Letters Home: August 1943 In the South Pacific

Oh my, how time flies heading into the holidays.  Especially when work travel dominates your energies.

It has been some time since we heard from Kenny.  His 1942 letters end with his November letter following the U.S.S. Massachusetts maiden battle at Casablanca.  History and a typed carbon copy of a timeline in Kenny’s letter collection, show that Big Mamie returned to Casco Bay, Maine before setting off to transit through the Panama Canal in February 1943.  By March the ship and her crew had arrived at Noumea and became the flagship of Rear Admiral Glenn B. Davis, Division 8, and began their work guarding shipping routes. By August 5, 1943, their port of harbor was Havannah Harbor (today it’s Port Havannah), on the island of Efate, in the New Hebrides Islands (modern Vanuatu Island Nation).  They would begin Operation Vella Lavella, in the Coral Sea by August 25th.

Map of approach to Efate Island, 27 July 1943, public domain, accessed at Wikimedia Commons.

There is a large chunk of letters missing, but by the context of his letters, it appears as though they are just lost.  So, I am going to jump ahead to August 1943 where our collection of his letters picks up again.  I have been trying to publish his letters as close to the anniversary of their original penning, but with the scarcity of 1943 letters, we’ll just have to play it by ear. 

Postdated August 11, 1943, “Passed by Naval Censor”

K.W. Rhoades
U.S.S. Mass. Div. P
c/o F.P.O. San Francisco

Mr. + Mrs. K.W. Rhoades
4011 North 30th St.
Omaha, Nebraska

Monday, August 9 21:30 (that’s 9:30 pm for all you civilians)

Dear Folks,

Having received two letters today, I guess it is again time to pick up my pen and scribble a few lines to a pair of fine parents.  My letters today were one from Dad dated July 16 and Mother’s of the 19th.  I think if I write small, I will be able to answer both satisfactorily all in one.  

For my comments on Dad’s letter, the mustache came out fine.  I let it go wild for a couple of months then trimmed it up and after said trimming, it seemed a bit thin so decided to cut it off; however, it was quite noticeable (Ha Ha).  Yes, I am beyond a doubt beginning to feel like quite a rich man.  As for your mentioning the sugar babies, that’s a lot of bologna.  The [Army] soldiers have them all sewed up.  They won’t even speak to a sailor, even if we could speak their language, and then we aren’t allowed ashore after dark anyhow.  By all means, the girls back there [USA] still look best. I hear there are about 20 to every fellow (better keep your eye on Dad, Mom).  Yes, I am sure glad I got out of the [Army National] Guards.  That old life of crawling around on your belly gets pretty tiresome, I’ll bet.  To bad about the fatal accident to that third chicken, but I think I understand. (Ha Ha)  Thanks for the bar.  I had one when I was home last, remember, however, I lost it since.  

Now I guess that answers Dad’s questions, I’ll start on Mom’s.  Make no apologies for the stationary, Mom.  I can’t read shorthand but enjoyed your letter side of it immensely.  (It was not uncommon for folks to recycle paper at this time in history.  In this case, it appears as though Eleanor wrote her letter on the backside of shorthand notes, probably letters dictated by Ken Sr.)  Dick must be getting to be quite a letter writer, three all in one week.  He sure does better than his big brother, doesn’t he? But guess he, no doubt, has more to write about.  So Mae and the Babe [Helene] are going further west?  Sure are getting to be some travelers, aren’t they?  Sure hope you get to go see Dick.  How did you like Pride of the Yankees?  I saw it last December, sure thought it was swell.  Things must be doing pretty good back there (garden).  I remember we tried cabbage before but without much luck.  I have heard folks in the States are having trouble with their Victory Gardens (ants in their plants).  O.K., you can laugh now.  Anyhow, I thought it funny.  Well, guess I will close and go to bed.  Write soon.

Love to you both,

World War II harbor in New Hebrides (modern-day Vanuatu Island Nation) Accessed from IslandLife.