It was the last evening in March of 1942 and our little corner of Bataan Penlnsula wasn’t exactly a health resort. In most localities the trees were tall and you jumped in a fox hole only when you heard the bombers dive or the bombs swizzle thru the air. The hot season was in full swing and bug and locusts made the forests hum. All our traveling was either up hill or down and our spirits were low.
I had broken a tooth off the week before and It throbbed as only a broken tooth can throb. A boil on my leg sent pains shooting into my hip at intervals. A slight Infection on the toes of my left foot had me worried. We slept full pack in deference to Tojo ‘s tendency to slip past the lines at night and snipe. A push anytime wes imminent. We weren’t too disheartened but we were low.
Enemy aircraft harrased us all day and our own artillery whistled over at night. The help we expected in 45 days was still a rumor after 115 days. Our outposts had been taking a beating and been pushed back to the main line of resistance. The men were sick from malaria and lack of food and just plain worn out.
There was no oil for the guns and the dampness rusted everything it touched. When barbed wire was strung It was done with bare hands. Soup was a non-existent luxury for everyone except a few of us officers who had made a raise thru Corregidor. Cigarettes sold for 1 peso each when you could buy them. Here again we were more fortunate and passed the short butts around or rolled them ourselves.
Some companies had 50% of their men but most were lucky to muster one third with many of those convalescent. We ate rice twice a day with maybe some salmon or mule meat or caraba0 to fill in the void. The men ate rice twice a day. It was served as soup once and as hard cooked once. The ration was 10 oz. each but the wastage and chiseling reducod that to two bare mess kits per man. Salmon was detributed at the rate of 1 can for 8-20 men. Sugar and milk came in scantier quantities. There was booming of guns in the dlstance and the sound of bombs and their low rumble. We drank boiled water and washed when we got a chance.
I lay on my bamboo slats that evening after dark and planned a breakfast I would like to serve in my backyard. I visualized the gridde I wanted, the gas burner beside it. I could see the canvas covering over the area and the shed over the cooking department. There was to be a table placed just so. It was to be loaded with jams jellies, fruits. There was to be huge pots of coffee steaming in the morning sun. Scrambled egge on great platters couldn’t help but entice the most taste weary because ham and bacon and garnish dressed them up. Then there would be sweet milk and rolls of all sorts and lots of butter, soft and creamy. All this on a white cloth and set on clean dishes and ready to eat. I would have on a high topped cook’s hat and an apron and be working like mad cooking the best and lightest hot cakes an amateur ever made. My griddle could handle at least 20 at a clip and they were a lovely brown and light in weight. Then there were lot of people. I could see all our friends and neighbors and family. They were laughing and talking and eating and fussing over their dishes and there was much scurrying back and forth and kids running in and out trampling the flowers. Florence was busy seeing to the table and filling up the milk pitcher and making coffee and being happy. Old Butch lay close by my griddle and we cooked hotcakes and felt very secure inside and at peace with the world.
These things I conjured up In my mind. It wasn’t to be a frivolous affair for me. It was a solemn occasion like worship or thankegiving. It was to repay in part the bits of courage each of those people had been called on to lend me when I needed bolstering. It was to be a reassurance that fellowship and neighborliness were the worthwhile things.
All thie, of course, was a remote thing then. As I put it down I realize there is only a small chance of its coming to pass but I realize too that It 1s worth striving for mightily.