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
UP Correspondent
U. S. S. CAHABA (AO-82)
c/o Fleet Post Office
San Francisco, California
In Port Somewhere,
1298 Kapiolani Boulevard
Honolulu  T H
Collated by Bill Hillman

The letters are to daughter Joan Burroughs unless otherwise stated

January 10, 1945
[From Tarzana to Thelma Terry]: My son got a 30 days leave in November and the Army gave me 45 days travel orders and shipped us both to the Mainland on the same plane. I spent the first Christmas in eleven years with my three children, with four grandchildren thrown in. It was a wonderful Christmas for me. Then I had to have an abdominal operation, and the Army gave me a thirty day extension for convalescence. I expect to be back in Honolulu about February 1st.
February 5, 1945
After four days of cold rain and high winds, I finally got off late Friday afternoon, arriving here about 4:30 A.M. (Honolulu time) Saturday, after bucking a 48 mile an hour head wind for 14 hrs and 14 min. . . . .  A lieutenant met me at the train in S.F. with a staff car and drove me to the airport, where I was treated wonderfully.  Instructions were given that if there was not a one bed room in the Visiting Officers' Quarters, I was to have a two bed room alone; so I had privacy.  The Visiting Officers' Mess was excellent.
Friday morning I was processed, getting another medical examination and vaccination. . . . . and took me to the plane.  He also got me into compartment B, where I had the lower berth. . . .  A couple of good looking flight nurses came up and sat on the edge of my bunk to smoke. . . .  Phil met me with a staff car and drove me to the Niumalu.
Tomorrow noon, I am going with Floyd (Adams) to Lum Young's farewell luncheon to his son, who has been inducted. Lum serves the most wonderful Chinese food you ever tasted. 
I keep thinking of the wonderful times I had back there with all of you. They are very pleasant memories.
February 14, 1945
Phil Ford has been after me  for a long time to write my autobiography; and today, with that in mind, I read my 1934 diary. It was rather tragic, yet there were many bright spots - the birth of Mike and my visits to the hospital to see you, and I was surprised to see how many times I saw you and the boys, and that several times you came to one of my numerous homes.
1934 was the year that Hully and Jack and I learned to fly, and Hully cracked up, and Jim Granger was killed in a crack-up. That wrote finis to my flying, but I hadn't remembered that I had over 30 hours of solo flights or how many fields I had made more or less decent landings on. But there was not much in it that would make an autobiography interesting to any one but myself.
Boris Karloff is here and wants to meet me. Phil is taking Mildred Rathbone, Edith Peterson, General Fielder, and me (and, of course, Wilma) to see him in Arsenic and Old Lace.
When Ernie Pyle comes back this way, Phil is going to see that I meet him. I am reading his BRAVE MEN now, the copy that Joan II gave me. Every day I re-read what she wrote on the fly leaf, and my heart swells - "To the "best Grampaw in the world."
February 21, 1945
[To Joan, Jack and Ralph]: (Hulbert) and I have accumulated a number of books since we have been here.  Being Burroughses, we hate to part with books.  Also, being Burroughses, we dread the thought of packing them all up at one time after the duration and six months.  So Hulbert suggested that we mail them back in driblets to Joan and Jack, thinking that they might like to read some of them and that we should then have them for our respective libraries when we return.
Book Shipment No. 1: Gem of the Prairie - an informal history of the Chicago underworld.  Interesting. ~ I Love You  I Love You - Bemelmans ~ Invitation to Experiment - Ira M Freeman Ph D. ~ The Devil's Dictionary - Ambrose Pierce ~ Night Shift - Maritta Wolf ~ Billy Mitchell. Founder of Our Air Force.  Swell.
February 22, 1945
[To Thelma Terry]: November 17th I shoved off for California. My son Hulbert was on the same plane with me, having a 30 day leave. I had 45 days. Then he was given a 20 day special assignment at an air field in Southern California, which was later extended. I was given a 30 day extension to undergo an abdominal operation; so we were both home a long time - over two and a half months. Hulbert had not been home for more than three years, I for nearly five. I had two grandsons I had never seen, and I spent the first Christmas in eleven years with my children - three of them and four grandchildren. We had a wonderful time.
February 27, 1945
[To John Coleman Burroughs]: Many Happy Returns of tomorrow. Under separate cover, I am mailing you a book of sketches by John Kelly, the outstanding artist of the Islands.
March 3, 1945

Was glad to learn that you are O.K. again. Leavelle was probably quite right (and playing safe) in diagnosing your trouble as "gingivitis".
We were all shocked at the reported loss of Genl. Harmon.  I met him on New Caledonia, where he was extremely nice to me. He was a respected and popular officer.
Was glad to know that Joanne is in Van Nuys High School.  It was a very fine school when Hulbert and Jack went there. . . 
March 12, 1945
I am sort of toying with the idea of returning to the mainland and staying there.  As I wrote Ralph, I am just wasting time here.  I have a couple of other very excellent reasons, which I shall lay before the board of directors if and when I return.
March 24, 1945
[To grandson Mike Pierce]: Most of my Army and Navy and Marine friends are now scattered all over the world.  Pretty soon they will be headed back here - many of them - when the war in Europe is over and the big push against Japan is under way.  I wish it were all over.
You say you are a bear cub.  What were you before?   I'm a little hazy on this Scout business.   You see, neither Hully nor Jack belonged; and there was no such thing when I was a boy.  As a matter of fact, nobody paid much attention to boys than except to see what they were doing and tell them to stop.
March 29, 1945
[March 19-29]: I have been doing too much partying lately: Outrigger for lunch. Scotch... beach... highballs... rum drinks... sun bathed... Outrigger... The Waikiki... dinner... cocktail lounge... highballs... bridge... highballs... poker... beer... Sun bath... cribbage... cocktail lounge... bridge... bottle... cocktail party and buffet supper... grand party... One lady got high... Sounds like Hollywood... entertaining three Navy officers... serving gin, Bourbon, and champagne... quite a party... Navy officers and two Niumalu girls... Hully came, bringing a bottle... sun bathed, lunched at the Outrigger... drove to the the Adamses' Kahala home, where Hully took pictures for a couple of hours... poker... finished the bottle... drove Hully to his bus... cribbage... bottle... midnight... dinner with colonel friend at Trader Vic's... cocktail lounge for highballs... opened a bottle of PM... to the tennis court looking for trouble,  I found it.
I read an awful lot. Am now trying to wade through Clauswits on War.  Very dull.
April 18, 1945
[To Thelma Terry: Comments on the drought and meat shortage in Australia. Ed remembers the wonderful meat he had in Sydney every day:  A grilled steak for breakfast, lamb for lunch, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding for dinner, and occasionally steak and kidney pie. Comments on the liquor situation: Supply was boundless in California but in Hawaii he can get only one bottle a week, although it can be bought by the drink in bars. Local liquor is inferior and mainland liquor is hard to get. Ed later reports that he can draw the same liqor ration as an officer, so he does all right. He sends his regards to the Mr. Young, the manager of Usher's in Sydney.
April 20, 1945
Thanks so much for the offer of your stock.  I don't know what Ralph will decide about the feasibility of making the transfers as gifts.  He definitely disapproved of sales for tax reasons.  I wonder if Americans will ever again be able to do what they wish with what belongs to them without being penalized.
Sol Lesser's son. Bud, a Marine Corps captain, took me out to Camp Catlin for dinner that same evening.  He is a very nice chap. Had invited several other officers to meet me, and after cocktails and a swell dinner, he ran three training films for us.
It looks now as though I should never get home - too many obstacles in the way.  Also, I shan't live forever.
May 2, 1945
[To son Jack]:Was not surprised to learn that J is running true to form.. He is a bum and a heel of the first water. If he gets too belligerent, all the other J would have to do would be to sock him one and he'd yell uncle. He's yellow.
Hully was in for a little while yesterday, and we played some cribbage. He does not seem very happy.  I wish that he could get out of the Army.  he has been here too long, and the whole thing is getting on his nerves.  It is what is known here as being Rock happy.  Like punch drunk.
You, Hulbert, Ralph seem to be all steamed up over the fear that I may remarry.  I am not planning on it. Should I ever do so, I shall have the gal sign away all rights in my corporation stock. What started all this interest in my connubiality?  Was it my friendship for D.D.?  I can think of no other reason. 
I was amused by your implication that no woman could marry me except for selfish reasons.  While it is not very flattering, I think I quite agree with you.  You see, I have a set of bathroom scales, a mirror, and a tape measure; and I am also fully aware of my many shortcomings.  But when I see some of the godawful, funny looking heels that some women really seem to love, I can almost believe that somewhere in the world there is a woman who might really love me.
. . . there has probably never been more than one woman in a million who married for purely unselfish reasons.  They may have wanted to escape unpleasant conditions at home or sought security or feared spinsterhood or wanted babies.  There is only one valid reason why I should ever want to marry again, and that is for companionship - something I have never really had.
If you are inducted, there is a chance that we can help you.  But if you want us to mind our own damn business, just say so.  You see, we love you a lot; and we'd like to see you assigned where your talents could make the whole thing less unpleasant for you as well as permitting you to do something more worth while for the war effort than just sitting in a fox hole waiting to get your purple heart.
Love to Jane, the two incendiaries (or is it arsonists)[John and Danton], and yourself, my dear boy. ~ OB

May 10, 1945
[To grandson Mike Pierce]: I suppose that you all celebrated V-E day back there.  About the only thing out of the ordinary that happened here was that the saloons were all closed for 48 hours.  Only they are not called saloons any more, just cocktail bars, General Dispensers, etc.
A cub scout drowned here last week in a heroic effort to save a playmate from drowning.  The latter, who could not swim, fell into deep water in a lake; and the cub jumped in after him.  But the other boy got panicky and grabbed the cub around the neck.  So they both drowned.  Have you been taught what to do in a case like that?   There may be some more modern way, but we were taught to clip the savee on the chin and knock him out - even if he were a girl.
I sort of thought that maybe I'd get myself a well trained German shepard when I got home, because I shall be living alone.  But I guess I won't.  It would just be another responsibility, and if I wanted to travel, I'd have to farm the dog out.  If he got sick, I'd have to nurse him.  If he died, I'd feel terribly.    So no dog.
May 27, 1945
I am off again on another adventure.  This one bids fair to be the best of all.  It will certainly be the plushest.
This ship is a fleet oiler.  It meets task forces and gives them gas and oil at sea.  I am looking forward to seeing this operation which must be thrilling. Am living and eating much better than I do at the Niumalu.  The Captain installed me in his quarters - two big rooms, a swell bath, a steward and a mess attendant.  I have been eating with the Captain, but shall go to some of the other messes occasionally.  As usual, everybody is swell to me. Unlike the merchant tankers, this is an all-Navy ship.  It has a complement of about 21 officers and 250 men, and, thank the Lord, a slew of guns.  It is heavily laden and rides like a Pullman, only much more quietly - no vibration at all.  It rolls constantly, and quite considerably.  Am slowly getting my sea legs, but I still stagger a lot.  At night the motion rocks you to sleep.  It is nothing like a destroyer in that respect,  I used to have to hang on tight sometimes to keep from being rocked out of my bunk in a destroyer. 
Yesterday we had fire drill and also fired at balloons released from the bridge.  We have sighted whales and porpoises and a wooden box. Anything you sight in this empty sea is exciting.  The ship is darkened from sundown to sunrise, but as my quarters are blacked out I can use the reading light over my bunk.  Before I turned in last night I went up to the bridge to have a look-see.  The night was beautiful - a calm sea, a full moon, the Southern Cross quite high above the horizon, a soft and balmy wind.  Our white wake stretched out for miles behind us, plainly marking our zig-zagging course, and the white water from bow to stern boiled silver in the moonlight.
This is a big ship (at least big to me),  I should say that it was as large as a small cruiser.  It is kept scrupulously clean.  There is no formality, but the discipline is fine.  The men are in dungarees, and the officers discarded their neckties and opened their shirts as soon as they came aboard.  So did I.  I already hate to think of leaving her, but as she may be out for a year I shall probably have to.  My travel orders permit me to return at any time on any Navy ship or plane that can take me.
Until after we got under way, I did not know where the ship was bound for; and the Skipper doesn't know where we may go from there. Anyway, it looks like a lot of excitement but not very much danger.
June 10, 1945
[U. S. S. CAHABA]:We are still at anchor, nor do we know exactly when we shall pull out of here - maybe in four or five days. . . . It has all been tremendously interesting, the only drawback being the damnable tropical heat. It is almost prostrating, and it affects about everybody the same way.   But our next move will probably be farther north, where it will be cooler. Several days ago I called on the Atoll Commander and asked permission for some of the ship's officers and me to visit the island where all the natives have been congregated, the island being Off Limits for all service personnel. He very kindly gave the necessary orders, and yesterday morning a Navy tug called for five of the Cahaba's officers and me. All together, we were a party of about thirty, including some ten or more Army and Navy nurses.
Each party contributed sandwiches, in addition to which we took along several cases of beer and plenty of ice. As usual, it was pretty rough in the lagoon; and as the main deck of the tug was being swept by nearly every wave, I went up to the flying bridge where the roll of the ship is far more noticeable - and did she roll! I hung onto a gun tripod all the way over to the island in order to keep my feet under me.
Arrived off the island, we transferred to an LCI: but she couldn't get her ramp onto the beach; so I jumped off in water up to my knees, getting my shoes full of coral sand and ocean. We went all through the village with a Public Relations Officer explaining things to us. There were two Navy photographers along, and several of the party had cameras, including Dr. Wieman; so I should be able to add some interesting pictures to ny already large collection. We were introduced to the king, an infantile paralysis victim who is pushed around in a two wheel cart, and he shook hands with each of us. There are about 250 natives in the village. They are Micronesians. They were very friendly and seemed quite happy to have us stare at and photograph them.
The married women wear a sort of lava lava around their hips, all other females wear a type of grass skirt that was entirely new to me. Not being a dress maker, I can't describe it. The men were the first aborigines I had ever seen who wore nothing but a very sketchy G-string. The older men were all tattooed. Most of then had designs covering their entire torsos, arms, and legs. If they had a mad on, those old fellows could have looked mighty ferocious; but they were all smiling. And did they love to he photographed. I was going to be photographed with one of them; so I called in a nurse from Los Angeles whom Dr. Wieman knew, and she was photographed between her two boy friends.
We had a swell picnic lunch in the village; then I hunted along the beach for shells. I have never seen such a dearth of shells on any South Pacific beach, and managed to get only a couple of inferior ones. Returning to the LCI I took off my shoes and sox this time, but I still got my pants wet. The return trip was even rougher than the other. I stood up again all the way - nearly an hour - and was I tired! The Port Director and the PRO invited us all to come to a dance on another island, which would have meant two long trips in a motor launch in rough water, I begged off, but I am afraid that I shall have to do it later on. Trips on this lagoon in small boats give one a terrific beating, but getting on and off the damned things is hell for me, I am so clumsy, I practically take my life in my hands every time I transfer from one bobbing, rolling thing to another bobbing and rolling in the opposite direction.   But I'm having fun.
Was just called to the starboard boat deck to be photographed with the Bos'n and two carpenters mates and a chair. The Bos'n designed and the two mates, built the chair and presented it to me the other day.   Everybody on the ship is swell to me. Every one has a smile. The Captain has been good enough to say that my presence aboard has done much for the morale of the crew. I hope so. There is not much else I could do for them.
The eight Chiefs had me down in their wardroom for supper Friday. Filet of beef, avocado salad, french fried potatoes, ice cream and cake. The Chiefs are the highest ranking enlisted men - the "backbone of the Navy". We live better way out here than a lot of people do in the States - and with no ration coupons. In the midst of this letter I had a session of bridge with three officers. Being a correspondent is rugged.
June 23, 1945
[U. S. S. CAHABA]: We are pulling out for our former port this afternoon. . . . Have visited one of the islands of the group among which we are anchored. The first time I went to the officers' recreation area with a Navy captain. . . . we cavorted to the Army landing on the island - about three miles from the Cahaba. The Colonel met us in his jeep and showed us around. He drove us to two Jap towns where the mayors entertained us with tea and cakes while I talked with then through our interpreter, an AJA from Honolulu. 
Between the two towns we went beyond our lines and into enemy country, where I had the distinction of being fired at by a Jap sniper - a lousy shot. Then, on our return to my ship, which had changed its station and had to be hunted for, a Jap suicide plane came over us. Ships around us were firing at it. I saw it drop a bomb on a large ship and then crash dive into another. It hit the first ship and set it afire. There must have been many casualties. The second ship shot it down at the last second.
We were called to battle stations several more times that night, but as I couldn't see anything because of the smoke screen that was laid down, I took my bunk as my battle station and went to bed. It must have been a big night in this area, as we are reported to have shot down thirty-seven enemy planes. It was quite an interesting day for OB.
July 2, 1945
[A Harbor]: We sail again tomorrow morning, and may be gone several weeks. The Captain thinks about three, but it may be longer.  Then we return here, when I shall leave for Honolulu.
July 14, 1945
Through the good offices of the Public Information Officer it was arranged that I leave by plane at one o'clock. But this necessitated my getting back to my ship immediately to pack my gear and get to the island where the air strip is located in nothing flat or less.
The LCVP stood by until I packed my gear, and then started off this island where I now am. It was then noon and I was supposed to be here before 1:00.  I asked the coxswain how long it would take to make the trip, and he said from an hour to an hour and a half. I told him I had bo be here before 1:00; so he opened the throttle.
If you have never been on an LCVP cruising at full speed - don't. The other member of the crew and I sat on life jackets under a tarpaulin forward. That part of the ocean that was not beneath us came over on top of us, but we made it in 35 minutes! And then I learned that my plane had been cancelled; so here I am, and for how long I do not know. But everyone has certainly made it very pleasant for me.

The Commanding Officer of this Marine Air Base gave upx (damn!) practically the entire afternoon for me, drove me around the island, showing me the very interesting set-up. I was located in the Biltmore in FLYSPECK HOTEL. The Biltmore is a tent. FLYSPECK HOTEL is a large group of tents - Officer Country. At 4:30 I foregathered in the Officers' Club with three young ensigns whom we had taken aboard our ship farther north. They are on their way to the States for flight training. We discussed Bourbon highballs until nearly 6:00 - Bourbon highballs, and darned good ones, at 10 cents each!
At 6:00 I went to the quarters of the Commanding Officer of the MARINE AIR GROUP that is stationed here. Several other officers were there and some more highballs. Then to the Officers' Mess for chow, after which we returned to the Colonel's quarters, where a padre told us about the natives of this atoll until around 10:00 P.M.  It was extremely interesting. Instead of returning to the Biltmore I was put up for the night in the Colonel's Guest House - a 20x20 tent with a plank deck and an electric light. The Colonel brought me a large thermos full of drinking water and a tin hat for a wash basin. Wherever I go people are nice to me, but no one has ever been any nicer than these Marines. This morning the Colonel got me a typewriter and stationery, and I am writing now in his quarters.
I may get a plane out today, and I may not. It will take me to an island I have never visited; and even if I can get immediate transportation to Pearl, I expect to remain over for at least one day in order to see something of the island. It would be stupid not to.
April 18, 1945
[To Thelma Terry]: Comments on the drought and meat shortage in Australia. Ed remembers the wonderful meat he had in Sydney every day:  A grilled steak for breakfast, lamb for lunch, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding for dinner, and occasionally steak and kidney pie. Comments on the liquor situation: Supply was boundless in California but in Hawaii he can get only one bottle a week, although it can be bought by the drink in bars. Local liquor is inferior and mainland liquor is hard to get. Ed later reports that he can draw the same liqor ration as an officer, so he does all right. He sends his regards to the Mr. Young, the manager of Usher's in Sydney.
August 15, 1945
[To grandson Mike Pierce from 1298 Kapiolani Boulevard]: I had just finished reading letters from you and Jack yesterday and was writing Jack when the air raid sirens announced the end of the war at 1:45 P.M.(HWT).  It was wonderful.
Hully is still waiting for his ship to sail.  He may have to wait a long time, or it might sail any day.  He will be glad to get home and I know that you will be glad to see him.  I do not know what I am going to do.  If I were certain that I could rent an apartment around Beverly Hills or Westwood, I'd come home right away.  But the chances are that I shall stay here until there is some likelihood of my being able to build at Tarzana.
September 23, 1945
As I wrote Ralph today. I had a heart attack recently which will probably keep me in bed for some tine. I am improving rapidly and in no danger. Marian phoned today that she is leaving on the Matsonia tomorrow. I am sure that you will like her as she is a sweet girl. Through Phil's courtesy, Pfc Donard Hawks is taking dictation, as the doctor will not let me exert myself in any way.
October 23, 1945
You ask how much I want to pay for a place. All I can afford. Ask Ralph how much that is. He probably knows better then I do, but I'd go pretty high for a nice place to live, having no wives to support.
Just this minute had a radiogram saying that Jack would meet me in SF. That is good. Only a few more days!   I am sure that none of you can imagine how much I want to be with you.
So the Major and the Mrs. are not back yet!   What a honeymoon! They must be having a wonderful time, Hulbert deserves one. He is a grand guy. When his eight hundred smackers are gone, he'll come home and be just what he has been calling me: "A goddam civilian." I hope that Marian, being a non-drinker, will have a beneficial influence on Hulbert, the souse.   I am sure that you will love her, even on Coca Cola.
The Army has kept me fed for weeks. This is my 57th day confined to my room, and most of the time in bed. Every one is wonderful to me. You would love them all. Mildred Rathbone, whose car I bought and never have driven has done all my errands for me. 
 I show his (Mike) picture to everybody and brag about him and Johnny and Danny just as though I had had something to do about it.  If I wanted fame, all I'd have to do would have been to show my three grandsons and my glamorous Joan II to the goggle eyed world.
November 29, 1945
[To Mrs. Charles Westendarp]: Hulbert and Marion are getting into their house Saturday and I am almost settled in mine, but can't really get to housekeeping until the contractor finishes building servants' quarters for me. We each have a nice little place here in the Valley. Mine is only perhaps a mile-and-a-half from the office, and Hulbert's is quite close to Joan. As Jack lives at Tarzana, we are all quite close to one another but far enough away so that we can't fight too much.

Source: The Danton Burroughs ~ John Coleman Burroughs ~ ERB, Inc. Archives
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