Letters To My Mother From WWII: June 1-14, 1945

June Not Dated:  Yesterday I hitch-hiked out to the troop and got all my things, camera, barber tools, pictures, and best of all my mail. When I got there one of the fellows remarked that something was bound to happen to me before I left. Sure enough, about an hour later I was riding on a truck load of trunks and fell off flat on my back. My head hit the pavement with a big bang and I knocked some skin off my elbow.

I hated to leave this morning. The troop was still in combat, but some of the boys were back to the CP (Command Post) sort of licking their wounds and I talked with them last night. Clair  T was still in combat and James is still in the hospital. A few nights ago some ornery Japs tossed a grenade into a fox hole where some of my friends were sleeping. No one was killed, but a couple of my friends were cut up.

I am not going to try to answer all your questions in this letter. In fact I haven’t even had time to look over your house plans. The pictures of Edith are swell and the ones of you are extra good. I look at them all the time. The ones taken of Edith at Christmas make her look as though she is half bull frog. I sure was surprised to hear that John got married. I am going to buy them something and write a letter to them.

All my colored pictures turned out good. I am sending you two today and I’ll send two more tomorrow. The other four pictures are of kids who have been killed since I took the pictures. Save them please. After the war I will send them to their mothers.

June 2: Japan and I have declared a separate peace treaty. I am not going to shoot at them and they are not going to shoot at me. In other words, I am now a non-combat soldier with a fair chance of returning to the states. I doubt whether I’ll come before fall, but I’ll keep the Christmas date with you.

Now my fighting days are over I find myself looking back at them with a mixture of feelings. They were bad. I never told you how bad because I didn’t want you to worry, but there were times when I thought I would never make it. I guess I will never forget the foxholes and how I used to dream of you with a full moon to keep me company and remind me of the swell wife back home. I will always remember the fellows who fought with me. Many of them have been killed.  Some are in the states and, without a doubt, I will never see the most of them again. As Kipling said,” I have shoved it all behind me, long ago and far away.” I will do the same thing and in the years to come I’ll remember nothing but the beautiful part of it.

You may send my mail here: 191 Repl Co. 46th Bn, APO 711, C/O P.M. San Francisco, Calif. I don’t know what they will have me doing or how long I’ll be here. Just now I am working in the mail room re-addressing letters. It’s a very easy job and it is good for my nerves. Everyone is nice to me and I feel a lot better.

Life, what is next? I am ready!

June 3:  I weighed myself this afternoon and I am up to 132 lbs. I should weigh 150, but I am not kicking. A few weeks ago I was down to 125.

My chances for coming home are pretty good. A fellow left this morning and he only had two more points than I have.  Of course I will have to join some outfit before I can be sent home. I guess you better not plan on going back to Muskegon.

My day seems to be pretty full. I get up before daylight, go to work at 7:30, have an hour for lunch, and I get through between four and five in the evening. After dinner I go to the Red Cross for coffee and then to the show. They give out news at the movie, so I never miss it. The food here is pretty good. At least it’s a lot better than we had during combat.

Sunday and I didn’t go to church. I used to enjoy going to church, but after our chaplain got killed I sort of stopped. I’ll start again when I get home and can go with you. It will not be very long before we start sending Edith to Sunday School. Will your dad get the same church this year? I hope so.

June 4:  This has been one swell day. It rained for a while this morning and then it turned off clear and cool. When I say cool I don’t mean frosty. They started out the day for me by giving me two slices of french toast for breakfast.

I started a letter to Maggie last night, but didn’t finish it. I get so sleepy. Honestly, I don’t believe it is possible for me to get enough sleep. I guess I am making up for what I missed last winter.

I suppose you are having a good time in Bellaire. Editor’s Note: Mom is not in Bellaire. Her mail is being forwarded to Marlowe St in Detroit.  Oh how I wish I were there with you. We haven’t anything to kick about have we? It hardly seems possible there is a chance of my coming home. Flip, if I do come home I may leave my camera with Clair T. He could send it to me after the war.

One of the fellows just brought in a pineapple. We Eat! The ones we get here sure are better than the ones you buy at home. I guess you don’t buy so many now.

I expect to go to classification one of these days and they are going to try to find some kind of a job for me. That is going to be hard because I don’t plan on working too hard from here out. As soon as I get in some outfit I’ll be eligible for home. I expect the summer will be pretty far gone before I even get in an outfit.

I should get some mail from you within another week.

Oh, yes, when I got wounded March 6th I told you there was a story that went with it. You see I got caught on a hill directly in front of a target our artillery was firing on. It was one of our own shells that hit me.

Editor’s Note: Attached to this letter is an undated newspaper article in very small print. It reads as follows:

People these days are often given short emergency courses in how to carry out difficult tasks. An elevator operator, off for the day, was replaced by a girl who on her first trip with live passengers brought the elevator to an abrupt stop. “Did I stop too quickly For you?” She asked the passengers. “oh no indeed,” coyly replied a little old woman in one corner of the car. “I always wear my bloomers around my ankles.”

June 5:  After spending nearly three years in the Army I am CQ (Charge of Quarters) for the first time. Yes, I am CQ of a mail room for one night. By golly, I am going up in the world. Tomorrow I can have a pass to go into (word censored). I think I will stay here and spend the day sleeping. I can wash out my clothes and save a Peso.

I have worked pretty steady today. It seems so good to just be able to work and not worry about anything. I am starting to gain weight. The flesh is starting to pad my ribs. A month ago it was stretched over my ribs like the head of a drum. I guess I don’t have to tell you after sending those pictures home.

I wrote to Clair T and told him to pick up my camera, barber tools and pictures and either send them to me or else I will try to see him when he goes into the garrison. I still have the four rolls of film dad sent me and I am anxious to get the camera. I would like to have my picture taken with you. Fat chance of that.

It’s about time for me to walk over to the Red Cross and get a cup of coffee. There is a good show on tonight, but I have to stay around here.

I must write to Maggie. I have started a couple of letters to her, but for some reason I never finish them. I’ll have to stay up late tonight, so perhaps I’ll get to it.

Lets not plan a too long vacation when I get home. I am anxious to get to work. A couple of weeks should be enough. There are several places up there where I want to take you and, of course, I’ll want to have a good visit with mom and then I’ll be ready to work. We can’t spend much money anyway.

I think I’ll start saving a little towards coming home. When I get off the boat in Frisco I want enough money to buy a gallon of wine, pay for a telegram, and buy a one way ticket to Detroit. Guess who will get the telegram? You are right.

June 5:  My day off and what a day it has been.  I wish  had worked because I can’t seem to find anything to do. I have spent a part of the afternoon talking with a fellow from Alpena. I do not even have to work while I am here. I didn’t know that until this morning. I would rather work than lie around, so I guess I’ll just stay on the job.

There is a fellow in this tent from Lexington Ky and he is as funny as a crutch. He isn’t very old and hasn’t been over here two weeks, but he has all the fellows believing that he has been overseas for years.

I have been thinking about writing to Mr. Moore (W&B). He wrote to me last winter asking about my post war plans. I have decided I would like to have a job in the inspection dept and I think I’ll write and tell him to make way for a good man. I am afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle the job I used to have. It was killing work then.

Flip, did you ever play golf? It’s a lot of fun and your husband can still play a good game. If you don’t take my word for it ask Art Ward. It would be fun for you and I to take it up. The one thing I must get you interested in is fishing. You say you don’t like to fish. That’s because you never caught any. Wait until you go with me.

I haven’t had a beer since March. I wish they would give us some as I have a thirst. Remember the brandy we used to drink?  Where will we hide our brandy when your folks come to visit us? I’ll have to keep it with my horse medicine.

The Filipinos have a unique way of cooking duck eggs. They incubate the eggs and when they are about ready to hatch they boil the eggs and eat the unhatched duck. I am going to try them some day. They should be good. Perhaps I should say, there is no reason for them not being good. We like lobsters and they live off dead sailor bays. Once, when I was going with Eloise, Mrs Cook cooked a beaver. They asked me to dinner that night and we all went to work on that damned old beaver and kidded ourselves into believing it tasted like rabbit. About five years later Clair and I were eating dinner one night and I got to thinking about that beaver his mother cooked and wondering whether or not he remembered it. All I said to him was “Wasn’t that the worst meat you ever ate?” Without thinking he answered “You mean the beaver?”

June 7:   This is going to be a nice night to sleep. It is raining now and it looks like an all night rain. I am lucky to have inside jobs if this is going to keep up.

I was thinking last night how nice it’s going to seem to sleep in a bed again. Right now a canvas cot seems like a luxury and what will it be like when I get home and have a real bed to sleep in, not to mention my blue-eyed sleeping partner. I can hardly wait.

What part of Detroit do you want to live in this winter? I would like to find some place small and furnished. It will just about have to be furnished and I suppose places are hard to find. I wouldn’t want to live as far out as your folks live because it would be too far to work. Of course, if we can’t find anything closer we will have to make the best of it. We could spend the winter reading Paradise Lost. Now and then we can slip out to some place like the Roma and have dinner and remember that son-of-a ***** who wanted to buy a drink for his Cap-a-tan.

I am tired tonight and I am going to take a nap before dinner. I guess I worked too hard today. Flip, pretty soon our long wait will be over.

June 8: I am very much in love with my wife tonight. I guess I have been dreaming more than a man should when he is ten thousand miles away. One thing, Flip, I can dream of you now and feel fairly sure of seeing you some day, and it’s more than I could do while I was fighting. Life was so uncertain then.

It is raining, but here in my tent everything is snug and dry. My lighting system isn’t  much, just a can of fat with a cloth wick. It flickers a good deal. Flickers and makes cracking sounds and smells good as hell.

I am wondering what Maggie will put in the Bellaire paper about me. I know she will not miss. I did my best. Perhaps it wasn’t enough. I wish I could talk with you tonight. I am lonesome.

They gave us six cans of beer tonight. I traded four cans for cigarettes. I have to buy my cigarettes now (five cents a pack) and I am short of money. I have enough to get along on.

The days go by so fast. I like my job and have a swell kid to work for, so you can see everything is lovely. One of these days I am going over to classification and see what they have to offer me. Just now I am contented to rest and enjoy life.

Can Edith walk as far as downtown? Keep your eye on her or she will be all over town. Are there any children around there close to her age? Tell her daddy will buy her a dog when he gets home.

They feed us pretty good here. We had all the hot dogs we wanted for dinner. I ate a couple of them. This noon we had hamburgers and onions. I’ll get fat on this. During the early part of the Luzon Campaign I lived off the Filipinos. They sure fix some strange dishes even though they are delicious. Their chicken soup is the best in the world and when I come home I’ll make some for you. They flavor a lot of their food with ginger root.

June 10:  I was over to clarifications this morning. The fellow talked with me for two hours and decided there were only two things in the army I was classified to do: break horses and parade a M-1 Rifle and there are no horses to break. He said I was a cinch to go home, however, they might keep me here for a couple of months and send me back to the Cavalry so as I could be sent home from there. I know how the 1st Cavalry sends men home and I don’t plan on going back there. Well as times rolls by we will see how things work out.

I haven’t heard who won the Derby. I’ll hear it tonight over the news. L.B. Meyer had a good colt in the race by the name of Jeep.  Editor’s Note: Hoop Jr. won the Derby in 1945.

official-program-horse-racing-kentucky-derby-1945-_1

It’s very near chow time. As a usual thing I write to you after I finish work at night, but I had a little spare time this morning and I am always so tired at night. Last night I went to bed before dark.

They have good movies here. All of them seem to be late pictures and the machine manages to limp through the show without breaking down. Last summer, on Howie, we never saw a show without having the machine break down two or three times.

Have you seen Florence Culver up there? I had a dream about her last night. I can’t remember the dream, but it had to do with a picture Bob painted; a picture called Old Man Gille’s Barn The Day He Died. I remember very distinctly that was the picture and it seems as though he did paint a picture of the barn. Ask if you see her.

June 11:  I am CQ tonight and tomorrow is my day off. I may get a pass and try to find my troop, because I want to get my camera, pictures, and broken tools. I am not sure where they are, but I may be able to find them.   Editor’s Note: So I am thinking he is still somewhere in the Philippines.

I worked pretty steady today. It seems so darned good to be doing something like this and I actually have been enjoying myself. I am starting to dream more of you and less of the Japs. Dreaming of you has it’s bad points because it always makes me lonesome. Anyway, I am feeling better, eating good, and working hard.

The Derby, to my way of thinking, wasn’t too much of a race. The winner was not too impressive as a two-year old and I am afraid he will go down in history as a pretty bad Derby winner. Of course I haven’t heard all the details. Perhaps he set a track record. I doubt it. How is Edith’s Teddy? Has she entered him in any two year old stakes?

Censorship regulations around here are pretty strict. I can’t write like I used to when I was in the troop. There isn’t anything around here you would be interested in except for me.

Did you receive the pictures? I want to take more to show you how I have improved since then. I can get a regular photo taken and I may do it when I get paid. I still draw combat pay and will until I get out of the army. I wouldn’t get it if they put me in the medic’s or chaplain’s corp. Fat chance of me getting into the chaplain’s corp and I sure wouldn’t want to be a line medic over here. They have a rough go of it and my hat is off to them. One of the kids I came over with was put in the medics. One night a mortar shell hit close to his hole and one of the kids ….censored words.…. and got out of the hole. My buddy got out and tried to drag him back and another mortar shell hit. No Flip, I don’t want to be a medic. One of the first things you learn in combat is to stay in your hole after dark. Darkness seems to lock you in and regardless of what happens you stay put.

I will tell you a little story about me. I can’t say when or where, but it makes no difference. I spent several nights in a hole with the artillery forward observer. There were several of us in the hole and it used to get pretty darned hot so I decided to sleep just outside. Several times the Nips opened up with mortars and the observer would reach out and grab me. I always had plenty of time to get in before the shells fell, but one night a phone wire caught under the sole of my shoe and I couldn’t untangle myself in time. As luck would have it they didn’t even come close. You folks haven’t any idea of what frontline combat is actually like. It’s rough and there is plenty of grief with it, but you spend a good deal of time writing letters, reading, sleeping, and shooting the bull. We call it fighting a jawbone war. Some mighty funny things happened and I have an idea you will someday get pretty tired of hearing me tell the grandchildren about it.

June 12:  I am at the Red Cross lapping up coffee and listening to a broadcast from Tokyo. It’s good. They have quite a line they hand us along with a lot of music. This morning they said that at last the war was turning in Japan’s favor. They tell us our B29’s have not done any damage.   I wonder if they can make their own people believe that sort of stuff.

We had a good dinner and I went back for seconds. If this keeps up I’ll come home heavier than when I left. That will be all right too.

Every time I start a letter to you I end up by dreaming about coming home. I will be lucky to get home by fall, but even fall isn’t too far away and at least I am nearly positive you will not have to spend another winter all alone. I may be around here most of the summer and I may leave tomorrow. Once I get away from here I will be eligible to come home. I suppose they will give me my discharge at Ft. Custer. I hope so, because when I get off the train in Detroit I am there for good. I suppose Maggie is full of plans for my homecoming.

Generally we have a rain in the afternoon. This one is going to be no exception. It gets pretty hot here and the rain cools things off. It is nice and cool at night for sleeping. The fellows in my tent raise a lot of hell and sometimes keep me awake. I never mind that and enjoy hearing them talk and argue about which state is the best. I never argue about the states. I know Michigan is the best.

June 13:  June is nearly half gone. It seems impossible time could go by so fast. Time never did seem to drag for me over here or any place else.

I have been busy making a few post war plans. Most of them have to do with eating. Here is my idea of what I want for my first official meal when I get home. I’ll start with a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and a walk around the block. For a salad I want shrimp and chopped head of lettuce with plenty of french dressing. I’ll want my spuds boiled with clothes on and I’ll want bacon grease for gravy. No Meat, but a big dish of macaroni and cheese and a glass of buttermilk with plenty of salt and pepper sprinkled on top. I’ll want three or four kinds of pickles, all sweet, small, and crisp. I’ll finish it off with a quart of ice cream and a coconut layer cake. If I can find fresh strawberries we will skip this menu and just have a big shortcake.

There were several bags of mail coming in when I came over to the Red Cross and perhaps some of it is for me. One advantage of working in the mail room is you get your mail on time.

I have a little touch of cold. My head is stuffed up, but I feel pretty good.

It’s almost two months since I left the troop and I wonder how the boys are. Several were wounded after I left, but I guess no one was killed. I am anxious to hear from Clair T. He was in a weapons troop and had it pretty easy. The last time I saw him was in a rest camp.

How is my ring? As beautiful as ever? Editor’s Note: I think he is talking about the square ruby or garnet set in gold ring he wore for as long as I can remember. Whenever us kids touched the stone he would yell out Beep Beep. Don’t know where it is now.   I never did tell you how much I paid for it. It will seem good to start wearing it again. This is the first time in years I have been without a ring.

This letter drags. It’s so darned hard to think of things to write about when I am not hearing from you. How do my “free” mails come through? If they are not too slow I may have to use them now and then. Believe it or not, but it costs more to live back here. I have to buy my cigarettes and pay for my laundry and hair cuts. I am trying to figure out some way to make money this summer.

June 14:  I have some good news for you. I am leaving here. I can’t tell you where I am going or when, but it will be one step closer to home. That’s about all I can tell you and don’t get the idea I will be home in two weeks. It’s still a matter of months, but perhaps not too many months.

They had a quiz program at the Red Cross tonight and I entered it and won. It was on sports and I took horse racing and never missed a question. I sort of trembled when they asked me who the best two-year old of 1944 was. I figured it would be Pavot and sure enough I won. They asked me: Who won the Derby in 1942?; What race horses are entered before they are born?; Who was the leading two and three-year old of 1944?; Who saddled the most winners of 1944?; Who were the three leading riders of 1944?; What horse won the most money in 1944? and Who finished second to Count Fleet in the Derby of 1943?  For a guy who spent a good part of the racing season chasing Japs I think I did pretty well. For a prize they gave me a book on, of all things, football. I am almost as happy about winning the quiz as I am about coming home.

I am going to miss this place. They tell me I will have it real easy where I am going, but still and all, I have enjoyed my work and the fellows I have worked with. I have gained weight and my nerves have settled a lot. I never told you how bad my nerves were, but while I was in the hospital I couldn’t stand to get mail. Sounds funny, but it’s true. I would get so excited I couldn’t eat and sometimes I would even shake. Well I sure have changed and I think by the time you see me I will be pretty much like when I left. I will look older, but you must expect that. Three campaigns, three wounds, and about a dozen close ones don’t make a man look younger. The thing that matters most to you is that I still have my health, and my love for God, and a wife that is sweeter than all the world.

I never did tell you much about combat….the mean part where everything in you seems to revolt. Censorship rules now are that I can tell you about the Jap atrocities providing I saw them. Well here is one that I will never forget. We had taken a town and the Japs charged and we had to get out. In the fight that followed they got one of our men alive and when we took the town again we found him nailed to the side of a building. They had pulled the fingernails off his left hand, skinned the palm of his right hand, burnt the hair off his head “and things,” stuck a bayonet through his stomach and smashed his head. From that time on I carried an extra round for myself. No one can possibly imagine what combat is until you hug the ground while some mortar shells are falling close or lie in your foxhole  and hear some kid you know in the next hole that is hit and can’t get out until morning.

I think all of it is behind me and my prayers are for the fellows who are finishing up the job.

 

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