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.