The Emotions of War 

      The diaries of pilot Oscar Fitzhenry and his co-pilot George R. “Bob” Houser gave great insight into the emotional battles that were being fought. 

      From the Diary of Oscar Fitzhenry - Friday July 9, 1943: Tired and downhearted. Learned that Joe Littlepage and Cobb were missing from Tuesday’s mission. Bob and I got ready to go see Sachet and Bucky to find out what happened to Joe. The tragedy of that trip was that we found that Sachet was missing in enemy territory. Shot down by Zeroes. Joe and Cobb lost in weather en route home from Kahili. Sunday Sachet paid me the $100 he borrowed to get married on and gave me a long knife. Don’t know what I’ll write Patty [Sachet’s wife]. After Ebert and Eidson were killed I told him to be careful because I could not afford to lose him. I cannot realize that he is missing; can’t help but think he’ll turn up. Tuesday July 20, 1943 – I understand how fellows go nuts living the way we do. Friday, July 23 – Saturday July 24, 1943 – Got word that Lt. Hall was killed in B-24 at Buttons. 31st Squadron, nice likeable kid. Shadow (John F. Epple) was leading them into formation. [Hall] hit a tree and blew up. Tried to sleep a little but the flies were too bad. Bean soup and beans for dinner. Monday July 27, 1943 – Hunt told me Shadow had been killed. Plane crashed and burned. All crew killed. Phoned Bucky at Carney and told him. Except for Bucky, I’ve lost all my old friends.”           

Wrote Fitzhenry’s co-pilot, Bob Houser – “It was never easy to lose a buddy; part of you was lost with their death. No one really had to time to grieve for any of the men and planes lost. We had to regroup and prepare ourselves for our next mission. John Epple was the first pilot. Fitz walked off to be alone when he got the news. I watched him leave the area with his head down. I didn’t know what to say to him but figured he wanted to be by himself, so I let it be.”           

The Fitzhenry diary continued: Tuesday July 27, 1943 – Slept bad last night and am really downhearted. Shadow’s crash was confirmed this morning. The bottle of Seagram’s 7 that Sachet brought from Hawaii for me will not be shared with Shadow as I had planned. My heart seems to be in my throat all day. That leaves only myself out of the original five. I still hope and pray for Sachet’s return. Wrote Patty a long letter giving her the details and some hope. Laid on my bed most of the day, thinking; was very bad for me. Powdered bean soup for dinner. Wednesday July 28, 1943 – the damn flies pester us during the daytime and its ants and mosquitoes at night. No hope for relief soon. Can all of us stand it? Tomato soup and hash for dinner.”           

Bob Houser, writing in his diary on August 1, continued the story. “I’d noticed a change in Fitz; he had a sort of ‘What the hell’ attitude. I knew he was a wonderful pilot but I was concerned that this war was eating him up with grief. It seemed that he wanted to spend more time alone. I kept an eye on him and resolved to try talking to him when we had some time away from the plane.” On Tuesday, August 3, Fitzhenry recorded the following: “22nd Birthday. Today is no different than the rest.”           

The Houser Diary continued to report worries about Fitzhenry. August 6 – “I had breakfast. Fitz was nowhere to be found. Timo said he just came back from the beach and ‘I saw Fitz sitting off by himself. He didn’t look like he was going to go fishing or swimming. I shouted HEY to him and he just ignored me. I thought you guys might want to check on him.’ I looked at Billy G and said, ‘Let’s go check it out.’ Fitz didn’t hear us coming and had his head down. Bill and I sat down on either side of him and Fitz continued to stare at the sand. I patted him on the shoulder and said, ‘Fitz, you don’t have any fishing gear and it doesn’t look like you’re planning on swimming. Are you OK?’ Fitz briefly glanced at me and said, ‘Yeah, I’m OK.’ I could see he had been crying. Bill offered, ‘It’s really peaceful out here away from the camp. I can see why you like it.’ Fitz rubbed his eyes and said, ‘Sometimes I wonder if it is all worth it. All these great bunch of young guys crashing and dying for what? How can any of this help us win this war? Guys, I need to be alone.’ We both stood and I said, ‘You’ve had enough time alone.’ Bill and I took him under each arm and lifted him to his feet. ‘Brush yourself off and let’s go,” I commanded. Fitz didn’t put up any argument. I think he was exhausted and welcomed the change. We drove over to the field hospital at Carney. The Munda raid happened two weeks ago and I knew there were casualties at the field hospital. I thought it would do us all some good to visit the wounded Marines. The three of us walked in wearing our A-2 flight jackets. Four Marines were laid up in bed with various injuries but welcomed the visit from the three of us. Fitz walked through the door first. ‘How ya boys doing?’ One of the guys answered, ‘I’ve had better days. I’m just glad to be out of that gully.’ A second Marine asked, ‘Were you guys in that squadron of bombers over Munda?’ Billy Garman replied, ‘Yeah, we were right over you, about 600 yards to be exact.’ A third Marine said, ‘Boy, that was a beautiful sight. I almost cried for joy when I heard all those bombers flying over.’ I looked over at Fitz and smiled. ‘Yeah, well, we wanted to thank you guys for doing such a great job clearing Guadalcanal for us. We owed you!’ I replied.  The Marine asked me, ‘What’s that patch mean?' pointing to the large round patch with the skull with wings attached to it on the front of my jacket. ‘That’s a Hawaiian symbol and saying for GUARDIAN OF THE HEAVENS. All the boys in the 5th Bomb Group wear this patch.’ The three of us left, feeling proud of our contribution to the raid on Munda. Fitz laughed and made a playful grab about my neck. The visit was just what we needed.”