February 13th, 1946

Vernald Mackliet received an honorable discharge from the military service of the United States of America, 5 weeks after his last “post”.  He received the following decorations and citations:

Victory Medal
European African Middle Eastern Service Medal
Good Conduct Medal


At some unknown later date, the following “form” letter was received:

Sergeant Vernald E Mackliet

To you who answered the call of your
country and served in its Armed
forces to bring about the total defeat of
the enemy, I extend the heartfelt thanks of
a grateful Nation.  As one of the Nation’s
finest, you undertook the most severe
task one can be called upon to perform.
Because you demonstrated the forti-
tude, resourcefulness and calm judgement
necessary to carry out that task, we now
look to you for leadership and example
in further exalting our country in peace.

   Harry Truman

   The White House

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

“Mr.” Mackliet!!—-Can You Imagine That?

January 6th, 1946

Tomorrow is the day!  Monday, Jan. 7th—also it marks completion of 2 ½ years’ service overseas for me.  We have been extremely busy today—fixing up our French “40 and 8” boxcar so that it is in a livable condition.  It seems likely that we will go to one of these two ports:  either Le Havre or Antwerp.  The journey from Erding to either of these ports will require three days and two nights, including delays and stopovers.  All day we have been working on the car: “weather-stripping” the walls and floor, building six triple-decker wooden bunks, spraying and powdering the thing with DDT insecticide, putting in a couple of plexiglass windows, setting up a pot-bellied stove, rounding up wood and coal (such as there is), obtaining water, K ration and toilet tissue, and such stuff as that.  No other railroad system can make that statement!  My being car chief gave me additional work.  Also I have had my records completed, and have just finished packing my duffle bag (had to throw a lot of junk away).  Also washed out all my dirty clothes, as this may be my last opportunity this side of the states.

The 26th S.C.U. is losing seven men on this shipment.  Nearly 500 are leaving from all of Erding.  We’ll be getting up early tomorrow, for we must get our baggage down to the train and be ready to go at 8:00 a.m.  Actually, the train will pull out between nine and ten o’clock, judging from past performances.

Needless to say, this is my last post from the ETO.

Now I warn you: I can’t be expected home before a reasonable date!  Bear in mind all the complications that come up in a long trip of this kind, and remember how far away I am from Spokane.  I suppose some will want some idea of how long it’s going to take—I can only give my own personal guess, and that is: from Erding to Spokane, anything between three and five weeks.  There is no standard time for these trips—different shipments vary.  Just for the fun of it, I’ll compromise my estimates above and guess that I arrive in Spokane a civilian one month from tomorrow.

We are due at the port on the 10th—then we start sweating out a ship.  We may stay there from three or four days to two weeks or more, waiting.  Some boats are faster than others, so the ocean trip itself will probably require from five to twelve days.  Landing in the states, I will likely be at a reception camp in the New York or Boston area for a couple of days.  The transcontinental train-ride to the West Coast will take up another five days or so.  I understand that my actual discharge will be handled at Fort Lewis, Washington.  Figure a couple of days there, and another day to get to Spokane.

I mailed a parcel containing my camera, a book, and some very valuable underwear yesterday.  I hope Mom and Dad are on the lookout for it.

“Mr.” Mackliet!!—-can you imagine that?

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

You’d Be Surprised How Much Food Could Disappear That Way!

December 9th, 1945

I recently sent some pictures home; they are the first of some odds and ends that I must clear out in the next couple of weeks—it’s a long haul from Germany to Spokane! The Army encourages us to carry only the barest essentials. I won’t have too much trouble in that respect, as I am not as great an accumulator of “stuff and junk” as most GI’s.

One picture I enclosed was a flattering view of Munich —it isn’t in as good condition as it appears. Only a place like that could keep us at a place like this on our days-off!

Bavaria is in the icy grip of sub-zero weather now, and we’re freezing our big ears off. It hasn’t been warmer than 15-20 above (I’d guess) the last two days; yes sir, the thermometer has taken a nosedive. We have about five inches of snow with some ice under it. The only enjoyment the Krauts have had since V-Day is watching the victorious American supermen slip on the ice and snow and come crashing down on their well-fed posteriors! (Unlike most GI’s, I’m getting to hate these people more every day I’m here. I suppose some will say that Germany is the cleanest, most modern country in Europe and that the Germans are a wonderful, if somewhat misunderstood people. Bah! They ought to take them all out and shoot them.)

I received letters from home on Nov. 17th and 20th. It looks like Mom and Dad were getting just a little ahead of me concerning this redeployment situation. I hope they don’t think I would start on my way home without telling them. I’m approximately 7,500 miles from Washington. The entire journey may take a month or so after I leave Erding, counting the stops and layovers that can easily occur. To go from here to a port on the Atlantic coast of France takes several days of tiresome, uncomfortable traveling in boxcars going along at about 15 m.p.h. And contrary to the impression fostered by the movies and newspapers, most GI’s do not sail on large luxury liners but on Liberty and Victory ships and assorted banana boats, also making about 15 m.p.h.!! Ha Ha! Those are the conditions that prevail, as Jimmy Durante has said.

Let’s drop that subject for a minute. The U.S. Army, as you may have heard, has thousands of Germans on the payroll now, and more are being hired every day. German women work in nearly all Army mess halls—and what a wonderful job that is for a hungry Heinie! Recently a surprise inspection and search was pulled at one of our bases, and it was discovered that only 98% of the German personnel had stolen food concealed on their persons. How do you like that? No rations are allowed for civilian personnel—they eat their meals out of the GI’s rations, and then try to smuggle out everything they can carry. Too bad they’re not built like cows, so that they can eat the stuff and subsequently bring it up and sell it or whatever they do with it! German women workers were searched by WAC’s. Not only were there all kinds of hidden pockets for carrying food, but some women were found with butter smeared on their arms (under sleeves) and other such tricks as that. Many women had hidden food in their bosoms. Zounds! You’d be surprised how much food could disappear that way!—one need not be in Germany long to see that! Well, I must hurry and finish this note; got to go to the mess hall and try to organize a football team of eleven of those frauleins to represent Erding! Our GI’s didn’t win a game this season. P.S.—We Americans are a bunch of easy-going fools. When are we going to get wise to ourselves?

Back in Ireland, after VE-Day, I amassed the staggering total of 48 points, with 85 then required for discharge. Bob says to me, “Will the day ever come when are high-point men?”. I didn’t try for the $64—a bird in the hand, you know. Come VJ-Day and I inveigled an unwilling Army to donate 8 additional points to the cause. And now, on Dec. 9th, I find myself a dyed-in-the-wool-and-a-yard-wide, honest-to-goodness high-pointer—-that I should live so long! Not only that, but the Captain has put my name on the door as NCO i/c (noncommissioned officer in charge). With Bob gone and Herb in Paris, I’m alone in the office. There’s work enough for three men, but who and what am I in charge of? Fortunately, there is a radio in the office, so I don’t become too board.

I’ll end this with a bang: I haven’t been extremely enthusiastic about the prospect of going home after 2 ½ years overseas, have I? I realize that I haven’t, and there is a reason. Since about the middle of October, I have been making inquiries in regard to my being discharged over here and being employed as a civilian by the Civil Service Commission, for duty with the Army. Thousands of men have already done that very thing. The pay is good, far better than what is being paid in the states for similar work. For a fellow who planned to start school next fall but was wondering what to do until that time, it looked like a good chance to make some gelt. Before going to Switzerland, I made formal application for job and salary rating (merely a request for information). The whole thing is at present so snarled up with red tape that I will likely be home before they get around to considering my application.

Actually, I thought I would have an answer by this time; I could then make my decision, leaving with the other 56-pointers if I didn’t like the set-up offered me. If I wished to stay here and find out what action will be taken on my request, I could have my name scratched from the shipment. After some serious thought, I have decided that I will not do that under any circumstances. So, here’s how the matter stands: If I do not hear anything concerning the application up to the day I leave, I will go back to the states in the regular manner. If action is taken by the higher-ups at an earlier date then I anticipate, and if an attractive offer is made to me before the shipping date, there is some chance that I will sign up. In which case I will come home next summer! Simple, eh?

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

Long Underwear Will Be Selling At a Premium

October 2nd, 1945

Brrrr! — after two years in the U.K., I’m no longer used to this kind of climate. Yes indeed, a long, cold winter is in prospect. Long underwear (which most of us seldom wore) will be selling at a premium during these coming months. — Brrrr!

Now that I’ve set the proper mood, I’ll continue: We flew here from Compiegne on Saturday, arriving about noon after a 2 ½ hour, 450-odd-mile trip (over 600 miles by train or truck, actually).

Last Saturday night I dreamed that I was at home. After several hours at W. 703 (it seemed), I casually remarked “By the way, I’m stationed in southern Germany now”. No one seemed the least bit surprised – especially me! We knew we were going to Erding two weeks before we left N.I; the stop-over at Compiegne was an unexpected development, however. And so, Bob, Herb, and I have reached the end of the trail – this should be our last regular assignment in the Army overseas. Any further traveling should now be to the west! All in good time, of course.

Here at the ARC Aero Club, where I am writing this, there is an autographed picture on which the following is inscribed: “To the boys of the 9th Air Force Base Depot – quite a mess, isn’t it? – Jerry Colonna”. Ha! A memento of “Professor” Colonna’s visit to the base – and a more or less accurate description of the situation here as well!

Erding is officially the 9th A.F.B.D. – Air Strip R-91 is also located here. You will find Erding (our depot is on the town’s outskirts) about 35 kilometers (roughly 20 miles) to the northeast of Munich (German spelling: Munchen). Before Germany was unified and federated under Bismark, this area was known as Bavaria. To some extent, it is still known as Bavaria, speaking from a geographic point of view.

I can’t say as yet what this place is going to be like – we are not at all settled down, only partially unpacked. There is lots of room for improving the living conditions. It could be quite a nice camp, if the Army will go to the trouble of fixing it up. The main difficulty at present is the over-crowding — there are three times as may men as can be comfortably accommodated in existing facilities.

Like the U.K. and France, Germany is most attractive in appearance, except for the cities, which are bombed to hell. The smaller towns and villages are in better shape and are very quaint, though lifeless.

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

Hooray For Our Side!

August 16th, 1945

From all appearances, it looks suspiciously like the war is over and peace is here.  There’s a rumor going around to that effect, at any rate.  I’m still wondering when VJ-Day was – or is!  The last two days have been holidays, that’s all I know for sure.  There are few new newspapers and practically no radios – nobody knew nothing!  I’ve never heard of such a thing – the way we have been fumbling round trying to learn what’s going on.  You’d think we were a thousand miles from civilization.  Anyway, hooray for our side!!

Compiegne is as calm and peaceful as ever.  More French people than usual have been strolling around the streets and parks – and that’s the extent of the celebrating here – except that there are more drunks than usual!  All the excitement is in Paris – it’s probably almost as bad as Belfast on VE-Day.

How do you like these French names?  Compiegne is pronounced, roughly – Calm’-pea-ehn’.  The “n” has that French nasal sound – it’s almost silent.  I am living in what was once called the Castel du Rond Royal.  Before the war it was a small second-rate hotel.  The building is located just off the Rond Royal, which is the intersection of the Avenue Royale, the Avenue de Marigny, and the Avenue de la Madeleine.  Now do you know where I am!?

Just in case you think I am living in luxury, I should explain that this is not a hotel now – merely a lot of rooms filled with GI’s.  The Germans were here during the occupation, and between the two of us, the place has been pretty well kicked apart.

I would liked to have gone out and celebrated the victory, but (believe it or not) I have no decent clothing.  My woolen shirts and trousers are well worn-out.  I’m disgusted with the Army for not making it easier to get such things replaced.  I’ve been trying to “salvage” the stuff ever since my last month in Ireland.  With no success!  But I’ll keep trying – perhaps I’ll be here long enough to get some results.

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

A Great Week for News

August 11th, 1945

It’s been a long time since I wrote home.  I hope everyone is okay and that everything at home is hunky-dory.  We three boys have been putting in so much time setting up our office and getting settled down here in France.  I wrote one letter to Mom and Dad, one to Cleon, and one to Jayne upon my arrival here.

It’s been a great week for news.  First the atomic bomb, the power and potentialities of which stagger the imagination.  I only hope that science and the human race as a whole haven’t bitten off more than they can chew with that stuff.

And then the declaration of war by Russia against the Japs.  That gave the boys in the Pacific a shot in the arm!

The last 48-hours has produced the best news of a historic week: the Japs are ready to throw in the towel.  According to the papers and the radio, the war – the whole war – is as good as over!  Peace may come within a day or two.  It’s almost too much to believe.

I am thinking how wonderful it would be to have the war over before Cleon reaches the battle area.  Nothing is more important to me than to have him get out of this safe and sound — as I have been lucky enough to do.  He may be kept in the Navy a good while longer; however, the peace declaration would put him a long step nearer home.

I assume Mom and Dad know better than to expect me home this year.  Peace may be here but it does not immediately affect the set-up I’m in.  We’re going to occupy part of Germany and I’m in on it.  For how long is the question that no one will or can answer right now!

I was so very pleased to hear all the good news from Cleon last Sunday.  Could any of it have been more satisfactory?  Only a year and a month in the Navy and he becomes a second class petty officer (equal to staff sergeant in the Army!) – I’m as proud as if I’d done the thing myself.  He has been competing with some smart, well-educated men and has stayed with them all the way, surpassing many of them.  That kid is strictly alright!  I must hand it to him for the way he went into the Navy and made good.

Well, what do you want to know about France?  It’s the same as England and Ireland, only it’s French and it doesn’t rain as much and as often.  Actually, it’s as dusty around here as a Palouse Country back road in harvest time.  Give me that good old Irish rain.

Have you ever heard of the “Forest of Compiegne”?  This is the site of a large stand of lovely shade trees, the city and 9th B.A.D.A. right in the middle of it.  The 1st World War’s armistice and the French capitulation to Hitler in #2 World War were both signed in that famous railway car in Compiegne forest.  A year ago the Germans were living and working.  Today the German POWs serve our food, sweep our floors, etc., under guard, naturally.

We get plenty of French bread in the mess hall.  I like it, but it is mostly curst and porous inside (holes).  The cook takes a big slab of it and cuts it on the bias.  We nibble, chew, and bite around on it like mad!

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

The Seat of the Pants

August 4th, 1945

I received a letter from Cleon on July 24th.  When it comes to “gadding-about”, he appears to be right in there pitching.  Good deal!  I haven’t been doing too badly myself, having gone to Liverpool five of the last seven evenings.  I’ve been a lone wolf these nights because I don’t know anyone at Burtonwood who will put up with long-hair music.  I went to Liverpool solely to attend some symphony concerts, you understand!?!

Cleon is about to finish up at Treasure Island.  If the Navy doesn’t put him in the Amphibs, I’m sure that will suit him.  Whatever he goes into, I hope he’ll get leave first (and I have an intuitive feeling that he will).  Cleon mentioned that his friend, “a nice quiet kid”, had a masters degree.  I wonder how old is he is.  A masters ordinarily requires years of university post-graduate work.

Since I’ve been in England the weather has been excellent – too warm, if anything.  Very little rain, lots of sunshine, cool nights, beyond criticism all in all.

Well, in all probability this will be my last post from England and the entire United Kingdom.  In regard to Jayne, she is getting along okay.  We write one another a couple of times each week.  I have called her long distance twice and will make one more last call later tonight.

I have recently attended five concerts out of the current series of eight.  Tonight’s will likely be the best of the lot, but a combination of circumstances prevents me from going.

The five concerts I went to included about 25 selections and featured five soloists and three different conductors.  Quite a variety of stuff for one week only!

I liked last Saturday’s best of all – it was a very popular program.  Karl Rankl, an Austrian refugee, conducted – he’s excellent!  He really put those 70 musicians through their paces – had them in the palm of his hand so to speak.  (Germans and Austrians have a style of conducting that I go for).  I had a good, if somewhat unconventional seat on Saturday.  All regular seats were sold days previous; I sat behind the orchestra, almost in it!  I could have kicked any one of three double-bass players in the seat of the pants from where I sat!  Surprisingly enough, my sitting there did not interfere with my hearing the orchestra in its proper balance – it was perfect.  I didn’t miss a thing; was facing both the conductor and the soloist.

Sunday was Rankl again and a heavier program (Beethoven & Dvorak).  That New World Symphony is darn good.  So was the Beethoven, although the Emperor Concerto was quite long.

Counting the 15-minute intermission, all five concerts were of two-hours length.

Wednesday and Thursday brought music that is largely unknown to one.  Some of it I didn’t think much of.  Of course, the overtures were nice, as was the music of Tchaikovsky and Lizst.  Louis Cohen is the local conductor for the Liverpool Philharmonic and cannot compare with Rankl.

Last night’s concert was a fine one.  Except for the concerto, the music suited me fine.  The soloist was a girl this time (in her twenties!  — does that make her a woman?)  I especially wanted to see Albert Coates conduct in person.  He was in that movie where he and Jose Iturbi were arguing who was going to conduct the orchestra for Gracie Allen and her Concerto for Index Finger?  Neither one wanted to do it, but Coates lost out.  He is a large, portly, distinguished-looking man – a combination of Sydney Greenstreet of the movies and Mexico’s President Avila Camacho!  He is a first-rate conductor, anyway.

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

Old Habits

July 22nd, 1945

I’m at the Aero Club, as I have been nearly every night since coming here (Jayne likes that! – doesn’t want me “fraternizing” with the English lasses).  Bob, Herb, and I worked all of today, having taken our day off in the middle of the week.  It’s nearly ten now and beginning to get dark.  We are somewhat south of Belfast’s longitude here – it gets dark earlier – and we set our clocks back an hour last Sunday – now have just one hour of daylight saving, which will probably be lost sometime in October.  (Jayne and I were thoroughly disgusted the way it stayed light so late in N.I.  – I knew her and went out with her smack-dab in the middle of summer’s (?) longest days – one could often have read a newspaper outdoors at 12:30, were one so inclined!)

But I’m not in Ireland tonight!  Have had two strong cups of coffee and some raisin-less raisin bread here at the club since supper-time.  I sort of got into the habit of having tea and sandwiches about now back there in N.I. you know.  One can’t break such a habit, just like that!

I’ll be darned if I don’t see myself getting back into some of my old habits, concerning my spare time.  Jayne upset them completely for a while, but I notice them cropping up again!  Take this evening, for example.  I have knocked off 35 pages of the April Reader’s Digest and attended a concert of recorded classical music in the club “lounge”.  That’s the Vern Mackliet of yesteryear, not last month!  Don’t necessarily like to go back to those things, but I must do something to occupy my leisure hours (they are not too numerous here anyway).  I spend a lot of time writing — this pen and ink business is slow as hell for me, and I write Jayne as often as I write home (it won’t last, though – I don’t think!?)  That girl writes pages and pages to one – takes an hour to read one letter – she’s very clever in her correspondence – knows just what to say to make me want to return to N.I. in a hurry!

I turned a worn-out tie into the supply room and got a fairly decent one back for a change.  The Army seems to be very short of clothing in this area.

We have two officers in our department and a few days ago I learned that one was from Spokane.  So we talked the whole thing over – for a Spokane boy, I surely don’t know much about the city, I’ve forgotten most of what I learned those few months.  Anyway, the lieutenant said Euclid & Mansfield are in his neighborhood — his home is on Augusta.  He mentioned Nora and N. Adams but I don’t recall where they are.  He was ass’t. manager of one of the Penny stores in Spokane and seemed to know Ferald Dell.  Was surprised to hear that Dell was in the Army.

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

Battle Stars

July 15th, 1945

The letter that Mom and Dad mailed to Cleon with part of my address on the envelope must have kept the post office department jumping for a good two months! That is what is known as getting a letter “the hard way”. Well, he did eventually get it, and that is something. I hope Mom won’t take any ribbing over that because such errors are easy enough to make (for us people who do a lot of writing!). I’ve come close to making a similar mistake once or twice. For example, I must be careful to use a somewhat different return address when writing Jayne. When addressing an envelope to me, she must substitute “c/o U.S. Army” for “c/o PM, New York”, otherwise the letter might possibly go to New York and then have to come back. That’s getting a letter the hard way, too! The set up is complicated enough as it is. You see, Jayne’s letters to me start out in the British Postal System, and at some point along the line they are turned over to the U.S. Army Postal System, which takes over the job of delivering them to me. The reverse is true when I post a letter to Jayne: I must put a British 2 ½ pence stamp on it (!) and drop it into the Army mailbox, and it is later turned over to the British for delivery.

So “Heffie” has already returned to the states, eh?   Good for him! You know, I believe he has enough points to be discharged. He’s been in the Army 38 or 40 months, overseas at least 33 months, and probably has some “battle stars”, worth 5 points each toward discharge! Battle stars are one of the biggest (and bitterest) jokes of the war – the Army does not distribute them at all fairly. I think men in combat should get them and no one else! But they have been given to many thousands of men holding down desk jobs in the Eighth and Ninth Air Forces, men who were no more engaged in combat than I have been, men who have been doing the same work that we in the Air Service Command have been doing. In fact, Air Service Command personnel are about the only ones who didn’t get the battle stars! I don’t care about being “decorated”, but they might help me get out a little sooner.

A recent letter of Cleon’s is a dilly. I can’t help but feel that he has grown up a lot since I left home – the Army and Navy are the places to do it! I can’t get over the way he is always taking off from his camp — going out on liberty whenever he can! Don’t get me wrong. I am definitely in favor of it; it’s the proper thing to do, keeps up morale, makes the time go more rapidly, and all that. But, in that respect, he is quite different from me, for I am a terrible stayathome boy — that is, I was before I met Jayne, and I will be from now on). Maybe it can be explained by the fact that I was in the states so short a time and had no real buddy there. It’s different overseas. Speaking of time going by rapidly, that last month in Northern Ireland was the shortest one I’ve ever seen!!

My, but I’ve had a lot of enjoyment out of the things that my family has written about “Jayne and I”—- it’s really good. Cleon thought we must be damn good friends by now! Ha Ha! That smart boy said one darn smart thing in the letter: “Numerous circumstances will keep it a platonic friendship”. How true! One of those circumstances, my coming to England, has already been realized.

My family seems to be very curious about a pin that Jayne was wearing over her left pocket in a picture that I sent home, so I will tell all. The pin has the letters “MN” on it, standing (she said) for the (British) Merchant Navy. She was forever kidding me about she liked all the Navy boys, “each and every one of them”, she’d say! Perhaps she wore that to make me jealous? We don’t give these girls of ours half-enough credit sometimes! Anyway, in time I trained Jayne to wear my winged-propeller lapel insignia, and her sister Jay wears my “U.S.” lapel button. Jayne has already written that she’s sorry she teased me about the Navy – the Air Corp is now here favorite, and if I were in the Infantry, that would be her favorite, she says. What some girls won’t say to cheer up a fellow a long way from home!

I’ve been in England only twelve days, and already Jayne wants to know if I can get a furlough while I’m here and go back to Belfast and see her! Cute kid, eh? At the moment she is taking her two weeks vacation at Bangor, N.I. She and her mother and sister went on their “holidays” on the 7th; they will probably return to Belfast on the 22nd. A few days before I left, Jayne explained to me exactly what busses, trams, and trains I should take in order to visit her in Bangor during those two weeks.

I guess there’s no harm in my telling you that Jayne was very sorry to see me leave N.I. I knew that Sunday (July 1st) would probably be my last opportunity to go to town, so I went in to say “So long”. During my last hour or so with her, Jayne was so upset that she could hardly talk or look me in the eye. The next day she somehow talked our operators into putting her call thru to me (contrary to recent post regulations), and she apologized for being “poor company” the previous evening. She also told me that she had gotten up early that morning and had written me a letter before breakfast, explaining why she acted as she did Sunday night. And she wrote again that same evening. Both letters were sent special delivery (there’s no such animal in the Army Postal set-up), but I didn’t get them until the end of the week in England. I felt terrible after reading her letters. Judging from what she said, I gather that she just got into the house in time Sunday night. And she says she “broke down again” when she arrived at the office Monday morning. Everyone in the department wanted to know what was wrong, and the girls were bathing her eyes, and I wonder what the heck all. Anyway, the entire thing was very depressing. Sometimes I think I did wrong in ever going out with her.

I wasn’t going to mention any of this, but now that I have, I’m sure that you’ll realize that it’s “personal” to me – and a secret between us.

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

Three Situations

July 13th, 1945

It’s that old Friday the Thirteenth again! —Dad’s favorite day, from what I’ve heard. Nothing unusual happened to me so far. Two more letters from home were forwarded to me – thanks a lot to Mom and Dad! I’m always glad to hear from home, and it is a special treat when I first arrive at a new base and don’t know nobody or nothing! I also enjoyed Bonnie’s letter – very fine of her to send me all “the news”.

Mom and Dad are too squeamish about bringing up certain subjects, but not my sister! She came right out and asked, “Vern, are you going to Germany, to occupy it or something?” V-e-r-y interesting, yes? Well, it is still too early for me to answer that definitely, one way or another. You understand, of course, that with my points, I’m destined to stay in the Army quite a while yet – and I will be serving “someplace” overseas, that’s for sure. Now, carrying on from that point, I would say that there are just these three situations:

  1. remaining here in the European Theater of Operations and eventually being shifted to the force occupying Germany (all installations in Great Britain, France, etc. will be closed down as rapidly as possible).
  2. being shipped directly to the Pacific (many are going that way)
  3. being shipped to the Pacific via the states (giving me perhaps a month’s furlough – and then, overseas again!!!)

Naturally, I haven’t got a choice between those three (except in a very indefinite and uncertain way), but if I did, I wonder which one Mom and Dad would rather I’d do. If it were up to them, which would they pick for me? (P.S. Is the Pacific area large enough for two Mackliets?) I’ll ask Mom and Dad to write me exactly how they feel about this. If the mail service is good, perhaps I’ll still be here when their answer comes!

As a joke (?), I asked that same question of Jayne before I left the country, and she thought I should stay in Europe (even though she would like someone to send her a grass skirt from the Pacific! A job for Cleon?). As a matter of fact, she narrowed “Europe” down to Northern Ireland —– I guess about the only G.I.s over there now are on furlough from England.

I recently asked Mom to find and send me a pair of those manicuring-type scissors with the very sharp-pointed blades. I hope she doesn’t go to too much trouble looking. I already have some large shears and a pair of stubby “sewing kit” scissors. I have been expecting a package from home with a toothbrush, but it must be temporarily (I hope) lost. It has never come, anyway. I hope Mom and Dad know how greatly I appreciate the “buying jobs” they do for me. And they won’t even let me pay for my own stuff and junk!

I have missed Mom, Dad, and Bonnie very much lately. Also, I neglected my boy friends while going with Jayne, depending solely on her to be my “pal” overseas. Now I’ve left them all behind except Bob and Herb. I enjoy knowing those two boys and working with them, but neither of them are the type with which I would regularly go to town. They simply must have their liquor and both have already found new girlfriends around here already!

I heard from Cleon a few days ago. Now there is a fine boy – I would give anything to run into him, now that he is grown up. We should have a lot of fun together after this is all over. Am looking forward to that day! Maybe we’ll be “green Frosh” together in college—-

Well, folks, there’s your post for today —- hope it’s okay. You’ll probably be hearing from me again!

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

Not All Americans Are Alike

July 11th, 1945

This evening I wrote a letter home using an old-fashioned-style of pen that must be dipped in the ink bottle now and again.  (Takes one back to my early school days!).  Thought I would give the thing a try – it might be an improvement over the fountain pen, with which I have been having a lot of trouble.  So far, so good ——–!

Mom and Dad responded to some pictures of Jayne that I sent them.  I agree that Jayne is “just darling”.  I still think my best picture is where I’m standing.  Mom and Dad asked about the negatives; as far as the negatives are concerned, I gave them all to Jayne, so do not have them to send home.  If Mom and Dad insist, I’ll write Jayne and borrow the few negatives that they would most like to have additional prints of.  (P.S. I certainly hope I’m not losing my hair already!)  My smile is okay, eh?  I haven’t had one on my face since hitting this place, I’m afraid.

I have a bit of a headache right now – been working too hard here.  I put in long hours.  It’s statistical work, something like what I have been doing back at Langford Lodge.

Dad told me that he thought seeing a girl seven out of nine nights (I had to work the other two!) is serious.  Well, I haven’t been out with her at all the last nine nights, so it’s less serious than it might have appeared.  Or is it?  I last saw Jayne on July 1st — between the 2nd and 8th she wrote me five letters, all of them very long ones.  Very nice of her, to say the least!

My Mom asked, in a recent letter — Do you know you’re leaving Ireland or are you guessing?  What do you think?  I don’t need a crystal ball to tell that I’m in England now – and this isn’t at all permanent, thank goodness!  I’m now able to keep a little more closely in touch with such goings-on than was once possible.  I’ll keep Mom and Dad informed to the best of my ability.

I wonder how Bonnie likes the job at Wards.  I hope she writes to bring me up to date on everything.

I wonder if Mom and Dad got all those postcards and the cartoon booklet about N.I.  Was just wondering – they haven’t said anything yet.

While I’m jumping around, I wonder how Mom feels now.  She seems to be getting around again.  I’ve almost forgotten I had an operation.  In case you would like to read about it, there is a good article on “hernias” in a recent Reader’s Digest.

I was happy to hear Mom say all those good things about Bonnie.  I’m sure she is as fine a girl as Mom pointed out to me.  Decent girls are very nice to know – I don’t know of anything more disgusting to me than one that is otherwise, though.  As little as I have had to do with girls over here, I feel that I was very lucky to meet a girl like Jayne, with so many of the other kind running around.  I guess you already have heard that Yank soldiers in general are not well thought of here.  Many of the “better” families will not have their daughters going out with GI’s.  To some extent, they are probably right!  What too many of these people overlook is that not all Americans are alike!  Jayne seemed to think I was okay — and she claims she is very particular about her friends.

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

The Most Unsatisfactory Camp

July 6th, 1945

Although I’m still in too much of a whirl to write a very good post, I am going to see what I can do with this. Anyway, you won’t be able to say you haven’t heard from me since I left N.I. P.S.—right now, I feel as if someone had taken my bread away from me, if I may use that appropriate old German saying. Do you follow me?

You are probably wondering what has been happening to me these past few days. Frankly, I am too!! Well, for one thing, I’m definitely back in the Army! And, although I find that life unpleasant at the Moment, I no doubt will get used to it again. Leaving N.I. and that excellent base and my well-settled life there was exactly like leaving civilian life for the service all over. It will take some time for the shock to wear off, as it did the first time.

Let’s see—I last wrote home on the 1st of July— that was my last letter from N.I. Our transfer orders came out the next day, and we three boys (Bob, Herb, and I) were all packed and ready to go by late Monday night. I said goodbye to Ireland at 3:00 p.m. the next day (Tuesday, July 3rd). We did some fast talking and used our influence to the utmost, with the result that we were able to swing a deal and fly over here instead of fooling around with a train-boat-train trip of some twenty hours duration. Our plane landed at this base only 70 minutes after we took off from Langford Lodge. And so, at 4:10 p.m. last Tuesday, we three found ourselves at Burtonwood, England.

In other words, the transfer came off as anticipated. Much as I hate to think about it, I guess I’ve seen the last of Northern Ireland and Langford and Jayne. I’m just a wee bit disgusted, you might say. But I’ll get over it. I had to leave that place—another few weeks and there won’t be any men stationed in Ireland. Only time will tell if we made an error in requesting this transfer. I have never liked the idea of volunteering for anything in the Army. The whole idea we boys had was that we might possibly get a better deal this way than if we merely sat back and let the Army do what they pleased with us.

Having the two other boys with me has made things easier. They feel the same way, I’m sure. Although I have already run into some of my acquaintances at this place, only the three of us left Langford at that time to come to this exact spot. We should continue to stick together, if things proceed according to plan.

This base is known as Burtonwood. It is a huge, sprawling base, made up of a number of widely-separated areas, or “sites”, as they are called. For all practical purposes, it is really about eight or ten bases or depots situated in the same general vicinity. Compared to Langford Lodge, it seems quite a mess. Whereas Langford was neat and orderly, this place gives the impression of being disorganized and dirty. There has been plenty to eat so far, but otherwise the living conditions are poor indeed. Of course, I am comparing these facilities with what we had in N.I., which might not be quite fair. Our base in N.I. was without doubt one of the best, if not the best, overseas base of the Army, in practically every respect. On the other hand, this place falls below even the average Army standard. It is the most unsatisfactory camp I have yet been stationed at.

If things work out as they should, we boys will not be here too long, which will suit us fine. In the meantime, we will put up with it. It can’t be too terrible—many thousands of GI’s have been living and working here for more than two years, and they seemed to have survived. It merely goes to show that a person soon gets used to new conditions.

Now to tell you exactly where I am. Burtonwood is located about midway between the large cities of Liverpool and Manchester (in northwestern England). (Don’t you find that I tell you “more things” now that censorship has been relaxed?) Both Liverpool and Manchester are about eighteen miles from some part or other of this vast Air Service Command installation. The particular site where I am living is near the outskirts of the city of Warrington. Get out that map again, folks!

I am now assigned to the 31st Statistical Control Unit—no more Sta Compl Sq! The A.P.O. (635) remains the same.

This evening, I wrote a fairly long letter home to Mom, dad, and Bonnie. I wanted to let them hear from me before this but simply couldn’t get going. I did start a letter last night, but decided in the middle of it that it was not a satisfactory one to send home, so I tore it up and let the job slide until tonight.

I couldn’t promise them more than two letters a week so long as I am stationed at places like this. Doing the things in longhand is a long and tiring job for me, so much so that I will do anything to avoid it. By walking a couple of miles I think I will be able to get a hold of a typewriter the necessary two nights each week. I know lots of boys who do worse! I won’t be writing Cleon much at all now—so I’ll ask Mom and Dad to send him their letters!

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

Dark Cloud

July 2nd, 1945

I wrote a letter home today. This is probably the last time that Mom and Dad will see “Northern Ireland” in the upper right corner. Yes, I’m leaving my “happy home”—my “home”, my girl, my job, my friends—everything, it seems like. The Army has put the skids under me again! I can’t express to you how badly I feel about what is happening and how much I dislike leaving this place at this time. Still, it is exactly what I should have expected.

We three boys (Bob, Herb, and I) are being transferred to the 31st SCU in England, as we requested, and we are scheduled to leave tomorrow. Transportation difficulties may hold us up until Wednesday, however. The 31st SCU is stationed at an air depot called “Burtonwood”, just as this base has the unofficial name of “Langford Lodge”. Burtonwood has been our next higher headquarters ever since I’ve been doing statistical work; it is located in western England, somewhere in he vicinity of Manchester, Blackpool, Liverpool, Southport, etc. For once, I can tell you where I’m going before I get there! That’s because the war over here is all washed up and this is an “inactive” theater.

My imminent departure from N.I. has recently hung over Jayne and me like a dark cloud. We went to the show early Saturday evening and afterwards had the best dinner I could get at the Carlton. Then we took a long walk around the Cavehill Road district and finally returned to the house and had tea and sandwiches.

Last night I made a special trip to town to say so long to Jayne and the family. I don’t feel like going into details right now.

You’ll excuse me if I make this one short? I’m in a poor frame of mind to write a decent post. You will hear from me as soon as possible after I reach my destination.

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

Many Happy Returns

May 27th, 1945

Here I am at the office this fine, sunny Sunday evening, killing two birds with one stone: I’m working the swing shift and also taking the CQ job for Herb, which means I must stay here all night.

But I don’t want you to feel sorry for me because I’m at the office tonight!  It’s probably the best thing that could have happened to me—I need the calm, quiet, restful atmosphere of the Hq. building.  Am I ever worn out?—to a frazzle!  I’m not used to all this night life, you see.  I’ve just finished a very “rough” week.  Jayne and I had dates on Monday and Wednesday evenings, I took her and her mother and sister to dinner and the show on my birthday (Friday), and yesterday we were together from noon to past midnight.  That makes four nights in one week that I didn’t get to bed until about 2:30 a.m., and I was working late the other nights to boot!  Doesn’t sound much like me, does it?

I had a terrible time getting to town Friday night.  I couldn’t get a seat on the only bus leaving in the late afternoon, and I was supposed to meet Jayne and her family at 5:45 at the restaurant.  I knew that all the reservations and everything had been made, and I almost went crazy trying to figure out how to get there by the proper time.  As it turned out, I was half an hour late (fortunately, they waited for me).  After missing my regular transportation, it’s a wonder I got in to town that early!

I let Jayne take care of the arrangements for dinner, and I must say that she did a fine job of it.  A nice table for four was reserved for us.  First we had a soup course, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  It was a “thickish” vegetable soup, served with crisp buns.  Then came the main course: a large platter with all four of our servings of chicken, potatoes, and various vegetables all laid out and arranged just so—you know, like the pictures in the magazines.  The waitress moved this food to our individual dinner plates, and we started eating away.  I even talked the waitress out of a glass of milk, my first overseas!  Well, the chicken was excellent, as where the mashed potatoes, carrots, asparagus, etc.  We had mushrooms, too, but none of us liked them—toadstools, that’s what they are!

The next thing to be brought out was my birthday cake!  That was the last thing I expected to get at a restaurant.  Jayne’s work again, I discovered.  It was a lovely sponge cake which had been soaked in something to make it yellow and pink and give it a fruity, juicy taste, if you follow me.  The top of the cake was covered with a thin layer of flavored gelatin, I believe, and on this was written “Many Happy Returns”, as well as other decorations.  We finished up with tea and biscuits, of course.  Perhaps the most surprising thing of all was this:  soon after we started eating our dinner, the little orchestra in the café played “Happy Birthday To You” for me.  Our table was on the balcony, and everyone on that floor began looking around to see who was celebrating a birthday.  Even if I had not nodded my thanks to the violinist, they all could have seen that I was the lucky one, for I was blushing at having so much fuss made over me (that’s what Jayne said—that I blushed, I mean).  That’s the first time anyone (except Mom) has gone to so much trouble over me since I have been in the Army.  I’m afraid I liked it!  Ha Ha.

Yes, the dinner was simply perfect.  All those special things were Jayne’s ideas.  Do you wonder that I think a lot of her?  Well, she is swell, that is all.  The way she planned this dinner reminded me that she is actually twenty-one years old and not the seventeen or eighteen that she looks.  When I got her greeting card on the 24th, I realized why she had been so inquisitive about my address a week earlier.

My old friend Jack (the one who broke his wrist, remember?) was at the Carlton Friday night and saw me, but I was in such a daze that I didn’t notice him at the time.  The funny thing is that I heard his laugh in the movie later that night and therefore knew he had been to the city.  His laugh is very distinctive, and I would recognize it anywhere.  The movie at the Ritz was Mrs. Parkington, with Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon.  The women liked it, but I decided it was a big flop.  Didn’t amount to much that I could see.

After the show it was tea and sandwiches at their place, and finally a truck trip back to camp for me.  I guess that’s about enough on the subject of my birthday Friday night.

I had a 48-hour pass for Friday and Saturday.  Saturday morning I got up late, cleaned up, and headed back to Belfast.  Jayne gets Saturday afternoon off, and we thought it would be fun to visit Bangor, N.I.  It is a favorite with civilians and soldiers alike, being a resort town; I had yet to see the place.

I had been hoping for nice weather for this long-planned trip.  When I arrived in Belfast, it was not too bad.  Half an hour later, when I reached her home, it was pouring! So-o-o-o, we put on raincoats and took a tram to the station, where we caught our train to Bangor.  We got off the train a couple of stops ahead of time and walked the rest of the way in, along the coast.  It’s beautiful.  I took a couple more pictures—hope they come out okay.

I though we might go roller-skating, or to the movies, or some such thing, but she is the walking-est girl I’ve ever met.  We hiked all over the vicinity of Bangor: along the beach, on the promenade, back on the hills the other side of town.  After dinner at Caproni’s, we strolled over to the park and sat in the sun for more than an hour.  Then a couple of more pictures and the train back.  There’s no better way to see the country than that!  I had a lot of fun.

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

Festive Mood

May 10th, 1945

Well, V-E-Day has come and gone; everyone is now recuperating, myself included!  What a hectic time nearly everyone had.  The official period for celebrating Victory-in-Europe was 48 hours starting at about noon on Tuesday, May 8th.

I didn’t really do much of anything, but it took all of Tuesday night and the early hours of Wednesday to do it!  Shall I tell you about some of it?  I’m going to anyhow.  Our original plans about going to the Victory Dance at the Red Cross didn’t work out—later in the evening we decided we would go to a dance hall out near one of the parks, but somehow we didn’t get around to it.

After posting on Tuesday afternoon, I finished up some work, got completely cleaned up, and took an Army bus to Belfast, arriving there just past six o’clock.  I had supper some place along in there too.  Well, Belfast was all decorated up like a Xmas tree.  I was actually surprised.  It is usually so dull-looking.  There were thousands and thousands of British flags (and a few American ones) hanging from all the homes and buildings.  I’ve never seen anything like it in the U.S., not even on the 4th of July.  Although there was bunting and such, the endless number of flags was the outstanding feature of decked-out Belfast on this Victory Day.  And the people!!!—they were all over the place.

My first problem was to find a bus to take me out to Jane’s place.  Yeah, just try to find one!  The transportation was a merry mix-up; the busses couldn’t get in to their usual stops in the city center because of the crowds, and there weren’t many running any way.  I did finally make it, though, even if it did take over an hour.

Jane welcomed me at the door and introduced me to what seemed like everyone in that part of the city: her mother, aunt and uncle, younger sister (who is Bonnie’s age), her best girlfriend, her sister’s best girlfriend, all the folks next door, etc. etc.  Her mother fixed me up with some tea and cake (naturally!) and then what does Jane do but drag me off to church.  She is a Presbyterian and I am just a Protestant, so there is no difficulty there.  We walked to the Fort William Park church.  I must say it had a very fine service, something on the order of good old Dr. Thompson’s services in Colfax.  I had the distinction of being the only American in the church, which fact was very interesting to some of the Irish.  The Yanks are more famous for their carousing around (wine, women, and song) than for their church-going.  Ha Ha !  On our way to the church, one of the neighbors said, “Put in a good word for me, will you?”.

At about ten o’clock, as it was getting dark, we lit the large bonfire on our block.  There were hundreds of these fires all over the city, some of them taking up most of the width of the street.  Old and young joined in the games and the dancing in the street; it was a wild party.  By midnight, we were ready to take off to see what was going on down in the city center.

Down town it was much as it had been that afternoon, only more so.  Lots of people!  The City Hall and Albert Memorial Clock were nicely lit up.  They weren’t the only ones!  On the whole though, it was a well-behaved crowd.  There seemed to be fewer drunks than usual, perhaps because the liquor supply had to be stretched further than usual.  Many of the stores had boarded up their display windows.  Everyone was in a festive mood—they were carried away by the joyousness of the occasion.  Any unescorted girls were caught and kissed time and again—they may have had a better time than those with fellers!  It is hard to explain exactly what was going on and why everyone was having fun, but they were—that was clear enough.  I know that I certainly enjoyed myself throughout the evening.  Jane said that if I didn’t, I gave a marvelous impersonation.  If you had seen me, you probably would have thought I had had something to drink.  But I didn’t—didn’t have a chance!  Ha Ha !

At a quarter to five I was back at the Red Cross, ready to go to bed.  There weren’t any!  Not even a soft chair, but I didn’t care.  I stretched out on six hard wooden chairs I found up where the dance had been held.  After an hour’s rest (?!?), I got up and had an early six o’clock breakfast of two fresh fried eggs and three pieces of toast.  By eight I was back in camp on my bunk, resting.  Some night, eh?  I got a bang out of it.  Out of the ordinary for me.

At noon I got up and had a nice dinner: roast beef, potatoes and gravy, asparagus, peas, tomatoes, bread and butter, lemonade, ice cream and cake.

I have told you only a fraction of what was cooking that night.  I hope you get a general idea at least of how I spent V-E-Day night!  But that wasn’t all.  Jane called up long-distance three times Wednesday to try to get in touch with me and have me come in again that night.  Our office was locked, so I didn’t get together with her.  It was just as well, for I was absolutely exhausted.  But I hear that the Wednesday night celebrations in Belfast were more riotous than on Tuesday, if that is possible.

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

Victory-in-Europe Day

May 8th, 1945

It’s here!  The day for which we have been working and fighting (some of us—not me) and waiting.  V-E-Day!  It is now a few minutes past twelve noon.  The war ended officially at noon.  The sirens have just now stopped blowing, and Bing Crosby recordings of the Star-Spangled Banner and God Bless America have come over the loudspeaker.  There is not as much excitement as might be expected, but there is no doubt that everyone is over-joyed because the war in Europe is now over—after five years and eight months.

I believe there would have been a greater sprit of celebration here if the peace proclamation had been more decisive and unexpected.  Actually, it has been very much strung out.  Rumors of complete unconditional surrender have been going the rounds for weeks.  Peace has been expected “hourly” for several days.  A few of the boys were getting fed up with this run-around.  The first definite news was at ten o’clock last night, when it was announced that Churchill would proclaim the end of the European war at 3:00 p.m. today.  (Of course, President Truman is supposed to make a similar statement in Washington, D.C. at the same time, but because of the difference in time, we wouldn’t hear that until about nine o’clock tonight.)  And then this morning came the news that V-E-Day would be declared at noon, 12:00 a.m., D.B.S.T (double British summer time, which is two hours of daylight saving).

Needless to say, I am very thankful that I have been allowed to “fight” in this war entirely from Northern Ireland.  And I know Mom and Dad are also.  What lies ahead of me I cannot even guess at this point, but we will take things as they come.

In a couple of more hours I will be off to Belfast, to join in the celebrating.  If a fellow were to make only one trip to the city all the time he was over here, this would be the night to go!  It’s going to be crowded as all hell and inconvenient in other ways, but this is the day; every man, woman, and child should get in the swing of things.  I suppose the restaurants will be cleaned out before I get there.  And many thirsts will go unquenched because of drinking material not enough, but what the heck.

I have a date with Jane for tonight, yes, indeed.  Although she doesn’t drink, she has been wondering how it is to get that “giddy feeling” and thought V-E-Day would be a swell time to find out.  I told her I might humor her to the extent of having one drink, but I’m not going to look very hard for a bar.  I know what Mom and Dad would think.  Oh, come now, folks, this is V-E-Day and I’m almost twenty-two!  Ha Ha !  Jane and I are going to a big Victory Dance at the Belfast Red Cross.  We’ll get out there on the floor and scuffle around! me, with my two left feet!  I’ll be walking all over her long gown! but I get by.  One can get away with murder in this modern dancing.  No one seems to give a damn how others dance, and that suits me fine!

Jane is especially happy to see the war end.  Their family (her father is not alive) has been living with her aunt since their home was bombed out in the big Belfast blitz of 1940-41.

Doris is the little blonde Irish girl who works? in our office.  I was very surprised to see her photo in last night’s Belfast Telegraph (newspaper).  Seems she has been entered in a Belfast beauty contest.  The picture, which was taken by an Army photographer, is deceptive.  I’ve never seen her as calm as that; besides, she is better looking than the picture indicates—especially her profile, all the way down!  Ha Ha !  Her face is okay, but it’s her figure that is her main asset.  As I have already said, this picture does not give an accurate impression of her.  She was a tomboy a few years ago and never quite got over it—still plays with the boys!  I got a million of ‘em, as Jimmy Durante would say!  Don’t get the idea that she isn’t a “nice” girl, because she is—too nice, some guys have said.  Anyway, she is a little hell-cat (in a nice, girlish way, naturally) and I pity the poor man who gets her.  She’d better get a move on if she’s going to land a Yank!

My typing is a mess, because I’m tying to hurry, but I think you will appreciate this V-E-Day letter.

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

Fancy Bookkeeping At the Treasury

April 24th, 1945

Our family seems to be having its full share of operations this year.  I didn’t have any trouble at all with mine; here’s hoping the same is true with Mom.

Dad wrote me a letter while I was in the hospital.  I believe that I have already answered most of the questions that he asked in it.  I doubt if it would have been possible to have my hernia fixed up any sooner than was done.  Considering the type of work I’m doing, it might have been months or years before it would begin to give me any great pain.  It’s a big mistake to let a hernia go—there were fellows with older ones down there and they had more trouble than I did.  I think that I got the best of care.  I was in the hospital nearly eight weeks, which is two or three times longer than would have been the case if I had gone to a regular hospital at home—and paid several hundred dollars for the job and had my work or schooling interrupted.

And now that it’s all over, I’m supposed to be as good as ever, or perhaps somewhat better.  I couldn’t possibly use this as an effort to get returned to the states; the Army is much too large an outfit to be pushed around by one buck sergeant.  Anyway, I’d just as soon be here as a lot of places in the states.

Mom sent me two clippings from the paper that were of special interest.  One of them had to do with the Spokane air depot.  It seems that someone thinks it’s going to be a permanent industry.  When we really get going in the Pacific, Spokane may be much busier than it has ever been before.  There is an appalling amount of waste of men and materials at the average Army installation, but I guess it’s just one of those things and can’t be helped.

Also there was a write-up about that Guffey bonus bill.  I’m not in favor of having the government spend billions like that, but if the thing is passed, I won’t refuse my share!  That poor national debt; we will never be able to get that paid!  One of these days someone will have to do some fancy bookkeeping at the Treasury and get rid of it.

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

Yes, It’s Different With Girls

March 10th, 1945

Here I go again! Well, I’m now into my fifth week here at the hospital. The time has passed quickly so far. I got a big kick out of my first full fledged shower in a month. Those bed baths!?! In fact, I took two showers that evening, one after the other! I had a heck of a time with my hair and scalp while laid up. No it (my hair) didn’t come out, but it (my scalp) did itch and get awfully grimy.

Today the doc gave me permission to “take a short walk” (I asked him if I could). Ah, yes, my return to the great out-of-doors! A couple of us walked up to the barracks area. I made a bee-line for (1) the barbershop, (2) the PO, and (3) the PX. What a haircut. I got my money’s worth and then some.

I wrote Mom and Dad and enclosed another MO. $40 to deposit in the bank.

I recently received a letter from Mom and Dad in which they quoted a very fine letter from Cleon to Bonnie. They already know how I feel about Cleon – he couldn’t be better. Doesn’t he realize Bonnie writes me right along? However, I have been waiting to hear how she liked that batch of letters I mailed in January. Also, the sweater I “sponsored”. Or was it a sweater this time? I was astounded by her wardrobe! Sounds very much okay and adequate to me. Wherever did she get all those things? I never had anything like that. (Yes, it’s different with girls).

Our pinochle games continue. It’s murder!

I wonder how things worked out on the new income tax set-up this year. Gov’t employees pay-as-they-go, don’t they? Then what happens in March?

In one letter, Mom makes some sly remark about how long it took me to clean up at home, and another member of the family was compared with me. She’s in for it now! It’s common knowledge that the average woman takes three times as long to fix up as the slowest male. And I’m not particularly slow. A lot of boys have come under my observation, so I’ve found that Mom has been doing me wrong. There—-!

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

This Has Surely Been Cheery

March 6th, 1945

Today makes just a month that I have been in the hospital.  All my tape and stuff is off now, and I’m feeling quite well.  The doctor doesn’t take any chances with his patients, so I expect to stay here for another two weeks or so.

A couple more letters have come from home – and for the most part, the news is not good, even if it doesn’t concern our family directly.  I was very sorry to hear that Mrs. Hoppe passes away.  The two letters about her were very understanding:  Mom and Dad were wise enough and kind enough to be of much help to the Hoppe’s without making things more difficult for them.  But Mom and Dad are wrong when they say I don’t understand such things.

One letter I got had a clipping about Bill Matzger.  It’s a shame that such things must happen.  The fact that it has happened to so many others doesn’t make it any less terrible.  When Mom and Dad first mentioned this, I was in hopes he was only “missing”, for then there is some chance.

I think I know what Mom’s illness was in spite of the drawing that I received.  That was a dilly!  Neuritis has the reputation of being very painful.  Evidently, Mom doesn’t care too much if it comes back?  For heaven’s sake, she should stop working hard, playing cards for too long, and doing the other things that make her feel it a little!

Well, this has surely been a cheery thing, hasn’t it?  (P.S. I hear that Mrs. Press is getting along okay after her operation).

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The Friends One Makes

February 24th, 1945

Being in the hospital here is a new experience for me.  Just one more precedent for me since I’ve been overseas.  Since I’ve been in almost every other part of the base at one time or another, my stay here could hardly be considered complete if I did not spend a few weeks at this place.  And I must say this is one of the best parts of what must be one of the best camps in the ETO.

If I keep on raving like that much longer, you are going to think I’m pretty much sold on the base.  You wouldn’t be too far wrong, either.  I have spent 4/5 of my time in the Army here, you know; being something of a “homebody”, it has been a pleasure to settle down at this place, even if only temporarily.  And remember, it’s always “temporarily” in the service!

One of the nicest features of remaining at one place for some length of time is the friends one makes – some merely acquaintances, others who are real pals.  Fellows I know seem always to be stopping at the ward to say Hello.  One of my fellow patients is a boy I came overseas with.  The sergeant in charge of the ward is no stranger to me, for he is a regular visitor at the Presses’ place in Belfast.  The sergeant who assisted the doctor in my operation and several other guys who work here lived in my barrack for a time.  I have worked with the hospital’s chief clerk in preparing certain reports for our own statistical office.  When the radio speaker went on the blink, who came down to repair it?  My “buzzum” buddy Jack, who is still getting over that terrible fall he had through the mess hall roof some months ago.

In other words, I know my way around the place, and it is chock full of familiar faces.  Take that, plus mail from home, plus good food and living conditions, and one has the makings of contentment and high morale.  On the other hand, some guy’s parents have had some cause for concern.  Our family has been very fortunate.

Some of my friends are no longer in Ireland.  Some are in England, some on the continent.  John (the boy with whom I went on furlough and have played tennis, pinochle, etc.) has received letters from mutual friends of ours who are in France.

My boss was down to see me last Sunday.  A very nice young guy who reminds me sometimes of Albert Hansen.  He wanted to find out how things were coming and if he could do anything for me.

Have I ever mentioned George?  He was the youngest of the eight enlisted men in our department and the one who always took care of our boy Bennie when he got “high” (a job he disliked because he couldn’t get drunk himself).  I say “he was” because he is no longer with us.  He came to the hospital to say goodbye to me recently because he was being transferred to the Ground Forces, presumably the infantry as soon as he is trained.  According to our newspaper, the Stars and Stripes, each month is going to see the transfer of 10,000 Air and Service Force men to the infantry.  I wonder if this news has made it to the papers back home.  There’s a rumor going the rounds of Northern Ireland to the effect that there’s a war on!

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

A Market For An Improved Bedpan

February 23rd, 1945

There’s a popular song about soldiers that goes “You had your breakfast in bed before, but you won’t have it there any more!” As Gildersleeve’s pal Phoebe would say: “Well, now, I wouldn’t say that.” I didn’t have breakfast in bed before, but I have it there now. Also, dinner and supper. It isn’t that I’m lazy, you understand – the captain won’t have it any other way. I’ve suffered no ill effects from it so far.

Our food here is the best by far that I’ve eaten in the Army. And we can have all we want, within reason. Hospitals evidently get special rations for patients, as regards both quality and quantity. It is prepared very well, in relatively small quantities, of course, for Army cooking. Emphasis seems to be on fruits, vegetables, and really good meat. Yesterday morning we had pork sausage; at noon, ham; in the evening, turkey; today’s breakfast brought creamed chicken on toast (didn’t like that); for dinner, steak; and at supper, canned beef and other cold cuts. That is only slightly better than the average menu here. We have ice cream several times a week and there is usually a second dessert besides. It’s going to be hell eating that regular chow again! I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if it takes me longer to recover than I first thought! (The doctor says I should eat a lot and try to gain some weight).

This is the first day that I’ve been allowed to sit up in bed a little. It didn’t feel so very good at first, but I’m getting used to it tonight. I guess that I’ll have to learn how to walk all over again!

Valentine’s Day is gone, but I haven’t yet had my say on that extremely swell greeting card I received from Bonnie. I showed it to Harvey and Doris and others, boasting of Bonnie’s ability to “pick ‘em out”, for they admired it greatly. Imagine my surprise when I learned that Mom had a hand in picking it out! I should have suspected as much. Thanks to Mom and Bonnie for a card which struck me just right.

Dad is the inventor of the family. On the basis of my own personal experience, I would venture to say that there is a market for an improved type of bedpan, one somewhat deeper than the present standard model! Have I got something there or not?

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

The Best Care In Every Respect

February 11th, 1945

To make a long story short, I had an operation for a hernia (rupture) four days ago, and I am now in the hospital recovering from it.  We two boys have given Mom and Dad more surprises, haven’t we?

I wrote Mom and Dad a short letter telling them, but it was a mess. I had a hell of a time writing it in bed.  There are many things they will want to know, but they will have to wait until I am better able to write.  Having had operations, they should understand.  I did want to let them hear I was okay as soon after it was over as possible.  And I am getting along fine now.

The doctor seems will satisfied with the progress I’m making toward getting well again.  But it will take time.  I expect to be kept in bed for another ten days or so.  Then there will be a couple more weeks in the hospital after that.  The hernia operation requires a fair-sized incision, it seems.  Anyway, I had a very good surgeon and am getting the best care in every respect.

I’ll write and post as much as I can, but that may not be too often at first.  Hopefully, Mom and Dad will tell Cleon (alias “the San Francisco Kid”) why he isn’t hearing from me.  I hope my folks and Bonnie will take this thing as calmly as I have-and that’s clam enough for anyone!

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

He’s Got It Bad…

February 5th, 1945

Darned if I haven’t almost outdone myself lately in writing to my sister, Bonnie. Knowing how much she enjoys getting mail, I suddenly decided a while ago that this would be a convenient way to dispose of some of the “odds and ends of letter-writing ideas” that have been knocking about my brain—things that I wouldn’t want to bother the folks with, but which Bonnie might find of some slight interest. I have gotten rid of many of those odds and ends already, in the letters of the past several weeks; the remaining supply should be good for two or three more outbursts. And then she’ll have to start threatening me again for mail! (Since I’ve been beating these out purely for recreational purposes, I hope Bonnie doesn’t feel that she must necessarily answer them. She’s probably busy.)

Well, we’ve certainly been having a rousing time with the guy who bunks across from me. (His nickname is also “Mac”, a fact which causes no small amount of confusion in that end of the hut.) A couple of weeks ago he met a “Wren” (popular name for a British girl in the WRNS – Women’s Royal Navy Reserve, I believe it stands for) at a party and immediately went off the deep end! He’s been over here a little less than a year, and until just recently he didn’t like the country, the people, or anything else. And then came the dawn. He met this Wren and things are dandy. All of which is very amusing to me because I remember how many times I’ve told him off for making what I thought were unfair criticisms of Britain and the British.

We boys who have known Mac these many months can’t believe the change that has come over him. And he’s been out with this girl only a couple of times. Now he’s trying to sell everyone on Britain. He used to be awfully grouchy when he arose in the morning; you should see him these days, singing with the radio, whistling, laughing, telling jokes. And to think a little Wren could do all that! He’s got it bad and that ain’t good. We catch him smiling to himself during the course of the day; his boss caught him day-dreaming at the office and told him to get to work. Oh, what a razzing and ribbing that guy has been taking in the hut. It goes on until late at night. He spends all his spare time shining his shoes, polishing his buttons, and tidying up his clothes. I think he has been going around in such a “glow” lately that when I look over at him in his corner of the hut, it looks like the sun is coming up.

A fellow can go along for months over in this country, minding his own business and having nothing to do with (shall we say) the female population, and then, all of a sudden, lightning strikes! He’s off the beam, starts getting out into the social whirl. I’ve seen it happen a hundred times. But no matter how often it has happened in the past, each new “case” is a surprise. “He was the guy who was going to wait until he got home!”, we exclaim. It seems they get tired of waiting after a while. That is not to say that these “victims” of something or other don’t eventually get over it. They do. Most of them, that is. Others aren’t so lucky—they often get married. That’s carrying a joke too far. The moral of this is “Every dog-face has his day”.

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My Morale Has Just Gone Up 5 Points

December 24th, 1944

Well, it is now 3:00 p.m., Sunday, the 24th of December. I am holding down the fort at the office this afternoon and thought a post would be in order, so here it is. If I didn’t know otherwise, I would think this is just another day. Perhaps I’ll get more of the Christmas spirit as the evening progresses.

The weather is not very Christmas-sy today. It is rather nice for a winter day, though, in Ireland. Not even rain and/or wind. No cases of sun stroke or sun burn have been reported yet, for that matter. I would like to see it snow about two feet over night. Without the snow, it just isn’t Christmas.

I will be spending a very quiet and uneventful Christmas Eve. I’ll work until five, eat my supper, go to the show with Harvey and Mac and Jack (who got out of the hospital yesterday). Then we’ll all go to the Aero Club and eat and drink and talk until about midnight. Then I’ll return to the barrack, dig my bed out of the mountain of beer bottles, and hit the sack, provided, of course, that someone hasn’t mistaken it for the gutter and fell into it first. Boys will be boys, especially on Xmas Eve. I think I’ll go on a spree tonight and have three cokes. John has moved to a different part of camp now and I haven’t been able to locate any card players lately.

All those nice parcels I got from Mom and Dad gave me many a pleasant surprise. I don’t think there was anything I enjoyed more than that Delicious apple. They certainly melt in one’s mouth. This one was mellow. I’m always boasting about our Washington apples and would like to have shown this big red one to Doris and the others. But she would have wanted it, and, after all, there’s a limit to friendship. So I ate the damn thing before I could get any more silly ideas. I had that paper pail of nuts around for weeks before I “discovered” that apple. What I wouldn’t give for a box or two of those!

That fruit cake was delicious, as were the Nabisco cookies. If there’s any more of that stuff available, I hope Mom will snap it up and send it to some boys in the service, me, for instance. I would never have believed it possible, but most of the Xmas supplies I had stored here and there have disappeared. Termites? No, that couldn’t be because they eat wood. The mice, maybe? At times they have threatened to take over the place. It’s not a question of keeping them from eating our stuff, because they always get it in the end. But we do make them work for it. You should see some of our ingenious schemes for putting things out of their reach. By the way, I wonder how Cleon is making out with the ants?

As I told Bonnie in my letter Thursday, the mail situation has eased up and a few letters have come. Makes a nice Xmas present for us because some of the fellows were getting desperate and threatened to stop writing home. But they talked me out of it.

It was a problem to decide where I was going to have my Christmas dinner. I suppose the best dinners tomorrow in the British Isles will be served right in our Army mess halls. But it is only a dinner, after all, and we sometimes tire of eating at the mess hall. Also, the Red Cross in Belfast will be serving free turkey dinners tomorrow that will be quite good. However, since the Presses have been good enough to invite me to their home for dinner, the thing has been solved. Harvey will be going there, and a friend of mine that we call Gus (he is from Arizona and his wife is now living in Idaho). I guess Gus pulled some strings in order to get coupons from the Army for the three of us. We will give them to the Presses. They’ve probably gone without meat, butter, etc. for a week in order to give this dinner for us boys. The rationing over here is murder, believe me. Of course, these people have never eaten the way we do in the United States. So much of their food has always been imported, was therefore always high in price and beyond the reach of much of the working class of people. No one in the U.S. realizes the extent of the difference between our standard of living and that of these people. And at that, the British are better off and have been better off in past years than the continental Europeans.

I may be over here for quite some time yet, but some day I’ll be going back. These people are stuck here! (My morale has just gone up 5 points).

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

Especially Farmers

December 14th, 1944

Uncle Ralph and I don’t do much writing to one another, it seems.  We’ve exchanged perhaps four letters all his year.  He has so little to say, as a rule, and it’s difficult for me to write to him.  Except for the Army, we have practically nothing in common.  We don’t even have that in common, really, for I’m in the Air Corps, where things are different.  I don’t believe he’d like to hear how easy we have things here in Ireland.  So I answer each of his letters and let it go at that.

Would surely like to see my big, fat Twinkle.  Only now am I getting over the news of the untimely passing away of Twinkle Junior.

I enjoyed Mom and Dad’s letter about my Aunt Lizzie and her troubles, what with the election and rationing and shortages of trucks, washing machines, refrigerators, etc.  That’s just too damn bad!  I wouldn’t mind giving her my views on the subject.  It’s too bad when people don’t realize when they’re well off.  If I have the misfortune to run into some of those farmer relatives of mine when I get back home, I just hope they start crying to me about what they’ve gone through during these war years.  I’m not as squeamish as I used to be when it comes to telling someone what I think.  Especially farmers!  With my Uncle Reuben backing me up, I can’t lose.  I don’t mean to imply that I’ve gone through anything in the war; but I have done the job they gave me to do.

I am surprised that Cleon leaves his camp to go to town so often.  I always preferred to stay right at the base.  During the four months I was in the states, I went to town on pass only four times:  Twice to Augusta, Georgia, once to Walterboro, S.C., and the trip to New York.  A homebody, what?  I’ve done a little better over here.

When Mom and Dad wrote on the 14th, they were all worked up about my change of address, just as I knew they would be.  It wasn’t’ entirely their fault this time; the letter in which I explained everything must have been delayed.  It would be!  My transfer will have no effect on the mail.  I haven’t so much as moved from the bunk I occupied while in Hq & Hq Sq.  (I’m going to have to tell Mom and Dad that the blue pencil they have been using to address my packages is not very good.  It rubs off.  Some of the addresses are so dim by the time the box gets here that I don’t know who it’s from, and it takes a good light to make out my name.  You can’t beat ink).

Well, I’m going to cut this short.  I plan to tell you some more about my furlough in this coming Sunday’s post.

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Dear Subscriber

December 10th, 1944

Well, the weeks are passing by, and I’m still putting “Northern Ireland” up in the right-hand corner of the letters that I write home. I hope that some of the letters in which I hinted that I might be leaving N.I. one of these days didn’t upset Mom and Dad. Perhaps I was jumping the gun a little—perhaps. . .! I’m somewhat surprised at myself. It is not like me to write about such things; as a rule. I would leave Mom and Dad completely in the dark about it until it had actually happened. But this time, in a moment of weakness, I told them what was in my own mind. They’re probably wondering now exactly what the score is, and so am I! (The more time I put in in the Army and the longer I am away from home, the more I realize the truth of that old saying, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you”. The guy that dreamed that one up knew what he was talking about. How many things have you conveniently ‘forgotten’ or deliberately belittled? Hmmmm? Fun, isn’t it? I should know! I guess I’ve never told Mom and Dad that I sprained my knee quite badly the day before I got off the boat over here. I had a time of it for a while, hopping around with nearly a hundred pounds of clothes and equipment on my back. Do you suppose True Confessions can use that? And when it comes to “editing” the news, Mom and Dad have been with me all the way. Were it not for Bonnie, I wouldn’t know, even now, how ill Mom was. Here’s to bigger and better “kidding along”!)

In a recent letter home, I enclosed a money order for $40. That’s £10 practically shot to hell. (Note: “£10” is ten pounds in English money). As usual, $30 is for the bank. $7.50 will square me up with Mom and Dad in regard to everyone’s Xmas gifts, and the remaining amount is for Mom and Dad to cover the cost of packing and mailing something or other. I’m going to make a special request in a few days for a new billfold and some fig bars.

I will be sending another money order home on the 31st of December. I let Mom and Dad know that they can save this $30 and deposit the two together, thus saving a trip to town (as if I didn’t know they’re always looking for an excuse). In mid-January, as soon as they have banked my Dec. 31st check and money order, I hope they will let me know how things stand. To render an accounting, they don’t need to go back beyond July. I wonder if Cleon sends any money home each month.

About the only mail I have received in the past three weeks was a letter from Time, Inc., asking me to renew my subscription. Ha Ha! What a life. This letter started out this way: “Dear Subscriber: I hope the mail that brings this also has a letter from home for you, for I know how I would feel if the only letter I received was one asking me to renew my subscription to Time”. Good, eh?

I have read in the papers about cold snaps and heavy snows in various sections of the country, but nothing about Washington. Great state, Washington. I imagine it’s still like summer there. Boy do I brag on our local boys and girls who have made the national spotlight: Bing Crosby, Eric Johnston, Patrice Munsel, Susan Peters. I think when the war is over, I’ll probably go back there.

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

Seven Beers With the Wrong Woman

November 14th, 1944

It is now a few minutes past six, and I am already back at the office, ready to do a hurry-up job on this note. Later on tonight I will stroll down to the Red Cross Club for a toasted cheese sandwich and cup of coffee, then maybe I’ll come read two or three articles in the latest Reader’s Digest, and finally, to the show, the second one, which starts at 9 o’clock. And that will be another day behind me.

Let me give you the “atmosphere” here this evening, some “local color”, so to speak. I got off work at 5:30 as usual, and rushed straight for the mess hall to eat supper, as usual, for it is only recently that we have been given soup. When I got back to the barrack, I changed clothes, putting on my “fatigue suit”, which is a fancy name for the green overalls we wear when off duty. Now I’m here in the office, pounding on this typewriter. If I leave out some words and sentences here and there, you’ll know it’s because the radio is on, and I’m trying to listen to it and write this at the same time. The American armed forces have their own radio network over here, called the American Forces Network. At this moment I am listening to the GI Supper Club, a program of recordings which the boys have written in and asked for. Something like the Coffee Pot Parade that was broadcast over Station KWSC at Pullman. We always used to listen to it while eating breakfast at S. 909 Meadow. It seems to me like that was about 10 years ago. The radio has just finished playing “Seven Beers With the Wrong Woman”. Wonder if my Uncle Ralph requested them to play that. He used to be so crazy about that when he was my age.

As I came over here a few minutes ago, the wind was blowing like sixty. And since I have started on this post, it has begun and stopped raining a couple of times! The blackout curtains are pulled, but I can hear the rain coming down on the steel roof and hitting against the windows. It is almost dark when I go to work at 8:30 in the morning now, and it’s dark outside already tonight. Winter is upon us. Late next spring the sun will be coming up again at 5:30 and setting at 10:00 that evening, but I doubt that I will be here to see it.

Since going into the Army, I have become very much aware of the day-by-day weather and also the seasons. All soldiers, but especially those in the field, are interested in the weather. And it is never good weather, for the boys who are living in the “great out-of-doors”. If it isn’t too hot, it’s too cold, or too wet, or too dry, or too dusty, or too windy, or too muddy, or something. Those things are important to the man who is living in a foxhole.

As far as the seasons are concerned, Ireland has them, and it hasn’t. Depends on how you look at it. The ground is as green as ever, greener in some places. Most of the year’s crops are in now, eliminating many of the light tan and brown fields that I looked down upon from the air with so much interest while I was flying to England last month. The brisk wind that has been blowing lately has cleaned lots of the trees of their leaves. And even if it doesn’t look like our winter landscapes in Washington, one does know that it is winter, just as much as if there was snow on the ground and icicles were hanging from the roofs.

A post of this type may not do wonders for your morale; nevertheless, it does me good to write one a couple of times each year. Nostalgia, you know.

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

A Fellow’s Got To Be Sociable

November 2nd, 1944

I’ve never seen it fail.  Whenever I’m most eager to let you know what the latest developments are, I’m usually too busy to post immediately.  That’s the way it has been this week.  One night I went to the “Press Club”, another night I had to go to a party, before last I worked, etc.

On Sunday I was expecting to be transferred.  I “expected” right!  So-o-o-o, I am now assigned to a different squadron.  The second line of my address has changed.  Instead of being in “Hq & Hq Sq, 403rd Base Air Depot”, I am in “Station Complement Squadron, Base Air Depot #3”. 

Well, so far, my transfer to another unit hasn’t brought about much change of any kind.  Yet!  I am occupying the same bunk in the same barrack at the same site at the same base as I have for months past.  And I am working at the same office as always.  Although that is true today, I wouldn’t swear it will be the truth tomorrow.  I have heard rumors .  .  .  .

That party I went to was a farewell celebration for the Captain.  In case I haven’t mentioned this before, Captain B_______ has been my boss since about the first year.

Next to me, the Captain has been with the department longer than anyone still with us.  However, during the most of that time, he was actually located at our other office, and my immediate boss (when I had one) was generally his assistant statistical control officer.  During the year there were two of them, both 1st lieutenants.  I worked with the Captain before the other office was set up, and have been working with him since his crew moved in with us.  He was a swell guy to have for a boss, and I hated to see him leave us.  Our new “chief” is a man from our office—he is a good Joe, too.

The Captain gave this party himself, and it must have set him back a good many pounds.  For our group of about 15, he secured a private dining room at the Carlton, which is one of Belfast’s best restaurants.  In addition to the fellows in the office, the group included the two girls in our office, the Captain’s girl, and a girl who is married to one of our boys, and a girl who is engaged to one of our boys.  These Irish girls are going to town!  We had a chicken-and-turkey dinner, with all the trimmings.  The toasts to the Captain and the bridegroom-to-be (who is our new boss) disposed of a bottle of rye and a bottle of scotch.  A fellow’s got to be sociable, you know.

Early the afternoon of the dinner, we enlisted men kicked in with some money to get the Captain a going-away present, and sent one our men into Belfast so he could buy something before the stores closed.  He is a comical guy anyway, and when he showed up at the dinner half-crocked, he kept us in stitches for the better part of an hour and a half.  Will tell you more about this tomorrow.

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

Anniversary Greetings

August 17th, 1944

I’m sending Mom and Dad a pre-printed V-Mail letter provided by the service for the express purpose of wishing “Anniversary Greetings” to the parents of those serving overseas.  Adorned with images of bells, the American flag, flowers, and a horseshoe, it says:


Here’s a warm and heartfelt greeting
And a message of good cheer,
Better days are in the making –
Here’s the best in all the year!

Though I can’t be there this Moment,
Still my heart is finding ways
To be sharing in the gladness
Of this happy

Day of Days!

I signed it:

       Many happy returns ——

       Your son, Vernald

Even this required a censor’s stamp by a US Army Examiner.

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This Is the Old Timer Talking

July 8th, 1944

The letters have been pouring in. Since I wrote Thursday night, 4 letters from Mom (plus one from Reuben and Leah) have come. And never have letters been more welcome than these, for I was eager, to say the least, to find out how things were and if they proceeded according to plan. Up to that time, I knew that Cleon was scheduled to leave on the 21st and that is all. The letters not only made good time, but they also came in the same order in which they were written, a circumstance as convenient as it was novel! (Even the post office dept slips up at times, it would appear).

And so, despite the fact that I am some 6000 miles removed from the scene of action, on this Saturday evening, the 8th day of July, 1944, I have a fairly complete understanding of the happenings which occurred at W. 703 Euclid Ave. during the latter part of June, from the gay celebration of Father’s Day and Cleon’s birthday on the 18th through the 28th, when Mom got the first news from the gob in the family.

My mood tonight is of a decided philosophic nature, tinged with nostalgia. All of which makes it no small mess! I hope Mom is in a similar calm state of mind. That is the best way. Ever since it became more or less certain that Cleon would be going into the service soon, I have been giving increased thought to the good times that we all had not long ago. The war has been an interruption, but that is all—just an interruption.

Some short time ago I reached the ripe old age of 21—that gives me 21 years to look back on, right? Those first years are dim, but I’ll bet you’d be surprised at some of the things that have come to my mind just lately. For instance: One of the earliest things I can remember is pushing Cleon back and forth in that two-wheeled baby buggy when we lived in LaCrosse. I must have been about 5 then. And now Cleon is a sailor at Great Lakes! Is it so surprising that his being there should seem a bit unreal to us? I think not. But we shall get used to it—and soon. That’s a good thing about people—they get used to things.

It wasn’t long after I “pushed Cleon around” that we moved to Clay Street in Colfax. I used to go to the store there, if I’m not mistaken. There is one night in particular I remember at Clay Street. The night Bonnie was born. I woke up with all the commotion, so dad and I went out and sat on the back steps. It was a very clear night. Of course, I didn’t realize what was going on, but I do remember the night. Soon after we moved to Meadow Street, Bonnie started to walk, and what fun that was. I was her big brother, age 7! And now Bonnie is a high school girl, playing tennis and going on dates, sometimes with a kid I used to “keep”. Yep, this is the Old Timer talking! Ha Ha ! Time staggers on. Well, looking back like that, I don’t have any doubts about our futures. We’ll all be back doing what we want to before we know it.

Just came back to the office from the mail room. Guess what? Got a letter from Cleon already. Dated June 25th. Will write him tonight, after the show.

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

Like American Girls, Only Less So

July 1st, 1944

Yesterday evening I received Mom’s June 20th letter.  That was the first one she wrote to me after learning that I am now a sergeant.  It is a fine letter, and one that I enjoyed reading very much.  What made me especially pleased was to know that she could bring herself to write such a nice, cheery letter as that on the eve of Cleon’s leaving.

Isn’t it interesting how things work out sometimes?  Of all the evenings that such news as that might reach her, it turned out to be that particular one.  If it made the event of the following day any easier for her, that in itself would make it worthwhile.  The general tone of Mom’s letter reassured me that she would take Cleon’s leaving in stride, which is the only way to do it.  I sincerely hope that her experiences in my case will point the way to a complete confidence in how Cleon will get along.  In other words, don’t worry about him just on general principles.  Many thousands of boys just like him have enlisted in the Navy since the war began, and they have made out alright.  In going in as he did, he has made a much better start than I did.

Mom shouldn’t trouble herself too much about Cleon’s and my “growing up” too soon.  In the sense that she means, I don’t feel grown up and I doubt that Cleon does.  That is one of the reasons that I am so carefully considering going to college.

I feel sure that I would have a swell time in school.  And there’s the educational side, too!  I could study “things”!  Ha Ha !

So I wonder if these Irish girls over here have the gals back home worried?  Well, what do you know about that?  I suppose you realize that you could have picked a better person to give you the “lowdown” on this than I.  My observations on the question are largely academic.  Someone who has worked “in the field” could probably be relied upon to give a more accurate and less biased opinion.  However, I will take a crack at it. I hope that you appreciate the fact that I am treading dangerous ground.  The good will of the Irish girls is of the utmost importance to us.  On the other hand, we must not allow the American girls to become unduly concerned as to the temptations which may be found here by American Joes.  (Rather nicely put, eh wot?).  In general I think I may safely say that Irish girls are much like American girls, only less so.

Wasn’t there a song titled “Johnny Doughboy Found a Rose in Ireland”?  Touching, isn’t it?  Anyway, this is Northern Ireland and we aren’t doughboys.  Perhaps they’re allergic to Air Force boys.

To get down to brass tacks, I think the American girls, on average, are more attractive than the average Irish girls.  And in regard to Irish girls and their use of cosmetics, it may be a case of “Too little and too late”, as Churchill once said.  (Shame on me!)  I guess that’s because cosmetic are hard to get; a few seem to get more than their share, though.

In the event that you think I’m being too harsh on these gals, let me point out one very important fact.  The crux of the matter is that we are American boys.  We don’t want to run down anyone else, but since we are American, it is inevitable that, in our eyes, everything American is tops.  That includes American girls, fortunately.  The people of most other countries feel the same way, I imagine, about their countries.  Throwing the cold light of logic on this state of affairs, it is at once apparent that one or more of these are unknowingly kidding themselves.  Which one(s)?

If the American Joes don’t think the American girls are something pretty special, why do they unanimously agree “it would be wonderful to see an American girl again”?.

Inasmuch as free public schooling ends with the elementary grades here, the average girl is not as well educated as the girls back home.  In fact, in many ways the country seems to be a decade or so behind he United States.  It is particularly true in the case of public health.

Lastly, I’ll tell you about how Irish girls “are”.  I guess they’re alright.  The most of us will be returning to the United States at the first opportunity, I dare say!

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

Invention for Fun and Profit

June 20th, 1944

I’ve been reading over several letters from home in which Mom and Dad mention a patent deal that dad is working on, and I don’t know what to think—or say.  This work that Dad and Uncle Reuben have been doing this summer on their own hook definitely proves that they have the capitalistic viewpoint in business.  Therefore, I’m not surprised that they recognize the opportunity for profit in invention.

They have told me little or nothing of the device itself.  And, not being of a mechanical nature, I probably wouldn’t understand if they did.  The first time anything was said about it to me was only a few weeks ago.  I wonder if the invention of this thing is as sudden as it appears to me, or if they have been working on it for a few months.

Some people have made money on patents—more people have probably lost money on them.  Not knowing anything about this invention, I am in no position to predict which category it will put them in.  I think they understand that a patent lawyer’s fees are not dependent upon the success or failure of the patented device.  He has nothing to lose.  They have.  The fact that an invention can be patented is not in itself proof of value.  The prime requisite of any invention thought to be of potential value is its marketability.  Someone must want it.  In fact, it should be something the prospective buyers will fight over.

How is it that it takes so much money to get something patented?  The government grants patents, and I can hardly believe that it would put the cost of a patent as high as the figure they mentioned.  If the greater part of that goes to the attorney, as I suspect it does, why do they deal through him anyway?  Can’t they find out from the Patent Office what the procedure is in obtaining a patent?  And how do they figure it will take a year or two to obtain it.  I should think 3 months would do it.  It didn’t take a year the last time, did it?  Does the attorney take care of the selling of it?

I wonder if dad was kidding when he asked me if I wanted a share in it.  If he has any ideas, he should put his cards on the table.

We are having our summer now. It goes like this—2 weeks of rain, one nice, warm sunny day, 2 weeks of rain, etc.  The days are now very long.  Doesn’t get dark until midnight.  And have I ever been staying up!  Never do get to bed before 11 and sometimes it’s later.  That gives me some trouble at 6 the next morning, but the feeling soon wears off.  The main problem is getting up.  Some of the boys have terrible fights with themselves to get up.

Have seen some good shows of late.  Last Friday night we went to see a murder mystery “Phantom Lady” with Franchot Tone and some others.  After the show we went to the Red Cross Aeroclub on the base and argued about the movie for an hour or two over a sandwich and a cup of coffee.  What excitement we have here.

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

Summer Came On a Tuesday Last Year

June 10th, 1944

I wrote a letter to one of my high school teachers, Mrs. Busby.   It’s always a pleasure to hear from someone in the old home town.  I say “old” because Spokane is supposed to be my home town at present.  At least, that is what I repeatedly tell my Army acquaintances.  They are now so well award of the fact that “Mac” and “Spokane” have become practically synonymous.

We have to be very careful where we’re from while I the Army.  A fellow may come from this city or that, or he may be a native of such and such a state, but, as a rule, soldiers do not hail from small towns.  You’d be surprised at the location of some of the “suburbs” of our large cities.  I am still looking for a GI from Illinois who is not a Chicagoan!

I told Mrs. Busby that, just between the two of us, I will admit that I’m about as familiar with Spokane as I am with Belfast.  I lived in Spokane for just four months, and soon after I was shipped overseas, the family moved to a newly purchased home.  If I arrive in Spokane at night, I may have some trouble finding where I live.  And if the city were having a murky Irish blackout of the type thought which we must grope on wintery nights, I wouldn’t even try to find the place.

Next month will mark a year that I have been stationed in Northern Ireland.  I am now more or less used to the idea of being here, but at first I frequently found myself thinking “So this is Ireland?”  Any doubts on the subject which I may have had at that time have been completely dispelled.  Yes, this is Ireland.

I believe certain aspects of Belfast would interest Mrs. Busby, as they did me.  In the broad light of day, it is merely another large city, drab and uninteresting.  But, dusk ushers in a fascinating transformation.  How eerie the streets look during the long, dark night of autumn and winter.  Imagine a stiff breeze whipping in from Belfast Lough.  Perhaps there is a bit of mist, or maybe a steady rain.  The side streets are foreboding; at the main corners pale colored lights thrust half-heartedly into the darkness.  Except for the faint, unfamiliar sounds drifting up from the harbor, everything is still.  Gloom shrouds the city’s ugly gray and brown buildings.  Shades of Dorothy L. Sayers!  Who could fail to appreciate such a setting for murder?

But that is blacked-out Belfast in the dead of winter, not Ireland, scenic masterpiece in the blush of spring and summer.  I have a notion that the real Ireland is to be found outside the large cities.

Northern Ireland is very small or “wee”, as the Irish put it.  Spokane and Whitman counties combined would compare favorably in size, I’m sure.

Ireland looks quite unlike the parts of the United States through which I passed.  Some boys from Pennsylvania have indicated a resemblance between the land here and that in parts of their state.  The larger cities are not attractive in the least, and the climate leaves something to be desired (good weather?); however, the small cities, towns, and villages and the open country are picturesque, beauteous, even awe-inspiring.  (The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of anyone else).

As I rode to the city the other day, I tried to pick out points of similarity between what I saw and the land in the Palouse country.  Their respective appearances could hardly be more unlike one another.  The greater part of the land that I have seen consists of low, flat hills, virtually blanketed with trees and grass.  I don’t wonder that Ireland is associated with the color green.  In comparison with the cleared-off areas of the West, this looks like a vast park, stretching out in all directions as far as the eye can see.  The landscape presents a blending of light green grass- and grainfields and dark green trees and scrubbery that is most pleasing to view.  Miles away one can make out the angular outlines of small tracts of land, carefully bordered by the ever-present hedges, of which these people seem to be so fond.

It is a calm, peaceful scene.  The land has an appearance typical of Britain.  It is what you would expect to find here.

The weather undoubtedly is the country’s chief liability.  The “refreshing” rains of the Northwest will not be found here.  Irish rain is cold and inhospitable.  Darn wet, too.  The wind, often sweeping in from the sea, is brisk and sharp.   One might call it “unkindly”.  There are countless numbers of tall shade trees, but very little sunshine.  In July we have a scant five hours of darkness, in December, eight and a half hours of light.

Britons are quick to point out that summer came on a Tuesday last year!  And it is “frightfully decent” of them to do so.  Lets us know just where we stand.  According to the observations of one Yank, Britain has but three seasons instead of the usual four, namely: early winter, winter, and late winter.  And the inevitable gag about the Irishmen who “were saving their money for a sunshiny day” made its debut soon after that first contingent of Yanks stepped off the boat and into the downpour!

Well, taken all in all, it’s an experience to be here in Northern Ireland, one that I can appreciate and no doubt will remember for a long time to come.

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

A Liking to Navy Blue

May 13th, 1944

Don’t we have a time though?  Ten days or more ago I got some letters from home saying that Cleon had pretty much made up his mind that he would wait and be drafted like I was.  I thought that after what I had written home on the subject, he was as good as in the Navy.  As a result, I got all hopped up when their news came.  On the 10th (last Wednesday) I dashed off another “persuasive” letter, hoping that it would do the trick.  And if it didn’t, I would keep on shooting my mouth off until I got some action.

Well, the funny thing is that less than an hour after I mailed that letter, I got one from home which said, among other things, that Cleon had suddenly taken a liking to Navy blue.  It made me feel much better.

In the meantime I have thought of other comments that I wanted to make but which had slipped my mind at the time.  Here goes.  This is war, they tell me.  So if Cleon goes into the service, and I don’t see how he can avoid doing just that, he will more than likely be in more or less danger.  (Anybody who can beat around the bush like that ought to be a lawyer!).  Well, if he is going to be in danger, he might as well be in danger in comfort.  This life of marching day and night, carrying all your “household” possession on your back, eating canned C and K rations isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Some of those foxholes are drafty—might drafty.

Fortunately for me, I have never had to do that.  But many boys are doing that.  And some of the fellows who are drafted this year will be doing it.  Not Cleon, I hope.  Don’t get the idea that the Navy is a bed of roses.  In most ways it’s like the Army.  However, the average sailor has a clean, dry place to sleep when he has finished his work for the day and he is reasonably sure of three good hot meals a day.

Join the Navy and see, if not the entire world, at least a substantial part of it!  Now that so large a part of the Army is overseas, there should be no objection to the Navy on that count.  In fact, if Cleon becomes a gob, I’ll bet he is home on furlough before I am.

I do believe it’s nearly time for another story on our GI chow.  Haven’t given that a wallop since Christmas.  Here it is:  On Thursday we had spaghetti and meat balls.  I thought it was delicious.  However, not everyone shared that opinion.  Some wise guy took one of the meat balls and, through the use of several match sticks, fastened it to the wall of the mess hall, plainly in sight of everyone standing in line waiting to be served.  Under the meat ball, he placed this sign:  “HIGH-TEST GOLF BALLS, 2 to a victim, no coupons required.”  Did you ever try to bite into a meat ball which had been retreaded?  These were nothing like that.  Practically melted in one’s mouth.

P.S….There are a couple of items that I will ask Mom and Dad to send me soon.  One is a pair of those wooden-soled, canvas-strapped shoes to war in the shower.  I’ve been having a bit of trouble with athlete’s foot.  Nothing serious.  I think this may be the answer.  Also, a bottle of iodine, Absorbine Jr. or something else that will toughen the skin between my toes.  I could use 2 or 3 packs of Gillette Thin Blades, too.  To make up the allowed weight, they can send me something in the way of dried fruits or cookies made with dried fruits.  And those marshmallows hit the spot.

I need to thank Mom for the very nice Mother’s Day Message to a Son in the Service.  I hope she will like what I sent in place of a card.  They don’t have Mother’s Day over here; hence, no cards.

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

Average Gob

May 10th, 1944

Another letter showed up when I went to the mail room last night. It isn’t the letter so much as what was in it that has set me on my ear. You could have knocked me over with a gust of wind (I think that “feather” expression has been rather overdone, don’t you) when I read that Cleon was going to wait and be drafted like I was. It is, generally speaking, alright for a fellow to follow in his brother’s footsteps, but he should at least wait until I get out of them. If I have anything to say about it, this is going to be an exception to the rule.

First of all, I will suggest to Mom, dad, and Cleon that they all reread those 3 letters I have already written on the subject (2 to Mom and Dad and one to Cleon). They need to read them over carefully and ponder each word. Unless they have proof to the contrary, they cannot ignore the points which were made. They say that Cleon thinks he will wait ‘til he’s drafted. But they give no good reason for his doing that, however. In a show I saw the other evening, one of the characters said, “There’s a place up the road for people who talk to themselves!” Was I talking to myself when I wrote those? Not intentionally!

I wonder what Cleon has to gain by waiting. I hope he does not think that the Navy might accept him whereby the Army might reject him, and that he therefore might get into service needlessly.

I realize that it is not easy for a guy like Cleon or me to walk into something like this of our own free will. But in Cleon’s particular case it almost amounts to going in “this week” or being drafted “week after next”. It will take some intestinal fortitude to go in the way I suggest, but it is a course of action which should pay off. About that girl trouble he’s having so much fun with, it’s too bad it has to end soon. Maybe she will write to him.

Cleon should like the Navy at least as well as the Army. Its physical and mental standards are higher and the average gob is younger than his counterpart in the Army. Thousands and thousands of 17-year-old boys have enlisted in the Navy since the war began.

I don’t like to say too much about the advancement that is available in the Navy because that depends on Cleon. But I have heard that ability plays a larger part there than where I am. And I think the Navy is more careful in its assignment of men to certain jobs. For example, compare Gene Elliott with me. Well, he was just an ordinary guy. Enlisted in the Navy, went to school to learn about sound-detection, came out a petty officer third class a few months later. That’s approximately equal to an Army sergeant. I don’t have to tell you what a genius I am (?). Figure out how long and how hard I’ve worked for my corporalcy. I could name other cases of the same nature.

Now, is the Navy more dangerous? Yes, it is more dangerous than what I am doing. What isn’t? But, I don’t think it is as dangerous as what Cleon will probably get into if he waits—namely, infantry, artillery, armored force, combat engineers, tank destroyers, etc. Well, I wonder what he thinks now.

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

The Customer Is Always Right

April 8th, 1944

Inasmuch as I’ve been getting lots of mail lately, I wasn’t too optimistic when I strolled over to the mail room yesterday evening. The mail clerk wasn’t any too optimistic either. Before I could even open my mouth, he told me that there were only about a dozen “M’s” for the entire squadron, so I could figure out what my share amounted to. My share turned out to be 5 letters and 2 packages—what a haul!

A few words about the packages first. One of them contained my new dress shoes. They are perfect—fit swell and are exactly the style I had in mind. Everyone admired them. When I asked for those shoes, I didn’t give the matter another thought until they got here because I knew Mom and Dad would take care of everything and that I would like them. The other parcel was jam-packed with various delicacies, making it every bit as good as the last one, which is saying a lot. Thanks go to Mom and Dad for all their trouble, bus tokens, pints, etc. Their efforts in my behalf are appreciated, I mean really. I can’t say that I appreciated that little joke of theirs about the “cottage cheese” though. They certainly slipped one over on me there. They actually had me thinking that’s what had been sent, and why they should put such a thing in a package of mine I didn’t know. That particular part of the letter seemed very serious in tone, and frankly I was worried. What if the cottage cheese should “get loose” and make a mess of everything?

I remember telling Mom and Dad that I had learned to like cheese, but cottage cheese! That was taking things too far. Or should I say “sending” things too far. It seems that my suspicions on that point were unfounded.

Despite the letter Mom and Dad wrote “explaining” how they spent and otherwise disposed of my last check and money order, I think I have it all straight in my mind. But until that news came, I was going around in circles trying to make it add up. Their letters do not come in the same order that they are written, and for a time I decided that one of the money orders had been lost in the mails. Considering the distance and hazards involved, such a thing is not impossible. But none were lost, as it turned out, and I don’t worry about them after they once reach home. Mom and Dad needn’t have even asked me whether I minded if they used the last one for their taxes. I will be sending $40 more in my next letter home. I hope Mom and Dad will deposit it as soon as they conveniently can. That should bring my balance at the Fidelity to exactly $605.01. I’ll ask Mom and Dad to let me know if that is correct.

Mom and Dad are making me feel like a ba-a-ad boy, writing so much. Still, I’d rather not write any more often than I have been. On those days when my folks are specially busy, or tired, or have company (and “Eleanor”-ish people have many such days), I hope they don’t feel that they have “simply got to write to Vernald”. Ease up! That’s the way I want it. There’s been more than one time that I’ve postponed writing a letter for a similar reason. Several times Mom and Dad have said that I’m their “best customer” for letters. Remember this: The customer is always right. So take heed of my sage advice.

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

Occupational Hazards

January 29th, 1944

I received another swell letter from my brother, Cleon.  I appreciate his taking the time to write me so often.  I suppose he’s very busy with one thing and another, just as I was last year.

Everything is buzzing over here, as might be expected.  There was a very interesting article in the paper yesterday called “Occupational Hazards”.  It seems that the chairborne troops have had their first casualty.  One of the paragraph-troopers broke 2 fingers when his typewriter jammed unexpectedly.  Too bad.  But, what the hell, this is WAR!

Every new day brings us a new angle on the second front.  One paper editorialized: “Speaking of the second front, boys, remember, it’s Leap Year!”.  Maybe they’ve got something there (but I doubt it).  All this talk about a second front reminds me of a steak I had last week.  What a tussle!  That was by all odds the toughest steak I ever bit into and couldn’t let go of.  After 10 minutes of harassing tactics, which served to wear him down and tire him out, I delivered the “coup de grace”.  Steaks are much too scarce to give up without a fight.

Did you hear the one about the soldier who said, “What a New Year’s Eve celebration!  That’s one night I’ll never remember!”?

I’ve written home before speaking about Joe.  He’s a very smart boy.  I told him that Cleon was putting in some time on qualitative analysis and also some calculus.  Joe has completed 2 years of junior college and is familiar with both subjects.  He assumed that Cleon was attending college, and was very surprised when I told him that Cleon was still a senior in high school.  Joe took qualitative analysis and quantitative analysis in his second semester of college chemistry.  He said it wasn’t any picnic.  Paulsen used to tell our class about it too.  (We didn’t listen to him, though).

Joe didn’t find calculus difficult for himself, but said he could see where some people might have trouble with it.  I’ll wager I’d have trouble with even algebra now.  This army is making a dumb-bell out of me.  It’s not easy to keep up on things like that if you don’t use them regularly in your work or otherwise.

I expect my accounting course to come any week now.  Joe and I went to the library the other night and I found some books on bookkeeping and accounting.  Very elementary material so I’m using it as a review for the next section of my correspondence course, which is Auditing Procedure.  I’m anxious to find out how much I’ve forgotten about the subject in the past year.  Not too much, I hope.

So I wonder if the income tax has my folks and my bother in its grips.  I wonder how much Cleon is going to have to shell out.  I’ve been wondering why he didn’t “pay-as-you-went”.  Maybe he didn’t you make enough in any one job to come under the plan.  I have advised Cleon to be sure to use the simplified income tax form.  It automatically allows him deductions equal to 6% of his income.  Or at least it did last year.  Very few taxpayers can qualify for deductions in excess of that.  So, Cleon and dad had better get a tax instruction book and get to work.

I’ve got a letter written now for Cleon, but I’m in doubt as to whether I should mail it.  In his December 22nd letter he said, “I was sick when your letter came, and became worse as time passed”.  They have that effect on most people.  I can’t figure it out.

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

I Will Never Be Able To Repay Them For What They Did For Me

January 23rd, 1944

I received a letter from Mom and Dad, dated January 4th,, the day before yesterday, and there is one part of it that I am not very pleased about.  What in the world could they possibly want back in Colfax?!  If either one of them is the least bit serious about it, I’m just plain disgusted.  I don’t see how they could even think of such a thing.  I may be all wrong, but somehow I’ve been going along under the assumption that their home was in Spokane.

Now about the matter itself, it is important and I don’t blame them for worrying over it a little, but leaving Spokane is not the solution.  Staying there is.  It has more to offer than any small town around it, in good times or bad.  During the years we lived in Colfax, there was more than one time that we wished our home were right where it is now.  So let’s leave it there, shall we?

Well, tonight I got two more letters.  They are old-timers, December 12th and 14th.  As if , that isn’t bad enough, they were dated them November 12th and 14th.  Ha Ha!  In fact, practically all the letters Mom and Dad wrote last month were dated “November”.  The days must be rolling by very fast for them, I am thinking!

It looks like someone is at last appreciating Twinkle.  I know I’ve always had the idea that he was just a little different from other cats.  There’s something about him– One time Mom and Dad said he had sort of taken my place.  Does that mean that they don’t put him out in the cold anymore?  What a time we had with him at 808 Mansfield in that garage.  I don’t think Northern Ireland quite has its share of cats.  Must be the weather.  You know how they hate water, and around here, it’s sink or swim.  There is a little black-and-white kitten at our site, and he’s into everything.  He’s wild, though, and won’t let a guy get near him.

I was very gratified to learn that all my parent’s friends and relatives are concerned over my well-being. I’ll ask Mom and Dad to tell them that nothing could be better.  Not counting an honorable discharge after the war.  Mom and Dad telling me that this will end sometime and then we can make up for lost time reminds me of something I read in Yank.  It said that this being in the army so far away from home is very much like having the dentist drill around on you.  It’s bearable only because you know it can’t go on forever.  That applys more to the boys who are actually fighting than it does to us.  We’re certainly not suffering.  You know what they call us, don’t you?  Chairborne troops and paragraph troopers!  All I can say is, “It’s good work if you can get it.”

Guess who I got V-mail from Friday?  None other than Mrs. Busby.  I sent out quite a batch of Christmas cars to her and some others, and she promptly wrote back.  She said, “Very pleased and surprised to get card.  Can you tell what you’re in—flying or what?”  I know she would like nothing better than to find out I’m buzzing around in a P38 or making commando raids on the French coast.  That’s the kind of person she is.  As soon as she gets to know you, she decides that you are a certain “type”.  Then if you do something that she would never expect your “type” to do, she is delighted.  I’m afraid I can’t giver her that pleasure.  Ha Ha!  She also told me about several of my old classmates—where they are and what they are doing.  My, but I’d like to be in college “debating” with Doris Pierson.  Woo-o-o-woo-o-o-o-o-o ! !  (That almost got away from me, didn’t it?).  At the end she asked me to write and let them know how things are going with me, which I think I will.  A couple of years ago, we were pretty thick and she probably wants to check up on my English.

When I look back to high school, there are 4 teachers that I remember before any others.  Mrs. Busby, Miss Howard, Mr. Moses, and Mr. Peterson.  They are tops.  Very few parents realize the influence and guidance they exercise over their students during the years when every experience has its effect for good or evil.  I will never be able to repay them for what they did for me.

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

A More Appropriate, If Less Pleasant, Name

December 28th, 1943

The dinner we had here last Sunday was almost as good as our Christmas turkey dinner the day before.  Only this time, the featured attraction was ham, and plenty of it.  How I love to go after that stuff.

This was extra good ham.  It had a “cured” taste that hit the spot.  I didn’t think it was especially salty while I was eating it, but I made about 15 trips to the drinking fountain that afternoon and still felt as if I were in the middle of the Sahara.  Also on the menu were mashed potatoes and gravy (the old standby), canned corn, and some delicious apple pie.  The upper crust of the pie was just a layer of toasted crums, and the whole thing melted in one’s mouth.

For our Sunday night supper we had stew and french-fried moth balls (hominy grits).  Up to their old tricks again!  You know what hominy grits look like, don’t you?  Well, the grits and a recording of Bing Crosby was the closest we got to having a “White Christmas”.

According to what I read in the papers, the boys here in the ETO get the best grub of any soldiers anywhere.  We do get some good food.  Take just our breakfasts for an example.  Here’s how they stack up:

We have a choice of fruit juice, cold canned milk, or coffee for a beverage.  I always take the fruit juice, which may be grapefruit, pineapple, orange, or tomato juice (maybe you didn’t know tomatoes were fruit.  Well, you learn something new every day!).

We are getting more and more in the way of “dry” cereals as time goes on.  And that suits us fine.  You don’t know what hardship is until you eat Army oatmeal mush.  That’s only my opinion, of course.  Back in Kearns, before I knew better, I rather liked the stuff.  They served fresh milk with it then.  During the last few months, we have had puffed wheat and rice, shredded Ralston, wheat flakes, and shredded wheat.  Not bad, eh?

There is always some kind of fruit to eat with your cereal.  Peaches, pears, apricots, prunes, and plums are the most common.  And put pineapple in there some place.

Our favorite main dish for breakfast is hot cakes.  But that isn’t what we always get.  Powdered eggs cause the most trouble.  Sometimes they’re okay and at other times they aren’t so okay.  It depends on who makes them and what he puts in them as an added inducement.  And then there’s a “nifty” little dish, known technically as “creamed beef on toast”, but we have a more appropriate if less pleasant name for it.  Need I add it is not fit to go in this post?

In one of Mom and Dad’s letters they asked me to write a little something about my plans for after the war.  I’m glad they brought that up.  I’ve been intending to touch on that subject but have never gotten around to it.  Some things I’ve decided fairly definitely, others I’m still thinking about.

I’m not sure that Mom and Dad will appreciate some of the ideas I have.  For instance, some day I hope to have an office of my own.  Of course, my LaSalle diploma will be hanging on the wall.  I have in mind a rather large office with all the modern conveniences, including a massive, six drawer, glass-topped, knee-hole walnut desk and a small, blonde and blue-eyed, five foot five private secretary.  Nice, eh?  Ha Ha!  On second thought, I guess I could get along without the desk.

I hope you’ll excuse all my mistakes in typing tonight.  I’ve been typing all day, and my hands don’t seem to know what they are doing.

By the way, since I have been typing letters to send home, the single-spaced typing takes much less space than writing in longhand, so Mom and Dad have been getting longer letters than they might think.  But, since I don’t say anything, what difference does it make how long it is?

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Christmas Dinner

December 25th, 1943

Today is Christmas! How do I know? Well, I don’t know for certain, but I am hoping it’s Christmas because that stuff I got from home for the holiday season has wasted away to a shadow. Another week and I would have had what the little dog shot at! As it is, I’ve been on a ration of one raisin a day since December 17th It was certainly good stuff while it lasted.

This state of affairs may be hard for Mom and Dad to understand. They sent me so many things to eat. One trouble was that every time I lifted the lid of my foot locker, there they were. Tempting, no? Put a can of 3-in-1 oil and a roll of adhesive tape where Cleon will run into them several times a day and see how long they last!!

All of us boys from the Northwest, the Midwest, and the Northeast have been “dreaming of a White Christmas”, but that is all the good it has done us. This year my Christmas is decidedly green. Many of the trees still have their leaves or needles and one need only look at the beautiful carpet of grass to appreciate the extensive “precipitation” we have been having of late.

According to the Stars and Stripes, at least a few soldiers in the ETO were “dreaming of a Tight Christmas”. Could be!!

I’m not one to rub it in, but I’ve been wondering if I had a better Christmas dinner than Mom and Dad did. If I remember their dinners correctly, that would be going some. I’ll tell you just what I had this noon. It didn’t cost me a single penny or point either.

The main course was, of course, turkey. And what turkey. No bones, no necks, no waste of any kind. Just great big slabs of white meat. And more than one could eat. With the turkey there was dressing (the only thing I didn’t like) and cranberry sauce.

Besides that, there were mashed potatoes and gravy, peas, pickles, bread, hot rolls, butter, and some cake which was just like mother used to make. We even got some G.I. Christmas candy.

I thought it was a much better meal than the one we had Thanksgiving. You may wonder if we stuffed ourselves. If Hitler had launched an attack today at one o’clock, he would have caught us with our pants down. I know I couldn’t have put up much of a fight.

For supper we had baloney and beans.

In many ways it has been just another day for me. I lounged around in bed until 7:45 but still made it to work by the usual 8:30. I am always busy on Saturday morning, and this morning was no exception. This afternoon I was just there.

I’ve got the Christmas spirit, though. I took one bag of the hard candy that Mom and Dad sent to me and gave it to the Irish janitor who works down at our offices. I wished him a Merry Christmas, and he seemed very pleased. It has given me a good feeling all day.

This evening I went to the show here on the base. “Hello, Frisco, Hello” was showing, and I enjoyed it more than when I first saw it in Kearns some eight months ago.

Of course it is several hours earlier in the States. Mom and Dad may very well be eating their dinner this very minute. And thinking of me as I am thinking of them.

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Like a Duck Takes to Water

December 24th, 1943

Here it is Christmas Eve!  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  I know that some of my letters home have taken a while to arrive, so it may be that my Merry Christmas letter home should more appropriately say “Happy Easter!”.

I have received several letters from home within the last few days, among them one written on November 24th.  Well, good for me!  (Another old Ed’ard’s saying of mine). I’ve really sweated that letter out, believe me.  Letters have come and letters have gone, and all the while I have waited for this particular one because it was the first that Mom and Dad wrote after waiting 17 days to hear the “big news” about my job.

In other words, this was one letter I was especially anxious to receive.  That’s probably why it took a full 30 days to get here!  Incidentally, there’s one little question I want to ask Mom and Dad:  Do you think the letter might have come over in less time if you had put a stamp on it?  Ha Ha!!

Evidently it came over by boat.  And it’s a wonder it came over at all!  Mom and Dad finally put something over on the Post Office Department, didn’t they?

I’m afraid that Mom and Dad are disappointed to find so little in my letters (period) that has to do with the work I am doing.  I may be allowed to tell say more about my job than I have so far, but not all at once.  The news will have to be spread out over several months.  That’s the way I did it in the M.P.’s, and it worked very nicely.  At first Mom and Dad didn’t have the slightest idea of what I was doing, but after I had written a hundred or so letters – they knew still less!  Maybe the less said the better.  I wonder what Mom and Dad think.

One thing I can say about my job.  I like it very much.  It’s not exactly the job I had in mind when I went in, but that’s not a very good basis for comparison anyway.  I’m not certain that I could have handled the job I had in mind at that time.  So I’m perfectly satisfied with what I have now.  “One in the hand is worth more than two in the brush”.

I can’t get over how quickly I’ve become used to doing this office work.  I took to it like a duck takes to water, and it seems like it’s what I’ve always been doing.  Yet two months ago M.P. work was very real to me.  Very real!!  When one of my M.P. friends meets me and says, “Do you really like your new work?  Are you glad you made the change?”, I have a ready answer.  “Are you kidding?”.

Mom and Dad think we boys in Northern Ireland are a little “high-tone”?  Perhaps they’re right.  I would be the last to deny that N.I. is one of the best places a soldier could hope to be stationed.  And when I write home about Spam, rain, ginger snap shortages, etc. I’m only kidding.  As they say in their letters, “I’ve got to write about something”.  Besides, if I don’t tell them about all those things, they will never know very much about Army life.  (And don’t say, “Is that bad?”!).

A few days ago I sent in $3.50 for a year’s subscription to that small, lightweight edition of TIME magazine.  The copies the Army distributes to us are free; but there haven’t been any for two or three months.  Now I can have a copy all my own, sent to me each week by first class mail.  And at a cost of less than 7 cents a copy.  In the states the regular edition is 15 cents.  It looks like a swell deal to me.

P.S.  I have begun to type my letters home.  Unless Mom and Dad object too strenuously, I am going to type them all from now on.  My handwriting isn’t so hot and the typewriter makes a better looking letter.  It is also easier for me, takes less time, and gives me practice on the typewriter.

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Pin-Up Girl

December 18th, 1943

I’ve just been reading over a November 26th letter from Mom and Dad which has to do with my little “escapade” in Woolworth’s a few weeks ago. Their remarks both amused and puzzled me. In fact I couldn’t figure them out at all.

At first I thought they were going to tell me about the flowers and the birds and the bees! Ha Ha! Maybe I didn’t make it perfectly clear that it was an accident. I was a victim of circumstances. It could have happened to anyone, you know. But I was the lucky man! Ha Ha! Shame on me!

I liked that they said “You are nearly 21 years old. Do as you like son.” They are trying to appeal to my conscience, eh? That’s pretty good, Johnny. I must be getting to be quite a wolf!

But it’s not as serious as it sounds. I’ll bet they write now and tell me they were only joking. Well so am I!

Maybe I am changing some. Ever since I went into the army, I’ve been wondering if I act like a real soldier. There’s no doubt in my mind now. I’m a soldier alright. Last night I tacked up a “pin-up girl” on the lid of my footlocker! Tsk tsk!

I wonder if everyone in the family reads every letter I write home. And I wonder if others let Mom and Dad read their letters.

When I said that luck was only a part of my getting the job, this is what I meant. It was luck that I was considered for the position, but my score on the intelligence test (which was not luck) probably was the leading reason that I was selected.

Don’t think that I feel sure of myself now. Exactly the opposite is true. I still think I can do superior work in my own field. But I’ve been disappointed too many times by he army (and through no fault of my own) to be very sure about anything.

Haven’t I done pretty well in posting about what’s going on over here? Remember, this is the European Theater of Operations. The war is at least a little closer to us than it is to you in the States. That’s why I “censor” my posts so hard! Ha Ha!

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Why Aren’t the German Boys Home With Their Families?

November 18th, 1943

One of the most interesting things we hear on our radio are the German short wave broadcasts. These programs are “beamed” at England and the United States and are propaganda from beginning to end. They are packed with the most outrageous distortions of truth that one could imagine. A few out-and-out lies are mixed in for variety.

But I must admit that these programs are clever too. Some of the commentators on these programs are or claim to be Americans who were smart enough to jump on Hitler’s bandwagon. Some are men, some are women. They speak without an accent, as a rule, and have an “American” way of saying things that makes it easy for one to believe them if he doesn’t keep on his toes mentally and analyze what they are saying. I’m sure you are familiar with the things that the Nazis harp on in their propaganda. Most of their efforts now are directed toward splitting Britain from the United States and the United States and Britain from Russia.

A few months ago Colonel Robert McCormick of the Chicago Tribune suggested that England apply for admission to the union as a state! Boy did that catch on with the Nazi propagandists! That’s all they talked about for weeks. They’ve been telling the English right along that the “American imperialists” were playing them for a bunch of suckers and would like nothing better than to gobble up the British Empire! So when “Bertie” McCormick shot off his mouth, it was just like tossing kerosene on the fire. When it comes to propaganda, those Nazi boys don’t miss a trick. Fortunately, “Bertie” speaks for a very small part of the American population.

These guys use some pretty smart schemes to induce people to listen to their lies. For instance there is one program where they alternate giving news bulletins (strictly from the Nazi point of view) and recordings of Bing Crosby and Glen Gray and his Casa Loma Orchestra!

There is one woman announcer known as “Gladys”. She speaks perfect English and claims to be an American. She is fond of saying to us, “Boys, why don’t you go home to your families? There’s no reason why you should be over here.” She has never explained why the German boys aren’t home with their families!

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Woolworth’s, Here I Come!!!

November 4th, 1943

I went down to Belfast today and it was still there. It’s good to “get away from it all” once in a while. Of course, I haven’t got as much to get away from as I once did.

I had planned to do some shopping, but I didn’t have much success. So many things are rationed. I wanted to get some Irish linen handkerchiefs for you and Bonnie, but they wanted coupons. Since I didn’t have any, I had to give up the idea.

I did get a few things, though. My first stop was Woolworth’s 3d & 6d Store. At first I thought the place had been turned into a commando training camp, but I found out later (when I came to) that it was dollar day (only over here they use shillings). I still don’t know how I got so close to the remnant counter!

You know, of course, that Britain has very little lumber. Consequently, things made of wood are scarce – and expensive. I got three of the cheapest coat hangers they had (that would hold trousers) and they cost one 4 shillings or 80 cents.

And was that store crowded! It seemed just like the 5 and 10 cent stores back home during the holiday season.

They’re short of paper here, too, and things like coat hangers and stationery are seldom wrapped. I started to push my way out of the store. For a while everything went okay. All of a sudden I got all balled up, I mean really. I couldn’t budge. Looking around, I saw that the bare metal hooks on my coat hangers had caught on a sweet young thing and I was about to pull her skirt off! More fun! It’s a good way to get acquainted. I think I’ll try it again some time soon.

The worst thing was I had a hard time getting the darn things untangled. For a while I thought I would have to take her back to camp with me (coat hangers are expensive), but these guys are such wolves. Next Thursday is my day off again. Woolworth’s, here I come!!!

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One of the Family

November 2nd, 1943

Well, here it is November. It seems like it was about 10 years ago that my family left 909 Meadow and went forth to seek our fortunes. But it was just a year ago today.

Looking back and tracing the courses of our various lives during this eventful year, I can’t help but marvel at the things that have happened. They aren’t things that we would hope for if we had a choice. However, some day (soon I hope) we will all get together and realize that what has gone before is only part of that game called life.

It’s been an education for us – of a sort. Perhaps it has even served a purpose. I have some pretty definite ideas on what I want my post-war world to be like – how I want to live. I think my separation from Mom and Dad has strengthened us spiritually. I’m sure it’s brought the family close together.

I remember the last few days of my senior year in high school, when we were signing one another’s yearbooks. Everyone predicted I would Interpret it as you will, they weren’t kidding.

Last fall and winter I would sometimes make a mental note of the date and wonder where I would be and what I would be doing exactly one year hence. The actual circumstances make my wildest guesses look like a Boy Scout outing in comparison. The funny thing is that this is a Boy Scout outing compared to what the boys in Italy and New Guinea are going through. Well, it’s a great life if you don’t weaken.

I haven’t heard from Mom and Dad since the 25th October, when I got their October 8th letter, so you see I’m nearly a month behind on news from home.

I’ve been getting some mail though. Packages, three since the 25th have been coming right along. Now I have one each from Mom and Dad, Cleon, and Bonnie. Many thanks to all of them. They said they couldn’t do much for me this year. I disagree. They’ve already done more than I have a right to expect in these times.

I’m piling up quite a bit of candy, nuts, etc. I’ll have no problem getting rid of it. I plan to save the things that will keep until the holiday season. And I have two months yet before Christmas to finish off the cookies and such. In an emergency, my new colleagues would likely lend on a hand.

My new job and new home are becoming more familiar by the day. It won’t be long and I’ll feel just like one of the family, both here in the barracks and at the office.

Day after tomorrow is my day off, and I plan to run into the city and see what I can see.

I’ve recently seen Deanna Durbin in “Hers to Hold” and Judy Garland and Van Heflin in “Presenting Lily Mars”. Both were very good, especially the latter. I also saw a good USO show tonight. With news of work, I’ll be seeing more movies from now on.

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Regular Meals and a Good Night’s Sleep

October 31st, 1943

The last few days have seen some important changes for me. Things have happened very much as I expected and as I explained in letters that I wrote home.

I started working in the office yesterday afternoon. It looks like a good job to me, very good and one that I will enjoy. It certainly beats what I’ve been doing. I should get regular meals and a good night’s sleep every night from now on.

Everyone has been telling me how lucky I am to get the new job. Luck was only part of it, but I hope it continues. I never like to be too definite about things where the army is concerned. It doesn’t pay.

Of course, I’m in an entirely different organization now. There are several changes in my address. My new unit is called “Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron” or “Hq. & Hq. Sq.”. The next part of my address shows that I now have something in common with Dad. Although I’m still in the same camp, I have a new Army Post Office number – 636.

Early this morning I packed up my things and moved down the street to my new barracks. A fellow doesn’t realize how much stuff he has accumulated until he starts to move with it. I didn’t have time to do anything but dump it on an empty bund and leave it there because Sunday is a working day for me. I will get a weekday as my day off.

Tonight I have been trying to whip everything into shape and have just about succeeded. I am taking a little time to write this post to say that I’m getting along fine.

I feel kind of lost in my new home, surrounded with more or less strange fellows, but it won’t take one long to get over that. Since I entered the service, I’ve made and lost friends so often that I’m getting used to it. Besides I see my old buddies at the mess hall and theater so I don’t feel too much out of place.

I wrote home and enclosed a money order for $30.00. The mail is so slow I still haven’t heard if Mom and Dad got last month’s M.O. I suppose they did.

Please excuse the way I’ve written this.

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Office Work

October 29th, 1943

I’ve got big news tonight. Tomorrow may be my last day as an M.P. If everything works out according to plan, I am going to be transferred from my present company to the Headquarters Squadron at this same base.

I can’t tell very much about my new job right now because I know very little about it myself. But I can say that it is office work and looks like a good thing from where I stand.

I found out about it when I came back from dinner this noon, and have had a more or less hollow feeling in my stomach ever since. Eating doesn’t help. It reminds me of how I felt just before the curtain went up on our Junior and Senior Plays! Know what I mean?

The news didn’t come as a complete surprise to me though. About a week ago I was called before an officer at headquarters and interviewed for the work, along with several other boys. I suppose the interview was satisfactory, but I wasn’t very optimistic about my chances. Most of the boys had had experience in army office work. Nothing more was said about it and I had just about given up. All I want to do now is go to work on it and see what the deal is.

I’m not in the mood to write a long post tonight, so will cut this short. I will keep you posted on new developments as best I can.

P.S. My sister Bonnie’s package came yesterday. I wish I could tell her “Thanks!”

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Parents and Grandparents

August 26th, 1943

I wonder what my Mom’s parents think about my going overseas after four months of service, with my uncle Ralph in over two years and still in the states.

I can’t blame any parents for not liking to have their sons in the army, but it seems to me my grandparents are being rather unreasonable about Ralph.

I’m sure it hasn’t been easy for my parents, not nearly as easy as I expected, but they’ve stood up well compared to their Mom and Dad. And my Mom and Dad have more reason to feel badly than their parents do.

Ralph was much more a “man of the world” when he went in than I was, as well as being a couple of years older. During his entire first year and more, he was in California, little more than 1000 miles from home. I was 3500 miles away in two months, something like 7000 miles in four months.

Then too, many folks in our family have been leaving home to get married over a period of more than 20 years. They should be getting a little used to it, it seems. I had hardly been away from the family overnight.

In saying these things, I hope it doesn’t sound as if I’m complaining. My family knows me better than that.

I just want to show Mom and Dad how well they have done. They have taken everything as it came along, good news and bad. They have kept their sense of humor and always have a few cheery words for me each time they write, no matter how they feel.

As for myself, I have been growing up some and feel that I have done a fair job of adjusting myself to army life. I wonder how much Ralph has had to do with my grandparents feeling the way they do.

I wonder if my uncle Ben is still afraid of the draft. Ben is almost 10 years older than I. He always told me the army was just the thing for a young man, makes him tough! If he wants to toughen up, he should know that enlistments are still being accepted.

Well, I believe I will close on a lighter note.

When Bob Hope was here, he and Frances Langford pulled what I thought was a good one. Bob (I call him “Bob”. You see, we used to go to different schools together.) was getting fresh and Frances (now I’m getting fresh) wanted to know what the idea was. Bob said it was just his protective instinct, that he was once a Boy Scout. Frances said, “You’re not acting very much like a Boy Scout.” And Bob replied, “Well, I belonged to the Wolf Patrol.”

If my parents don’t get it, they should see if my brother Cleon is available.

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Northern Ireland

August 15th, 1943

If everything worked out as planned, Mom and Dad have been living in their new house for about 10 days as I write this.

Mom and Dad have been so busy anyway since I left, and with the addend work of moving, they are probably glad to get settled again, and in a place where they shouldn’t be disturbed for a good many years.

It sounds like Mom and Dad have been getting a little “high-tone”, what with a big range, telephone, Venetian blinds, and fireplaces (to say nothing of fireplace screens). But they know how I feel about things like that.

I think it is swell the way the Landreth’s have helped and encouraged Mom and Dad in the buying of the house. I’m sure that Mom and Dad have made every effort to help them out when they need someone.

I do notice that Mom and Dad have cheered up a lot. And that makes me feel better too. I can’t always write a cheerful letter, though, as we get paid only once a month!

It wasn’t very nice of me, I guess, but I had to smile a little when I read, “All Daddy said was that he guessed they had sent the kid over the pond.” That’s what I expected him to say, word for word! I wouldn’t have been satisfied with anything else because it shows that his attitude on the matter is the same as mine.

Well, I expect Mom and Dad have received four more letters by this time. I’ve had to cut down on letters to home a little for lack of news (that I can write about), but I wrote Cleon three letters last week and hope he likes them. I know he’s busy – I hope he knows that there’s no hurry about writing back.

The cablegram I sent recently didn’t cost much considering the distance it had to go. Just $2.30 for 25 words. However, in the 25 words one must include the address, “Dear Folks”, and “With love, Vernald”, so the actual message was about 10 words. If they cut out 10 or more words, I’m going back after my money, so help me!

The cable took longer than I expected but I’m sure Mom and Dad appreciated it anyway.

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August 10th, 1943

I got another V-mail letter from home on the 6th and a swell letter by airmail today.  I enjoyed reading them very much as always.  Airmail seems to be several days faster than V-mail, so I am going to start using it exclusively when writing home.

I can’t say that I hoped Mom and Dad enjoyed getting the cablegram I sent because it carried what must have been unwelcome news.  But I figured it would beat my earliest letter by at least 10 days, and would let Mom and Dad know I was okay that much sooner.  They must have suspected the truth before they heard from me anyway.

In the cable I said only what someone who should know told us we could say, but by the time it got home, I guess so much had been cut out of it that it made Mom and Dad worry more instead of less.  I’m curious to know what it did say.  Mom and Dad still don’t know where I am, except that I am overseas.

I wonder if my letters have been very heavily censored.  I know it’s no fun for Mom and Dad to get a letter if it’s half blacked-out.  So I’ll mend my ways if necessary.

Was glad to hear Mom and Dad are all working and making lots of money.  I wonder how hard the pay-as-you-go income tax hit my parents in July.

Of course I’m eagerly looking forward to news about my parents’ new house.  One of these days I’ll probably get a letter and find out that they’ve been living in it for a couple weeks.

Yesterday evening some of us went to see “Berlin Correspondent”.  It was kind of “corny” but well worth the price.  Tonight I saw another free movie, “Her Cardboard Lover” with Robert Taylor and Norma Shearer.  I got quite a kick out of it.

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New York

July 5th, 1943

During last summer and fall, when I knew I would have to go into the army but didn’t know when, I often wondered where I would be and what I would be doing one year hence.

Little did I think that I would be seeing the sights of Broadway, Times Square, and Manhattan in general on the evening of July 3rd – 4th. But that’s just what I did!

Two friends of mine and I got 12-hour passes Saturday night, and we decided to visit New York. It’s certainly a city worth seeing, believe me! I’ll bet Spokane would look pretty small to me now.

Our train went under the Hudson River by way of the Holland Tunnel, and we got off at Pennsylvania Station, which is quite a structure itself. You really have to visit the city to appreciate it, for no place I have seen, including Chicago, can compare with it.

Soon after we got there, we went to a large cafeteria at 7th Avenue and 37th and had a good dinner as soldiers will do. I had (for 80 cents) breaded veal cutlets, mashed potatoes, string beans, cantaloupe, rolls, apple pie, and milk.

For the next few hours we roamed about town, amazed by the number of people and size of the many skyscrapers. However, we occasionally gained sufficient consciousness to whistle at a passing girl (as good soldiers will do). Seeing Rockefeller Center, a group of 14 huge buildings, was a particular treat. We intended to go to a movie, but never did get around to it.

During our last hours in the city we had a good time at New York’s famous State Door Canteen. While we were there, several Broadway celebrities came in and did a few numbers for the boys. We wound up the evening there with group singing.

I guess that’s enough about my being in New York…, for I have several other things to say. However, I do feel very lucky in being able to visit the city — it’s the thrill of a lifetime for someone who has spent most of his 20 years in a very small town.

I am going to send my wrist watch home tomorrow and ask my parents to have it repaired for me. I think that all it needs is cleaning, but I’ll ask that the jeweler do whatever is necessary to make it run.

I sent home $33.00 for my insurance. I think I have enough money left for my personal expenses, but if I run short, I will write Mom and Dad for money later in the month.

I have explained to Mom and Dad that when they write me, they needn’t write on both sides of the paper. If and when letters are censored, the censor may have to cut something out of the letter – anything on the reverse side of the page would, of course, be cut out unintentionally.

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Three Sheets for 6 Cents

July 3rd, 1943

I have put off posting all week, hoping that I would receive a letter from home, so I was glad to get two letters from Mom and Dad and one from Cleon yesterday and another letter from Mom and Dad today. Last Monday I received a nice letter from just Dad (and I will answer that soon) as well as a short letter from Mom written way back on June 16th when Mom said she was sending me a picture of Cleon’s.

The letter I got today is the first one sent to my new address, and took just five days, which isn’t bad. The letters that have been mailed to Augusta, which must be forwarded to me, have been taking from 10 to 12 days to get here. The last I got was written on the 21st but they’ll catch up with me eventually!

I got Cleon’s picture this week. It is certainly nice. I plan to write Cleon soon, and will tell him how I liked it.

My ankle is in good shape now. We have been doing some hiking lately, and its given me very little trouble. Another week or so, and it should be perfectly normal.

I imagine Dad is thankful to be on the swing shift again. Maybe Dad will be out to Galena by the time the graveyard shift comes around again. They won’t have a graveyard shift out there, will they?

It was quite a coincidence, receiving a letter from Mom about the new blue berry pies she has been making. I had some plain blue berries yesterday and also about a week ago. They are very good.

Well, I have to get ready so that I can go into town tonight, so I guess I’ll close for this time. Sorry I am so short on news. I am going to post again tomorrow or Monday, and will try to do better then.

P.S. To answer some of the questions I have received –. One ounce of airmail costs just 6 cents. And I often send three sheets of regular paper for 6 cents. Letters aren’t censored while I’m in the United States, so one may write just what one wishes.

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May 30th, 1943

During the past week I have done a couple of things that I think might be of some interest to you, so I will post a few lines about them.

Last Wednesday I went to the pistol range for the second time.  The .45 cal Colt Automatic Pistol is a very important weapon in the Corps of Military Police, and according to the first lieutenant, who was keeping our scores, it is the most difficult gun in the army to shoot with any accuracy.  It has a very short barrel and “kicks up” quite a bit when fired, so you must aim and squeeze the trigger very carefully or you will miss the whole target.

Such being the case, I was surprised that on my second try and after firing the gun only 50 or 60 times I would do well enough to qualify as a “Marksman” with the pistol.  Of course, “Marksman” is not as good as “sharpshooter” or “expert”, but you still have to do some pretty good shooting to qualify as one.

On Thursday our company went out on a little camping trip.  It was our first march with full field packs including rifles, so we went only 4 or 5 miles in all.  The main purpose of the trip was to give us experience in pitching tents and in digging and camouflaging “fox holes”.  During the march, we frequently had to run from the road, and “hit the ground” to escape imaginary planes which were “strafing” us.  All in all, we are learning a lot about how to take care of ourselves.

From Friday noon to Saturday noon I was on guard duty.  I was assigned to the station hospital, where I had to keep an eye on several “mental cases” and four sick prisoners (men who have been court-martialed, put in the guardhouse, and got sick while there).  I was armed with just a 2-foot, mahogany billy-club, but in a case of emergency, I think I could do a lot of damage with it.

Well I guess that is all for this time.  I will post again when I have a chance.

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

Letters From Home

May 24th, 1943

Here it is Sunday again and time to post a few lines about the doings of the past week. The first few hours and days at Kearns seem quite long to the new soldier, but I have been here six weeks now and time really flies.

Last week was very pleasant for me in several ways. I received two letters from my Mom and Dad, one letter from my brother Cleon, and a very nice birthday package from my sister Bonnie. Also, I got my pay for April on the 30th. I received $39.75 ($50.00 less $6.50 Insurance and $3.75 War Bonds). I sent $5.00 home, along with thanks, to Mom and Dad, to repay them for the underwear and shine kit that they sent some time ago and didn’t want me to pay them for.

I am certainly not suffering from lack of exercise. On Friday we took another hike – this time 8 miles “cross-country”. I don’t want you to think it was tough, but when I got back, my shoes were worn out. (The Bob Hope in me coming out again). Yesterday I had my second taste of K.P, now called M.A. (Mess Attendant). I worked form 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. continuously, and my bed felt good when I got back.

Yesterday the first six men from my flight shipped out, and I look for some others to leave in the next day or so.

I was quite surprised to hear that my uncle Reuben is still at Galena. And from what Mom and Dad have said, I gather that aunt Leah is up to her old tricks yet. As my uncle Ralph might say – One of these days she is going to wake up and find herself dead.

I can get plenty of gum and candy here. What I would like to get best is one of my Mom’s apple or squash pies, but I don’t think they could make it down here. Pies and cakes are two things we don’t get in the army.

Now for a few miscellaneous remarks: I saw a swell show today – “Edge of Darkness” with Errol Flynn and Ann Sheridan. The last Abbott and Costello show was a dismal flop.

My parents have written me asking that I write more often, but twice a week seems often enough for me to write home. Mom and Dad always ask me to write when I can, if only a few words. I wonder if they would rather have shorter letters and get them more often.

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

Kearns, UT

March 24th, 1943

I guess it’s time for me to make this post to keep up the morale of you civilians!

On Monday, March 22, I was shipped from the Reception Center, Fort Douglas, Utah, to Kearns, Utah. However, I didn’t get much of a ride, for Kearns is just 15 miles across the valley from Fort Douglas. In fact, I can see the Reception Center buildings from here, even the large white barracks where I stayed for 4 ½ days. Fort Douglas, Kearns, and Salt Lake City are all located in a valley which is right in the middle of the Rocky Mountains but the valley is very large and very flat. The valley floor is very dry and is covered with a thin blanket of wild grass, but the mountains, which completely surround it, are covered with snow and ice. It is quite a sight to see the sun reflected off the glaciers on the mountains. As far as that goes, the whole country around here is very exciting and interesting, for I had become quite used to the rolling hills of the Palouse Country. Fort Douglas and Salt Lake City, and Kearns are located in the southeast and southwest corners of the valley respectively. I can see Salt Lake easily from here, it being 7 miles due south.

I have gone through Salt Lake City twice, but I haven’t seen much of the city so far. After I have been here 10 days I will be eligible for a pass and I plan to see the city then. It is somewhat larger than Spokane, and stretches like a huge crescent around the Fort Douglas area. Fort Douglas is located on a gentle slope between the city and the mountains, and provides a good vies of the whole valley.

An inductee takes several tests at the Reception Center to determine which branch of the army he is to be assigned to. No one is told which branch he has been assigned until he reaches his Basic Training Center.

When our group reached Kearns, which is Basic Training Center #5 of the Army Air Forces Technical Training Command, we were told which branch of the army we were in. I was rather disappointed to learn that I had been assigned to an Army Air Forces medical corps unit.

The work is probably as safe as any in the army, but it is so different from what I am trained for that I decided to do all I could to get out of it.

My chance to transfer came this morning. The grades I got on my tests at Fort Douglas were good enough to qualify me to go to technical school for 3 months after I finish my basic training (8 weeks). I was taken to the Classification Building today to select which medical course (samples: surgical, X-ray, sanitation, medical, dental, and laboratory technician) I wanted to study at technical school. I didn’t like any of the courses, so I told them I didn’t want to go to technical school and they put me down for general bookkeeping, which is probably what I will do when I finish basic training in 2 months. Several other fellows wanted to get out of the medical corps, but they couldn’t because they didn’t have anything else to turn to. I guess I am fortunate that I have some training and experience beyond high school. I’ll post more about what I am doing when I find out for sure. If and when I am again transferred to another post, I will be unable to post about it until I arrive at my destination. So much for that.

The food here at Kearns is better than at Fort Douglas, but the barracks are not as nice. However, I do get up 15 minutes later — 5:45 a.m. !!

I mailed a letter home with a war bond and insurance receipts and asked my Mom and Dad to put them in my drawer in the desk. I also asked my parents to send me coat hangers, a shoe shine kit, and shirts and shorts.

I need about 5 good coat hangers. I prefer the ones with paper trouser protectors so I can hang up trousers and also mark my name on them.

I am in immediate need of the shoe shine kit. The kit should include: a can of shoe shine, a brush to clean shoes, an applier for the polish, and a polisher. If they can’t buy a kit, I instructed them to send me as many of the separate items as possible. Once Mom and Dad tell me how much the things cost, I will reimburse them.

I have written a great deal tonight and will be working pretty hard during basic training, so I may not post much in the near future. Since I am semi-permanent here, it is safe to mail letters to me.

[letterstohome copyright 2008]


March 20th, 1943

I am through being “processed” now, and am waiting to be shipped out – when and where I don’t know.

Yesterday I was vaccinated for smallpox, typhoid, lockjaw, etc. and I receive my army clothing.  In the evening we went to the army theater to see 3 shorts on the army.  The night before I saw a swell program by the U.S.O. Camp Shows.  There were about a half-dozen expert musical artists.

I got my first taste of KP today.  During breakfast I served oatmeal mush to about 500 soldiers, and this noon I dipped and served about 400 bowls of tomato soup.  The food here is fair – some days it is much better than others.  In camps where the personnel is more stable, the food is better.

We march only in getting from one building to another, but that amounts to quite a lot sometimes.  When we reached the fort on 2 a.m. Thursday morning, we were organized (in the sleet and snow) to march some 300 yards to the barracks.  Some fun!

[letterstohome copyright 2008]

In the Army Now

March 18th, 1943

Things have been happening so fast that this is the first chance I have had to write.  I arrived safe and sound in Salt Lake City early this morning.  By the time we reached Fort Douglas and got a place to sleep, it was 2:30 a.m. and at 5:30 we had to get up with the others!

We had a nice trip down here, going all 900 miles by Pullman Sleeper car with an adjoining diner. Total receipts from my pinochle-playing on the train were 15 cents.

Fort Douglas is only 4 miles from Salt Lake and we are surrounded by high, snow-covered mountains. We had some snow last night, but the sun is shining today.

I hope my parents aren’t worrying about me. Things have gone very smoothly so far. All we have to do is follow instructions, and everything is okay.

So far I don’t know what branch I will be assigned to. Since I will be moving on in the next few days, my family will have to hold up writing to me until I write from my new destination.

P.S. And don’t worry about me —

[letterstohome copyright 2008]