deck with the Hawaiian winds that blow almost constantly.  Fresh water showers on every day while in port here – a great relief. 

          A few hundred “doggies” came aboard here as also did about 100 Army nurses, bound for Saipan, I believe.  Looks like some big parties for the officers once we get under way.

          Three ships in this group as we leave here bound for Eniwetok Atoll.  Should pass close to Johnson Isle early tomorrow morn or sometime tomorrow.  It lies nearly on course between here and Eniwetok.

          Passing time reading, watching the games of chance or merely finding some shady spot to crap out or just “shoot the bull.”  Dick Eberly and myself still managing to avoid the guard duties or other forms of shit details for which the Marines are so justly noted as they are for the ability of their infantry divisions.

          The fight for the island of Iwo Jima continues in great fury with the final issue in doubt at many times during this first week.  Seems as if the 3rd, 4th & 5th Marines divisions are engaged in the bloodiest battle yet on record in the history of the Corp.  Well, I wish them luck and can only hope a prayer for the lot of them especially for those thousands who shall never leave that volcanic rock, or whatever type of hell it may be.

          The ship’s orchestra seems to be quite competent and noonly each day provides about 1 ½ hours of pleasant popular request music on the upper deck with community singing.  Seems quite OK.

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