Army Quartermaster Museum -
Fort Lee, Virginia
A few weeks ago, on the "main drag" in Seoul, Korea a soldier
clad in an Eisenhower jacket and OD trousers walked up to Lieutenant Richard H.
Greene and remarked: "Say, aren 't you the guy who talked to my outfit
about winter uniforms back at Camp Shanks just before we went to England?"
He was right. Lieutenant Greene, an original Quartermaster Corps "wet-cold
weather" instructor, and one of his early pupils had each traveled half-way
around the world (in different directions) to meet in the American-occupied
section of Korea.
Such a meeting is typical of the tremendous scope of the program launched
by the Office of The Quartermaster General more than a year ago to reduce to an
absolute minimum the amount of suffering due to cold weather that American
soldiers would have to endure.
Originally the program was instituted to give winter-weather
indoctrination to units headed from America’s east coast to the European
Theatre. At Camp Shanks and other eastern staging areas, units, before making
the trip to Europe, were instructed in the type of weather they could expect to
find there, in the type of clothing they would be issued, and in how to make the
best possible use of it.
But the "wet-cold" program really struck its stride after the
war in Europe had ended, when America's military planning centered on the
Pacific, and especially on the expected final battles in the Japanese homelands.
The same system of indoctrination of troops at ports of embarkation
before they sailed for foreign services was employed. But there were already
tens and hundreds of thousands of troops in the Pacific-men who had been working
and fighting in tropic and semitropic areas almost exclusively since the war
began. These, too, would require a knowledge of the natural dangers which would
threaten them if winter operations in the chilly Japanese home islands should
That, of course, was before the atomic bomb; before many of the B-29
strikes which crippled Japanese production; before any other than the most
optimistic prophet would predict an end of the Pacific war with-out costly,
hand-to-hand destruction of fanatic Japs among the ruins of their cities and
Some plan had to be devised to acquaint soldiers already in the islands
of the Pacific with the kind of winter fighting they could expect to find in
Japan. And find it they would have if the war had continued, for post-victory
revelations of war - plans clearly showed a winter campaign in prospect.
The plan was devised at the Office of The Quartermaster General, and it
proposed probably the most intensive instructional program the Army has ever
attempted. Instructors selected at The Quartermaster General’s Office were to
travel to the Pacific and individually instruct hundreds of thousands of troops
in the perils and preventive measures pertaining to wet-cold weather.
From among all available Quartermaster officers a group was selected
whose background and civilian and military experience had best qualified them
for the task of lecturing as many as five times a day to audiences of from 20 to
2,000. Some of these were dispatched to the command then known as the Southwest
Pacific, later to become Army Forces Western Pacific, while nine were to journey
to Hawaii and there join Army Forces, Pacific Ocean Areas, later Army Forces,
The group which assembled in Washington in May to begin its trip to
Honolulu was as varied in background and experience as any such body could be.
Major Curtis A. Stone had been a bank official in civil life; Captain George D.
Godwin, Jr., a football player and trucking company operator; Captain Robert H.
Hall, a college student and law-school aspirant; Captain Clarence J. MacManus, a
professional boxer and freight-line manager; Lieutenant George T. Dale, public
relations man in a public utility; Lieutenant James D. Norman, a newspaper
advertising salesman; Lieutenant Richard H. Greene, an insurance company
employee in Manhattan; and Lieutenant Robert E. Huber had worked in a hotel
operated by his father.
The personnel of "Wet-Cold Weather Team No.4" may not be
particularly interesting to one who reads I about it, but to the individuals who
composed it the characteristics of their companions were to be most important.
On a dozen Pacific Islands, in heat and cold and mud and slush, these men
were to eat, live, talk, and work together. They were to eat in mess-halls
ranging from commodious, well-appointed officers' clubs to
hardly-distinguishable mess-lines in clearings but recently claimed from the
jungles; live in pup-tents, quonsets, and finally in Korean and Japanese hotels;
talk to bored audiences just off twelve-hour back-breaking dock-shifts, and
preface USO shows bristling with top Hollywood talent; work under
104-in-the-shade tropic conditions, within range of an occasional sniper, and
confronted with the generally incredulous attitude natural to men sweltering
under equatorial skies.
On the island of Oahu, at POA headquarters, Captain William F. Pounder, a
former Lever Brothers sales manager and, militarily, a field representative of
the Office of The Quartermaster General, had preceded and laid the groundwork
for the wet-cold clothing team. Specific directives setting out the mission of
the group, the importance of their task, and the methods to be followed by
subordinate commands, were issued there.
At Oahu the group picked up its tenth and last member, Lieutenant Robert
S. Kelly of the Quartermaster Section, Headquarters Army Forces, Pacific Ocean
Areas, in civilian life a newspaperman and politician, who became both public
relations representative and participating instructor of the team.
After preparations were completed at Honolulu for the trip westward, the
ten instructors took off. Prior to their departure from the Territory of Hawaii,
troops of the Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, rear echelons of the 10th Army and IX
Corps, plus garrison troops of the Islands, were instructed in the climatic
conditions prevalent in the Japanese home areas.
Each instructor carried with him a complete outfit of the clothing to be
issued to troops scheduled to participate in the forthcoming offensive
operations in Japan-and demonstrated its proper use.
Actually, the demonstration was the worst cross to bear. Picture, for a
moment, an outdoor theatre; a tropic sun beating down with almost unendurable
force; men sweating even damper clothing that already seemed sopping wet-and a
"wet-cold" instructor donning layer after layer of woolen clothing.
On Kwajalein, Saipan, Tinian, Guam, and Iwo Jima, Greene, Dale, and
Kelly, the heaviest of the group, each dropped between fifteen and twenty
pounds. It wouldn 't have been so bad to put the clothing on, then take it off
immediately, but the purpose of the instruction required that the layers be
donned in succession, and the use of each explained before the next was put on.
It all added up to a Turkish-bath-like sweating-out.
Each instructor, although conforming to a general presentation of the
basic facts, worked out his own approach. Huber acquired an almost evangeheal
fervor; so did Godwin. Pounder, Dale, and Kelly relied strongly on
politician-style interlarding with jokes and gags. Hall and Greene were more
serious. Major Stone stuck very closely to the written outline known as
"Cold Facts," which was the bible for the tour, and Norman and
MacManus were the "swing men”, sometimes very serious, sometimes heavy on
the humorous side.
Each, in his own right; worked out an approach. In the "heavy
days" on Okinawa, where instructors sometimes talked to as many as five
thousand men a day when they gathered in their tents atop "Iscom Hill"
to talk over the day’s work, it was not unusual to hear such soldier-remarks
as "the best Army lecture I ever heard."
Speaking quite frankly, they sold the program. It wasn't a complicated
matter, really, reduced to its bare essentials. The "layer principle,"
wherein the warmth is derived primarily from insulating layers of air between
separate, relatively light woolen garments, was the key-note, was the key word
in describing proper care of wet-cold weather clothing. "Keep it
clean," "avoid over-heating," "wear it loose," and
"keep it dry”-these were the basic principles.
Such matters as the temperature of the target area-Japanese home islands
and surrounding territory-with relation to climates in the States, were
discussed; the great losses of units in the European and Mediterranean Theatres
of Operation from weather conditions, and the possible permanently crippling
effects of such injuries to individuals were dwelt upon.
It wasn't all work, of course, despite the days when speaking-schedules
stretched from seven o’clock in the morning until midnight, to catch men who
worked the swing shift. Several
long-distance card rivalries grew up, and before the long voyage home began,
hardly a man in the group-not even Dale, who had always boasted of being
impervious to cards-was less than a moderate expert at gin rummy and cribbage.
There were disturbing times, too, even on such semi-rear area"
islands as Saipan and Guam, where .45s were standard equipment for more reasons
than their war-like appearance. On Iwo Jima, Japs were killed a few hundred
yards from the quonset hut where the "wet-cold" group was quartered,
and on Okinawa there was no doubt at all that a war existed nearby. One night,
between air raids in the 7th Division area on Southern Okinawa, Godwin, Dale,
Greene, and Kelly crept back to bed-or cot, to be more accurate. Hardly had they
arrived when the swish of a 5-inch shell seemed almost to take the metal cap off
their tent-an exaggeration, obviously, but one which they didn't stop to argue
about as they scrambled back to a nearby ditch.
MacManus was awakened one night in the same general area of Okinawa by
machine-gun fire, and left his tent just in time to see the last of a party of
Japs, creeping over a nearby ridge, shot down. The following morning he went out
with an investigating party of the 20th Armored Group men, but fortunately didn
't get too close before the lone Jap survivor pulled the pin on a grenade. One
of the splattering fragments took the ear off a soldier who did go too close.
And then there was the wild night of August 10th on Okinawa-the night the
first Japanese surrender offer was broadcast. Stone and Kelly, who had just
returned from lectures at the 187th QM Battalion, returned to the Island Command
Area to find all of the other members of the group already back and either at
the prize-fights in Iscom Bowl or the movies in a nearby mess-hall. Stone
selected the prize-fights, while Kelly went to the movie-a never-to-be-forgotten
showing of Joan Fontaine in "Susan and God."
The movie was about half-finished when some one ran in shouting the news
of Japanese capitulation, just received on a radio in an adjoining mess shack.
The movie crowd broke up, of course. Soon after the "wet-cold" squad
assembled on a hill atop the previously oft-used dugout bomb shelter, the
There will never again be such a fireworks display. Every calibre gun on
the island seemed to be firing-and mostly tracers. The sky actually assumed
almost the tint of dawn when the firing reached its crescendo-and only the next
day did the group learn of the tragic number of men killed in the exuberant
display, which finally ended only when an air alert began. We thought it was a
"phony" alert, pulled to end the shooting. Actually it turned out to
be genuine, for Japanese planes were over the Buckner Bay Harbor. And a few
nights later other planes staged the raid which severely damaged the battleship
Pennsylvania, while peace negotiations were in progress.
The "wet-cold" team broke up after VJ-day, with Major Stone,
Captains Godwin and Hall, and Lieutenant Huber journeying to the Philippines to
aid instructors in that area in completing their training program. The others
remained together, although Captain Pounder and Lieutenant Greene visited
Mindoro in the Philippines to instruct the 96th Division, then expected to be a
part of the occupation force in Korea.
The end of the trail came in Korea, where Wet-Cold Team No.4 functioned
as winter-clothing advisors to the Office of the Quartermaster of XXIV Corps.
Pounder, Dale, Norman, and Greene made the Okinawa-Korea trip by APA, while
MacManus and Kelly went up via 308th Bomb Wing Troop Carrier C-46s.
And speaking of C-46s, there's no doubt but that Stone, Hall, MacManus,
Dale, Norman, and Huber will long recall that trip from Iwo Jima to Okinawa,
when a half-filled gasoline tank caused both motors to cut out in mid-air. As
MacManus phrased it, "It can get awful still up there awful quick.,'
Fortunately the switch to another gas tank was successfully accomplished.
The work in Korea brought the rewards of civilization to the "WCTU"
(short for "Wet-Cold Training Unit" and no commentary on the personal
habits of its members), as it did to all other troops who had experienced such
sites as Iwo, Kwajalein, and Okinawa in the early days. Incidentally, troops in
the forward areas had an expression which the "wet-colders" stayed on
Okinawa long enough to use: "you should have seen this rock when I hit it
"-a remark ordinarily employed when some newcomer referred to the
relatively pleasant state of development of an island.
At Seoul, the capital of Korea, the remaining members of the
"wet-cold" team were quartered on the American-style sixth floor of
the Hanto Hotel, appropriately enough in "one big room." In small
groups they left to return to Washington, until the last departee, Kelly, left
on October 25th to return to the Island of Oahu.
In Tokyo the last reunion took place when Kelly, awaiting air
transportation, encountered Major Stone and Captain Godwin, up from the Island
of Kyushu and ready to go Stateside. On Kyushu they had functioned as advisors
to the 5th Marine Amphibious Corps, as had the team's majority section in Korea
to the XXIV Corps.
It is difficult to recall such a journey as other than a series of
incidents and individuals. Lt. Col. William S. Rockwell, Army Garrison Force
Quartermaster at Guam, who accorded such a pleasant reception, is an example
selected at random from many such friendly individuals.
But in a broad sense, a tremendous task was accomplished. Some 600,000
Army, Navy, and Marine personnel were instructed. The troops who today occupy
Japan and Korea were each and all familiar with the winter uniforms they
received, as the winter months set in long before they got them.
True, no invasion of Japan was necessary, and that very fact rendered
unnecessary a knowledge, on the part of every man who would have participated,
of the dangers of icy slush and freezing rains. But, on the other hand, had we
never prepared for an invasion of the Japanese empire, had superforts and
carrier strikes and atomic bombs not been put in action to prepare the way for
us, we would never have won the war.
Those, however, are side issues. The fact remains that when the soldier
in Seoul, Korea, who spoke to Lieutenant Greene stands guard this winter at some
ordnance depot or billeting area in drifting snow, he'll know the dangers of the
wet-cold weather we talked about under blazing skies on Saipan.
That was the end we sought and that was the end we accomplished.
since 29 May 2001