The letter I am transcribing is from a copy of a typed letter on onion skin or airmail paper. It is a very poor copy, water stained, creased with the last portion of the letter typed on the back of page 3 and bleeding through.
June, 7, 1945
Well, the lid is at least part way off. We got a new APO number today – APO 902. Now at least I can tell you I’m on Okinawa. I surmised that you already had guessed that but now you know officially. I am afraid this letter will be a little jumpy because there are so many things I want to say now that I can tell you some things of interest.
I don’t know what you’ve read about this island but it’s really very beautiful. They told us before we hit the island that it was a hell hole. They painted a nightmarish picture of unfriendly natives, mud, poisonous snakes, mosquitoes, etc. Well, all they said was true but not nearly as bad as they made it out to be. We do have poisonous snakes, but as yet I haven’t seen any, although some of the other guys in the outfit have. The natives, with a few exceptions, have been very friendly as far as I know. Whether it is because they are glad to see us come and drive the Japs out or that they are afraid of us, I don’t know; but I am inclined to think it is more or less the latter. You should see them bow to us whenever they see any of us. It makes me feel like a jerk. The mud is every bit as bad as they said it was. I’ve never seen mud that had such a sticky content. It’s just like taffy before the taffy is pulled and hardened. The mosquitoes are pretty bad but we’ve got plenty of effective repellent and mosquito netting for our heads and canopies over our bunks.
The island itself is almost a Shangri-La (there are a lot of people who would give me an argument on that statement) in as far as it’s terrain and foliage is concerned. There are large hills, almost mountains, beautiful valleys, fertile soil, beautiful pine trees, pretty streams and fine beaches. In many places it reminds me of Connecticut and in others of the Gaspé Peninsula. The foliage isn’t foreign to what I’ve been brought up in.
The natives here were originally Chinese but the islands were invaded and taken over by the Japs a few hundred years ago. Since then, the Japs have treated the Okinawans as an inferior people. Their whole mode of life is a cross between the Japs and the Chinese. They stick to the old Chinese custom of burying the dead in tombs with food and clothing for their journey to wherever they’re going. The whole island is covered with these tombs, all built almost entirely alike. It’s surprising to an Occidental to see the humble dwellings of these people standing beside a sturdy, well-built tomb, made of a sort of concrete. The houses are made of wood and have thatched roofs. Their schools (of which there are plenty) are a little better built, having fancy tile roofs with that upswing that you see in all oriental buildings. The literacy rate of the island is supposed to be very high and I can see that it might be, after having seen so many schools, and the more painstaking structures that house the “learners”.
Our bivouac area and all the surrounding countryside is strictly an agricultural section. Naha was supposed to have been a fairly modern city with all the fixings, but I never did get anywhere near there, so all I can tell you about is the poor farmer. He must be a very hard worker. All his tools for farming and all his necessities for living are handmade. Their pottery is very beautiful even though that is also handmade. It strikes me funny that their necessities should be so crude and yet all the homes have beautiful cabinets and in those cabinets are the most beautiful pieces of pottery you could find.
The next three days will be devoted to the rest of this letter. On Friday, I’ll be posting a letter from Biss with Birthday Wishes to her big brother, Ced.