They Were Expendable, by William L White – 1942 (Unknown artist)


THIS story was told me largely in the officers’ quarters of the Motor Torpedo Boat Station at Melville, Rhode Island, by four young officers of MTB Squadron 3, who were all that was left of the squadron which proudly sailed for the Philippines last summer.  A fifth officer, Lieutenant Henry J. Brantingham, has since arrived from Australia.

These men had been singled out from the multitude for return to America because General MacArthur believed that the MTB’s had proved their worth in warfare, and hoped that these officers could bring back to America their actual battle experience, by which trainees could benefit.

Their Squadron Commander, Lieutenant John Bulkeley (now Lieutenant-Commander) of course needs no introduction, as he is already a national hero for his part in bringing MacArthur out of Bataan.  But because the navy was then keeping him so busy fulfilling his obligations as a national hero, Bulkeley had to delegate to Lieutenant Robert Boiling Kelly a major part of the task of rounding out the narrative.  I think the reader will agree that the choice was wise, for Lieutenant Kelly, in addition to being a brave and competent naval officer, has a sense of narrative and a keen eye for significant detail, two attributes which may never help him in battle but which were of great value to this book.  Ensigns Anthony Akers and George E. Cox, Jr., also contributed much vivid detail.

As a result, I found when I had finished that I had not just the adventure story of a single squadron, but in the background the whole tragic panorama of the Philippine campaign – America’s little Dunkirk.

We are a democracy, running a war.  If our mistakes are concealed from us, they can never be corrected.  Facts are frequently and properly withheld in a war, because the enemy would take advantage of our weaknesses if he knew them.  But this story now can safely be told because the sad chapter is ended.  The Japanese know just how inadequate our equipment was, because they destroyed or captured practically all of it.

I have been wandering in and out of wars since 1939, and many times before have I seen the sad young men come out of battle – come with the whistle of flying steel and the rumble of falling walls still in their ears, come out to the fat, well-fed cities behind the lines, where the complacent citizens always choose from the newsstands those papers whose headlines proclaim every skirmish as a magnificent victory.

And through those plump cities the sad young men back from battle wander as strangers in a strange land, talking a grim language of realism which the smug citizenry doesn’t understand, trying to tell of a tragedy which few enjoy hearing.

These four sad young men differ from those I have talked to in Europe only in that they are Americans, and the tragedy they bear witness to is our own failure, and the smugness they struggle against is our own complacency.


The Last Parallel, by Martin Russ – 1957 (1958) (Schulz)

In a fire fight, or any type of severe combat, time is indistinguishable.
I may have remained immobile for minutes or only seconds.
It was an enormous effort to move anything but my eyes;
limbs were leaden as in a nightmare, and the old fear took hold.
It is difficult to describe this state, terror.

Physical terror I mean.

It is a rare emotion in this age.
Every soldier that has been in combat must have felt it.
The immediate problem is to overcome it as quickly as possible.
If he cannot, he ceases to function as soldier. (264)

– Martin Russ


Give Us This Day, by Sidney Stewart – 1958 (Harry Scharre?)

December 1941

IN THE LAND where dead dreams go lies the city of Manila,
as it was before the war.
Manila, where the white man didn’t work in the afternoon because it was too hot.
Manila, with its beauty and its poverty and its orchids at five cents apiece.

What could a soldier do with a handful of orchids
if he had no one to give them to?
I used to buy those orchids.
I’d pay my nickel for them and stand there awkwardly holding them in my hand.
I would run my finger over the satin petals and then,
I would give them to the first little girl I met,
because there was something very lonely about buying orchids
when you had no one to give them to.


I began to plan the things I wanted to do when I went home.
The promises I had made to the boys about seeing their parents.
I thought of the things that home meant to me.
The things that freedom, and being home, would mean.
I thought of seeing women again, white women,
and being again where people laughed,
where laughter was good and life was good.

I wondered if ever again things would worry me. 
I thought what I would do with my life. 
I had never asked to live, but God had spared me. 
Now I knew there was an obligation within me to justify my life. 
I must do something.

My mind wandered back to the times
when Rass and John and Weldon and Hughes
sat together around the fire in the evenings. 
We talked about the things we wanted to do
when we were free and we were home again. 
Rass had wanted to go into the diplomatic service. 
John had wanted to be a professor again.

“I’m going to be a writer,” I said. 
“I’m going to write novels.”

We used to laugh about it. 
They were interested in the things I wanted to write about. 
Once, when we were very hungry, John had turned to me.

“Some day, Sid, I wish you’d put me in one of your books.”

“Yes, Stew,” Rass said. 
“I wish you’d write a book about this, about all of us. 
Will you?  
Could you do that for us one day?  
Write a book about all of us. 
Something that we could keep.”

I remembered what I had promised them.
I would write a book about them some day.
But I felt cold inside and I thought, “No, they’ll never read that book now,
 that book I’m going to write about them.
About their faith and hopes, their goodness and their beliefs.”