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Danton Burroughs
From Tarzana, California
Memories from the
Danton Burroughs
Family Album 
ERB WWII Correspondent
Excerpts from the Wartime Letters of 
the Oldest Correspondent in the WWII Pacific Theatre
Edgar Rice Burroughs
c/o G-2 First Island Command
Somewhere in South Pacific
1298 Kapiolani Boulevard
Honolulu  T H

Collated by Bill Hillman

The letters are to daughter Joan Burroughs unless otherwise stated
January 20, 1943
I hide my head in shame. I am an autograph hound. I have filled two books and am about to start on the third. I've got privates, Pfcs, corporals, sergeants, lieutenants, captains, majors, colonels, generals, nurses (pretty ones), an American Consul, two governors, Australians, New Zealanders, Englishmen, Frenchmen, and I hope to get a cannibal.   Practically all of them mean something to me. I don't ask for any that don't.
As a War Correspondent, my dear, your Dad is a flop; but he's having one hell of a good time. I work hard at it (being a correspondent; not at having a good time), but what I send in is tripe. I am occasionally up at 4 A.M. and off for a story in Bouncing Baby, my jeep. I have recently gone up with parachutists and watched them jump, and. the other day I rode for two or three hours over steep, narrow, and precipitous mountain trails with a pack artillery outfit. It was great being back in a saddle again. I have met many swell people and made numerous friends. The Army couldn't treat anyone any better than I have been treated.
There is one thing I miss here more than another. That is being clean. I have only four khaki uniforms with me. I haven't space for any more. Two are in the laundry. One got soaked in the rain yesterday and covered with mud, and I got mud on the one I am wearing right after I put it on. And I am invited to a party tomorrow night by Commander Burroughs, whom I interviewed yesterday. He commands a Carrier Group of four squadrons. His branch of the family comes from New Hampshire. A very nice chap. In addition to being dirty, I am all bitten up by spiders; and I think I hate fleas.
March 5, 1943
After spending three solid months with Army, Navy, and Marine Corps men of all ranks and grades I am so damned proud of being an American that I am on the verge of bursting.  They are friendly, they are intelligent, they are ingenious, they are courageous.  I know that there are morons and heels among us, but they are outnumbered a thousand to one.
The aborigines on the islands love us.  They hate the Japs and they are not particularly crazy about non-American whites.  Our boys laugh and kid with them. and they'll work all day for us for food and a package of cigarettes just to be with us.  They are a simple, likable. childlike people.  If they stewed you for dinner, it would not be because they disliked you.  Quite the contrary.
I had a grand time on a destroyer (USS Shaw).  Spent a month aboard her.  The Executive Officer shared his cabin with me.  He ranks next to the captain.  I sat at the Captain's right at mess.  We chased subs and dropped depth charges.  It was quite exciting.  They gave me the run of the ship.  It was fun standing on the fantail when depth charges were dropped or being on the bridge when we were entering a harbor. And ladders!  I was running up and down 'em all day.  I am convinced that there is nothing wrong with my heart.  Over the loud speaker would come the command, "Stand by for submarine attack!"   That gives one's heart a few extra beats to the second.  Then, if I didn't go aft to the fantail, I'd scamper up three ladders to the bridge as fast as I could scamper.  When the charges detonated, the ship would jump and shudder.  Just to give you an idea of the force of these charges of TNT:  Another destroyer dropped charges two and a half miles away, and our ship shook.
April 6, 1943
I spent some time in New Caledonia. I was quartered in a hotel in Noumea, the capital. . . Was also in Australia for sixteen days. Had a swell time there with plenty of good food, something I had not been accustomed to for more than a year. . . . I was twice on Vita Levu, one of the Fiji Islands. The last time I spent twelve days in Suva. The islands are British. The native Fiji police and East Indian Sikh police are very colorful. In a former letter I told you about the old lady who pinched my leg. That was the first time I visited Vita Levu, and was at the other end of the island from Suva. The old lady was a Fijian, and doubtless in her youth ate people. She looked like she still might.
It seems a little tame and dull here now, but I don't expect to be given another assignment. There are too many correspondents out now.
Yesterday, Brig. General White took me to Lieut. General Delos C. Emmons picnic at Waialae Country Club. . . . There were about two hundred guests, and most of the men seemed to be generals. Supper was cafeteria style (buffet to you), and consisted of hot dogs, ham, potato salad, potato chips, and all the other things that are piled on plates. There was also coffee and beer, but no hard liquor. General White furnished two of his Negro soldiers who pattered and danced. The dancer, whose name I have forgotten, was a big time night club entertainer on the Mainland. He certainly let himself go in front of all those brass hats. . . . There was also dancing for the guests to an army band, and the party closed with a picture - Tripoli. I think - with Dorothy Lamour, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. There were some funny gags in it but otherwise was not so good.   On the way home we stopped at the lady's apartment for a nightcap. It was, altogether, a very pleasant evening.
Ralph wrote me that Jack is working for Douglas. That is fine. I  know that he will make good. Like Hulbert, he knows his profession. I am glad he is not doing that newspaper page any longer. That work was too hard on his eyes, too exacting in the matter of time, and had not much of a future.
April 9, 1943
[Letter to grandson Mike Pierce] Shortly after we dropped anchor in Suva harbor, a native Fijian paddled alongside in an outrigger canoe, bringing native fruits, vegetables, and other things to sell to the sailors. . . . a sailor got the war club for me.  And I am sending it to you by parcel post. . . .  Until not so long ago the Fiji Islanders were notoriously savage cannibals.  They are a fine looking race, beautifully muscled, tall and strong.   They have long hair that sticks straight out in all directions.  They are fond of Americans, and always have a ready, engaging smile for us, greeting us with, "Bula-bula!" and a sort of salute that looks like a hitchhiker's gesture.
April 10, 1943
I thought that you might like to have souvenirs of the travels of Marco Polo Burroughs.Please divide them in your family as you see fit.

May 15, 1943
I collect magazines and books for Phil's (Bird) battery and take them out occasionally.   Yesterday, one of his officers told me of references to me made in letters home by a couple of the enlisted men. One of them, referring to having seen me at a recent battery dance, wrote "but you're liable to meet anybody here."   Another: "He's terribly old. He must be sixty."
The dances are held for the men, but the officers dance, also.   At the last dance I saw a buck private cut in on a lieutenant colonel. The girls are all colors except coal black - Chinese, Korean, Hawaiian, Portuguese, and white.   The boys are, of course, from all parts of the Mainland. Just watching is a lot of fun.
As far as I know, none of my stories appeared in Mainland papers. Until today, I thought they were so rotten that United Press wouldn't release them (and they were rotten). But today I received a letter from George Carlin, General Manager of United Feature Syndicate, a subsidiary of United Press, in which he says: "The United Press reported that the stories you sent were swelL, but somehow the subscribing papers did not come through with the promotion and display anticipated. This was probably due to the press of big war news, especially from North Africa." That made me feel a little better.  A few that were run here seemed to be very well liked.  I was just getting onto the knack of the thing when the Navy refused me transportation to Guadalcanal.
I was more scared of malaria (in Guadalcanal) than I was of the Japs, and malaria caused more casualties down there than bullets - both among our own troops and those of the Japs.  The worst part of contracting malaria is that one may be subject to recurring attacks for the rest of one's life.
Hope your Victory Garden is more of a success than any of my gardens ever were.  But it probably won't be.  If the damn things come up at all, there are always a million pesky pests to devour them before you can.  I was once successful in growing strawberries at the Mecca Avenue Place.  And the quail came in and ate them all.  I couldn't do a thing about it, because nothing could induce me to kill a quail - as you probably recall.
August 5, 1943
I know how you feel about bills.  The first of each month used to be a terrific headache for me.  But no more.  I pay cash for everything.
Life here has ceased to be very exciting.  I am ashamed to say that outside of a little bridge, a little poker, and an occasional cocktail party I do nothing.  I cannot think of anything to write.  Whatever creative urge or ability I may have had has apparently vanished. My main occupation is reading the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Have been reading a brief history of the Pharaohs (in Britannica). Inasmuch as about all that is known of them is taken from eulogistic inscriptions from their tombs, temples, and other monuments, inscribed there by sycophantic biographers who would have lost both their jobs and their heads if they had told the truth, I am not as deeply impressed as I might be.
I am reading the autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, a great artist, but also a lecherous braggart, a liar, a thief, a murderer, a traitor, and all-in-all one of the most scurrilous of all historic characters. Pope Alexander VI and his bastard son, Caesare Borgia, are two other choice products of Italy into whose putrid lives I have again been dipping.  I can say this for them, that their villainies fascinate one. The Pope's illegitimate daughter, Lucretia Borgia, has been much maligned.  She was the most decent of the lot.  Or perhaps I should say, the least indecent.  Benito, Edda, and the other Fascists had an all-time low mark to shoot at, but they have done pretty well.
October 2, 1943
I must go back to my quarters and listen to the California-USC game, which starts at 11:15 A.M. Hawaii War Time.
My eye was perfectly O.K. within a week after the accident. I ran into Dr. Holmes, my occulist, on the street yesterday; and he told me again how lucky I had been. . . And I don't need anyone "to take care of me" - period.
I never want for company, as I keep a stock of library books on hand; and no one can lack for company who has a good book to read. . . .  Then, of course, I have some social contacts - bridge, poker, and parties.
October 4, 1943
Brig. Genl. Landon of the 7th Air Force, with whom I have become very well acquainted, brought in a portfolio of Hully's pictures for me to see.  They were all good, and many of them magnificent.  One very cute one was of a little Polynesian boy, stark naked except for a soldiers tin hat.
Was invited to come to the dedication of a library at an Army post on the Windward Side. . . .  Was told that they would like to have me "say a few words". . . . To make it all the more horrifying, a really impressive audience turned out.  The colonel commanding the post was there. . . .  I did my best, which is anything but hot; but I got a lot of laughs.  It was a very generous audience.
Just received a letter from George, dated August 30, the day following his seventy-seventh birthday.   It is difficult for me to realize that he and I are so old.  He says that he is really beginning to feel his age now. . .  He leads a quiet, contented life with his chickens and his pedigreed Cocker Spaniels, which he breeds and sells. 
November 2, 1943
Last night I dreamed that I was married again.  To whom, I didn't find out.  But I knew I was married because I was sitting at a desk with a pile of bills, making out checks.  I woke up with a headache.
My most recent letter from Ralph was the most optimistic and cheerful letter that I have ever received from him.  It added to my now normal state of cheerfulness.  He has done a wonderful job for the corporation and for all of us.  I hope that you full appreciate what he has accomplished against great odds and also his almost unbelievable loyalty to each and every one of us.  I am confident that Ralph could have his pick of many jobs that would pay him far more then he is getting and at the same time be free from all the many griefs he has shouldered for us.  He is highly intelligent, and his integrity has been proved beyond the shadow of a doubt.  Shannon saw to that, and is convinced by incontrovertible evidence.  We should give Ralph every possible support within our power, not only because he deserves it, but because if we lost him, God only knows what would happen to the corporation - and that is going to mean a lot to you children in later years.  It has meant a lot to all of us for twenty years.
December 29, 1943
Yesterday I read of the death of Brydon Taves, UP Bureau Chief. Australia.  He was killed in an airplane crash in New Guinea. I met  him in Sydney. Frank Cubel, Mutal Broadcasting correspondent, whom I met in Noumea last December, was killed in that plane crash at Lisbon. Dick Tregaskia (Guadalcanal Diary), whom I also met in Noumea, was badly wounded in Italy recently. The destroyer McKean, which came back from the South Pacific with my destroyer (USS Shaw), was torpedoed and sunk off Bougainville last month. I knew her officers quite well, especially her skipper. He was not lost.
Leila Langford painted the originals of the anthuriums and gardenias that I sent you, Jane, and Jack. She also colored the photographic reproductions. 
Hulbert has suggested that in my writing I talk too much about myself. I guess he's right. But if I talk about other people, that's gossip. And anyway if I just talk about myself  I'll never be sued for libel. . . . There are really a lot of interesting things to write about here, but they'd never pass the censors. If they are of military interest, I never mention them unless they have appeared in the press.
Lots of love and a Happy New Year!  Papa
Source: The Danton Burroughs ~ John Coleman Burroughs ~ ERB, Inc. Archives
Copyright 2003 ~ Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.
2001 Email Letter from Foster Rash (Excerpts from ERBzin-e No. 508)

Dear Bill:I've been interviewing my father to compile a record of his experiences in WWII.  He served on a destroyer USS SHAW from 1941-45.  Well, he told me a story the other night I'd never heard before, about having Edgar Rice Burroughs on board for several weeks.

The ship was pretty banged up at the time and it was going back to Pearl Harbor for repairs. SHAW had seen quite a bit of action (Battle of Santa Cruz Islands and naval battles around Guadalcanal) during Oct-Dec '42 and then had suffered damage to the hull on a reef while entering Noumea, New Caledonia (where they picked up ERB).  Temporary repairs to the hull included pouring concrete into the holes.  They lost a boiler room in the process, so speed must have been seriously affected.  The voyage from Noumea to Pearl Harbor took 6 weeks.

Burroughs was very popular with the crew.  They refueled in Suva, Fiji (Feb '43) and the crew organized a football game.  It seems the gunnery officer had been a football star at Annapolis and another crewmember was an All-American.

I would really like to read ERB's perspective on life aboard SHAW.  Dad said Burroughs wrote about it and the story was published in Esquire magazine.... Whatever assistance you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks much for any help.

Bill Hillman's
Bill Hillman's ERBzin-e Weekly Online Fanzine
Volume 1032

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