South pacific
War is hell.

My father, an officer in World War II, could never understand, he told me, exactly why it was so important that his bed be made so tightly that a quarter could be bounced off its taut sheet and blanket.

It seems like a small complaint, no?

My father was no whiner. He knew his troubles were small compared to the complaints, dangers, deprivations, and injuries (and worse) of those at the front.

But, for my father it was — in many ways — a straw that broke the camel’s back. He hated the regulations and they frustrated him to no end. He asked me, with continuing passion so many years later: “How exactly did that bouncing quarter help us win the war?”

I always wondered whether his moments of depression were in some small way connected to that frustrating humiliation (in his eyes).

His writings from his years at war are copious.
His mother, my grandmother Bella, saved all their correspondence. And they wrote each other nearly daily. So we have several binders.

There are more than letters.
All the junk is in there too. Matchbooks, telegrams, photographs, menus, and more.

…and this poem, which exhibits his sense of humor in the face of regulations and manly enforcement thereof.

Imagine my father. An Ohioan, far from home, in the South Pacific. Just wanting to take in a smoke in the evening. Or wanting to read — or write a letter — or a poem — before turning in for the night. Typing on onion skin paper on an old typewriter…

Song of the Island

On Guadalcanal, you’d better park
When the light fades out in the tropical dark
Or you’ll hear the song of the tropical nights
“Hey you, turn out them __________ lights.”

Conditions red or conditions green
Just strike a match in the tropical scene
To hear the chorus of the cactus nights
“Hey you, turn out them __________ lights.”

Colonel, General, Sergeant Major,
Light a light and it’s a wager
You’ll hear the song of the cactus nights
“Hey you, turn out them __________ lights.”

And you’d better turn out them  __________ lights
When you hear the song of the cactus nights
A marine is looking down his sights
And he’ll shoot as one of his sacred rights,
If you don’t turn out them __________ lights.

All my father ever wanted to do was create a little light.