DAD’S WWII LETTERS: Chapter 2, California Maneuvers

Army convoy in California

Camp San Luis Obispo, Calif.
May 16, 1942

Dear Mother and Dad,

I am now back where I started from when I first came to California.  Monday and Tuesday we packed and loaded everything into the trucks.  We got up Wednesday morning at 3 o’clock and pulled out at 5 AM.  We didn’t get along very fast.  We had a break down and that detained us a while.  We all thought that we were headed for Fort Ord, Calif.  We stopped at Van Nuys to gas up at 4 PM.  This is where us three fellows stayed over night before we joined the company.  We drove eight more miles and stayed at Disney’s studios in the same area that I first joined the 115th Ord. Co.  We left there at 6:30 Thursday morning.

We drove quite a bit faster that day and covered a little over 200 miles.  Shortly after noon while we were stopped along the road for a rest and check upon the trucks, the captain told us that the orders had been changed, and we were stopping at a different place.  We pulled in here at San Luis about 4 o’clock.  We stayed overnight in the same area that the company left.  So you see we have practically retraced our steps.  Yesterday morning we moved into this area.  We have cots and mattresses once again.  Everything is located very nicely here in our company area.  It has been taken good care of.  There are flowers and a small lawn.  There is a pool table in the recreation room.

I don’t know just how long we’ll be here.  It seems that we’ll have plenty to do.  Furloughs were being given in the camp up until Dec. 10 and then they were stopped.  It seems that we are always at the wrong place to get in on leaves.  Thirty new men came into the company today from Fort Ord.  They are rookies that have been in less than a month.  They haven’t had any training yet.  I suppose it will be up to us to train them. 

Last Sunday while I was in San Diego I went to see the Chaplain, but I think I told you about that.  Anyway, I talked to the captain and they dug up my papers of applications for discharge.  I have been after them constantly.  I inquired again this afternoon and they said they sent them into division headquarters to investigate the case.  Chances they might give my case consideration.  During war-time, discharges are hard to get.

Since we’ve been on the move, we haven’t gotten any mail since Tuesday.  It should be catching up with us before long.

Write and let me know how you are getting along.

Editor’s note:  After the war, I recalled Dad’s comments about camping in the California desert.  It got cold at night.  Soldiers habitually checked sleeping bags for scorpions and snakes.  Later, in the sixties, I used Dad’s Army sleeping bag on a camping trip to the Rocky Mountains.  Temps got down below freezing, I was cozy and warm.

Dad attempted to obtain a hardship discharge from the Army.  He felt he was needed more on the home front to run the family farm.  It was war-time and the military thought otherwise.

Walt Disney took this photo.12.20.1941. Clyde back row 4th from left.

Picture of Dad’s company taken at Walt Disney Studios by Disney himself.  Dad’s in the top row, fourth from the left.

June 9, 1942

It has been cool ever since I got back to California.  I heard that you had a rain back there Sunday, after I left.  We ran into a rain on the bus down in Missouri that Saturday evening.  The rest of the way was hot and dry until I got to L. A. 

We were scheduled to go on an overnight hike tonight, but it was called off.  We go tomorrow instead.  The captain said it was to toughen us up for the desert.  We have been busy working on half tracks (scout cars) and servicing some new equipment that came in last week.  I don’t know why new equipment would have to be greased and checked before it was driven, but that is the Army way of doing things. 

I went to the show last night and saw a picture called “Submarine Raider.”  It was based on the attack on Pearl Harbor.  In the end the American Sub sank the Jap aircraft carrier, which couldn’t have been a better ending.

It looks like the war is going our way at the present.*  The general opinion at the present seems to be that if things continue to go as they are, this will be a short war.  We all hope so.  Clydes first furlough.

The boys that were supposed to go on furlough after the first bunch came back may have a chance now.  The alert has been lifted.  Of course there may be another most any time.  I would like to see the rest of the boys get furloughs.  (Picture to the right is from Dad’s first furlough.)     

I wish I had ways of taking pictures of the scenery around here.  We are down in a sort of valley and there are mountains all around us.  There aren’t many trees on them, but grass and other vegetation.  The vegetation around here is getting brown now like it does back home in August.  Small grains such as oats and barley are ripe. 

The fog has been coming in early of an evening here lately.  We are about a mile and a half like a crow flies from the ocean.  That accounts for all the fog.  If a person was out here on his own and had plenty of time to look around and explore the country, I believe it would be very interesting.

I don’t know of much more to say at the present, so I’ll just close till next time.

*Historical Note:  Dad referred to the US Navy’s decisive victory over the Japanese at The Battle of Midway on June 6th.

Mtn. View from California Maneuvers 1942

June 21, 1942

I just got back a couple of hours ago from spending a day and a half in Antelope Valley which is a vast expanse of dry land with nothing but dry grass and a few bushes scattered here and there.  I went up there Friday evening.  It is about a hundred miles northeast of here.  The boys are getting training there.

Saturday morning we could see the top of the Sierra Nevada Mountains toward the north.  They were at least a hundred miles or more from where we were.  The tops were covered with snow.  Later in the day they disappeared from our sight. 

Last night the boys from the infantry went out on a few manuevers.  Of course they rode in scout cars which is contrary to public opinion because the Army is now mechanized where it wasn’t in the last war.  The Army figures that men feel more like fighting if they ride to the scene of battle rather than march.  Of course they do quite a bit of marching to keep fit.  Our job is to care of their automotive equipment, while the other sections of the company service their guns and other equipment.

It was rather warm out there and dusty.  At noon we were required to take sun baths the length of exposure depending upon the amount of previous exposures.  The other fellows had been there 10 days and they were relieved by some more.  I came back with the old bunch.  I may have to go back this week if they want something from here.

I received your letter with the pictures enclosed.  The pictures turned out better than I expected.  I can look at them and imagine that I am home.

I heard from George Parker last week.  He says they are building new barracks down there.  He called them huts and sent me a clipping showing a picture of them.  He said that he has gained eight pounds since he’d been down there.Desert Maneuvers near Indio CA, 1942

You speak of having much rain.  The only rain I’ve seen since I left Lakeside, was in Missouri on the way back here.  I’m not kicking because I never cared much for rainy weather anyway. 

I’m sort of tired tonight, so I think I’ll turn in. 

PS, Dad, I didn’t find out that today was Father’s Day in time to send a card, but, I give you my best wishes. Clyde. 

July 6, 1942

Eleven months ago today I was inducted.  I’ll soon be in a year.  I hope by another year a person can sort of expect or have some idea when it will be over.  

We had the 4th off as a holiday.  Most everybody that wasn’t on some detail left camp and went somewhere or other.  I went down along the coast a ways.  Saturday night I went to a dance.  It was the first one I’ve found since I’ve been in the army that a person could find a partner to dance as often as he liked. 

Yesterday, I stayed in camp and slept most of the day.  Last night I took in a show.  Today I’m on fatigue detail which means cleaning up the bath house, etc.   Watering the flowers.  I don’t remember whether I told you or not, but we do have a few flowers scattered around the area.  We water them everyday and they stay green.  Otherwise they would soon die.  The ground is rather rocky and loose.  Anyway, it isn’t adaptable to plant life this time of the year unless it is kept watered.  The fields are dry around here now and they present a fire hazard.  Out on the artillery range they burn the fields off sections at a time to prevent fires from getting out of hand. 

We still have a dozen men up in Antelope Valley.  A couple of days last week they said it got around 130 degrees up there.  Several of the boys from other outfits that were on maneuvers became too hot and they had to bring them to the hospital.  I haven’t been up there now for a couple of weeks. 

I am beginning to get tired of this place.  I wish they would move us again to a location more like we had at Lakeside.  It is rumored that we might move to Needles, Calif. which is located in the California desert.  It is sort of a desolated spot from what I know of it.  I wish I could move further east where it looks more like Illinois.  So far I’ve only seen the most barren part of California.  The northern part is more scenic.

I am sending home the 50 dollars I spoke of in a money order.  You can put it away for me where I can get it when I need it.  I don’t like to keep it here because I could lose it too easily.

I have applied for a 25 dollar defense bond to come out of my pay every month.  I am having it held by the government for safe keeping where I can get it any time I want it.  I am having the receipt sent home.  In case anything happens to me the bonds will be sent to you.

I am sending home a picture one of the fellows took back at Lakeside one morning.  The main object was the dog.  I was trying to keep the dog quiet and I consequently got into the picture also though it missed part of my head.  The dog was just a pup at that time and rather cute.  When it was given to us he was much smaller than he is in Clyde & dog in Indiathe picture.  Now, he is a big dog, although he doesn’t seem to have his full growth.  He used to be full of energy, but now he is lazy and won’t play unless you torment him. 

Referring to the picture, the space between the tents where the dog and I were, was the company street.  Looking into the background, the tent that you can see to itself was the end of the street.  Beyond that across a deep canal ditch was the highway leading to Lakeside which was toward the right. 

It is getting around toward the shank of the evening so I had better close.  This afternoon about all I’ve accomplished was reading a story and writing this letter.  So you see this 50 dollars a month comes rather easy at the present.  There are times when it isn’t so easy.  I still don’t like this type of life and they won’t have to tell me twice to go when they turn us loose.

Write as often as you can.  

July 18, 1942

Another week has almost passed and this is the Saturday afternoon off.  I have guard tonight so I won’t be able to go to town.

I had another tooth pulled yesterday morning.  They called me over to the clinic for a dental examination.  They never found any cavities, but I told them I had a tooth that I thought was abscessed and they X-rayed and it proved to be. 

I think that we’ll move out to the desert along the Arizona line about the middle of next month.  It will be really hot there for a month.  We’ll probably be there for about 60 days.  It is cool here at camp.  We are located in sort of a valley.  If you go over the ridge, it is hot.  With few exceptions, the fog rolls in every night from the ocean.  It usually lifts by 9 o’clock in the morning.  It is never cloudy in the summer.  Of course the fog is so thick it obscures the sun.

The last bunch of guys are gone on furloughs.  After they got back, I think that we’ll get three-day passes.

Many of the fellows are getting married while they are here.  One of the fellows in my tent is getting married this afternoon.  He is one of the last thirty men that came into the company.  Another has his girl friend out here and I wouldn’t be surprised if he did the same before long.  One of the last bunch that came in, there were several married men.  Two of them went home on discharges.

I am getting tired of this camp.  I’ll be glad when we move.  I am still driving and there isn’t enough of it to do here.  I see by the paper’s headlines that the Axis powers are taking an awful beating and loss of men and material to gain a little ground.  It is of the opinion of some that if the allies established a second front this summer and can keep the Germans out of the Russian Caucuses, the war will be a short one.  I hope so.    

Barracks at San Luis Obispo, California

Barracks at San Luis Obispo





Author: warturoadam77p

70 year old married retired communications worker with three grown children, transplanted from the Midwest to the sunny Gulf Coast.

One thought on “DAD’S WWII LETTERS: Chapter 2, California Maneuvers”

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