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Earl R. Brewster

Chaplain, USN (Ret.)
Alpine, California Sept. 1969


For Rosie and Cathy
sketch of Chaplain behind barbed wire, by Rosella Brewster“Barbed-wire Chaplain” is not fiction; it is composed of facts and observations from my own experience over a period of five years. This period includes the years of World War II, beginning a year before Pearl Harbor — when I was fresh-caught in San Diego, and ending near the close of 1945 — after having enjoyed “my home sweet home” in Coronado for several months.

The first part of the book is designed to provide a background for the three years behind barbed-wire, which is the heart of my story. Although this is not a travelogue, I have tried in the first chapters to picture the chaplain in different and varied situations, with which most people may not be familiar.

Although this is a serious book, I did not want it to be too morbid or grim and have gone out of my way to tell of amusing incidents…as well as those more touching…and some which had to be quite morbid and grim.

This book is not designed to be history. Although I have used facts rather than fiction, and have tried to be accurate, I have not engaged completely in the kind of research characteristic of a PhD dissertation. Any mistakes –of omission, as well as commission — are of the head, rather than the heart, you may be assured.

It may seem to some that at times I have been pretty hard on our captors; maybe I have been hard, but I trust that I have been fair, which I have aimed to be. If I didn’t dislike the expression, I would say “I have told it like it was”. The fact is, an even more brutally realistic picture could have been drawn.

This account has been written in appreciation of my fellow prisoners of war, and primarily for my family and friends, without whom I would not have been able to tell the story.

by Chaplain Earl Brewster USN (Ret.)
Sketches by Rosella M. BrewsterBarbed Wire Chaplain - Round Trip to Hell


There I was — stranded on that waterfront — looking out across the bay, which had become a graveyard for ships and men. My own ship had fled the bombings, barely getting away alive and unhurt. So I had no “home”, no friends, nowhere to go. I was an orphan in a strange land, and felt something like a lost soul must feel on judgment day. It was almost a feeling of nakedness …in a frightened city … beginning to be ravaged by the hell of war. I was really “up the creek”, with no visible means of propulsion.
Barbed Wire Chaplain sketch by Rosella Brewster

Never had I experienced such a feeling of futility and frustration. How had I gotten here? What was I doing here? And what was going to happen to me now? In order to offer answers to these questions, and many others, the following true story has been written.



After the final surrender of the Philippines, I was interned at the prison camp number 1 at Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, P. I. I met Chaplain Brewster for the first time in this camp and was immediately struck by his splendid example of courage and fortitude under the stress of the terrible circumstances in which we found ourselves. In this camp all Naval and Marine Corps personnel, seeking to keep together as much as possible, had managed to be quartered in the same portion of the camp. It was difficult to maintain faith and hope in these horrible circumstances, but it was made easier for all of us by the moral and spiritual leadership of Chaplain Brewster. He was our friend and counselor and a constant source of good cheer and hope. He ministered to the sick, organized a daily Bible class for us which benefited all of us greatly, and every Sunday he delivered a sermon to us which was absolutely inspiring. His efforts were endless even though his physical strength ebbed constantly as a result of the starvation we were enduring.

Finally, a group of prisoners numbering 1,000 were sent to camp number 2 at the former Davao Penal Colony in Mindanao. Chaplain Brewster and I were in this group. We all suffered terribly from exposure and the unbelievably crowded and filthy conditions on the Japanese ship during the 11-day trip to Davao. Upon our arrival there, we were forced to march about 20 miles, which, in our weakened condition, was almost beyond the limits of our endurance. It was not long after our arrival in this new camp that Chaplain Brewster developed beri-beri, the disease which caused untold suffering among the prisoners. The chaplains condition was very serious. He suffered endless, stabbing pain in his feet and legs and he was not able to get up from his bed in our crude hospital. He was very thin. Sleep for him was almost impossible since there were no sedatives and the pain never stopped, not even for a minute. He once told me, “Jack, I never knew such suffering was possible on this earth. But I will never give up.”

Col. Jack Hawkins USMC, (Ret.)

[continue reading…]

April 12 (1944) – Leland’s Birthday thumbnail

Well, son, I have just written you one of the cards we are allowed to send every two or three months. Hope you are getting them and that this one reaches you before too long.  I was certainly glad to get the letter from you and Rosie, which I got just about a year after it was written. Also, about a week later I got a letter from Pearl. So glad to hear you all are all well. I was very much interested in your concert & your going to Pomona last summer. I am anxious to hear how  you got along.  Also interested in Rosie’s working. I was surprised, but glad to hear you were still in Coronado – I thought maybe you had gone to L.B.  I have great hopes of our having a home of our own in L.B – even have tentative plans for a house. In fact, I have a lot of plans I want to talk over with you guys.   For one thing – we are going to take a 3 month’s trip though the “states” – and “see America first”!  Hope you have joined the sea scouts and that you aare reading aloud regularly, which I think will be good for you speech.  I Have a reading group here – men whose eyesight is bad – to whom I read every day.  They seem to appreciate it – and it does me good .  [continue reading…]

May 10, 1944 our 40th Birthday thumbnail

Dear Sis, well, that 40th business sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it?   But I guess it’s not nearly as bad as it sounds. I thought last year I would surely be with you to “begin life at 40” – & I still think we’ll get together while we’re still 40.  I’ve been thinking that we ought to have a birthday dinner at the Mission Inn – how about it? – have our kids and mother – put on a little dog.  There are of course lots of things I want to do when I get back – it’s already been a long time maybe I can make up for lost time.

I have gotten 10 letters in the last 2 months – including one from you.  It’s really something to get some mail after not hearing a word for almost 2 ½ yrs – but the people at home have had their periods of suspense, too, which have perhaps been harder than ours.  But I have not been doing too bad since a pretty rugged time in the hospital last year. This may not get to you before I do,  so I won’t try to put down too many details.   My birthday dinner will consist of boiled camotes & tea tonight – I saved little butter from our Red Cross boxes – will have to postpone the fried chicken & cake – hope you’ll eat a piece of each for me. [continue reading…]

May 14, 1944 (Mother’s Day) thumbnail

To Four Mothers: my own, the mother of my boys, the mother of my wife, & the mother of my first nephew, who probably would be in this war too – had he lived.
Well girls how are we doing? I am doing better than at this time last year, when I hadn’t been out of the hospital very long. I am apparently pretty well over the effects of beri beri, which really had me down for a while. I have worked out in the fields some, but lately ‘ have been just carrying on my work as a chaplain within the camp. There is only one other protestant chaplain here now and he confines his work to the hospital. So I find plenty to do & what with reading and conducting some reading groups I think I am able to spend my time quite profitably.
I thought of you all, of course as I conducted my service this morning. I think we had a larger attendance than on Easter – so we are all thinking a lot about our mothers, wives, and sisters, who have meant so much to us & who mean more than ever now. [continue reading…]

May 10, 1944 – Poem – My (our) 40th Birthday thumbnail

Now that I’m forty years old –
just how do I feel today?
Since the story must be told-
it’s really hard to say.

Though I’ve never been here before –
and never will be again,
I’m sure there’s much more in store
than in the good old days when”

Life should begin for me now
and I surely believe that it’s true.
For I’m really convinced, somehow,
that each day’s a beginning anew.

Though I thought we’d be home
by this time –
the very best of plans of a man,
go bad without reason or rhyme
– try as hard as ever you can.

But there’s always something to learn
from every experience of life.
And some things which we have to earn
– sometimes through considerable strife.
[continue reading…]

July 1, 1944: To My Mother (on her 77th birthday) thumbnail

-Well, Mother, I’m a few days late for your birthday, but it couldn’t be helped, since we have been on the move again – from June 5 – 28. We have had a very hard and trying 3 weeks –coming back to where we were before – after having been gone for 20 months. This is the hardest trip we’ve had – and we are all completely worn out, but are gradually getting readjusted again. It is amazing what the human body can stand – we lost only one man on the trip – although many were not well to begin with. [Editor’s Note: This was continued below – 2 pages later in the journal]

I have stood the ordeal fairly well, though I am still very tired. Things may be a little better here, although we can’t expect too much at this stage of the game. We are hoping we won’t have to move anymore – until this business is over – and that it won’t be too long now. I am certainly hoping it won’t be over 3 altogether. We are hoping to get more mail here. Since we can’t see you it is wonderful to hear – even though the letters we have gotten were a year old. A fellow gets so lonesome and homesick – but I have not lost faith and am not discouraged. I will continue to be optimistic no matter what happens – and I hope to come back to you a better son, husband, father, and minister.

Hope you are well & that the good Lord spares you so that I can see you & tell you how much I love you. Earl

New Years, 1944

New Years, 1944 thumbnail

What’s new? I asked on every hand
Nothing at all – we usually say
But it’s not hard to understand
That there’s plenty new most every day
The day itself is new as Spring
And life itself is new as well
On this New year we still can sing

‘tho what’s in store we cannot tell
But some things are yet ever new
Though we often fail to see
So let us here put down a few
Whatever they may be
Behold, the prophet old did say
The Lord makes all things new
And furthermore, just any day
Is fresh as morning’s dew
The lord almighty also said
I make new Heaven and Earth
A new agreement then was made
And here we find new birth
This love is every new to men
More so than in the past
For here we find God speaks again
For Christ has come at last
Opportunities are every new
To make us better men [continue reading…]

August 1, 1944 – To Rosie (back from Manila) thumbnail

Dear Rosie: I am not observing a special date this time, but am writing because something especially good has happened to me during the past week. I was called back to Manila to be with the Naval hospital unit that I had left over 2 years ago. It came out of a clear blue sky & was a very pleasant surprise. It is the next thing to coming home & I hope I can stay here until I do start home. The Protestant Chaplain here is sick & they sent for me to take his place. I hope I will be a good pinch-hitter – & I am enjoying it very much. I got several letters here, and although this batch didn’t include any of yours – I know it is not because you have not written. There were 3 from mother – 1 which included notes from mother & dad Traver and Norma, 1 from Pearl, Mrs Hanks D.P. Freeman, & Alkire. The latest was Aug 20, 1943. I have been told I have later letters here being censored – so I am looking forward to them. [continue reading…]

Aug. 22, 1944 (our 18th Wedding Anniversary) thumbnail

Well, Rosie, it hardly seems like 18 years since our beautiful little wedding, but it certainly seems a long time since I’ve seen my beautiful little wife – and surely it just can’t be another long year before we get together again – and I don’t think it will be. So much has happened that I can’t begin to tell you about on paper, but I can still tell you that I love you with all my heart – and I hope and expect to be able to prove it in our years to come. Although I haven’t heard much from you, I know that you have thought and written plenty. The latest letter I have received was dated March 15(?) – 44 – from mother . Allie had already told me about mother’s selling her place. Of course I’m anxious to hear more about that – and a lot of things. I am enjoying it here – compared to the last couple years – since I’m with the hospital unit that I started to war with – & it is much more like home. I am the Protestant Chaplain & it makes a lot of difference to have a definite place. I have recovered some of the things I left here – & am even wearing whites to preach in on Sundays – but they are borrowed. [continue reading…]

December 15, 1941

December 15, 1941 thumbnail

[ed. This journal entry is cited in Chapter 4 – Manilla]

Dec 15, 1941
Plenty Rugged since I last wrote. Still staying at Army & Navy Club at night & “Headquarters” during day. Not getting used to raids, though there are several each day. Eating aboard a sister ship for 75⊄ (gold). Chaplain McManus has been very brotherly – even advanced me money – until I get my pay accounts straightened out. Still hoping to be able to get aboard before long — may take some time. My stern is getting better gradually, although the raids are a little rugged.
Am down to 188 – hope I can stay there. No use to try to send mail, of course. Will send another message before very long. Getting plenty anxious to hear from home – hoping something can come through before long. Spirits are higher the last day or two – am hoping for the best (turn to page 22)

Chaplain E. R. Brewster

[continue reading…]

Cabanatuan Prison Camp – (Tying up Loose Ends for Rosie) thumbnail

Cabanatuan Prison Camp
Oct. 22 1942

Rosie, Dear, Just a thought or two – just in case something should happen to me –which I do not anticipate – but it won’t do any harm to have a few things in black & white.
1.If the worst should happen, I figure you would have the following financial resources:
a. Several Hundred Dollars back pay which I haven’t drawn –this includes 10% pay increase for Asiatic Duty & a possible increase on account of promotion
b. At least $1000 (6 months of advance pay)
c. Around $40 a month for the rest of your life, from the $10000 government insurance
d. About $30 a month for life from Navy Mutual Aid Insurance
e. $30 Government Pension
f. $500 Benefit from Conference
g. Small widows benefit from conference
This is not too much, but enough to keep you out of the poor house. Perhaps you could get a little place somewhere – maybe in L.B [Long Beach] Of course such things would have [ed. top of page states “To be delivered by Lieut Marion Taylor – my very good friend”] to depend on your good judgment if either dad or mother Traver should pass out of the picture, would expect & want the other to live with you (or us – when I get back). Although I think it not best for them both to live with us (it might be OK for them to be with you). I would insist on our home being the home of either one that might be left. Cabanatuan Prison Camp [continue reading…]

Personal Effects Aboard The [U.S.S.] Holland thumbnail

(For Claim – in Case of Loss)

  • 2 Suits of Blues at $45)  $90.00
  • 2 Officers Caps (at $10) $20.00
  • 6 Cap Covers (at $1.00) $6.00
  • 6 White Shirts (at $2.00)  $12.00
  • 1 Doz Collars $2.50
  • 3 Black Ties (at $1.00)  $3.00
  • 1 doz Pair Black Sox (at 50⊄)  $6.00
  • 2 Doz Handkerchiefs (at $1.50) $3.00
  • 6 Suits Whites (at $10.50) $63.00
  • 1 PR Shoulder Boards $4.50
  • 4 Suits Khaki (at $5.00)  $20.00
  • 5 Pair Shoes (at $10.00)
  • 1 doz suits underwear (at $1.25) $15.00
  • 3 Suits Pajamas (at 2.50)
  • 1 Lounging Robe $7.50
  • 1 Bathing trunks $2.50
  • 1 Civilian Suit $35.00
  • 2 PR. Civilian trousers (at $7.50)  $15.00
  • 1 Sports Jacket $12.50
  • 1 Uniform Raincoat $37.50
  • 2 Civilian Hats (at $5) $10.00
  • Luggage $35.00
  • Golf Clubs & Bag $25
  • 1 Pocket Watch $50
  • 50 Professional Books (at $2.50)  $125.00
  • 1 Radio $12.50


Total – $670.00

Cover of Journal 3 – Earl Ray Brewzter
  1. December 15, 1941 (possibly aboard the U.S.S. Holland)
  2. Cabanatuan Prison Camp – (Tying up Loose Ends for Rosie)
  3. Personal Effects Aboard The [U.S.S.] Holland
  4. Table of Contents for Canvas Journal 3
  5. Highlights from Dec 2, 1941 (to Rosella Brewster)
  6. Spanish Notes
  7. My Will
  8. To Leonard on his 6th Birthday
  9. To Leland – Just on General Principles – October 12, 1942
  10. A General Prayer – April 19, 1942
  11. A Pacific Prayer (Feb. 1942)
  12. To Rosie – On the Eve of our Departure from Cabantuan __to? (Oct 10, 1942)
  13. Rosie’s 39th Birthday (March 22, 1944)
  14. Glossary of Naval Terms – by R.E.B. (presumably Earl Ray Brewster)
  15. Thanksgiving, 1943 Poem – Earl Ray Brewster
  16. Standing in Line – Earl Ray Brewster
  17. Poem Adapted from The 23rd Psalm – Earl Ray Brewster
  18. Poem Adapted From the 13th of 1st Corinthians
  19. Poem Adapted from Galatians 6: 1-10 Earl Ray Brewster 10/20/42
  20. Principles of Jesus
  21. To My Wife (Rosella Mae Brewster) – Mar 1942
  22. To Leland & Leonard – As They Start the New School Year – Sept 15, 1942
  23. “Debtors” – by Chaplain Earl Ray Brewster
  24. To Leland (my [?] yr. old son) March 10, 1942
  25. Leonard’s 7th Birthday – Oct 30
  26. To Leonard (my 5 yr. old son) Mar. 21, 1942
  27. Thanksgiving 1943 – to Rosie
  28. Christmas, 1943
  29. To My Mother – March 28, 1942
  30. Easter 1942 – Journal Entry Earl Ray Brewster
  31. Blackouts – Poem WWII Journal Entry
  32. To My Twin Sister Pearl – on our 38th Birthday – May 10, 1942
  33. To Rosie – On Her Birthday 3/22/42
  34. Mother’s 75th Birthday – June 27 1942
  35. Mother’s Day – May 10 1943
  36. To Condon’s Birthday – May 14, 1942
  37. To “Rosie” (Rosella Brewster) – Mother’s Day, 1942
  38. Mud – Poem by Earl Ray Brewster (during WWII)
  39. To Rosie – 16th Wedding Anniversary August 22, 1942
  40. Christmas 1943
Highlights from Dec 2, 1941 (to Rosella Brewster) thumbnail

To Rosie

Rosie, Dear, you probably didn’t get the last letters I wrote you (one from the hospital, where I went on Dec 2 & another after the war began).  Also, I didn’t get replies from either of 2 telegrams I sent you during December.

So – this is to more or less give you an idea of my activities until I get a chance to tell you personally – in case I get a chance to send this in advance.

The war broke while I was flat on my back in the Canacao hospital in Cavits.  We were evacuated to Manila the day before the bombing of Cavite.  I managed to get out of the Army hospital in Manila on Thurs Dec 11 – the day after the Cavite bombing, but it was too late to board the Holland, which left the evening before. Avery keen disappointment – but just one of those things.  I got over my operation ok.

After recuperating for a few days I was attached temporarily to the U.S.S. Canopus in Manila Harbor and then on Dec 22 was sent out to the Canacho hospital unity which was established several miles from Manila at a 7th Day Adventist school where I held a very strange Christmas service.  In fact the Christmas season was plenty strange & lonesome – without you guys.

The day after Christmas we moved back to Manila to a Catholic Girl’s school (Santa Seholtica) since Manila was being declared an open city. We were interned here on Jan 2 by the Japanese who treated us ok.

Chaplain Quinn was there, too. We had a number of patients and a large number on the staff – so I found plenty to do by way of visiting holding services, sings, games etc.  Also organized classes in English Spanish (taught some Spanish) German, Shorthand, etc  This was a nice place and we had very comfortable accommodations – and a pretty good food supply – since we had our share from raiding warehouses, during the port area bombings, which I missed, because of being sent out to the 7tgh day Adventist school.  I did have plenty of practice, though in responding to air raid alarms while attached to the canopus – and until Jan1. [continue reading…]

Spanish Notes

Spanish Notes thumbnail

I’ve started the transcription for this section but I’m hoping others can help out by transcribing what they can from the images below and posting it in a comment – then I’ll place it in the post itself. Thank you!

Untitled (Spanish Notes)

La Mitad = ½; un tercio = 1/3

Un cuarto = ¼ unquinto = 1/5

Sexton = 1/6

Doble = double; trple = triple

Quadruple = quadruple

2 veces 2, etc. 2 x2

Suelto = change (money)

Demaciado = too much

Despacio = slow

Esferico(a) = spherical

Redonda(o) = round (ovalado = oval)

Platano = banana

Tampoco = neither (contrary of tambien)

Hojas = leaves

Raiz = root (raices)

Ramas = branches (ramos = things)

Corteza = bark

Semilla = seeds

Sembrar = to bury

Parecer = to be/like

Vale mas = worh more

No vale nada = worth nothing

Vale tanto como phata = worth it’s weight in gold

Manzanas = apples

Uvas = grapes

Cerezas = cherries

Melocotón  = peach

(ed: unfinished)
[continue reading…]

My Will

My Will thumbnail

I Earl R. Brewster, of Coronado, California do make , publish, and declare this to be my last will and testament.
I give to my wife, Rosella all property of whatsoever thing and nature, whether real or personal, of wealth I may did possessed.
I hereby appoint my said wife as executor without bond with full power to sell, rent, mortgage, transfer and assign any or all of my said property upon such terms and conditions as she may deem to be to the best interests of my estate.
Earl R. Brewster
April 27, 1942
Manila, P.I.

My Will – Earl Brewster WWII POW

To Leonard on his 6th Birthday Oct 30, 1942 (written Oct 10, 1942)

Well, Leonard, son, here we go once more
though I’m writing a little bit soon
but I just want you to know the score
for we’re leaving Sunday noon

and of course as is the usual case
in this life that I’m still in,
we never really know the place
where we’ll end — or even begin.

But we’ve stayed with it all right so far
and I’m sure we’ll make it all right
And you have been for me a star
In this game of faith against sight

And although it’s been so hard for me
As it probably has for you —
To be apart where we cannot see
Each other as we used to do

You’ve also been at the very same time
A wonderful inspiration
Away out here in this tropical clime
controlled by a hostile nation

I’ve missed a while school-year with you
And this is the second birthday,
But I am sure you’ve been true blue
And it’s so hard to be away
[continue reading…]

To Leland – Just on General Principles – October 12, 1942 thumbnail

Well, Porky, Pal, I know full well
It isn’t your birthday just now
but I “kinda” figured I’d like to tell
You “things” before I leave, somehow

For after all, you’re my older son
And I’ve thought of you more than you know
And you are often the only one
On my mind – as on I go

I hardly realized how much you meant
When I was with you back there
Sometimes it’s necessary to be sent
Away – to realize, how you care

But if you’ll carry on a while
And I’ll try to do so, too
We’ll face life together with a smile,
Then better than we used to
[continue reading…]

A General Prayer – April 19, 1942 thumbnail

O God, our help in ages past
Our hope for years to come
Our shelter from the stormy blast
And our eternal Home–
We praise thee for Protection,
-for life, and for those who have
made life possible for us – for the
Heritage that is our most of all do
We bless thee for the gift of thy
Dear Son, Jesus Christ, whom to know is
Life Eternal – and who came that we might
Have life – and that more abundantly
We pray for that continued protection
& Guidance during these days of testing may
We be equal to the test – through the appropriation
Of thy power help us not to fail thee, our land
& our homes – for which we ask thy most gracious
Blessings – to the end that we all may be strengthened
For the present tasks and for those that lie ahead.
And as we have met here under these strange
circumstances we are mindful of the fact
that there are many others undergoing even
more trying experiences. We pray for them
– the homeless, the bereft, the wounded, the sick, the
persecuted, the hungry. O God, minister to their
needs according to thy great mercy – that thy
name may be glorified & that thy cause might
triumph – through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

A Pacific Prayer (Feb. 1942)

A Pacific Prayer (Feb. 1942) thumbnail

O God, who rulest waves and seas,
Our Father, guide and and friend thou art,
Why is it Lord, through times like these,
That sons of thine are forced apart

We see a world involved in strife,
And think of what the end may be,
And then we know that in thy life
Alone is found true liberty

And so we look beyond the clouds,
Reach out and take thy hand –
by faith in spite of shrouds,
Although we cannot understand.

We see young men who hear the call
Of the countries of their birth,
but we do not think their all
Can be buried in the Earth

Others have we seen with aw-
ful woulds and fearful sears –
to carry through the years,
But we are sure that all which Mars
Still brings the Master’s tears.

For He it was who cared
When God’s least child was maimed
And wept o’er many new-made graves
Not asking who was blamed

Not only so – but he alone
Did suffer like as we,
Before at last He gave His life
For you – and even me

That we might know that
since He Lived – and ever lives again
the future must bring forth the peace we crave
And good-will toward all men

With this our faith, we must
Not fail our God, our Land, our Home
Then we shall find eternal peace
No matter what may come

To Rosie – On the Eve of our Departure from Cabantuan __to? (Oct 10, 1942) thumbnail

To Rosie – On the Eve of our Departure from Cabantuan __to? (Oct 10, 1942)

Well, Rosie, Dear, it’s been some time,
Since I’ve written to my girl
I hope this writing isn’t a crime –
So I’ll give it another whirl

As i wrote to Leonard yesterday
We’re going to leave here soon,
But just before we shove away
I just thought I’d like to “spoon”

I’m sure you realize these day
That I would like to say more
but our limitations are such always
That writing is quite a chore

But nothing can keep me from thinking of you
No matter where I may be
For you and I are pals good & true
from time – through eternity

I guess that you would be surprised
By the things that I remember
(Many more than you’ve surmised)
– From January to December

So many so-called little things
that i had almost forgot
That in my mind there constantly Springs
A new purpose – believe it or not.

So I’ll just regard every day & hour
When I am with you three
An opportunity to “devour”
the best there can be

Never again shall an hour or day
Be commonplace or trite —
You must believe me when I say
That I have a fresh new insight
[continue reading…]

Rosie’s 39th Birthday (March 22, 1944) thumbnail

Well, precious, I have saved this space since Christmas & we have received no writing paper – so I will have to make this space do – at least for the present – hoping that I won’t need much more.  Three important things have happened:

  1. Your letter (with LeLand’s note) of 4/28/43 — the first & only that I have received – in 27 months and what a thrill! – to at least know you were o.k. 10 months ago – hope to get more soon – know you have written plenty – hope you have gotten mine – such as they are .  Will be great when we can write as we used to – or -better still when we don’t have to write at all.
  2. The Red Cross packages (received also about Mar. 1) containing canned & packaged foods, toilet articles and clothing.  Am trying to string some of my food along until my birthday – it has been a real treat – to supplement our meager diet – & the other things have come in handy, too.  I had been 14 months since our other R.C. packages came through.  I have been out of the hospital a year & am back to 160lbs. – feeling quite good – able to work half days in the fields – in addition to my work as Chaplain, which is necessarily rather limited – but I trust of some benefit.
  3. Now, for your birthday – certainly life will begin anew for us by your 40th birthday – if not by mine.  I have had to give up being with you by mine – but I still think something could happen by then – I am still the eternal optimist – & expect to continue to be. Am thinking plenty – & praying for the day when I can say a lot more.  Love – Earl
Glossery of Naval terms

Glossary of Naval Terms

  1. Active Duty – A means used by some civilians to evade the draft, get a soft job, and get an associate member ship in the club.
  2. Army – what the incompetent asses join
  3. Ability – a peculiar quality obtainable only at a place called Annapolis (requires more than 90 days)
  4. Boat – a conveyance never missed when going on liberty
  5. Bomb – a Japanese product that whistles and booms, and otherwise amuses Navy personnel.
  6. Civilian – a member of the human race of slight importance
  7. Discipline – knowing how to say “yes sir” to the proper people
  8. Duty – a short period spent occasionally on board ship, at some Naval station – may last as many as 4 hours
  9. Evacuate – to burn everything you have so you won’t have to carry it along where you move – then to scatter out in such a way that the enemy can’t possibly find any opposition
  10. [F-bomb] – the only adjective in the vocabulary of the enlisted man
  11. General – not a Naval officer – but the kind of court that gives you what you deserve
  12. Head – not a part of the body but a place where the body is parked during working hours
  13. Labor Battalion – an indignity to which no line officer would ever submit his men
  14. Line officer – The real McCoy – the rest just kid themselves
  15. Men – the insignificant portion of the personnel consisting of those below warrant
  16. Marine Corps – an organization designed to keep the Navy out of trouble
  17. Naval Officer – a full member of the club
  18. Pay & Allowances – what makes this pleasant existence possible
  19. Reserve Officer – a presumptuous civilian who has to crash the party and has been staved off by giving him his associate membership in the club – must be put in his place daily
  20. Seniority – the official religion
  21. RHIP [?] – that which makes a Gentleman (made so by an act of Congress) & stripes & bars a privileged character wherever he might be
Thanksgiving, 1943 Poem – Earl Ray Brewster thumbnail

What is there to be thankful for
This year in the midst of strife?
What good is there in the midst of war
When there is no normal life?

It is but natural that we ask
Because things are so strange
While we’re engaged in this grim task
From which there is no change

But when we think just a little bit
We find much to appreciate
There really is no doubt of it
In spite of fear and hate

so let us think a little while
about the things that are good
and we can all produce a smile
Though we haven’t Thanksgiving food

And though we miss our loved ones dear
And though we miss our home
We’ll make the most of the present year
through hope for the one to come

At least we’ve been spared our life
’tis surely by God’s grace
through it all -through hell and strife
A bright future we can face

And then we have been given health
though some are sick and dead
Now is there any greater wealth
that we could have instead?

And though our comforts are too few
We have some food and clothes
Though this is not the life we knew
We could have greater woes
[continue reading…]

Standing in Line – Earl Ray Brewster thumbnail

We stand in line in the morning
We stand in line at noon
We stand in line in the evening
We stand in line with the moon

We stand in line for roll call
In the Winter, Fall, and Spring
And for most any excuse at all
We line up for everything

We greet the new day in line
Before we are able to see
And then we are feeling fine
For we have lined up to “pee”

And then we line up for “tenko”
By our hosts we must be seen
And then we are rarin’ to go –
To visit the crowded latrine

We line up to be counted at mess
Three times each day in the week
Sometimes you can’t help but guess
What other line-ups they’ll seek

We line up for tobacco and stuff
At the PX in the Sun
Sometimes it gets pretty rough —
At least it isn’t much fun

But it’s not as bad as before
When for water we stood in line
Sometimes – for hours – three or four
so now it’s comparatively fine

But how much more fun will it be
When at home we can do our stuff
for you can readily see
Of these “lines” we have had enough

How swell it will be back there
When we don’t have to stand in line
And can sit in an easy chair
And our feet will be feeling fine

We won’t have to “tenko” at all
Or line up for smokes and food
And won’t have to answer sick call
Because we’ll be feeling good

We might even have breakfast in bed —
for a morning or two at least
And we can live like men – instead
Of being treated as a beast

So bring on that day of days
that we’ve all been praying for
and we can be ourselves always
And be rid of the Hell of war

Earl Ray Brewster
Dapecol – 11/11/43

Poem Adapted from The 23rd Psalm – Earl Ray Brewster thumbnail

The Lord is my own shepherd kind
So no want shall I ever know
Rest & Refreshment i always find,
Through pastures green I ever go

He also is my Leader when
Beside the waters still I lie
And he restores my soul again
to His bosom I can always fly

In the paths of righteousness too,
For the sake of His dear name
He’s with me the darkest valley through
Even through death He is the same

So I will never fear an ill,
Since though art always near
Since thy rod & staff they comfort still
I have nothing now to fear

A table’s prepared for me by thee
In the presence of enemies bold
With oil thou ever anointest me
Thy goodness can never be told

So with this Shepheard so kind & good
Goodness & Mercy shall always come
I shall never be misunderstood
And I will ever have home

Poem Corinthians

Though I speak like angel souls above
I become like hollow metal things
Unless I show the Father’s Love,
Unless such Love eternal springs

Though I have gifts like prophets old
and understand all mysteries
And though I have a faith that’s bold
Without love – I’m ill at ease

And though I gave all that I own
To those who poor & needy are –
Like seed on barren soil sown
I find myself from God afar

Such love as this endures so long
And it is always true & kind
Envy here does not be long
For here it is that God we find

Does not behave itself with rudeness
Does not seek its selfish ends
Is not characterized by crudeness
And always others it commends

Rejoices not in the black sin
But rejoices in the true and best
Beareth all things itself within,
Believeth, hopeth, endureth the test.

Love like this will never fail
But prophesies & tongues shall cease
Even knowledge will not avail
So many things will now decrease.

But when the perfect comes to light
The incomplete, becomes obscure
Where the beautiful is in sight
The unlovely cannot endure

When I was a child in days obscure
I understood & thought as one,
But since I have become mature
Of childish things there should be none

For now we see as through a glass
Out then there shall no darkness be
For then we’ll see things come to pass
that little did we dream we’d see

And now abides faith hope & Love
The three of these are high indeed
there aare no greater things above
and love is that which we most need.

Galations 6 Poem

Now if a fault o’ertakes a man
You – who are spiritual must restore
Such a one – as best you can
Considering you might sin even more
Bear ye the burdens of one another
And so [unknown] the Law of God
Counting every man a brother
— treading the way that Jesus trod

for if you think yourself “somewhat”
You deceive no one else at all
For you must learn that God is not
Interested in what we ourselves do call

But every man must prove himself
Then real rejoicing will begin
(without considering power or pelf)
For now He has real joy within

And every man must carry his load
As well as bear His brother’s part
— to help each other is our code
But there are loads for each lone heart

All those who are taught this word
Must share the values they receive
With Him from whose lips they heard
Eternal teachings which they believe

Do not be deceived, said Paul
For at out God we cannot sneer
For God cannot be mocked at all
For what one sows most needs appear

For He that sows just carnal things
Shall reap according as He sows
And He that sows from Higher springs
– From the seed the eternal grows.

So let’s not tire of doing right
Knowing well that we shall reap
If we do not cease to fight
And in the sight of God we keep

So, when there’re chances that are ours
To do some good now and again
Let’s do the good with all our powers
to those of faith – and to all men

– Earl Ray Brewster 10/20/42

Principles of Jesus

These are not transcribed – feel free.

page two
page 3
page 4
page 5
page 6

To my wife Rosella – March 1942

Rosie, Dear, Sweetheart, Wife and Mother
Pal, Chum, Peanut, Honey
Never could there be another
Love like ours means more than money

Sweetheart, when we first met back there,
Those big brown eyes belonged to me
And through the years as we’ve learned to care
I’ve come to know how swell a pal can be.

Remember when I first held your hand?
I do, and now can feel the thrill –
That only we can understand
And can experience still

Remember, too, when sang to you “Remember”?
I remember yet, & always will,
could have been June or December
Singing to you was such a thrill

Another favorite one was “Always” –
Well, I meant it then & I mean it still,
For our love grows down through the days,
And continues fresh as a real love will .

There are lots of things I could recall,
Of our courting days so rare,
But you’re the greatest one of all
And you’re the one by whom I’ll swear

Then one day “in sickness & health”,
“For Richer or for Poorer,” too,
You took me me without any wealth
And all these years you’ve seen it through

My wife! – it still surprises me
And Oh, what joy you’ve given!
More words can never make one see —
Some things must wait for heaven
[continue reading…]

to Leland and Len

Well, guys, it’s time to write to you
For the time has come again
When your school starts out anew
I can just “see” you then

For I remember other years
And I am thankful, too
(Although they brought us tears)
That I could be with you.

I can see both of you yet
As you left for your first day —
Your mother & I can never forget
–there wasn’t much to say.

Although we’ve missed you boys at home
We’ve really been glad to see
That all-important period come
How happy we’ve continued to be

For we have really been so proud
To be parents of such boys
And I have often praised you loud
for you bring my many joys
[continue reading…]

Debtors – WWII Journal

So many things we do not know
in this vast world of ours
But one thing’s certain – that we owe
for all our gifts and powers

We are debtors, says St. Paul,
And so He lived always –
And for this cause He gave His all
And triumphed through the days

We see this theme throughout God’s word,
which is the Book of Life —
We see it most in our own Lord
As He triumphed over strife.

In fact, that is why He came –
Because He owed His all
So you and I must feel the same
To answer the highest call

What other reason can there be
For being allowed to Live?
but it’s so hard for us to see
that living means to give

We boast of being what we are
— not giving others their due
In the game of life must we always star
Though our talents are usually few?

The good book says that we have naught
Except it be given by others —
So by this theme we need to be taught
our true relation – as Brothers
[continue reading…]

First Psalm poem – Earl Ray Brewster

Happy is He who walketh not nor stands
With ungodly or with sinful men –
But delights in God’scommands,
No sitteth in the mourner’s seat again.

This law consumes both night & Day –
So like a sturdy tree He is
that bringeth forth His fruit alway
–A wonderful Law of life is this

His leaf shall never withered be
He prospers in what He does alway
But the ungodly – God cannot see
For they’re like chaff which wind drives away

So the ungodly shall not in judgement stand
Nor sinners in the righteous congregation
The way of the righteous doth God understand
but the ungodly shall receive damnation.

poem to Leland

Well, son, since I’ve tried to write,
Some thoughts about your mother,
somehow I wont to — if I might
Write, some to you — then brother

you are so often on my mind —
Though words are all too few —
i want to say how much I find
That I depend on you

So hard it is to realize,
how big you’ve grown to be,
But I’m sure you’re proving plenty wise
As the man of our family

But it doesn’t seem so long ago
That you were just a tad
And now you’ve gone & grown up so —
that you’re representing dad.

I hope that i have given you
More than I feel I might —
God help you to be a good and true
And do the thing that’s right.

Forgive me, son, if I’ve not been
The very best kind of guy —
But I will be the best you’ve seen
Or know the reason why

I thought I used to try to be
the kind of pop always
That I would have liked to see,
And now I know it pays

Although i haven’t done a lot –
I’m glad I’ve been with you
The times I have – and I’ve got
An idea we’re not through
[continue reading…]

Len’s 7th

Well, sweetheart, perhaps I should be writing another poem to Leonard – but you can see that my supply of paper is becoming quite limited & besides, this is for all of you.   I have really nothing special to write about, but want you to know that I never forget you for a day – much less the special days, every one  of which we will celebrate – even though belatedly.  I do want to say that “God is Good to Us” – as one of my very good friends is constantly saying.  I am feeling pretty good now & am able to work half days – helping to make rope – for which I am thankful.   The work is easy, clean, & pleasant – and I can sit most of the time, which suits my feet, which are still pretty tender.  But I have had Malaria, for which I am particularly thankful.  We are on a pretty slim ration of food, but I think most of us can hold our own for quite a while longer – if necessary – but we hope it won’t be necessary.  Of course we have a hard time, getting news – but from some of the recent rumors some of us are quite hopeful & I fully expect to be with you for my 40th birthday – even though i have had to give up the idea of this Christmas.  We are not allowed to preach any more, but are holding services – & doing the best we can – “Under the Circumstances”.  Give Leonard a big hug for me – & I’ll write some more – least by Christmas.   Love, Earl

to 5yr old Len

Well, son, since, I’ve “talked” to Leland and to mother
You can be plenty sure, you bet
That there is always still another
That daddy would never forget

This is about the only way
I can “talk” to you these days,
But every night for you I pray –
And I think of you always.

I’ve been with you so much always
That it seems so hard to know
Just how to spend the time, these days
– because i miss you so

In fact we’ve always needed you,
And long before you came,
We felt that we were all too few,
And we’ve never been the same.

So you were welcome, when we got
another guy in our home –
We couldn’t wait believe it or not –
Till the time when you would come

And then I recall the night
When mother and i left home –
We were really quite a sight
And certainly had to go some

How proud I was next Sunday
to tell the people who came –
An assistant preacher today
I had – by the same last name

Of course i was only fooling –
For I want you guys to know
That i want you to make good schooling
Then – in your very own work to go
[continue reading…]

Thanksgiving 1943

Well, you can see, honey, that I am running quite low on paper, but just wanted to write a few lines at Thanksgiving time to let you know that we are doing pretty well -= and have lots to be thankful for.  I am thankful to be alive & in as good health as could be expected – and thank God for you guys & pray that you are o.k.  Surely we can have a real Thanksgiving next year – after having missed three in a row.  We hear encouraging rumors – but of course get no real news.  Still have hopes of getting some mail – it’s plenty tough not to hear from you for so long – but I know it is not your fault.  Hope you have received the cards we have been allowed to write.  Have a good Thanksgiving, my precious babies – your Daddy,  Earl

Christmas, 1943

Christmas and New Years 1943/44

Christmas and New Years 1943/1944

Well, companeros, another Christmas season has come – and I will be glad when it is gone – since I can’t be with my babies – but we’ll look forward to next year. These remarks will literally be scattered – since this book is just about full. the next big event on my calendar is Rosie’s birthday – and I have fond hopes of being differently situated by then – and I still have hopes of being home on my 40th birthday. Perhaps it is partly stubbornness (you know me).

But if I am the only optimist in camp I will still be optimistic. Thank God I have not lost faith in God, you guys, and my country. I am writing a couple days before Christmas – and we are hoping to get some extra chow through the mess – and also are “sweating out” Red Cross packages, which we hope will give us a much needed boost. The stuff which came last January, together with B1 shots, helped a lot of us through beri beri – although my feet are not normal yet. I think some good normal living would put me back to [unknown] in a few months. I am not feeling badly – and am holding my own at about 150 lbs.

We are getting some of the Christmas spirit here – what with improvised decorations, a Christmas Eve program, etc. I will have a Christmas service at 9am Christmas Day.
But my thoughts are many kilometers from here – and I am wondering what kind of Christmas you are having. I hope no others will be away except me – there always has to be one black sheep – but He is the one who is prayed for the most — and I feel that I have been the subject of many prayers, for which I want to be worthy. I wonder what the boys are getting for Christmas – and have made a list of some things I would get you if I were there — and will get you after I get back – as long as the “dinero” holds out. This list includes some very nice things which you have wanted and should have had long before now. Some of them will give us a start in furnishing our new home which I confidently expect we will build out beyond recreation park – and the one permanent investment which I want to make with my forced savings is the purchase of a lot. If I stay in the Navy (which i am thinking more about – subject to your approval) I would like for us to have a home in L.B. for us to anchor to – and retire to – later on. If I don’t stay in the Navy – I have been wondering why I couldn’t get Moore Memorial and stay there (but not in the parsonage) the rest of my active days. I believe there would be great possibilities there. We’ll have lots of things to talk about when we get together – which will be heaven.

Hope you have been getting my cards I still hope to hear from you – we are expecting some mail with Red Cross packages. So for the 3rd year – a Merry Christmas and next year – surely we can say it in person. – your Daddy – Earl (cont.)
[continue reading…]

to mother 1942

Mother, Dear, how I think of you
These days – out here – so far
And I want to I love you true,
and I wonder how you are –

If I only knew that you were well
(I don’t know if you’re alive)
But to our God my cares I tell –
And to do His will I strive.

The world’s so wrecked & torn these days
– that we know not what to think,
but I find to God I can turn always
From the fountain of life I can drink

Though not knowing from day to day
What the very next hour will bring
I’m sure that I can truthfully say
That I life my head up and sing

But I am thankful for lots of things
In spite of one thing or other
And in my lone heart there constantly springs
A new appreciation for mother

For I realize now – as never before –
How much I have needed to learn
How much I’ve lacked, too, here to fore
– that to God I’ve needed to turn

So I am thankful for our home –
Where God was recognized
Where the preacher could always come
And not have to be surprised

For parents such as you and dad
Whom I value more than ever –
I’m glad that I can know you had
A faith which naught could sever

Perhaps I’ve needed to be away
To think of some common things –
And I am merely trying to say
What such an experience brings
[continue reading…]

Easter 1942

You ask what Easter means to me
This year – in the midst of strife
One answer only, could there be
– Resurrection speaks of life

I am come that they might have life

The master says, “Because I live,
You shall have life that’s real
And to receive – you need to give
– if the throb of life you’d feel”

I am crucified with Christ – nevertheless I live

The great apostle also said
That anything that grows
Must first be buried as the dead
– and with this faith one sows

He that would save His life – must lose

So many things in nature prove
That life results from death
That one can see our God’s great love
Throughout Earth’s Length & Breadth

The Heaven’s declare the glory of God –

The mystery of life is seen
in trees, and hills and caves
Valleys & mountain streams so clean
In the whispering of the waves

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh

And Easter also means to me
That darkness does not stay
For through the Son of God we see
– as night gives way to day

And Easter comes so bright & warm
– to displace the dark and cold
it makes you sure there comes no harm
to those who face life bold

Because I live – ye shall live also

The greatest meaning yet to me
Is the assurance that is ours –
Of eternal life – immortality
Transcending worldly powers

Most things temporarily – but not God’s love

And so I know it to be right
– some things aren’t here to stay
-that a thousand years – in God’s sight
Are only as a day

Easter means a new chance
So with this faith I’m going on
To better things, I feel,
Love ones then are never gone –
For the unseen is most real

For the things which are seen
are temporal – but the things
which are unseen are eternal
– Easter = Life

Blackouts – poem 1942

“Blackouts” – May 1 1942
O God, please take away the darkness,
Help us see again the light,
Relieve, us from this strain & stress
By the power of thy might

We’ve had so many blackouts, Lord,
That we are growing tired,
We need true light from thy great Word
By which men are inspired

why is it, Lord, with so much Light
Men’s hears to darkness turn
And like brute-beasts they need to fight
And ignore thy great concern?

It must be true – as ‘twas of yore –
‘tis because of evil deeds –
That men still love the darkness more –
And yet the master pleads:

“I am the only Light” He said,
And He is saying still,
“I am of life, the real bread
Eat, whosever will”.

Though in the darkness cause by greed
Both just and wicked grope
Through Christ alone we can be freed
He is our only hope

Open, Lord, the blinded eyes
Of rulers and of men
Reveal thyself, from out the skies –
Dwell in men’s hearts again

We want our children, future men,
To have a world of light
But since all darkness comes from sin
We must recognize the right

And we pray again, dear Lord
For the power to make men see,
So help us all do they word
And find true light in thee

But if some blackouts there must be
We’ll have less cause to fear,
For we’ve resolved to walk with thee
There’s light when though art near

And we would like to have a share
In bringing light to others-
Help us to know that thou doest care
Thy light makes all men brothers

Then we’ll hear Christ say again –
As He said when here on Earth
True light is found in common men
Who have had the second birth.