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GI Jive

GI Jive: An Army Bandsman in World War II

Frank F. Mathias
Copyright Date: 1982
Edition: 1
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    GI Jive
    Book Description:

    "Frank Mathias was a teenager in a small town when the draft swept him into the army and then halfway around the world to the jungles of the South Pacific. He served in the huge invasion force in the Battle of Manila, the deadliest single battle of the Pacific War. As an army musician attached to the 37th Infantry Division, Mathias saw the war from the bottom of the heap, where young privates lived and died. In his best selling book The GI Generation, Mathias tells of growing up in small-town America between the wars. In GI Jive he recalls the gritty experience of combat as well as the music and the homefront pleasures the GIs fought to preserve."

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4853-3
    Subjects: History, Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. v-vii)
    Edward M. Coffman

    A good memoir is a delight but how rare they are. There is a tendency to think of autobiography as the province of the famous who, often with the help of ghostwriters, satisfy the curious with an explanation of their actions and their opinions of peers. If the author is a public figure, the book is apt to be crammed with documents to shore up his case in whatever controversies involved him. If a show business celebrity, one can expect to find little more than an explicit description of varied sexual romps or what Star A or Starlet B was...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  6. 1. The Sax Section
    (pp. 1-8)

    I awakened to the sound of a file rasping a razor’s edge on a trench knife blade; a soldier was hunched under a dim circle of light cast by the red lamp on my ship’s troop deck. I lay stiffly in my bunk in the pre-dawn darkness, dry of mouth and hollow with fear. How could this have happened to me, I thought, for I had “had it made” for so long back in the States—first in the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP), then in the bands at Fort Benning and Camp Wheeler—anything but the infantry. Yet, here...

  7. 2. ASTPeewee
    (pp. 9-21)

    We unloaded at Fort Benning, and a noncom (noncommissioned officer) took us to our barracks in the Harmony Church area. “What’s it like here?” I asked, adding “Sir” to my question to play safe. “I wouldn’t mind living in Georgia,” he replied, “if I didn’t have long to live.” We laughed, then turned thoughtful, Midwestern boys for the first time trying to puzzle out life in the deep South–blood red soil, pungent pine forests, cotton, strange accents, and the labels of racial segregation stuck boldly on doors and fountains. This was not like our Ohio Valley, and a Cincinnati...

  8. 3. Mail Call
    (pp. 22-31)

    Mail call brought soldiers a chance to compare their lot with that of the home folks or with friends in the service. Letters let the steam out of army life or added to it, but no matter the good or bad news, the effect produced by a platoon sergeant standing with a fistful of letters shouting “Mail Call!” was always the same—a stomping of feet as everyone clustered around the noncom hoping to hear the sweet sound of his name.

    Love letters were welcomed above all others. They were easy to identify, for most girls chose pastel blue or...

  9. 4. Sharps and Flats
    (pp. 32-53)

    Nothing was going right. I was depressed as I entered the last week of basic training. Many of my friends were already guessing which college they would attend. The only “educational experience” I had coming was that of rifleman in a line infantry company. My life seemed used up. I opened a letter from Gayle Clark, a girl friend and the lead alto sax player in the Kavaliers. I studied it wistfully, as if it had come from some foreign land. It seemed impossible that only four months had passed since I had last played in the Kavaliers. It seemed...

  10. 5. Halfway around the World
    (pp. 54-66)

    Thursday afternoon, August 18, 1944, Pfc. Walter Clark and I were handed our shipping orders and train tickets. We were to board a civilian train at the Macon station at midnight. Our desination was Fort Ord, California. Most of our friends had orders for East Coast replacement centers; we alone were headed for the South Pacific.

    Clark and I excitedly packed our barracks bags, then stopped short—neither of us had any shirts or pants; all of our uniforms were in the Wheeler laundry! It was too late to get them out, and also too late to get new issues...

  11. 6. The Lizard’s Tail
    (pp. 67-82)

    TheMontereyleft Hollandia around October 12, cruising southeasterly for eight hundred miles down the coast to Papua. We unloaded two days later on a long wooden pier at Oro Bay. Spaniards had named the place for the gold in the mountains behind it. Plenty of gold was still there, waiting for war’s end and the return of its Australian miners. When I went ashore, I was stepping on foreign soil for the first time.

    Trucks took us inland several miles to the 5th Replacement Depot. The 5th Repple Depple made thousands of believers in the Army adage that “no...

  12. 7. The Buckeye Division
    (pp. 83-100)

    When we arrived at the Repple Depple we were told to line up for inspection. Several hundred turned out with packs, duffle bags and rifles. Walter, Jack, Marcel, and I stuck together, choosing the left end of the line. An officer walked up to the middle of the line and divided it. The men on the right side were assigned to the 43rd Division and those on the left to the 37th. That is how I got into the Buckeye Division, not complicated at all. Sometimes the army could do things very deftly!

    We boarded the U.S.S.Ocontofor the...

  13. 8. A Thousand Ships
    (pp. 101-111)

    The Buckeye Division boarded its ships during the second week of December, 1944. I went with the band aboard the U.S.S.Simon Bolivar, an attack transport of some ten thousand tons. We lay off Bougainville several days before the ship slowly swung toward the open sea, its final destination a stretch of beach three thousand miles away. But we sailed one passenger short. Several hours before leaving an officer shot himself, tumbling over the side where he bobbed like a cork until sailors fished him out of the bay. I had never seen a violent death before, much less a...

  14. 9. Down the Central Plains
    (pp. 112-127)

    Thousands of infantrymen from the 129th and 148th regiments were pouring over the beaches and into the terrain beyond. Where were the Japs? Was it a trick to get us committed and then open up? Bandsmen stood around trying to puzzle out this strange situation. Since nothing had arrived for us to unload, I went swimming in the surf. Tiring of this, I strolled over to the dunes, spotting my first souvenir, an attractive and shiny metal tube almost buried in the sand. As I pulled on it the sergeant gave me a violent pull backward, landing me on my...

  15. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  16. 10. The Battle of Manila
    (pp. 128-148)

    We privates knew as well as MacArthur that a speedy capture of Manila would best ensure the survival of thousands of American prisoners interned there. The enemy must be rushed and kept off balance until our people could be rescued. Everyone hoped Manila would escape destruction, for we had heard of the beauty of the Pearl of the Orient. We also relished the thought of city lights after our time in South Pacific jungles.

    MacArthur decided to rush the city, even at the risk of going a bit too fast. Our 148th regiment was started south along Highway 3 even...

  17. 11. After the Battle
    (pp. 149-167)

    Although the battle was over, the memory lingered on in all five senses. Thousands of Japs and civilians lay buried in the warm rubble. The rotten-sweet odor of death hung over the city like a fog. Hordes of rats were at work along the estuaries and in the corpseclotted rubble. Vision was assaulted by the widespread destruction, and sounds from the nearly dead city echoed like a ticking clock in a vacant house. Everything was gritty to touch and taste, as the dust of war had settled over every inch of the city and its suburbs. There was no public...

  18. 12. Baguio and Balete Pass
    (pp. 168-178)

    Unexpected news, all bad, came to the Buckeye Division on March 25. We were to move to a new battlefield high in Luzon’s great mountains against a place called Baguio, the cool summer capital of the Philippines. The 37th was transferred to the Sixth Army’s I Corps, commanded by Lt. Gen. Innis P. Swift. Since I had no code for such a place as Baguio, the folks at home assumed I was still in Manila. They learned better shortly, for theirCincinnati Times-Starsoon carried news of the division fighting in three places at once.

    General Walter Krueger called the...

  19. 13. Cagayan Valley Blitzkrieg
    (pp. 179-191)

    All of us sensed that the campaign just opened was different from any of the others. We moved constantly, usually by truck, digging in at a more advanced locale each night. Information regarding this strange new campaign passed by word of mouth. The name Cagayan Valley was on our lips by the time we moving through its hilly southern reaches. The valley ran north and south for some 260 miles, was up to 30 miles wide, and bore the name of its major river. It was hemmed in by mountains on three sides, but opened on the South China Sea...

  20. 14. Atomic Malaria
    (pp. 192-205)

    Early in July the Buckeye Division was transferred back to XIV Corps control, but under the Eighth Army command of Lt. Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger. Though few of us knew it, I Corps and Sixth Army were being readied for the coming invasion of Japan. This left the 6th, 32nd, 37th, and 38th divisions still on the line in Luzon. Forces still available to Yamashita were underestimated by the staff, for he came out of the mountains with fifty thousand soldiers at war’s end! I wrote home that “I just saw General Eichelberger … His jeep had three stars on...

  21. 15. Sentimental Journey
    (pp. 206-219)

    On September 18 the division was ordered to its final assembly area, Camp LaCroix, sixty miles north of Manila at Cabanatuan. It was a memorable 330-mile odyssey over war-torn roads. I was driving a weapons carrier that drowned out in the swollen Santiago River. Several others were swept away by the current. Our carrier was pulled into the next town where we pitched jungle hammocks and waited for morning. “We were awakened by Filipinos pumping on the community pump built by the government. The whole town depended on it for water. We cooked our rations, drained the water out of...

  22. Index
    (pp. 220-227)