William T. Calhoun
The sun shone brightly
as the great ship passed under the Golden Gate and followed the Navy blimp,
November 23, 1943. It carried over 14,000 Army and Navy passengers headed for
points they had never been. My group knew we were bound for the 503rd
Parachute Infantry Regiment.
After serving longer than
any other officer in with F Company, almost unbelieving, I walked down the gang
plank from the old ship to the wharf at Portland, Oregon a week before Christmas
1945. The physical trials had been great: thirst, hunger, bone tiredness, filth,
heat, cold (yes, it's cold up on 4,000 feet, wet mountains even in the tropics),
and times when a cigarette was our only recreation. But physical discomforts
are superficial which can be laughed at... later.
It is the
that are seared in the soul. The memory of those young men with whom you served
will never end. We were a close team, brothers following orders in every move.
Our association was seven days a week. More that that, we company grade officers
were required to censor mail- a hated task. I learned their loved ones,
their dreams, their fears, their plans for the future, and often their inner
thoughts. To some I became father-confessor. As some made the supreme
sacrifice, the living became more precious. "Oh, God, don't let them die!"
Though that pain began so long ago, it is still here today. The tears still flow
and will as long as I draw breath.
Does it matter? Do the
thoughts that remain cemented in my mind for over 50 years matter? As long as I
live, it matters. My obsession is a holy quest to remind all who will listen of
the brave who gave their lives for us. Can I forget my thoughts, as I saw 20
year old Theodore's dying spasms, of his two baby boys, one who he had never
seen? Can I forget my thoughts of 19 year old Karl whose last word were "Momma."
Of his letters full of assurance to his older parents assuring them that their
only son would be safe? Our regimental song has words which express my pride in
serving with them: "...I'm proud I'm allowed..." My hopes are in inscribed
in the Pacific War Memorial on Topside:
|SLEEP, MY SONS , YOUR
LIGHT HAS COME,
|SLEEP IN THE
DEPTHS OF THE SEA,
|OR IN YOUR BED
OF HALLOWED SOD,
|UNTIL YOU HEAR
|THE LOW, CLEAR
REVEILLE OF GOD