Letters To My Mother From WWII: August 10-17, 1944

IMG_0057This picture was tucked into  letter #20. The number 39 was written on the back of the photo and is the only identifier. He is not in uniform, so I assume the picture was taken in 1939.

August 10 – August 17, 1944

Aug 10.17:  Here it’s Thursday and I have not written to you this week. My reason is a good one – I have not been here this week.

Editor’s Note: In August 1944 Major General Mudge took command of the 1st Cavalry Division (the 7th Cavalry was a part of the 1st) and planning began for the Leyte assault on October 20, 1944. During the weeks leading up to the assault on Leyte there were many small mop-up patrols. Perhaps dad was involved in one of these mop-up patrols while he was “not here.”

More clues to his location and past few days comes from an excerpt of a letter to Grandpa Norton and dated Aug 11, 1944. “I was away most of this week. It seemed good to get off this island for a while. I could walk the length of this island in about fifteen minutes time, so you can see that it isn’t a large place.

I was paid today, thirty-seven pounds ($118.40) was all they gave me. I was looking for more.

While I was out I sure found a bunch of shells. I guess I found at least a thousand and a couple hundred of them are green and white. They are hard to find and I’ll be able to sell part of them. I found a pair of cat eyes that are a perfect match. I refused three dollars for them.

I ran into a Native that sure was an interesting fellow. As a baby he had infantile paralysis and it left both legs all withered up. He can’t walk and has to crawl on all fours. You would be surprised to see how well he gets around. He is a good swimmer and he told me he goes into the bush for food. I don’t know how in the world he manages it and I had to admire his courage. I saw a couple of Native babies about the size of Edith, but they looked a good deal older. They were as naked as a Jay Bird and seemed perfectly happy. Birth control is no problem over here. They seem to have one every year and nurse one until the next one comes along.

Aug 11.18:  I was in the sun too much this morning. We had a parade and we must have messed up pretty bad. The General kept us out there for a long time and gave us merry old hell. If parades and marching will win the war the 7th Cavalry has it in the bag.

I was looking at our war map. We are sure giving the Nips a pounding. I wonder if they will fight it out to a finish. I don’t give them credit for Pearl Harbor.

Just now it is raining. The weather sure changes fast. One minute the sun will be cooking you alive and the next it’s raining. We are free from mud as most of this island is sand. I have been bothered with a leak over my bunk. Looks as if I have it fixed now. I have been painting the tent with some kind of a liquid glue.

You and mom must be having some real talks. By this time you must know more about me than I know about myself. One thing sure, since 1935 on my mother will have to leave as blank because I left home then. I really left in 1934 and before that I had been down to Lexington, Atlanta, St. Louis and points south. My first trip to Lexington Kentucky was September 27, 1931. You were 11 years old. Editor’s Note: That would make dad about 16. I spent the night sleeping in a shock of corn and trying to keep on good terms with some foreman’s hound who was standing guard that night. The following morning I crossed the Cumberland River into a little town called Burnsides. It was a funny little town and I always planned on going back. The Government put in a dam and the town is under water now.

They brought me a couple of letters. One was from Sgt. Nugent (ex-saddler at the University of Ill.) and the other was from the cooks in California. Sgt. Nugent is now at Camp Ellis, Ill. and wishes I could be there to help him with the work. He is a stable Sgt. and hasn’t any horsemen. Wouldn’t it be swell if I was still at Champaign?

Aug 12.19:  I just finished the June issue of the Readers Digest. There was an article in it about the Titanic and I was one year off in regards to the date it sunk. Sure seemed good to find a late digest.

This is a very hot afternoon. I went to see John A, but he wasn’t in his tent and Clair T is in the hospital. He has arthritis of the big toe. Can you imagine that. I enjoy the weekends here. We have inspection Saturday morning and then we are free until Monday morning. There isn’t much to do, but on Sunday we can go to some of the other islands and see the fellows. Corp. Penny from Detroit (you met him at Riley) is over in the 12th cavalry. I would like to see him.

I tried to clean my shells this afternoon. The smell was too strong so I buried them in the sand. It will take two weeks for them to rot out and then I’ll wash them and put them in the sun. I’ll sell the best ones and send Wanda enough to fill the bottom of her fish bowel. Would you like some coral or more shells? It’s about the only thing I can send you. Some of the fellows send home coconuts. There are enough of them in the states now without sending more. I could send a lot of things, but it’s next to impossible to find paper to wrap them in.

I forgot to tell you about a lucky deal I made today. I bought three pipes for nine dollars and have already sold one for the price I paid for the three. The funny part of it is they are ten-dollar pipes. Why the guy sold them to me for so little is more than I can guess. The only thing I can figure out is that he didn’t know they had that much value. You will have to admit your husband is a good dealer.

The war news looks pretty good. Perhaps I will not have to be over here too long. I have been reading some of Frost’s poems. I love them. Love you too.

Aug 13.20: I have to go on guard duty at ten, so I should have plenty of time to write to you. Tonight when the officer inspected the guard he asked me to give one of the general orders. For the life of me I couldn’t think of it and ended up not knowing any of them. You are supposed to learn them during your first few weeks of army training.  Editor’s Note: There are 11 general orders and they are the same across all branches of the service.   General Order #1: I will guard everything within the limits of my post and quit my post only when properly relieved. Google Army General Orders for the full list.

This has been sort of a dull Sunday. I went to church at nine and spent the rest of the day doing nothing. There wasn’t anything to read and I wasn’t in the mood for writing letters. Is there an old world history around the house? If so please send it. If you are still in Bellaire send me either “Outline of History” or  Vol II of the “Greek Historians.” I need some kind of a book to study on days such as this. Someone borrowed my Bible and they haven’t returned it.

I did read an article by Detroit’s famous (?) Gerald K Smith. I think he is a big “Blow Hard.” He has an idea that the returning soldier is going to want isolationism above all else. I wonder how many soldiers he has talked with. As for myself, it is the last thing I would want. The world has grown too small for any one country to think they can close their doors and sit tight. This brings to mind an argument we had in a downtown cafe about the United States and England. I will admit that my view-point at that time was pretty narrow. I still think that England has handled the India situation badly. I have been rather interested in her policy towards some of her colonies. I’ll tell you a funny thing that happened down in New Guinea. We had a boy who was forever asking questions. One night he struck up a conversation with an Australian and during the talk he asked the Aussie how long it would be before they got their freedom.

There is one thing I am going to try. I want to get on the Fair Board at Northville. I don’t know what strings a man will have to pull, but I’ll pull them. When Detroit builds their new race track the track in Northville will not fade out as some people think. On the other hand, it could easily become a good track to break yearlings on and a place for spring training. For the past five years they have had a feud between the harness horse people and the thoroughbred people. There is no reason why they shouldn’t get along. If they are ever going to get along it will be because some horseman gets on the board that understands the problems of both trotters and runners. A few years ago a bunch of us fellows had a long talk on that line and I feel that I have enough knowledge along that line to help everyone come to terms. Should the Detroit Association build with the idea of having horses winter there then Northville would be no question.

I am going to explain to you why all of this is a question that has to be considered. In order to have a horse ready for the June meeting you have to start galloping him not later than the first of March. This sometimes cuts your track up pretty bad and Detroit will not let you train until April. The small man with one or two horses has to have some place to winter and get in his early training. Northville is the answer to that. By the use of a long lunging rope you can train an aged horse in your own backyard, but with a two-year old it’s impossible. Well there is no need of boring you stiff with all this talk.

When I come home you and I are going to Lexington for a week and while we are there I’ll teach you why it is that a man loves racing. It will give you a chance to learn about its history, its rules and traditions.

Aug 14.21:  I am pretty sleepy today. I was up until two and that is unusual for me. I am in bed not later than nine.

It rained a lot last night, but I had a post where I could stay out of the rain, but I got cold for the first time in months. I once worked with an eccentric old cuss who hated the hot weather. Right in the middle of a hot spell it suddenly turned cold, so cold that I had to put on a jacket. He took off his shirt and sat in the grandstand all the afternoon.

We had cherry pie for dinner. That was the first time I had any pie since March. It was extra good or else it just tasted that way because I hadn’t had any in a long while. I just finished eating one of the paw paws I brought back from the native gardens.

A native garden isn’t a garden like we have. They clear a place in the jungle and set out pineapples, bananas, paw paws, sweet potatoes, and a few other fruits. The only cultivating they do is to scratch around the sweet potatoes now and then. I never see any oranges here and this place would be ideal for oranges. The fruit would sure be a help to these under nourished children. In fact it’s a shame they are not taught to plant and raise more than they do. Of course you can’t educate people if you want them to work for two dollars a month.

I wish Clair T would shake a leg and get out of the hospital. I miss not having him around here.

I had an idea you thought I was on Guam. Thank God I wasn’t there. From what I hear the going was rough. Perhaps some day I’ll have to go through the same thing and I only hope I can be a man. I know I’ll be scared.  When that day comes I will not be fighting for my country, but I’ll be fighting to save my own skin.

I am worried about my eyes. The glare from the sun on this white sand is terrible today. I noticed that the lid on the left eye started to twitch. It stopped as soon as I got out of the sun. I can’t seem to find any sun glasses.

Yankee Maid won the big Hambletonian trotting race. She trotted the second heat in 2:04. Sounds like a pretty good filly to me. Editor’s Note: Her driver was Henry Thomas.

Aug 15.22: I signed the payroll today. I noticed that I am to get ten dollars more. It’s combat infantry pay. I’ll get twenty dollars this month because it started in June.

The public relations man was here tonight and asked me a million questions. It seems as though the 1st Division is anxious to get all the publicity in the states that it can. I don’t know what he is going to write and will not know until it’s published. The Public Relations Office will send it direct to the Bellaire Record.

I spent the afternoon hauling sand. There is plenty of sand down on the beach and we sure have it spread all over this island. This morning I had a big streak of ambition and washed all my dirty clothes, my cot, and mattress cover. I’ll have to wash again before the end of the week. Some of the troops have washing machines. This troop had one, but I guess they lost it in New Guinea.

I have a little jungle rot. It’s a sort of fungus disease and makes sores on your body. We have a lot of ring worm too. Such diseases as jungle rot and ring worm come with the tropical country. A major in the Medical Corp told me there had only been one case of lock-jaw in the Pacific area. Pretty good record!

Aug 16.23:  Once, while out on patrol, I had the point and it made me think. In a tough battle the mental strain is the worst of all. When you are on the point it means that you are out ahead of everyone and let me tell you that’s when you keep your eyes and ears open. One mistake could mean one too many. A Native would make a darned good point man, but few of them will take it. They stay back about second or third. We had one that wasn’t afraid and he was worth his weight in cigars.

Aug 17.24:  We have some good times in this tent. The Sgt. of my squad (Anderson) used to train and gallop horses in Maryland. Another fellow (Boscom) used to ride races. He is from Detroit. There are two other fellows in here, Jones and Corneal. Corneal is funny and keeps everyone in hot water most of the time. We raise a lot of hell, but everyone gets along fine and we never fight among ourselves.

I think it is going to rain pretty soon. There is a breeze blowing and it seems very cool. We have had a lot of rain this week. I love to wake up at night and hear the raining on the tent. Remind me of when I used to sleep in the barn.




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