Letters to My Mother From WWII: May 1944

May 1944

Editor’s Note: I am interested in determining where he is located at the time of each letter. The following has been copied from Wikipedia regarding the movements of the 7th Cavalry. 

  • 2/28/43: 7th cavalry dismounted. Becomes a part of the 1st Cavalry Division.
  • 6/26/43: Depart San Francisco for Australia.
  • 7/43: Arrive Australia and trained for combat.
  • 1/24/43-12/31/44: Participated in the New Guinea Campaign.
  • 2/22/44: Moved to Oro Bay New Guinea.
  • 3/4/44: Moved by landing craft to Los Negros Island to reinforce Admiralty Island Campaign.
  • 5/18/44: Admiralty Island Campaign officially ends.
  • 10/17/44: Moved to Philippines.
  • 10/20/44: Assaulted Leyte. 
  • 12/13/44: Secured Huawei Island.
  • 12/44: Reached Sea.
  • 1/7/45: Reassembled with 1st Cavalry near Tunga.
  • 7/1/45: Leyte campaign ended.
  • 1/27/45: Landed at Luzon where regiment engaged until 7/4/45.

May 1: I haven’t been able to write for the past few days. I have a little time  this morning so I’ll write and mail it whenever I can. You will notice I have moved. I guess I can’t tell you where I am now, but I wish I was back at the other place.

I am a mess this morning. Most of my clothes are either wet or covered in mud. I have managed to shave and brush my teeth and that gives me a feeling of being dressed up. My blanket is wet. I slept on the ship last night and it was too hot to go below. I slept on deck all night in spite of a drenching of rain. Your husband is doing all right. He can sleep in the rain as long as he can keep it from coming into his eyes.

I had a good breakfast; hotcakes, bacon, corn flakes, and coffee. It’s been a long time since I had corn flakes and hotcakes and they were good.

Don’t mind the mud spots on this letter. There is a fellow digging a ditch here and he threw a shovel full of dirt into a mud puddle close by.

I have been trying to think of some study I can take up over here that will help me along. Spelling is the one thing I need and I have a text-book at your place. I am going to ask Mother Norton to send it to me. It’s small and will fit in my pocket. That way I’ll be able to study at odd moments.

Keep your faith in me. I’ll come home.

May 7: I told you there would be times like this. You see I have not written to you in the last 10 days. Now, my little sweetheart it may be a couple more weeks before I write again, so you must not worry. I am all right and plan on being that way for some time to come. Write to mom for me and tell her what I have told you. I will not write for a while. I am having a hell of a good time and making money. It has been a hard job to keep clean. There is more mud here than any thing else.

Although I am no longer there you can use the old address until I tell you different. I’ll tell you why when I come home. I have has 2 letters from you since the 28th of February. Just now there is no chance of hearing from you.

I raised the price of haircuts to one Florin and the First Sargent made me company barber. I do not draw any details and have a good trade. If things go on like this I should make 10 or 12 pounds a month. I am going to send you a money order for $36.25 pretty soon and that will give you $75.00 for the dishes. From then on I may have you bank the money so we can use it for furniture. I have found out that we can have a cold storage locker for $150.00. I think that $500.00 dollars will pay for a Frigidare, cold storage locker, Bendix washer, and the most of a piano. I can have $500.00 or more by the time I get out. I’ll go to work for Whitman & Barnes and we can get by very easy  the first year. I sometimes think it would be best if we get light housekeeping rooms or a small apartment at the most. If we worked it right we could save two thousand in not too long a time, get an F.H.A. loan for the rest and build.I want to own our own home and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life doing it. After we get our home there will be time to buy a colt.

How is Edith? Would I love to see her! Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that you and I have  a daughter. It’s going to be nice to come home and know that you and Edith are waiting for me there. In fact it will be worth all I am going through now. Just between you and me I am not on a Sunday School Picnic.

It’s time for me to get in the chow line. I spend a good deal of time standing in line. There is the chow line, the line to wash your mess kits and the line where they give you a package of tobacco.

I have been reading Frost’s poems. Here is a short one that I like.

“The way a crow shook down on me the dust of snow from a Hemlock tree has given my heart a different mood and saved some part of a day I had rued.”

Last night John A. and I  filled a can with gasoline and sand and used it for a stove. It was nearly midnight and we fried potatoes and sausage, made coffee and had a grand time.

May 10: You can’t go any place here without wading through mud. All I have to do is step out of my tent and it comes up nearly to the tops of my boots. At night when I get ready for bed I take a bar of soap and have a shower in the rain. Sure makes me sleep.

May 12: I have washed my boots and they are hanging outside to dry. It’s a mighty hard job to keep your shoes and boots clean and dry. There is one good thing and that is when the sun comes out things dry pretty fast. Even your picture is taking a beating in this damp climate. The edges of the leather frame are starting to rot from some kind of blue mold. I hope it holds out because I love to look at it and it makes a good desk to write on.

We have had one casuality, a coconut fell and it hit a fellow on the head. It didn’t do much damage. He was out cold for a while. Every once in a while either a nut or a frond will fall on the tent. The fronds are not as light as you would think.

Are fountain pens still on the market? If they are I wish you would send me one or two or else send cigarette lighters. You could send them air mail. Be sure to tell me what you paid for them.

I wish you could see and hear the crows we have. They fly as though they were having trouble and their caw makes you think they are scared or have a sore throat. It always seems to me that they are scared they will not reach their landing-place. You hear a lot of birds here, but it’s hard to get a glimpse of one. What I wouldn’t give to hear a robin or a lark.

I met a fellow last night from Detroit. His wife was, or still is, the manager of the Strathmoor Beauty Shop. There are several fellows around here from Detroit. I also met a fellow who took basic with Eddie. He sure had a narrow escape. A Jap took a shot at him and the bullet went in right over his heart, came out under his left arm and went through the arm. It never hit a bone and made a clean hole all the way through. He was born under a lucky star.

Wish I knew who won the Derby. One of the fellows heard part of a short wave broadcast last night. It even seemed good to hear the news from him.

May 13: The sun is sure beating down today. I have picked as cool a spot as there is in the tent and I’ll try to write a little. It’s a hard job to think of things to write about, but I know you look forward to the mail and I wouldn’t want to let you down. I wonder when I will hear from you again. Perhaps in a couple of weeks and perhaps it will be two months.

Am I dirty. For some reason or other we can’t get water and I haven’t been able to wash my face or my mess kit for some time. The poor cooks are having a tough time too and they can’t serve us any thing that calls for water. We have them over a barrel. They have to serve us orange juice and they can’t mix it with water. There are two things you get used to over here, filth and bad food. John and I don’t fare too bad on the food question. We make coffee, fry bacon and have bread and jam. I sometimes think that the only time he goes to the mess hall is to steal something to eat.

Last night we had a big feed and then we talked and talked. It was nearly midnight when we decided to go to bed. It’s funny what you will talk about at night when the sky is so beautiful and you are lonesome. I have told John about our romance (of course not all) and I feel as though I would know his mother if I met her in Timbuktu.

We play a sort of game and it goes something like this. If I am talking about something and mention a name of someone the rest of the fellows stop me and tell me all about that friend. For instance, this noon I mentioned that I might write to Laura Marie and John A. was quick to tell me that Laura Marie was a minister’s daughter. She had a funny nose. I met her when she was seventeen. She was Flip’s room-mate in college and through her I met my wife. I could tell him as much about any of his friends. You may think your husband is a bit off the beam. Darling, if we didn’t do things like that we would get off the beam.

When I first came over I had an idea that it would be easy to keep your mind off from the fact that it is a rough game and we are playing it a long way from home. It’s a pretty tough job to keep from thinking of home and it’s tougher to keep it from getting you down. I manage most of the time, however, I sort of like it here and I think that is a great help. When I can think of nothing else to do I count my money. If the Army paid me in full I would be able to send you $62.00.  Did you know that I still have seventy dollars worth of bonds coming?

May 14: Things here are pretty much the same. I am still waiting for some kind of transportation to my outfit. If you read the papers you will know that the 1st Cavalry is fighting in the Admiralty’s. They landed just before I left the states.

It has been hot. Being so close to the Equator makes this part of the world pretty warm. It would be sort of nice to see some snow. As a usual thing we get a lot of rain, but it has left us. I guess the season for rain is about over.

This morning I stood waist deep in a creek and washed my clothes on a log. That’s the hard way to do your laundry. I took a bath while I was there. Used a bar of laundry soap and it wasn’t so good. I smell like washing.

Some fellows drifted in the other night that I hadn’t seen for a couple of weeks. They had a lot to tell us and we never went to bed until midnight.

Did your waist line go back to normal? Do you hear from Laura Marie and when do you plan on going to Bellaire? I am anxious to have some news from you or about you. I should have mail waiting for me. It will soon be three months since Edith was born and I have only had two letters from you. Just between you and me that is the hell of war.

They do things a little different here than in the states. I mean in regards to fighting tactics. This seems to be a war of hand grenades and the boys put a lot of faith in them. The Jap grenades are different from ours. They pull the pin, knock them against their helmet and listen for them to start ticking or something before they throw them. All we have to do with ours is pull the pin, count two and throw. The Japs have been known to steal ours and do the same thing with them as their own gernades. Too bad that they are killed before they learn their mistake.

They planted a Jap the other day. Here are a few of the corny lines I wrote.

No salute was fired over his grave. A chaplain bowed in simple prayer. He only asked that though men hate, God remember he is there.

May 16: Although it’s only 2 PM I have made a half pound today ($1.60). I always feel a little better when business is good. I went to the river early this morning and did a washing for a fellow. I have to stand waist deep and scrub the clothes on a log. I will be able to send you a pretty nice money order one of these days.

The tent had something to talk about last night. A fellow fresh from the states took his rifle and went boar-hunting in the hills. It was pretty warm and he decided to take a swim in one of the deep mountain pools. His heart must have went bad for the poor fellow went down like a rock. One of the fellows from the tent was back there and helped pack him out. I feel sorry for his folks.

What grand weather we are having. In spite of the sun’s heat it seems like fall. There seems to be that purple haze that comes only with fall. I remember how I used to enjoy the fall season at Northville. Editor’s Note: Northville Downs? Perhaps it was because of the hunt meet that was held in the fall.

I had to stop writing to cut some more hair. I made another half pound while I was away.

It’s nearly time for me to start frying bacon. I am afraid that bacon and coffee will just about make up the menu tonight. Oh Yes! We have a can of pineapple. Now that the rain has let up I sometimes think I love it here. You know I always did live an outdoor life and this is right up my ally. There is only one thing I miss. When ever the boys get into a fight or an argument I have to keep out. Being a barber makes it necessary to keep out of such things.

May 17: It’s two PM and I have made a pound and two ($3.52) so far today. That’s not such big money for back home, but it’s darned nice for this country. You will pardon me for telling you my earnings each day, but it makes news. I find it hard to dig up things to write about.

There are a few clouds in the sky and it may rain. We could stand a little rain. I am sleepy this afternoon, but it’s too hot for a nap. Some of the fellows sleep right in the sun. Not for me; anyway the flies would drive me wild.

I have at last found out that Pensive won the Derby. He sounds like a horse that belongs to Mrs. Whitney, but I am not sure. Would I love to see a good horse race or else just go riding with you. That would be fun.

It seems strange to go on day after day with no mail from you. I imagine so many things that could happen and I wonder where you are and what you are doing. When I reach the outfit I’ll have mail waiting. I better have. I suppose Edith must be growing into a big baby by now. Is she old enough to smile? She is going to be a darned big baby by the time I come home. At the most I have less than sixteen months to go before I am eligible to come home. I guess we can wait that long. When you come down to it time goes by so fast that sixteen months will slide by before we know it. Perhaps you can fill your time with voice lessons. You can afford it and it would please me. Darling, do anything that will make you happy and look forward to Christmas. I am going to send your mother seventy-five dollars and she will buy your gift. I know you are going to like it. Here I am thinking of Christmas in the middle of May. Over here the seasons come and go with very little change. It might rain a little more at one time, but aside from that it is pretty much the same. Plants can grow and die of old age.

Sargent Stanley (the one in the picture with me) is throwing a knife into a coconut tree. He spends hours throwing a knife. He is pretty good at it too. We do anything to kill time here. Some of the fellows have made all sorts of jewelry with coins. They cut them in strips, sand them smooth, and make chains. Many a girl back home will get some jewelry for Christmas made out of florins.

Editor’s Note: May 18, 1944 the Admiralty Islands Campaign officially ended

May 19:  I didn’t write yesterday. I started to write a lot of letters and by the time I finished one to Laura Marie I was through for the day. It is easy to write long letters to people who do not hear from me very often. There seems so much news to tell them.

Wish you had been here for dinner last night. I would teach you a little about jungle cooking. I broke three eggs in a helmet, put in powdered milk, baking powder, sugar, salt, flour and water. Into this batter I put a canteen cup of chopped pineapple and half a cup of sliced apples. I fried it in cakes and served them hot with plenty of butter and sugar and were they good.

I have done a good stroke of business this morning. I bet three pounds ($9.60) that Mt. Vesuvius was in Italy. I have found the proof and now I’ll collect my bet. Do you know how much money I am spending? In the last three weeks I have spent nine pence. I had to buy a bar of soap and a box of cookies. When I send the next money order I’ll send it to Elizabeth.In case you have left Alexandria she will be able to cash it and mail it to you.

Do you get a letter from me nearly every day? I think you will receive them more often than they reach me. Mail going to the states seems to move  fairly fast. I hope it reaches you on time as I wouldn’t want you to worry.

I told you that Phil M. was no longer with us. Reports have drifted in that his outfit took some island, but I don’t dare tell you what outfit he is in and I am not sure that report was true. I pray he is all right wherever he is.

Editor’s Note: I think he is referring to Los Negros Island. There is a u-tube video about the attack of this island. I haven’t yet figured out how to embed video into the blog so if interested you will have to find it on your own.

John A and I were going to take a plane trip today, but things happened to make it impossible. We can take off for different places as long as the plane isn’t on a mission. One of our buddies has been going to ____________every afternoon. It’s about a 300 mile round trip. I think there is a kid here from Bellaire that flies a bomber and if it’s possible I would like to go on a mission with him. It’s not so very dangerous and if your number is up you will get it anyway. I am not to afraid of any thing but a beach head and I would hate that.

The wind blew pretty hard last night and the falling coconuts made it almost unsafe to be outside the tent. It’s cool today for a change. I would like to take a nap but the flies are too bad. I could put up my jungle hammock, but it’s too much trouble.

May 24: It’s a pretty warm day. I have taken all my clothes out of my barracks bag and letting the sun dry them out. If you do not do that every so often they will rot from mildew. My extra pair of boots were covered with a blue mold. I  have to wash clothes about three times a week and sometimes that isn’t enough. I threw most of my clothes away. Rather, I just turned them into the supply room. I have two pairs of shorts and no under shirts. Have lots of socks and that’s what you need over here. The army issued me some jungle socks that are the best I have ever seen. Reminds me of “Interwoven” and I used to pay a dollar a pair for them.

So far today I have made $3.84 and that’s been the best ever. Some of the officers have been coming down for haircuts. I have had four of them in the past two days. I am working towards being troop barber. I am troop barber here and have no details what so ever.

Remember Baker? I wore his pants to your wedding. I expect to see him any day. Thompson, another fellow I took basic training with, is here. I guess there are about four of us from the old troop back at the Flats.

You know I like it here. There is something about it that hits the spot. Without a doubt I will get sick of it in time, but it’s nice to not hate it at the start. I am slowly getting used to not hearing from you. At first I was pretty worried, but I soon saw it wouldn’t do. So I try not to think of you too much.

It seems so much like fall. I wouldn’t say that to anyone here because they would laugh, but it’s so just the same. When I have to get up during the night and the air feels so cool and the stars are so bright I find myself listening for a dog to bark. Those would be good nights to hunt a coon.

I read the Bible much more than usual. I pray a little harder too. I always read it by flashlight just before I hop into bed. Another thing that I do that I never thought of doing before is play solitaire. I beat the game two or three times so you know I play a lot.

May 30:  I have been a busy man today. It rained and I have spent the day hemming towels. Starting Monday my customers will get their necks shaved, hair tonic, oil or a shampoo. It’s going to be a pretty classy shop and if I wanted to I guess I could put it in the Red Cross Club. If I did that I would put a part of my earnings in the company fund and I wouldn’t like that.

A year ago today you came down to Champaign. I can remember what a beautiful morning it was and how I waited for so long at the bus station. You were worth waiting for.

I didn’t sleep very well last night. About every second night I dream that I am fighting Japs. For some reason, I hardly dream about you. I am glad about that because it’s hell to wake up and find out it was only a dream.

I have a mouse that has made his home in a box here in the tent. Last night he fell into a helmet of water and was darned near finished. When I fished him out the ornery varmint tried to bite me for my troubles. He is strictly a native mouse and his hind feet are long and pink. They have some rats over here that reach two feet.

 

Letters To My Mother From WWII: April 11-27, 1944

Max the boy

April 11-27, 1944

April 11:  Just to prove that I am a barber I cut the First Sargent’s hair this morning.  From now on I guess I will have the trade of the whole company. Right now I am too busy to look for much trade outside the company. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to know that I wasn’t wrong on my hunch.

Talk about dreams. I sure had one last night. I dreamed that we owned Man O’ War and we were going to race him. You were supposed to be taking care of him, but all you would do was lie in bed. It made me mad. So I stayed in bed with you and we just looked at the old horse and figured up how much money we would win.

April 13: I only have two short candles and they are flickering pretty bad, but I will try to write a letter. I have been writing to you in the morning and never feel like writing then. I “goofed off” from work tonight. That is the reason I am home. Editor’s Note: He calls his tent home.

I wish you could have been with me this afternoon. I tried to hire a Native to go back in the bush for bananas. He didn’t seem to know where he could find any so I gave a shilling (nearly a weeks wages for him) and had him get me some coconuts. He went up into a tree and threw down seven. They were extra good, the meat was still soft. I never care for them once they are hard. The payoff came when I showed him how I could take out my teeth. I made a face, pulled hard and I guess the poor fellow thought I had pulled my jaw out. There were several Natives there and I had to pull them out several times. They made all kinds of faces and tried to pull their own out. When I pretended as though I would pull their teeth out for them you should have seen them scatter. Can you imagine your husband entertaining a bunch of Natives by pulling out his teeth? I guess you can. This would be so much fun if only you were along.

Would you like to know what we have to eat? We get a lot of corned beef, diced carrots, salmon, C. ration hash, apples, potatoes, lemon drink and bread and butter. I love the corned beef, potatoes, and bread, but don’t you think for a second I don’t eat pretty good. Tonight I had three cans of pineapple. For lunch I had some canned chicken. I am with a good bunch and we are all hustlers when it comes to the question of something to eat.

Right now I am out of Air Mail envelopes and lack a half pound to get them with. I loaned a fellow a couple of pounds and will get it back payday. It takes a long time to earn a pound. To be exact it takes twenty hair cuts to make a pound.

A fellow just came back from the post office. He had been sorting mail. There wasn’t any for me. Oh well, there isn’t anything I can do about it.

Easter Sunday: I didn’t have to work last night. I feel fairly fresh this morning. I have been to church and I will say that we had some crowd and a wonderful service. A little later I am going to go swimming, write to mom, and spend the rest of the day in ease.

I suppose you have read what the First Cavalry has been doing in this part of the world. Although they were dismounted they proved to the world that the cavalry can take it as well as dish it out. Editor’s Note:  I think he is referring to February 1944 when the First Cavalry was moved from Australia to New Guinea to stage for the Admiralties Campaign and experienced their first combat in the Admiralty Islands.

I look for the war to end before Christmas. That is MY idea of it and I hope I am right. I think the Germans will toss in the towel during the summer and the Japs will not be far behind. It would make a nice Christmas gift.

April 15:  This is just to tell you a good joke I heard tonight. I have never kicked on the chow here, but this story comes pretty close. It seems that there was a starving Jap around here and in order to get food he stole an American Uniform and got in our chow line. He resembled a Filipino and so they didn’t spot him. They never would have caught him, but he came back for seconds.

This has been one of the most interesting days I have had. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that I talked to an American girl today.  Editor’s Note: A note in the margin dated Oct 5, 1957 said her name was Mary Spaulding.  She was a Red Cross girl and I helped her pack a lot of clothes in a box that she was going to ship. I never thought the day would come when I would talk with an American girl. I told her all about you, our baby and everything else. She was lonesome for her home too.

Another interesting person I met today was a Native who can speak English. He can not only speak English, but he can read and write simple words. He was educated at a Catholic Mission and told me that his sister was going to school. We spent two hours doing nothing more than writing words. He has a whole notebook filled with words, songs, and simple problems. He calls this his school. He can sing songs such as”You Are My Sunshine”, “Good-By Little Darling”, and “She Will Be Coming Around The Mountain.” He had a deck of cards and I played several card tricks for him. In the end he pulled as good a card trick on me as I have seen. For my lunch he fixed me a pot of coffee, bread, and I had a can of pineapple juice.

April 17: I have been watching my ants. In another letter I told you about their home just outside my tent. All afternoon they have been bringing eggs from a hollow log about a hundred feet away. They sure are a busy bunch and it is fun to watch them.

April 18: My plans last night did not turn out. Oh well, I like it here and as far as I am concerned they can leave me here for the duration. They try to send the fellows back to the states as soon as they have put in 18 months over here. I think the war will be over then, but it’s nice to think that in seventeen months I’ll be ready to come home. Seventeen months will not be too long will it?

A great big lizard came through our tent. One of the fellows killed him. He was over two feet long. Be nice to put your feet on at night.

If you ever have a chance to buy a couple of cigarette lighters, do it, and send them to me. Get good ones even if you have to pay five or six dollars for them and be sure to let me know how much they cost. I can sell them at a profit that would take your breath away. These fellows have money and very little to buy with it.

April 21, Letter 1: I will start out by telling you about a hike I took yesterday. Another fellow and I had been planning on following a creek that comes down from the hills. Yesterday seemed like a good day, so we started right after breakfast and took a lunch with us. For a few miles the going was fairly easy, but once we reached the hills we found that the creek came almost straight down in a series of falls. We climbed over rocks as large as a house, we pulled ourselves up with vines and edged our way along cliffs where a fall would have been. too bad. After several hours of climbing we reached a rocky gorge that was only about six feet wide and with walls at least a hundred feet high. We could hear the sound of falling water back in this gorge, so we pulled off our clothes and waded in. After following it back a couple hundred feet we came to a dead-end. Here, into a basin worn into solid rock we found the falls. You can never imagine how beautiful that water looked as it fell down a hundred feet into this pool. We took a swim and tried in vain to stand under the falls. Later we started home, found a valley full of pineapple plants, picked eight of them and got home so tired I could hardly stand.

My buddy, John A. Harrison, entered your picture in a pin-up contest. He is bound it will win. If it wins your picture will no doubt be in the Yank Magazine and every soldier from Al Sender to Joe Blo will see it. Editor’s Note: Google Yank Magazine. There are issues on-line.

I run around with three fellows: Phil M Domer who is a school teacher in Indiana, married and has two children, a fellow we call Bull Durham, and John A. Harrison. John A is from Pittsburgh and is a trotting horse trainer. Although he is a young fellow he had good luck with a couple of horses. Although these fellows were at Riley I never met them until we got to California. We were together on the boat and it looks like we will be together for some time.

I received a couple of letters from mom, but no mail from you. Sure hope I get a letter today.

April 21, Letter 2: Let’s have a little talk before I go to bed. I have passed up the movies to write to you tonight. For some reason or other you seem closer to me tonight than any time since I have been away. I shut my eyes and hear you laughing and it’s a nice sound.

Phil and John are writing; Durham is in the midst of some blood and thunder story and the tent looks very nice with the glow from our candles. I have some butterscotch candy that is pretty good to chew on. I saw a very funny show the other night “True to Life.” If you haven’t seen it yet, try to if it’s still showing.

This will make you laugh. Over here where there is nothing but the male sex everything is called sexy. If you ask any one their opinion of anything the answer is bound to be “pretty sexy.” It always strikes me as being funny.

I remember Saturday August first and we went to Joe’s Cafe that night. That was the night I decided to marry you. Exactly thirty-five million, six hundred eighty-three thousand, two hundred seconds later we were married. I worked as fast as I could.

Did you ever read “Arrowsmith?” I read it for the second time. It is an extra good book to my way of thinking.

The past two nights have been bad ones as far as sleep is concerned. I am now in a tent by the side of the road. “Oh give me a house by the side of the road where the race of men go by.”  Editor’s Note: The poet is Sam Walter Foss. This is what I say: They gave me a tent by the side of the road where all the trucks race by. The only advantage to it is I am within walking distance of the latrine. I do not share the same tent with the other boys, however, I am always down here and only go to my tent to sleep.

The Sargent was broken-hearted because I took off for the hills yesterday. In fact he had planned a nice detail for my yesterday and then he couldn’t find me. He came into my tent with vengeance in his heart. With tears in my eyes, I explained that it was all a horrible mistake that would never be made again. It takes a lot of soft soap to get by here.

I have been reading the Bible every day. At last I have a genuine feeling for Paul. Until now I never could see the beauty of his letters and the sincerity of his faith. I always had him pictured as a Jew who played too strongly on his Roman citizenship. In spite of the fact that I always liked History I have had trouble with some of her characters. It seems so many of them do not fit on their proper place. Just think, Flip, your husband is now making History. At least I am a small part of a movement that will be studied a thousand years from now. Remember the song “I don’t want to make history, I just want to make love?” That is the way I feel about it.

April 23, Letter 1: I am mailing you a locket this morning. It was the prize for the Casual Company’s pin-up girl. It just happens that you won the pin-up contest by 20 votes. I had to give a speech. All I said was “You will always be my favorite pin-up girl. The locket is hand-made and you will notice it is made from a Florin.

I spent all of yesterday back in my swimming pool. It took two hours to climb up there, but you should have seen us come back. We slid over waterfalls, swam downstream, and surprised a native girl who was making baskets. It’s a wonder we didn’t break our fool necks.

April 23, Letter 2:  I wrote to you this morning and now I find myself writing to you again. I wanted to read some history this afternoon, but I couldn’t find anything down at the Red Cross Club. If I ever get stationed someplace where I feel sure I’ll be there for some tome I’ll have you send me a history book. Just now I do not want any more stuff than I have because I am waiting shipment and everything is in the way.

I keep most of my things in my barracks bag. My Bible lies on the ground beneath my bunk and my toilet equipment is all in a little cloth bag that can be found hanging on a nail. My clean clothes are all kept in a bag and I use it for a pillow. It’s not the best pillow in the world, but it serves the purpose.

Tomorrow I am going to see about glasses. I seem to be able to see all right. In fact I think I can see extra good, but I notice that the pupil of the left eye has a shattered appearance and I squint so much. I wouldn’t want to have anything happen to my eyes. The sun seems extra bright over here.

I wish that I could go from here to the European Theater of war and then come home by the way of London. It would be sort of nice to have been all the way around the world. Funny, but the Army will not let us pick our spots.

I have two pounds saved his month. That means I’ll be able to send you at least thirty-six  dollars this month. I want you to send thirteen of it to a fellow that I owe and you will be able to keep the balance towards the set of dishes. That will give you about forty dollars. I want you to have a good set no matter what the cost and then we will work on the silver. I think we should be able to pay at least seventy-five dollars towards your college debt before the end of this year, can we?I don’t want to be too far behind when the war ends.

I have decided that the best thing to do is to buy a thoroughbred mare as soon as the war ends and have her bred to Stormsend.  That way I’ll have a colt coming that I will be able to sell or trade towards a horse that is in training. If the colt looks good we will race him ourselves. Stormsend is a young sire standing at Michigan State College. As a two-year old he was trained in New York by one of the leading trainers and won a few races. He is a well-bred horse and sired by Hardtack. Hardtack was the sire of Seabiscuit and this blood should cross fairly well with a mare in the Sir Galahad family. Oh yes, Man O’War sired Hardtack, so you can see such a bred colt would be tops. I think we should be able to buy the mare for one hundred-fifty.

I had to take time out to cut a fellow.s hair. That’s the trouble with being company barber. Any time a fellow wants a hair cut you have to drop whatever you are doing. As long as I can make a little at it I will keep trying.

Have your folks decided to spend their vacation in Bellaire? If they don’t why don’t you stay up there. It would do you good and there are plenty of places to swim. I don’t want to hear of you working before fall and I would just as soon you didn’t then. I feel I can support my wife, however, you have your own life to lead while I am away and I want you to do whatever will keep you happy. The main thing is to keep happy and don’t get into a rut. I find it hard to stick it out over here. Sometimes I feel as though it’s foolish to dream of a future, but Flip that’s the only thing we can do. Perhaps the war will soon end. I still have hopes.

I was down at the Red Cross Club this afternoon and all the girls spoke to me and complimented me on having such a beautiful wife. You sure carried off the election in a big way. Your picture was mounted on a board with thirty others and beneath your picture was printed “Flip.” I kept quiet and just watched the boys as they looked over the pictures. Wish you could have heard all the pretty things they said about you. I was a proud sort of guy.

April 23, Letter 3:  I went to the show with the boys, but didn’t stay. I didn’t like the picture “Heavenly Body.” It may be a good show, but I couldn’t see it.

It’s my third letter to you today. At this rate I’ll go broke buying stamps.

It rained a good deal today. I don’t mind the rain because it cools things off. This is a darned hop place when the sun is out. At high noon my tent is pretty warm. I was unlucky and drew a place close to the outside edge of the tent to set my cot up. It’s nice at night because you can look at the stars, but during the day you are close to the canvas and that makes it extra warm.

We had some California grapes for chow. Were they ever good. I used to have a friend in California who was a grape cutter. He used to go to the market with me nd show me what grapes to buy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letters To My Mother From WWII: March 1944

Letters To My Mother From WWII: March 1944

Introduction

During 1944 and 1945 my father, Private Max M. Ellison, almost daily wrote to my mother, Florence Norton Ellison. Just before mom’s death she gave these letters to my younger sister Maggie and asked that they be destroyed. Fortunately Maggie  ignored the request and passed them on to me. I put them in the back of a closet and pretty much forgot about them for several years.  I guess “spring cleaning” has its rewards because I found the dusty old box and I am now beginning the process of reading and recording.  Since I am new to blogging be prepared for the unintended goofs and mistakes of a newbie.

I know very little about dad’s war years. He was in the 7th Cavalry Regiment, General Custer’s regiment. He trained on horses, and I doubt they were ever used in the Pacific Theater where he was stationed. He liked to say that in WWII the 7th Cavalry finally won back the colors that General Custer lost at the Battle of Little Big Horn. He was wounded three times, awarded Purple Hearts, and I think he suffered from battle fatigue. As a kid I knew not to suddenly wake him from a deep sleep because he might wake up swinging himself out of a foxhole. The rest of his years at war are unknown to me. I was born in February 1944 and I don’t think he met me until I was about two years old. I knew my dad as a pig farmer, a writer of poems, and a teller of stories, but not as a warrior.

As I record these letters I will edit out those parts that are too personal. At a later date I will scan all the letters and pass them on to my family.

March 1944

Date Unknown: This ship has its ups and downs. A fellow in my cabin is still sick and we have been on the water nearly four days.. I can tell you a little about the ship. She is 632 ft long and 82 ft wide. In peace times my cabin would cost $387.00 one way. I guess I wouldn’t have to share it with so many. It is pretty warm out on the deck and I would give a good deal to know our exact location. Last night I watched the moon come up and stayed on the deck until almost 10. I do not like v-mail but it is all I can find here.

Date Unknown: Shaving seems to be the major problem each day. For that we use salt water (there is a lot of it) and it’s impossible to make the soap lather. I always keep clean but my face is pretty salty now.

I have seen several birds, loads of flying fish, but no whales. There have been several birds that followed us for a while. A large Albatross followed us for a couple of days. At times there were even smaller birds that made me think we were close to islands. It has been a swell trip with nothing lacking, but I’ll tell you all about it when I come home.

March 10: It is very warm out tonight. It was so warm this afternoon that I managed a sun bath. I am enjoying this trip very much. I hate to see it end and for more reasons than one. I spend a lot of time looking out over the water in hopes I see a whale. It would be a thrill to see one and you bet that I would yell out “There she blows” or “Down goes flukes.” All this reminds me that I would like to buy you a riding whip with a whale bone handle.

March 12: I am going to sleep on the deck tonight. It is pretty hot down here in my room and it’s fairly warm on deck. At night we all go up on deck and sing. We can’t show a light and of course it’s very dark. Last night it was cloudy and you could hardly see.

March 13: I have so much to tell you. When I get home we will sure have a lot to tell each other. I am not home yet and I have a long way to go before then. I am not afraid-at least not too afraid.

March 14: I have been watching some birds. I do not know what kind they are but they are small and it makes me think that we might be close to some island. One day a huge bird followed the ship for several hours. What a large fellow he was and how he could fly. I  have an idea that he was a Cormorant and I am anxious to find out for sure. I have not seen a whale and if I don’t see one I will be plenty mad.

By this time you will have an idea that I have left the states. I write every day and they go out as soon as the ship docks. I would send them air mail but can’t get any air mail stamps. It is a hell of a job to write on a ship. It has the smooth motion of a horse in a nice easy cantor.

They told us that we just crossed the equator. No wonder it has been hot around here.

March 15: Hot – we call a hard candy bar, one that we don’t have to lick out of its wrapper. This weather was made to suit your husband and I wish we had a home right here on the equator. I even have an idea that I will enjoy the islands, that is, if I am going there. I have no idea where I am going. Last night I looked for the North Star. It has gone and I will not see it again for some time. I can’t make out the Southern Cross as yet.

How is my little sweetheart Sandy today? Is she a good girl or does she cry all the time?  It’s so funny that I am a father and have never seen my child. EDITOR’S NOTE: So far my father has received only a brief wire about my birth. The mail from home has not caught up with him and he is unaware that my mother named me Edith after her own mother and not Sandra, the girl’s name they had earlier decided upon.

They feed us good. I was surprised to find that we get such things as chicken, ice cream etc. You know how I love potatoes that have been boiled. We get them three times a day.

Writing this letter is a hell of a job. I have the paper on the deck and I must look like a dog with a bone. I am not lonesome. I miss you but I could never be lonesome while travelling. I’ll be plenty glad when it’s over and you and I can be together. For now I am off to reconnoiter the mess hall.

March 17: It is nice and cool here on the deck. We are going to have a rain pretty soon and  I wish you could see the sky. It is so black and these tropical rains move in like a wall of water.

I know where I am going. Too bad I can’t tell you. Perhaps they will let me write it once I am there. If any one asks you where your husband is you can tell them he is in the southern hemisphere.

Last night I stood on the deck and saw the Big Dipper at the top of its swing around the North Star. It was just above the horizon and that was all. Of course the North Star has gone and it made me feel very lonesome. I thought of a lot of things – my childhood, you and Sandy and went to sleep with a smile.

I am having a tough time with my knife. It rusts right in my pocket. If I can ever get some oil I will keep it oiled. I am going to buy a larger knife to hang on my belt.

March 23: I suspect that we are nearly there. The whole trip has been very enjoyable and I wasn’t sick. Just between you and me there is a lot of ocean. While on the boat I have had the chance to do a lot of reading and writing letters. I am tired of both of them and plenty anxious to see land.

March 26: Here I am in New Guinea and the funny part of it is I seem to like it. Of course we have our share of mud, rain, and the heat is pretty bad. There are so many good points that I cannot kick. EDITOR’S NOTE: A note written in crayon by my mother states he is in Milne Bay New Guinea. A google search reveals that the Battle of Milne Bay, August 25-Sept 7, 1942 was the first defeat suffered by the Japanese land forces during the war in the Pacific and prevented them from establishing a base at the eastern tip of New Guinea.

The swimming alone is worth the trip over. The weather is smooth and clear and best of all it is warm. I am going to try to do more of it that I have done in the past. I have not been in the jungle yet. It’s all around and they tell me that there are pineapples and bananas back there. It looks pretty dense and for the time being I will stick to the coconuts that are much easier to get. In fact I have had the milk from two of them.

I have seen a few native men. They sure don’t go in for clothing. We are not allowed to touch the women and I for one wouldn’t want to. I am going to try to have my picture taken standing beside one and send it to your dad. The less clothes she has on the better picture it will be. EDITOR’S NOTE: The “dad”  being referred to was my grandfather the Rev. P.Ray Norton, Methodist minister. My grandfather would have gotten a chuckle out of such a picture but my grandmother would have had the opposite reaction.

I have no doubts in my mind about what is ahead. It will be tough going, but it will be just as tough for you. We will both get lonesome, but I think both of us can take it.

I am going to be pretty busy. From now on I will have more hair to cut. I charge one Florin, that is 32 cents in American money. I will be able to send you money as I have no need of it here. There seems to be nothing to buy. The food is good, the bread is swell and just like home-made bread.

On the boat I ran into a man I used to know in Lexington. He was sure surprised to see me.

March 27: It is raining this afternoon. Another fellow and I were going back in the brush in search of a pineapple, but it’s too wet. I am anxious to have a look at a real jungle.

Here is some news – For my first time I went to a movie last night. I got a big laugh out of “My Kingdom for a Cook.” I didn’t want to read by candle light and it seemed so nice to sit on a log and watch the show. Now that I have started I will go plenty often.

I washed clothes for a fellow this morning. He gave me a Florin (32 cents). I have been thinking that I may make enough to pay on your college debt. I am anxious to get that out-of-the-way. As soon as I get paid I will send you a money order. Here is what you have to do to get the extra thirty dollars for baby Sandra. Send her birth certificate to the same address your checks come from. You had better give them my address. You will receive all the back pay. If you hurry you will get the money before you go to Bellaire. I want you to have a good time up there with plenty of money to spend. I want to be sure that the old home town suspects what I know; that I married the cream of the crop.

I had a dream last night that was a heller. You, Sandy, and I were on a troop ship and guess who had charge of the ship? It was none other than Stalin. We just kept going back and forth over the ocean.

I pray this war will soon end. In the meantime we will have to work hard and look towards the future. I will come home and we will have our own home and our life ahead of us. It’s going to be pretty swell darling, so when things go bad just smile and wait for me.

March 28: Yesterday I went into the jungle or brush as it is called here. It was beautiful. In fact I have never seen such beauty. I found a flower that would look nice on your purple dress. It was shaped like this  (EDITOR’S NOTE: the small flower drawing was censored and cut out of the page) – the upper part was white and looked as though it had been made of wax. The tiny flower at the bottom was yellow. For a long time we followed a trail that led straight into the clouds. It was hot climbing and the brush and vines seemed to press in on you. We reached a peak that gave us a grand view. From there we started down the other side. It was straight down and we had to go down by hanging on vines and trees. At the bottom we found a tiny stream of clear water that fell over rocks and slid into deep pools. We had a swim in one of the pools. The water was neck-deep and the walls and bottom of the pool were solid rock. Can you imagine the fun of swimming under water in such a place? We followed the stream and had great fun watching the fish, lizards, and a flock of white birds. An old-timer at camp told us that we walked through some great snake country and should never have gone without a knife.

You would love our service club. It is rustic to the last degree. It has a thatched  roof and open on all sides and ends. It’s cool and nice.

There are lots of varmints here, bugs, spiders, scorpions, and I have seen only one mosquito. I sleep under a net each night because it only takes one to give you malaria. When you get up in the morning you knock your shoes out in case some varmint spent the night in them.

March 30: Yesterday was one of those days when I was on guard and very busy. The fellows go for cavalry boots. I honestly think I could get $22.40  for one pair of mine. Don’t be too surprised if I should let them go. The less clothes you have the better off you are. They get in the way. The best is to have little and keep it clean. You would be surprised to know how my wardrobe has shrunk; two pair of fatigues and a dress uniform.

It’s fun to watch them yank a coconut palm out of the ground. They simply put a chain around it and fasten the chain to a trunk. I find that the best way to get coconuts. However, the other night I saw them pull down a tree and I made a run for the spoils. I was so anxious I jumped right into the fronds and for the next two hours I was busy picking varmints off my body.

Each palm seems to be the home of a certain kind of bird. They sing at sundown and sun up and what a song they have. It sounds like a cross between a bull frog and a dove. I have seen only one bird that I knew for sure what it was – a crow. We have a rooster here who is either going to mend his ways or I’ll give him a hot foot. He sounds his clarion call outside my tent about five each morning.  There also is a pig that wanders around here at times. He is lame in one foot and looks the part of inbreeding. I imagine some native owns him. They tell us that if you pay a native too much he gets a pig and a wife and heads for the bush. If I should ever want to plot the poor pigs downfall I’ll simply give some native a couple of pounds.

I sometimes wonder what the natives think of us. I’ll bet they think we are a bunch of fools. We will fight and work and when it’s all over we will go home and the natives will live on in terms of pigs and a wife or two.

March 31: It is sometimes hard to think of something to tell you. There are lots of things that would be interesting to you, but they might be equally interesting to the enemy and so will have to go untold.

We have had a lot of rain. It is pretty muddy around here. My tent is standing. It is pretty good even if I did have a small stream flowing beneath my cot last night. Even though it rains the weather is still warm and you never mind it even if the clothes are damp.

Remember the Bible you gave me? What a mess that is. The man in charge of the binding must have been drunk. The pages are all mixed up and the books start and end any place. I got a big laugh out of it when I found just how bad it was. I have a Bible here that I bought at the PX for 49 cents.

Ever since I nave been here I have heard the sounds of little hammers. It seemed that every tent I passed had someone hammering away. I wondered what they were doing, but didn’t want to show my ignorance by asking. I found out this morning they are making rings. They take a Florin coin and hammer out a ring. They look pretty nice and I may try my luck at it.

I manage to keep up with the news. The other night I listened to a broadcast from Sidney. They were talking about a certain race and what horse was expected to win. Tell me what horse is the favorite for the Derby this year, that is if you should happen to read it in the paper.