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banner - marvin and muriel paulson a travelogue and memories

Marvin T. Paulson

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Dear Family: Paulson 08-01-01

I have just finished answering a request from Craig as to “How it was” in the 20's and 30's to which I added the teens. In the past, several of you have, at times, suggested I write about experiences encountered in all of our moves - 44 is what I remember but arguably it may be only 41 as I sometimes claim in talking to friends. Now, I am going to make a stab at making our travelogue interesting enough for record.


Muriel’s and my trek together began in the old military chapel at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. Talk about being left standing at the church, but this time it was the chaplain that forgot to check his schedule. He was chased down and finally tied our nuptial knot 1 ½ hours late. Consequently, our presence at the reception of Colonel Hecht’s [Commander Maurice Hecht of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, transferred to the Army as the chief of the Artillery Survey School at Fort Sill towards the end of World War II] was cut short in order to catch the train in Duncan, Oklahoma, heading for Kansas City. Lo and behold, this was war time and the train was loaded except one vacant seat until Oklahoma City where I could finally get up off Muriel’s lap. From there on, another seat became vacant but not together. Soon the train became full to standing room only so we were afraid to leave our seats to even hold hands a few minutes.

We arrived at the Bellevive Hotel in KC at 4:30 A. M. and was told - no vacancy. Even with reservations requested. They did have compassion for this war-time couple and said to wait until someone checked-out and we’d be first. Luckily, our wait was short and the suite provided was great.

My military leave was only two weeks, so in couple-three days we headed by train to St. Paul and then Hatton to gather Muriel’s personal belongings and return to Ft. Sill. My tenure at Ft. Sill had been too short for me to rate military housing but a search of Lawton turned up a converted garage with two rooms and bath in an apartment. It served us well.

Our first separation came soon afterwards with orders for me to report to General Headquarters Unit in Manila, Philippines, and to depart on 1 January 1946. We spent our first Xmas together packing Muriel for Hatton, her family home, and me for overseas.

The Japanese surrendered in 1945 but, in 1946, the Philippines were still in shambles. The Japanese had done a masterful job of destruction in retreat from Manila. The streets were finally being cleared by the U. S. Engineers but the citizenry still existed in makeshift homes without any running water and electricity. Truly a stinking mess. I was quartered in a military tent city on the outskirts of Manila and had the assigned duty to assist in the rehabilitation of the Philippine Coast and Geodetic Survey. All survey records and nautical charts had been confiscated by the Japanese and the personnel dislodged during the war.

“Colonel” Glenn Moore, and myself, “Major” Marvin Paulson were actually C&GS officers still on duty with the Army and assigned to the General Headquarters Chief Engineer under General MacArthur in Tokyo. With this leverage, we gained title to a bombed-out Japanese candy factory in reparations for the C&GS building destroyed in the war. Construction equipment and supplies were plentiful from the Foreign Liquidation Commission so remodeling, to suit office space, was undertaken using former C&GS Filipino personnel recovered from nearly every province in the Philippines. We acquired two surplus Coast Guard ships for surveying and charting the Philippine Islands. The Bureau was in full operation, though limited in personnel capacity, by the date of Philippine independence.

Col. Moore was subsequently transferred to the 29th Engineer Topographic Battalion as Commanding Officer and I was transferred 6 months later as operations officer. The 29th Engineer mission was post-war photo-mapping of the Philippine Islands and based in Manila. At the end of hostilities with Japan, there was a grand exodus of military personnel from the war zone. To entice a volunteer rehabilitation group to remain on duty, the military gave high priority to constructing living quarters for the families of the soldiers. With my seniority, and agreeing to a two year extension of duty abroad, Muriel was scheduled on the first ship of dependents to depart the USA but due to a snafu in her passport, she arrived on the second ship in August 1946 - the GENERAL BREWSTER.

It is difficult for me to adequately express the reactions that Muriel must have felt as we drove down the Dewey Boulevard of devastation to our apartment. In the midst of all the rubble was this modern looking 9-story building that had been spared demolition and would be our home in Manila. Outside appearances can, however, be misleading as to what is, or is not, inside. The building’s name was the “The Michelle.”

The Japanese, upon retreating, had dropped a hand grenade down the elevator shaft to the first floor, cut the electric wires and severed water lines. The U. S. Engineers had to set up generators for intermittent electricity and furnish a water supply to a spigot outside off the first floor. Now comes the clincher, the warehouses, with all the military-housing furniture and kitchen equipment, burned to the ground just the night before the ship arrived. We were issued only two army cots with mosquito netting and a bucket to fetch our own water from the ground floor. Our apartment was on the sixth floor. I could hardly call it a happy home coming, but we were together.

In a short time we grew accustomed to our surroundings, like sitting on boxes, eating “out” in a mess hall, and carrying a bucket with us every time we went down the stairs and bringing back a “pail of water.” The Filipinos were quick to start up their furniture businesses so we soon bought our own set of living-room and dining-room rattan furniture. We were the envy of those waiting for the military new supply to come in. When shipments from the states finally began arriving, we were issued a new Serval refrigerator that operated on kerosene instead of electricity. Finally - most of the comforts of home, so to speak, except no running water to which we quickly became adjusted. The army provided a well-stocked commissary and Post Exchange for all of our shopping needs. We were well advised not to buy local products for eating. Socializing, the first year, was primarily within our own apartment complex. All occupants were military families of various ranks but under the same circumstances in a foreign “ravaged” country. Several close friendships developed.

Our second year saw the influx of the civilian population for the various U. S. Government Bureaus engaged in the Philippine Rehabilitation and Independence process. Several were Coast and Geodetic Survey officers and Civil Service personnel. Kind of “old home week” for us meeting the ships and getting acquainted. Brick and Leila Maynard were two of the civilian group that became our very close friends. Both had been prisoners of war under the Japanese. Brick was with Douglas MacArthur on Corregidor Island and was taken prisoner with Gen. Wainwright [Editor’s note: Captain Paulson probably meant General Jonathan Wainwright.] and shipped to Japan. Leila was interred in Santo Tomas with all the rest of the civilian “prisoners of war.”

The accounts of the atrocities that they endured are amazing, to say the least. Brick was subjected to extreme physical torment that required several months of rehabilitation exercises in the hospital following liberation. Leila, physically speaking, faired remarkably well with outside friends being able to make contact. She was a teacher of English classic literature before imprisonment, so she helped organize and manage school classes for the children in Santo Tomas. I just wish that I could relate, with accuracy, some of the stories we were told. Much of what we learned about the Philippine culture we got from them, and it was Brick that taught me to mix the perfect martini. I was forever grateful.

We were allowed one 10 day stint of R and R (rest and relaxation) that we spent in Baguio, the Shangri-la of the Philippines. Actually it is called the summer capital for the Government but occupied by the U. S. military for temporary R and R. It is a mountainous area at about 6000 feet with a golf course through a valley. One infamous par 3 hole is about 50 yards on the horizontal but about 100 yards straight up from the tee to the green. There is a long zig-zag path to follow up with a landing about half way for a drop area for hitting errant balls. The landing was full of divots. Thank goodness the balls were on the house.

The war-time complement of the 29th Engrs, as with most of the military organizations at the time, had elected to take their leave of active duty and return to civilian life. Consequently, most of the 1500 personnel of the Battalion were untrained Filipino Recruits. Training the companies into surveying cadres and dispersing them to field mapping projects was the responsibility of the Operations Officer and, therefore, entailed numerous inspection trips throughout the Islands for supervision and instructions. As a result of this assignment, I visited every major island of the Philippines and became familiar with its terrain. Muriel became a “war-bride-alone-again” during my many absences.

After the Philippines gained their independence from U. S. dominance, there was almost immediate deterioration in the camaraderie with the U. S. The rebel (Huk-Bala-Hop) insurgence became rampant and made travel, even to the Commissary, dangerous without a convoy. We were relieved to have our Philippine duty terminated in April 1948.

It was sort of a nostalgic feeling that we felt as we departed Manila on the troopship General Brewster, but the realization of going home to the good old U. S. A. soon took over our thoughts. We had a three weeks shipboard trip with welcome stops in Guam and Honolulu. The highlight of the trip, however, was the daily bridge games we had with a Lt. Col. and his wife, whose names elude me just now, for a total of 52 rubbers. Muriel and I were ahead as we docked in Honolulu, but as we approached San Francisco Harbor they were champions by one final game and 100 points. Maybe that is why I can’t recall their names.

What a treat it was to dine at the “Top of the Mark.” Everybody spoke English and there was no hesitation about the menu items. Clearing the military hurdles to begin leave took a couple days and then by railroad we were on our way home to Fargo and Hatton, North Dakota. Life was beautiful.

Another day begins (present time) and as I woke up this morning it came to me that our bridge compatriots were Maria Kaldor Pennington and her husband Col. Pennington. I’m not sure that he had a first name. Maria had been a student of Leila’s in pre-war days and her parents were social friends of the Maynards at the Polo Club. Brick and Leila were both tournament caliber bridge players and low handicap golfers. And now, back at the U. S. homestead, we began our terminal leave of 60 days spending a few days at each of our homes back and forth, and learning a little more about golf when we could break away. Thinking back, the leave time went so fast that I can’t think of a thing we did except enjoy being home. We bought our first car. At the end of leave, I was ordered back to Washington, D. C. to terminate my Army assignment and revert back to the Coast and Geodetic Survey for duty. My return greeting wasn’t exactly exhilarating but more like “Glad to have you back. How soon can you leave. We need you to take over a triangulation party by the end of the week in Alturas, Calif. -- But first, report to the Supervisor of the San Francisco Office.” Talk about a long days journey into night --- We were totally exhausted on arrival in California. At that time, I vowed never to travel over 300 to 400 miles a day on any of our future travels. As a matter of fact, we did adhere to this schedule on all subsequent moves and found out the pleasure that traveling can be with time for 9 holes of golf where available each day. A different golf course every day is enjoyable.

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Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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