Recollections of Ensign Leonard W. Tate Recounting His Service
in the US Navy Including the Invasion of Southern France and with SACO
[Sino-American Cooperative Association] in China During World War II

Finishing College and Naval Training

I enlisted in the Navy while in college on December the 27th, 1941, which was 20 days after Pearl Harbor. I was a senior at Oklahoma State, majoring in general business when Pearl Harbor came. The draft system really moved into high gear, and I decided to join the Navy before being drafted.

I think that I should mention that a year before, in the summer of 1940, along with several of my college chums, I attempted to enlist to be an air force pilot, and several of us took the physical examinations, and some of us made it and some didn’t, and I was one who didn’t. I went to Oklahoma City and took the preliminary physical exam there and passed that. Then I was sent to Tulsa to the airport where the Army had an air base, and I took the complete and full examination. I passed everything except one part of the eye test, which was a test for bilateral vision. And the way the test was given was to induce a “crossed-eye” situation. An object would be brought straight towards our head, and we were to keep our eyes on it, and well, I could keep my eyeballs on it until the object reached my forehead, but then one eyeball would pop back out. I couldn’t hold the cross-eyed look long enough, and so I was rejected. Well, I felt pretty unhappy about that. So, I learned about a Navy pilot training program. So, I went with a couple of other fellows from Perry back to Tulsa and went through that (the exam), and I passed everything then except they told me I had a slight astigmatism in one eye. So, I decided to go back and check with the draft boards and see whether it was worthwhile to go back to school or not.

I thought if I was going to be drafted right away, there was no use in going back to college. Well, the draft board said to go back to college because my number was so high that I would probably never be called. So, I went back to college. That was September of 1941! And December the 7th was Pearl Harbor. A few days later, I got a card from my draft board saying to prepare to come for a physical exam. We’ll let you know when to come. So, my roommate in college and I got busy. And I happened to notice in the newspaper one morning a tiny little article that the Navy had brought out a new program for officer training. That a man who could complete his requirements for a [college] degree within 12 months and could pass the physical exam and meet all of the other requirements could be sworn into the Navy on inactive duty as an apprentice seaman and be given 12 months of inactive duty to complete college at his own expense. So, we applied for that. We were both accepted and sworn into the Navy on the 27th of December, just 20 days after Pearl Harbor.

And, of course, we didn’t wear a uniform or anything. But we had to have an addition to our meeting the requirement for our regular degree. We had to have completed three math courses with a C or better grade, which was college algebra, plain trig, and spherical trig. Well, we had to add that into all of the other subjects, and it made it pretty tough to get them. So, my last 12 months at Oklahoma State was a mighty busy period. Completing all the requirements for my degree in business as well as the math courses for the Navy - and, oh, yes, the Navy had given a list of books to read, too. Like Knight’s Seamanship and a lot of goodies like that.

So, finally, I finished in December of 1942, and I was told the Navy said I would be sent orders when they were ready for me. So, I went down to Port Arthur, Texas, and worked on a construction project until my orders came, which were to report on February 22nd, 1943, at New York City to the United States Naval Reserve, Midshipmen’s School at Columbia University.

Midshipmen’s School

So, I got on the train at Port Arthur and got off in New York City and took the subway up to 114th Street and checked into the midshipmen’s school. Strangely enough, my college roommate, with whom I had enlisted in the Navy, we were both sent to the same midshipmen’s school on the same date, although we didn’t room together. So, there we were in New York City. However, my friend, whose name was Roy Uhl, Jr., was given a medical discharge before he finished. When we reported there, we were given still another physical examination, and they found that he had a tumor on one of his testicles, so they operated and removed that and then gave him a medical discharge from the Navy. So, he spent the rest of the war a civilian working in Oklahoma and Texas.

Midshipmen’s school, which lasted four months, was a real rat race. I had thought that my last year of college had been difficult, but that turned out to be just a warm-up for midshipmen’s school. We had academic studies and some little bit of physical activity, and they really worked us hard. As I recall, only one-half of the fellows who started, finished.

We were told that the Navy policy was that by the time - since we were already college graduates - that we were to learn everything in four months that a person learned at Annapolis in four years. That is of Navy subjects. So, we were to be equivalent to them by the time we finished that four-month cram session.

Of course, there was some fun, too, because we didn’t arrive at the same hour. Rooms were assigned on a first-come basis, starting on the 2nd floor, and I wound up on the 12th floor, which made it tough because we weren’t allowed to use the elevator. I lost 15 pounds right away.

In addition to the grind at school, because we got liberty on weekends after lunch Saturday until about five o’clock Sunday afternoon. We would head downtown and get a room in a hotel and have as much fun as we could on the funds we had available. Of course, we got paid five dollars every other week. Actually, we got paid something like $50 a month, I guess, as midshipmen, but most of that was held back by the Navy to cover our expenses, and we were given this five dollars every other week as pocket money, and when we finished the course, we got back whatever little bit was left over after uniforms and various things were deducted.

First Assignment

My first assignment was to the Atlantic Fleet Amphibious Force at Little Creek, Virginia, which is just outside of Norfolk. And I went there after going home on leave ... I went home on leave on the way from New York to Norfolk. And I was assigned to a small boat flotilla. The small landing craft which were, I think, about 40 foot long - like kitchen match boxes - had a ramp that dropped down when you hit the beach, and 40 or 50 soldiers would run out on the beach.

I was a boat officer, in command of three of these little boats, each with four sailors - a crew of four sailors. And my flotilla, I think, had about 10 or 12 boat officers.

I was, of course, commissioned an ensign in the Navy, which is an equivalent to a second lieutenant in the Army. And I was commissioned at what is called a general duty line officer in the Navy, eligible to stand at top watch at sea, so that, being a general duty line officer, I was qualified to command boats at sea and crews and personnel.

We trained at Little Creek in boat handling and maneuvers and tactics or whatever for, I guess, about a month or something like that. Then they loaded us all up on the train and took us down to Fort Pierce, Florida, where we were to have advanced training in the ocean surf! We’d had - our training in Virginia had been in the Chesapeake Bay. So, we got to Fort Pierce and out on the beach - the ocean beach - a tent city had been set up for us to live in! And a sort of a school was established there for training groups like mine.

And, so, let’s see - I think, I remember being at Norfolk on the 4th of July, and then we went down and trained until August, I think, at Fort Pierce, and then we were told to stand by, that we would be going off to the wars.

Transfer to Scouts and Raiders

Well, just about that time, another group stationed close by called the “Scouts and Raiders” asked for a few more volunteers! And, as it ended up, I and the three fellows that I shared a tent with all applied for Scouts and Raiders and were accepted! So, I think in August we moved over there next door, became Scouts and Raiders officers, and started that training program.

Letter from Fort Pierce, Florida
Leonard to His Parents

Postmark Dec. 5, 1944

Hi -

Your good and long, too, letter came yesterday, and all the good news was well received. I am glad that Jr. brought the camera back. Of course, we know that the girls are responsible.

The paymaster here has started to loosen up a bit, so enclosed you will find a couple of money orders. $140 worth. There will be more soon.

We are living in the same tents but expect to have some nice wooden cabins soon. They are prefabricated and just require setting up.

There are about 10 of us here, and we are teaching the new boys (Scouts) how to handle them. It’s kind of monotonous, but the weather is wonderful, and P.B. [Palm Beach] is not far.

I got a roll of black-and-white film at Palm Beach, and we are going to take some pictures here. This film can be developed and printed and [in] P.B. in quick time. We are going to take the colored pictures later.

That Perry-Enid game must have been hectic! Bob didn’t seem to do so good, but Perry won, so what’s the difference! I saw Fort Pierce High defeat Vero Beach Thanksgiving night.

We had turkey Thursday noon, Thanksgiving, but they never season anything, as usual. However, Gus Evans took me home with him for supper, and his wife had a swell meal. She is from Virginia and can really bake biscuits! Just about as good as yours, Mother. We went on to the game and then had some drinks with the gang, out at the Officers’ Club. Swell day!

I saw Bob Foster last Friday, and they expect to leave here soon. Chow time!

Son

And a short time later, the amphibious flotilla that we had been a part of departed for England. I decided to join the Scouts and Raiders because I found my duty in the amphibious force would be very dull - extremely dull and boring. And although we didn’t know hardly anything about the Scouts and Raiders because it was a secret activity, it sounded a lot more exciting, and I think that’s the main reason why I decided to volunteer.

My three buddies in the amphibious force who went with me to the Scouts and Raiders were Don Robillard, who eventually was best man at my wedding. Another was Frank Sullivan from New Hampshire, and the other one was Bill Morrisey from New York City. So, the four of us, as it turned out, went to the war in Europe with the Scouts and Raiders and all came back from there a year later to Fort Pierce where Robillard and I continued together to China. And the other two went into what later became the “Underwater Demolition Teams” - the so-called frogmen. And they went to Japan or were headed for Japan when the war ended.

Well, the life as a Scout and Raider officer was far from dull or boring! It was just the opposite! We were formed up into teams there. Each Scout officer had one 6-man crew. So, I had - that’s what I was - Scout officer with six men assigned to me. And we trained together. There were about, I think, perhaps 8 or 10 crews that went through the training program that I went through.

We were taught to come in from the sea in a small boat at night and find a predetermined spot on the beach. And how to sneak ashore if necessary as - I’m referring now to an enemy beach like in Europe or somewhere. Sneak ashore and go around and look things over or to meet people, talk to them, collect information, and then sneak back out with the information.

Also, we were taught to investigate the hydrographic features. In other words, whether there were any obstacles in the water on the way to the beach, because we would be checking out prospective landing sites for invasions.

The Scouts and Raiders were considered a special operations and intelligence type of activity. So, we suffered through that training, and that was very rigorous. We had to be in tremendous physical condition. The reason it turned out that there were six men and one officer was that we mainly - we used rubber boats a lot of the time, and one of the most common boats used was a - what was called a six-man boat in which six fellows paddled, and one fellow sat in the stern and steered it. And, of course, that was the officer who got to sit in the stern and steer. However, in actual practice, we took - I and the other officers took turns paddling when we were making a long, tough paddle trip.

We had to go through the obstacle course time and again. And that was just terrible. Absolutely terrible. I don’t know how I ever did it. I thought one day I was gonna fall out of a tree - a big tree. We had to climb a rope - a thick rope up - way up in a high tree. About like these oak trees here around our house. And then when you got up there, you had to pull yourself up over the limb and back down the rope again. Well, the first time, I didn’t think I was gonna be able to even reach the top - reach the limb. But finally, I managed to pull myself up the rope to the limb and get one arm over it, and then I looked down to the ground, and I thought, “My God. I don’t know what I’m gonna do. I’m so weak. I think I’m gonna fall any minute to the ground, and how I’m ever gonna get up on that limb, I don’t know.” But I did.

Then, another training exercise helping us develop our muscles and our team work: The seven of us would lie down on the ground side by side and with our heads up against a palm tree log about 20 foot long - well, I suppose 15. And we had to reach our hands back and lift that log up and hold it up over our heads. It was so heavy that the seven of us could just barely hold it up there. And then they told us we had to throw it up and down and catch it. And put it down on our stomach and lift it up and put it back down on the ground behind our heads. Well, we had a lot of goodies like that, but we all survived.

There was one fellow who lost a hand - had his hand blown off making - working with a homemade hand grenade. Included in our training was using explosives as well as all kinds of small arms weapons and how to kill people. Sneak up behind a person and kill him without him making any noise, and all that kind of jazz.

OFF TO THE WAR IN EUROPE

So, after having been at the - in the Scouts and Raiders training from August, I think it was in December of 1943 that six of we Scout teams were sent to Norfolk and boarded a ship and went in a convoy to the war in Europe. We went across the Atlantic in a big flotilla and had a lot of cargo ships - slow cargo ships. Even though the ship I was on had been a, what was called a banana boat in the South American trade, it was a combination passenger and freighter, could go fairly fast, but none of the ships could go faster than the slowest ones. And, of course, the German submarines were busy at that time. So, a lot of destroyers were cruising around the perimeter of our flotillas. But nevertheless, it was so slow, it took us 25 days to get to Algiers [in Algeria, North Africa].

We crossed the Atlantic, went through the Straits of Gibraltar, and stopped at Algiers. Twenty-five days! I would like to go back and describe one training operation we had in Florida which we were rather proud of being able to carry off. The training exercise was to land and negate - capture the defensive forces at Miami! And we did it! We took our boats down there, and submarines who had been training for their part - they were actually the Raiders. We were the Scouts, and they were the Raiders. We loaded them up in our boats, and we came in from sea, came right up and landed right there at Miami Beach, and the marines went charging off - this was at night, of course, sort of a Pearl Harbor type of thing (laughter). And they managed to capture all of the defenses - the Miami defenses. The people and the guns they were supposed to be manning. What happened was, when they were captured, somebody would make a chalk mark on them - on the door of their room, on the gun, all this. So, a few minutes later, they came charging back into the boats, and we withdrew. Sailed away. We were very proud of that.

We did hear later, however, that that was the first and last joint training exercise with the port defenders. Apparently, they were too embarrassed.

One other incident that happened [in Florida] - another training exercise just outside of Palm Beach. Another Scout officer and I were paddling in there in a kayak to check out something along the beach, and we anchored our - this was at night, of course - we anchored our kayak, and we were swimming on into the beach - well, we got in about halfway where the water was - I suppose, three, two or three feet deep - and we saw a coast guardsman coming along riding a horse. He was on duty. Guard duty. He didn’t see us, but the horse spotted us. So, the other guy and I (Joe Mandel), we decided that he should try to escape, try to get back to the kayak and get away, and I would cover his escape by splashing and sploundering around and letting myself be captured by the coast guardsman. Well, I wound up spending the night in the Palm Beach jail (laughter)! But I was vouched for and released the next day.

The convoy went to the Straits of Gibraltar and stopped at Algiers, which was the first real city on the right-hand side. While in the harbor, I saw a ship - the ship that one of my college roommates was on - so I managed to go over and call on him. Visit him on his ship. It was Jack Streetman.

Then our ship, or the ship that we were traveling on, continued on to Tunis [in Tunisia], where we disembarked. We went on then by truck or something 30 to 40 miles to a place called Bizerte, and that was where we - that was our destination which was the headquarters of the Special Operations Group of the Mediterranean Fleet which was to be our home for the - our base for the time we were in Europe. This is, of course, in North Africa, in the country of Tunisia. The commanding officer for our Special Operations Group was a well-known person by the name of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

In addition to our Scouts and Raiders outfit, there were several other units in the Special Operations Group, such as a group called the Beach Jumpers who simulated invasion landings at night using electronics. It was a deception type of operation. And I’ve forgotten what the others were. Couple of others. We did work with the Beach Jumpers some.

The first operation that we were given was a request for four crews to go to Italy to run missions in and out of Yugoslavia. So, we didn’t really have a commanding officer. There were just the - I think eight of us and our crews. So, we decided to draw straws to see who would go, and I didn’t - I was not one of those who went. I and three others stayed behind.

Then, a little later, the rest of us went to Italy - to Salerno, Italy, to run missions behind the lines on the west coast of Italy. But before we got started with that, I was given a job in Naples. I was given the job in Naples, but I was told that I had to continue living in Salerno, which seems like - is probably something like 30 miles away, and I had to commute back and forth to work each day. I also had no vehicle, so I had to hitchhike back and forth most of the time.

This didn’t seem to make too much sense to me because the job I was assigned to gave me the knowledge of all of the plans for the forthcoming invasion of France! It seemed kind of ridiculous that they would want me hitchhiking back and forth up and down Italy with all that information! But there’s an old saying, “There’s the right way and the Navy way.”

So, my job in Naples was working in the dungeon of what seemed to be an old palace where the intelligence was being collected and collated on the proposed landing sites on the coast of southern France. They had big collections of things on the walls like pictures taken by fighter planes that flew over the coast frequently - over the beaches. And photographs of these beaches were blown up, and all these were pasted up on the wall so you could see the whole - each beach. And arrows were drawn, you know, pointing to various things. And then they had reports from agents, and I don’t know where all the information came from, but this time, instead of collecting the information, I was putting it together and helping with the planning. So, I worked at this until the time came to - until the four of us and our crews were assigned to the (laughter) - back to the Amphibious Force to go in the Invasion of Southern France! As Scout officer, however.

So, my job was to lead the way to one of the landing sites. And I was right familiar with it, of course, from my work during the planning stage.

Well, the office I was working in there in Naples, down in the dungeon, there were, of course, a number of other people working there, too. I don’t remember now what the name of the unit was or anything like that. It was probably all too secret. But it was hard to get into the place. Had to go through several sets of guards to get there. Even going through the tunnels down in the basement, every 100 feet or so, there would be a door and American Army guards. So, it was well, well protected.

I think all the people working there were Americans. So, finally, all of this was published, printed up in books, and printed on the maps - which I eventually saw, after we were at sea, on the way to the “Invasion.” We Scouts were assigned to the staff of the commander-in-chief of the invasion and were on board his flagship, which was a big - like a big troop transport, actually.

The Invasion of Southern France

Yes, this was the “Invasion of Southern France” in August of 1944. We left Naples in the convoy - a huge number of ships - sailed west, went between - through the straits, between Corsica, and yes, through the straits between Corsica and Sardinia and then headed north, and our landings were east of Marseille [France] - between Marseille and Cannes. And the beach I was assigned to was at San Raphael, which is right next to Frejus.

Landings were made at several places. There was one to my right, and I - at least one to my left. And mine was called Red Beach. To make a long story short, we were driven off of my beach. The resistance was so fierce that the admiral decided to give up on it because good success had been had at the beaches - the other beaches - and so, the soldiers who were supposed to land at my beach were diverted to the other beaches.

So, the reasons - well, let me start over and say my assignment was to lead - as I said before, lead the first wave to the predetermined landing site, and I was in a small boat, about 60 feet long (it had a captain and its crew), but it was assigned to me for my use. And we - the first wave of boats that we were leading in were small boats trailing paravanes [cutting devices] to cut the cables in the minefield - so, there was an underwater minefield! It was the first obstacle on the way to the beach. So, the - I was to lead these small boats, to be sure they went to the right place, and we did that. And it was in broad daylight (seems to me about 10 o’clock in the morning) - beautiful sunny August day. And nothing happened until we got in very close! And I was beginning to wonder if they had - if the enemy had decided to retreat.

One trouble with me and my boat was we had to stay there almost in one place. When we led these waves of boats in, they were - these boats were about 10 abreast. And so, we were, like, on the right-hand side going in, and when we got within about, I’d say, 500 yards from the beach, then we had to stop our boat and stay right there while the little boats with the paravanes went ahead and turned and came back out again. So, the other side would come by us. What I’m trying to say is we went and stayed there in the center of the two lanes so there wouldn’t be some mines left floating around in between the path they went in and the path they came out.

So, that was the worst part of the whole thing, was waiting there. All we could do was just back up a few feet, and another salvo of shells would burst right behind us. And we’d go forward a few feet. Same thing. Go sideways a few feet [then] sideways [the other way]. [Shells] bursting all around us constantly. And we had no casualties, but I was up on top of this little thing. It had a little wooden deck on top with a canvas around it, and that was ripped up somewhat, and I had my helmet blown off, and I bruised - skinned - my elbows and knees trying to burrow into the deck (laughter)! Oh, and of course, the flagship was - we were communicating with the flagship with the radio, telling them - giving them a running account of what was happening. And they would say, “Where - can you see the flashes of the guns?” And I said, “I - I can’t see - can’t see the flashes of the guns for the waterspouts around us.” And we’d begin having trouble with the radio, and eventually, the radio and all the navigational gear was all shot up, but when the boats had turned around and come back out, then we led them - started leading them back out to sea again.

Well, it was a great idea, but it didn’t work. Because right after they went by us, going in, they - some of them turned - they all started going different directions. Some turned and came right back out at us. Others went to the right. Others went to the left. Well, at sea right behind us were Navy destroyers and cruisers and battleships and so on. So, when we reported what had happened, then our Navy ships started firing at these drone boats that were headed back at us and our fighting ships. We found out later that the Germans had taken over the control of the radio boats and directed them. That was German technology - somehow they did it. But this isn’t intended to be a story about the invasion. We got bombed, and we got shot at, but the landings were a success, and the next day, our fellows who had landed to our right - the Army - they went up and captured our beach, and so then we went ashore (laughter) and looked the area over.

[Note: Lee told me after our marriage that the admiral in charge of the attack in southern France later committed suicide because of his sorrow about the terrible slaughter of American boys. Admiral Moon was his name.]

Then we spent two or three days there and four days on the flagship. We usually got to go ashore each day and go sightseeing. See, my job ended as soon as the troops were ashore. I was through. So, after about a week there, I was told to go back to our Scouts and Raiders Headquarters - no longer needed. And I hitchhiked a ride on a British ship - a British cargo ship - I was trying to think of what those ships were called. Liberty ships, I think they were called. Big old Liberty ships, and they gave me a ride back to Salerno, Italy, where I regrouped with our other guys, and we all then hitched a ride on another ship back to our headquarters at Bizerte. In other words, the war in Europe was over for us. After the landings had been made [in] Normandy, the landings in the south of France, and the Germans were being chased up out of Italy. So, we were no longer needed.

Well, the work of the Scouts and Raiders had been (before the invasions) to make secret landings on the enemy coastline and get info and obtain info, and then the group who went to Yugoslavia - on the “Yugo mission” - they wound up rescuing American Air Force crews who had been shot down in the Rumanian oil field raids. A lot of them were helped by the “underground” [in the country] and made their way down to the Yugoslav coast where our guys would go at night and pick them up. But, of course, when the Germans retreated, they no longer occupied those areas, and we weren’t needed for that kind of work, and then finally, after the invasions there was no longer any need for our specialty.

RETURN HOME FOR RE-ASSIGNMENT

So, then we backtracked, back to Bizerte, and we were there, let’s see, I guess the invasion was something like the 16th of August in ‘44. We worked our way - we were at Bizerte a few weeks, I suppose, and getting new orders which finally came, and we were to report back to our international headquarters at Fort Pierce, Florida! So, we had been given air orders, and we flew to Port Leoti, which is near Rabat in French Morocco on the Atlantic coast, and I think there were the four of us - God, the same four! - Morrisey, Robillard, Sullivan, and myself! And we were - this is another one of those amusing things about my career - at Rabat we were told that we were going to go on a commercial airline - an American airline - back to New York City. Since this airline stopped in the Irish Free State and we couldn’t go there as Navy officers because it was a neutral country during the war, we were documented as international Red Cross workers and sent into town to buy civilian clothes. Our uniforms were all locked up in the plane. So, off we went to Ireland, and we landed in Shannon, and even though we were only supposed to be there a few hours, something happened to one of the propellers, and they couldn’t take off. We wound up spending a week there while they waited for parts. So, we spent a lot of that time in a place called Limerick, although most of the time we were put up in a large old country inn, such as the Wayside Inn in Middletown. So, we really had a ball in Ireland, and then eventually they - this plane, by the way, was a seaplane called a Sikorsky 4-engine seaplane and could land and take off from the water and it seems from the ground, too. I think it had wheels that folded up. Anyway, it’s the first time I ever rode in a seaplane. When we took off at Port Leoti on a river, the thing went roaring down faster and faster, and finally the water came right over the portholes! It looked like we were sinking. And then, finally, it pulled up into the air. We flew over Spain and Portugal to Ireland and over Cork and landed there on the river at Shannon. Well, then this plane, when we left Shannon to go on to New York - it was an overnight trip, and we found out that the inside of this cabin was just like a railroad pullman car, made up into berths at night, which was very nice, and we had good food, and the captain gave us a bottle of Scotch. So, that was good, and the next morning, we woke up just as the plane was going to land at Newfoundland, where we had breakfast, and then we flew on down to New York City, landed in Long Island Sound, and the thing taxied right up on the ramp at the LaGuardia terminal!

We got out and went right in the terminal and through customs, and there we were, back in New York City again, on familiar ground! So, after a few days there, we continued on down to Fort Pierce again and milled around there for quite a while. There was a new movement underfoot. There was no need for the Scouts and Raiders in Europe anymore, so that meant that we were concerned with the war in the Pacific, in the Far East, and a new activity was emerging called the “Underwater Demolition Teams,” and their base was at Fort Pierce, too. So, several of our fellows were going into U.D.T. and more training and going out to the war in the Pacific. But six of us - and of the six, there were Robillard and myself - were told that we were being sent to Washington, D.C., for further orders. So, Morrisey and Sullivan went into the U.D.T. and to the Pacific war and were headed for Japan when the war ended. When the war ended a year later in August of 1945.

So, finally, in - it must have been December - December or November of ‘44 - we got on the train to Washington, D.C. - just the six of we officers. We didn’t take our crews, which we had taken to Europe and brought back again to Fort Pierce. We didn’t know what we were headed for. But we got into Washington and checked into hotels and went down to the Navy Headquarters, Chief of Naval Operations Office, and down the hall a couple doors there was a little door, and we knocked on that and went in, and there was a waiting room and another door with a little window in it, and we knocked on that door and told the fellow who we were and gave him our orders. He told us to sit down and gave us a sheet of paper to read. And that was our introduction to our new assignment!

What we found out, of course, was that we were being sent to China to collect info.

ASSIGNMENT TO CHINA

With this tape, we’re starting phase two of my active duty in the Navy. As I mentioned at the end of the first tape, six of us were sent from Fort Pierce, Florida, up to Washington, D.C., to the Chief of Naval Operations Office for reassignment, and we reported to our doorway down the hall from the big chief’s office where we were given a secrecy agreement to sign and told to come back the next morning! So, we went back the next morning and found that the situation had changed somewhat. We were told that we [had gone] for reassignment to the Office of Strategic Services, commonly known as O.S.S., but the situation had changed overnight, and O.S.S. was no longer handling the special operations in China. That a new group, a Navy group in China, had taken over, and instead, we were going out with the Navy group! So, actually, what happened was that I was one day in the O.S.S. (laughter). Without even knowing it. We later heard that General Chiang Kai-shek, the president of China, had had a disagreement with General Donovan, the head of the O.S.S. General Donovan stated that we were to be completely in charge of our activities there, but General Chiang Kai-shek said, “No. You are guests in my country, and this is going to be a joint effort.” Well, that didn’t suit General Donovan, so Chiang Kai-shek said, “Well, that’s a very simple matter. I’m revoking the visas that you people have to be in China.”

Chiang Kai-shek had thought ahead and had required all the Americans coming to China to come on passports, which seemed kind of strange to us who had been in the war in Europe, because there in the American military no one had passports to go to the war.

So, we were told we were going to China, and we were each given a dollar and told to go to the passport office and get our passports. So, I got a passport that said I was authorized and entitled to go to China, and in transit to pass through any countries going and coming that were necessary. Needless to say, it had a Chinese visa in it, and as I recall, several other countries, too.

Letter from Washington, D.C.
Leonard to His Parents
[Ambassador Hotel]

Postmark Jan. 12, 1945

Hi -

I’m sure I’m not writing too often to interfere with your business (ha). It is still cold up here, but I stay inside, someplace, and not worry about it.

Today, they took my pictures for the passport. Sure hope they are better than the one on my ID card, don’t you? When I arrived Sunday, the Statler hotel was full, but a marine told me to try this hotel, so I did and got a room which is just pretty fair, but because of the congressmen returning, I haven’t been able to find anything else yet, but may be able to get into the Statler tomorrow.

I may go to New York this weekend, but haven’t decided for sure yet. It only takes three and a half hours on the train, but whether or not it’s worth the trouble, I haven’t decided yet.

We take the rest of our shots Monday. It sure seems to me that they could pick some other day ...

I have been dating Imogene this week. Although she is kind of funny looking, she acts so happy to be with me that I can’t resist.

While I think about it, I believe it would be a good idea for you to send me a box about every two weeks. Cans of chili, tamales, cheese spread, cookies, just things like that, that won’t perish en route, and that won’t take all your points!

The only mail so far is the Jan. 5-6 copies of the Perry Daily [the hometown newspaper]. For some reason, the mail from Florida hasn’t arrived yet.

When the time comes, I am sending the foot locker home with what I don’t have weight for.

This is sure unusual Navy duty. Living downtown in a hotel and just going out to the office whenever necessary, which isn’t often, and always in the afternoon. The best thing I ever did was to volunteer out of small boats a long time ago in Fort Pierce. Some of the guys that thought this was too dangerous have since been sorry. I must get slicked up now because Imogene and I are going out to some of her friends’ houses tonight.

Son

P.S. Use my office address until further notice of F.P.O.

The six of us were told we would be traveling by pairs, two at a time, and we would be flying out there by the quickest possible means, and we were given Class I priorities. We were going out on a secret operation, and that we would be given more details after we got there. Our first stop would be in Calcutta. The other four guys went first. Robie and I were the last two to travel. Well, to make a long story short, it took us three weeks to get there - on a Class I priority!

Being experienced travelers by now, and not in any real big hurry to catch up with the war again, Robie and I just followed the instructions that were given to us as we went along. After several false starts, we finally took off from Washington National Airport on a two-motored plane - I suppose a DC 3 - and went to ...[?]

TRIP TO CHINA

It was nice to be back on familiar ground because this is the place where we had departed on our way back to the States. We also began to learn something about traveling with the “Globe Girdling Air Transport Command.” It seemed that they had the world divided up into segments. And we had reached the end of one segment and had to transfer to another town and get on a waiting list to continue.

In order to do this, we had to travel from Port Leoti to Casablanca. And there was no transportation available. So, we hitched a ride on a truck - rode in the back of a truck (laughter) - to Casablanca where we checked in with the airbase there and found out that there would be some delay until we could get on a flight to continue. So, we checked into a hotel as we were told and gave the number to the airbase, and we proceeded to explore Casablanca - enjoy ourselves for a couple of days. The call came. We continued forward, and that time we got all the way to Cairo! Where the plane stopped, and that was the end of that section. Same thing, except there we were told that the air force had some tents out in the desert, and we were to get in the truck and ride out there and stay there until we were told to come back.

Well, meanwhile, someone had told us that there was a better way and that we could stay downtown in Cairo in a hotel and give the dispatcher at the airfield the name and number of the hotel, and they would call us. So, that’s what we did. Well, six or seven days later, we began to get a guilty conscience (laughter) and went out to the airfield. And there was quite a bit of panic there. They hadn’t been able to find us, they said.

Well, we had tried to utilize our time in Cairo. We went out and visited the pyramids and points of interest around Cairo. Really had a nice time. Being in the Navy was to our advantage because when we were taken up to the colonel’s office at the airport to explain what had happened, he had had no jurisdiction over us. All he could do was bawl us out and put us on the next plane (laughter), which suited us fine, of course.

So, we continued on to Tripoli. Landed there for gas and food, and then took off again. Now, these are two-motored planes, starting from Casablanca. All the rest of the way is two-motored [planes]. So, we took off from Tripoli, we flew about an hour, and I - I had a window seat in this plane. And I was looking out the window, and it sounded like a cannon went off, and a huge ball of fire came out of the engine! Well, I was kind of nervous. Especially when the plane started descending somewhat, and the pilot circled around and headed back to Tripoli. But he reassured us that he was up high enough that he could get back. And, of course, the desert (we were out over the desert) is pretty flat. So, we got back. Went in the diner, had some coffee, came back out, another plane and another crew! Those [first] two guys had had enough! Took off again, went about an hour - “boom!” Big red ball of fire! Turned around, back to Tripoli. Well, of course, we weren’t too excited that time. Got some coffee, another plane, another crew, took off again. And that time, we made it all the way to the southern coast of Iran, some city down on the Persian Gulf, where we gassed up and ate again and took off and had an uneventful trip from there to Karachi. Which, at that time, was in India but is now in Pakistan.

Same old story. “Get in the truck, go out to the camp in the desert, and we - we’ll tell you when to come.” Well, this time we thought we’d over - we’d had as much as we should take, so we got in the truck and went out to the desert. About a week later, our conscience began to get at us (laughter), so we went back to the airport - taken up to an angry colonel’s office (laughter), but being in the Navy helped.

It seems that they had made a mistake. That someone in the office there had thought we were replacement pilots, and we were being assigned as copilots flying transport planes over the “Hump.” So, when the colonel found out that we were sea pilots and not air pilots, he really got excited! Well, he calmed down and discovered that the next plane (laughter) going forward was a general’s plane. The general was flying to Calcutta. And so, he made arrangements for us to be taken on his plane, which was leaving that evening about five or six o’clock. And this, I suppose, was around noon that all this took place. So, we were instructed not to leave the airfield.

Well (laughter), we mosied around, and we found that there was a - a PX there, across the street from the office building. We went there, and we saw fellows drinking beer, so we went up and asked - ordered a beer. We were told that they couldn’t sell it by the individual can or bottle - that you had to buy a case or none. And that the procedure there was that the American servicemen got a ration card once a month for a case of beer. And that these were obtained from the chaplain’s office. We went to the chaplain’s office, and we got a card for a case of beer! Went back to the PX, got the beer - cold beer. And went outside and sat under a shade tree (laughter). So, when they called us for the plane about five or six o’clock, we were ripe (laughter)!

They put us on the plane, and (laughter) there was - turned out to be a problem there because the general had offered rides to two Catholic nuns. They put us as far in the rear of the plane as possible (laughter). And then we were dumped off at the first stop, which was Agra [India] (laughter), and taken to a tent and told to stay there until called. A tent with cots in it. So, we stretched out and went to sleep, and it seemed in no time they were shaking us. “Time to go! Time to go!”

So, we went out and got in another plane. That plane got us to Calcutta [India]. Finally! Calcutta! So, I went to a phone in the waiting room and called a number I’d been given, which was the Navy office downtown. And I told the man and gave him our names and said we were there. And he said, “Where are you?” Said, “We’re here at the Dum-dum Airport.” “Well,” he said, “I’ll tell you what.” He said, “You see a couch over there? You guys go and sit down on that couch.” And said, “You stay right there until someone comes, which will be about 20 minutes.” (laughter) Sure enough, a chief petty officer came driving up in a sedan! No more trucks, but a sedan! Took us and our bags downtown to the captain’s office. He said that the admiral up in China was very concerned about the delay in our getting there. That the whole operation was being held up, waiting for us. Furthermore, that the admiral had sent a cable to every possible place between Washington and Calcutta that we might have stopped. (laughter) But none of it was our fault. We just obeyed instructions.

So, that was about 10 o’clock in the morning, I would say. And by midnight, we were on another plane, on our way to China. So, that day was being spent being issued a big bag full of field gear - even gas masks and helmets and all kinds of stuff like that. And going around from office to office with paperwork and so on, so on, so on. And what they did, they arranged for us to take the next plane, all right. And it turned out to be a commercial airliner, flying over the “Hump” to China - the “Chinese National Airways.”

So, we were taken out in the evening about 10 o’clock or 11, I suppose, to the airport - the commercial airport - to board the commercial plane, and it looked just like a scene from an old Grade B movie - bare light bulbs dangling down from the ceiling, all kinds of people milling around in the - Chinese civilians, Indian civilians, all in their native dress - you know, there were Australian soldiers with the hat brims turned up on the side - all kinds of people.

So, we had to go through customs, and they went through our stuff very well - they emptied our bags, looked at everything, and we got through okay. But some of the civilians - they were even squeezing the toothpaste out of their tubes and looking [to see] whether they had any photographs ... searching them - like I say, it was like it was out of a Grade B movie.

Finally, I guess there must have been about 20 passengers (this was a DC 3, too). Robie and I and the other passengers ... took off in the night. And we flew several hours and stopped somewhere - went into a diner and had something to eat - I guess they gassed up again - took off again. I fell asleep. When I woke up, the sun was rising all rosy and red, and I looked out the window, and right off the wingtip was a wall of rock. I said, “My God, Robie. Look at that!” “Well,” he said, “Look out the other window!” Same thing. We’d been flying through canyons - the Himalayas. The plane wasn’t big enough to fly over them. We had to fly through canyons. And, of course, the Jap fighters - the jets - were patrolling the route, too.

Well, just then, we burst out of this canyon right over a plateau and flew a little way, and there was Kunming, our destination. We landed at an airport, were met and taken to an office there at the airport.

I think this was all still in November 1944. By now, three weeks had gone by since we left Washington. Of course, we had by now caught up with our operation, who had been waiting for us. And we got a quick briefing and were told that all we needed to take with us was one change of clothes and that we were being flown out to the coast of China, to the “denied area,” and that we would be out there about a month and come back and that we were leaving the next morning.

By the “denied area,” I mean the area occupied by the Japanese - behind the lines. So, during that day and evening at Kunming, we were briefed on the mission we were going on, which was to investigate some possible landing sites along the coast of China [ship landing sites.] That the United States had decided to have an invasion of China. And had picked out some sites tentatively, and we were to go there in person and check ‘em out, because they didn’t trust the Chinese to do a proper job.

Yes, an invasion by the United States, just like the invasion of France by ships - Navy ships - yeah. So, at last, we knew why we were there and what we were to do and where. And so, we took off once again in separate planes because the planes we flew in on were used to haul in supplies to an airfield - an American airfield - that was the nearest one to the front lines. I think Robie and I were in the last plane again - a DC 3, too. All the seats had been taken out of it, and a big extra gas tank had been put in the cabin, which was about 15 feet long and 2 or 3 feet in diameter. And then the plane was pretty well filled up with supplies and mail, etc., for the fellows at the airfield. The idea was that no gas would be put in that tank until we got to that next airfield so we could haul the maximum amount of supplies. Robie and I were the only passengers.

So, they got the plane wound up and went off down the runway - faster and faster and faster. But the plane won’t lift off the ground. The pilot keeps trying to jump it up - up a little bit, down again. Across the end of the field was a row of mud houses - right at the end of the runway. The pilot went beyond the point of stopping, so, there we were. He finally managed to bounce it up just in time, and we sailed over the houses. Well, then they discovered that someone had filled the gas tank that was supposed to be empty, and we were way overloaded.

So, as I said, Kunming was on a plateau, surrounded by a ring of mountains, like a bowl. Well, the pilot had to circle around the plateau a couple of hours to burn up gas until we were light enough to go over the mountains and continue on our way.

So, finally, that happened, and we arrived at our destination, which was that airfield, and got in there late in the afternoon and had dinner, and Robie and I were then put in a car and driven quite a while to a house and told we were to spend the night there. So. We got out our sleeping bags and went to bed. By the way, in Calcutta, part of this gear that was issued was down sleeping bags, really wonderful things - I think they were called “mummy bags.” They were a sort of triangular shape, so you could get into this thing ... and pull the zipper up to your chin, and the zipper was designed so that, in case of emergency, if you just threw out your arms, the zipper would open up, and you could jump right out!

I woke up to loud noises - loud and very violent noises, and found myself on the floor, running as fast as I could, but still in the bag! (laughter) The zipper didn’t work. There was a great deal of shooting and bombs exploding right outside the window. So, we just stayed there until it was all over and went back to sleep and were picked up the next morning ... of course, we found out what had happened the night before. I forgot to say that before we went to sleep, we could hear the Jap bombers - one would circle around, “Rrrr-rrrr,” but no bombs fell. Well, they had come in force, and unknown to us, this house we were in was at the end of the runway, and there was an anti-aircraft battery on a mound of dirt right in back of the house. The planes would come roaring down, and the anti-aircraft battery was shooting at ‘em. (laughter) We were also told that the Japs, in addition to dropping the big bombs, would also drop small bombs - banana or cluster bombs - and they tried to drop these over the airplanes parked on the field because ... an initial charge would break it open, and all these little bombs would scatter over a considerable range, and, of course, one or two of these could ruin a plane, let alone any people that happened to be around.

So, we weren’t at all unhappy to be continuing on our trip the next morning. (laughter) ... So, we got on the good old DC 3 again, and this time there was no baggage except Robie and me, some mail, and a trunk full of money and a full gas tank, because we were going to be making a distance from about St. Louis to Washington, D.C., where we were to be let out, and then the plane had to fly back again, just on the gas they carried.

Well, we took off, heading east, and it was reassuring to see the American fighter planes escorting us. And Robie said, “Hey, Lee! You remember we were reading ‘Terry and the Pirates,’ the comic strip we were reading back in Washington? Where these guys were going into China - they were going into the denied area - and they’re flying over the front lines and were being escorted by the American fighter planes and just about the time they get over the front lines and the fighters peel off?” And Robie said, “What was the next story?” I couldn’t remember any of it, and it turned out that was the last chapter we’d seen before we left Washington. So, we didn’t know what was going to happen to us. We had to continue without knowing. So, we flew all day, and, I guess later in the afternoon, the pilot couldn’t find our destination. So, he circled around, and he asked Robie and me, “You see anything familiar down there?” (chuckle) “Hell, no. We’ve never been here before, and you’re the guy that’s supposed to know!”

He circled around another time or two, and then he said we’d have to head back, because he just barely had enough gas to get back. Well, we flew and flew and ran into strong head winds and stormy weather, and he said, “I don’t think I have enough gas to get back.” He radioed to another airfield that he thought was a little closer. And they said, “Well, we don’t have any gas.” (laughter) He had to go back to where he started from. So - I don’t know - about 9 or 10 o’clock that night, we got back to where we’d started from. And the pilot said, “Now we’re all going to put on parachutes. I have just enough gas to go down one time. If we don’t do it that time, I’m going to pull it up, and we’re going to get out!”

Fortunately, we were over the end of the runway, and the pilot flew it right in. Danced it right onto the gravel and managed to get it stopped before we went off the cliff at the end! But in stopping it, he spun it around so that the wingtips flopped up and down and hit the ground. Finally got it stopped, and we got out, and I got down on my knees and kissed the earth and said, “Thank God! I’ve never been so scared in my life.”

So, back to the shack again. “Bang, bang, bang!” Back again in the morning. Same old plane, but a new crew. I said to somebody, “Is he a better navigator?” And they said, “Yeah, he’s supposed to be one of the best.”

So, off we went again. Fighter escort, over the lines, fighters peeled off, and we continued, and this time we found what was a shallow valley, and he was able to land so we didn’t have to jump out! There were a couple of guys on the ground - Americans - who had been expecting us through radio signals, and they had stuck some flags in the weed - the foliage - to show us where the old “Flying Tiger” runway had been. So, he landed his plane between the row of flags, and we jumped out, and a couple of other guys jumped in, and the plane just turned around and took off, right back down the runway, no one caring whether it was an upwind or downwind or whatever! ... We went off with these two guys that had met us and trotted off down to the road to this small town.

Another word about this landing strip was that it was a landing strip that had been used by the Flying Tigers, but after the Japs had driven them out and they had evacuated, the field had been planted in rice, or something like that - something that grew up three or four feet high, something that concealed the gravel runway. Later we heard that the plane was shot down, shortly after it had let us off. But the fellows landed on a riverbank and walked out - 500 miles back to the Americans.

OPERATIONS IN CHINA

So, Robie and I went trotting into town with one or two Americans who’d been there to greet us (that’s right, the Japanese fighters roared over while we were trotting into town), and these were two Americans who were in the same outfit, and they had radio communications with headquarters, and they had taken rooms for us in a small hotel in this small town, which I would describe as being somewhat like ... umm ... Stephens City. About that size.

We linked up there then to get ready for our mission. When I say linked up, we four guys were there, plus the men who were already there - two or three of them.

Now I need to explain in more detail about our situation in China. The [?] was working directly with the Chiang Kai-shek forces - the equivalent of the American O.S.S., which was headed up by a man called Dai Lee, and he had a special operations group, so we worked jointly with him ...

And I might add that this place where we lived was just about 30 miles inland from the China Sea. So, when we had the meeting in the hotel that night, we six [former] Scouts and Raiders and the two or three Americans who were there already and some representatives of Dai Lee’s Chinese group. So, we discussed the details of the operation and what the latest intelligence was about where the Japanese were and what we might expect them to do to stop our mission. And then, the next day, we set out on our mission.

Well, what our mission consisted of was in checking out some landing places. So, we divided up into teams to check out the various landing places. I went with a fellow by the name of Andresson [spelling?] who’d been a Scout and Raider in Europe, too, and we were going to go to Swatow [port on southern China coast] to check out that area, whereas the other fellows were going to some other beaches.

Activities in China

So, the next day we took off, heading south to our respective areas! And there were four of us traveling together in one group, and we had an old United States Army jeep that had been left behind by the “Tigers” when they had evacuated. And it had been converted to use castor oil for lubricating oil and pine oil for turpentine mixed with rice alcohol for gasoline. And it ran pretty well on level ground, but it didn’t have much power - we had to get out and push it over the hills. So, you should have seen us going along. The four of us and our two Chinese associates, who were bilingual and also served as our interpreters. And they were very handy, because as we went along, we had to be careful, not only not to get into a town occupied by the Japanese, but also not to get into a town occupied by the Chinese Communists. So, when we came to a fork in the road, one of our interpreters had to go talk to some locals and get the latest intelligence. Well, you make a calculated guess as to who you can trust. This reminds me of what I was told in Kunming before we started out: “You can tell a Japanese from a Chinese because a Japanese has a space between his big toe and the next toe from wearing zoris [sandals].” I also learned how to say “I’m American,” which is “Megwa, Megwa!”

But at night it’s not so easy when someone jumps out of the dark. So, every time we came to a crossroad or a fork in the road, we had to make a calculated decision as to which fork to take. But, of course, we had some maps and what we thought was information, but the only way we had of communicating with the headquarters - which, bear in mind, was over 500 miles away, was by radio - and we couldn’t stop to set up our radio whenever we wanted to, because it was a complicated matter. I think I should digress at this moment to explain about the radio system.

It was a Morse code dot-dash network, and the power for the radio was a generator that had to be cranked by hand. Another thing that the Navy required was that messages had to be enciphered, but only commissioned officers were allowed to encipher the messages. At the same time, although all of we naval officers had been required to pass a test of sending and receiving 10 words a minute in Morse code in order to receive our commissions, that wasn’t good enough for this exercise. So, in addition to the men already mentioned, we had a noncommissioned petty officer along who was a radio operator and could operate a radio and send and receive very rapidly. This was further complicated by the fact that we had been assigned a communications schedule, which meant that every other day we could come on the air at 10 o’clock at night for 30 minutes ... And if the weather was bad or the static was bad, then we were out of luck until our schedule came around. And another obstacle was the fact that the Japanese were trying to jam all the radio communications, so as soon as we came on the air or headquarters came on the air, the Japs would start jamming. We had to schedule like this because there was our headquarters and many teams in the field.

Letter from China
Leonard to His Parents

Postmark March 14, 1945
[on envelope]

Dear Mother and Dad,

You will probably receive this with several more letters, but it is the first I have written for about three weeks because we are on a little trip that has taken us away from the mailbox, and it will probably be another two weeks before this is mailed.

I know you must have been terribly worried by not hearing, but we must accept the fact that communications are very difficult in some parts of China. On the other hand, this is a very safe place to be.

Now, if you will be interested, here is some news:

As you know, I started out by plane and eventually reached this place by walking. Now don’t worry about the walking. It is the universal transportation in China, and chiefly because the mountains (everyplace) make auto roads almost impossible. We (even me) now think nothing of walking 20 miles a day through - or I should say over - the mountains. From Perry to Stillwater would be a cinch and should only take about seven hours. On these walking trips, the coolies carry everything. We wear our pistols, and that’s enough to carry.

I am really seeing the heart of China. Living in Chinese hotels and eating in their cafes. I call it living off the country. You should see me eat rice with chopsticks. I got plenty of practice because rice is served every meal. It takes the place of bread. All water has to be boiled before drinking, so there is just hot tea and wine. Also, the food must all be cooked. Boiling and cooking is necessary to kill bacteria created as a result of using human refuse as fertilizer.

In addition to rice, we have eggs - fried and scrambled - pork prepared a number of ways, seafoods, vegetables (except corn), and a sort of noodles or spaghetti. This is okay, but it sure gets monotonous. The Chinese don’t care for candy or pastry either. About all we take along on a trip is cigarettes, of which there is almost enough over here. There are plenty of Chinese cigs for sale, but naturally they aren’t as good as ours.

Another national habit is sleeping on hard beds. Can you imagine finding, in a first-class hotel, a bed composed of a barn door laid on two sawhorses! That’s the typical bed, and when I first wake up in the morning my back feels broken in about five places. I am getting along better now that I have cut down from 12 to 10 hours of sleep a night. Since very few places have good enough lamps to read by, we sure go to bed with the chickens.

About the only diversion is sightseeing or reading. Well, we look while walking, and read, if we can find something, on the days not en route.

You must understand that modern China is the coastal cities, and our bomber crews are the only ones going there these days. We are all looking forward to “moving to town,” though, because as you know, I never did like the country.

Also, the only running water is run and get it, and the bathrooms are all “Chick Sales.” Frank Marshal could make a fortune here in his construction of houses.

Although we walk mostly, I have done a bit of traveling on the rivers by motor cruisers about 50 feet long and by sampan, which is sailed (down) or poled and pulled upstream. A big gang of men take a line and walk up the bank. You will see by the pictures.

Even back at the bases, we are pretty much living off the country as regards candy, cookies, and even Spam, etc., so all packages will be gratefully accepted.

Must close for today,

Son

So, we went along as far as we could go in the jeep, and I think then we finally got along to a place called Mehshin, which was inland from Swatow about 30 or 40 miles. And there we made our headquarters in a Catholic mission. There was at least one priest and a couple of sisters there - been there a long time - conducted church services and had a school, etc.

So, we left the radio operator, and the rest of us divided up into two teams and took off from there. I went to Swatow along with Andresson and our interpreter, and, oh yes, we had a Navy photographer along - a chief petty officer. So, we made our way down to Swatow, walking or on sampans, and we got into the suburbs of Swatow where we were contacted by members of the Chinese secret service who said that it was impossible for us to continue down through the city to the beaches because there were 50,000 Japanese soldiers there - not 50,000, but at least 5,000. So, we met these fellows in a house in the suburbs, and they insisted that we stay there and let them get the information, and we said, “No. That won’t do. We’ve come all this way, and we’ve got to get down there ourselves and see about it.”

So, we gradually realized that they were afraid that if we stirred up trouble, they would suffer from it, you see. But nevertheless, we said we’ve got to go down there and see for ourselves. So, then they said, “Well, we can get the information for you, and we guarantee it will be accurate.” “Whaddya mean?” “Well, we have a spy working in the Japanese headquarters in Swatow. And he has access to all the information. He can bring maps showing where all the soldiers are located, how many there are, what kind of guns they have, all the defense preparations, what they’ve done to prevent landings by American ships - everything - he has it all.”

And we said, “That sounds like a pretty big order - how can he have all that?”

And they said, “Well, he was a boy in Shanghai when the Japs invaded Shanghai in 1935 or 1936, whenever it was. And they took him back to Japan and put him through school - high school and college - and then they brought him back with them when they invaded again, as an interpreter. He’s completely loyal, and we’re in touch with him. And he can bring everything you need, and you won’t have to go down there yourselves.”

So, the question was, do we go back with nothing or do it their way? So, we decided to do it their way.

So, we said, “All right. We’ll stay here.” And the next day - I guess evening - they brought a man to the house. And he identified himself as the man they were talking about, and he had the papers and the maps and everything.

So, we said, “Thank you very much. Now are you going back and continue?” And he said, “No. I can’t. I tried to get out without anyone knowing, but it didn’t work out. So, now they’re looking for me, and you have to take care of me!”

He said when he tried to get out, he had to dress like a coolie, and he got commandeered into a group of coolies carrying a lot of baggage or something, and he finally had to flee from that - escape from that - in order to meet us. So, the jig was up. They knew about him. So, we had the information we wanted, but we had some extra baggage on our hands. We had to take him, and flee ourselves, obviously.

So, we split up then. Andresson - I guess he took the spy - and I went with the photographer. Each one of us had an interpreter, I think, and we took off. And we went back to where we started off - the place where I told you we left the radio operator.

Well, we had several adventures on the way to Mehshin. To clarify a little better, Andresson took his spy and his interpreter, and they went off one way, and I took another route. We decided that since the spy had blown his cover, the Japs must be in hot pursuit of us!

So, Eric, the photographer, and I and the interpreter, I guess - and we had picked up about a half a dozen little tiny, uh, guerillas, I guess you’d call them, to protect us as we went along. We walked along, I guess you’d call them paths, about three feet wide, going back inland from Swatow. And we were working all the time, taking note of the conditions of the roads (such as they were), what bridges there were, telephone communications, whatever food and water was available, and the attitude of the people toward the Americans. All these were requirements - intelligence requirements - that we’d been given to fulfill while we were out there.

So, we’d come to a bridge that had been blown out, and I would get down in the hole that had been blown out, and Eric would take my picture standing in the hole! (laughter) And we went through villages - never seen a white person in their life - never heard of electricity or radio or movies or automobiles - nothing! And in the river, it’d look like the whole town would be down there - where they were bathing - communal bathing! And we’d stop in a village to spend the night (these are tiny little places), but sure enough, we were expected by the mayor and the chamber of commerce. They said they’d planned a dinner for us that evening.

So, Eric and I and the interpreter went to the dinner party. We had stationed our little helpers in the street down around outside. And it was a big round table. There must have been 10 or 12 of us there - the mayor and the chamber of commerce - and it was on the second story of a little building (there was some shop downstairs), but the so-called restaurant was upstairs. And we ate and drank and ate and drank, and there was a lot of drinking because every time one of the Chinese made a toast to America, we had to reciprocate, and behind everyone at the table was a waiter with a pitcher of wine. Warm rice wine called “la-ju.” It tasted something like persimmon juice - warm, terrible stuff - an orange color. And each of us had a shot glass. So, the mayor was saying, “A toast to President Roosevelt! Gombay!” That means “Bottoms up!”

So, of course, we had to say, “A toast to President Chiang Kai-shek! Gombay!” And then, of course, you had to show your empty cup ... So, this goes on and on, you know - the president, the secretary of state, etc. (laughter) Well, finally, much later, the mayor said, “This is the happiest day of my life.” And he pitched forward, his face right in his plate! Well, that was the cue we’d been waiting for. We could get up and go. So, Eric, who was sitting right next to me, said, “Lee, I’ve got to take a leak.” So, he started to get up, and he started to waver. And I thought, “Oh, my God. We can’t lose face now, after all we’ve been through!”

So, I got up to steady Eric. And I happened to look out the window - there was no glass or screen or anything, and the sidewalk came right up into the window! Hit me in the face!

So, I woke up the next morning in the hotel, and, fortunately, all I had were my teeth were somewhat loose, and my lip cut, but no broken leg or arms or anything else. And Eric had a terrible hangover. He couldn’t make it down to eat breakfast. I managed to get down. Some soft-boiled eggs and rice - the usual fare. And then we took off again.

You see, every day we had to keep traveling. We had to keep moving by whatever means we had. So, we were traveling by foot this day. About 30 miles to the next town. And poor old Eric. He’d walk a little way and throw up. I’d get him a sedan chair, and he’d go a little way in that and throw up. Walk and throw up. Poor guy.

So, eight hours later we get to the next town. And guess what? Same thing all over. Except we didn’t get bombed out so much. But at that dinner, I met a Chinese naval officer. And this town was on a river that goes down to Swatow. And I was talking to him (through the interpreter) and asked him what he was doing to win the war.

“Well,” he said, “We’re doing quite a bit. We’ve got a place here just up the river from Swatow, and we’re making floating bombs and floating them down the river and blowing up Japanese ships!”

And I said, “What do you mean?”

“Well, yeah. We cut bamboo in lengths about four or five feet long and hollow them out between the sections and pack them with explosives and put a detonator on it and float it down.”

“Well,” I said. “That sounds like good fun!”

“Come on down,” he said, “and I’ll show you.”

So, I said, “All right!”

I guess it may have been some of that “la-ju” talking, maybe.

Anyway, the next morning we got up and got into a sampan - motorized sampan - and took off to go back down the river to see his outfit.

Really, I thought this was part of my duty - to report on what was going on. Well, we got about halfway down, and the boat stopped in the center of this river, which was about as wide as the Potomac at Washington, D.C. - pretty wide.

I said, “What’s the matter?”

And they said, “Well, the engine stopped.” All of these boats and buses and cars and everything had been made to burn gasoline, but since there wasn’t any gasoline, they’d been converted to burn charcoal. They had a sort of tank that they burned charcoal in, and it made a sort of a gas that went into the engine.

So, they said, “Oh, there’s a problem.”

And I said, “Get it fixed. Get it fixed!”

There were about three of them. Well, they tinkered around with it for a while, and finally they sat down and started to play the harmonica!

And I said, “Oh, come on, you guys!” [I’m sure there was more said!]

The Navy officer was in the cabin with me, and he was also trying to get the guys to fix the boat and get going. Hell, they wouldn’t do it! And they kept it up, and I tried to reach out and grab one fellow’s foot, but he wiggled away. Well, after about a couple of hours, they got the thing going.

But I said, “Well, I think I changed my mind. I think I better give up on going down there and turn around and retreat. Get out of here.”

So, that’s what we did. We dropped this naval officer off at the first convenient place.

Well, it’s fortunate that that’s what we did, because I found out much later when we got back into communication - I found out that Japanese troops were rushing up and down both sides of the river looking for me. Which was perhaps why the crew was playing the harmonica and faking a shutdown.

So, we continued up the river and got to another town and got another surprise there. I did. I was introduced to an American pilot, who was a Navy pilot, who had been shot down while strafing Swatow or Amoy, and he had parachuted, and some Chinese fisherman had picked him up in a boat and hidden him and taken care of him until they heard that I was in the area (laughter), and they brought him, and here he was!

So, now I had some more baggage. Just what I needed. So, Andresson had the spy, and I had the shot-down pilot! The pilot had been on a Navy aircraft carrier off the China coast. It had been bombing and strafing the Chinese ports. So, I took him on, and we kept on walking and riding sampans, etc., and finally got back to Mehshin four or five days later and regrouped there. Me with the downed Navy pilot and Andresson with the spy! (more laughter) I tell you that Navy pilot was really glad to see me! I think the pilot had been shot down about three months by the time I hooked up with him. And (to finish up this part of the story) we took him along to where we got to a place where some of our planes came out, and they picked him up and took him out to his aircraft carrier, and he went to visit all the aircraft carriers to tell ‘em, in case they got shot down, there was help out there! (laughter) When I actually met this guy (it was in a kind of tea stop along the trail), two or three fellows came up (they looked like peasants) - of course, I had my interpreter with me - and they wanted to verify that I was American, and then they brought this guy out of the bushes, and he was still wearing his Navy coveralls, his flight suit, and uh, quite a bit of beard, but he looked all right otherwise. I’ll never forget the joy on his face when he saw me, and I introduced myself and said, “I’ll do my best to get you out of here!” I don’t remember his name - he was a young guy - probably a Lt. J. G. [Junior Grade], like I was. Reddish-brown hair and about an inch shorter than me ...

Well, you may wonder how we were able to avoid capture, since the Chinese seemed to know where we were. The Japanese knew that there were Americans in the area, too. But that’s why we had to keep moving. But once again, the Japanese had learned it was dangerous to go out into the country looking for us unless they were in a large force, because the Chinese would ambush a small group of them, and we carried money with us to bribe or pay the local Chinese not to report it. I had a suitcase with something like 500,000 Chinese dollars in it, which is probably only $5,000 American. When I took it, I didn’t carry it myself. I had one of my little guerillas carry it, keeping it in sight all the time.

And another problem we had, in addition to the Japanese and the Chinese Communists especially, were the bandits. And our Chinese associates were concerned about the bandits, who had no political affiliation. They were just mercenaries. They never knew for sure what was going to happen, so the best thing to do was to just keep moving.

[Not understandable] asked me how we identified ourselves to the other people, especially in the dark, because we did do quite a bit of traveling after dark. I had learned the Chinese word for “American” is “Megwa,” so the first time somebody jumped out of the dark and put a gun in my gut, I was glad I remembered “Megwa” and that he was a loyal Chinese! Then we had other obstacles, too, at least in the [?] One time we were staying in a little town, and we heard a big commotion one morning, and there were some guys with a tiger - a big orange and black striped tiger, dead, stretched out on a ladder. They’d killed it out in the country and brought it into town.

And I thought, “Oh, my God!”

“You mean I’ve been out walking around at night with these sorts of things?”

Well, we all regrouped in Mehshin and sent our reports back to headquarters, and then we made our way back to where we started out from where the plane had let us out, and we just had routine experiences going back there, but nothing dramatic as I recall. So, we finally got back to the airstrip, and a plane came along and picked up the pilot and the spy and all of our reports.

When we had radioed back to them at Mehshin - told them the situation - headquarters responded to us, at the airstrip, that they had decided that instead of all six of us coming back with our reports, as had originally been planned, they thought that two could bring back all of the reports, and the other four of us stay out there and keep up the good work.

So, once again, we drew straws. And I considered myself one of the lucky ones, not having to make that plane trip back! I thought it was safer out there with the Japanese than it was to ride that damn plane back! So, we split up again, and Robie went to one town where there were some Americans working, and I went to another little place where there was an American camp. It was called “Camp 7.” The Americans there were training Chinese men as soldiers and guerillas with the idea that when the invasion - the American invasion - came, these people would attack the Japanese from the rear as the Americans attacked from the ocean. Plus, doing sabotage work, sabotage against the Japanese meanwhile.

So, I got a group together - 15 or so - and trained them in sabotage and ambushing, things like that, and we were going to go up along the canals and go inland from Shanghai to Beijing. There’s a railroad and a canal system which the Japanese were using to haul supplies inland - into China. And our plan was to go up there and blow up the railroad cars and the barges. But we had to postpone it because the money didn’t come, and without the money we couldn’t do anything! I’ve been asked what did we need the money for? We needed the money to buy rice - to buy food for all of us. You see, we didn’t have any supplies. All we had was some money! We lived off the land. That’s why we ate in little restaurants and things like that. We ate the best that was available, but it wasn’t much damn good - at least, it didn’t seem to meet my needs.

Well, from time to time, a plane would be sent out from headquarters, bringing us money and mail and exchange of people - for example, like when Robie and I went out there.

I guess this would be a good time to say something about the American presence in China. There must have been a couple of thousand Americans in China, but most of them were in Chunking and Kunming at headquarters. However, there was something called the “Coastwatchers,” who were men scattered along the coast - the China coast - usually two or three of them, and they had a radio, who watched the Japanese ships, and they could contact the American fleet and tell them where the Japanese ships were, hoping the American fleet could attack the Japanese ships. And up north, there were weather observers. Yeah, I think up in the Mongolian area - weather reporters, because I think the weather used to come from that direction down across China and then out over the Pacific Ocean.

And then there were almost half a dozen so-called camps set up in the Japanese-occupied area. Which were very much the same thing where I wound up - Camp 7. They were supporting the local “underground” as it was called in Europe, supporting in training and money. But the majority of Americans were back at headquarters, in Chunking, Kunming, and even Calcutta. I doubt if there were more than ... 200 altogether in the Japanese-occupied area.

One thing I might mention is that, except for the six of us who had gone out from Europe, all the rest of the men had gone out from the United States to India, and finally to China, and we were the only ones who came out there on a strictly intelligence mission and then stayed to continue until the war ended. So, what I’m saying is that there were only a few of us that were going aggressively after the information that was needed.

Well, we didn’t travel all the time, but when we were traveling on an operation, I had a map of China (of the part we were in) that was printed on silk, and in the winter I wore it as a scarf around my neck. In my jacket pocket, I had a hand grenade, and I had a 45 pistol on my hip, and I carried a carbine rifle, or I had my coolie, my “gun bearer,” carry it (laughter).

So, when I organized my group, I had to teach them everything - how to shoot pistols and rifles and how to throw hand grenades. And that was the hairiest part of everything because they had a great curiosity - they always wanted to see everything explode! I guess maybe they thought they were firecrackers. So, I had to scheme and devise ways to keep them from getting killed. So, one thing I did when it came to hand grenades, I found a little hill - a sharp little hill - and I’d get them on one side, and on the other side was a rice paddy. I’d get them on one side. (I had a deep hole to get in myself). I’d give them a demonstration myself, of course - you know, you pull the pin, and you throw it over the hill into the rice paddy. And the thing explodes, and the water comes up! You not only hear the noise, but you see the water! I thought, “Well, maybe that will take care of them!”

And it did. I didn’t lose any of them. ... But can you picture me in a school room, with a group of guys, working through an interpreter, teaching them how to use an American Army pistol - how to shoot it, how to take it apart, clean it, load it, everything [?] Of course, first aid, too. Of course, I didn’t do that - I didn’t have anything to do with that.

I didn’t have any medical supplies. All I had was a little box that was sort of like a Sucrets box, that had some Atabrine and some quinine and some sulfa powders and maybe some iodine - that was my whole kit. But I learned something from them [the Chinese].

I didn’t have to use their techniques. They did things like make a poultice of manure and put it on a wound. It looked crazy to me, but it worked. So, they did things like that.

But I want to backtrack a little while. A few minutes ago, I mentioned that I had a map printed on silk. Well, I also had a map printed on plastic. And my wife has had that map framed, and it hangs in my den now. [Note: He made a mistake. The silk map was framed.] The other thing is in reference to my little first aid kit that included atabrine and quinine. Well, that was important because malaria was very bad in the area where I was, and it seemed like almost all of the local people had malaria. But the Navy planned differently from the Army about dealing with the malaria. Whereas the Army people took atabrine on a daily basis so that they would never know whether they had malaria or not, the Navy decided we would not take anything unless we got sick, and then we took atabrine and quinine to beat it. I was extremely fortunate in not getting malaria, because I think practically all of the Americans did, and some of them 7, 8, 12 times. And I must have been bitten 10,000 times by the mosquitoes because none of the buildings had window screens, and, of course, I was out a lot at night walking around and just constantly being bitten. The natives taught us how to tell an Anopheles mosquito from a non-harmful one. We would sit and catch ‘em and look at their wings - it still didn’t matter because they just swarmed around us all the time. (laughter) I did try to sleep under a net at night during the mosquito season. Although I was exposed to all kinds of diseases, I didn’t catch anything that was really bad. I did have diarrhea two or three times, but just for a day or two, but thank goodness, nothing else. Except by the end of the war, I had lost a lot of weight. I guess as a result of the climate and malnutrition, I had developed some skin trouble that went away when I got back to the States.

Let’s stop for a minute here and take a look at the overall time frame. I went out there, I guess, in November of 1944 and stayed until the war ended in August of 1945 when I left the denied area and gradually worked my way back. So, arriving there in the winter, we went on our operation - the main purpose to gather information to use for the American invasion of the coast of China.

And then we spent the spring in training the soldiers in the sabotage groups that I mentioned, and we were going to use the summer to start the sabotage operations. But we couldn’t get started on the sabotage business in a very large way. We did mount one campaign down to (I can’t quite think of the name of it now) - down south of us on the river that came inland, a town about 30 to 40 miles in from the coast where the Japanese had been, and we heard they were pulling out of this town and going down to a seaport. So, we gathered up all our Chinese troops, whatever we had, and went down there to occupy the town after they pulled out. But our gang got there a little too soon and (laughter) ran into the tail end of the departing Japanese, and there was a little skirmish about that. But mostly, it was training and getting ready for the invasion. But fortunately for us, instead of the invasion coming, the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan in August, and the Japanese surrendered, and our war ended.

Letter from China After V.J. Day
Leonard to His Parents

Postmark 29 Aug. [1945]

Dear Mother and Dad,

Today has really been a big day because two letters and a package from you! The letter 17 Aug. was good, but the package. Oh boy! Ever since I’ve been in the Navy, I’ve been trying to get a Zippo, and here one comes from you. I thank you from the bottom of my heart and don’t know when I was ever so excited about anything.

You sure had quite a celebration, and I wish I could have gone to Stillwater with you. We had a little party that same night, consuming a few bottles of rice wine that had been distilled and was something like the ole Oklahoma moonshine. We used the raspberry drink powder, and so the result wasn’t too bad. Just a mild hangover.

Did you notice the quick time of the mail? I have been asking about Charles Monroe, but he doesn’t seem to be here at the time. Since the war ended, things have been in a turmoil, and we don’t know yet what the future holds, but everybody seems to think that we should be starting home soon. Maybe I can be home for this Christmas this year - hope, hope, hope. You hadn’t better send any more packages anyhow. The end came as such a surprise that it just doesn’t seem quite possible to think of going home.

I’m sure glad to hear that you received the colored pictures and that they were good. I was about to give up hope because I mailed the film about the first of May. I have a roll of negatives here that I’m going to send as soon as I find a big envelope.

That is very good news about no more gas rationing and on the eats, too.

Raymond seems to be taking up where Jack left off [his cousins]. Ha. Mother, I want to hear about your trip to Dallas. Fun, I’ll bet. Is Mac [a cousin] returning to the States soon? He has been gone a long time, hasn’t he? Maybe he will see Twink [another cousin] in New York.

Dad, one of today’s letters had Billy’s $20.00 for the Lemon-wood fly rods. I’ll start looking tomorrow, and although I (haven’t) heard them mentioned, it may be possible to dig up a few, if not here, then someplace. They will be a really useful souvenir. I have picked up a couple of things, but there really isn’t much to choose from.

The Chinese really fired the firecrackers to celebrate the fall of Japan. That is their way of expressing joy.

Good chow tonight - ice cream chocolate sundae for dessert. Just one helping, though, and that is almost worse than none. The Journal [Perry Daily Journal] has been coming pretty good, and I like to read those ice cream ads. Movies tomorrow night will be the first I’ve had a chance to see in about six months. Wonder what the picture will be?

Thanks for the picture of Mr. and Mrs. J.R. Bechtold. She looks plenty okay, and Jack has made me feel a bit old, but better late than never for me, I hope. Have you any suggestions yet?

Mother, today is the first word that you are working again. Does it seem good to be back in action?

The bird I am holding in the colored picture is a Chinese pheasant. It was very pretty at the time, and I am sure anxious to see all those pictures.

As far as I know, neither myself nor the other fellows received any medals at South France, but I may receive a commendation over here. Buck and the old Scouts have plenty of medals. I think the Navy point plan stinks.

This is not the only place that wealthy students have Parker “51" pens. They buy them in the black market at terrific prices.

Tell everyone hello for me.

Love,

Son

THE SLOW RETURN HOME

As it happened, Admiral Miles, who was our commanding officer in China, was out in the denied area on a personal inspection trip, which he liked to do. He traveled by himself with just one Chinese man who was interpreter and bodyguard all rolled into one. So, when they got the news by radio about the bomb and surrender, a day later he turned up in the little town where we were, and we had the radio, of course, so he radioed his headquarters to send a plane out to get him. Well, he was there for a couple of days, and while he was there, I became fairly well acquainted with him, and he said he wanted to take me back to headquarters and have the chief Navy doctor take a look at me. And I thanked him very much, but I said what I really wanted to do was to go over to Shanghai and take a look.

“Well,” he said, “You can do that, all right, but first I want you to fly back to Chunking with me.”So, obviously, a lieutenant says, “yes, sir!” to an admiral (laughter), and I went. And the plane came, and it was what we called a “C-47,” also known as a DC 3, or two-motored transport plane, and it landed in a little valley, and we hopped on, the three of us, and, as usual, it being summer, they didn’t bother to put the doors on the plane. They just left them off, so it was like a fresh-air taxi. So, the three of us were - Admiral Miles and the Chinese man with him, who was an official in what was, I guess, the equivalent of the CIA, which was headed by General Dai Lee, who was well known throughout the area, and myself.

So, we got back to Chunking - the airport. Well, I should say, the other guys did go on to Shanghai. They took right off for Shanghai when we left for Chunking. Of course, they had to walk to the nearest river and commandeer some sampans and get down to the coast where they got a junk and made their way up the coast to Shanghai. They were among the first Americans to get there, and I eventually found out that they stayed there until they were able to get back to the States. Well, these were the guys I was with. Of the six of us who went out there, I didn’t see any of the other five for the last six months I was there. I’d joined up with some other fellows who, as I mentioned, had gone directly out from the States earlier in the war. There were several officers and several enlisted men, and this was the group who’d been doing the bulk of the training of the Chinese guerillas.

Well, the reason I wanted to go to Shanghai was that I’d been out there in China for about a year in the boondocks, and I wanted to go to the city! (laughter) I felt like - you know, being in Arkansas someplace and wanting to go to New York City. The place I was when the war ended was a place, oh, 60 or 70 miles south of Shanghai.

Well, when we got back to the airport at Chunking, there was a weapons carrier there to take us into the admiral’s headquarters. A weapons carrier was like a pickup truck - a little pickup truck - so the three of us rode in the back. There were some other little wooden benches back there where soldiers normally rode. And so it seemed like we had to go the whole way through Chungking (which was the capital of China at the time), all the way through the city, to get to the admiral’s camp and offices. So, the admiral gave me a tour - he described the places of interest as we went along, one of which was the residence of Patrick Hurley, who was the American ambassador to China and who Admiral Miles did not hold in high esteem by any means! In fact, he made a few comments about the ambassador that the ambassador would never want to hear, I’m sure (laughter)!

Well, I won’t go into all the reasons for that, but there were things going on in the political as well as the military matters between China and the United States at the time.

So, I saw the good doctor, who was a full captain. He was the senior medical officer for China. And he looked me over and said, “Well, I don’t know.” And I said, “Well now, Captain, the admiral said after I checked in with you, I could go on back to Shanghai!”

“Well,” the captain said, “I think it would be a good idea if you went on down to Calcutta to the general hospital and let them look you over.” “A-a-agh!” I said. But nevertheless, I found myself on another plane going to Kunming first, where I had to check into an Army hospital and wait a few days until I got a plane down to Calcutta where I finally took a ship back to New York.

So, I guess we can figure I never did get to Shanghai. I just kept going backwards (laughter)! So, I finally got back to New York where I had started out my first day in the Navy! First day and last day of active duty in New York City.

We did have some interesting experiences while I was there, e.g., the American bombers would fly over us on the way to bomb the Japanese, and then they would come back over us again on their return. And we would always count the planes going and count the planes coming back to see if there were any losses, and from time to time, the Japanese fighters would attack the American bombers. One time a Japanese plane was forced down, and we captured the pilot, and we all had a lot of fun sitting in the cockpit and having our pictures taken! Well - I don’t think I did, but I remember sitting in the cockpit of what was called a “Zero” fighter plane - a one-person plane with an open cockpit. Well, we turned the pilot over to our Chinese counterparts, and he was debriefed and taken away somewhere. Well, he actually surrendered (laughter). His plane was damaged, and he had to make a forced landing, and there was no place to go (laughter)!

As a kind of a wrap-up of my time in China, it was an extremely interesting experience that I’ll never forget. I was in places in China that no white man had ever been before, and people had never seen a white man before. So, I’m glad I went, and I’m glad I got out with my health and no wounds, but I have no desire to go back to China again. I’ve seen enough of it.

One more thing about China is that after the war, an organization was formed by the Navy people who had been there, which was called the “Sino-American Cooperative Association” (which is what the Navy group was called, actually, during the war). We have a national organization which has a convention every year in a different city, and this year it’s going to be in Seattle, and the year after that, it’s going to be in Taipei [Taiwan], which would be a wonderful trip for anyone who wanted to go because the Chinese government (now, I’m talking about the free Chinese, not the Communists) - the government pays all the expenses [for] a week or 10 days there. The only thing it costs is the roundtrip airfare.

I’m a member of it, of course! I’ve only been to one convention, which was in Washington, D.C., and one other affair I attended, also in Washington, which was when several of us were presented Chinese medals.

The medals were presented by the Chinese ambassador to the United States, and a couple of other high-ranking Chinese people. And there is a scroll or certificate that has printing on one side in Chinese, and on the back, it has a translation describing the medal, what kind of medal it is and why it was presented, and the actual medal itself. My son-in-law mounted it in a very nice box with a glass cover - red velvet in the back, and I now have it hanging on the wall in my den, along with the certificate and the map of China which I mentioned earlier.

Well, I don’t know - I should say, I haven’t memorized what’s on back, and I’m not home right now to quote what it says.

I would like to go back to my trip from China back to New York. I went first from Chunking to Kunming on military passenger planes and checked in there at an Army general hospital, waiting for transportation on to Calcutta!

As a general background to this, I want to mention that military people had to have orders to travel to go from one place to another, so the orders I was given in Chunking were to proceed to a Navy hospital in the United States, and I was authorized to travel by air or sea or by whatever means were available and necessary. And, I think I had mentioned earlier, that before leaving Washington for China, I had been issued a passport authorizing me to go to China and back and to pass through any countries that were necessary. So, I was in good shape - I had my passport and my orders (which were very general) and didn’t have a time limit and no specific travel itinerary to follow.

So, at Kunming when I checked in, the patients at Army hospitals are all issued Army hospital pajamas and robes, and it seems like they were all red - red-colored corduroy, or something like that, and all the patients were dressed the same. Well, we had to - everybody that could walk - had to walk from the ward where his bed was to the mess hall to eat, the mess hall, of course, being a little distance away, but not too far for us to walk. Of course, there wasn’t anything wrong with me except I had some blisters on my skin in various places. However, as you know, the war ended, and I wasn’t the only American needing medical attention that was sent to Kunming. The American prisoners of war, in the Japanese prison camps in China, most of them were brought to Kunming for first treatment and processing before being forwarded on back to the United States. It was really a traumatic experience to see those fellows, and it really made me happy and glad for my good fortune because they were really skinny and had endured terrible hardships, and a lot of them had nervous breakdowns, and they were confined in their wards. So, I, too, had lost quite a bit of weight, although I had been a free prisoner (laughter), and I was surprised and embarrassed in the dining hall to be mistaken for one of the fellows who had been a prisoner.

And my office was in Kunming, and I went down and visited them a few times and got a decent meal in town (laughter). A few drinks. And I was assigned to a hospital evacuation plane, taking patients to Calcutta. And it was a big plane, but once again, it was very upsetting to see about 10 or 12 of these fellows who had been released from the prison camps, in straitjackets and tied down on stretchers as they were carried and put on the same plane.

So, it was an easy flight this time going from Kunming to Calcutta. I didn’t have to worry about Jap fighters shooting us down, and I didn’t have to fly through the canyons and hide ... and we stepped out in that sun at Calcutta, and, oh boy! It felt like it was 200 degrees. And it might have been - I jumped into the shade under the wing as fast as I could (laughter) ... and we were taken into the Army general hospital in Calcutta ... where I spent perhaps a week, as I recall.

Now this is the latter part of August, as I recall. And they decided at the hospital all I needed was nourishment. So, they fed me lots of vitamin tablets and wanted me to eat all I could. In fact, the nurse would bring me a glass of whiskey (a small glass of whiskey!) before each meal to stimulate my appetite! How’s that for being in the hospital? Well, they weighed me when I got there, and I weighed 125 pounds. The food really tasted great - the first American food I’d really had in a long, long time - and I would go into breakfast, for example, and I would eat several menus - I’d have, like, Spam and eggs and toast, then I would have pancakes and whatever else they had - I ate it all, everything. That was for breakfast. Go back at lunch - same thing. Everything they had, I ate it! Same thing for dinner.

Well, I guess I had a period of adjustment gradually. Remember when the war ended, I went back with the admiral to his headquarters, and I spent a couple of days and had some American food there, and from there to the Army hospital in Kunming ... by the time I got to Calcutta, I was really packing it away. And then after dinner, I would go over to an officers’ club at the hospital and have some drinks and a sandwich or something (laughter).

And I’ll always remember that Army general hospital, because many years after, when I was working for the government, I met a couple who had also been there, at the Army hospital in Calcutta.

This is Betty and Billy Milton, dear friends, and still are, and live near us here, in Front Royal. Betty was an Army nurse stationed at the hospital. I never met her while I was there. And Billy, who’d been in Burma and China, he went there, too, on his way home, but that was some time before I got there ...

Well, as I was getting my health back, I decided to take myself out of the organized stream of patients, and I got my orders and my passport, and I went into the hospital office and said, “Well, thanks for everything, fellows. I’m checking out now, and I’m going to continue on my way.”

So, I went downtown to Calcutta and checked into our Navy office there, and they put me up in a house where several Navy fellows lived and which was in the suburbs of Calcutta near the racetrack. The horse racetrack. So, during the short time I was in the hospital and the few days I was in the house, many days my daily routine would be to go down and have lunch at the British “Bath & Tennis Club” (where you could get real genuine Scotch). I think they call it a “peg” - about an ounce - have lunch, and then I would go to the Metro Cinema and watch a movie, and then I would go to Firpo’s restaurant for tea (laughter), sit out on a balcony, and watch the traffic going up and down this big street with the cows and the monkeys and the elephants and the rickshaws - a very colorful procession. Oh, and they had bought the old streetcars from Washington, D.C., so I felt right at home watching the old Washington, D.C., streetcars going up and down the street in front of the hotel. And then, I would go on to the Great Eastern Hotel and have dinner. The service at the Great Eastern was very good, because there were always from five to seven waiters assigned to my table. If you pulled out a cigarette, by the time you got it to your mouth, there was a man there with a lighted match in his hand.

One afternoon when I went to the Great Eastern, as I was walking through the lobby, I heard the click of what sounded like pool balls. So, I went down in the basement, and there before me was a row of what looked like snooker tables! And British men shooting snooker! Well, this was the first time I’d seen snooker tables since Perry, Oklahoma. It seems to be an English game which jumped from England to Perry, Oklahoma, to Calcutta (laughter). So, I had a lot of fun shooting snooker. This is a form of pool, but it’s a larger table, and there are a lot of red balls - solid red balls - in addition to the numbered balls. And you have to shoot a red ball before you can shoot a numbered ball. Well, this is an oversimplification, but that’s the general idea.

Well, obviously, I was getting foxy by now, and I was still trying to scheme how to get back to Shanghai, when I learned about a place that ... sounded very different, but it sounded very interesting and exciting, and I wanted to go there. And these were the - I think the British called them “hill camps.” They were R&R (Rest and Recreation) places the British had up in the mountains north of Calcutta. They were on lakes and rivers and had beautiful scenery - like Switzerland. Of course, the British kept talking and talking and talking about these wonderful, exciting places, so I was determined to go up there and enjoy myself for a while!

Well, I had a problem about clothing. I lost my bag, my clothing, in China, so I had to get re-outfitted down in Calcutta, and, as it turned out, the American Navy officers there patterned their clothing after the British, or maybe the British were in charge and the British and American Navy officers were supposed to wear the same thing. Anyhow, during the daytime we wore whites - those were the short-sleeved white shirts with the shoulder boards and the short pants and long white socks. So, I had to go out and buy myself those outfits to wear during the day, and then at night we wore what were called “dress whites,” which were the long sleeves with the long pants, because of the mosquitoes. And being dressier, too. Mind, you couldn’t go to a first-class restaurant or hotel without being dolled up! I tried to go in one place one day and didn’t have a necktie on, and the head waiter said I couldn’t go in, but he would rent me a tie! (laughter) The only exception to the necktie rule was the “bush coat” or “bush jacket.” Well, I happened to have one of those, too. It happened to be a British one, but it worked.

Well, on with the story. I think I was saying something about these hill camps up where it was cooler - they were like resort hotels where for years and years the British people - all of the British government people - would go up there in the summertime. ... and it really sounded great.

But at the same time, I began to become more concerned about my skin condition. It really wasn’t going away that fast. So, I finally decided to take first things first, and the most important thing was my physical condition. So, I decided to go on back to the States and try and get well.

So, although I could travel any way, I wanted to ... I really was tired of flying. Really, I had done quite a bit of flying - I had left France, gone back to the United States, crossed the States, back to the East Coast, and from the East Coast all the way out to China. That’s a lot of miles. So, I was down in the Officers’ Club one day, and I happened to bump into another American Navy officer who I’d known over in Europe, and guess what his job was? His job was to assign American Navy officers transportation back to the States!

So, we had a few drinks, and I said - well, I didn’t want to go back on a troop ship or anything like that. So, he said that, just by chance, a brand-new American freighter was coming soon and would be going back to New York City by way of the Mediterranean and was going to carry about 20 passengers, of which about 10 would be civilian passengers, and the other 10 could be American military officers.

So, I said, “Put me down!”

Letter from Calcutta
Leonard to His Parents

Postmark Tuesday, Oct. 9, 1945

Dear Mother and Dad,

These past two weeks have been the most hectic ever - especially the last few days. I have a berth on a freighter - a new fast one - and it’s much more desirable than the crowded transports, but it’s a merchant marine ship and doesn’t sail until the skipper is good and ready. Three times in five days they have called me to be ready to go aboard in two hours and then canceled at the last minute. So, I just sit here in the Navy house and wait, patiently, for them to decide to leave.

We are supposed to leave at noon tomorrow, but I won’t believe it till we get underway.

I guess that sounds kind of bitter, but this last-minute waiting is the worst.

It will take us about 28 days to make New York or Boston. We don’t know yet which it will be, but I’m going to write every day until we leave, and so if the departure is as speedy as it will probably be (after the delays), you will know about when I will reach the States even though I don’t have time to write that the time has come.

This new freighter is a swell break because there are only a few passengers. We will have staterooms and good chow (hope) which is much better than the crowded transports and just as fast. Turbine engines.

Gee, but it’s hot here. I stay inside and under the ceiling fans just about like a bear hibernator. It was nice and cool in Perry a year ago - remember?

I haven’t received any mail for a long time. Must be looking for me in China.

It’s supper time now. Then a movie and bed, and tomorrow noon we may leave.

Love,

Son

P.S. I’ll call you when we land.

And he did, so I got on board a ship with a few other lucky fellows - some Navy officers, some air force pilots, some Army officers - I’ve forgotten. But, as it turned out, I was the lowest-ranking one of the whole gang, and, in fact, I think I was still a lieutenant junior grade when I got on the ship, and all the rest went from Army captains and majors to lieutenant colonel, I think. And the Navy fellows were lieutenants, lieutenant commanders, and maybe even, I think, a full commander. So, I was the Indian, I was the lowest-ranking one, and if there was any work to do, I got the job (hollow laughter).

Oh, yeah, all these other people, they were healthy - there was nothing wrong with them. I just wangled a reservation on this ship because I knew the guy who made the reservations. I don’t know how those other guys managed, but it was considered a good deal.

But one thing that appealed to me about it was that I knew it was going to take a month to get back to New York, and by the time I got there, maybe I would have gained some weight back and my condition would have improved by the time I got there. And that’s the way it turned out - I was in pretty good shape when I arrived. They had plenty to eat. I continued about like I had at the hospital when I arrived there. I had the three meals on the ship. Usually they had a choice of three entrees. Well, I ate all three. Then they always kept some goodies in the refrigerator in the dining room, so I’d sneak down there in the middle of the morning or afternoon and have a piece of pie or cake (laughter)! Can you imagine just stuffing yourself - anything, everything, and all you want? And not worry about gaining? Ho, ho!

Well, we started out from Calcutta on the ship and stopped first at Columbo, Ceylon, where the ship was going to discharge some cargo and pick it up. But there were some delays about the cargo being ready - something like that, anyway, so we spent three to five days there. So, we spent most of the time ashore. I did anyway. And I met some nice people who lived there, and they had me to their home for dinner, and I went out to restaurants and did some sightseeing, and it was very pleasant. And we continued on and went across the Indian Ocean, then the Red Sea, and through the Suez Canal to Port Said. That was the next stop. Boy, it was hot in the Red Sea. We wore nothing but our underwear - there were no women on the ship (laughter), so it was really hot, and at sundown, the sun going down - it looked like a huge ball of fire. Another interesting thing. We went through the Suez Canal, and it’s not in a straight line - it kind of zigzags as you go along, so you’ll be riding along, and you look across the sand, and it looks like another ship, and it looks like it’s had the bottom cut off, and it’s just standing there on the sand (laughter), but it’s in the Canal, too! So, that was funny.

And we got to Port Said, which is in Egypt before you get to the Mediterranean, and pulled the ship up and docked right at the end of the main street, with houses and businesses and everything going right down to the dock. You can look right up the street from the ship. Well, I don’t think we stayed there hardly any amount of time - anyhow, I didn’t go ashore there ...

And then we went on through the Mediterranean, went by Crete, and doubling back where I had been before, and by the time we went by Tunisia and Italy, it was kind of like going back home again! Because, bear in mind, I’d started the war by going over there (the Mediterranean) by sea and all around there, went back to New York, so when I went to China, even though I went by air - I went by the same towns, and here I am coming back again - third time!

And then we get again into the Atlantic - somehow by now, it’s November! I don’t know where I’ve been spending all of this time since the war ended in August (laughter). But it was November when I got back to New York City - sometime in November. But crossing the North Atlantic - boy, it was rough! And this freighter would be heading into the water, and the waves would break right over the bow of the ship and come all the way across the front of the deck, and some of it hitting the bridge, and some of it coming right over the top of the bridge! Of course, once again I was lucky in not getting seasick, which I have never yet been in my life - yet, anyhow. And so, we finally arrived back in New York City, and the freighter dropped anchor in the harbor. Being a freighter, it had to be in quarantine and be inspected before it could sail right up to the dock and let us off.

So, the last night, the captain had a dinner - a farewell dinner. And everyone was supposed to dress up a little bit - whatever we had to dress up with. And it was quite a nice affair. But I’ve got to backtrack a little bit. He had kind of taken an interest in me during the trip. He had invited me up on the bridge several times and shown me all the navigation equipment and how everything worked, etc., and I appreciated it, but I didn’t pay much attention to him, except I thought, “Well, he’s a typical merchant marine ship captain. He was gray-headed and a little bit short and paunchy, a bit fat.” I figured he’d spent his whole life sailing around on merchant ships. But at his party, when he came in the dining room, I did a double take. Here he came in dress blues - Navy uniform. He had four gold stripes on his sleeve and a gold star! And he said yes, he was a retired Navy captain, and when the war started, he was too old for active duty, so he volunteered to be a captain on a merchant marine ship! (laughter) Did I feel put down (more laughter)!

The next morning, the captain said that we passengers would be sent ashore in a boat. But he called the ...

So, the next day he arranged for us military passengers - and I suppose all of the passengers - to be taken to the dock in a boat. But he said that he wanted the military officers to report to his office. Which we did, and he was standing there holding a piece of paper in his hand, and he said in this situation, he would allow us to go to shore, but the senior ranking officer would have to be with them and would have to sign the document as the person responsible for the group.

And all these other guys were standing around there - these commanders and colonels - and everybody started looking around. And then the captain said, “Will Lieutenant Tate please step forward?”

(laughter) I thought he’d made a mistake! And he called my name again and made me come. And you should have seen the look on those other guys’ faces! As it turned out, I was the only general duty officer in the whole gang - the rest of them were all staff officers of some sort - and I was the ranking command officer of the group! So, I (laughter) - I had to sign for them. I always thought that was kind of amusing. Okay. I’m going to stop for a minute.

Well, my great glory didn’t last long, because we reached the dock, and there was no one there to take care of my baggage!? I had to throw my bags up on the dock and climb up and look around.

“Well, here I am! Back in New York City, down at the Battery!” Nobody there to meet me, no coolies to carry my bag, no taxis in sight, no nothin’! Bear in mind, please, my orders were to report to a naval hospital. So, the Navy doctor who had treated me in China had told me that if I could wangle it, I should go back to New York City and go to the St. Albans Naval Hospital on Long Island. So, I had decided that’s where I would go.

But the way Navy orders are written, it says you will proceed on about a certain date to such and such a place. Well, the word “proceed” automatically allows you three full days. So, I had decided to use my three days downtown in New York City before going out to the hospital. And don’t forget that I was fairly familiar with New York City, having gone through Midshipmen’s School there, and then been in and out several times during the war. I never had any trouble getting a hotel room, for example, but I was soon to find out that the situation had changed, because now all of the men were returning to the States, and there were no hotel rooms to be had. I looked and looked and looked and called and phoned hotels. The first night, I wound up sleeping on a massage table in the Turkish bath in the basement of a hotel! They rented it to me - after 11 and before 8 in the morning. That was a great homecoming. Walking along the sidewalk that night, looking at all those windows, thinking there are 7 million people here, and everyone of them has someplace to sleep!

Well, it was depressing, of course, and disappointing, but I tried to remind myself that when I had been there before, during the war, the men were all overseas, and now they’d come back, and we were all returning at the same time. I spent all the next morning calling the hotels again, trying to get a room, and finally, after lunch, when I hadn’t been able to find a place, I was getting annoyed by then and disgusted. So, I was, I think, at the Commodore Hotel, and I’d had lunch, and I went to the phone and called the hospital and told them to send an ambulance for me (which is what the doctor had told me to do). See, I could have ridden the subway out there with no trouble at all, but he had told me I could do that, and I was mad, and that’s what I did.

And the guy who was taking the phone call started to give me some lip, and I said, “I’m Lieutenant Tate, and I expect to be picked up here in one hour. And I’ll be at the bar. Goodbye!”

So, an hour later, a chief petty officer came in looking very annoyed. “Lieutenant Tate?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “We’ve come for you (laughter). The ambulance is out in front!”

And I said, “You can get my bags out of this locker.” And I handed him the locker key.

I went out in front and got in the ambulance on the litter, and pretty soon, he came out with the bags. So (laughter), I went out to the hospital, and when they pulled up in front and I got out and went in, they were really furious. But I didn’t give a damn. (laughter) They’d been sitting there on their rear ends while I’d been out fighting the war.

Well, that completes my journey from China back to the United States.

I had a pleasant surprise when I arrived, in finding that the Navy doctor who had treated me in China had beaten me back and was on the staff of this hospital (laughter), so he became my doctor. And also, I had the good fortune that a couple of my old buddies from the war turned up there, too - I think Joe Mandel was there, and, uh, I’ve forgotten just who else it was. I made some nice new friends - fellows who were in the same war I was in - we lived in what were called wards - great big rooms that must have had 30 or 40 beds in them. An aisle down the center of rows of simple beds on each side, and so I made some good friends with those fellows, who were marine officers and Navy officers, and we would go down to New York City on weekends to have fun.

[End of Lee’s narration.]

Western Union Telegram

KMAVG INTL = CALCUTTA VIA WU CABLES
15 SEP 29
VLT MRS. H C TATE PERRY (OKLA) =
AM WELL AND COMING HOME SOON
LOVE SON = LEONARD

Letter from New York
Trip back home and “brief log” of past 10 months
Leonard to His Parents

Postmark Sunday [1945]
[Early November?]

Dear Mother and Dad,

Gosh, but it sounded good to hear your voices on the telephone this afternoon and to know that you are all well. It’s been almost two months since the last mail, and that was written the first of September, I think.

We had a nice trip back on the freighter. It’s a new ship, and there were only a few passengers, so the food and quarters were good. The weather was good and smooth except for some rough water in the Atlantic where a few fellows got sick, but not me. It looks like I will finish with a clear record.

I don’t have enough points to get out, so it will probably be some time yet. [Note: June 17, 1946]

My orders were to stop at a naval hospital for a thorough checkup. Then new orders from Washington. Since Monday is a holiday, the doctor I am to see won’t be out till Tuesday. So, I won’t know when you can expect me until I talk to him. It can’t be long, at any rate, and I will let you know as soon as I find out. This hospital is at Jamaica, Long Island, and about 30 minutes by subway from downtown New York. I stopped downtown to send the telegram, and, let me tell you, New York is a madhouse. It is absolutely running over with people. It’s impossible to get a hotel room, taxi, theater tickets, etc. I’m not even going to town until I start home. [How little did he know!]

Here is a brief log of the past 10 months.

Departed from Washington late in January and by air to Casablanca, Tripoli, Cairo, Abadan (Persia), Karachi (India), Calcutta (India), Kunming, Chick-yang, and on out to a place near Amoy. The end of the line was a little secret field in a place where there were no Japs. Then by all means of transportation except flying or autos from just north of Hong Kong to about a hundred miles from Shanghai. If you can find Foo Chow, a city on the coast, go up the river to Nan Ping, then up a road parallel to the coast and towards Shanghai, you will find Chien-au. That is where I was when the war ended, and I caught a plane ride back to Chung King with Admiral Miles. Then on to Kunming and Calcutta. Did you ever guess where I was? Ha! Maybe that article in the Perry Daily was enlightening, but I sure can’t imagine what or why. Can you send me a clipping? Also, when did the admiral send the silk? I don’t understand that either. I think that you know more about things than I.

By the way, I left Kunming just three days before the revolution started there. The Americans should all get out of China and let the Chinese settle their troubles.

That last letter from Calcutta is probably funny, but I sure was mad at the time. Three times the sailing date had been postponed.

Is Oklahoma still dry? Crazy people. Now that gas rationing is finished, the price of the stuff should go down, but I’ll bring what I can.

The last big package was the one with the bottle of catsup and the first-class Zippo both caught me in Kunming.

Is Twink [cousin] still in New York? If so, send his address, and anyone else if they are here, and I will try and get in touch with them.

I am writing to Junior today and asking him about the McCay sisters before I write to them. For all I know, Helen may be married again by now.

Also, is Jack Powers home? No word from him for about six months. Sure too bad about Mrs. Powers. And how about L.L. De Noya, Don Kennedy, and the others? You see, I am months and months behind on the news.

There is so much to say and ask that I am all confused for now. Maybe I won’t be so excited tomorrow, so will close and get this in the mail.

Love,

Son

ADDENDA

A. Official Navy Record
B. Descriptions of Medals

B. Descriptions of Medals by Marjorie Tate

Awards for my husband’s valiant efforts in World War II were late in coming, and, actually, were not given by his own country, but had to be sent for by his children. The reason was partly that he had seen too many medals handed out to undeserving “heroes” and didn’t ask for them. After he died, our ignorance concerning the process of obtaining them by the family slowed down our efforts. The Nationalist Chinese or Republic of China awarded two medals in later years as follows:

1. Service Medal of Sino-American Cooperative Organization. Presented June 22, 1974, in Washington, D.C.

The medal came with a handsome certificate in Chinese. On the back of this was a translation of the Chinese text. I have included a copy of this.

2. In June of 1987, Leonard and I attended a SACO convention in Annapolis, Maryland. Even though he was very ill with cancer (he died the next month), he wanted to go. Neither of us knew that these medals were to be presented. The Chinese dignitary who gave the presentation made a point of announcing that the awards were being given only to those men who had been in the field, and that these actually numbered only 12 men! My husband at last received recognition for that long hard year on the back roads of China! As I recall, only two other men received the medal that evening! The others had either not attended, or had died, I suppose.

Since we didn’t get an explanatory certificate this time, I will give a brief description:

The bronze medal is a circle about an inch in diameter. Before two crossed flags (both Chinese, I think, because they both bear the Sun Yat-sen), there is the head of Chiang Kai-shek. Below is a scenic design of a river and bridges, and behind that, many smokestacks pouring out smoke. I don’t know if this is a real or imaginary scene. The ribbon has a wide gold stripe in the center, flanked by dark blue and red stripes.

We wives all received a lovely brooch of gold ornamented with green gemstones.

Lee was deeply moved by the awarding of this, and I’m so thankful we decided to go at a difficult time.

At the end of 1996 or perhaps early 1997, John and Vicki Knauss (my son-in-law and daughter) persuaded me to write to the Department of the Navy to see what, if any, American medals Lee had earned. John had obtained information as to the process of applying. Eventually, the Bureau of Navy Personnel, Retired Records Section, sent the following medals:

1. American Campaign, issued 4/5/97.
2. The Victory, World War II set, issued 5/8/97.
3. Asiatic-Pacific Campaign (with one bronze star), issued 5/8/97.
4. European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign (with one bronze star), issued 5/8/97.
5. Honorable Service Lapel Button, issued 5/8/97.

They were out of the bronze stars (which indicate actual presence in those areas), but sent a list of military supply stores where these could be ordered.

Chronological Summary of the Life of Leonard W. Tate

1918 Born May 16 in Perry, Oklahoma, first child of Henry and Zoma Tate.

1925 to 1928 or 29 Lived and attended 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades in Marland, Oklahoma, near 101 Ranch where his father was a manager.

1936 Graduated from Perry High School, Perry, Oklahoma.

1941 Enlisted in United States Naval Reserve while he was attending A&M College (now Oklahoma State) in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

1942 Graduated from college with a degree in business.

1943 Received commission in United States Naval Reserve from the Midshipmen’s School at Columbia University, New York, New York. Assigned to Atlantic Fleet Amphibious Force and trained at Little Creek, Virginia, and Fort Pierce, Florida. While in Florida, transferred to Scouts and Raiders. August, sent to Europe as part of the Special Operations Group of the Mediterranean Fleet and was engaged in the Invasion of Southern France.

1944 Back to United States. Reassigned to naval intelligence and sent to China.

1945 Intelligence work in China until end of Pacific War. November, returned to St. Albans Naval Hospital on Long Island, New York. Met Marjorie in New York City.

1946 January, proposed to Marjorie. Job hunted. May, released from active duty. June, returned to Perry to start pottery business. September 14, Leonard and Marjorie married in New Orleans, Louisiana. Returned to Perry, Oklahoma, to continue work in Tamac pottery.

1946-53 Leonard and Marjorie (with another couple) owned and operated Tamac pottery. Victoria Marie born on January 1, 1952. They sold the pottery and moved to Troy, New York.

1953 Leonard obtained a job in Washington, DC, with the Department of the Army. The family moved to Falls Church, Virginia.

1955-57 The family sent to Saipan, Marianas Islands. Lee transferred temporarily to Navy.

1957-59 After return to the States, they were immediately reassigned to Tehran, Iran. Returned to United States in fall of 1959 where Alice Helene was born November 16.

1963 Leonard and family assigned to Miami, Florida. Interviewed Cuban refugees.

1966 Family returned to Falls Church, Virginia.

1968 Zoma Tate (now widowed) came to live with family.

1969 Moved to Winchester, Virginia.

1972 Final retirement from government. Leonard started in real-estate business.

1987 April, Lee retired from Joel Stowe Associates. May, diagnosed with prostate cancer. June, attended Sino-American Cooperative Association reunion and received second medal from the Republic of China. Father’s Day, entered hospital. July 9, deceased.


[Source: Adapted from a transcription of recordings made between 9 January 1984 and 19 April 1984, provided courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation.]