[Archive of 1943–1945 of Second World War Letters to and from Naval Lt. James H. Hardy [with:] 1946–1947 Post-War Hardy Family Correspondence].
195 Letters: outgoing & incoming WWII correspondence of a lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserve serving in Port Hueneme, California and points elsewhere
“Thanksgiving—1943. Thankful for what? In a world at war / Where bullets whine and cannons roar, / Where the stuttering .50s of diving plane / Spit teeth of death from its chattering frame…” Lieut. James H. Hardy, Jr. (1903–1984)
Substantial letter group of Lieutenant James Hazen Hardy, Jr., U.S.N.R. comprising war-time letters (1943–1945) to and from his wife, Isabell Hardy (1907–2004), and family, and then post-war letters (1946–1947) to and from their son.¹
Lt. Hardy’s war-time correspondence consists of 105 letters of nearly 400 manuscript pages: Hardy writes 23 letters back home and receives 82 letters (mainly from his wife) while he is in the service. These 105 letters make up just over half the archive.
Hardy and his wife are literate and educated. At one point he writes admiringly of a particular edition of War and Peace he has just received. After the war, in 1948, he is graduated from Temple University, and became a Philadelphia lawyer. She is earning her college degree and encouraged by her husband to take extra-courses in anthropology.
Lt. Hardy was initially stationed at Advance Naval Base, Port Hueneme, Ventura County, California. During the Second World War, the base trained and supplied the Navy’s “Seabees” or Construction Battalions and as an amphibious-landing training school. Lt. Hardy was attached to Argus Unit 15. They trained and deployed amphibious combat teams to land on strategic islands and rapidly set up radar and communications to direct fighter aircraft. Hardy’s letters discuss his work at the Midway Islands and Hawaii. He is 40 years old and writes of problem solving and working with the “squadron” and talks about “my night fighter work.” Later, he writes about his own training as an FDO, a naval fighter director officer:
They were very unusual young men. They had to be able to carry a huge amount of rapidly changing information in their heads and think fast on their feet. They had to remember myriads of details like the maximum speeds and cruising speeds of the various types of fighters under their control, as well as their present state such as the fuel and ammunition remaining in their fighters. They also had to be able to instantly remember the capabilities of the various types of enemy airplanes that were at present converging on their task force. They had to have an innate sense of the relative motion between the fighters they were directing and their airborne targets, as well as the ability to predict the relative disposition of these aircraft many seconds or minutes in the future. Their rapidly formulated decisions and resultant commands could mean the difference between survival or destruction of ships in their task force. Such were the responsibilities of the World War II naval fighter director officers (FDOs).²
His wife is “back home” in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, just outside Philadelphia with their two children. There is much written about the Hardys’ family life and news of the progress of war, as seen from the home-front. In addition to his wife’s letters, there are several letters from his children, son James Hazen Hardy III (“Jimmie”) and daughter Judy Hardy (“Doodle Bug”).
Select Excerpts from War-Time Correspondence:
[From a 12 year-old pen pal:] Hello, You don’t know me and I dint know you so thats that. The reason I’m writing you is because my sister got a lot of names. Have you had K.P. [kitchen patrol] yet. Have you been in the brig or don’t they have one there. You may think I’m big but I’m only 12 years old and in 6 grade. ... If you write me tell me what time you get up and what you do doing [sic] the day and what time you go to bed. Do you fly a plane if you do tell me what kind it is. Have you been in a bomber yet. Do you fly a fighter for 1 or 2 men. My sister got alot of names in the Navy, Marines, Army, Air Corps, WAAC [Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps], Wave[s] [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, part of U.S. Naval Reserve] and I have written to a WAAC and sent her my picture so if you send me your I’ll send you mind [sic]. (Robert K. Snow to Lt. JHH, Jr., June 6, 1943)
You know how empty this house is when all the family is the way anyway, then add to that my unhappy news about you. ... And all my tears won’t bring you back – and then I start allover again – the hopelessness of it all – I have asked you so little of life – only you – and now it’s taken away – my loss is some one else’s gain for I know there won’t be a better Exec In all the Units put together. Your steady courage you have always given me you now can give all those boys under you & dear knows they will need it. I am not afraid I am just so lonely. ... Enclosed are our pictures. ... Do write to me as much as you can – I re-read your old letters – the love ones – when I don’t get new letters. [four photographs enclosed therein, likely of Isabell Hardy; JHH, III; and JH] (IH to Lt. JHH, Jr., August 14, 1943)
Dear Daddy, I think of you all the time and I cannot get over the fact that you have your own jeep, 45 automatic and 1 inch sheath knife. Do you think that you will keep them after the war. I shure hope so. ... Saturday mother went up to the city to tend to business. While she is up there she’s going to do some canning. I wish I was up there very much so I could work in the garden and pick things. Upon reading one of my magazines I came across an article telling how to build a food dehydrator. I will draw you a diagram and then discrib it. ... (JHH, III to Lt. JHH, Jr., August 17, 1943)
Sweetheart, I have to go on a little junket for several weeks—leaving tomorrow morning by plane. ... I look forward to the trip which will be over 1000 miles. I can’t say anything about it other than it should be very instructive. For your peace of mind it involves no hazard. ... How are my Doodle Bug [daughter, Judy Hardy] and Dear Jimmie [James Hazen Hardy III] doing? (Lt. JHH, Jr. to IH, November 14, 1943)
Though I might write a letter pregnant with news it would only be aborted by the shears of the Censor leaving sterile nonsense. Thus reduced to nonsense, I thought I might as well put it in rhyme as I reflected on this Day of Thanksgiving, thousands of miles away from those I love. Thanksgiving—1943. Thankful for what? In a world at war / Where bullets whine and cannons roar, / Where the stuttering .50s of diving plane / Spit teeth of death from its chattering frame; / Where bodies void of all expression / Lie stiff and stark from bomb’s concussion / Where eyes gaze upward in glassy stare / To a blue domed Heaven that does not care. / Where human creatures numbed of will / Follow the voices of leaders shrill / To hate, to kill, perforce to die, / But never to question or reason why / Where pious patriots far from harm / Grow fat on profits war jobs have brought / And cry of the hardships war has sent / To buy government bonds at three per-cent. ... I do hope for the sake of the children, you will make the coming holiday season one of joy and gladness and not one of simpering, long faced, sentimental reminiscence. (Lt. JHH, Jr. to IH, November 25, 1943)
Such a relief to get back and to read all your letters which were accumulating while I was away. Now that it is all over it is no military secret to say that I have been at Midway [Islands] for the past three weeks on special duty. Flew out Nov. 15th & flew back yesterday Dec. 4th. Going out we were in Martin Mariners PBMs [patrol bomber flying boat]... While at Midway I wrote you a couple of letters. The censorship regulations for so interpreted as to make it impossible to say more than “Hello I’m fine. Hope you are the same write soon.” ... I did mail two letters one on Nov. 21st which was returned to me the day before I left as not complying with Censor regulations:– to wit, I gave my location–spoke of goony birds–both which I defy you to find. And lastly wrote on both sides of the paper. The censorship rules in our Unit are just as meticulous but more reasonable. ... I also wrote you a letter on Thanksgiving Day–a “pome” believe it or not. Let me know whether you receive it. ... Your letters are such a joy. I live with you every moment of your experiences–in class–talking to other people etc.–And your tuberculosis idea was splendid. It will go over it eventually. The thing that pleases me most is that you had the idea! That you are alert & thinking and come up with ideas that make such good sense. Congratulations! Keep it up. ... When I left for Midway we were just getting our gear in operation. It came in on a later ship. Now it is going fine and we are getting good results. Four problems this afternoon and four Tally-Hos! Sunday is like any other day as far as working is concerned. When the flyers fly we operate. I handled one of the intercepts to-day. Tally-Ho out 30 miles which is good. We divide the problems among all the officers so that all will be competent in the work when we get where were going. ... Our destination is of course a secret. We don’t know. You will note in the newspapers however the Admiral Nimitz says that the Marshalls [Marshall Islands] are next. Such islands as Wotje [Atoll], Jaluit [Atoll] etc. Held by the Japs a long time and no doubt tough. The Gilberts [Gilbert Islands] you recall were formerly British. Occupied by the Japs only a short time. (Lt. JHH, Jr. to IH, December 5, 1943)
We have just had another bull session discussing operations and tactics, going over the problems of the day and deciding where in technique and mechanical set up can be improved. I do feel that we are making good progress and will be well prepared to carry out any assignment given us. ... I opened the box from my mother before I realized it was a Xmas box—candy tobacco and Tolstoy’s “War & Peace.” It was very sweet of her to send them. The War & Peace is a new edition with notes and a long preface by Clifton Fadiman. I have already started it. The length of the book has always deterred me from attempting it. However, it is one of the greatest novels written in all time and I should read it. It will probably take me ages but here goes. ... In a column last week a soldier wrote stating that altho he was married & had children in the states, when he came out here he fell in love first with one native girl and then a second. ... Now they are both about to have children and he wanted to know what he should do. After all he felt he wasn’t entirely to blame since they knew he was married. He was advised to go see a veterinarian! I think Aunt Bessie once had a similar solution for the same problem. (Lt. JHH, Jr. to IH, December 8, 1943)
Some of our officers and men are going to Maui to work with the squadron formerly led by Butch O’Hare who was lost in the Tarawa battle. I was going originally but the Skipper wanted to go and in consequence I am staying behind to carry on the work with the Unit here… Our Unit is one of the best trained Units in the field now so when we do get our assignment it will probably be a good one… A pilot only has to get lost once and be vectored home by the F.D. — to be sold on fighter direction for the rest of his life. I’ve seen it happen. A plane goes in the drink —miles from nowhere— the F.D. directs P.T. boats to the point, a rescue is made… (Lt. Hardy to IH, December 19,1943)
We are getting ready to shove now. You will be happy to know the Skipper decided he wanted me to go in with the main Unit rather than the SC-2 team. It will be some days later. The other fellows were anxious to go and there will be a big job to be done getting the main Unit ashore and in operation. During the earlier phases the ships will standby but when the main Unit gets in we shall be on our own. Liaison work in setting up will be important. If past activities can be any patterns for the future I don’t look for any Jap counter attacks for a couple of weeks after the initial occupation. Then there will probably be the usual raids. – You will read about it in “Time.” I understand that in the other occupations the censorship ban was lifted to the extent of permitting the men to write home to tell where they were. That was the case on Tarawa and Roi [Roi-Namur]. The scuttlebutt is that we can expect to be out there about six months. No word about Military Govt. ... If I am to be away from you anyhow during the war, whether I’m working in the Military Govt on one island or in fighter direction on another, or aboard ship should make little difference. (Lt. JHH, Jr. to IH, April 10, 1944)
We left Pearl Harbor this afternoon at 2 pm and are now out on the broad Pacific. What a job it was getting packed!… In addition to a field pack, carbine, .45 pistol, steel helmet and gas mask we brought a parachute bag full of personal gear aboard with us to stow about our bunks… The ship is a merchant marine ship… She is much better than the U.S.S. President Polk on which we came out from the States. Our quarters are midship, on the second deck just off the engine room. Our bunks are in tiers of three. I have the top bunk in one tier way up under the pipes and ventilation tubes… It is very hot down there despite the fact that the ship is equipped with a blower system which is supposed to keep the air cool and fresh ... The ship is of course blacked out at nights. Consequently when I went up on deck after dinner I had to forego my usual smoke ... I have been very much interested in the Marianas Operation. Thus far the only ground action according to the radio has been on Saipan and the progress there has been slow although they have gotten a good number of Jap planes in the operations thus far. I just learned that Phil is out there… (Lt. Hardy to IH, June 24,1944)
My darling, very sad news has come that little Phil was killed at Saipan. Sister received the telegram this morning. I was so in hopes that you would contact him or some of his buddies in your travels. If you ever get a chance to talk with any men from the 4th Marine division and hear any personal news about Phil it would please Sister so much. Last week I had such an urge to call her in her place and ask her how things were. I wish I had yielded to the impulse at that time. Poor Margaretta has endured so much! ... It seems only yesterday that Sister and Big Phil brought the baby home from the hospital. I see him as visibly as though he were my own. In all the time he spent with us he was always a sweet loving child. (IH to Lt. JHH, Jr., July 23, 1944)
To-day at school we spent a lot of time on navigation. – There goes a plane now—what a roar! The fighter director officers are now made equally responsible with the Officer of the Deck for any casualty resulting from collision of ships or any other error in navigation. I’ve got to know how to plot the speed and course of another ship – tell whether it is on the collision course or whether it will pass ahead or astern; tell when and where it will be nearest to our ship and tell what course and speed to take to avoid a collision. The responsibility of the fighter director has been increasing greatly. It is hard for me to think of myself with my limited training in such a spot, but when you have to, you do. The fighter director has to work out torpedo firing problems – how much angle of lead, speed settings and at what range and bearing the torpedo should be released. Little did I think the Navy would get me into that. It is interesting, however, working out the problems… It gives one more a feeling that he is doing a job, too. (Lt. JHH, Jr. to IH, February 12, 1945)
A substantial cohesive portrait of one Pennsylvania military family during, and just after, the Second World War. Lieutenant Hardy’s service as a fighter director officer was a highly-skilled position that intertwined technical engineering skills, with command decision, with the help of the growing sophistication of U.S. naval radar. The FDOs saved the lives of aviators, and were instrumental in winning such battles as the Battle of the Philippine Sea (June 19–20, 1944), e.g., the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot.
Description: [Archive of 1943–1945 of Second World War Letters to and from Naval Lt. James H. Hardy [with:] 1946–1947 Post-War Hardy Family Correspondence].
Port Hueneme, Ventura County, California; Fleet Post Office San Francisco; Manoa, Delaware County, Pennsylvania; Andover, Massachusetts; Greenwich, Connecticut; and elsewhere. 1943–1945 and 1946–1947. Approx. 800 manuscript pages. Comprising approximately 195 letters with related papers, photographs, ephemera, etc. Many letters with enclosures. Overall, Very good.
Notes. 1. The second half of the Hardy Archive is post-WWII correspondence to and from the Hardy’s son, James Hazen Hardy III, a student at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts and his family. This material comprises 90 letters of approximately 400 pages. Some of this correspondence touches on Hardy’s life post-war, associated with the Navy as an FDO. 2. Ref. Retired USN Captain David L. Boslaugh’s “Radar and the Fighter Directors” via Radar and the Fighter Directors - Engineering and Technology History Wiki accessed online.