Memories Of A Long-Ago WW2 Halloween

My Navy advanced team had been in the Philippines recapture campaign, moving up early in the year from the islands of Samar and Leyte. Then, as WWII ended in September, we were assigned to the capital city of Manila on the island of Luzon.

We lived in tents and worked in a Quonset hut alongside the main city river at the Navy Fleet Landing. We supplied visiting US ships with, among other items, movie equipment and films. Every night, we hung a large bed sheet on one side of the metal hut and projected a feature film. We built rows of benches for Navy, Marine, Army and Philippine soldiers to gather and watch the free movie.

Because our improvised outdoor theater was in mid-city, local people were welcome to join the audience. It usually included scores of homeless kids, the result of the terrible combat as Manila was being recaptured. Much of the city was destroyed and hundreds of adult civilians were wantonly killed by retreating Japanese troops. The kids also showed up at our camp to beg for food, freely given by the U.S. and local troops.

In late October, our crew decided to give the kids a Halloween movie evening. We looked through our reels, at first for a scary Frankenstein or Dracula, but decided the kids had already suffered enough fright.

Fortunately, a Navy ship in the harbor offered us a copy of “The Wizard of Oz”. Along with some makeshift holiday decor, party-style K-Rations and GI candy, Halloween night at the movies was a resounding success.

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