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Letter from Udell Cunningham, November 2005 Part 8

Posted in Family Biographies/Histories, Letters, and Primary Sources: Letters, Documents, Diaries, Histories

Last updated on August 15, 2006

I had a 30-day leave upon return to the States in May ’45. I was then sent to Camp Parks, California. This place was inland from Oakland at a town called Shoemaker. I looked at a map the other day and Shoemaker does not exist now. Parks was later an Air Force base and then it was closed. Later I discovered that it is now a Federal penitentiary. In July I was put in and O.G.U. outfit (Outward-Going Unit) this is kinda like quarantine. They later bussed us to Treasure Island. This is in the bay between Oakland and Frisco. You are put there with no contact with the world — no telephone, etc. Letters were held until your ship was far at sea. I was there when the first A-bomb was dropped. I was on ship when the second was dropped. Our ship was en route to the southern Philippine Island of Samar. I was no longer a Seabee but was training to be an underwater demolition man or later called Frogmen. We were in the unit scheduled to be the second wave of invasion of Japan. Our target was Tokyo Bay. Anyway, the end of the war placed us back in the Seabees as they no longer needed Frogmen. We then were moved to Cavite Navy Base at Manila. When we were there on Cavite, those recently liberated prisoners were there [I think he is speaking of the POW’s who were forced on the Bataan Death March, but I will ask him for clarification]. We had to be very quiet as not to disturb them. Shortly we were trucked to the Naval base of Subic Bay. At that time the town of Olongapo was very small — no docks for ships. My job there was working in a lumber yard unloading trucks of lumber. I was a rigger on a mobile crane. I would wrap a steel cable around the pallets of lumber and signal the crane to lift the wood. We had Philippine workers to sort and stack the wood. I played a lot of card games.

When on Samar we were near the town of Tubabao. One day a few of us went to town — a friend found a parrot he wanted to buy — he was broke so I loaned him $20.00. He never repaid me so I guess I own the damn parrot. I should stop in Chickasha, Oklahoma and get my parrot from old Pablo Martinez. Yeah sure. $20.00 was a lot of money in those days.

You may not believe me, but in those days during WWII a carton of Camels or Lucky Strike cigarettes cost 50¢ at the ship store. You could get Pall Mall, Chesterfield, Wings and some others like Cools for a whopping 35¢ a carton. Our K-rations had a small box of 5 cigarettes enclosed. Seldom did we have to eat K-rations. Seabees usually had the best chow around a base.

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