Letters To My Mother From WWII: July 24-31, 1944


Editor’s Note: I found this tucked into one of the July envelopes. There is no date on the article. Wikipedia says that the 1st Cavalry attacked on Feb. 29, 1944. I am happy to copy this on my printer and send it to any family member who requests it.

July 24-31

July 24.2, V-Mail: In the S.W.P.A. Editor’s Note: South West Pacific Area,  a name given to the Allied supreme military command in the Southwest Pacific Theater in WWII.  they have a club that goes like this. To join you must receive a two-part V-mail and have it come in order. You work up by receiving three and four page letters in their proper order. Few have gone higher than four. Just now I am waiting for retreat. In other words I am all dressed up and no place to go. When you get that Hollywood figure you can send me a picture. Here is a cute poem.

I fired my rifle in the air. The bullet landed Lord knows where. Next morning though it seems uncanny, I found it in a dead Jap’s fanny.

Guess you understand why that poem came to mind while I was thinking of your morning exercise. I found a tiny sponge out on the reef. I am going to send it to Edith.

July 25.3, V-Mail: I suppose while you have the car up there you and mom will go out to the farm. I hope you get to see Mrs. Rogers and Mrs. Carlson. Mrs. Carlson writes such interesting letters. I get a nap each noon and that’s something. During the afternoon we have to take one hour of sun bath. It helps keep down the jungle rot and ring worm. I have a little jungle rot on my arm. Ever hear of it?  It’s exactly what it sounds like. Editor’s Note: Jungle Rot is a chronic ulcerative skin lesion caused by a variety of microorganisms.  Last night I saw my old boss in “Gentleman’s Lady.” It rained before the show was finished and I didn’t stay. I am glad to see you take such an interest in racing. After we go down to Lexington you will have a better idea of what it’s all about. I wish I could take you to the races this summer, but fat chance of that. Everything is fine over here. The days pass by pretty fast and I keep from being lonesome. I don’t miss Edith too much because I hardly know what I am missing, but you….well that’s a horse of another color.

July 26.4, V-Mail:  I have been thinking of you all day. Golly but we are a long ways from each other. I have not heard anything from Europe, but the boys must be giving them hell. They sort of poured it on the Japs at Guam. I suppose mom thought I was there. I was thinking of the things I’ll remember about being over here. So far the thing I’ll remember most is the night I sat under a Native hut watching for a Jap. It’s a funny thing, but in the dark when your nerves are all keyed up you have an idea that even the trees are walking towards you. It’s funny what forms they take. Tell mom I swapped off my knife. I found out that I didn’t need it. We have machetes that are more practical. You can cut coconut trees with them or do a fine job of decapitating.

July 27.5, V-Mail:  It’s time for my after dinner nap. Guess I’ll have time to write this. I am going to the ball game this afternoon. Each troop has a softball team and it’s a good deal of fun to watch. Clair T brought me a hamburger this morning. He is on K.P. for the week. It sure tasted good.

July 27.6: E troop won the ball game today. It was a good game and I sure enjoyed it. It was unusual for them to win.

I hope you never get up nerve to get the singing job you mention. To be frank, I wouldn’t like it. Take it easy Flip. I’ll send you enough money to live on or try to at least. I am not going to say too much because while I am over here you will have to do what’s best and you alone know the answer to that.

Clair T is here ribbing me. While ******** I got a perfect*******on a ****** and before I pulled the trigger another guy opened up on him with a *****. I just stood there with my mouth open and didn’t fire a shot. I wish I could go back out. I was having the time of my life before they pulled us in.

July 28: Editor’s Note: The following letter is addressed to Grandpa and Grandma Norton. I am going to transcribe some excerpts from this letter.

…..I was out on patrol and we got several Japs. One of the highlights of the patrol was when another fellow and I went out to cut brush. We found a Jap who was unarmed with the exceptions of four hand grenades. All we had was our machettes………One night we bivouacked in an area where there were Japs close by. I had to sit in a Native hut and keep my eye on a trail that came out of the jungle about ten feet away…..I often wondered what a fellow would think about on such a night. I know now. You think of one thing and that is that no one is going to sneak through. Whenever you bivouac for the night you stay put. If you move around at night someone is going to shoot you. The Japs have a way of sneaking up close (this I have been told) and yelling “Oh my God! Some Jap shot me.” They pull all kinds of tricks like that and you have to be on guard.

…….I have received dad’s form letters and also a letter from some fellow on Marlowe St. Right now I am going to start kicking. I left the states and for 29 days I didn’t get a letter. I was worried about Flip and the baby and when they told me I had one letter in the orderly room I was overjoyed. I ran to the orderly room and there it was – a letter from the church. It was a good letter, but right then I felt pretty mean about the whole thing. Several weeks later the same thing happened and once again I nursed a grudge against Dad’s church. A couple of weeks ago I received a fat letter from someone on Marlowe and I was tickled. Here I thought was a letter from one of the church members and he would tell me the news. The envelope was filled with some sort of religious tract and a short note that told me how many members were in the service. Whenever the folks back there send a letter to a man over seas they want to remember one thing. That letter may reach him just after a hard fight. He is dog tired and it’s the only letter he gets. Right then his moral is at the bottom and he wants, above all things, some news.

Take the hypothetical case of Joe Blo. He left Detroit a year or two ago. Since then he hasn’t heard much news about Detroit. For three weeks he has not received a letter and suddenly he finds himself on a boat headed north – going to take another island. He spends a week on the boat and then goes ashore early some morning. For the next week he goes through hell. He hasn’t time to eat and hardly dares to sleep and he sees things that no man should ever have to see. The beach is taken and then there comes the best news of all. There is a bag of mail that just came in. He rushes up and grabs his letter and finds its from the church or a church member. He wants news. Of course he wants to hear about the church, but he would also like to have a little home town news and have a feeling that the letter was ment for him.

Here is an idea. Have some of the ladies or members clip articles out of the newspaper. Articles that tell about Detroit.  Perhaps a poem by Guest (Editor’s Note: Bud Guest was the host of a popular WJR radio talk show, “The Sunny Side Of The Street.” ) or some little thing about Detroit. When you send the letters out make sure that each contains a clipping or two and some soldier is going to thank you for it. Of course he will know it is a form letter, but he will feel that you put the clipping in just for him. It’s going to make his heart a little warmer and when he prays that night you can bet he will be thinking of that church back home.

July 29.7:  I wrote to your folks last night and by the time I finished it was too late to write to you.

I had a lot to tell dad. Both the church letters and the one I received from the church member left me with sort of an empty feeling and I wrote to him and told him why.

We are forming a “Last Squad Club” here in the division. It goes something like this…we join and pay our dues for life. The first payment will be the last. A board of trustees will invest the money. Later a part of it will be used toward a war memorial in memory of the 1st Cavalry. The rest of the money will remain until the last squad is formed and they can spend it as they please and disband the club. The last squad will be formed some seventy years from now when only eight men are left from the Division. I never cared much for clubs, but this sounds good to me and I may join. Editor’s Note: I Googled 1st Cavalry Last Squad Club. There is a bit if info online.

Did you read “Life in a Putty Knife Factory?” It sure is funny. Editor’s Note: The Author is H. Allen Smith on sale at Amazon used for $8.50.

It’s pretty hot out today. It never seems to be very humid here, but just good old hot. In fact I do not mind it half as much as I did at Riley and do not perspire as freely. This would be a very enjoyable country to live in.  If a man had a boat and plenty of tackle he could live a life of ease. Of course there are certain things you would miss, but there are things here that would make up for it. The worst part of it would be the Malaria. I told you that one of my buddies got Malaria. I hear he has been evacuated. At one time I thought I was going to have a touch of it, but I took a lot of Atabrine and it went away. Perhaps it wasn’t even Malaria.

I have been working on my shells this afternoon. The first bunch I found was destroyed by heating them, but I managed to get more. They are ready to mail and all I lack is a cigar box to put them in. I am going to have a jeweler make you a necklace. I saw a few pictures of these shells in a Collins Magazine. Some advertisement had a color picture of a Native girl wearing  a necklace of monkey teeth and these shells. I tried to buy some monkey teeth from a Native, but another fellow beat me to it. So your necklace will not be an exact duplicate.

Four bottles of beer tonight. I look forward to it as much as though I was going to the Roma for broiled lobster.

James has moved into my tent now. We are pretty good friends and we are close to the same age.

July 30.8:  Just came from church. I went twice today which isn’t too bad. The 7th Cavalry does not have a chaplain, but we have a twenty year old trooper that is an ordained minister. He lacks consistency, but he preaches a good sermon.

It sure rained this afternoon. Rained so hard that the water ran into our tent and flooded all the rats out of their holes. I grabbed a machete and chased hell out of them. These rats do not look just like the ones we have at home. They seem more refined and act as though they were trying to get someplace in the rat world. Most rats look at me and scowl and act like you would expect a rat to act; not so with these. After I turn out the lights I see them come out of their holes and go out of the tent. I often wonder where they are headed for. Perhaps there is a rat town on the island and they have a defence job. Just before daylight they return to the tent. Sometimes they go straight to their holes, but now and then they chase each other around the table a few times and then go off to bed. So much for my four-footed friends.

Pay Day! I can hardly wait for tomorrow to come. I am not broke, unless having thirty dollars is called broke, but I am anxious to get paid. I am going to join the club I mentioned in spite of the fact that it costs five pounds. Since leaving the states I don’t suppose I have spent three pounds, so I guess I can afford o spend a little/

I did buy a Hershey bar this afternoon. A fellow had a box of them and sold them for thirty-two cents a bar. Editor’s Note: When I was in High School, 1957-1961, I paid five cents a bar.  Do you wonder why I ask for a box of cigars? I wish some of them would get here.

I wonder where this letter will reach you. Do you plan on staying in Bellaire after your folks leave? I wonder if you are still thinking about a singing job. I would not like it. In fact, I would be very much against it. I wouldn’t want you singing in a night club and where else would you sing and make money? There should be good jobs in Detroit if you want to work, but as far as I am concerned you don’t have to work.

July 31.9: I am in a good mood. Perhaps I should say  am in as good a mood as one bottle of beer will put you.

It’s raining again today and I haven’t been able to find much to do. Perhaps if I write to you it will help pass the time away. We should get paid today, but they haven’t called us out. I have looked forward to payday as though it was Xmas. For the life of me I can’t figure out how much I am supposed to get. As a guess I would say one hundred and twenty dollars. If I get any over a hundred I will be ok. I’ll be able to send a hundred to you and the rest to your dad. I want him to buy me a few gold chains if he can find them.

I hope I get a letter from you today. I am anxious to find out how you made the trip to Bellaire. I sure am behind on my mail. Oh well, it will come along someday, I hope.

This may sound funny, but I often plan my coming home and what I want to do. I would like to have you meet the train alone and then we could just go some place and eat. Perhaps we could even stay downtown for the night. We will have a lot to talk about and it will be fun to have it that way. These plans are subject to change without notice. That is just the way I would like for it to be.


Letters To My Mother From WWII: July 1-23, 1944

Roy Ellison (Max’s Father)    Margaret Ellison (Mother)

July 1-23, 1944

July 16:  Did you miss my letters? This is the first one I have written this month and this morning I got a pack of letters from you and mom which was my first mail this month.

Editor’s Note: So why hasn’t dad written to mom for  two weeks? The division remained in the Admiralties until Oct 1944 in order to provide security as bases were developed.  During this time mop-up patrols were conducted. My guess is that dad was on one of these mop-up patrols 

I had a hell of a good time and lived like a king. Killed fish with hand grenades, wrapped them in banana leaves and baked them under the sand. I bargained with the Natives for a quarter of freshly killed pig and cooked it the same way. The Natives kept me in rice and all told I ate like a king, most of the time. The jungle was beautiful even though it was hot, lots of mud and rain. I saw several green parrots, grey monkeys, and beautiful moths. I had a great feed of paw paws that I roasted in a bed of coals.

I have a few souvenirs to send you. I am sending a belt with the design of a tiger worked on it. It is a friendship belt and is made by friends of the Jap who wore it. The tiger is supposed to represent his strength. Inside you will find a couple of Jap coins. I am also sending an officer’s canteen. I sold a bayonet for a pound. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that a Jap isn’t afraid to die. If you get the drop on him he will do some squalling.

I didn’t sign the pay roll this month, consequently, I will not be paid until August and I’ll be able to send you plenty of money. We will pay your school debt this year and have it off our minds. I didn’t mean for you to buy dishes now, but thought you would wait until after the war.

The Native guides here are something to see. They can find a trail through a jungle where no trail seems to exist and I’ll swear they can smell a Jap. We were wading down a creek one morning when suddenly our Native guide told us to take cover. We sat in the stream that was up to our waist. Sure enough Japs were coming down the trail. How he knew, it is more than I know.

Tomorrow or tonight I may write more. I am pretty busy just now cleaning up my equipment. My uniform will not look too bad when I come home. I’ll have two silver stars on my service strip.  Editor’s Note: The language governing the award of the Silver Star calls for gallantry in action in combat against an enemy and must be performed with marked distinction.

July 17: I have beer on my breath. We are right on the ball over here and since Saturday night I have had four bottles of beer. It is rationed, but just to get a bottle now and then is something.

Yesterday they had thin blades at the P.X. and I got a couple of packages. That was a real find. I also managed to buy a few air mail envelopes. I tell you Flip, this is alright over here.

I have written several letters tonight. I have a good book to read, but I can read it during the day. We have a few books in our troop library, but we could use more. I guess there isn’t more than a dozen books now, but we have lots of magazines. Some place around the house you will find “The Fall and Decline of the Roman Empire.” I did not pay too much for it and if it isn’t too much trouble please send it. I know very little about that period and this would be a good time to learn. I would like to have Vol. Two of the Greek Histories, but would not want it over here because it might get lost.

We have had trouble with the light and just got it going. I lost a lot of time while fooling with it. Not only that, but another fellow and I have been talking horse. His name is James and you will hear me mention him fairly often from now on as we are pretty good friends. His father was a first cousin of Jessie James and James tells me he can remember Frank James after he was well on in years. On this last patrol James couldn’t find enough to eat until he started camping with me. I filled him up with rice, fish, and pork. I have developed a great taste for chocolate. We get it in our J Rations along with a can of powdered milk. Did you ever see or use powdered milk? For cooking purposes it is the real thing and with it I can make hot chocolate.

One night I made my tent  on the beach. The tide was out and during the night the tide came in. I was just out of reach, though the water would have reached my feet had I not curled up and tucked them under my stomach. If you get back in the grass the gnats will eat you up, and if you sleep on the sand the crabs will crawl all over you. James and I were sleeping on his rain coat and by morning we found where at least a dozen had dug holes in the sand under the rain coat. One of those crabs can make more noise than a man crawling and they sound exactly like a man crawling. I will always swear that I saw a young kangaroo. James and I were sleeping and I was awakened by something on my chest. At first I thought it was a big rat and I let out a yell. He made one hop and landed on James feet and with one more hop he was ten feet outside the tent and lost from view.

I killed a snake that could have been a coral snake. He resembled a coral snake in all ways with the exception of his color not being the bright red and yellow bands, but dull brown and grey bands. Back in the bush I saw several snakes that looked like moccasins. Some of them must be bad because the Natives fear all of them.

I always had an idea that the jungle was filled with birds. That isn’t true and when you do find birds you find them in bunches or flocks. There are lots of parrots and a small bird that looks like a swallow. In the evening you see a great number of bats; some of them being much larger than a crow. Another way in which the jungle differs is that it is hard to find dry wood to burn. Though the brush is thick it is made up of palms and plants that rot instead of dry. There are a few hard woods, but when they fall the rain and heat soon rots them. The best fuel is coconut husks. They are hard to start, but once they do burn they hold fire for hours.

I spent a night in a hut with several Natives. It happened like this. We had bivouacked in an area where we knew there were Japs. The Natives slept in a hut and the back door opened on a trail that led into the brush. It would have been easy, but bad for us, if a Jap would make use of the trail. The Native police boy and I took turns squatting where we could watch the trail. At first it was plenty dark and in my imagination I could see and hear a million Japs. Several times I was on the point of firing, but my nerves held good and a full moon came up to scare all my worries away. I hope I am not telling you anything that they (Editor’s Note: censors) will cut on me. I guess being a little scared isn’t too big a military secret. I came over here to kill Japs, but let me tell you this – the first time I saw a Jap with his head half blown away I was pretty sick in the stomach. It’s only the first time that bothers you.

July 19:  Clair T and I have been chewing the fat in the last half hour. We spend most of our time in some  big argument. Do us a favor and find out what year the S.S.Titanic sank and what kind of bomber do they make at Willow Run. I think the Titanic went down in either 1911 or 1913. He claims it was around 1908. Editor’s note:  Titanic went down in 1912. Willow Run produced Liberator Heavy Bombers.

I have K.P. tomorrow. I don’t mind K.P. over here as there isn’t a great deal to do. I guess I’ll have it Sunday too, but that will be a punishment. The First Sgt. caught me without my leggings on tonight. We do not have to wear them during the day but they must be on after five P.M. Editor’s Note: Leggings were used to protect the lower leg, to provide ankle support and to keep dirt, sand, and mud from entering the shoes. I have no idea why the men were made to wear them at night and not during the day. I am not used to having them, but after I do K.P. a couple of times I’ll remember.

I took another four dollars off your school debt today. I still manage to make a little money now and then. I guess I have about nine pounds that I have made in the last few weeks.

Last night we had a rain and a strong wind. This morning I found all of your pictures out in the mud. I have washed them and they are none the worse for wear.

There are some happenings in these parts that I can’t write about. I’ll have some good tales to tell you when I come home and remind me to tell you about the time some of us traded a dog to the Natives. It happened in Finchaven and it’s a darned good story. Don’t get me wrong, when I say things happen I mean among us fellows.

One of my tent mates is in the hospital with Malaria. We have very little of it around here, but now and then someone has a mild case. The Atarine we take each day keeps it pretty well suppressed.

When mom works you must have the house pretty much to yourself. Do you get lonesome? Bellaire is such a small town, but I like it.

James and I are gong to the Red Cross after coffee.

July 21:  My nose is playing me a dirty trick. I can smell fresh raspberries and I know there isn’t one within a thousand miles.

I didn’t write yesterday. I took a couple of shots yesterday and they made me feel pretty stiff and sore. Editor’s Note: Was he out on patrol when he took those shots? I started to write, but I felt blue and tore it up and went to bed. I would hate to give anyone the impression of being blue. I would like to be home, but I am not discouraged.

I am anxious to hear whether or not your folks got the one hundred dollars I mailed them. The mail service is pretty bad. When I figure it up I have only received about forty letters from you since I left the states. I have not received any mail in the past five days with the exceptions of a church letter from your dad’s church. A short time ago I received a letter from one of the men in your father’s church. His address was on Marlow, but I couldn’t figure out his name. He didn’t write anything (just a note) but he sent me several religious tracts.

It’s nearly time for your folks to come north. Where are they going to stay? I wish I could be there to take dad fishing. I am afraid the fishing season will be pretty far gone in August.

It’s nearly time for retreat. We stand more formations here than I ever did in the states. The 1st cavalry division is on the ball. I have not heard much was news, but what I have heard is good. We seem to find a little more defence as we draw closer to Japan. Of course, that is to be expected. I’ll be home next summer you can bet on that.

It hardly seems possible that I haven’t seen you for seven months. It seems only yesterday that I heard you say “Good luck trooper.” I sure hated to leave you that day and I was pretty glad you didn’t cry until I was gone.

One of these days the army is going to have to make me a new lower plate. I have had this one two years and I was only supposed to wear it six months. The past few months they have bothered me to a certain extent. I am going to try to hold out until I reach the states. They wouldn’t be able to do the work here and I might have to go back to Finchaven. God Forbid. I never did tell you much about that place. It was all mud and maggots. I have seen the ground between the kitchen and mess hall covered with the varmints. None of us would go to the mess hall unless it was to steal something. We stole hams, cases of eggs, flour, sugar, coffee, pineapple, peaches, butter, bacon, and anything else we could get. One day they raided us and got three truck loads. For breakfast they used to feed us cold C. Ration hash and no coffee. Don’t get the idea that every place over here is like that. Far from it. Where I am now, it’s as clean as you could wish and the food is well prepared. This division is noted for being clean and is sort of a show outfit. I notice that the fellows all take pride in it and you feel so much better when things are clean.

The mail just came. There were two letters from you dated early June and three letters from mom that were dated the last of June and one mailed on the 4th of July. There seems to be little difference between V-Mail and air mail as far as speed is concerned.

Your dad will find old man Schoolcraft is some character. I hope you like the lake. Remember that your daughter’s great great grandfather used to row a boat from there to Elk Rapids after his mail. I am going to write to my brother Steve now.

July 22, V-Mail: This is a hot Saturday afternoon and I have hardly moved from my tent. After I finish this I am going to take a shower. It’s fairly cool in the tent, but don’t step outside in the sun unless you want to get pretty hot. Your picture seems to be a favorite among the boys. Every once in a while some one looks at it and whistles. It takes up too much space and I do not have it out all the time.

July 23.1:  A Col. Green from Alexandria sent me a copy of Rev. Blakemore’s Easter sermon. I enjoyed reading it. Did you hear it Easter Sunday? We have a good chaplain here. He never puts force in his sermon, but he talks with ease and in a manner that makes you feel he is familiar with the subject.

A friend of mine came over from another island this morning. Just now he and Clair T have gone swimming. After dinner we are going after shells. We have to wait for the tide to go out.

I wish you would start numbering your letters. You will notice that I have put a number one behind the date. My next letter will be  number two. That way we will know whether or not we are caught up on the mail. Clair T and his mother work it that way and he always knows just how many letters he has on the way and whether or not they all got here.

It would be nice if Laura Marie could come up for a week. You would have a lot of fun. My mother, I know, would be glad to have her. I can just see you two having a swim in Lake Bellaire. She has met Florence Culver a couple of times.

What does Uncle Ed think of Edith? He likes kids. At least he always thought a lot of his own grandchildren.

Grandmaggie and Uncle Ed

Grandmaggie and Uncle Ed (Husband #2)

I seem to lack ambition. A couple of times I have paid someone to do my washing. If it’s a cloudy day I feel like working, but when the sun is out I like to stay in my tent. Our tents are open on all sides and are pretty cool. There are several coconut palms around here but they do not give much shade. A lot of them had their tops blown off and they are just trunks sticking out of the ground.

Yes I like the outdoor life. I seem to thrive on it and it’s going to be funny when I come home. We will not have the equipment to dehydrate our food and I’ll have to eat fresh vegetables and eggs, and drink milk right from the cow. In the past three months I have not eaten over three potatoes that were not dehydrated and I haven’t had fresh milk since I left the states. I am not kicking because I don’t mind it. In fact dehydrated potatoes are good and powdered milk is plenty good to cook with or make hot chocolate. One night I didn’t have chocolate or sugar so I put powdered milk in water and heated it. It made a good drink. Promise me one thing darling, never cook carrots for me. I have had enough.

When I am home from hunting mom always asks me if my gun is loaded. It would never do for her to be here. While on patrol I slept with my gun under my blanket. I wanted to keep it dry and close by. Be hell to have a Jap sneak in and shoot at me with my own gun.

Mom sad she was going to send me a box of cigars. I’ll let you pay her. I hope they get here all right.  Anything you send me will be a good investment. I hope you can get some fine gold chains. You could send them in an envelope. I’ll be sending you a hundred and fifty dollars in another week. That should be some help.

Your idea of a freezing unit sounds good. Your cooling room would be 35 degrees, but how large would a freezing unit be? I wish I could get some definite information on it. My idea has been to build a cooling room that is well insulated and have the freezing compartment inside that. However, I want an extra-large freezing compartment. It would have to hold more than we could use ourselves because if we could sell seven hundred quarts of raspberries in the winter time we could clear well over two hundred dollars which would pay operating costs. I say raspberries because you can raise a lot of them in a small space and when they are fresh they bring a price. Not only that, but they are easy to take care of and can be harvested fairly cheap. By that time Edith would even be of some help. Editor’s Note: Already he’s got me working in the field. Dream on dad.

The dog question is still in my mind. We could build a small kennel and only keep two or three bitches. If it didn’t pan out or show profit we would not be out much because the kennel could be converted to a chicken house. Our main thing would be horses and I hope that in time we will be able to drop everything else. Until that day comes we will have to make a living the best way we can and Flip don’t think for a second that we will not make it. It will mean work and plenty of it, but we will be together and I think we will be happy.





Mailing Address For Pfc Max M. Ellison


  Pfc Max M. Ellison 36522346

  • Troop D. 1st tng. Rgt., C.R.T.C. Bks 2027, Fort Riley, Kansas (1943-Feb 1944)
  • A.P.O. 15/62 c/o Postmaster, San Francisco, Calif  (Early March, 1944)
  • 277 Replacement co., 1st Platoon, 4th Rpl. Depot, A.P.O. 703, c/o postmaster San Francisco, Calif (Late March, April, 1944)
  • 1st Cavalry Division, A.P.O. 201, c/o Postmaster, San Francisco, Calif (May, June, 1944)
  • Troop E, 7th Cavalry, A.P.O. 201, c/o postmaster, San Francisco, Calif (July 1944-May-1945)


Letters To My Mother From WWII: June 1944

mom3Florence Norton Ellisonmom1

June, 1944

June 1: The best way to get a letter off to you is to write it early in the morning. It’s a little cooler now and I am not as tired. I have been up for a couple of hours and it’s only seven now. Had breakfast which consisted of hash, sea biscuits and coffee. I have shaved, policed my tent and hung my blanket in the sun. Later on I’ll open my barber shop. To do that I put two boxes outside. One for my customers and one for my tools. It isn’t much of a shop, but I made $8.50 yesterday and expect to do as well today. If I could do as well every day I would be lucky, but there are days when there is no business. Here is a question. Can we furnish a bedroom for a hundred and seventy-five dollars?

It sure is beautiful this morning. I hate to think of what it will be by noon. Last night it was so cold that one blanket wasn’t enough. I love this weather, but in time it would get a fellow. This is the kind of weather that makes the bass hit. Wish I could be on the lake back home. I regret that my wife doesn’t like to fish. However, I think if she goes with me a couple of times she will like it.

I met a man from Plymouth. We had a long talk about the swell parks. He knew several girls that I knew, but he didn’t live there when P. Ray and his good-looking daughters were in town.

The fellows play a lot of checkers. Some of the boys are pretty good. The game never interested me, so I spend my time playing solitaire.

There is a small chance that we will get our mail. It sounds too good to be true.

June 4:  Editor’s Note: A note at the top of the letter indicates that dad is in Finchaven New Guinea. A google search of the site indicates that the real spelling is Finschhafen, but it was common for solders to spell it as dad does.

I am dead tired, barbering is really something now. I guess I work from daylight until dark and that leaves little time for letter writing. I have made nearly thirty-five dollars in the last four days. So you can say I am working. I made nine dollars today and took out two hours to go to church.

Everything is the same, no mail, no news, no nothing. I got up before daylight in order to be the first in line for breakfast. After chow I wash, shave, and read my Bible or play solitaire until seven-thirty. I open up at seven thirty. To open up shop I find a palm tree that has nothing but green nuts on (a ripe one might fall) and set up the chair. The chair is nothing more than a box that has a small air cushion on it (we use them for pillows at night). Next I put my tools on another box and I am ready to work. I have a pair of scissors, clippers, three combs, bottle of shampoo, after shaving lotion, razor, soap, towels and disinfectant. Yes I bought a bottle of shampoo from a sailor for four dollars and a half. The bottle cost him about 30 cents, but you don’t know anything about high prices. A shampoo costs three bob (48 cents) and the customer has to furnish two helmets of water and a towel.

Speaking of high prices, if you have anything to sell over here you can get your own price. One fellow stole a case of beer (from where I don’t know) and sold it for one pound a bottle. If I had been there I would have bought two.

June 8:  News from Europe looks pretty good. Everyone here is pretty tickled over the second front and although we haven’t had many details we feel as though the end is coming. Wouldn’t it be nice if I was home in another year?

It’s trying to rain this morning. I didn’t bother to open shop because I didn’t want my tools to get wet. Anyway, this morning is my morning to write to you.

My washing turned out even worse than I expected. My clothes were at the bottom of the tub and there were too many on top of them. Consequently, my clothes were burned and I had to throw them away. I still have a shirt and a pair of trousers and two pair of shorts. That’s enough for me.

There is a river close by and we have to cross it a great deal. At first we had nothing but a log that was high above the water and every now and then someone would fall into the water. The boys have made a raft and fastened a cable and pully to it and a tree on the other side of the river. It works pretty good, but now and then too many try to cross at the same time and the raft turns over.

Some of the boys here have Jap money. I am going to try and send you some. A Native was around last night selling wooden combs for a half pound. He carves them himself and they are not too much. I want to send you something from over here ant I will but it’s going to be nice. I would like to send you a block of teak wood and if I find some I will. There is plenty of it here, but I can’t very well send you a whole tree. I have a small hunk of wood that I cut off the dock at Alcatraz. Yes I have been there.

I could stand some food. It has been only two hours since breakfast, but I am starved. Didn’t eat enough powdered eggs this morning. They are fairly good if someone would throw some salt in them. My waist line is down to thirty. That’s two inches below par.

It has been seven weeks since I have had a letter. It sure would be swell to hear from you. Right now you must be making plans to leave Virginia, but this letter will find you in Bellaire. I am sort of lonesome to see the Maples on the Courthouse lawn or push a boat out in Lake Bellaire. About this time of year the bass fishing on the upper lake is good.

June 10: I’ll have to use V-mail for a few days. Will not be able to write as much, but I’ll write every day. I managed to buy a mirror yesterday and it’s pretty nice to own one. I left the states without one and yesterday was the first chance I had to buy.

A falling coconut hit a fellow on the head yesterday. It knocked him out for a short time.

I suppose B.J.Miller is having a time. He is with a pack outfit in Italy. They seem to have them on the move over there.  Editor’s Note: I remember a part of a training story dad told about B.J.Miller. The Sargent sent B.J. on a mission at night and in horrible weather to wipe out the “enemy” located in some foxholes.  B.J. returned from the training mission with a roll of toilet paper that he handed to the Sargent and informed the Sargent that “The hole of the enemy had been wiped clean.”

My dreams were pleasant for a change. As a usual thing my dreams are so bad they scare me.

June 15, Admiralty Islands: I have a lot to tell you this time because the last few days have been interesting. In fact I have had more fun than you can imagine. I can’t tell you how many of us came up here or how long we were in coming, but the whole trip was something I have often dreamed of but never thought I would do it.

We came up on a small boat. There were only a few officers on board and they hired me to do their cooking. I had the run of the galley and could sleep in the tiny mess hall. Of course the galley is at the rear of the ship and I bribed the chief steward out of his fishing tackle and when I wasn’t cooking I was fishing. At night while the rest of the ship was in blackout I would be able to have the lights on (they didn’t show outside) and the crew would come down and have tea. The crew was a cross-section of the world. The gunners were American boys, the chief engineer is a native of New Guinea, the first mate was from Russia and the skipper was from Australia. Among the crew were fellows from England and Poland. The chief engineer was very interested in the trip. I happened to be on the gunner deck as we started to approach this group of islands and he told me a little of his life. He was raised on New Guinea and while he was a young man he came up here and married the daughter of a plantation owner. With the coming of the war he had to go to Australia and this is his first time to come back. From the ship he pointed out his father-in-law’s plantation, but he suspects the Japs killed all of them.

While on board I cut the crew’s hair. They took me up on the gunners’ deck and I started with the ship’s Captain and cut until I had them all finished. I cut the Captain’s hair while he was right at the compass. The cook loaned me his room to clean up in. All in all it was as nice a boat trip as I have ever had.

You will notice that I am pretty close to the equator. They say we are about 50 miles south and let me tell you it is hot. I can see the North Star and the Southern Cross at the same time. I think  I am going to like it here. The chow is extra good and I can get Briggs pipe tobacco. I had the bad luck of leaving all of my toilet articles and razor blades on another island. If I can catch a boat I’ll go get them tomorrow. It would be a shame if I lost all the blades.

The Japs are pretty all cleaned up around here. My troop has been on patrol and found a few. I’ll go with them next time and perhaps I’ll get my first Jap.

I met a fellow today that I used to know in 1938. I spent that summer in New York and we both dated the same girl. Was I ever surprised to find him in this part of the world.

I should get mail from you within the next few weeks. It has been so long since I heard from you that I hardly know that I have a wife. I am anxious to hear about my daughter too and I hope you tell me all about her. If you are in Bellaire tell Avis to send my paper here and write the Thoroughbred Record at Lexington KY, and have them send my Record here. I’ll try to write as often as I can, but, there is work to do and I may not write as often as I would like to. The 7th Cavalry is an old Michigan outfit. This is the outfit that Custer had when he fought the Indians. At that time he lost the colors and they never won them back until this campaign.

John A and Clair T are in the heavy weapons troop. Only two others that took basic with me are here.

Editor’s Note:  I think he is on either Los Negros or Manus Island. Los Negros was not completely cleared until March 25, 1944 and Manus during May.  These islands are located 200 miles northeast of New Guinea. Between Jan 22 and 26, 1944 the 1st cavalry division  was at Cape Sudest at Oro Bay in New Guinea and we know dad was at Oro Bay. On the 27th of March the 1st Cavalry division was sent to Los Negros. Los Negros and the larger adjacent Manus Island were needed for air and naval bases in the effort to neutralize Rabaul, the area’s main Japanese base complex some 390 miles away. I think the seventh cavalry was organized to be a part of the first cavalry, but not sure when that happened. I think dad was sent there after these two islands were cleared. My guess is that he is on Manus because, as the last to be cleared and the larger of the two islands, there is more of a likelihood of Japanese presence.

June 17: I have been pretty busy today. This morning I fixed up my bunk. I have a frame over the top  and for the first time in months I can have your picture out. I put my clothes up there too and it seems pretty nice not to have to get into a barracks bag every time I want clothes. After lunch I walked along the beach and picked up shells and coral. The shells are beautiful and I am going to send Wanda a box of them for her gold-fish bowel. There is a kind that is rare and tomorrow I’ll wade about a quarter of a mile to a coral reef where I may find some. If I can find two that are a perfect match I’ll send them to Detroit and you shall have a pair of ear rings such as you have never seen. On top of all this, I made $3.84 this afternoon. Barbering is going to hold out better than I thought. Tomorrow I will wash my clothes, go to church, and work on my rifle. One of these days I am going to see a Jap and when I do I want my rifle to be in working order.

Clair T and I found some Jap bones this afternoon. That’s as close as I have been to one of the varmints. I think I told you that Clair T and John A are in the heavy weapons group.

The 7th cavalry has the name of being the best show outfit in the whole 1st cavalry division. Editor’s Note: Guess I was right, the 7th is a part of the 1st. We have Saturday morning inspections, police up, shave every day, and keep our shoes shined. Everything is as neat as a pin and they have hauled white sand in and spread it over the troop streets and floor of the tents. The palms are not as nice here. Too many of them had their tops blown off. It’s nice to wake up in the morning and have everything clean and neat. Sure beats the mud from the last place.

June 18: It seems as though every time I turn around I get a bad case of sunburn. I spent most of the afternoon in the water and I am cooked again. I wanted to get some shells that are rare around here. I waded out about two hundred yards to a coral reef and managed to find twelve of them.You find them back under the coral, but it’s a job to find them. I sold ten of them for a  half pound and the other two will someday be earrings for you. I will not try to make them myself, but I’ll send them to your dad and have him take them down to Peacocks. They will make a nice gift for your birthday.

A coral reef is the most beautiful thing in the world. The coral grows from the bottom and though it comes to the top in a few places the usual depth of the water is about two feet. I saw starfish that were as blue as the sky and fish of all colors. They were tiny and they seemed to have no fear. Hid back in the coral were all forms of marine life and most of it was so odd-looking that you wouldn’t think that it had life.

I told you that I lost my razor blades. Clair T brought them in today. He managed to get a pass this morning.

Isn’t the news good. I do not hear very much but it all seems good. Without a doubt you know what is going on over here better that I do. I have heard that Japan was bombed two or three days ago. Just how much truth there is to it is more than I know. I am going to the Red Cross after a while to see if I can pick up any news.

We have three lizards in our tent. One of them is black, one black with a blue tail and another is green. One of them has got into my bed about three this morning. By the time I chased him out I was wide awake and ready to get up. We have boilers here, so I built a fire and boiled my clothes. They have given me more clothes and that means more to wash.

Tell mom never to send me cigarettes. We have plenty of them and they are free. When ever you send a package make sure it is well wrapped. So many of the packages take a beating before they get here.

I can’t get over how good we are being fed. After six weeks of C Ration hash this food is just like eating at the Chinaman’s. I’ll get fat.

Whenever I see a picture of a baby I get lonesome to see Edith. I wonder what kind of baby she is. Who knows, I may get a letter from you someday. It’s been a long time and I am pretty lonesome.

June 19: I expect to hear from you this week and I am pretty thrilled over it. It’s going to seem pretty nice to hear from you.

Nothing much happened today. It was pretty hot this morning, but it rained this afternoon and it’s a lot cooler now, The nights are fine and I don’t have to use a blanket until towards morning. I sure enjoy this weather, but in time this heat would get a man.

I guess I will be the troop barber. They have two barbers in this troop, but they don’t care for the job. At the end of the Troop St. is a small tent with a chair in it and I cut hair all afternoon. I have better that thirty-six pounds to send you whenever I can get a money order. I have better than two months pay coming and will not be paid until the last of July. Don’t worry Flip, the five dollars I spent for the scissors, comb, and clippers is going to darned near furnish our house.

This sure is a pretty little place and I seem to be enjoying myself. I am glad I do, because it would be hell if you hated it. I get lonesome, but it never lasts long. I am glad that I have a little religion. I don’t know what I would do over here without it.

June 20: Mail at last. So far today I have received nine letters, five from you, one from your mother, one from mine, one from H.J. Lord and a letter from Shirl. I used to go with her and she wrote telling me that her husband was over here. Your letters covered a period from May 9th until May 20th. Mom’s letter was mailed April 28 and your mother’s was mailed May 26.

At last I know what my baby looks like. Thanks for sending the pictures and I must admit we have a pretty sweet baby. The pictures of you are good. Your hair is longer and I can’t figure out what earrings you have on. It seems so darned nice to know that you are all right and to have a good picture of you here. I can’t seem to thank you enough.

I have K.P. tomorrow. It has been some time since I have been on K.P. By the way, tell your mom that when I mention work I mean work and not fighting. She worries too much, but she must remember that there is work to be done over here. In fact I have had a crack at everything from unloading boats, making roads, to help building a saw mill. Tell her I never did see Doc. Fuller and I left the states one day later than she thought. I made two dollars this afternoon. Barbering isn’t as good here, but I’ll manage to make a little.

Of course it will take more than two thousand to build. However, if I have that much cash I’ll be able to get a loan. I expect it will take five or six thousand at least, but I’ll make it so don’t worry your pretty head. I am glad you are paying off your school debt. I will work on the furniture and you can sort of take care of the debt. When you come right down to it we are not so bed off.

You must have been sick after the baby came. You mentioned Sulpha and your mother mentioned a bad kidney. Perhaps other letters will tell me all about it.

We were glad to get the news about Pensive. His sire was imported from England by Walter Chrysler and American breeders have expected great things of him. Last summer one of his yearlings sold for $66,000. I am not convinced that Pensive is a great horse. He won in slow time and I suspect he didn’t have too much to beat. I am glad to see you take interest in the Preakness, you are a darling.

I had to laugh when you mentioned how hot it was back there. We haven’t had much frost around here. Darling, you don’t know what hot is until you get a shot of this. I love it far better than cold and I am glad they sent me here rather than Italy.

Right now we are having a cloud burst. I am glad we have sand on the troop st. or we would have to wade through the mud. If I have to fall out for retreat in this rain I’ll have a job cleaning my rifle tonight. Out tent has flooded. The funny part of it is that there is a whirlpool in the middle of the tent and the water is going into the ground. In fact it’s making such a big hole that out table is apt to fall in. I’m not kidding either.

June 22 V-Mail: I am out of writing paper and I don’t know when I will get more. My letters are coming in packages now. I’ll be glad to get the one that tells me what was wrong with your kidney and Edith’s eye. You buy the set of dishes or hang onto the money. You mentioned making one payment and August 1st I’ll send you a hundred dollars. Don’t worry, your husband can take care of you. Tell mom not to send chewing gum in a letter. This a hot country and it reaches me in liquid form. I can get all I want for nothing.

June 23 V-Mail: Your letter of May 26 asking my opinion on the job came today. I haven’t much space so my opinion will have to be brief. I would love for you to have a chance in the musical world, but I am afraid I would kick loud and long if you were singing in a Night Club or left Edith to the care of anyone over a period of time. I will not be over here long enough to make it worth while for you. If you want to work I would rather you had an office job. I would just as soon you didn’t work a lick. However, that part is up to you. I have to go on guard right now.

June 25:  I have an air mail envelope, so I will write you a letter. It’s so darned hard to write anything on a V-Mail.

It sure is hot this morning. I was expecting a friend from another island and walked down to meet his boat. He wasn’t on it, but I sure got warm going down there. I hate to think of going to church this morning.

The news over here sure looks good. I am not sure what they are telling you back there, so I will not mention anything definite. I have a hunch that Tojo will have his hands full before the year ends and I plan on being home next summer, if not before. I will come back whenever this division comes back and they have been here for a year. Editor’s Note: The 7th and 8th Cavalry departed San Francisco on June 26, 1943 and arrived at Brisbane on July 11, 1943. Not only that but they are the pride of the Army and I think they will be one of the first to come home. Of course these are my own ideas and not necessarily those of the officers and men.

I have not been barbering very much. It’s so blamed hot and in a way very unhandy here. Of course I do a little now and then. I am looking the ground over and trying to plan some way to make more money. The best thing is selling, it’s easier and the profits are greater. Of course there is washing. You can do that when you are ready and the pay is pretty good. I guess the best way will be to work all the time. As long as I can send you a hundred dollars every other month I’ll be happy. I can do that and better. Editor’s Note: Adjusted for inflation, the buying power of $100.00 in 1944 is equal to $1353.02 today.

The sermon in church was good today and the church was cool. Funny, but whenever you find shade over here you will find it’s cool. I don’t mind the heat too much, but you lack ambition from it’s being so hot.

John A is feeling a little better. The shock of his brother’s death is wearing off and he has a chance of a furlough back to the states. You see he has a trucking company in his name and the business may demand his return.

Steve’s letter tickled me. The first Jap I see I shall certainly ask him for his rifle to send to Steve. Do you suppose he will give it to me?

Mom seems to think we lead a hell of a life over here. Well, it isn’t too good, however, I came over with the idea I was going to like it and that helps. The big thing is to keep your mind busy. You can’t let it get you down. I try to make everything as interesting as I can even if it’s no more than a trip to the day room to read the news. I try to get as excited about it as I would on a three-day pass.

You must have a wonderful figure now. I am glad of that. I always hated to see a woman with a bad form. Yes, I remember the blue dress. Now that you have the shorts let’s see a picture of you in them. I kick myself for not bringing my pictures over here. Send pictures please. Pictures of you, mom, Wanda, Jean, your folks. Hell, there isn’t much to do but brag on the folks back home. Send the ones of Laura Marie, or at least some of them. Have you a picture of yourself in a bathing suit?

In regards to horse news, last fall Mr. Hollis payed sixty-five thousand dollars for a yearling by the same sire as Pensive. He gave the colt a Greek name, but I can’t think of it now. The colt will be in New York and should get a lot of publicity. See what you can find. Mr. Combs of Lexington will have a good three year old mare at Chicago by the name of Duranza. Although she is one hell of a mare her owner does not care to race in New York. If you see anything in regards to her let me know. Later on I will get the Thoroughbred Record and you will not have to do this for me. As long as the rest of your life is going to be mixed up with breeding and racing this will help you develop an interest.

I hope I have some mail tonight. I can’t kick because I have been getting as high as sixteen letters a day. Most of them were written in April, but it’s news just the same.

Yes I have a fair idea of where I would like to live in Northville. I think I will be able to buy five aces out west Seven Mile Rd. I wouldn’t want much more than that. I guess it would be possible for us to have a swimming pool. We will fix something or other. I am not sure what land would cost, but I have an idea it would be high.

June 28, V-Mail:  No mail for the last three days. All told I guess twenty of your letters have reached me, twenty-five at the most. I’ll be glad when I get a few that are up to date. It sure seems good to be up here where there isn’t as much mud as there was at Finchaven or Milne Bay. I was there you know.

June 29: I ran into an Edward Ellison. By mistake I received his mail and thought perhaps it might be my cousin who has the same name. This Ellison is from Prom Minn. and his great-grandfather came from England same as mine.

I told you how John A had received word of his brother’s death. Yesterday he received two letters from his mother, one written the day he died, and the other eight days later. In neither letter did she as much as mention what had happened. In case any thing should happen at home I would want to know about it, and not be in the mental mix-up that John A is in. Why do people back home think that a man overseas shouldn’t hear any bad news?

Yesterday I found a  *****. They have a split toe and my first thought was to send it to Steve. I picked the darned thing up and the ******had not only left his*****, but he left his foot inside of it. Steve wants a Jap rifle. I am afraid if I do get one I’ll sell it. They are worth a hundred and fifty dollars and some Jap flags bring a hundred. Some of the officers carry “Hara Kiri” knives and I would like one of them.

We have lots of pipe tobacco now. For a while I gave up smoking a pipe, but now they have my brand and I am happy again.

Guess what, I spent a half pound yesterday. On the average I don’t spend that much in a month, but I wanted some clothes washed and hired a fellow to do it for me.

I received seventeen letters today. One from Wanda, several from you and mom. Tell mom that her Easter Card reached me a little late. I know why the mail is slow, but from now on I will get them a little better. Tell mom not to bother to send any more Detroit papers. Just now we are getting pretty much all the news. In regards to V-Mail, I use it because sometimes it ‘s impossible to get anything else. I do not like it as well, and your letters come faster by air.

Steve Fuller isn’t here (I mean young Steve). The Japs had this place when he was killed. I think he is buried on Guadalcanal. I didn’t look at Milne Bay and he wasn’t at Finchaven.


Letters to My Mother From WWII: May 1944

May 1944

Editor’s Note: I am interested in determining where he is located at the time of each letter. The following has been copied from Wikipedia regarding the movements of the 7th Cavalry. 

  • 2/28/43: 7th cavalry dismounted. Becomes a part of the 1st Cavalry Division.
  • 6/26/43: Depart San Francisco for Australia.
  • 7/43: Arrive Australia and trained for combat.
  • 1/24/43-12/31/44: Participated in the New Guinea Campaign.
  • 2/22/44: Moved to Oro Bay New Guinea.
  • 3/4/44: Moved by landing craft to Los Negros Island to reinforce Admiralty Island Campaign.
  • 5/18/44: Admiralty Island Campaign officially ends.
  • 10/17/44: Moved to Philippines.
  • 10/20/44: Assaulted Leyte. 
  • 12/13/44: Secured Huawei Island.
  • 12/44: Reached Sea.
  • 1/7/45: Reassembled with 1st Cavalry near Tunga.
  • 7/1/45: Leyte campaign ended.
  • 1/27/45: Landed at Luzon where regiment engaged until 7/4/45.

May 1: I haven’t been able to write for the past few days. I have a little time  this morning so I’ll write and mail it whenever I can. You will notice I have moved. I guess I can’t tell you where I am now, but I wish I was back at the other place.

I am a mess this morning. Most of my clothes are either wet or covered in mud. I have managed to shave and brush my teeth and that gives me a feeling of being dressed up. My blanket is wet. I slept on the ship last night and it was too hot to go below. I slept on deck all night in spite of a drenching of rain. Your husband is doing all right. He can sleep in the rain as long as he can keep it from coming into his eyes.

I had a good breakfast; hotcakes, bacon, corn flakes, and coffee. It’s been a long time since I had corn flakes and hotcakes and they were good.

Don’t mind the mud spots on this letter. There is a fellow digging a ditch here and he threw a shovel full of dirt into a mud puddle close by.

I have been trying to think of some study I can take up over here that will help me along. Spelling is the one thing I need and I have a text-book at your place. I am going to ask Mother Norton to send it to me. It’s small and will fit in my pocket. That way I’ll be able to study at odd moments.

Keep your faith in me. I’ll come home.

May 7: I told you there would be times like this. You see I have not written to you in the last 10 days. Now, my little sweetheart it may be a couple more weeks before I write again, so you must not worry. I am all right and plan on being that way for some time to come. Write to mom for me and tell her what I have told you. I will not write for a while. I am having a hell of a good time and making money. It has been a hard job to keep clean. There is more mud here than any thing else.

Although I am no longer there you can use the old address until I tell you different. I’ll tell you why when I come home. I have has 2 letters from you since the 28th of February. Just now there is no chance of hearing from you.

I raised the price of haircuts to one Florin and the First Sargent made me company barber. I do not draw any details and have a good trade. If things go on like this I should make 10 or 12 pounds a month. I am going to send you a money order for $36.25 pretty soon and that will give you $75.00 for the dishes. From then on I may have you bank the money so we can use it for furniture. I have found out that we can have a cold storage locker for $150.00. I think that $500.00 dollars will pay for a Frigidare, cold storage locker, Bendix washer, and the most of a piano. I can have $500.00 or more by the time I get out. I’ll go to work for Whitman & Barnes and we can get by very easy  the first year. I sometimes think it would be best if we get light housekeeping rooms or a small apartment at the most. If we worked it right we could save two thousand in not too long a time, get an F.H.A. loan for the rest and build.I want to own our own home and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life doing it. After we get our home there will be time to buy a colt.

How is Edith? Would I love to see her! Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that you and I have  a daughter. It’s going to be nice to come home and know that you and Edith are waiting for me there. In fact it will be worth all I am going through now. Just between you and me I am not on a Sunday School Picnic.

It’s time for me to get in the chow line. I spend a good deal of time standing in line. There is the chow line, the line to wash your mess kits and the line where they give you a package of tobacco.

I have been reading Frost’s poems. Here is a short one that I like.

“The way a crow shook down on me the dust of snow from a Hemlock tree has given my heart a different mood and saved some part of a day I had rued.”

Last night John A. and I  filled a can with gasoline and sand and used it for a stove. It was nearly midnight and we fried potatoes and sausage, made coffee and had a grand time.

May 10: You can’t go any place here without wading through mud. All I have to do is step out of my tent and it comes up nearly to the tops of my boots. At night when I get ready for bed I take a bar of soap and have a shower in the rain. Sure makes me sleep.

May 12: I have washed my boots and they are hanging outside to dry. It’s a mighty hard job to keep your shoes and boots clean and dry. There is one good thing and that is when the sun comes out things dry pretty fast. Even your picture is taking a beating in this damp climate. The edges of the leather frame are starting to rot from some kind of blue mold. I hope it holds out because I love to look at it and it makes a good desk to write on.

We have had one casuality, a coconut fell and it hit a fellow on the head. It didn’t do much damage. He was out cold for a while. Every once in a while either a nut or a frond will fall on the tent. The fronds are not as light as you would think.

Are fountain pens still on the market? If they are I wish you would send me one or two or else send cigarette lighters. You could send them air mail. Be sure to tell me what you paid for them.

I wish you could see and hear the crows we have. They fly as though they were having trouble and their caw makes you think they are scared or have a sore throat. It always seems to me that they are scared they will not reach their landing-place. You hear a lot of birds here, but it’s hard to get a glimpse of one. What I wouldn’t give to hear a robin or a lark.

I met a fellow last night from Detroit. His wife was, or still is, the manager of the Strathmoor Beauty Shop. There are several fellows around here from Detroit. I also met a fellow who took basic with Eddie. He sure had a narrow escape. A Jap took a shot at him and the bullet went in right over his heart, came out under his left arm and went through the arm. It never hit a bone and made a clean hole all the way through. He was born under a lucky star.

Wish I knew who won the Derby. One of the fellows heard part of a short wave broadcast last night. It even seemed good to hear the news from him.

May 13: The sun is sure beating down today. I have picked as cool a spot as there is in the tent and I’ll try to write a little. It’s a hard job to think of things to write about, but I know you look forward to the mail and I wouldn’t want to let you down. I wonder when I will hear from you again. Perhaps in a couple of weeks and perhaps it will be two months.

Am I dirty. For some reason or other we can’t get water and I haven’t been able to wash my face or my mess kit for some time. The poor cooks are having a tough time too and they can’t serve us any thing that calls for water. We have them over a barrel. They have to serve us orange juice and they can’t mix it with water. There are two things you get used to over here, filth and bad food. John and I don’t fare too bad on the food question. We make coffee, fry bacon and have bread and jam. I sometimes think that the only time he goes to the mess hall is to steal something to eat.

Last night we had a big feed and then we talked and talked. It was nearly midnight when we decided to go to bed. It’s funny what you will talk about at night when the sky is so beautiful and you are lonesome. I have told John about our romance (of course not all) and I feel as though I would know his mother if I met her in Timbuktu.

We play a sort of game and it goes something like this. If I am talking about something and mention a name of someone the rest of the fellows stop me and tell me all about that friend. For instance, this noon I mentioned that I might write to Laura Marie and John A. was quick to tell me that Laura Marie was a minister’s daughter. She had a funny nose. I met her when she was seventeen. She was Flip’s room-mate in college and through her I met my wife. I could tell him as much about any of his friends. You may think your husband is a bit off the beam. Darling, if we didn’t do things like that we would get off the beam.

When I first came over I had an idea that it would be easy to keep your mind off from the fact that it is a rough game and we are playing it a long way from home. It’s a pretty tough job to keep from thinking of home and it’s tougher to keep it from getting you down. I manage most of the time, however, I sort of like it here and I think that is a great help. When I can think of nothing else to do I count my money. If the Army paid me in full I would be able to send you $62.00.  Did you know that I still have seventy dollars worth of bonds coming?

May 14: Things here are pretty much the same. I am still waiting for some kind of transportation to my outfit. If you read the papers you will know that the 1st Cavalry is fighting in the Admiralty’s. They landed just before I left the states.

It has been hot. Being so close to the Equator makes this part of the world pretty warm. It would be sort of nice to see some snow. As a usual thing we get a lot of rain, but it has left us. I guess the season for rain is about over.

This morning I stood waist deep in a creek and washed my clothes on a log. That’s the hard way to do your laundry. I took a bath while I was there. Used a bar of laundry soap and it wasn’t so good. I smell like washing.

Some fellows drifted in the other night that I hadn’t seen for a couple of weeks. They had a lot to tell us and we never went to bed until midnight.

Did your waist line go back to normal? Do you hear from Laura Marie and when do you plan on going to Bellaire? I am anxious to have some news from you or about you. I should have mail waiting for me. It will soon be three months since Edith was born and I have only had two letters from you. Just between you and me that is the hell of war.

They do things a little different here than in the states. I mean in regards to fighting tactics. This seems to be a war of hand grenades and the boys put a lot of faith in them. The Jap grenades are different from ours. They pull the pin, knock them against their helmet and listen for them to start ticking or something before they throw them. All we have to do with ours is pull the pin, count two and throw. The Japs have been known to steal ours and do the same thing with them as their own gernades. Too bad that they are killed before they learn their mistake.

They planted a Jap the other day. Here are a few of the corny lines I wrote.

No salute was fired over his grave. A chaplain bowed in simple prayer. He only asked that though men hate, God remember he is there.

May 16: Although it’s only 2 PM I have made a half pound today ($1.60). I always feel a little better when business is good. I went to the river early this morning and did a washing for a fellow. I have to stand waist deep and scrub the clothes on a log. I will be able to send you a pretty nice money order one of these days.

The tent had something to talk about last night. A fellow fresh from the states took his rifle and went boar-hunting in the hills. It was pretty warm and he decided to take a swim in one of the deep mountain pools. His heart must have went bad for the poor fellow went down like a rock. One of the fellows from the tent was back there and helped pack him out. I feel sorry for his folks.

What grand weather we are having. In spite of the sun’s heat it seems like fall. There seems to be that purple haze that comes only with fall. I remember how I used to enjoy the fall season at Northville. Editor’s Note: Northville Downs? Perhaps it was because of the hunt meet that was held in the fall.

I had to stop writing to cut some more hair. I made another half pound while I was away.

It’s nearly time for me to start frying bacon. I am afraid that bacon and coffee will just about make up the menu tonight. Oh Yes! We have a can of pineapple. Now that the rain has let up I sometimes think I love it here. You know I always did live an outdoor life and this is right up my ally. There is only one thing I miss. When ever the boys get into a fight or an argument I have to keep out. Being a barber makes it necessary to keep out of such things.

May 17: It’s two PM and I have made a pound and two ($3.52) so far today. That’s not such big money for back home, but it’s darned nice for this country. You will pardon me for telling you my earnings each day, but it makes news. I find it hard to dig up things to write about.

There are a few clouds in the sky and it may rain. We could stand a little rain. I am sleepy this afternoon, but it’s too hot for a nap. Some of the fellows sleep right in the sun. Not for me; anyway the flies would drive me wild.

I have at last found out that Pensive won the Derby. He sounds like a horse that belongs to Mrs. Whitney, but I am not sure. Would I love to see a good horse race or else just go riding with you. That would be fun.

It seems strange to go on day after day with no mail from you. I imagine so many things that could happen and I wonder where you are and what you are doing. When I reach the outfit I’ll have mail waiting. I better have. I suppose Edith must be growing into a big baby by now. Is she old enough to smile? She is going to be a darned big baby by the time I come home. At the most I have less than sixteen months to go before I am eligible to come home. I guess we can wait that long. When you come down to it time goes by so fast that sixteen months will slide by before we know it. Perhaps you can fill your time with voice lessons. You can afford it and it would please me. Darling, do anything that will make you happy and look forward to Christmas. I am going to send your mother seventy-five dollars and she will buy your gift. I know you are going to like it. Here I am thinking of Christmas in the middle of May. Over here the seasons come and go with very little change. It might rain a little more at one time, but aside from that it is pretty much the same. Plants can grow and die of old age.

Sargent Stanley (the one in the picture with me) is throwing a knife into a coconut tree. He spends hours throwing a knife. He is pretty good at it too. We do anything to kill time here. Some of the fellows have made all sorts of jewelry with coins. They cut them in strips, sand them smooth, and make chains. Many a girl back home will get some jewelry for Christmas made out of florins.

Editor’s Note: May 18, 1944 the Admiralty Islands Campaign officially ended

May 19:  I didn’t write yesterday. I started to write a lot of letters and by the time I finished one to Laura Marie I was through for the day. It is easy to write long letters to people who do not hear from me very often. There seems so much news to tell them.

Wish you had been here for dinner last night. I would teach you a little about jungle cooking. I broke three eggs in a helmet, put in powdered milk, baking powder, sugar, salt, flour and water. Into this batter I put a canteen cup of chopped pineapple and half a cup of sliced apples. I fried it in cakes and served them hot with plenty of butter and sugar and were they good.

I have done a good stroke of business this morning. I bet three pounds ($9.60) that Mt. Vesuvius was in Italy. I have found the proof and now I’ll collect my bet. Do you know how much money I am spending? In the last three weeks I have spent nine pence. I had to buy a bar of soap and a box of cookies. When I send the next money order I’ll send it to Elizabeth.In case you have left Alexandria she will be able to cash it and mail it to you.

Do you get a letter from me nearly every day? I think you will receive them more often than they reach me. Mail going to the states seems to move  fairly fast. I hope it reaches you on time as I wouldn’t want you to worry.

I told you that Phil M. was no longer with us. Reports have drifted in that his outfit took some island, but I don’t dare tell you what outfit he is in and I am not sure that report was true. I pray he is all right wherever he is.

Editor’s Note: I think he is referring to Los Negros Island. There is a u-tube video about the attack of this island. I haven’t yet figured out how to embed video into the blog so if interested you will have to find it on your own.

John A and I were going to take a plane trip today, but things happened to make it impossible. We can take off for different places as long as the plane isn’t on a mission. One of our buddies has been going to ____________every afternoon. It’s about a 300 mile round trip. I think there is a kid here from Bellaire that flies a bomber and if it’s possible I would like to go on a mission with him. It’s not so very dangerous and if your number is up you will get it anyway. I am not to afraid of any thing but a beach head and I would hate that.

The wind blew pretty hard last night and the falling coconuts made it almost unsafe to be outside the tent. It’s cool today for a change. I would like to take a nap but the flies are too bad. I could put up my jungle hammock, but it’s too much trouble.

May 24: It’s a pretty warm day. I have taken all my clothes out of my barracks bag and letting the sun dry them out. If you do not do that every so often they will rot from mildew. My extra pair of boots were covered with a blue mold. I  have to wash clothes about three times a week and sometimes that isn’t enough. I threw most of my clothes away. Rather, I just turned them into the supply room. I have two pairs of shorts and no under shirts. Have lots of socks and that’s what you need over here. The army issued me some jungle socks that are the best I have ever seen. Reminds me of “Interwoven” and I used to pay a dollar a pair for them.

So far today I have made $3.84 and that’s been the best ever. Some of the officers have been coming down for haircuts. I have had four of them in the past two days. I am working towards being troop barber. I am troop barber here and have no details what so ever.

Remember Baker? I wore his pants to your wedding. I expect to see him any day. Thompson, another fellow I took basic training with, is here. I guess there are about four of us from the old troop back at the Flats.

You know I like it here. There is something about it that hits the spot. Without a doubt I will get sick of it in time, but it’s nice to not hate it at the start. I am slowly getting used to not hearing from you. At first I was pretty worried, but I soon saw it wouldn’t do. So I try not to think of you too much.

It seems so much like fall. I wouldn’t say that to anyone here because they would laugh, but it’s so just the same. When I have to get up during the night and the air feels so cool and the stars are so bright I find myself listening for a dog to bark. Those would be good nights to hunt a coon.

I read the Bible much more than usual. I pray a little harder too. I always read it by flashlight just before I hop into bed. Another thing that I do that I never thought of doing before is play solitaire. I beat the game two or three times so you know I play a lot.

May 30:  I have been a busy man today. It rained and I have spent the day hemming towels. Starting Monday my customers will get their necks shaved, hair tonic, oil or a shampoo. It’s going to be a pretty classy shop and if I wanted to I guess I could put it in the Red Cross Club. If I did that I would put a part of my earnings in the company fund and I wouldn’t like that.

A year ago today you came down to Champaign. I can remember what a beautiful morning it was and how I waited for so long at the bus station. You were worth waiting for.

I didn’t sleep very well last night. About every second night I dream that I am fighting Japs. For some reason, I hardly dream about you. I am glad about that because it’s hell to wake up and find out it was only a dream.

I have a mouse that has made his home in a box here in the tent. Last night he fell into a helmet of water and was darned near finished. When I fished him out the ornery varmint tried to bite me for my troubles. He is strictly a native mouse and his hind feet are long and pink. They have some rats over here that reach two feet.


Letters To My Mother From WWII: April 11-27, 1944

Max the boy

April 11-27, 1944

April 11:  Just to prove that I am a barber I cut the First Sargent’s hair this morning.  From now on I guess I will have the trade of the whole company. Right now I am too busy to look for much trade outside the company. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to know that I wasn’t wrong on my hunch.

Talk about dreams. I sure had one last night. I dreamed that we owned Man O’ War and we were going to race him. You were supposed to be taking care of him, but all you would do was lie in bed. It made me mad. So I stayed in bed with you and we just looked at the old horse and figured up how much money we would win.

April 13: I only have two short candles and they are flickering pretty bad, but I will try to write a letter. I have been writing to you in the morning and never feel like writing then. I “goofed off” from work tonight. That is the reason I am home. Editor’s Note: He calls his tent home.

I wish you could have been with me this afternoon. I tried to hire a Native to go back in the bush for bananas. He didn’t seem to know where he could find any so I gave a shilling (nearly a weeks wages for him) and had him get me some coconuts. He went up into a tree and threw down seven. They were extra good, the meat was still soft. I never care for them once they are hard. The payoff came when I showed him how I could take out my teeth. I made a face, pulled hard and I guess the poor fellow thought I had pulled my jaw out. There were several Natives there and I had to pull them out several times. They made all kinds of faces and tried to pull their own out. When I pretended as though I would pull their teeth out for them you should have seen them scatter. Can you imagine your husband entertaining a bunch of Natives by pulling out his teeth? I guess you can. This would be so much fun if only you were along.

Would you like to know what we have to eat? We get a lot of corned beef, diced carrots, salmon, C. ration hash, apples, potatoes, lemon drink and bread and butter. I love the corned beef, potatoes, and bread, but don’t you think for a second I don’t eat pretty good. Tonight I had three cans of pineapple. For lunch I had some canned chicken. I am with a good bunch and we are all hustlers when it comes to the question of something to eat.

Right now I am out of Air Mail envelopes and lack a half pound to get them with. I loaned a fellow a couple of pounds and will get it back payday. It takes a long time to earn a pound. To be exact it takes twenty hair cuts to make a pound.

A fellow just came back from the post office. He had been sorting mail. There wasn’t any for me. Oh well, there isn’t anything I can do about it.

Easter Sunday: I didn’t have to work last night. I feel fairly fresh this morning. I have been to church and I will say that we had some crowd and a wonderful service. A little later I am going to go swimming, write to mom, and spend the rest of the day in ease.

I suppose you have read what the First Cavalry has been doing in this part of the world. Although they were dismounted they proved to the world that the cavalry can take it as well as dish it out. Editor’s Note:  I think he is referring to February 1944 when the First Cavalry was moved from Australia to New Guinea to stage for the Admiralties Campaign and experienced their first combat in the Admiralty Islands.

I look for the war to end before Christmas. That is MY idea of it and I hope I am right. I think the Germans will toss in the towel during the summer and the Japs will not be far behind. It would make a nice Christmas gift.

April 15:  This is just to tell you a good joke I heard tonight. I have never kicked on the chow here, but this story comes pretty close. It seems that there was a starving Jap around here and in order to get food he stole an American Uniform and got in our chow line. He resembled a Filipino and so they didn’t spot him. They never would have caught him, but he came back for seconds.

This has been one of the most interesting days I have had. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that I talked to an American girl today.  Editor’s Note: A note in the margin dated Oct 5, 1957 said her name was Mary Spaulding.  She was a Red Cross girl and I helped her pack a lot of clothes in a box that she was going to ship. I never thought the day would come when I would talk with an American girl. I told her all about you, our baby and everything else. She was lonesome for her home too.

Another interesting person I met today was a Native who can speak English. He can not only speak English, but he can read and write simple words. He was educated at a Catholic Mission and told me that his sister was going to school. We spent two hours doing nothing more than writing words. He has a whole notebook filled with words, songs, and simple problems. He calls this his school. He can sing songs such as”You Are My Sunshine”, “Good-By Little Darling”, and “She Will Be Coming Around The Mountain.” He had a deck of cards and I played several card tricks for him. In the end he pulled as good a card trick on me as I have seen. For my lunch he fixed me a pot of coffee, bread, and I had a can of pineapple juice.

April 17: I have been watching my ants. In another letter I told you about their home just outside my tent. All afternoon they have been bringing eggs from a hollow log about a hundred feet away. They sure are a busy bunch and it is fun to watch them.

April 18: My plans last night did not turn out. Oh well, I like it here and as far as I am concerned they can leave me here for the duration. They try to send the fellows back to the states as soon as they have put in 18 months over here. I think the war will be over then, but it’s nice to think that in seventeen months I’ll be ready to come home. Seventeen months will not be too long will it?

A great big lizard came through our tent. One of the fellows killed him. He was over two feet long. Be nice to put your feet on at night.

If you ever have a chance to buy a couple of cigarette lighters, do it, and send them to me. Get good ones even if you have to pay five or six dollars for them and be sure to let me know how much they cost. I can sell them at a profit that would take your breath away. These fellows have money and very little to buy with it.

April 21, Letter 1: I will start out by telling you about a hike I took yesterday. Another fellow and I had been planning on following a creek that comes down from the hills. Yesterday seemed like a good day, so we started right after breakfast and took a lunch with us. For a few miles the going was fairly easy, but once we reached the hills we found that the creek came almost straight down in a series of falls. We climbed over rocks as large as a house, we pulled ourselves up with vines and edged our way along cliffs where a fall would have been. too bad. After several hours of climbing we reached a rocky gorge that was only about six feet wide and with walls at least a hundred feet high. We could hear the sound of falling water back in this gorge, so we pulled off our clothes and waded in. After following it back a couple hundred feet we came to a dead-end. Here, into a basin worn into solid rock we found the falls. You can never imagine how beautiful that water looked as it fell down a hundred feet into this pool. We took a swim and tried in vain to stand under the falls. Later we started home, found a valley full of pineapple plants, picked eight of them and got home so tired I could hardly stand.

My buddy, John A. Harrison, entered your picture in a pin-up contest. He is bound it will win. If it wins your picture will no doubt be in the Yank Magazine and every soldier from Al Sender to Joe Blo will see it. Editor’s Note: Google Yank Magazine. There are issues on-line.

I run around with three fellows: Phil M Domer who is a school teacher in Indiana, married and has two children, a fellow we call Bull Durham, and John A. Harrison. John A is from Pittsburgh and is a trotting horse trainer. Although he is a young fellow he had good luck with a couple of horses. Although these fellows were at Riley I never met them until we got to California. We were together on the boat and it looks like we will be together for some time.

I received a couple of letters from mom, but no mail from you. Sure hope I get a letter today.

April 21, Letter 2: Let’s have a little talk before I go to bed. I have passed up the movies to write to you tonight. For some reason or other you seem closer to me tonight than any time since I have been away. I shut my eyes and hear you laughing and it’s a nice sound.

Phil and John are writing; Durham is in the midst of some blood and thunder story and the tent looks very nice with the glow from our candles. I have some butterscotch candy that is pretty good to chew on. I saw a very funny show the other night “True to Life.” If you haven’t seen it yet, try to if it’s still showing.

This will make you laugh. Over here where there is nothing but the male sex everything is called sexy. If you ask any one their opinion of anything the answer is bound to be “pretty sexy.” It always strikes me as being funny.

I remember Saturday August first and we went to Joe’s Cafe that night. That was the night I decided to marry you. Exactly thirty-five million, six hundred eighty-three thousand, two hundred seconds later we were married. I worked as fast as I could.

Did you ever read “Arrowsmith?” I read it for the second time. It is an extra good book to my way of thinking.

The past two nights have been bad ones as far as sleep is concerned. I am now in a tent by the side of the road. “Oh give me a house by the side of the road where the race of men go by.”  Editor’s Note: The poet is Sam Walter Foss. This is what I say: They gave me a tent by the side of the road where all the trucks race by. The only advantage to it is I am within walking distance of the latrine. I do not share the same tent with the other boys, however, I am always down here and only go to my tent to sleep.

The Sargent was broken-hearted because I took off for the hills yesterday. In fact he had planned a nice detail for my yesterday and then he couldn’t find me. He came into my tent with vengeance in his heart. With tears in my eyes, I explained that it was all a horrible mistake that would never be made again. It takes a lot of soft soap to get by here.

I have been reading the Bible every day. At last I have a genuine feeling for Paul. Until now I never could see the beauty of his letters and the sincerity of his faith. I always had him pictured as a Jew who played too strongly on his Roman citizenship. In spite of the fact that I always liked History I have had trouble with some of her characters. It seems so many of them do not fit on their proper place. Just think, Flip, your husband is now making History. At least I am a small part of a movement that will be studied a thousand years from now. Remember the song “I don’t want to make history, I just want to make love?” That is the way I feel about it.

April 23, Letter 1: I am mailing you a locket this morning. It was the prize for the Casual Company’s pin-up girl. It just happens that you won the pin-up contest by 20 votes. I had to give a speech. All I said was “You will always be my favorite pin-up girl. The locket is hand-made and you will notice it is made from a Florin.

I spent all of yesterday back in my swimming pool. It took two hours to climb up there, but you should have seen us come back. We slid over waterfalls, swam downstream, and surprised a native girl who was making baskets. It’s a wonder we didn’t break our fool necks.

April 23, Letter 2:  I wrote to you this morning and now I find myself writing to you again. I wanted to read some history this afternoon, but I couldn’t find anything down at the Red Cross Club. If I ever get stationed someplace where I feel sure I’ll be there for some tome I’ll have you send me a history book. Just now I do not want any more stuff than I have because I am waiting shipment and everything is in the way.

I keep most of my things in my barracks bag. My Bible lies on the ground beneath my bunk and my toilet equipment is all in a little cloth bag that can be found hanging on a nail. My clean clothes are all kept in a bag and I use it for a pillow. It’s not the best pillow in the world, but it serves the purpose.

Tomorrow I am going to see about glasses. I seem to be able to see all right. In fact I think I can see extra good, but I notice that the pupil of the left eye has a shattered appearance and I squint so much. I wouldn’t want to have anything happen to my eyes. The sun seems extra bright over here.

I wish that I could go from here to the European Theater of war and then come home by the way of London. It would be sort of nice to have been all the way around the world. Funny, but the Army will not let us pick our spots.

I have two pounds saved his month. That means I’ll be able to send you at least thirty-six  dollars this month. I want you to send thirteen of it to a fellow that I owe and you will be able to keep the balance towards the set of dishes. That will give you about forty dollars. I want you to have a good set no matter what the cost and then we will work on the silver. I think we should be able to pay at least seventy-five dollars towards your college debt before the end of this year, can we?I don’t want to be too far behind when the war ends.

I have decided that the best thing to do is to buy a thoroughbred mare as soon as the war ends and have her bred to Stormsend.  That way I’ll have a colt coming that I will be able to sell or trade towards a horse that is in training. If the colt looks good we will race him ourselves. Stormsend is a young sire standing at Michigan State College. As a two-year old he was trained in New York by one of the leading trainers and won a few races. He is a well-bred horse and sired by Hardtack. Hardtack was the sire of Seabiscuit and this blood should cross fairly well with a mare in the Sir Galahad family. Oh yes, Man O’War sired Hardtack, so you can see such a bred colt would be tops. I think we should be able to buy the mare for one hundred-fifty.

I had to take time out to cut a fellow.s hair. That’s the trouble with being company barber. Any time a fellow wants a hair cut you have to drop whatever you are doing. As long as I can make a little at it I will keep trying.

Have your folks decided to spend their vacation in Bellaire? If they don’t why don’t you stay up there. It would do you good and there are plenty of places to swim. I don’t want to hear of you working before fall and I would just as soon you didn’t then. I feel I can support my wife, however, you have your own life to lead while I am away and I want you to do whatever will keep you happy. The main thing is to keep happy and don’t get into a rut. I find it hard to stick it out over here. Sometimes I feel as though it’s foolish to dream of a future, but Flip that’s the only thing we can do. Perhaps the war will soon end. I still have hopes.

I was down at the Red Cross Club this afternoon and all the girls spoke to me and complimented me on having such a beautiful wife. You sure carried off the election in a big way. Your picture was mounted on a board with thirty others and beneath your picture was printed “Flip.” I kept quiet and just watched the boys as they looked over the pictures. Wish you could have heard all the pretty things they said about you. I was a proud sort of guy.

April 23, Letter 3:  I went to the show with the boys, but didn’t stay. I didn’t like the picture “Heavenly Body.” It may be a good show, but I couldn’t see it.

It’s my third letter to you today. At this rate I’ll go broke buying stamps.

It rained a good deal today. I don’t mind the rain because it cools things off. This is a darned hop place when the sun is out. At high noon my tent is pretty warm. I was unlucky and drew a place close to the outside edge of the tent to set my cot up. It’s nice at night because you can look at the stars, but during the day you are close to the canvas and that makes it extra warm.

We had some California grapes for chow. Were they ever good. I used to have a friend in California who was a grape cutter. He used to go to the market with me nd show me what grapes to buy.


























Letters To My Mother From WWII: April 2-12, 1944

Letters To My Mother From WWII: April 2-12, 1944

APRIL 2 – 12, 1944

April 2: Within the next two or three days I am going to send you a money order for thirty dollars. I want you to send $12.50 to Dal Spencer, Almahurst Farm, Nicholasville, Kentucky and the rest is for you. There is only one catch to it. I want you to save it until you get another money order from me and then buy a set of dishes. Darling, I want you to suit yourself on the dishes. I only want to know that you have as good a set as you want. Perhaps the best way would be to wait until you get back to Detroit. I will be able to send you money from time to time, but I want it to be used in buying things for our home. It will take a big load from my shoulders to know that you have a few things.

I have written your folks. I felt in a good mood this morning, so I wrote a long letter. I guess I felt in a good mood because I didn’t have anything to do today.

We had mail call last night. Several of the boys received mail posted in the states as late as March 15th. I was unlucky and when mail was over I felt a little sick. I am afraid that you have been using regular postage. If so it will take some time in reaching me.

I went to the movie last night,  but didn’t stay. The sound equipment was out-of-order and it didn’t fit the picture. Deanna Durbin’s singing sounded like the __________(the censor would cut it out anyway).

I have chin whiskers/I always wanted to grow a beard like your grandfather had and this is my chance. I’ll try to send you a picture of it when I get a good growth.

How are you and Sandra? Would I even like to see you. Sandra will be a pretty big girl by the time I come home. Without a doubt she will be afraid of me. I don’t think I’ll be here longer than two yeas at the most. Time will fly by pretty fast. It is pretty long, but when I think of what I’ll have to come home to, well darling, it’s almost too much for this heart of mine. When I think of all the fun we have had it makes me very lonesome for you, I would like to wake up some morning and find you sleeping in my arms.

I am sending you my Shellback Card. Save it for me. I have had to mark out the name of the boat. You can bet it was a regular luxury liner.

Editor’s note: First of all, back in 1969 while dad was visiting Don and I in San Francisco we came upon the ship dad was on. The ship was in dry dock, but with permission he gave us a tour of the top side and showed us the very spot on the poop deck where he used to speak. I have forgotten the name of the ship. Can anyone in the family help me out with this? 

Google says that the Shellback Card/Ceremony is a navy ritual aboard ship after it crosses the equator. When the ship crosses all pollywogs (those sailors who have never crossed before) must go through several challenges and kneel to King Neptune before they become Shellbacks. Has anyone in the family seen this card?

April 3: I earned two shillings this morning. Honest, my barbering business is picking up in grand style. You thought I was foolish when I said I would learn to cut hair. I am still a long way from perfect, but I’ll make it.

I can’t get any pipe tobacco that I like, consequently, I am smoking cigarettes. They only cost two and six. In other words two shillings and a six pence for a carton. That’s about 45 cents. I am having a lot of trouble with this money. It is so different and when they tell me the price of some object is over one and three I have to stop and think just what they mean.

I put in a bad night. Had cramps all night long. I feel better today and think a little work will do me good.

If I can find some wrapping paper I will send you a large picture home. It’s either that or trade it to the Natives for a pig. I have no place to put it and I am afraid I will ruin it by just packing it around.

I may hear from you tonight. There is a lot of mail in now and if you have sent any Air Mails they are bound to turn up soon. I am sure anxious to hear from you.

I am going to clean up and then go to work.

April 4:  At last I received a couple of letters. One was a form letter from your father’s church and the other was from Ruth Jean. Editor’s Note: Ruth Jean Ellison was dad’s youngest sister. I think she would have been a pre-teen at the time of this letter Might be wrong so who in the family knows?  After reading them I still didn’t know any more about you or my daughter. Perhaps I will hear today. Who knows? I will not let it get me down, because I am bound to hear some day.

You should see our tent. We have it well stocked with coffee, peaches, peach jam and cans of Planters Peanuts. Where we got them is strictly a military secret. Did you ever read Kipling’s Loot Loot Loot?  Editor’s Note: Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem titled Loot. Google it folks. My outfit seems to hold their own along that line.

My uncle Sam  Editor’s Note: Anyone know Sam’s last name?  was in the Spanish-American War, The one thing he saved was his canteen. I can understand now why he saved it. Your canteen becomes your friend. In hot weather such as this you never let it get too far from you. I think that when the war ends I’ll have mine gold-plated and hang it on the wall.

I am going to an Easter Sunrise service at six thirty Sunday morning. Sunday is just another day over here. It’s all right with me because every day we work means we are that much nearer the end. I am anxious for that day to come. If it’s not too long I hope that I am here until it’s over. I hear that Berlin is catching H…..

People back home have no idea what the army is like. I mean what it is like over here. I don’t suppose it is possible to tell you anything about it, but my hat is off to the engineers and the Malaria Control Unit. The engineers are doing a fine job. By the way, isn’t Bill’s brother the one that’s a Coronal in the Engineers?  Editor’s Note: Bill (Bill (Benny) Benson was a cartographer in the US Army Corps of Engineers. He was a civilian and after the war he lived in the Canal Zone with wife and family. He was the husband of my mother’s older sister Elizabeth Norton Benson. According to Jim Benson, second son of Bill and Elizabeth, dad is referring to Bill’s brother-in-law Dick Cook who was a Coronal in the army and was married to Bill’s sister Helen Benson Cook.

April 5: I have received your letter that was written March third. It sure was nice to find out about my daughter. I am glad you got along so well and that our daughter is okay as far as looks go. I guess every one worries a little for fear their child might be deformed. By this time she is a pretty fair-sized girl. I am glad that she has hands like yours. I only hope she can handle a deck of cards one half as well as her mother.

What do you call her now? It is hard to keep track of her name. I do like the name of Edith Louise. Editor’s Note: Finally, he knows my name.  To tell you the truth I didn’t like the name of Sandra and I am glad you didn’t tack it on her.

Your mail isn’t censored. They don’t care what you write to me, but they sure put a limit on what I am to tell you. Just so you understand why I don’t mention things over here I will tell you a few of the rules I have to go by. All of them are perfectly sound rules. I can’t tell you any thing about where I am that would give you an idea of where this A.P.O. is. I am in New Guinea, but what part is not for you to know. I can’t tell you anything in regards to troop movements. Even if I should know I was going to leave here I would not be able to tell you. Should I go into battle I will not be able to tell you anything about it until the War Department makes an official announcement. I can’t mention any casualties until the War Department puts out the list. Then, of course, there are rules in regards to bad stories and any thing else that might start a rumor. If they didn’t have these rules things would sure be a mess. Some little thing would happen and some Joe Blo would write home about it. By the time he had finished his imagination would have run riot and what a story.

I get a big kick from the movies. While there you have  good chance to study people. We have good pictures – plenty of shorts  and logs in place of seats. Of course,  it is an open air job and sometimes it rains, however, the show goes on. We whistle at the good-looking girls, hiss the villain, and boo anyone we don’t like. The other night a newsreel showed the President of the W.C.T.U.  Editor’s Note: Woman’s Christian Temperance Union  She made a talk in regards to how America’s fighting men should not have beer or whiskey. You can imagine what sort of ovation she got. Last night I saw “While Thousands Cheer.” It was a good show. Just because I go to the movies now you must not expect me to take you every night after I get home. I am sure there will be other interesting things to do. Right now I would like to go on a fishing trip. That is what I would like to do. I am not going to do things like that for a few months.

I am going to take a nap I miss you and the only thing that keeps me from counting the days is because I have no idea how many I would have to count.

April 6:  I sometimes wonder what is going to happen to me here. In a way I am the true warrior and long for the smell of gunpowder. On the other hand I am scared. I guess everyone is plenty frightened when they go into action. My only hope is that the war ends soon.

This morning I saw a drill from Whitman and Barns. It was the same as meeting an old friend

April 7:  I have a barber pole in front of my tent. It’s a pretty good-looking pole too. Someone else painted it and it’s a perfect job even if it is small.

Another fellow and I had a fight last night. It didn’t last long. My nose is sensitive this morning and I hear that he went to the dentist. We didn’t have anything to fight about, but I had a chip on my shoulder and he decided to knock it off. Just between you and me my right isn’t working like it used to. I had a perfect chance for a knockout and couldn’t make it. I am going to have a good time over here even if I have to fight for amusement.

April 10: I have a washing to do today. I only have to wash once a week, but that’s too often. I take a stiff brush, a bar of yellow soap and scrub the daylights out of them. It’s sort of rough on the clothes, but they come out pretty clean. Although I use cold water to wash with its soft and makes good lather.

One of the most interesting things to watch is a rain moving in on us. One of the most interesting things to do is search on the beach for cat eyes. They are a stone that is perfectly flat on one side and round on the other. They are beautifully marked and when you polish them they sure look pretty. One of the things to watch out for is a jelly fish. They sting you if you bump into them while swimming. Outside my tent there is a hollow coconut log that the ants have made a home in. I watched them as they went in and out and decided that their door was too small. One poor ant worked for ten minutes trying to drag the eye of a blow fly through the hole. Being a good fellow at heart, I took my knife and made a larger opening. We have another varmint here that I get a big kick out of. He looks like a crab, but he is no larger than a grasshopper.They live on the ground and at night they are apt to move into your shoe. They can give you a nasty sting and so best to empty out your shoes when you get up in the morning.

April 12:  When this war ends and I am home I will tell you all about the different jobs I had at A.P.O. 703.  Editor’s Note: Google says this refers to the U.S. Army S/W/ Pacific & Far East Operations.

This is my day to shave. I also have to go to the tobacco store and buy my weekly supply of tobacco. It is rationed to us, but we get plenty of it. The match question is a more serious one. We get plenty of matches, but it’s hard to keep them dry. I poured wax over mine and thy work pretty good now. I never have found any pipe tobacco that’s good. When I get settled I may have you get me some.

I hope you appreciate you appreciate your mother’s day card. I had to draw it myself and I guess it’s the first picture I ever drew. I sent one to your mother and now I’ll be busy fixing one for my mother.

I suppose you and Edith have a lot of fun now. She must be old enough to be cute. I try to imagine what she looks like, but it’s no good. I will have to wait until you can send me her picture. I imagine she looks like your baby picture. Your cheeks were pretty fat. Each outfit has its own song and some of them are pretty good. The paratroops sing a song about a fellow that jumped and his chute didn’t open. The chorus is like this, “Glory, Glory, what a hell of a way to die. Glory, Glory, what a hell of a way to die and he ain’t going to jump no more.” They sing it to the tune of “John Brown’s Body.” Another thing that tickles me is the names that every truck, jeep, and every thing has painted on it. Each driver names his jeep after some girl. There are a few who have used their imagination and some of the names are good. Even tents have names that run all the way from “Little America” to the Due Drop In.” I saw one tent called the “Mosquito Bar.”

Speaking of Mosquitos, I was surprised to find so few of them. Not that they are not in this part of the country, but every thing is being done to keep them from breeding. We have to take Atabrine and sleep under nets because there is always the danger of Malaria.