Sgt Roman F. Klick 36620923
HS 1393 Engr APO 75
c/p SF Cal
23 Jun 45
The reason for the double days on the headline of this letter is that this is Saturday's letter but I'm writing it immediately after eating breakfast on Sunday. Here is the reason: I went into Manila yesterday afternoon and didn't watch how I went out there so that I lost myself getting back and wound up in a locality that is worse than Riverside. Actually I spent over two hours weaving around bends and turns in this neighborhood. I asked information from three/no four Filipinos, three Army officers, two MPS and two colored enlisted men before I got out. It took me four kinds of different transportation to get there in the first place and I accepted five rides in the labyrinth before one got me out. Actually no one knew anything like the name of the highway or the location of the monastery or anything of the sort. So all they could give me was general directions and I would follow them until I'd come to a fork in the road that they forgot to tell me about and invariably I'd take the wrong one. I was actually getting worried for a while towards the end because I hadn't seen anyone for over forty minutes, there was no traffic and I'd been passing several blocks of what used to be houses before the Japs came through and left only the cement block foundations. The time was growing late and I was wondering just how in the world I was going to get out after the sun went down if I couldn't get anyone to direct me through during the day time. The colored enlisted men were the fellows who took me to the right MP entrance although they didn't know whether it was the right one or not.
Now I'd been tired enough walking around the Manila slum and China town area all afternoon so that after that three hour circling I was ready to drop in my tracks and when I came into the tent, changed clothes (it rained all while I was walking around) then fell directly to sleep and woke up this morning still dressed up with the mosquito bar dropped around me. That is how come I'm writing this morning instead of last night when I should have.
Now to tell you how come I got to Manila. I came down to work yesterday and Lt. Suiter told me he had told me to take the day off and I said he never actually came up to me and said it, that I could recall, but since he was telling me then, that I would not argue about it and would leave at once --- which I did. Now it was well into the morning, I hadn't showered or anything so I decided to lay around the tent all morning long which I did and which was a fairly good deal on account of because it was nice to be lazy. Yet it rained and we had to dig drainage ditches and fix the sides of the tent a bit better.
In the afternoon I rode in with a truck load of army air corps officers on their way home to the states after seven months combat flying. They were just like fellows picture air corps officers - more jolly and everything like enlisted men instead of dignified as other army officers usually are. It was surprisingly how famously we got along and when they dropped us off it was like saying so-long to a buddy.
First thing I did when I got into Manila was go to the Red Cross and have a glass of lemonade and two doughnuts. Later on at supper time or about four o'clock we went back and had three cups of lemonade and two bun-meat sandwiches.
In my rush to tell you everything this morning I'll probably miss all the salient details of my trip into town but will retell the story in more detail in this evening's letters.
Most of the front part of Chinatown which extends right into the heart of the downtown district, was wrecked but as you go further back, it is more built up. The women wore those Katherine Hepburn outfits of Dragon Seed --- silk pants which reach about three inches above the ankle and a blouse or shirt which comes down to below the hips and closes up tight and collarless at the neck. It was funny actually to see everyone dressed that way.
Then we came on what was the Maxwell Street, West Madison, Halsted Street and all that rolled up into one. The stench of the open market was almost unbearable and the throngs of people could put the busy loop to shame. There weren't many soldiers around that area so I believe we were really into the life of the other side of the city.
One thing I noticed was being sold very much and that was ears of corn and they all had little stoves with tin covers on which they were frying or actually burning these ears of corn and then the customers would come up, buy the heated up ear of corn, eat it by the stick in the end and then toss it out into the gutter when finished.
That was the poor section with the poor buildings, poor stores and what not. Coming up from the other end into town Manila is actually better or was actually better than anything Chicago could produce. White buildings, large and modernistic, wide sidewalks and eight lane boulevards separated in the center by those long grassy islands like part of the outer drive and magnificent street lights and public buildings. But all that is what was. Now there is nothing but what remains of those things and it will be ten years before the city once again resumes its pre-war splendor. No kidding, Aunty Clara, that part of Manila is just like being back home again, traffic, well dressed people, big building and 1941 and 1942 automobiles galore.
Some of the buildings are being repaired like this one that will be the largest Red Cross building in the world. It is a beauty now, wrecked, and will be super once again when it is fixed. Other buildings are practically demolished and you wonder how a building could be that badly mangled. The explosives or shells actually reduced the stone and cement into a rubble of broken pieces.
On the way back 1 Filipino gave me two Jap coins as souvenirs. And the bridges over the Pasig river are reminiscent of walking into the Loop across the Chicago river bridges. Downtown there are remains of signs advertising Life Insurance, The Great Eastern Hotel, printers and so forth. Some buildings miraculously escaped harm and are standing right in the middle of all the other damage. They look good, as high as ten stories and looking just like any ten story building down town. In the heart of Manila the Filipinos speak English just like anyone else because it was part of their business to be able to speak it. They also have boys and men with little ting-a-ling bells selling ice drops (our popsicles) and ice cream bars.
So-long, /s/ Roman Roman