Anonymous Letter from U. S. S. Wichita, 1945.
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Finally, after nine weeks of steady shooting we were detached and sent south for a rest. The job was nearly done and they could spare a ship here and there so when our turn came we left Okinawa and headed for Leyte in the Philippines. When we arrived we discovered there would be liberty parties each day for different sections of the crew so everyone got a chance to go ashore. A definite place was set aside for recreation where we could swim, play ball and get a few cans of beer if we so chose. There was much work to be done on the ship as there was little time for upkeep during the time at Okinawa so the days in Leyte were busy. Everyone worked at loading stores, repairing gear, etc., however almost everyone had a chance to get to the beach at least once and some were able to go several times. At Leyte we saw our first movies since leaving the States; we also restocked our food supply and were able to obtain some fresh vegetables, meat and fruit. They really tasted good after weeks of battle rations.
What everyone enjoyed most at Leyte was to have the chance to put foot upon the Philippines and to do some trading with the natives. Near the recreation area many of the natives had set up little stands where they sold souveniers to the sailors. We were told that when the Americans first came back to Leyte the natives would trade anything for a bit of clothing or food but now they have become wise to the power of the "Yankee Dollar" and all they want for their trinkets is money. Our stay was enjoyable but there was work to be done so after two weeks we shoved off again and went to sea.
Perhaps you might enjoy a few side lights about our life aboard ship. During war time there is not much chance for recreation but when things are quiet and we are in no danger we do have movies at sea; we always have movies every night when we are at anchor. Because ours is a flag ship we have a band aboard and they play several times a day and entertain all hands with the latest popular tunes. We are happy to have an efficient ice cream bar or, as it is known to all Navy folk, a "Gedunk" stand.
One of the biggest factors in keeping up our spirits and boosting our morale is MAIL from home. The Navy makes every effort to get our mail to us; at times it is difficult but even when we are at sea our mail is brought out to us via destroyer or tanker. We are able to keep abreast of current events, too, because each morning a paper called the "Press News" is issued carrying the latest news items which come in over the radio.
We have our regular church services each Sunday for all Faiths; however, at times it was impossible to hold services on account of battle conditions. Several times off Okinawa, during the middle of services, we had to scramble for shelter and man the guns as the Japs sent in air raids to harass the ships. They seem to think because they caught us napping on a Sunday at Pearl Harbor they can do it again.
This brings us about up to a new period that has not yet been released from censorship regulations so we will say au revoir till next time. Rest assured that we are all well and still miss the States and our homes and our loved ones but we are in there pitching and we'll do all we can to finish the job out here soon.