By Way of Explanation
I started my diary 8th December 1941. Not because that is the day after Pearl Harbor, but because that was the day the 2nd Battalion 222 Field Artillery Regiment was scheduled to leave for the Oakland (California) Port of Embarkation and the Philippines Islands, code name “Plum.”
The attack on Pearl Harbor 7th December drastically altered the schedule but it was 3 days before new orders were issued. In the meantime, we left Camp San Luis Obispo on schedule, motored to San Francisco, crossed the Bay Bridge and spent 4 days at the Oakland Army Base waiting for new orders, unloading our equipment and moving out to a new assignment.
When this diary starts, I’m a gun Sgt in Btry “D”, 2nd Bn 222 FA Reg. 40th Division. When the army modernized the Infantry Division in early 1942 Btry “D” became Btry “A” 204 FA Bn-a separate FA battalion.
Btry “D” (which became Btry “A”) was a Utah National Guard unit federalized 3rd March 1941 and from Mt. Pleasant, Utah. It was still 65% men from in and around Mt. Pleasant on 8th December.
I don’t know how good an Army unit had to be to be sent to the Philippines fall of 1941. But I’ve always thought being selected to go 6 months after going on active duty was commendable recognition. However, after passing the GHQ tests and being selected, all our over age-in-grade officers were reassigned, one of whom was my father, Major Lee R. Christensen. We lost the officers’ who made us good.
The officers we lost went on to lead service units overseas. The Battalion, at the 204th, regrouped, lost many men to other services, OCS, Air Force, and Cadres but earned 5 battle stars in the ETO. (European Theatre of Operation.) By then they had modern equipment; radios, jeeps, machine guns and a 155 howitzer that was not a rusting relic of WWl.
I need to thank the people who devoted their time helping me decipher my handwriting from a journal kept 75 years ago. Thanks to Tracy, my daughter and David, her husband.
I would also like to thank Les Christiansen who shared many of the photos you will find in the diary. His father, John M. Christiansen, was from Pleasant Grove, Utah. He was with the 222nd/204th-sevice battery. He was training at the Yakima Firing Center at the same time I was with the “D” Btry of the 222nd FA which became the “A” Btry of the 204th FA in February 1942. He served with them thru out the war; San Luis Obispo, Yakima, Tennessee, and Europe.
John as written a tribute to his father John. You can read it by googling
“My Father in WWII”; by Les Christiansen.
Tracy added the pictures to my diary and also the occasional explanations which are in italics.
Also, all photos used with permission or public domain.
Monday, December 8, 1941
The very forming of the day, caught me awake, pacing the floor in front of a telephone. I had been trying since early Sunday evening to reach Mother, but was unsuccessful till early this morning. After assuring her that I was not being bombed on the high seas, I sought my bed.
With the “rise and shine” shout of the first sgts in my ear, I awoke. The hour was early, but early hours are the rule in war.
Eight-thirty found me packed, loaded and headed for San Francisco where I hope to sail for the war zone.
I heard the President’s speech and couldn’t help but feel he had what he wanted, War.
(Link to President Roosevelt’s speech) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhtuMrMVJDk
The trip to San Francisco was not unlike other army trips. They couldn’t seem to decide rather to go or stay home. It seems that we can’t hurry even in war.
Most of the men took on new life at the thought of actually seeing action. All they talk about is the “dirty, squint eyed japs”, and how they would like a shot at one. There are still a few who even now aren’t enthused.San Francisco was blacked out. Searchlights were sticking their fingers into the moons business. It was a beautiful night, warlike as it was.
They bunked us down in an old warehouse in Oakland. There I found rest for my tired bones.
Tuesday, December 9, 1941
Three am saw a still tired soldier awake with a curse, find his gas mask, put it within easy reach and pass again into peaceful slumber.
The forenoon was spent in close order drill, under the critical eyes of Major White, who seems to think we were rookies till he took over.
I spent the afternoon shivering in the “barn”. Everyone awaits word of an American victory in the Pacific. I can’t conceive of this being war as nothing has happened and indecision is still present in everything we do.
We had a blackout for supper. These blackouts are treated as a joke for some of us feel that no enemy can be very close.
Wednesday, December 10, 1941
The air raid siren brought me from dreamland at 2 am. I dressed in the cold morning air and awaited the explosion of enemy bombs. None came. I still think someone is having pipe dreams, as I can’t imagine Japs over San Francisco. I undressed and went back to bed before the “all clear” had been given, cursing all the army “bull”.
The forenoon brought more foot drill. “Column Right” and “Column Left” could be heard all around this morning. The men showed excellent form in their manual of the rifle.
Our truck drivers reported back to us in the late afternoon.
They were certainly a happy bunch.
Very few truck drivers liked the “penned up” feeling of Angel Island.
It now looks as if we’ll be headed back for San Luis Obispo by tomorrow sundown.
Thursday, December 11, 1941
The Japs stayed home last night insuring a good nights sleep for us “forgotten” boys. The winds of rumor have shifted since last night and we’re not headed back to San Luis. Tonight, so the rumors go we’re going to Plum, “Plum to Hell”.
The time between breakfast and dinner was spent playing cards, with but one interruption, that being an examination for “society dandruff”.
(An inspection for “Pubic Lice” and Venereal Diseases-also called “Short Arm” inspection)
From dinner till supper, I did even less. We did get three trucks loaded back up with our equipment.
Following supper we were issued the Service Gas Mask.
It is much larger and easier to breathe through than the training mask. I have a diaphragm in mine so as to be heard when I talk. It seems I can’t find anything to shut me up. I now feel confident that we U.S. soldiers with this mask have the best protection offered against gas.
The American forces in the East, made a showing today. Many of us here would like to be with them.
Friday, December 12, 1941
Seven hundred old gas masks were disinfected under my supervision this morning. It was done in customary army style, which means sloppy as hell. I think at least half the masks will be rotted before they’re issued again.
The word came suddenly, catching me and my squad in the gun park reloading trucks. We immediately returned to the barrack.
There, everyone was packing bags, folding cots, and in general, getting ready to leave. The Battalion was being split up. Battery “D” was sent to Benicia Arsenal for guard duty, the length of stay unknown.
Two hours after getting the word we pulled from the “barn” (all eyes dry) and under cover of darkness turned our noses toward Benicia Arsenal.
An air raid warning caught us on the road. We drove for a number of miles without light. Finding the going too dangerous, we stopped (one truck smashing up) and let the raid blow over.
We reached our new home shortly before midnight. A relief of men went on guard, the others found beds and slept. We relieved the 134th infantry.
Saturday, December 13, 1941
Our new home was in need of cleaning and clean it we did. The men who weren’t on guard spent the morning mopping. I lived in the upstairs portion of a barracks with forty-one other men. Being a Sgt. I have a room separated from the privates. Sgt. Hansen shared it with me. There are four Cpls. And they have a room together. It is good set up but not so good for a diary. I’m not apt to have anything to do but one day a week as that’s all I’ll guard. The privates walk guard every other day, the Cpls. about every third day. This seems like a soft life for me.
Sunday, December 14, 1941
I wouldn’t have believed it’s Sunday if the calendar hadn’t confirmed it. Nothing newsy. No murders, suicides, air raids, nothing.
Monday, December 15, 1941
Today’s routine was changed by a trip to the powder magazines. I saw a few bombs, the largest being six hundred pounds. An empty magazine would be just the place to go in an air raid. I wouldn’t think they make better shelters than they offer. Most of the munitions were crated so we saw very little. Lt. Col. Daniels (BN commander) and staff visited the barracks during the morning. We had just finished mopping as a result they found the place very clean.
The weather is very changeable raining off and on. Not so good for walking guard.
Tuesday, December 16, 1941
Another day has passed into oblivion. Another day has passed to take its place beside the days that will never dawn again.
Today was just another day. Another day that I can add to the all ready too numerous ones on which have accomplished nothing. Nothing gained but age, nothing lost but time.
Wednesday, December 17, 1941
Major Christensen paid a visit to this post today. He has been transferred to San Jose.
I inspected my 155 howitzer and did some additional grease work on it. It appeared to be in good condition.
|(the 155 mm howitzer was the 1917 Schneider)|
I hit guard duty at 4 pm. I’ll be on till 4 pm tomorrow. Nothing other than routine has happened up till now.
Thursday, December 18, 1941
Today has been a long drawn out one. I remained awake all night, for no particular reason. I had a very enjoyable time riding around in the “jeeps”. I tried it on the steep hills, I tried its pick up. I enjoyed it as a
kid enjoys a new toy.
My helmet had its baptism of fire. I shot at it with my forty-five, the bullet hitting it and glancing off. I certainly hope it stands up under all its tests still was a helmet.
To be continued ........