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Letter from a Soldier, March 2, 1942 (Read 7509 times)
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Letter from a Soldier, March 2, 1942
Jul 11th, 2008, 11:55pm
                                                                Somewhere in Bataan
                                                                March 2, 1942

"Writing this letter and expecting it to ever reach you is being about as optimistic as I'd be in putting it in a bottle in midocean.  However rumor has it that occasionally a letter does slip out of this embattled speck on the map, by what means of course I cannot divulge.  However, here goes.

The things that I write are rather prosaic and because of the necessary censorship, the real story of the things that would be of interest to people outside must remain untold.  Since shortly after the  beginning, I've been at the front with an infantry regiment.  So far I am still in one piece, - how or why God only knows, for so many close friends have already "gone west".  There has been some rather heavy fighting but owing to the recent lull, I'm grabbing this chance to write you and the family.  There have been weeks without rest or even the chance to take off our shoes.  We are all tired but we seem to have done the Japs alot of harm.  The heaviest fighting is usually done at night in dense jungle.  The dead lying around begin to get ripe very soon and the smell and flies in the combat areas are pretty strong.

Deeds of valor are so common so as to be rather commonplace.  Decorations are being handed out in large numbers.  But most of them who deserve them will forever remain unrecognized for there were no one left to tell the tale.  My old cavalry regiment has covered itself with glory ever since the very beginning.  I've lost so many close friends in the regiment.  Still, we can't let ourselves think of those who go on or of home or of things that used to be.  Everything is so impersonal.  When we snatch a rare opportunity to get a little sleep, we do dream.

News of the outside happenings does trickle in once in a while.  In a recent nasty scrap I was close to a tank waiting to go into action.  The tank radio was on and we got San Francisco.  We heard a radio commentator make a remark which seemed quite to the point: 'Now that the glory has been passed out, how about sending the boys some help?'.  Fantastic rumors go about, only to be discounted.  There are likewise fantastic stories of happenings at the front, which are really unbelievable but nevertheless true.  Maybe if I live through this I'll be able to tell you a few.

I took advantage of the sort spell I was in Manila before its fall to send a radio home.  Things happened so suddenly that there was left undone so much.  I radioed Clark (AFB) that I was cabling (Jim) funds to pay the architect and to pay my taxes.  However, I couldn't get the funds out.  My bank balance which was quite a bit plus everything else I owned seems now to have gone with the wind.  I've taken out a $10,000 service insurance payable to mother and dad.  Don't sell my house unless I get killed.  Split my bank balance between F____ and J__.  I have alot of things stored in Washington, D.C.  There are alot of valuable things and some only of sentimental value to me.  The stuff is all there for you to pick what you want.  I know this isn't much of a will but it can be used as such.

Don't be too much concerned about what is happening to me.  After all it's a soldiers greatest reward to die for his country on the battlefield.  There are lots worse ways to pass out of the picture.  By the same token the people back home shouldn't whine or complain about doing without a few luxuries or taking minor discomforts.  You don't know the meaning of sacrifice.

I trust that all at home are well.  Tell them not to worry.  No news is good news.  If anything happens the War Department will let you know promptly: I wonder if I am the new uncle to a niece or another nephew?  Tell F___ I am looking forward someday to getting out our fishing tackle and snaring some more weakfish.

remember me to all and the best of luck to you and yours,


Lt. Col. Alexander G. Olsen, US Army Cavalry
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petrao57   IP Logged
Rainbow Trout  aka Sue
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Re: Letter from a Soldier, March 2, 1942
Reply #1 - Jul 15th, 2008, 4:01am
7/22/08 EDITED

Thank you for allowing this to be cross posted. These are just a few of the comments I have  received after posting this letter.  What I noticed is Col Olsen seems to exemplify the original motto of the United States, E Pluribus Unum: One people out of many tribes.  His words find a home with all who read them,  including other veterans. One veteran returned the the Colonel's gift of language with  the gift of the language of poetry.

* Thanks so much for sharing this!  What a fine man he was.

* This made me cry.  It really hits home to all of us just what a horrific war that was and how lucky those of us are who had family members come home physically intact.

* There is a book on one company (B) of the 192nd Tank BN., that was in the Bataan Death march - I wonder which unit this man was in - his name is not on the ones I have - even now this is so horrible to read - does this person
know if he is listed on any memorial  for those that didn't come home?  If anyone is interested, I can post those names that were in Co B of the 192nd Tank BN who were in the Bataan Death March.  Delilah

* If they want a copy of where he is listed,  go to http://www/   then click on WW2 and put his last name in the search box, also if they want they can write the AMBC and they will send a photo of the entire cemetery, a book on the cemeteries and a Presidential Proclamation, I believe the links to these are on the left side of the home page of American Battle Monuments
Commission.  They listed his actually the official end was 12/3l/1946. Delilah

* Thank you for posting this, so very sad, truthful,  letter .
My father didn't come home either & I often wondered how he felt about his chances of making it . His letters home were always very positive , but I did wonder what he was really  thinking , & I think that letter tells it all .
I really  enjoyed reading the letter , but also felt very sad, but sure  respected his honestly & what a lovely person he sounded , his family must have been proud of him .

* I think the Lt. Col. would have appreciated the sentiments of a short poem, written by Gerald Kersh, 1st. Battalion Coldstream Guards. (British 8th Army)   It was written on a piece of paper discovered, being blown around by the wind, in the Western Desert some time in 1941/2,   It echoes what I think most of us felt when going into action in WW2, especially for the first time:

"I'm but the son my mother bore.
"A simple man, and nothing more.
"But, God of Strength and Gentleness,
"Be pleased to make me nothing less."

Regards, Frank

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« Last Edit: Jul 22nd, 2008, 10:09am by Rainbow Trout  aka Sue »  
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Re: Letter from a Soldier, March 2, 1942
Reply #2 - Jul 17th, 2008, 5:12am
To all who have responded - my ever grateful thanks, both from me his grand-nephew and my father who adored him.  This search of mine, performed in-between jobs, gave me and my Olsen family everlasting gratitude to the people who helped and responded to my inquiries.  To those still searching, or wondering if it can be done, yes, with a little diligence - even after 66 years we were finally able to find out the truth of his 'war'.  Thru two years of "Internet" work, we were able to find out that he escaped from Bataan to Corregidor, and then was lost on a mission of escape with 4 Phillipine Scouts of different regiments.  I even have their names, and perhaps I can find a way to thank and honor their lost relatives who gave their lives to try and save Col. Olsen.

My special thanks must go to Commodore Ramone Alcaraz (Ret.) of the Philippine Navy, commander of the Q-Boat (Q-112) during the assault, who remembered he spirited off the letters our family received from Jan. to late March 1942 from Bataan under extreme conditions; Col. Ed Ramsey of the US Army, a true hero guerrilla; Co. John Olson, who encouraged my search early on; the Philippine Scouts Heritage Assoc.; the BBB group and website (keep it going!); and the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor group.

So many have helped with this odyssey, I can't thank you all enough.  The poem is wonderful, and says so much with so little.
My family is now (after 66 years) contacting the VA to see if a marker can be obtained and placed for him.  Yes, he is listed on the Tablets of the Missing in Manila (as are all four of his 'troops'). And best of all, it has brought three groups of his family back in touch with each other - family who can all be so proud of their bachelor soldier who gave his all.  As he used to close his letters - Mahabuhay.

Peter Olsen,
Washington State.
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« Last Edit: Jul 31st, 2008, 9:27pm by OlsenPC »  
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