Reading’s Boys #5: February-March 1944

Fred Melvin Day (February-March 1944)

The last we heard of Fred, he had just landed in Bougainville with the 37th Infantry Division. Though he had seen very little combat over the past few weeks, all of that was going to change during the month of March 1944. There was an attack coming their way and Hill 700 was in danger. Fred, being a Second Lieutenant, was probably a bit more in the know than the average Private, but not by much. What Fred definitely did know, though, was that Hill 700 was too important to lose.

The Japanese came forward at dawn on March 8 and slammed into the 145th Infantry Regiment holding Hill 700. The 145th Infantry Regiment, exhausted, hungry, tired, hot, and thirsty, held the line. It is my understanding that during this time, the 148th Infantry Regiment did not see much action. But I feel pretty confident that they must have heard the vicious firefight going on in the woods near them. When it came time to relieve the 145th Infantry Regiment, I wonder if Fred Day was relieved to see the 2nd Battalion, 148th Infantry get called in instead of his Company K, 3rd Battalion. I can almost see him now, sitting in his foxhole with an NCO, his eyes wide with worry and his body covered with dirt, and then his face just relaxing. I wonder if Fred went and visited the foxholes of his men and let them know the good news himself. I wonder if he asked them how they were doing if they wanted to talk about anything if they missed one of their buddies, their families, their partners back home.

In the aftermath of the Battle of Bougainville, the 148th Infantry Regiment was selected to do patrols through the 

area. It seems that different men went each time and that they were very successful, but there are not many other details I could find about them. The important thing was that our Fred was alive. He was still breathing, he was right where he belonged – with his men. He was coming into his own as a leader. Fred Melvin Day was finding himself.

John Francis Beaudoin (February-March 1944)

During the months of February and March 1944, John Beaudoin, of 32 Park Avenue, was struggling mightily. Sometime in February, John reported to the aid station for the 182nd Infantry Regiment on Bougainville with an ear infection, and almost as soon as he was discharged, he would end up going right back. But this time, it was malaria. And it was bad enough to keep him off the line for nearly a month.

The type of malaria that John developed, and the type that I have come across the most when going through Pacific Theater hospital admission cards, is vivax malaria. This type of malaria can present itself in many different ways, but some of the symptoms include loss of taste, pain while swallowing, a cough, and pain while urinating. But what is going on inside the body is often more sinister and requires treatment. Perhaps one of the worst parts of this, though, is that it is very likely to come back after the initial infection has been treated. This was very much the case for John. Malaria was taken quite seriously during World War II, but especially so in the Pacific Theater where at any one time, I guarantee you could find at least 3,000 cases of malaria amongst troops. 

I wonder if John felt relieved that by being in the hospital, he had not been fighting. But I suppose it is equally possible that he felt a strong sense of guilt that he wasn’t there, especially as he watched casualties be pulled into the aid station.

Herbert Elliot Stark (February-March 1944)

Standing 5’10” tall and weighing 180 pounds, Herbert Stark walked into the Lafayette Building in Wakefield to fill out his draft card. He did this on February 15, 1942. On November 12, 1942, Herbert was drafted into the United States Army and after undergoing training, was assigned to the 30th Infantry Division, 30th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop (Mechanized). Though the 30th Infantry Division would not reach France until June 1944, in February 1944 Herbert passed through his home state one last time before going off to war.

On February 2, 1944, the 30th Infantry Division arrived at Camp Myles Standish in Taunton, Massachusetts. The kid from 98 Lowell Street would have known right then and there that his unit would be heading to Europe. I wonder if he kept his face glued to the train window on the way to Taunton, or if he tried his best to not pay any attention at all. 

On February 12, the 30th Infantry Division left for England aboard the SS Brazil, SS Argentina and the SS John Ericsson. They arrived in Glasgow, Scotland on February 22 and took a train to the south coast of England. From February right up to June 6, 1944, the young men of the 30th Infantry Division trained for the invasion of Normandy. A judgment day of an entirely different style approached, and I’m sure Herbert probably wondered if he’d ever see Massachusetts again.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email