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.


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