Letters To My Mother From WWII: November 1944

washing machine charliewmc2

Washing Machine Charlie

Nov 1.Combat Zone:   Editor’s Note: Combat Zone mail is posted free.

Who said the Philippines were cool? I think there is very little chance of “frostbite” today. This morning I went down to a spring and washed, shaved, took a bath and washed my one and only uniform. The rest of the day I have spent trying to keep cool.

Did I wish you a happy birthday in one of my other letters? If not, I wish you one now. This letter should reach you by then. I would like to send you some sort of a gift but I don’t know where I would get one.

My shoulder has started to itch so it must be healing. It has been draining good and hasn’t been very sore. The troop commander told me not to carry a pack until it has healed.

I haven’t seen Meyers since the twenty-third. I have an idea he is all right because I know where his troop is and I don’t think they are finding anything. I have not seen Clair T since the third day and I have no idea whether or not he made it. They were in trouble for a while.

In a campaign such as this so many things happen that it’s hard to keep track of just what happened. There are so many things I would like to write about. We have nicknamed the Jap Bomber “Washing Machine Charlie.” He comes around every so often. It is fun to watch our fighters tie into him, but when I hear his engine drone and I know he is coming, it’s about then that I hit my foxhole. It isn’t very safe for a Jap plane around these parts.

If the war should end I will have several qualifications for a quick discharge: 26 months of service, eight months overseas, combat, wounded, married and a child. They will all help when the time comes.

Nov 6. Combat Zone:   It’s hard for me to imagine that back in Michigan the nights are frosty and that winter is nearly there. It is pretty warm here. Not as hot as it was on the Admiralty Islands, but it is much warmer than summer back home.

We had our first mail this morning. I didn’t get any, but I suppose I’ll get mine within a day or two. The other night they gave us six cans of beer. They treat a front line soldier like a king.

I wish you could see the view I have just now. It’s mostly hills, water, and woods. It is beautiful.

I have quite a foxhole. I started out by digging a big hole and covering it with logs and dirt. Then I went back about four feet and dug a tunnel down into it. Now I am making a tunnel over to another fellow’s foxhole. All this isn’t necessary, however, it helps pass the time away and it’s much cooler underground.

There is a fruit that grows wild here and I spend part of my time looking for it. In size and shape it resembles a lemon. The meat is pink and tastes like strawberries. It’s worth looking for.

Right now I haven’t a single picture of either of you. I brought just one picture with me and it’s in my pack. I was lucky to save my fountain pen. James came behind me and was going to get some of the stuff for me. He got the fountain pen, but by that time it was too hot to stick around there. It was foolish of him to even try to get the pen.

I will try to write fairly often, but don’t expect to hear from me too often.

Nov 10. Combat Zone: This country often reminds me of Northern Michigan. Perhaps because there are cows, horses, and chickens around people who are civilized. When the sun starts to lengthen out the shadows the very air seems like home.

I have had a lot of good food this afternoon. First we got some bananas and then a Filipino brought us a fresh ham that he had barbecued, and a few minuets ago a couple of little girls were along with some candy they had made and I gave them my last 20 cents for some. I have some Jap invasion money, but you can’t spend it. It has as much value as Confederate money had about 1866. I’ll put some of it in this letter and you can have it for a souvenir.

I am glad you received the Xmas gift. Did you ever get the shells and friendship belt I sent? I found a nice blue scarf that I suspect some Jap nurse must have owned. It was blue and gray and was made to put on your head as American girls do. I intended to send it to Jean and then the other day I traded it for a canteen full of hot coffee. That sounds silly? Try sitting in the rain for five or six hours with no raincoat and you will trade anything for hot coffee.

Today I visited an old Catholic Church that the Spanish built in 1876. It was beautiful and the statues of the Virgin Mary and the Saints were fully clothed. There was no glass to the windows and the breeze rustled their clothing. They seemed almost real. Birds were singing inside the church and a Native girl with wooden sneakers was saying a prayer before some Saint. It made me feel as though I was standing next to God. I could hear the noise of the battle and I had a rifle on my shoulder and felt as though I shouldn’t be in such a place.

Vintage 1940’s Philippine Wooden Shoes

I have aged a lot in the past three weeks. Perhaps it’s from being tired and I’ll look better when I can sleep all I want. Sleeping on the ground is not very restful and when your night is broken up by guarding you get little rest. For a while we took a bombing and most of that was during the night, so I slept very little. I feel good and I am happy so don’t worry.

Don’t worry about sending me a fruit cake. I do not lack for food and sugar is hard for you to get. Sometimes I cut a stalk of sugar cane and suck on it.

I saw Meyers yesterday. He had just received 40 letters and his face was all smiles. He has twenty-three packages on the way and you can bet I’ll stick close to him.

Yesterday I saw some Natives harvesting their rice. They do it the same way people did it thousands of years ago. They go through the field and pick the heads of grain by hand and thrash it by walking on it. During the harvest everyone seems to work and all the huts have great piles of rice in front of them.

In the October 7th issue of the Saturday Evening Post there is an article titled “They paved their way with Japs.”  It is about the first Cavalry. If you can find it would you please cut it out and mail it to me?

Nov 10. Combat Zone:  I sure got a lot of letters today. It was my first mail since the first of October and it sure seemed good to hear from you and mom. Most of the letters were written before October 5th. Your dad sent me about half the Detroit paper and it was good to get some horse and baseball news. In fact any kind of news seems very good just now.

Night before last I slept on the shelf of a store. The shelf was just wide enough for me and I had a poncho and blanket, so I was plenty warm. The last few days have been fun. Last night I stumbled on Meyers. He had a letter from his mother that was dated the 20th. She didn’t mention you. I hope to see Clair T tomorrow or the next day; that is if he hasn’t been wounded.

When Germany falls I will be eligible for a discharge. The War Department claims they will start mustering out men with the fall of Germany and I have everything that it takes to get out. Right now I am not worrying about getting out, it’s getting through that counts.

Right now the boys are dealing with a Filipino for a chicken. Looks like we have chicken for dinner. Yesterday I traded a worn out fatigue jacket for about four dozen bananas. These people have not had clothes that were new since the Japs came.

Nov 13: Combat Zone:  I have spent the morning washing my clothes and bathing. I only have one set of clothes and when ever I wash them I have to strip down. There is a nice stream close by and it makes an ideal place to wash clothes.

It looks as though it might rain. We have been very lucky about rain, but we had a couple that were bad ones. One of them blew my tent down and I spent the night sleeping in the rain. It was worse than the night in Palmer Woods.

The boys brought in a couple of game cocks and we have been having a chicken fight. When the fight ends the boys will kill and eat both of them. I have an idea they will be pretty tough for eating. Most of the chickens over here are small and they are of no special breed, but seem to be a cross of all the light breeds. I guess they never feed them, but let them pick their own living.

Nov 16. Combat Zone:  I have been down to the river doing the usual washing. When you keep your cloths on twenty-four hours out of the day they soil very easily. In fact I have slept in my clothes for the past 39 days.

Talk about bananas…..I spent the past two days out in the bush and I saw enough bananas to fill a house. I have never seen any of them ripen on the tree, but when you pick them and hang them up they ripen within a few days.

Did I tell you about the chickens we had? Nine of us fellows had five chickens. We fried part of them in our mess kit and boiled the balance of them. I tried to broil one and it was pretty good even if it wasn’t too tender. A feed like that is the same as a weekend pass back home.

I suppose you have received my first letters now and know that I am safe. I see by the official news that we lost about 500 in the first nine days. That was considered pretty light for a campaign like this.

I was talking with Meyers last night. He sure is getting lean and lank from going up and down these hills. He is the picture of health. Right now we are within walking distance of each other.

I could enjoy living over here. There is plenty of unharnessed water power and a man could put in a small mill to grind sugar cane and then make it into rum. I wish you could see this country. If you and I ever have a chance to travel in our old age we will come over here and spend a couple of months eating chicken and drinking “Tuba.” I will have to tell you about the Tuba which seems to be the Native’s drink. It looks like tomato juice and has a taste similar to the old home-brew, but it has a tang that reminds me of wine. It isn’t too potent, however, it bears watching.

Editor’s Note: Tuba is made through a process of extracting the sap from an unopened coconut bud. Over time it will ferment into a strong alcoholic beverage called Lambanog.


Nov 18. Combat Zone:  You should see the big stalk of bananas I have hanging on my tent pole. Wish you could help me eat them when they ripen.

I sure got a good night’s sleep. I went to bed at dark and didn’t have to pull guard until this morning at five. I got up once during the night, however, that was only to rest my hip bone. Lying on the ground is hard on hips especially when they are as skinny as mine.

You would have laughed to see your husband riding through the jungle on the back of a tank. It was as rough a ride as I had ever had and I might say as hot a one. The back of a tank is nearly as hot as a stove.

I sure would like to get some hair oil. I have had to wash my hair so often and between the sun and the rain it is pretty dry. Guess I’ll have to use gun oil.

Nov 19. Combat Zone:  I received seven letters from you yesterday. Most of them written late in September. One of them was written the 20th of October which was D-day over here.

You must expect to see a change in me. My hair is thinner and if I don’t get hair oil soon I am afraid it will be worse than it is now. To me my face looks pretty much the same, but this country and life will leave its mark on anyone. Inside I am pretty much the same and I will always enjoy having fun in my own way. Yes, you and I will always do different things like we used to do.

As soon as they give me my purple heart I’ll send the medal to you. I will have a pin to wear showing that I have the purple heart and that is all that matters to me.

Flip, I don’t want you to worry too much about me. I am glad you worry a little bit, because it proves you love me. It isn’t as bad over here as you might think and the times of danger are of a short duration. There is one thing for certain and that is a man has to be on the ball over here. I dig my foxholes deep and dive in whenever I think I have a reason. Some of the boys can sleep with a Jap plane flying around. Not me!

Never in my life have I seen such a variety of insects. You should see them. They come in all shapes and colors. Also worms. While digging a foxhole we uncovered a worm so large that one of the fellows swore it was a snake. I would like to have some of them in the States to use for fish bait.

We are going to have church this morning. That is something. I haven’t been to church since I left the boat. Church will come right at dinner time, but I will gladly miss my dinner if necessary.

Last night I entertained the boys with poems. There are several fellows here who enjoy poems and they would quote from some poem to see if I could tell them the name of the poem. They didn’t stick me too often.

Nov 21. Combat Zone: Happy Birthday! I bought two bottles of tuba this morning and drank to your health.

I am more or less the guest of a very charming Filipino couple. They are so nice and both of them have a good education. They are about our age and have two children. Their little boy is only five months old. She used to teach school and her husband studied to be a doctor, that is until the Japs came and spoiled their plans. I have an idea they are very wealthy or at least have more money than the average Filipino. They have two maids and their house is nice. Just now I am writing this letter in their dining room. Yesterday she cooked me a real dinner…..fried chicken, chicken soup, rice, fried sweet potatoes, bananas, and plenty of tuba. After dinner we spent a couple of hours talking about how the Japs treated people here and from there we talked about Shakespeare, Ivanhoe, and American History. These people know their American History. The told me one of the most brutal stories that I had heard. They owned a house in town and the Japs took it over. During the time the Japs had the house they raped and killed forty Filipino girls in it. It is hell when these stories are told by people who saw it happen. When I think of all the things I have to tell you it makes me think we will need two weeks in Lexington.

I wish you were here to meet my friends and I think you would enjoy it. I am glad you are not here because we do have other things to do besides eat fried chicken. The night before last I slept in a pouring rain with only a poncho to wrap up into. The guy next to me had a tooth ache and he spent a bad night.

Nov 26. Combat Zone, V-Mail:  I have been reading the rules we have to abide by in regards to censorship. I find that I can tell you more about my living quarters. For the past few days I have been living in a Filipino house. It is built off the ground and it’s nice and dry. The walls show the marks of battle and a part of one wall has been blown away, but it’s home sweet home to me. It has about five rooms and the kitchen is in the back and it’s a typical Philippine kitchen. A sand table to cook on, a basket to screen rice with, a stick with a gourd on it which we use to draw water , and floor boards spread wide apart for sanitary reasons. All told it’s a very nice place  and I am as happy as a bug in a rug. I even have a cane bottom bed.

Nov 28. Combat Zone, V-Mail:  It has been raining most of the morning. There is a small advantage to rain because no planes come around while the clouds are so close to the ground. A few days ago James and I were standing by a buffalo wallow when a Jap plane made us hunt cover. We jumped in. At least James jumped in and I jumped on him. He was covered with mud and I wasn’t much better off. We got a laugh out of it and I wish someone could have taken our picture. At the time it wasn’t a laughing matter. Did I tell you about B.J.Miller? He captured six Germans and got the silver star for it.


Letters To My Mother From WWII: October, 1944


Letters before October 20, 1944.

October 1.44: I sure have received a lot of letters from you this week. I guess I get one every day. I am sorry that I haven’t been able to answer all of them. Last night we got six cans of beer per man and had  party. The troop went hog-wild.

I have a mattress to sleep on now. John A flew back to the states and left me one that he bought a couple of weeks ago. I hated to see him go, but he sure is a lucky boy. That’s what money will do for a guy. Not only money, but a senator for a friend. Clair’s brother was in to see him yesterday. He is in the Navy and it was the first time they had seen each other in over a year.

Don’t get it into your head that I am fighting. I am not even close to a Jap, but I am busy.

Calumet Farm sure has a good three-year old filly this year. Her name is Twilight Tear and she has had her share of wins. Their stable has won $480.00. so far this tear and that isn’t hay. I am anxious to see their band of broodmares. When I was there they didn’t have many  outstanding mares and now they have the best bunch in the states.

October 2.45:  Letter #26 came today. I got a big kick out of you telling me about the horses Aunt Mary used to drive. Tell me one thing. How in the world do you put kicking straps on horses heels and then drive them? Either you or Aunt Mary got mixed up there.

I am glad you are going to school. It will help you pass the time away and give you something to think about. I realize that you must be under a nervous strain, but please darling don’t worry too much about me. It will not help me a bit and only make it tougher on yourself. Just say a prayer now and then.

October 4, V-Mail:  I have just had my breakfast and cleaned up a bit. Later on I will have to work.

I’ll be thinking of you on the 7th. Editor’s Note: Wedding anniversary? You never even mentioned remembering me on the 17th. Is that the way we start out? Just between you and me, it sort of got me down. Perhaps I didn’t get the letter. It better be that. Editor’s Note: Is he referring to September 17th? Was that his birthday? If so, I understand. I don’t think mom ever remembered my birthday unless I reminded her of it days in advance.  As an adult….never. How about the rest of you?  

October 5, V-Mail: Talk about eating, yesterday for dinner we had strawberry ice cream and for dinner coconut pie. This isn’t the Army! I would have given five dollars for a quart of ice cream.

October 11, V-Mail:  I have been too busy to write every day, but I write every time I find the time and am not too tired. Now don’t you and mom get it in your head that I am fighting a big battle. I am not. I am just working hard and have little spare time. I am eating extra good. I had five lamb chops for dinner. This morning I had all the oranges and apples I wanted.They sure were good.

October 12, V-Mail:  If you save my letters until I come home I will tell you where I was when I wrote. You would laugh if you could see me now. How do you like having a military secret for a husband?

Letters after October 20, 1944


Editor’s Note: You can use the timeline I put together in order to figure out where he is when he wrote while in Leyte. See Uncensored Letters. Unfortunately, he never wrote it down.

October 23, V-Mail:  I can’t tell you where I am. If you read the papers you will know without my telling you. Honestly, there is so much to tell you that I wouldn’t know where to start and I would not be able to tell you until I get home.I had a hunk of shrapnel cut my shoulder, but it was an open cut and didn’t hurt to speak of.

October 26, V-Mail:  I sure manage to keep covered with mud. Every time I hear a plane I dive into my fox hole and the bottom of it is muddy. I have a good place to sleep. At least it is dry and well protected. We have been lucky about eating. Our kitchen manages to keep up with us, so we have hot meals fairly often.

I always said I would hate to take a beach. I came in on the first wave and got a big thrill from it. Since then I have learned to have more respect for these Japs as fighting men. I hid behind a coconut tree one morning and Lexington KY looked ten million miles away.

October 26, V-Mail:  Just to let you know I still have two feet stuck in the Philippine mud and I am all right. The cut on my shoulder is healing fast and I’ll be able to carry a pack in a day or two. I am with the troop  and have been with them except for one day and night. The Japs have bombed us several times. Guess they want us to go home. The people here were sure glad to see us.

October 26, V-Mail addressed to Mr and Mrs P. Ray Norton: Well your boy has both feet deep in Philippine mud. There is a lot to tell you, but I’ll start by saying I no longer have any barber tools. I had them in my pack and a sniper made it so hot for me that I left without getting my pack.

We have had air raids and they scare me to death. I dug a fox hole so deep that I hit water and have to sit in mud when I get in it. I was under a coconut palm when the Japs hit it with a mortar shell. It put a dent in my helmet, knocked a piece off my gun stock, and cut my shoulder. I was lucky I had my helmet on or I wouldn’t be telling about it. I suppose you read all about the show in the Philippines. I saw it first hand.

October 27, V-Mail:  Edith will be 8 months old tomorrow. It hardly seems possible that she is that old. I lost the shaving brush you gave me for Christmas. Not only that, but I lost my hair brush, barber tools, ten-dollar pipe, a picture of you, and my toilet equipment. I had it in my pack and a Jap was making it hot for me so I left it and wasn’t able to go back after it. It’s funny, but without a doubt, you have read and heard more about this battle than I have. Aside from my own squadron I know little of what happened.

October 27:  I am not exactly sure but I think it is the 27th. I received letter #22 from you today. I didn’t number this letter as you will notice. I do not have the slip that I keep tally on.

I never did tell you his name, but you remember me telling you about the 1st Sgt. I used to run around with while at Ft. Ord. He was one hell of a good fellow and he gave me the Bible I have now. Well the poor guy hit the beach with the 112th Cavalry and was killed. You expect things like that over here, but I feel bad about it. We used to have some good times together and he always called me Brother Ellison. He always wanted some on to play “Malguania” for him on th e piano.

P.S. Do you still read the paper every morning? Editor’s Note: Pretty sure this PS means something.

October 31:  I managed to find a few sheets of paper, so I’ll write for the first time in about four days. I think about you all the time, but never have the paper to write on.

I imagine you and mom are pretty worried on me. I only hope my letters reach you soon and then your worries will be over.  I am very anxious to learn how the states took the news of this invasion. It was a big one. Some said it was as large as the Normandy Invasion. I don’t know. It was big enough for me. The night before landing I went to bed with a funny sort of feeling. In spite of everything I slept good and the next morning I felt fresh and ready to go in. My nerves seemed very steady and although I was afraid it wasn’t “fear.”

The next morning I was hiding behind a coconut palm when the Japs hit the top of it with a mortar shell. I was plenty scared then, but didn’t know I had been hit. There was a big ditch of water there and I slid down in the water, because I was afraid there would be another shell. When I got out I found that shrapnel had hit my helmet, gun pack and a piece of it had cut a gash in my shoulder about a half-inch deep and an inch and a half long.  An aid man put a dressing on it and told me to catch an ambulance. It was late afternoon before I went into town and I was cold from rain and mud. The hospital moved so fast that day that I never did find it. I did find Doc. Brown and he gave me some food and told me to sleep some place where it was dry. I found an old slaughter-house and slept on the slaughter block. A tank driver brought me two quarts of Sake “Jap Wine,” and I had a swell time all by myself.

I started looking for the hospital again the next morning. I guess I didn’t look very hard. They were bombing a hill outside the town and I watched that for a while. After that I walked around the town, washed my face in a Native’s house and was treated like a king. Later that  afternoon I said “To hell with being wounded” and caught a ride out to where my troop had dug in for the night. By the way, I will get the Purple Heart.

We have been bombed some. They never seem to hit anything, but they scare me at times. I watched a dog fight one day. The Jap’s plane caught on fire and he bailed out. His chute was on fire too, so he had to come down without it. He made a fast trip.

I rather like the country. It isn’t as hot as it was in the Admiralty Islands and most of the people can speak some English. They are very clean and I notice the girls wear slips. At least they have them hanging out to dry. The girls are fairly pretty and in the city they seemed dressed and clean. Of course their clothes are all patched and some of them are dressed in burlap,but they do it with a style that seems very much American.

The country is beautiful. The lowlands are wet and covered with coconuts, bamboo and grass. The hillsides are cut up with small patches of corn, sweet potatoes and whatever else they grow. There are lots of chickens, ducks, geese, pigs and a few horses. The water buffalo is their work animal. He is well named because he spends most of his time in a mud wallow with only his head sticking out. They work them, ride them, eat them and I guess they milk them. A man would never starve in this country.


Uncensored Letters


September 29 1944,  January 13, 1945

Sept 29, 1944. Uncensored Letter: John A is leaving for the states tomorrow so I will send this letter by him. He is going to fly back, so it should reach you pretty soon.

Golly Ned, but I am tired. We are working pretty hard these days and I have only written to you once this week. This letter will not be censored and I can tell you about my pet peeves. My big one is the Red Cross. If ever there was a fake outfit it’s the Red Cross.

That seems to be the only real kick I have. We have a good bunch of officers. We call our troop commander Meat Head. He is a good guy though. I have a lot of fun and my squad is a bunch of screwballs. We have part of the troop thinking I have a brother in the German Army and we raise all the hell we can. We have one guy in the tent who thinks I am going nuts. Every day I gather up a bunch of knifes, sharpen them, and put them by my bunk. I tell him that I have nightmares at night and I am scared.

The prices are sky-high over here. I paid $96.00 for two quarts of whiskey and sold them at a profit. You just can’t imagine that can you?

I am no longer on Howie Island, but I am close by. That sure was a small island. I believe it covered 84 acres.  Editor’s Note: Howie Island is in southeastern Australia and is a part of the Petrel Islands group.

P.S. This is to be kept under your hat until the news breaks. I will soon be in the Philippines. I will not kid you and say I am not scared. However, win loose, or draw it will be a great show and I am not sure that I would want to miss it.


Jan. 13, 1945. Philippine Islands:  This morning I received a letter from Mr. Moore. That, in itself, was not too unusual because I often receive mail from W.&B. and I must say that both Mr. Moore and Mr. Ringstad do a pretty good job of making us boys feel that W.&B. is behind us all the way. In his letter he mentioned that you fellows would like to hear from me.

I spent a half hour trying to think of something to write and had almost given up the idea when my eye happened to notice a news clipping that I had received in a letter from home. It started out like this, “1st Cavalry Division lashes out in bitter fighting.” Now, I am in the 1st Cavalry. In fact I am in the 7th Regiment, which was commanded by General Custer when Sitting Bull tangled with him in the Battle of Little Big Horn Mountain, and I know we didn’t lash out. Combat isn’t like that. You plod through mud, you crawl, you hike, you get wet, dirty and stink to high heavens, but you don’t lash out. Would you be interested in hearing my version of our Philippine Campaign?


On the morning of October 20th I had a real early breakfast. It was about three A.M. when we went into the ship’s mess for bacon, eggs, and coffee. There wasn’t much laughing that morning and when someone did smile you had the feeling he was only trying to build up his courage. We did eat, and ate all we could hold because we weren’t sure about the next meal. Our convoy was drawing close to the Philippines and we were going in on the first wave.  H-hour was ten A.M.

After breakfast we were free to go on deck and watch the show. In the early light of dawn I thought I was seeing heat lightning and then it dawned on me that I was looking at the Philippines and the heat lightening was flashes from our Navy guns. They were shelling the beach, but we were too far out to hear much sound. About this time a lone Jap zero flew out over our convoy. He had a lot of respect for our ack-ack  (Editor’s Note: Anti-aircraft guns) because he kept well out of reach. I guess he just wanted to look us over.

Armada moving toward Leyte


About seven-thirty they sounded “quarters” and we all went below to get our packs and rifles. By eight we were in landing barges and had been swung over the side of the ship. While waiting for H-hour we circled around the ship. There were so many of us that we must have looked like water bugs as we circled.

 Waiting for H-hour in landing barges

landing barge Leyete

The Navy was still shelling the beach. There would be a bright orange flash as some ship would fire a salvo: on the beach you would see trees were blown clear from the ground and a second or two the sound would reach us. Toward the last it was a steady flash and roar and I wondered how any living thing could stand it. At nine fifty-five the Navy ceased firing and we headed in. A few minutes later we felt the barge grind on the beach, the ramp dropped and we made a run for it. An hour later some of you fellows heard your radio announcer say, “This morning, at 10:00 am Philippine time, American Troops made a landing in the Philippine Islands.

The men of the 7th Cavalry on the beach

The men of the 7th on the beach

A lot of us, in the days that followed, saw our first real combat. We found out shortly how hard a mortar shell could jar you if it lit close. We learned how to identify enemy planes, not only by sight, but by their sound. We learned the difference between the sound of an American and a Jap machine gun. We dug fox holes in a manner that would put a wood chuck to shame. You learn all these things in your first forty-eight hours of combat. It’s either learn fast or not at all.

Troop E, 7th Cavalry. Dad’s troop on the beach.

Troop E 7th Cavalry

Early in December we headed into the mountains. In the four weeks that followed, we fought under the worst conditions. Sometimes we were without food; sometimes we didn’t have water to drink. I went without a drink for nearly three days. I think we had about two canteens of water in the troop and they were for the wounded. Our supplies were brought in by pack train. Sometimes our pack train couldn’t get in and they dropped our supplies by planes. Our wounded had to be carried out. It was a long hard trip that couldn’t be made in a day.

Fighting on Leyte

Fighting in the Jungle

Filipino carriers on slippery mountain slope

filipino carriers haul supplies over mountains

Medical aid station, Leyte


Throughout most of the campaign we had the Japs on the run. They might stop for a while, but we always pushed on. However, the day came when the position was reversed. It will make a good story to end this letter with.

Late one afternoon a handful of us were statooned on top of a hill. We were expecting American troops to come in from a certain direction. Consequently we were not uneasy when we saw a line of soldiers coming our way. In the fading twilight they looked American to us, so we let them come unchallenged. When they were within 200 yards we stood up and yelled”Comeon in. We are Americans.” That came darned near to being “Famous Last Words.” They were Japs and they opened up on us. We hit the ground for cover and held a council of war. Should we scram or should we try to hold. For reasons that I can’t explin, it was necessary to hold the hill if at all possible, so we decided to stay. By now it was dark, we didn;’t have foxholes and we knew we were out numbered. The moon would be up about ten and we dreaded that.

For the time being we could depend on darkness and a few trees to keep us hid. I tried to shallow out a place in the ground with my hands, but I didn’t dare risk any noise and had to give it up. It would be nice to say I thought of all you boys at this time and how you were working to win the war. I didn’t even think of my wife. My thoughts were”You may have to fight like hell to get out of this.”

By this time a few of the Japs had crawled in among us. They couldn’t see us and they did everything to draw fire. We didn’t want to give away our position, so we held our fire. One of them jumped up and yelled “Banzai” (May our Emperor live a thousand years) and then he threw a grenade. One of them drew his saber and I heard a guy in front of me mutter “My God! My foot has been blown off.” A kid on my right cried “Aid” and his cries grew faint. I thought he had died. He didn’t. I was afraid my teeth were going to chatter (they always do), so I put the lower plate in my pocket. About ten that night we did the one thing that American soldiers are not noted for – we took off like a ruptured duck and took our wounded with us. Don’t ask me how we managed it. The Japs must have figured we were going to charge and were waiting for the slaughter.

No the Cavalry didn’t “lash out” at anyone. We fought a slow, hard fight, the same as the Infantry fights. We lacked the flash and flair of the old Cavalry, with their saber charges, but we finished our job and every man in the Division, from General Mudge on down, takes pride in knowing that we finished it in a manner worthy of all Cavalry traditions.


Editor’s Note:  The following timeline is taken from “World War II US Cavalry Units: Pacific Theater” by Gordon L. Rottman.  I am trying to figure out where dad is and so the timeline will only include the movements of the 7th, often referred as 1/7 indicating that the 7th Cavalry is a part of the 1st Cavalry. Use the timeline to follow him through the October, November, and December letters.

10/20/44: Assault divisions land. Resistance is light as the Japanese main defense line was well inland behind coastal swamps. Troopers struggled through chest deep swamps to secure the Cataisan peninsula and Tacloban airfield.

10/21/44: The 7th Cavalry moved north to fight it’s way into Tacloban, the island’s capital.

10/22/44: The 7th Cavalry takes Hill 215 killing 335 defenders.

10/24/44: The 1/7 Cavalry sailed north through the strait in landing craft and landed on Babatngon on Leyte’s north coast. The first Brigade team advances through the mountains, to attack the enemy flank and rear in Ormoc Valley. The second Brigade Combat  (includes dad, I think) team moves onto Samar Island. and conducts a series of waterborn movements along the north coast.

10/25/44: The Naval battle off Samar Island begins. Generally considered to be the largest Naval battle of WWII.

11/1/44: The attack on Carigara begins. By 11/3 the Japanese abandoned the north end of the Leyte Valley. The Division was assigned the mission of preventing any Japanese reinforcement landings. The Japanese had succeeded in landing 20,000 men at Ormoc Bay. Stragglers were mopped up and encounters with Japanese increased. The Cavalrymen excelled in patrolling and combat patrols became the accepted means of  locating the enemy and overcoming resistance.

11/9/44:A typhoon batters the island, but despite strong resistance, inaccurate maps, resupply problems in the difficult terrain, and insistent rain the 1st Cavalry pushed west. Trucks carried supplies and ammunition 30 miles from the beachhead up the Leyte Valley where they had to be transferred to amphibious tractors and hauled across miles of flooded rice paddies. Then they were transferred to cargo trailers and pulled by caterpillar tractors up into the hills. Native porters carried supplies to the front in relays, a task sometimes requiring four days.

12/4/44: The 7th Cavalry managed to destroy a particularly resilient strongpoint that had held out for two weeks.

12/5/44:They continue their advance southwards into the foothills at the north end of the Ormoc Valley. Their advances were slowed by broken ground.

12/23/44: The 7th  (along with the 12th and the 5th) turn west to clear the Ormoc Peninsula. Japanese soldiers were launching banzai charges.

12/25/44: Fighting continues and the 7th, 12th and 5th are hunting holdouts in the mopping up.

1/2/45: Most troopers are back in the Leyte Valley.


Letters To My Mother From WWII: September 14-23, 1944


Edith and P. Ray Norton, Sept 1963

September 14-23, 1944

Sept 14.48:  I received a letter from your dad today. It was mailed at the start of his vacation. Both your father and mother write very interesting letters.

There was a stage show tonight that was very good. After we had a movie. I didn’t stay for the movie because I am on KP tomorrow and I want to get up early. Who ever gets up first has his pick of the jobs. I have always managed to get there first.

I am going to bed very soon. I wouldn’t have written tonight, but I hear there is action north of here and I know you will worry until you hear from me. Cheer up darling! I am still on my little island and just as safe as you are. I have got the jungle rot and right where I have to sit on it.

Sept 15.49:   Received letter #15 today. Out of 15 letters I have received the last ten. Perhaps I got the other five and never noticed the number.

I will tell you why Orra married Ruth. As a kid he was knocked from pillar to post and never had a real home. He wanted a home so bad that I think he jumped at the chance to get married. He sure got a lemon. Honestly, if you kept house like Ruth I am afraid I would take to drink.

I am dirty as a pig from KP. I helped sort some potatoes that were half rotten and it left me with a smell. I can’t take a shower (no showers after five.), but I’ll take a bath in my helmet before I go to bed. I do most of my bathing in a helmet.

I galloped a pencil for about an hour this afternoon and this is what I figured out. Within a year after I come home I will be able to swing a loan for about five thousand. The GI Bill of Rights will back $2000.00 on the loan and pay the interest on the first year for the $2000. Through the Veterans Administration the interest will be 4%.  In other words the first year of our interest will be $120.00 and after that it will be $200.00 a year or sixteen a month which is far cheaper than rent. Between now and when we build you and I will have to save enough to buy furniture and it will cost us close to a thousand at the very least. In other words, as soon as we can save $1000.00 I will build you a house. For a while I thought I wanted at least five acres of land, but I have given that up. I know where there is about eighty acres I would like to own and I have an idea it will be for sale in about ten years. We may be able to swing it by then.

I suppose you have an idea that I am fighting at Yap…..not so. I always had a hunch I was going there, but I guess I wasn’t needed.


Editor’s Note: In WWII Japanese held Yap was one of the islands bypassed by the US island hopping strategy. It was regularly bombed by US ships and aircraft and the Yap based Japanese bombers did some damage in return.

_________________________________________________________________Darling, this is the most perfect climate in the world and I love it. I will hate to leave this place and I hope that someday you and I can come over here. It would be fun if we didn’t have to stay.________________________________________________________

I put the above paragraph in to fool a guy here. He hates this place and I always tell him I love it. I let him read what I wrote and he blew his top. I do like it here, but I sure as hell don’t want to come back.  Editor’s Note: Just a small sample of dad’s sense of humor.

I once rode a horse from eight miles the other side of Otsego Lake to Mancelona in a day’s time. It was winter and I tried to go from Otsego Lake to Mancelona by going straight west. It’s all woods through there and the road was untraveled and full of snow. We got lost. The mare got tired and I had to lead her the last five or six miles. What a time I had that day.

Sept 17.44:  Six months ago this afternoon I got on the boat that was to bring me over. What a feeling that was. I thought we would leave that night and not wanting to miss anything I spent most of the night on deck. The next day at noon we went under the Golden Gate Bridge. A lone girl stood on the rail of the bridge and waved good-by.  It must have been the thrill of a life time to her when five thousand soldiers cheered and waved back.

That was sure a great trip and the only real scare I had was when the guns on the boat opened up. At the time I thought it was the real thing. It was only a drill or as the army says “dry run.” While on the boat I got a lot of extra duty because I would open the porthole to cool off the cabin. Another thing that used to give me the jitters was the fact that if one of us fell off the boat we would be going to our own funeral. They wouldn’t stop to pick you up because they would be a soft mark for a sub. No one fell off.

Each evening at sunset you would hear this announcement. “Your attention please. One half hour from now all portholes and openings will be closed. There will be no smoking or lights of any kind showing above the open deck. Any infringement of this rule will jeopardize the ship’s crew and all passengers on board. Thank-you.” I looked for evenings to come because the fellows would bring out a guitar or two and everyone would gather around and sing “Rolling Home.” I liked the moonlight nights the best. The master of the ship preferred a fog or mist that would let him sneak  along unobserved by enemy subs. It was a great trip and one that I will never forget.

Sept 17.50: I spent part of the morning sharpening my machete. When I finish with it I’ll have an edge on it that will cut. I hate to have any kind of knife dull. I have a scar above my knee that shows how sharp I had one knife. I also went to church this morning. I never can get used to church in the Army. It never seems to feel like the real thing.

I went over and had my jungle rot painted yesterday. It is a lot better. I’ll go every day until it clears up. I suppose I will be bothered with it as long as I stay in the tropics. I would rather have that than frost bite. There is very little danger of frost today. Wish I knew just how hot it is out there in the sun. The tent seems fairly cool.

Volleyball seems to be the big game right now. We have a court and the boys play from daylight until dark. I never get in on the game. I get most of my exercise by double timing. The whole troop double times in the afternoon and sometimes I double time from the Red Cross to my tent. My wind is even better than it used to be. When I was seventeen I used to run from my place to the golf course. I doubt whether I could do it now.

Did you see Albert Parks? He lives in back of Maggie’s place. He has a little shack on the river. He is some character and in spite of his dirt he has a fair education and is noted for his knowledge of wild life. He has a pair of swans who nest there each year and the wild ducks come in and feed with his chickens. Sometimes during a cold winter the muskrats will move right into his house. He used to fish with me on the upper river and he sure knows how to catch pan fish. I have often though a lot about that old man’s life. At one time he owned a laundry in Bellaire, was married and had a daughter. As a boy he broke his foot and never had it set. Consequently he walks with a limp. His wife left him and I guess the old man hasn’t taken a bath since. For a while he owned a small house, but during the depression his house went for taxes.  The old man took a few packing boxes and built his shack down by the river. He has a few chickens and once in a while he gets some little job he can do, but he never seemed to care too much about himself. He used to pick up garbage so as to feed a few wild ducks that stopped by each fall. The ducks soon learned they had a friend and started nesting close to his shack. A couple of swans came each spring and that is almost unheard of. His flock of wild ducks has attracted a little attention and a few years ago there was a story in the Grand Rapids Press about him. Perhaps when he is dead people will realize what a naturalist he was.

Sept 18.51:  I received a letter from my brother Steve today. It was the first time I heard from him in at least five years. Longer than that. I received a letter from him in 1934 and I guess that was the last.

I am not going to write much tonight. I am sitting on my jungle rot and it’s just like you with your boils.

We had a very easy day. Would you like to know what I call an easy day? We drilled for 30 minutes this morning. This afternoon we double timed (about ten minutes) and stood retreat.

I wear nothing but shorts socks and shoes. There are no women on this island, so I don’t have to wear the shorts.

Sept 19.52:  Your letters 18 and 19 reached me today. Sixteen and 17 have not come yet. I like it when we number our letters because I know exactly how many of your letters reach me.

Flip, I may want you to buy some war bonds. They told us this morning that we have to pay a five percent victory tax on what we draw in 44. We will not have to pay until after the war and we will be exempt if we have a certain amount of bonds bought in 44. I think they figure it at about 12% of what we draw and I  will have to buy about sixty dollars worth of bonds to cover it. I’ll have you buy them and make darned sure they are in my name.

The war seems to be going in leaps and bounds. I predicted that the European war would end this week. It is still possible. We still have a job ahead of us over here if Japan wants to fight to the finish. In a way I hope she decides to do that. She should have a taste of war when it’s fought in your front yard. Perhaps it would teach her people that was is not the least bit glorious. I suppose I’ll fight my was in the Philippines. Perhaps not. I spend a lot of time wondering where I’ll go next.

Sept 21.54:  I often think  of the people in Bellaire and the fun I used to have there. In fact I wouldn’t mind living there, but there is only one job I would want and that is Game Warden. I never could figure out whether I liked racing horses better than fishing and hunting. In the long run a Game Warden pays more money. How would you like to eat fish and wild rabbit the rest of your life?

A fellow in this troop just received a Christmas package. The funny part of it is, the package was mailed last year and was meant for the Christmas of 1943.

What a horse sale they had in Lexington. Four hundred thirty-seven colts sold for $2,285.800. An average of $5,230. Calumet Farm paid $40,000. for a yearling by Bull Lea and Elizabeth Arden gave $46,000. for a yearling by Eight-thirty. Bull Lea has a male brother standing at Northville and I am very glad of that. We will have a well-bred horse nearby in case we want to breed a mare. You and I will some day have a small stable of our own and two or three brood mares. That’s when life will be something.

John A may go to O.C.S. He has high hopes. I wouldn’t want to be an officer in combat. A private is better off than anyone else because he can watch out for his own skin without having to watch out for a platoon as well.

I am going to tell you about my platoon officer. He is in the hospital just now so I know he will not read this. Martin is his name and he is eight ball right. He always needs a haircut and I guess he just doesn’t give a darn. He is well liked by all the fellows and he seems to be extra friendly for an officer. I think he is the sort of fellow that you would like to have close during action.

I will be glad when the books get here and thanks for sending them. I am going to get some other books one of these days. Not poems, but close to it. I guess you would say prose. Prose is darned near to poems when it comes to reading.

Sept 22.55:  I received the W&B tobacco today and I was sure glad to get it. I have a friend that chews and I am going to give him a package of it. The nine packages will last me as many years. There are times over here when smoking is out of the question and I will rely on good old W&B. You should try some. As a joke Fern once took some of John’s tobacco and she sure was sick.

Editor’s Note: I have been trying to find W&B Tobacco on the internet. What I found was B&W  (Brown & Williamson) Tobacco, today known as Winston-Salem. The Cigarette Company was founded by George Brown and  Robert Williamson in 1894. Robert Williamson’s father owned two chewing tobacco facilities. I can find nothing about him on the net. What is interesting about all this is that one of the company’s employees was Jeffery Wigand the biochemist who blew the whistle on cigarettes resulting in 46 states filing a lawsuit against the tobacco companies.


 This resulted in a $368 billion settlement in health related damages again

Tomorrow or the next day I will send you a canteen. An officer in the Japanese Tiger Marines gave it to me. Boil it out real good before you handle it too much. When the war is over you and I will fill it with brandy or wine and have a drink on them.

Today I sharpened Clair T’s knife. I sure put an edge on it. I love to sharpen knives and I have a big stone here to use. For some reason or other it seems to settle my nerves. I wish you could have seen dad sharpen an ax. He was good at it. I used to turn the grind stone for him when he sharpened the mowing machine blades. It was a long job and at the time it bored me to death. I guess my dad thought I wasn’t a good worker and he thought I didn’t know a thing about a horse. He would be surprised to know what I picked out for my life’s work.

I just read where the Japs lost 4,134 men here on the Admiralties. That is a lot of men, isn’t it?  Perhaps we can whip them by spring.

I found out that the Lt. was wrong in regards to the Victory Tax. I will not have to buy bonds to cover it. I don’t want too much money tied up in bonds. By the way, haven’t you got a few hundred dollars in bonds? it seems as though you mentioned it some time ago. Hang on to them Flip.

The W.A.C.S. have made a beach head in New Guinea. I can’t see the reason for sending them over when there are so many men left in the states. It costs more to operate one of them than it does to run a GI. They put up barracks and all that for them. Give a GI and a poncho and some bully beef and he will make out.

Speaking of meat, we had steak twice today.

When I first got here I loaned my Bible to a fellow in the 8th Cavalry. He had never read the old books in the Bible. He just now returned it. I am glad because I have missed having something to read.

Sept 23.56:  It has been raining most of the afternoon. We are supposed to have a stage show (local talent) tonight, but I have an idea it will rain us out. The wind blew hard today and for a while I thought the tent would fly away.

I didn’t do much today. Had to work a while this morning, but that suited me fine because I didn’t have to stand inspection. I worked for a while sharpening my bayonet. I sure have an edge on it. I can hold up a sheet of paper and cut it in half. I don’t suppose I’ll ever have a chance to use it, but if I ever do it will sure be sharp enough.

Letters #20 and 21 just came. I like your new stationary. You write more on it. A long letter means a lot over here….the difference between a good day and a bad day.

It is nearly dark and the lights haven’t been turned on yet. We don’t have light until they start the motor. It is hard for me to write but I want to keep my seat at the table.The lights have just come on so everything is ok.

I have received several Bellaire Records the last couple of weeks. They come direct to this A.P.O. now so the news in them is a little more like news.

Ernie Pile is a hero of man and if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be getting the ten-dollar infantry combat pay each month. He was responsible for getting that bill through. I have read “Here is your war” and enjoyed it very much.

One of the boys gave me a big can of Christmas candy he received from his mother. It had melted to one solid block but it was very good. After I had it nearly eaten I found out his mother mailed it in November of last year. It was intended to be here in time for Christmas last year.

This troop sure had a party last night. I went to sleep at twelve and it was still going strong. This morning the troop street was a sight. There were more beer bottles out there that I thought there was beer over here. Every one still seems to be feeling mighty happy and things indicate another party tonight. They got beer from a Seabee base close by and now and then a quart of whiskey. I have a quart of bonded whiskey buried in the sand. Had to pay $46.00 for it. I can’t afford to drink anything that expensive so I’ll sell it one of these days.

I may send you 40 pounds of Australian money. If I do just hang on to it until I ask for it. If I do send it I will send it in several different envelopes, so if one letter is lost all will not be lost.  Editor’s Note: Back in 1965 dad sent me $100 in 5 dollar bills each in a separate envelope. That was back when I was hitching through Europe and the Middle East. I was just returning from living on the kibbutz and took a boat to Rome. He sent the money to me at General Delivery, the main post office in Rome.

Tomorrow is Sunday and I am going to write a long letter to my mother and to your folks.

P.S. Write Often

Editor’s Note: And there it is….the postscript. It was written in bold also in his letter. Pretty sure it is a prearranged code and we know, thanks to history and the letter John posted on FB, that the 1st Cavalry landed at Leyte, Philippines on 10/20/1944.


Letters To My Mother From WWII: September 1-13, 1944


Row 1 left to right: Margaret Ellison Poxson, Mary Hutchens Kimpton, Edith Hutchens Norton, Jo Hutchens, John Ellison, Edith Ellison Williams.  Row 2: David Kimpton, Edgar Kimpton, P. Ray Norton, Max Ellison, Florence Norton Ellison, Roy Ellison.

Best guess is that the picture was taken about 1954.

September 1-September 13, 1944

Sept 1.35:  I had one bed partner the other night. A little lizard must have hid in my blanket and ended up in bed with me. No, I didn’t oust him. I was too sleepy when I felt him with my toe to bother finding him.

Sept 2.36: By the sound of your dad’s letter he was having a good time up there. He is the kind that can have a vacation  by picking berries and tramping around the country. I wonder what he thought of our old farm. The land was poor and it’s always been a wonder to me that my dad could make a living there. He managed pretty well until the Depression came. I suppose mom had to show you where Steve and I farmed. At the time we had little fields and every thing that goes with a farm. We used to build shacks out in the woods and I could show you the remains of a few of them. I used to do a lot of walking. I remember one Sunday morning I walked down the wildcat to the golf course, walked into town and got Fern. We walked back to the farm and then down to the golf course. We played nine holes of golf, walked to town and then I walked home. No wonder I am thin. A fellow just couldn’t fatten up with all that walking.

It rained hard this morning. I mean it came down by the bucket full. They claim these islands have 365 inches of rain fall a year. Bob Hope said that both the United States and England claim these islands. The United States claim they belong to England and England claims they belong to the United States. I am in favor of giving them to the Japs.

I managed to find a Newsweek that was dated July 10th and told about Dewey’s nomination. I have a hunch the New Deal will fold up this year. I have not decided yet how I will vote, but I am giving it a lot of thought. It can’t matter because my vote will be in Antrim County and of course they will be Dewey to the last man. It is something to think about and you have plenty of time for that. I have made up my mind that thinking is as dangerous as the Japs. Of course it’s a good thing if you have something to think about but it isn’t safe to let your mind wander.

Last night I made a deal with a fellow on some cigars. He is to sell them to me for $6.40 a box which is darned cheap.



I have been reading in the Life Magazine of a G.I. Joe who returned with only one arm and how he got started in a baking business. It makes me wonder what I would do under the same circumstances. Of course one arm wouldn’t keep a man from training a horse, but if I was handicapped by not being able to work I think I would raise, race, and train pigeons. Don’t laugh. They would require less work than anything else and if a man went for breeding stock he could make money.

No letter from you tonight. I have been to the movies and now I’ll work on my x-mas cards. I am drawing them on V-mail. I am no artist. You will get a kick out of them, I think.

Sept 3.37:  I went to church this morning. Our new Chaplin is too short for the pulpit. You can just see his head sticking over the top. He is a pretty good talker and I enjoyed his sermon. I heard a fellow say something this morning that tickled me. He said, “One more campaign and I’ll be a believer.” I guess there is plenty of truth to that.

I have the worst part of this was ahead of me. What few Japs I have seen were taken by surprise. The day may come when they will take me by surprise and that will be a different thing. I have an idea that I will be a hard guy to surprise, so don’t worry about it.

The heat was terrible this morning. It is raining someplace this afternoon and it is much cooler here. Sometimes a big rain will miss the island by a couple hundred yards. Our rain always comes from the east.

Right now is about the right time of year to fish for bass. I would like to be on the upper lake about ten tonight and I would show you some real bass. Hunting season isn’t far away and I would like to be there for that. I wonder whether or not you would enjoy hunting rabbits with a dog. It can be a lot of fun. Hunting Coon is fun. I like it best when the moon is full and sharp, but that is a bad time because the dog can’t pick up the scent like he can when there is a little rain.

Sept 4.38:  This letter may be as short as some of yours, if possible. I have been to see Christmas Holiday and my eyes hurt. The wind blew in my face through out the whole show.

Don’t worry about the cigar shortage in Detroit. I don’t seem to suffer any shortage here. Editor’s Note: Google Detroit Cigar Shortage 1944. The shortage is covered in the Detroit Free Press.  I have had chances to buy as high as 50 boxes at a time. I hardly dare invest three hundred dollars in cigars at one time.

Don’t give me too big a snow job on my letters! George Washington and I are alike in that respect. He found it hard to write. That is the only way we resemble each other.

Sept 5.39:  Your letters # 6 and 7 came today. They are the first numbered ones to reach me.

There isn’t much to tell you tonight. This day has been very much like all the rest. Once a week we go to the chapel and an officer gives us the news of the past week. We went for a talk today and the news sounded darned good. Yes, the thing will end in a hurry. Right now things sound very quiet in this hemisphere. Perhaps it’s the lull before the storm. Although Hitler has been no real material help to Japan I feel that Japan will give up once they have to carry the fight alone. That is going to be very soon.

Sept 6.40:  Letter #10 just came and I am glad to hear of your plans for the winter. At least I know where you are and what you will be doing. With a hundred a month you will be able to get along fine and be sure to buy clothes once in a while. I have some friends in Muskegan and I will get their addresses for you.

I am waiting for chow right now and I go on guard tonight. This letter may end in a hurry, but I’ll have tomorrow off and will be able to write a long one. I am afraid your dad didn’t get many fish. I will have to show him how. The incident about the deer is funny, but I would have done the same thing myself. It is beautiful around the point and I used to get some nice bass around there. I don’t suppose you ever followed the river to Bellaire. Florence Culver and I used to canoe on it. It is a very pretty river and at night it is very dark.

Did you enjoy your trip to the farm? I hope that it didn’t look too bad. Farms have an uncanny way of running down when there is no one there to take care of it. I have memories of the orchard when it was beautiful and an old cherry tree that grew out by the walnut grove that used to smell so nice when it was in bloom. Now the trees are old and the sod has choked the life out of them.

Isn’t the view grand from my father’s grave. I’ll always remember the day we left him there. Yes when we go up there I will show you where I used to play. Jay Dewey and I had a water wheel that was at least six feet high and worked like a charm and we spent many a Sunday working it. I went back a couple years ago. The dam and flu were still there and I found the wheel beside the stream. Someone had replaced it with a ram. A ram is a little machine that uses the power of the stream to pump water.

The guard has stood inspection and I have a little time before I am posted so I will write more to you. The moon is full now and I hope it comes out tonight. It will make guard so much easier.

I voted today for Dewey. Editor’s Note: That may be the only time dad voted Republican.  I dislike the present administration’s attitude in regards to our foreign policy. There is too much fighting within the Democratic Party and to settle any disputes after the war we must have a President who has both the house and the senate behind him. In the last war Congress was not with Wilson and look what happened. My whole argument amounts to this. When any President reaches the point of over confidence to the extent that he no longer feels it necessary to have a foreign policy it is time for him to be removed. If our whole peace aims are based on the Atlantic Charter we will have lost the peace.

I received a letter, no eight, telling me why your Aunt Mary wanted someone to keep house for her. I think you would be better off that way and it would leave you more money.

If you were here you would be able to hear me holler HALT! WHO IS THERE?  As BJ would say, Advance to be mechanized.

Sept 8.42: John A’s colt, Projectile, is sure turning out to be a great colt. His family has received $20,000 for him and that isn’t hay. Today John received a picture of his colt and a pretty fair write-up that was in the paper.

I had a streak of real ambition today and not only washed my clothes, but I also washed my bunk, rifle belt, and every thing else I could find that was dirty. I hope I get in that mood again right soon.

Last night I got to thinking about my dad and the farm and wondering where he made his mistakes in farming. To tell you the truth he didn’t make too many, but his health was always bad and mom was always after him to give it up. There is a long story to it which I’ll have to tell you some day.

We have been eating extra good this week. Fried eggs for breakfast and a lot of beef and fresh potatoes. I need it because every afternoon we double time around the island; not all the way around.  My wind is good. In fact I am surprised. By starting out slow and taking deep breaths I can make a real dash at the finish.

The boys have fixed up a rat trap and I am wondering how it will work. They buried a gallon can in the ground leaving the top flush with the ground. They have put a false top on the can and woe to the rat who steps on it.

Sept 9.43:  I wonder if you can remember two years ago tonight? You and I had dinner at Wanda’s and she went out and left us there for my last date with you as a civilian. Two years have passed. We have a daughter and even though we are ten thousand miles from each other I feel very happy about the whole thing.

We had some cherry pie at dinner that was very good. I sure love cherry pie when it is made right. I never bragged too much on mother’s cooking, but she always could make a good cherry pie.

Today was our Sgt’s birthday. He thought of it this morning and for a while he was pretty lonesome. We sang Happy Birthday for him and I dug up two cans of beer and we celebrated with that. Sometimes I wish I had a bottle of wine. Sometime when you and I can afford a fine place I am going to try my had at making “Flips.” They were George Washington’s favorite drink. You mix rum and honey and then heat it by pulling a red hot iron out of the fire and sticking it in the Flip. You will have to admit that it sounds as good as your gin and milk. Editor’s Note: Wikipedia says a Flip is a class of mixed drinks and was first used in 1695 to describe a mixture of beer, rum, and sugar heated with a red hot iron. The iron caused the drink to froth, also known as flipping. For more Flip drink concoctions google Flip drinks.  

Jim and I have been to the Red Cross Club for our afternoon coffee. We stay down there for a half hour and sort of plan out the war. It’s fun to try to figure out what will happen next even if it is next to impossible. On the way back I stopped at the library and picked up Edna Ferber’s  Cimarron. I have Jane Eyre too, so I will have plenty to read for a day or two.

Did mom tell you about the time John, Uncle Steve and I picked blackberries on section five? I have a special place to pick, but it’s back in the middle of the section five and not easy to reach. I took Doctor Gervers back there one time and he often mentions it.

You wondered why I sold a ten dollar pipe for $9.60. Two reasons. First, by the way we figure our money in pounds it was easier to sell it for just three pounds which came to $9.60. That still left me a profit of six and a half. Second, to these fellows a pipe is a pipe. They can’t see the value of a good briar. I sold one, kept one for myself and I am raffling off the third. I am selling thirty-five tickets at a florin each  and tomorrow at noon we will draw to see who gets it. I will make eight dollars and someone will get a pipe for 32 cents.

I am not going to send the hundred and fifty I said I would send next Friday. I have too much money tied up in cigars just now. I will be sending more than a hundred. I don’t want too much money on hand now because I might have to put a postscript on a letter to you one of these days. Editor’s Note: Not sure what he means by putting a postscript on a letter. I am wondering if they had arranged a code to fool the Army letter censor and to inform her of an upcoming campaign. There have been no letters so far with a “PS”.

Do you realize that when I get home I am going to have to spend a good deal of money on clothes? I haven’t any clothes at all – nary a rag. I will not want to wear the uniform any longer than I have to.

Sept 10.44:  This will be a good night letter. I have been to the movie and I’ll write this and then hop into bed. I have a fried pie to eat while I write. So if there are any spots on this letter you will know why. The picture tonight, Gas Light, was a holy terror. Between the picture and the pie I will have a nightmare tonight for sure.

It rained all day long. I didn’t even go to church this afternoon. I cleaned my rifle and read Jane Eyre. I have learned the trick of reading fast. When I come home I’ll prove to you that I can read the average novel in a little over an hours time. Sounds impossible? It isn’t once you find the trick of it.

I am anxious to hear all about your new home and just what you have to do. I will not worry about you this winter because I know you will be alright. I had to laugh when you mentioned pumping water and chopping wood. I couldn’t picture it in you, but I’ll bet you would be equal to it. Glad it isn’t necessary.

Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from a letter Max wrote grandma Norton and dated 9/12/1944. I am going to tell you something now and you must not tell Flip. I first met Florence at Dean Hall. It was in the spring and you no doubt remember how I came to your place that summer to see her. Of course I didn’t know her then. Your father was in the living room and when I left I carried a far greater impression of an old gentleman with a beard than I did of Florence. It’s funny how a man meets his future wife. In fact, on our first date I didn’t say “Tell me about yourself.” While we were waiting for the car I said “Tell me about your grandfather.” Florence used to tell me that her grandfather wouldn’t approve of me, but the old gent and I seemed to get on first rate.

Sept 12.46:  I am at the Red Cross Club waiting for them to hand out some coffee. You must never confuse the coffee you have with this that I am always drinking. It is bad stuff, but each afternoon finds me over here waiting for them to put it out.

Your husband has a thick head. For the past week I have been stuck on a problem that involves turning mils to degrees. Editor’s Note: A milliradian (mil) is an angular measurement which is defined as a thousand of the unit circle (full circle = 360 degrees) and is used for precision sighting. If you really want the formula go to google. This morning one of the officers helped explain it to me and at least I have it. Now that I can change degrees into mils or mils into degrees I wonder why in hell any one would want to do it in the first place.

I hope it doesn’t rain tonight. I have three boxes of cigars I want to sell by Friday and if it rains there will be no movie. I halfway enjoy the movies now. It’s about the only thing there is to do.

Sept 13.47:   I have been to the fights tonight. They only had four 3 round bouts and it didn’t take long. There was a colored boy from Detroit who sure was a fighter. They don’t put enough rope around the ring to hold me in with a fighter like that.

I had tomorrow figured out for my day at KP, however, it wasn’t on the board tonight. Guess Friday will be my day. KP is downright easy over here.

I wasn’t going to tell you this, but it will help fill the letter. Did you ever try to figure out what Heaven would be like? Now I am the sort of guy that would prefer anything to a heaven that would have nothing more to offer than a harp. Can’t you imagine me playing a harp? The other night I couldn’t sleep so I let my mind wander right slab dab into heaven. I was met at the gate and I was told that it would be my home for eternity and while there I could do anything I pleased. Not to be rushed I asked for time to look around and see what the other fellows were doing. That’s where the fun came in. I watched a man paint. As he painted his picture became real life and the artist not only painted, but he created real living people. To the artist it was heaven. I saw a scientist who for the first time in his life was seeing all the laws of science blended into something he could understand. He was able to see what laws were holding the Universe together. He was seeing laws and forces that the earth would not discover for another hundred thousand years. He too had found heaven. I will not tell you where all my imagination took me, but at last I found what I wanted to do and started in. I then found your grandfather doing the same thing. I wonder if you can figure out what we were doing? Try it and see how close you will come.

Editor’s Note:  OK folks any ideas? I don’t know much about the man other than he was a Senator and liked to read. There also is the above excerpt from the letter he wrote to Grandma Norton. Anyone have a picture of him or even know his first name? I don’t know if there will be any mention of this in future letters. I guess time will tell.