Thursday, December 15, 2011

Maj. Gillham misses a promotion

Maj. Gillham writes this letter two days before leaving on a trip to Kyushu, the southernmost of the four major islands of Japan. He tells the story of his rejected promotion application and the army red tape that caused it. He mentions that, despite the rejection, he was promoted to Lt. Colonel upon leaving the army -- this was the rank I remember him having when I knew him as a child.

13 Apr 46

Dearest darling,

Didn't work today -- just sort of took it easy and rested up. Tomorrow I plan to take a drive out into the country. Wednesday we will leave on the trip to Kyushu and will return about a week later. Soon after my return I expect to be on my way home one way or another.

After making several tests, the doctor here decided there is an infection in my system somewhere causing rheumatism. He ruled out bursitis. He wanted to put me in the hospital for further checks, but when I told him I was going home soon anyhow, he said maybe he could send me to Lawson General in Atlanta instead of to 42nd General in Tokyo. I am going ahead and make the trip to Kyushu and see him again when I return.

Went to the show tonight with Bull to the Ernie Pyle theatre. They had a hillbilly band in addition to the picture.

I purposely haven't written you anything about the promotion situation since I got here, because I didn't want to bore you with it. However, I guess I should tell the story once so you will be informed, and then we can forget it as far as I am concerned. Well, I came closer to it this time than ever before. I was put in a Lt. Col.'s job as soon as I got here. One of the regulations is that you must hold the job for three months before a recommendation for promotion can be submitted. At that time this theatre was authorized to make the promotions and it was generally just a few days from recommendation to consummation. I landed in Japan on 29 Oct., but spent several days at the replacement depot while they were processing me, so that I didn't report to GHQ until 7 Nov. Exactly three months later on 7 Feb., my recommendation was submitted. But in the meantime on 1 Feb., a new War Dept. regulation came out saying that all field grade promotions must be submitted to the War Dept. in Washington, D.C. That indicated a delay, but it was still possible. Then, while they were processing my papers they made up a new rule to the effect that any officer considered for promotion would have to be staying in the army at least four months from the date of the recommendation. Of course, this was an ex-post-facto rule, and did not exist at the time my recommendation went in or at the time that I indicated the date to which I would remain in the army. It so happened I had indicated 15 May and according to this new rule I would have had to stay until 7 June, or three weeks longer. The papers kicked around for over a month and then were returned for the above reasons. My C.O. has offered to put my name in again, but it would mean staying four more months and it's not worth it now. Besides, they would change the rules again before the papers could go through. So I told him to forget it and instead to release me as soon as possible. He is releasing me as of 22 Apr., so whether I come to the hospital or not I will be leaving soon. They are reducing officers now instead of promoting them.

To help rub it in, the WACs who came on the same boat with me were sent directly to Tokyo from the ship without going thru the replacement depot. That enabled them to get under the wire and most of them were promoted, many to field grades. In addition, the navy worked under a different rule and many of my friends have made two jumps since leaving the states.

It boils down to the fact that I got here a week too late and planned to leave three weeks too soon. Also, if I had left the states two weeks later, yours and the childrens' expenses to Atlanta would have been paid.

Under present regulations I will be made a Lt. Col. when I start on terminal leave, as a sort of consolation prize. However, even that is dependant upon passing a physical examination, and this arthritis may throw it out.

I don't intend to worry about it or to bring it up again, but I knew you must be wondering what the situation was.

The trip to Japan has been interesting in many ways, and in many ways it has been beneficial to me. If you keep your ears open around here you pick up many interesting scraps of knowledge. Geo. Bull, who has studied Russian, was recently telling me about how the Greek alphabet happened to be introduced into Russia instead of the Roman.

My boss, Col. Unger, left today for temporary duty in the states. He was to fly in Gen. MacArthur's personal plane, so he should make a quick trip. He promised to call you up when he got near Atlanta. He will go to Washington and return here in about 45 days. They are doing that for a good many of the older regulars who have been out here for several years and will probably have to stay a couple of more. Since they can't bring their families here I think that it is the least they can do for them. It looks like bringing families here has fallen thru. I am glad I am not counting on bringing you all here. The reason is that there is just no housing. You have no idea what a vast waste of burned rubble most of the cities are.

I sent about four packages and a money order for $100 recently. This is just a verification remark.

Another thing which I want to verify (although it really isn't necessary) is positively that I love you very, very much. The memory of you and the hope of seeing you again is what keeps me going.



P.S. I haven't received the vitamin pills, but I don't expect them yet. So far I have received the two packages you sent from Calif.


Lawson General Hospital was a V.A. hospital in Chamblee, GA, which is now a part of the city of Atlanta. It was built during World War I on the spot of the old Camp Gordon and was used to treat wounded, especially amputee cases flown in from the fronts. It was closed in 1946.

Postcard of Lawson General Hospital, ca. 1945