Darling Edith, Dearest Wayne
The WWII Correspondence of Two Young Lovers
Wayne was a USNR LCT skipper in the Mediterranean but he was attached to the British Operation during the landings of Sicily, Salerno and Anzio. He continued his Brit friendships each year by visits to England for the RNVR “Mediterranean Landing Craft Association” meetings. Wayne and Edith’s letters are augmented by excerpts from the Papers of Langan Swent, Wayne’s friend and fellow LCT skipper. These daily journal entries tell the tale that Wayne’s letters could not, as censorship rules precluded sharing any detail of his “work” in N. Africa, Sicily, Italy, England or France.
In Wayne’s last letter in July, 1945, he wrote to his family:
I respectfully request permission to enter the pro- and anti-British discussions now underway. I feel that I am qualified to speak, having been attached to three different British task forces for as many major operations.
Firstly, the British have carried their share and more in every instance I know of. And they’ve done it with a hell of a lot less to work with. For example, they carried about one third of the Salerno load. Their Pioneer Corps (labor battalion) was made up exclusively of men we’d call 4f’s, or Concies. These men unloaded cargo for 16 hours per day under shell fire, and never left the job. Our labor parties worked 8 hours, and ran like hell if it got rugged.
The British manned an LST with 46 men, we used 120. They lived on terrible rations – ours were bad, but a treat to a Britisher. They got 50 cigarettes a week, we got all we wanted. They stuck it out at Anzio to the bitter end, we got relieved for a few days rest every now and then, once things settled down a bit. They operated with a bilge pump operating in every compartment as a matter of course, we only did this as an extreme emergency measure, and were dry docked at first opportunity. As an Ensign I made more money than a Lt. Comdr. in their Navy, and I’ve been promoted twice since. The Limeys I worked with are still Subies.
And as far as the Pacific war goes, they’ll be there, never doubt it for a moment. They’ll be there with everything they have that we want. Probably a lot of their army won’t come – we don’t want it – and remember, I landed men at Anzio that had been fighting across Africa for five long years – and these same men are in the Berlin guard now.
Their Navy will be there, with everything they have. A British naval officer looked on the ETO campaign as we did, a half way mark on the road back home. And after you’ve worked with their Navy for a while, you’ll probably be willing to admit they’re the best damn sailors afloat. In some respects they’re slow, cautious and exasperatingly wound up in red tape, but for unadulterated guts – you’ll take off your hat to them.
As for Churchill, I believe he’ll live in history with a niche above Disraeli, Palmerston, Gladstone, etc. But I’ll also stick my neck out by predicting Churchill will not be reelected, for the Englishmen I know think he’s the man for the war, not for the peace. If he’s reelected, it’s for the Pacific War.
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