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.


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