The War Years

Babbitt was 19 when he left home for induction into the U.S. Marines and he never forgot his father’s parting words. Roy Babbitt drove his son to the train station where he boarded for the ride to the induction center in Boston. It was April 1, 1941.  Roy Babbitt was covering his deeply-felt emotions when he shook his son’s hand and said, “Flies bring diseases. Keep yours buttoned.” Elwood remembered that admonition throughout his military service. As the train pulled away from the station, he looked out the window to see his father’s final wave.  The full impact of leaving the comfort and security of home struck hard immediately upon arrival at the induction center.

He never forgot the greeting the entourage of recruits received from the tall and powerfully-built major who bellowed, “Men, it’s April 1 but this is no April Fool  joke! You’re in the Marines!” Babbitt said he tried to maintain his sense of humor as the big Marine officer continued his welcoming remarks in that harsh voice. He administered their oath of enlistment and It wasn’t long before the recruits were on a train, headed for Paris Island, South Carolina. Upon arrival there, Babbitt knew he was in for a punishing cycle of boot camp training:

It’s a little island and we got to it by a causeway. It must have been a little piece of dirt God had left over and he decided to make it into a hell camp. That’s what Marine basic training was in those days. We had eight solid weeks under a real hard commanding  officer who was a full colonel. If I remember right, his name was Shepardson. He was as hard as nails.  And man! Was he tough! Some of the guys thought they would never come out  alive. We felt like the training was going twenty-four hours per day. They never let up on us. The marches were gruelling and each time we thought we were coming in for a break, they would get us doing close-order drill. We spent torturous hours getting to know our weapons. We had to be able to take them apart and put them back together blindfolded. And then they had us down on our bellies, or crawling backwards on our backs while they shot live ammunition just about a foot over our heads. But in the end, I was glad for all that training and physical conditioning. It saved our butts a lot of times during the war.

Babbitt said the basic training experience was so intense that he had little time for spiritual thinking. He called it “heavy materialistic discipline” that he had never done before. However, he was glad he did it in preparation for the military action that lay ahead of him. Upon completion of the eight weeks of boot camp, he was sent to Quantico, Virginia for motor transport training. He was happy with this assignment because he always had a knack for driving motor vehicles. “My mother always said I was born with a coffee cup in one hand and a steering wheel in the other,”  he quipped. Babbitt learned how to handle all types of military vehicles and then he got a chance to operate steam shovels, bulldozers and amphibious jeeps. Following motor transport training, Babbitt’s unit was sent to San Diego in preparation for shipping out. He recalled:

It was October 1941 when we left aboard an old ship that really was just an old tub. I didn’t      think it was doing to make it but we eventually got into Pearl Harbor. We began to build a bivouac area of our own. We were hauling raw material and moving all kinds of stuff. We slept in small tents that each held four men. There was a big mess tent where we took our meals. They were having trouble with the dishwashing machine and I was assigned to take charge of it because I possessed good mechanical instincts. So I was spending time running back and forth from the mess area.

Babbitt had begun after basic training to seek a balance between his inner spiritual forces and the material necessities of his military life. He still had little time for quiet meditation during the day. However, when he lay down at night, he could quiet his material brain to allow his spiritual brain to take over. Then he would be able to converse with spirit. By the time he reached Pearl Harbor he had achieved a full restoration of his spiritual powers. During those moments of regular calm while on regular duty or when he was tinkering with the washing machine, he began to receive premonitions that made him uneasy. Then spirit gave him some direct warnings that there would be an enemy attack on Pearl Harbor:

It was about a week before the attack. It was probably on the first or second of December. I went to Captain Carroll and told him point-blank that we were going to be under some kind of siege. I thought he might be able to tell some of his superior officers and they would get the word up to the admirals in charge of the Navy at that time. The captain fluffed it off. Of course, I was only telling him about the intense feelings that I had.  I couldn’t come right out and tell him that spirit told me this. When I woke up at 5 a.m. on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, there was a thick fog rolling in off the harbor. It was chilly for that time of the season. I went over to the mess hall to check the dishwasher. Then I went back to my tent. I just had a hunch I’d better go check on it or do something there. I walked into the tent and I saw my Springfield .03 rifle. It was tagged to the canvas bunk I slept on. Instinctively, I grabbed it. Then I heard all these booming sounds. I thought maybe they were practicing because they did all of this aerial bombardment on targets. But then I remembered it was Sunday morning. They wouldn’t be doing bombing runs on a Sunday. Then a plane flew overhead. It was a Japanese Zero! It passed within 200 feet of our tent. It was strafing us! The whole top of the tent as perforated by machine gun bullets. So I grabbed at some other guys. We were all shouting at one another. We had no ammunition in our weapons so we ran across the street to a warehouse where the ammunition was stored. The warehouse was all locked up so we had to smash the bolts and dig out some 30-caliber ammunition from the crates that were encased in tins. We had to tear all that open to get the ammunition. Then we ran out, planning to shoot at the planes. They were flying in so low that it felt we could almost reach out and touch them. I ended up out on the dock with another guy. I don’t know why we ended up out there but that’s where we were when the Arizona blew up with 1,200 men on board.

They never knew what hit them. The ship’s magazine went up. They had taken a 500-pound   bomb down the main smokestack. That’s when I had that spiritual experience of seeing the ship break in slow motion. I saw the stern and bow buckle. From out of that tremendous explosion came this blue-like substance. Then there was a white brilliance which I knew immediately was the spirit of every man that was on that ship. It exploded into a beautiful cloud. Then it seemed to vaporize on a ray of light that appeared to embrace and draw the spirits of all those men into it. It was the most profound experience I ever had.

Babbitt became so emotional during his narration of the Pearl Harbor attack that he had to stop speaking for a few minutes. He wiped tears from his eyes. Babbitt said he believed that the U.S. government had been too complacent about the threat posed by Japan. He said President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his military leaders closed their eyes to the danger until it was too late. “Pearl Harbor was a sell-out. They allowed it to happen,” he said. Babbitt also thought that if the Japanese had been able launch a follow-up attack on land, they would have taken Pearl Harbor easily. “We didn’t have the defenses. This country had been disarmed for so long. There were no supplies they could send us.”  According to Babbitt, it is true that America was a sleeping giant in the years preceding the war. “However, once that giant was aroused, Japan was doomed to destruction. I could feel the determination of the American people in the courage and spirit of my Marine buddies,” he said.

Alma Babbitt knew her son was in the Hawaii area when the Japanese attack took place. There was a blackout on radio reports and American soldiers and sailors could not send letters out. Babbitt recounted:

They allowed us to send out little cards which made one of three statements, I am well, I am injured or I am in the hospital.  I sent the message “I am well.” My mother was working at the Minute Tapioca facility and she was terribly worried. The postmaster, John Roach, called her when my message came in. He told her there was a card for her. She and my dad were greatly relieved. There’s an interesting side story to this. The medium, Ted Russell, had invited my dad to Buffalo, N.Y., for a visit. Ted was told from spirit where I was at that moment. They told him I was all right. Ted told my dad that I would come home safely for a furlough when they replaced us at Pearl Harbor. So that alleviated some of my father’s concerns. And it all happened as Ted said it would! I got a two-week furlough back home during the month of July 1942. My brother, Robert, met me at the railroad station in Springfield, Massachusetts. I was all dressed up in my blues. My brother said, “You look pretty good.” I replied that I was anxious to get home. I wanted to take that uniform off and eat some of mom’s apple pie. While I was home, I wore my Marine greens. This was a wool uniform with an overcoat. It was 90 degrees and I was shivering. Nobody could understand it and I found it hard to explain. I had come from a really hot place and getting back to this continent, I just couldn’t get used to the climatic change. It might have been the trauma we all suffered at Pearl Harbor. This can only be understood in spiritual terms. The Japanese attack changed the vibrations and it cooled us. We all felt the chill. The other guys had the same experience when they came home and we talked about it. They weren’t all spiritually-minded but all of them said they had felt cold back in the states. Babbitt’s orders following the furlough were to report to the Marine Corps base at San Diego, California. He went first to San Francisco where he joined a convoy of trucks traveling along the ocean highway to San Diego. The Marines took up residence in military barracks and engaged in ocean shore landing exercises. Babbitt knew his unit was preparing for the ultimate test of courage and endurance. He said:

We would go out in boats and then we would come back in with all the simulations of an actual invasion from the ocean. Our leaders were setting up the first offensive for Guadalcanal. We stayed at San Diego about one month and then we shipped out in a huge ocean convoy. We spent forty-two days on the water. Some of the guys were afraid that they would never see land again. There were dozens of ships and the whole armada was heading for Guadalcanal. The guys complained because there was a blackout and we weren’t allowed to smoke on deck at night. We finally pulled into Iron Bottom Sound at 4:30 a.m. on the morning of Aug. 7, 1942. I remember because we had what they called our last meal. We all got fried eggs and ham. Then we mounted up and started down the sides of the ships on the nets. Meanwhile, the ships opened up with all their big guns. We went in on Blue Beach 2 and set up a beachhead. We started to work gradually inland. I don’t know how long we stayed on the island but then they yanked us out because they couldn’t land the trucks. While they were loading us back on the ships, they got a warning that the whole Japanese fleet was coming. It was nighttime when we finally got underway. Then the Japanese fleet appeared. They were out to annihilate us. I have to hand it to our guys on those ships. I stood out on the starboard side and watched the sea battle. There was so much shrapnel going up into the air that it looked like a big junkyard. It was amazing! I saw our boys shoot down a lot of Japanese planes in three and one-half minutes. It was an incredible thing to see all that hell and death. That was really something and I watched the whole damned thing! If the Japanese had succeeded in this battle, it could have been a decisive event in the war.