Danton Burroughs
From Tarzana, California
Memories from the
Danton Burroughs
Family Album 
Major E. R. Jack Burroughs
Excerpts from the Wartime Letters of 
the Oldest Correspondent in the WWII Pacific Theatre
Edgar Rice Burroughs
c/o G-2 First Island Command
Somewhere in South Pacific
1298 Kapiolani Boulevard
Honolulu  T H

Collated by Bill Hillman

The letters are to daughter Joan Burroughs unless otherwise stated
January 16, 1944
[To 1st Lieut. Michael Pierce, Bel-Air Rangers, Bel-Air, Los Angeles, California.] As a Ranger, you would have enjoyed being with me the other day when I visited a jungle training unit.  . . . The training is certainly rugged.  The men engage in personal combat without weapons, learning all the dirty fighting tricks that gangsters, muckers, Apaches (the French kind), and hoodlums ever devised, to which have been added some super-duper atrocities heretofore unknown, plus judo.  While I was watching one class, the men were tossing each other all over landscape - and hard. Another class was being instructed in river crossing under fire. Some of the men, wearing only their birthday suits, were swimming the river, pushing their clothing and equipment ahead of them in little boats made of a shelter half filled with brush.   Others were crossing in similar but larger boats made of truck tarpaulins -about seven men to a boat.  These men were fully clothed and equipped. Others were crossing on a rope bridge which they had strung across the river between two trees. It was about ten feet above the water. Another unit built a narrow foot bridge that floated on the surface. All the time, TNT and dynamite were being exploded on land and in the water to simulate bombs, shells, and grenades.  Water and mud flew a couple of hundred feet into the air, nearly swamping the boats or almost knocking the men off the rope bridge, and deluging the innocent bystanders, of whom I was one. Another unit was learning jungle infiltration tactics.  Two men at a time would sneak down a steep, muddy jungle trail with fixed bay-onets ready for any emergency.  From behind a tree, a Jap would leap out and swing a mean haymaker at the leading man.  If he ducked in time, O.K.   If he didn't, he got a wallop that sat him down hard. At the bottom of the ravine, a Jap sniper hid behind a tree.  As a soldier bayoneted him, another Jap swung, down from a tree on the side of the ravine and knocked him sprawling into the mud.  While I was watching, I saw a captain get it - and how. These Japs were. of course, dummies.  But the boys went after them as though they were the real thing.  The jungle is real jungle - worse than anything I saw in the South Pacific.  I was surprised that we had such jungles here.  So the training is most realistic, and should save many lives by training our men how to meet Jap tactics in a favorite Jap terrain. There was lots more that I saw, but these that I have told you and the village fighting were the most interesting.
I hope, Mike, that you will never have to fight in a war; but I also hope that you will get all the military training you can and that your generation will insist on compulsory military training for all young men.  If we train our millions and maintain a large Navy and Army in peace time, no nation will dare make war unless we are on its side.  So there won't be any war - I hope.

February 26, 1944
[To son Jack] It's swell in your declining years to have nice children - as I so well know.  Still, I am not declining everything.  The trouble is, people won't leave me alone. They even drag me out of bed to contribute to my delinquency.
March 30, 1944 ~ "From An Atoll in the Central Pacific"
I'm off again; and, as usual, having a grand time.  I left Honolulu on an LB 30 March 20, remained overnight on Johnston Island, and arrived at an advanced base on an atoll the following day. Brig. Gen, Landon, Commanding General of the 7th Array Air Force Bomber Command, took me right into his quarters; and I have been living with him and Col. Clarence Hegy ever since. Hully blew in to the same atoll on the 26th. 
Landon moved his headquarters the morning of the 27th, and Hully (now a Captain) was down at the plane with two of his men, taking pictures.  He took one of the general and me by the general's plane.. . .   I flew up to this advanced base with the general in his plane, a new B-24 (Liberator) heavy bomber.  What a plane.
Have been on two bombing missions. The Japs threw ack ack at us both tines, but didn't come near us.  I watched the bombs fall all the way to the targets and saw the bursts.  They were 500 lb bombs.  A village and a radio installation took them on the chin.
On this atoll, the Japs still stink; and the day I arrived they dug up a couple while excavating a trench.  It is cool and comfortable here, with a stiff breeze blowing constantly.  A blanket is comfortable at night. There is no malaria, no mosquitoes, and very few flies; so, little illness.
The other day I flew with the general to another atoll still farther west, passing over Jap held islands, where the so-and-sos must be starving to death.  They will probably eat the natives first and then the Korean laborers.
Living with a general is something.  We have a 20 ft square frame and screen house with a canvas roof.  We also have a lavatory in the house. The general has a private shower in a nearby building, which I use.  He had a private Chick Sale on the other atoll, but here he shares a four holer with other officers.
Landon is a young general - only 37 - but I am told that he is one of the finest air generals in the array.  His officers and men worship him.  He is a West Pointer, extremely democratic and approachable.  His command is tops.  I have never heard an unpleasant word spoken since I have been with it.  His bombers are doing a fine job over all these is-lands all the way to Truk.
April 28, 1944
[To grandson Mike Pierce] For the past five weeks I have been sleeping on Army cots, usually without a pad or a pillow. And for all that time I never had hot water for washing or shaving. Those things are not hardships - they are just discomforts. They are good for a fellow once in a while.
Coming back from Tarawa, I was on a big four-engine transport plane bringing back some casualties. There was one extra litter, so I flew home horizontal, which was far more comfortable than the gosh-awful tin bucket seats. I was at the bottom of a tier of four litters, with just barely room enough to squeeze out occasionally and roll on the floor in a most undignified manner before I could stand up.
I flew about 7,000 miles this time - in C-47s, C-54s, and B-24s. The B-24s were most uncomfortable, as the wind blew up around the ball turret and out the tail-gunner's back window. And it was darned cold at nine and ten thousand feet. I always stand up in B-24s to keep from freezing to death. Just that little moving around keeps my blood from congealing. But I'm sure tired by the time we come in. . . .  As a matter of fact, Mike, I hate flying. I have flown about 15,000 miles since the war began, all over water. I am never air-sick, nor do high altitudes affect me unpleasantly; but I still hate flying.
One phase of flying a B-24 always scares me stiff. Those in the waist have to go forward when the plane is taking off. The only place for me to go was the cat-walk through the bomb-bay. It is about eight inches wide, and the space between the bombs is so narrow that I have to slither through sideways. It is also dark and cramped and no place to look out except a tiny crack at the forward end of the bomb-bay doors. And noisy! Gosh! And rough, too, as the plane gets up speed. You know they run about a mile during the take-off. And there is the knowledge that in a crackup, everyone in the bomb-bay is always killed. I used to watch that crack in the bottom of the front end of the bomb-bay, and I didn't breathe easily until I saw green water and knew that we were airborne. I can think of lots of pleasanter places to travel than in a bomb-bay.
May 5, 1944
[To Thelma Terry]: He writes that he is  just back from some island hopping -- twelve islands in six atolls. "Got as far as Eniwetok. Had a wonderful time. Passed over several Jap held islands, from which they threw everything they had at us - which was not much. Was in a heavy bomber that dropped 500 pounders on them -- a beautiful sight. On two different atolls I bumped into my son, who is in the Army Air Force. He was recently promoted to captain." 
June 22, 1944
[To newborn grandson, Danton Burroughs]: Just two years ago today your brother arrived when our world did not look too bright.  But you come in on the crest of a victorious wave that is carrying us and our allies to successful ending of World War II much sooner than we had expected. If your generation shows more intelligence than past generations, perhaps there will be no more wars.  But that is almost too much to expect.  However, there is a chance.  You have been born into the greatest nation the world has ever known.  Keep it great.  Keep it strong.  If you do, no country will dare to go to war if we say no. Put this letter away and read it June 21st 1965.  You will be of  age then.  See then if the politicians have kept your country great and strong.  If they haven't, do something about it.  If I'm around I'll remind you. Good luck my boy, Your Grandfather, Edgar Rice Burroughs
July 7, 1944

[To Thelma Terry]:  Ed sees son, Hulbert occasionally when he is not off on a mission. "He was in Sydney early in 1942 with Gen. Emmons. I doubt that the will get there again, as his outfit operates in the Central Pacific." Ed asks Terry if she can find a replacement for a brass war correspondent insignia (available only in Australia) that he lost at Kwajalein. He sends a tracing of it for identification. 
August 7, 1944
[To Jane Ralston Burroughs]: I did not say that I didn't like the name Danton.  I think I just asked how come?  It is an unusual name; so naturally I wondered about it. Both Hulbert and I have been wondering what Jack is doing since his Douglas job folded.
September 6, 1944
[To Joan]:We were both so glad to know that you were having such a good time (in Chicago), and we both agreed that you had a lot of good times coming to you.  Lorraine and her husband sound very good to me.  . . . I didn't see anything about Chez Paris. Don't tell me you didn't go there. I was dragged there nearly every night for two weeks, as our host and hostess practically lived in the joint. Did you get to the Pump Room in Ambassador East? That place practically floored me. I never before or since saw so much silly mumbo jumbo connected with donning the well known feed bag. The serving of food closely resembled a Ringling Brothers circus parade. . . . I got an inkling that some of my friends were going to pull a birthday party on me; so I asked Hulbert to invite me out to Hickam for dinner and the night. There were Hulbert, three other officers, and myself. Hulbert did the cooking, and  is he good! Steak with onions, french fried potatoes, corn, tomatoes, raisin rolls! . . . Am mighty glad he (Jack) didn't go back to Douglas. He should go a long way in the work he is doing now. He's a swell kid.
September 6, 1944
[To John Coleman Burroughs]:  We were both delighted to hear of your new connection.  It sounds might encouraging for the future.  It also sounds damned interesting and right up your alley.  Am glad that you are working under a nice chap who appreciates your ability.  Harry Cohen, president of Columbia, is an old friend of mine I'd hate like hell to work for him myself; so I am glad that you went with Universal.
Had a letter from Joan yesterday.  She seems to have been having a wonderful time in Chicago, for which both Hulbert and I were very glad. She has a lot of good times due her.
Wish that I might see Johnny and Danton before they grow long white beards. . . . Am glad that you got Johnny a rocking horse. . . . I know from experience how darned expensive babies are; so if you need any financial assistance, let me know.
Ralph has written me about Mother's ashes, and that he has arranged matters satisfactorily.  Thank you both very much for looking after this for me.
I want some one to tell me how the flowering eucalyptus trees around the tract have fared.  Also about the old walnut trees on my lot behind the office and the other trees I had transplanted there from the old homestead.
September 16, 1944

[To Jane Ralston Burroughs]: When Jack Benny was here this week I had him and Larry Adler at lunch at the Outrigger Canoe Club with some of my friends.  The next day we all went as Jack's guests to see his show at one of the recreation centers here.  We had staff cars and a motorcycle escort of MPs.  I rode to and from with Carole Landis.  She is very lovely and very sweet. (Oh, to be seventy again!)  The audience at the show was almost as interesting as the show - some 18,000 to 20,000 service men.  They ribbed Jack, which is part of every show he gives for them.  He is a swell guy - with no swelled head.
Tomorrow, I am invited to a party at the Hallidays on the other side of the island.  He is John Halliday the stage and screen actor.  On account of rubber and gas I have not seen much of them lately, as it is quite a trip over the Pali to Kaneohe where they live.
September 23, 1944
I have not been behaving very well lately.  Two or three Marines from Saipan have been making my room their headquarters when they come in town from the hospital (they are all casualties).  They have brought in half a dozen bottles of Bourbon and a couple of cases of beer, and they come in and make whoopie.  One of them is Capt. Don Jackson, a friend of Rochelle and Hal Thompson.
Jack writes me that you were expected home on the 22nd; so I suppose you are back there now.  I am glad that you had such a wonderful time in Chicago.  The Allens must be tops.  Old friends are pretty nice. 
The Westons are about the only old friends I have kept in touch with, but I have made a lot of new ones, especially since the war.  I've been making a card index of the people I have met since December 1942.
September 23, 1944
[To John Coleman Burroughs]: It is amazing what water will do in that country.  The black walnut at the office went both figuratively and literally nuts when it got a lot of water after we built there.  Thanks for the trees you planted on my lot. 
Hulbert has a terrible going home complex.  I think that if he could get home for just a short leave it would fix him up.
Am glad that Johnny likes his "Fony".  One cannot learn to ride too young.  Give him my love, and tell Danton to take his fingers out of his mouth and try putting his feet in.  That is far more intriguing.
October 13, 1944
[To John Coleman Burroughs]: one hundred and eleven (111) years ago your Grandfather Burroughs was born in Warren, Massachusetts, October 13 1833.  He died thirteen days before you were born.
I just dug out a genealogical datum that may interest you:  The average age at death of eighteen of your ancestors (and mine) was eighty-one years.  The youngest died at sixty-nine, the oldest at ninety-three.
Now I gotta go back to the hotel and get into my uniform.  I only wear it when I'm likely to go onto a military reservation; because I am so goddam old that everybody takes me either for God or a major general and salutes me.  It is rabarrassing.

Source: The Danton Burroughs and ERB, Inc. Collection
Copyright 2003 ~ Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.

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