WAR DIARY

PERSONAL WAR DIARY OF DALE B. KIRKHAM 1944-1945

My name is Dale Bruce Kirkham and this is my War Diary.  Whenever I talk about the war, I have a line I like to use.  It goes something like this, “I spent my nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first birthdays overseas.”  I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of that line.  It’s a great conversation starter.  Here is the story.

I was 18 years old when I enlisted to fight for our country in the Second World War.  I grew up in rural Utah, born May 24, 1925.  Growing up my friends called me ‘Ham’ short for KirkHAM, or ‘Snowball’ because of my blonde hair. By anyone’s standards, eighteen is a very young age for a boy to go to war who has never been off the farm in Utah before.

ASSIGNMENT TO THE SOLOMON ISLANDS

After completing boot camp in Farragut Idaho, I was assigned to a brutal, war-torn but obscure area of the world for a tour of duty in the otherwise picturesque waters of the South Pacific.  These were some of the bloodiest waters in the world.  My ship was a little flat-bottom landing craft number 222, my lucky number ever since that day. A landing craft is not a glamorous ship but is about the same size as a medium size yacht.  A landing craft, otherwise known as an LCI(L) (Land Craft Infantry), was at that time the smallest vessel in the navy fleet that is still large enough to be classified as a ship.  The craft itself is 159 feet long and 23 feet wide, and brings to mind a maritime image of ‘the little train that could’. LCI’s played a vital role in war effort, delivering men, ammunition, defense, and supplies to the fighting fronts of so many of the battles of World War II.  Those of us who served aboard these little ships know that we had a lot to do with winning that horrible war.

Rare color photo of LCI222 while beached in the Solomon Islands

LIFE ON A LANDING CRAFT

Life aboard the LCI(L)222 is what some may call ‘undesirable duty.’  I know that’s what I called it!  I tell my family it was the sort of assignment that was fit only for criminals and other condemned men.  Sometimes when we would find ourselves in high seas, or when we would experience hours of lonely desperation, that’s the way I felt – like I was in prison.  As memory serves, most sailors who came aboard the 222 didn’t last very long, certainly not as long as I did at any rate. I was aboard that little boat for a year and 10 months.  That’s 95 weeks, or 16,056 hours but who’s counting? I saw many young men come and go during those 95 weeks.  I also saw lots of water, palm trees, soldiers, and natives, but one thing I didn’t see for nearly two years was a white woman.  I also don’t remember eating any ice cream or other such luxuries on the 222 because we didn’t have refrigeration or at least not enough to carry frivolous food.  But it would have been nice at times because the heat out there was incredible.  As a result, I seldom wore a uniform during the day, opting instead to wear cutoffs and go shirtless.

Another funny thing that took a while to figure out was why the ship’s chief pharmacist always went around nursing a cup of coffee when it was so blasted hot.  He did have a bit of a glow on his face all the time and after a while I realized that because he had access to the stores of ethel alcohol, and who knows what else.  So he could get away with lacing his coffee a bit to ease the monotony of life aboard the tooth-jarring, flat-bottom boat.  Continue>

LCI(L)222 commendations and radio signal

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