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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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