This webpage is dedicated to my grandfather, Francis Cain, honoring his work and bravery in World War II. Before I interviewed my grandfather for this project, I never really knew about his war experiences. I knew that he had been in World War II, but I did not know what his role was or what he had to endure during the war. Only after interviewing him did I truly understand his important part in the war as a Technician 4th Grade Sergeant and later a Private, and realize how truly brave and commendable both him and his work were.
Enlistment and the Beginning
My grandfather enlisted in the army on October 19th, 1942, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. He was twenty years old at the time, and living on Richardson Road in Belmont, MA. He did not want to be drafted, so he reported to the Commonwealth Armory in Boston where he was underwent a physical and was sworn in. He then took a train from North Station to Fort Devons, where he went through more processing and was given two huge duffel bags full of supplies and clothing for all climates—no one knew the location they were being sent to next. It was a Wednesday and he remembers the bags were very heavy, and all the enlistees had to carry their bags a long distance to the train. Not everybody would be getting on that train and my grandfather remembered fearing having to return to the Fort carrying the bags to wait for the next train. However, he got lucky and was put in the last car on that train, and at 3:30 p.m. my grandfather departed. The shades were drawn and nobody knew where they were going. His car was the only one that did not have a sleeper, and he and the men in his car had to put their duffel bags in between the seats so they could sleep. On the last night, my grandfather was put in a sleeper, and on Saturday at 8:45 p.m. he arrived in Texas. His train had gone through Canada to get there.
Explosion at Pearl Harbor
Camp Swift, Texas--Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio
He got sent to Camp Swift, 30 miles outside of Austin, Texas. Here he went through basic infantry training. He went on 26-mile hikes to Mt. Hood and back, and although he says the “heat was terrible” and many men complained, my grandfather never minded these hikes. He also learned how to handle and shoot a gun—he had never held one before. Then my grandfather got assigned to the Reconnaissance Squadron (nicknamed the “Suicide Squadron”), where he would have to man the tanks. Fortunately, he was sent to Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, instead, and transferred to the 3rd Army Headquarters Signal Corps under General Krueger, a four star general. General MacArthur then called General Krueger to form the 6th Army Headquarters to be sent to the Pacific War Theater. My grandfather became part of this regiment and was sent overseas in January to Brisbane, Australia. He went on an unescorted Dutch liner. He says that, “My bunk was on the top of seven layers so I was just under the ceiling. I could touch it.” Because the liner was unescorted, it had to “zigzag all the way across the Pacific Ocean” and the men had to be on deck sunrise and sunset because of possible submarine scares, of which there were several.
Map of the Pacific Theater
Goodenough Island, New Guinea--Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea
After Brisbane, my grandfather got relocated to Goodenough Island, off the coast of New Guinea. After the Infantry moved on, my grandfather and the Signal Corps followed and went to Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea. Each time the Infantry moved, the Signal Corps followed. This was all part of MacArthur’s plan of 'island hopping', where the troops captured an island, then moved on to the next, and continued doing this as they got closer and closer to their final destination—Japan. In Hollandia, my grandfather and the Signal Corps continued ordering supplies for the Infantry nearby, and for the Air Forces. They also experienced actual fighting near them for the first time. They saw Japanese and American planes fighting, and each time a Japanese plane flew overhead, they’d have to hide in small foxholes that they’d dug in the ground. My grandfather says this experience was very scary since it was the first time they’d experienced fighting, and since they never knew when the Japanese would drop a bomb. During this time, my grandfather also helped to plan and map out places for the invasion of the Philippines.
My grandfather's guide
Furlough: Melbourne and Sydney, Australia, and Return to Hollandia
My grandfather was then given his first furlough—he got to spend 2 weeks in Sydney, Australia. However, the men chose to spend the weeks in Melbourne instead. He went on a C47 plane, where you have to sit sideways in the seats, but they could not land because it was too foggy, and they had to go back to Hollandia. Their second attempt resulted in the same thing. “At that point I wasn’t so sure I wanted to go to Sydney anymore,” my grandfather laughed. But on the third attempt they were able to land. To this day my grandfather does not like plane travel. After his plane landed, my grandfather took a train to Sydney, and then another train, with a friend, to Melbourne. He says that Melbourne was a beautiful city that was not very modernized and had beautiful gardens, whereas Sydney was more modern and reminded him of New York City. After two weeks, he returned to Sydney and had to wait another week for a plane back to Hollandia. When he got back to Hollandia, my grandfather continued to plan out the invasion of the Philippines. He also saw General MacArthur for the first time, walking around the headquarters with General Krueger, discussing plans to invade the Philippines. On Christmas Day, 1944, my grandfather very unfortunately received the first letter from his family in months, saying that his brother George had been killed in action at The Battle of the Bulge (December 16, 1944-January 28, 1945) on the European Front.
Leyte Gulf, Philippines
From here my grandfather moved on to Leyte Gulf in the Philippines on D+2 (two days after the initial invasion). It was very unusual for army headquarters to move in at this time. They were on a landing craft and had to get to land. My grandfather could hear the guns and firing from the attack, meaning he was very near the fighting. The army headquarters had to build foxholes again. They were a short ways from the shore, and could see Japanese suicide planes (kamikazes), swooping down and flying into American ships carrying supplies. However, my grandfather says, “We turned the Japs back and MacArthur marched in victory.”
Japanese fighter planes
Luzon, Philippines--45-day leave back home--Lake Placid, New York
From Leyte Gulf, my grandfather moved to Luzon. MacArthur went to Manila, which was about 20 miles from Luzon, and freed the many American prisoners trapped there. In Luzon, my grandfather helped to plan the invasion of Japan. He helped to map out locations where the troops could invade. In April 1945, General Krueger requested from MacArthur that some of my grandfather’s troop be sent home on a temporary 45-day leave, and then return for the invasion of Japan. He asked this because none of my grandfather’s troops had been back home since they’d enlisted and they did not have enough rotation points since they did not fight in the battles. My grandfather was one of the men chosen to return home, and he says it took them 37 days to return to San Francisco from Milne Bay, New Guinea, on the Liberty ship. He says they played Pinochle a lot and sunbathed on the deck, getting so tanned they looked black. When he finally reached home, and his 45-day leave began (May 15th, 1945), his younger sister Ann cried because she did not recognize him. While he was at home, the European war ended. Because of this, he was allowed to go to Lake Placid for two weeks of rest and relaxation after his 45-day leave. He and his troop got to relax the entire time and eat great food at the clubhouse.
Fort Dix, New Jersey
My grandfather then got sent to Fort Dix in New Jersey in June of ’45, where he did office work for the Army Separation Headquarters, screening troops for discharge. While at Fort Dix, he came down with malaria, which he had contracted while overseas. He says that the malaria was probably dormant in him while he was overseas since they took pills to prevent it, and that it became active when he stopped taking the pills at home. My grandfather remembers these pills made the skin of the men temporarily turn yellow. He did not want to go to the hospital, and was sent to the sick barracks. However, after experiencing fever for a week, he got sent to the Army Base Hospital, where he stayed for 5 or 6 days and read Gone With the Wind. After he was released, he had reoccurring malaria attacks and received a disability pension for several years because of it.
Japan surrendered on August 14th, 1945, after the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. My grandfather says that although the bombing was terrible, he was happy to be able to go home, and happy that the lives of many young boys would be saved since they would not have to invade Japan. On October 11th, 1945, my grandfather was honorably discharged from the army, which he had served in for nearly three years. He received awards for his service such as the Adriatic Pacific Service Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, and the Philippines Liberation Ribbon with 1 star. He came back home on a troop train, which this time did have a sleeper. My grandfather said that it was very good to be back home, and for many years he kept in contact with a friend from Long Island, NY, who he went to visit frequently, a friend from Port Arthur, Texas, and a friend from Minnesota.
Honorable Discharge Document Personal Information
My grandfather also offered details on more general parts of his experience during the war. He says that the food was terrible. They had c-rations. For breakfast they served powdered eggs (which he did not eat), black coffee (which the men nicknamed “mud”), and dry toast. He says they also had spam, ground beef, and apricots until they “came out of your ears.” He also mentioned that one the scariest parts of the war was when they were near the action and had Japanese planes flying over them. He believes that one time a bomb from a Japanese plane hit a mess hall right near them.
Now my grandfather is living in Melrose, MA. He is happily married to his wife, Mary, and is a loving father and grandfather. He had a very important role in World War II and maintained courage through all his experiences traveling far from home—experiences of death, nearby fighting, and illness. I am so proud to have him as my grandfather, and I hope that he recognizes his accomplishments in the war and enjoys this webpage in his honor.
Anonymous. “MacArthur Prods Enemy Stallers, Makes Ready for Rule Over Japan.”
Newsweek Volume XXVI Number 9 (August 27, 1945): 19-21.
Anonymous. “United States of America Congressional Gold Medal: Douglas MacArthur
Farewell Address to Congress.” November 10, 2005.
Ball, Dr. William J. “Burning Ships at Pearl Harbor.” November 10, 2005.
Cain, Francis. Interview. December 18, 2005.
Iriye, Akira. Pearl Harbor and the Coming of the Pacific War. USA: Bedford/St.
Sulzberger, C.L. The American Heritage Picture History of World War II. USA:
American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc., 1966.
Anonymous. The New Grolier Encyclopedia of World War II volume 3. Singapore: Third
Grolier Printing Books, 2001.
Chappell, John D. Before the Bomb. Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of
Feldman, George. World War II: Almanac Volume II. USA: U.X.L (an imprint of the
Gale group), 2000.
Howes, Kelly King. World War II Biographies. USA: U.X.L (an imprint of the Gale
Wikipedia. “South West Pacific Area.” December 9, 2005. November 2, 2005.