Edith Norton, mother of Florence Norton Ellison
August 1-6, 1944
Aug 1.10: Payday has come and gone again. I was left out. For some reason or other I wasn’t paid. I guess they are still trying to figure out how much they owe me.
I joined the “Last Squad Club.” It cost me sixteen dollars, but I am glad I joined. It can be a nice club if everyone gets behind it.
No Mail from you in several days. The last letter was dated about the middle of June. I received two letters from Helen last night and one from Edna and Earl. The letter from Edna and Earl was only twelve days in coming and Helen’s took thirteen days. I received a form letter from dad’s church. They always sneak in on me when I am expecting mail from you. Did you know that form letters are one of my pet peeves? I think they are a curse on humanity.
Tomorrow is going to be an easy day. We have parade in the morning and I guess that is all. I have always had to work pretty hard during my life and the let down here is new to me.
By the time this war ends I’ll have a mighty good tan. Even now I can’t stay out over an hour with my shirt off. This sun is bright. This weather was made to order for me. Last night we had rain with a little wind. It cooled off to the extent that my one blanket wasn’t enough. I got up and put on a shirt. My supply of bed clothes is meager. I have one cot and one blanket and use a field jacket for a pillow. I could have more, but it would only mean more to keep clean. I prefer the single life.
I received letter from an old friend of mine in California. He is a C.B. and said he was somewhere here in the islands. Editor’s Note: I think he means Seabee. A Seabee is a member of the United States Construction Forces. The initials CB refer to Construction Battalion. I am anxious to find out if he is close by. There are several fellows over here that I used to know or at least I had known of them. All of them are horsemen and in our minds we race a lot of horses. Some of these contacts may be of some help in the post war world.
Coming home will be sort of funny. There are so many things you miss without knowing you miss them. I’ll be a wild critter when I first hit the states. Right now I would like to hear the noises a horse makes when he has his head in a feed tub or I would like the fun of leading one out into the center field for grass. It’s funny how you miss little things like that.
Aug 3.12, V-Mail: I am sending you a box today. In it you will find some shells, four cat eyes, two razor blades, a Jap dog tag (made out of wood), a stamp with which he signs his “John Henry,” some bits of ivory I found in his pocket and the friendship belt he had around his waist. I wish you would pick out two shells that match and have a pair of ear rings made. I’ll send you the money and it can be your anniversary gift – would you like that?
Aug 3.13: Later on this evening I may go to the movies. It still lacks an hour of being dark, so I’ll write.
We had some boxing last night that was very good. Some of these fellows are mighty good fighters and they put on a good show. We have a good boxing ring and have fights a couple of times a week.
I mailed a package to you this morning. I hope it isn’t too long in reaching you and that the shells have a good polish on them. If not just rub them with a soft cloth. Later on I will send some larger shells and some more small ones that are green and white. I have a Jap officer’s canteen that I want to send and will as soon as I find a box large enough for it. I had a hunch I would receive some mail tonight. As usual my hunch was wrong. It is nearly time for the package to reach me – I mean the package mom sent me some time ago.
Sgt. Nugent, in his letter, said he would teach Edith how to ride. Said he knew I wasn’t a good enough rider to do it. It would be fun to teach her because she will have the chance to grow up with horses and it will be second nature. Of course she may be afraid of horses. If she is we will have to help her overcome it.
I am going to have Larry look around and see if he can find an up to date book on refrigeration. If I had a chance to study a book like that it would give me more of an idea on what we would want. The more I think about it the more I wonder about the purpose of a cooling room at 34 degrees. Such a room would be a cost, that is if you were to maintain a certain temperature. Why couldn’t we just build a well insulated room and put the freezing unit in it. The room would be cool enough for practical purposes. I’ll have it all figured out by the time I get home.
I signed the pay roll this morning and I will get paid before July 15th. Editor’s Note: I think he means August. I am anxious to get the money off to you. Still have no idea in regards to how much I’ll send. I may save out a few pounds to buy cigars with. There are a bunch of CB’s on these Islands and I think if I oil a few palms I can get cigars from their P.X. It’s worth a try. I saw one kid sell two boxes last night for thirty-two dollars. If I could wave a magic wand and produce thirty boxes of cigars. I would be able to pay off your college debt in one sweep. I am trying to wave that wand.
Aug 4.14: No Mail. I had great hopes of hearing from you this week, but I guess they were in vain. Do you receive my mail regular? If so I will not kick, but I would hate to think that you were not hearing from me.
I am on K.P. tomorrow. That suits me fine as I will miss out on the inspection and parade. Sunday I want to go out and look for shells. I want to send you some of the green and white ones.
Next week I will be out on a problem for a few days.
I once heard a poem about a soldier who stole a jewel from some Hindu idol. Ever since then I have been trying to find a copy of the poem. I never could find it, but I have found the incident that the poem was about. The Great Orlov Diamond was stolen from a Hindu Idol by a French Soldier some two hundred years ago. I have a hunch I will find a copy of the poem now that I have a little more information.
Editor’s Note: OK folks, I have actually seen The Great Orlov Diamond. Currently this diamond is mounted on top of the Russian Imperial Scepter that resides in the Kremlin Museum in Moscow, Russia. In 2006, while in Moscow, I had a chance to view these jewels. For more information about the diamond’s history google Great Orlov Diamond. So far I have been unable to locate the poem dad speaks of. However, the information online makes for an interesting story. The short story is that the diamond was taken by a french soldier and was eventually sold to Russian Count Orlov. He gave the diamond to Empress Catherine, in order to try and make up a lover’s quarrel.
We had some good doughnuts for dinner. I managed to get five or six. Wish they had waited until tomorrow to make them. I would have been on K.P. then and would have been able to have all I wanted.
I would like to hear the war news. Everyone wonders where we will go next and of course no one knows. I would just as soon make a beach head in Frisco. In case I should leave here you mustn’t wonder why. I wouldn’t know myself until just a few hours before I left and of course wouldn’t be able to tell you about it. You watch the papers and if you read where the 1st Cavalry is after the Japs you will know I am there.
We have a full moon tonight. Always seems to me as though it comes up in the northeast and goes down in the southwest. A palm tree is a beautiful thing to see in the moonlight. The tops of the fronds seem to turn to silver. I would like to see a hard Maple for a change. We do not have dew over here. That must be caused by the ground being always warm. Of course when you are in the jungle the grass is sometimes wet from the rains and you would think it was dew.
I lack a month and six days of having two years in the army. When I left I thought to myself, “I’ll be in a couple of years, but it will go by fast.” That seems like yesterday. One thing certain; I will not be in two more years.
Aug 5.15: Just finished K.P. and had to go to a movie. The movie was about the war in China and the whole troop had to go. It was pretty good and sure showed what a pushing around Japan gave China. It made no mention of a treaty England made with Japan in the last war regarding certain rights in Manchuria and how we sold them scrap iron in hopes they would be satisfied with what ever they could grab from China. It makes me mad some to think we didn’t get in the fight long before we did. One thing is certain and that is we are going to push the Japs around for a while. I am glad that I am having a chance to help do it.
Editor’s Note: I think he is referring to the Anglo-Japanese Alliance treaty of 1902 and renewed in 1905 and 1911. This alliance provided trade between Japan and the British Commonwealth AND promised support if either Japan or any of the British Commonwealth countries became involved in a war with more than one power. In 1920 the alliance was shelved. At that time the American government feared that renewal would create a Japanese dominated market in the Pacific and close China off from American trade. Members of the Commonwealth, most especially Canada, feared a conflict between the USA and Japan would force the Commonwealth into a war and I assume force the Commonwealth to support Japan. The termination of the Alliance and the distrust between the British Commonwealth and Japan are credited as being leading causes in Japan’s involvement in WWII.
I am still wondering what your dad is going to think about the letter I wrote in regards to church letters and letters from church members. Since I wrote to him I have been asking the other boys what they think of it and I find that most of them hate form letters and christmas cards that do not contain a letter. The letters dad write are pretty good but the letter from the church member was bad. They can’t shove religion into these guys. My own faith has been shaken a couple of times, but I get it back again. I used to have a fear or horror of death. Still have, but on my one patrol I got used to seeing it. My religion has always been based on one thing and that is “love.” I always liked everyone, but I have had to give that up. To be a good soldier you have to hate. That’s one thing I like about your dad’s letters. He isn’t trying to sell anything, but I think they would be better if they told us just a little bit about Detroit with the church news.
Are my letters cut? They let us write a great deal. We can’t tell anything because we don’t know anything. They have never sent any back for a re-write, so I guess I am staying within bounds.
I have wanted very much to tell you about the patrol I was on. I guess I have told you bits of it, but it would be fun to just tell you the whole story. It would be interesting because everything struck me as either beautiful or funny. Whenever we found Japs they were either sleeping or talking among themselves. We surprised four officers one morning. They were all set to cook a fish, but they didn’t dream we had them covered.
There is one unwritten law in jungle fighting – once you are dug in for the night stay dug in. Even if you are in a tent you stay inside because anything that moves outside is considered a Jap.
I am doing what is called “Fighting in your head.” That’s one of the nice things about a wife – you have someone to tell things to.
Aug 6.16: Seven letters from you today and two from mom. I am as happy as a kid. All of your letters were mailed in July. One of them was mailed July 27th. The ink wasn’t even dry.
I have learned one thing, never ask my wife for cigars. No darling, I do not smoke cigars, but a man over here can measure his wealth in cigars. I did not know that they were that hard to get. I made ten dollars last week, but to keep peace in the family I will not tell you how I did it. I see one thing, the first time I beat a guy in a horse trade I am going to have you to answer to.
Speaking of horses; tell mom that I sure thank her for sending me the news about Volo Song. John A and I heard that he broke his leg and I was going to write and ask you if you had heard about it.
I am sending you a picture of Volo Song so you will see what a handsome colt he was. His dam was a handsome mare and has made a record in the stud. She had five colts to trot right close to two minutes. One of them, Twilight Song, as a two-year old trotted in 2:03 and was sold to some count in Milan Italy. Here are the names of Evansong’s colts; Petersong, Twilight Song, Gay Song, Love Song and Volo Song.
Sorry to hear that they cut my letter. I wish they would tell us what we could write instead of just letting us guess. There are times when you just have to write about some things. Last night was such a time, but perhaps letter No. 15 will look like a lace curtain.
Everyone over here has something to sell. Some of them make a profit in souvenirs (that is profit too), others do washing, sell cigars, make things out of shells and sell them, and buy and re-sell beer. I saw one guy buy beer for a dollar a bottle and re-sell it for a dollar and a half. That is one of our ways we have of keeping busy about something. As long as I am over seas I am going to make money one way or another. In spite of all the grand promises I know that a soldier is going to have a tough time after the war and here is one boy who is going to be ready.