A Grandfather’s WW2 Letter Home, My Grandfather To Be Exact
My grandfather Evern “Bud” Masuen fought valiantly in this great war and was ever so proud the remainder of his long life that he answered his country’s call on the day of days. When I was a young man I would very often ask my grandfather about the war, and he was always more than happy to tell me about it with pride and joy.
My grandfather was a young man in his early 20’s when Japan attacked the U.S. He was at the movies with his brothers watching a movie and it was during the movie that Japan attacked. Now, back then they didn’t have social media, cell phones and things like we have today. As he walked out of the theater people were crying, running and in panic. He was able to stop someone and asked what was going on, and it was that person who informed him of the tragic event that had taking place while he was in the movie – an attack on our soil that was still taking place.
My grandfather immediately ran, and I do mean literally ran right to the nearest recruiting office and joined the Navy! He was assigned to the USS White Marsh, as a signal man.He was proud of doing that job to his dying day. My grandfather lived his life in LeMars Iowa, a very small farming community.
Now instead of me telling my grandfathers entire story I have an actual letter that he wrote home to his family and was later published in the LeMars town newspaper. It is him telling his family the part he took in taking the island of Saipan, He can tell his story better than I can and I wish to share it with you all now. The following is my grandfathers actual letter. As his grandson, I’m proud to share what I feel is history common to us all, not just my family.
This letter is presented as is, for reasons of historical accuracy – we hope not to offend anyone by reproducing accurately language used by my grandfather. This letter was written almost 70 years ago during our involvement in WW2.
What follows is direct from his hand – the omissions are places where the actual hand written letter or the historical article were damaged. We did make an editorial decision to lightly censor certain language of the time that is no longer contemporary, in a way we hope balances the sensibilities of the readership with the need to depict the times as they were. The historical opinions reproduced below do not necessarily represent those of Townsquare Media or its employees.
July 24, 1944
AFTER SEEING WHAT J*PS GOT AT SAIPAN, BUD MASUEN SAYS HE’S GLAD HE’S ON THE U. S. SIDE
Was Signalman On Landing Ship That Hauled Marines Ashore
After a “long black-out of news” Ervan “Bud” Masuen, seaman first class, due to his being in ____ in the Pacific area, or waiting for action, members of his family have received a lengthy letter revealing that he took part in the capture of Saipan island, Japanese stronghold, which is within 1500 miles of Tokyo, and possesses room for large airports.
Excerpts of his letter follow:
He first mentions his stay at Honolulu, which did not impress him as much as he had been led to expect. He said he drove by ___kem field so often it reminds him of home—in fact, of the LeMars ball park. As for Honolulu: I was really disappointed in it. To me it is just a city set up __aply and in a hurry to make money—Yes, I have been out to the Royal Hawaiian hotel at Waikiki beach and have been swimming there. It’s nice, but __er all the publicity—well, as far as I’m concerned, they can have it.
“The harbor here is very large and pretty. It is always nice and war at Lulu if it isn’t raining.” He mentions some maneuvers they were on.
“We came back to Pearl for a few days, and then one noon,” the letter continues, “the navigator came up on the bridge, and we knew by the look on his face that the real thing had come at last. It could only mean one thing—invasion! But where? We found out in a hurry, and it was Saipan. Our force, which was just as large, was to move in on Guam.” (Masuen was on a landing ship, carrying tanks—on L.S.T.)
We steamed toward Eniwetok, the biggest island in the Marshalls. We filled up on fuel and food there. Early one morning, we pulled out of the Marshalls and headed for Saipan.
I received word from the Captain that I was to land with the marines and army on an LCMx tanker lighter. Gol, darn, that was anything but good news to me. Well, it was still dark and the island came into view. It looked very pretty, too. I got rather nervous and uneasy about the whole thing. Dammit, out of a clear blue sky somebody tells you that you are going to land with the marines.
It’s like this: I’m a sailor, not a trained soldier, but they had to have somebody who could read light and semaphore, so I was to go. Two other men off the bridge had to go too, so I wasn’t alone.
It was getting pretty light, and then all of a sudden hell broke loose. Battleship, cruisers and destroyers were firing on the beach, and when I say they laid that town low, I mean it. Holy cow! I don’t see how any army could live through that shelling!
I was in the third wave in one of those boats, and was hauling a medium tank. The first and second wave were those amphibious tanks. I KID YOU NONE WHEN I SAY I WAS SCARED! We were lying about a mile off the beach when the J*ps opened up from the hills with 80 MM, mortar shells.
Two of them landed within 15 feet, and we hit the decks fast and hard. I nearly sank our boat, trying to dig myself down into the deck-plates. I CLAWED UNTIL MY FINGERNAILS STARTED TO BLEED.
We pulled back about a mile farther and then got orders to go in about a half mile farther down the beach. We got orders to go in, and the officer in charge said, “Masuen, signal to those other boats to follow.” And THAT IS QUITE A TRICK, BELIEVE ME, FOR A GUY LYING FLAT ON THE DECK.
Well, we were the 14th to go in. They hit the 10th in her gas tank with a mortar shell. As we would go by, these other boats that were coming out, they would give the old good luck signs. Then came our turn. The surf was big and plenty high. The last 100 yards we made wide open, and there was one scared crew on that boat, including myself.
As we hit the beach, a great big wave came over the top and washed me half-way up the side. Holy cow! I could just see myself bobbing around in that water with my life jacket on. I turned around and boy! There was another on right over me. I made a quick grab and grabbed the aerial of the radio we had on our boat. My heart stood still till our tank was off and out front gate pulled up again. We pulled offshore and my ears were pounding from the noised and my heart likewise. I made another landing about 4 hours later, but we had the beach secured then.
I slept that night about 400 years off the beach and boy! Those J*ps caught hell all night.
I returned to the ship the next morning and I have sworn up and down that this is the last time I am ever going to make a landing in my naval career. We hauled our fanny away from Saipan and later returned.
(After that he was returned to the United States for awhile.)
Seaman Masuen writes that his Saipan experience “scared hell out of” him, but “this invasion has proved to me that I’m not such a bad man under fire, and also, it made a man of me. I really do mean now, more than ever, that the N*ps aren’t going to get me.”
The night we were at Saipan we had an air attack, and two 200-pound bombs just missed our ship by not more than 50 feet. And the night before I got into Saipan, I had the mid-watch, and a message came over the radio, that a “can” (destroyer) had noticed about 25 J*ps on a barge. This “can” called over to Vice Admiral Turner, who was ahead of our force on an APA (transport). Turner said if they showed any resistance, they should be fired on. Well, we waited about 10 minutes, and then every small gun on the destroyer opened up for about 5 minutes and then quit. They then threw the J*ps a line to come aboard, and the J*ps threw it back. Boy, there wasn’t a one who didn’t catch about 15 slugs a piece before this can sank their barge.
When I was back in the states going to school, I used to think that was a lot of hooey in the papers about the N*ps losing 20 or 50 planes in a day. Well, now I don’t. I saw a battleship knock down all 20 planes out of one flight which came at her, and she 18 out of the next 20, three minutes later. Damn, boy! That’s a thrilling sight to see!
About 2 days after that raid on Saipan our carrier force tangled hair with the N*ps and I lie to you none when I say THEY GOT MORE THAN THE 325 IN A SINGLE DAY that they told the newspapers for sure.
BOY, AM I GLAD I’M ON UNCLE SAM’S SIDE!
Tininan is easily in range of Saipan and I’d say about 4 or 5 miles—and every night the damn J*ps would try and send reinforcements to Saipan and boy! We sure knocked them cold.
The J*ps at night would swim out to our ships at anchor, and come up the anchor chains with hand grenades, and if they got aboard, you can see what a mess they make. Dirtying up our decks with their blood. We stopped them before they got that far. Machine guns would spray death every time one was even close to our ship. Men were always posted at night around the ship, looking for just that sort of thing.
(Note: This morning the Associated Press reported that American forces have attacked Tinian Island. Marines have won beachheads and mopping up is proceeding.)
The J*ps tried sneak attacks now and then with their dwindling air fleet. Describing one of them, Masuen wrote:
Boy, what a sight! Tracers were everywhere in the sky. An airplane couldn’t ever expect to get through that barrage. Once we got north of Truk, it was a very interesting trip.
“Well, everybody, I’ve earned a star to wear on my campaign bar, and I am now so-called ‘Salty.’ I came out of this invasion okay.”
I sincerely hope you enjoyed this trip back into time as much as I did. Reading my grandfather’s words made me feel like I was there with him. I cannot for the life of me imagine what our young men and women went through during this time, or what it was like for those courageous young men fighting in battles like the fight for Saipan my grandfather endured. For me it was moving and emotional. I loved my grandfather and still do. In my humble opinion this was and still is one of America’s greatest generations. The way the country came together and stood tall, united as one is something that shall never be forgotten and is something I believe this great country of ours needs a lot more of. To all those who fought in WW2 I say thank you for your bravery and courage. This young man will never forget your sacrifices and will always be grateful.