The author used this word a lot in this letter to his girlfriend. My early hunch was that he really liked her.
In 1938, Onnie E. Clem, Jr., a Dallas native, enlisted in the United States Marine Corps to see the world, and got a lot more than he bargained for.
In the fall of 1944, Onnie was rescued from an island in the Philippines after a harrowing and horrifying several years. He had survived the Battle of Bataan in the Spring of 1942, and was subsequently captured by the victorious Japanese and forced marched at bayonet along with other American and Filipino POWs. A miserable and violent trek known to history as the Bataan Death March.
Two years later, Onnie and other survivors of Japanese internment were loaded on a “Hell Ship” bound for Japan and a bleak future. Fate had other ideas. Barely out of port, the ship was torpedoed by an American submarine. During the chaos Onnie managed to make his way out of the ship, despite being shot while making his escape. Once overboard, Onnie somehow found his way to a nearby island, one of only a few of the 750 American POWs to survive the ship’s sinking. A few weeks later, Onnie boarded an American ship bound for California and a much different experience.
While in San Francisco, Onnie met Julie and, after a brief friendship, the Texas hero fell in love with the lady Marine from Massachusetts. Onnie’s letter to Julie is a testament to honesty, persistence, and an aching heart.
Onnie and Julie married seven months later. After the war, they made their home in Dallas. Julie and Onnie were married 65 years. Onnie passed in 2009, age 90. Julie died a year later. A darling life.
If you’re ever in Waco, stop by the Texas Collection located in the Carroll Library on the campus of Baylor University. There’s a huge parking garage across the street making it an easy walk. Inside, ask to see the Onnie Clem papers, two boxes filled with personal letters as well as other interesting information from the time period.
While you’re there, say hello to Paul Fischer, Processing Archivist and Assistant Director of the Texas Collection, whose kind assistance made my experience enjoyable and memorable.
I’ve included a link below from the Texas Collection website that tells their story in greater detail. It includes an awesome photo of Julie in uniform. There’s also a link to information about the battle of Bataan and the Death March.
Onnie Clem papers,
Bataan Death March, https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/topics/battlebataan-death-march
Have a great October.
Thought the writing of this started with the bandying of words, the true meaning certainly can’t be taken in that light.
From our conversation earlier this evening, I gathered you would give me an answer to what I had been trying so damn hard to get. I want [to] be able to be with you again before you give me that answer darling, so this will have to take the place.
Last night we covered most of it but I want to cover things once more. Being in the position you are, you, in the past, had contact with many fellows returning from overseas and will continue to do so practically for the duration. Naturally, this job tends to give you great skepticalism (sic) with relations similar to ours.
Every time it is said, – “But ours is different.” Honey, being about the average, I can’t improve on that saying. “But, ours is different.” Doesn’t our past relations, and actions, even though they cover a short period of time, show that ours is different?”
Darling, I spent, as you know, three long years of unadulterated hell. During that time, everything that makes a man; freedom, pride, and initiative, were stripped from me. That is, all but the right to think. Having that one weapon at my disposal I was able to stick it out. Honey, thinking for three years brings forth many thoughts, especially under conditions to which we were subjected.
Naturally, many thoughts turn to that future date when this living hell would no longer exist, and a normal, peaceful, civilized life could once more be continued. Now that liberation has occurred, I am able to start fulfilling those thoughts conjured by my mine under adverse conditions:
Wine, Women, and Song.
Bright lights, beautiful women, and all that goes with it. But that’s where it stops. From the time we first went out together, all of that slipped back, back, until now it can’t be reached. Honey, you put a sudden blanket on all of that.
It can’t be the fact that the old “first girl” stuff exists. If that was so, the “wine, women, and song”, would be going full speed ahead as per scheduled. But honey, I again repeat, you put a blanket on all of that.
In you I found, after years of running around and knocking about the world, (I’ve taken my fun where I found it. I roamed and ranged in my time. I’ve had my pickins of sweethearts -etc-) the one person I had spent so much time dreaming about and searching for.
Dearest, please, please, believe this. After years of chasing around, when the real thing happens, I should and do know it.
Julie darling, you know my feelings. What yours are I think and know but can’t force them. When you tell me, please remember these things, and – well, please be sure you know what’s in your heart, darling.
Now just one other thing. Duty, where and how long? The only reason I would ever put in for San Francisco is the fact that you are here. Other than that, I don’t give a damn about the place. So, Julie dear, if things are to go along on a onesided basis, I’ll not be back out here. You can understand that, sweet, can’t you? So, please, darling try and let me know before I leave.
Sergeant, it’s about time for lights out and this must get off tonight so that you will have it Saturday morning. If the topic became too serious – well, I can’t help it.
Love, and lots of it, darling, Onnie
Onnie Clem letter to Julie, dated, December 1, 1944. Onnie E. Clem, Jr. papers, Accession #3939, Box 1, Folder 1, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.