My grandfather, William Allen Darden, Sr. kept a diary between 1938 and 1944 where he posted briefly almost every day. Those years covered the events of Pearl Harbor Day and the resulting World War II. At the time, the first world war was simply known as The World War or the Great War.
Allen Sr. was already too familiar with war having lost his brother Brents in the Great War, who went off to Europe to fight and never returned.
The following are the World War II diary entries of William Allen Darden, Sr.:
Nov. 11, 1938 — “Armistice Day – first day celebrated as a National Holiday, World War ended Nov. 11, 1918, 11 A.M. 8,538,315 lives lost.”
Sep. 3, 1939 — “Great Britain and France declare war on Germany, already at war with Poland.”
Jul. 21, 1940 — “Allen Jr. leaves for ROTC camp.”
Dec. 7, 1941 –“Japs made surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, 2117 men killed, 960 missing, 876 wounded.”
Dec. 8, 1941 — “U.S. Declared War on Japan” and his Dec. 11 post, “US declares war on Germany and Italy.”
Nov. 18, 1942–“William Allen Darden Jr. now a 1st Lieut. US Engineers. Registered for gasoline rationing. 4 gallons per week.”
Feb. 22,1943 — “Register for War ration book no. 2.”
Mar. 5 1943 — “Dick Joyner left for Army.”
Mar. 15 1943 — “Allen Jr. stopped by transferring from Camp Forrest to Wright Field.”
Jul. 29, 1943 — “Gilbert M. Darden Jr. off to Army.”
Feb. 9, 1944 — “WarTime 2 AM”
Jun. 16, 1944 — “D-Day, Allies invade France.”
Aug. 24 of 1944 — “Allen Jr left Washington, DC for New Guinea”
Aug. 25, 1944 — “Allen Jr in Nashville en route to New Guinea”
Sep. 22, 1944 — “Packed overseas X-mas boxes.”
Nov. 7, 1944 — “F.D. Roosevelt elected fourth term as President of U.S. defeating Gov. Dewey 432 to 99 electoral votes. Roosevelt 36 states – 25,610,946. Dewey 12 states – 22,018,177 – Plurality 3,592,769 – Tenn – Dem 308,707. Rep 200,311.”
Dec. 14, 1944 — “6th Division makes beachhead on Mindoro Island Philippines.”
The 6th Division was where Allen Jr., his son and my father served. Allen Jr. recorded a few notes of his own, posting on Jan 9, 1945 “Landing D-Day, snipers on beach.” His note on Jan 10 indicates he was doing recon of a bridge site on Blue Beach near Bonuam Boquig.
William Allen Darden, Jr. served in the US Army Corps of Engineers with the 6th Division. Among other things, his work with the Corps involved building bridges, often under heavy enemy fire. For his courageous deeds, Allen, Jr. won the Legion of Merit Legionnaire Medal, the Bronze Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, three Campaign Stars and an Assault Arrowhead, the Presidential Unit Citation the Royal Order of George I (Greece), and the Philippine Liberation Medal for his combat service in the Pacific Theater. He fought in Inchan, Japan and the Philippines, and his old leather photo albums show the horrors he saw firsthand.
Although he died in 1955 months after I was born, it is from my grandfather’s diary that I have learned the details of what went on with my family during World War II. My father wanted to talk about his days in World War II and Korea when I was growing up, but I didn’t want to listen. By the time I was ready to hear his war stories, he could no longer tell them. I learned about his highly-decorated career from a few notes of his I found along with his commemorative plaques and boxes of medals as well as the biography he had for the Corps of Engineers which I used for his obituary.