DAD’S WWII LETTERS, Chapter 2, Desert Maneuvers (Cont.)

submarine raider

Movie mentioned in previous letter.

July 26, 1942

It is another one of those lazy Sunday afternoons when everything is quiet.  One of the soldiers had his wife to dinner in the mess hall.  The weather is quite a bit cooler today than it has been for a few days.  The fog stayed late this morning.  Whenever we have a morning clear of fog it means we have a hot day.

The thirty men that were to leave in the cadre for Texas finally left.  One of the Illinois boys that was in my barracks back in Aberdeen left in the bunch. They are to start a new company there.  All of them got good ratings.  

I spent a rather busy morning yesterday on driving for camp detail.  I missed the inspection which didn’t bother me any.  We were free in the afternoon to do as we pleased.  The captain left Friday night for a three-day pass.  Most of the fellows have now had their furloughs.  There are a few gone now that were in the hospital and couldn’t go until now.  

The way it looks now, we’ll be heading for desert manuevers before too long.

I don’t see Leo Rigsbey very much, but I do see him occasionally when the 17th infantry marches by.  I haven’t been over to see him since at first when I came back from my furlough.  

I went to a dance last night at Arroyo Grande which is about 15 or 16 down the coast from here.  It is a small town and the dances are mixed with old-time.  The dance attracts quite a large crowd for the size of the hall.  They remind me a good deal of the dances they used to have at Chesterfield.  There are several soldiers that go, but there are plenty of girls to go around.  The main trouble is that there are too many dancers for the size of the floor with all the spectators around the edges.  At times it is almost impossible to dance for bumping into one another.  It is better even at that than the dances here at the Service or at the USO Club in town because of all the soldiers.

We’re been having a time this evening.  One of the soldiers came in a little too drunk.  He laid down on his bunk and got sick.  He threw up all over the place before we could get him outside.  One of the soldiers then gave him a shower.  …Got him back in bed.  He got sick again.  Right now he is pretty quiet.  The trouble is that he hadn’t been used to drinking and he over did it.  I imagine he’ll regret having indulged tomorrow.  

Editor’s note:  After reading this passage, my thoughts were–some things about the military never changed.

This is the first excitement we’ve had around here for a while.  Fellows are always coming in drunk, but it is usually during the night.  

Well, I guess I’ll close for this time.

August 3, 1942

I had a weekend pass.  Since this was our last one in camp here for a while they let a small percent go.  I happened to be lucky enough to get one.  I left here 2 o’clock saturday afternoon, with another of the fellows.  We had a hard time getting out of camp because of so many soldiers trying to get rides.  We finally had to walk down the road a ways and head off a cab before it got to camp and then we had to rush in or other soldiers would beat us to it after we flagged it down.  

Santa Barbara, California

After we got into town, we started down the highway towards Santa Barbara.  After catching several rides and becoming very discouraged we landed at our destination at 9 o’clock.  We found us a hotel room first and then went out to see the town afterwards.  There were plenty of soldiers and marines.  A person just can’t get away from them along the coast.   

We found a dance but it was too crowded to have much fun.  The town was partially blacked out.  The automobiles had to run with black out lights.  The street lights were all blackened out.  When you looked down the street one way there are all kinds of lights, but when you looked the other way, it looked dark.  They paint one half the streets next to the ocean so that they won’t throw any light on the water while the other half is left to throw off light. 

Yesterday morning we walked along the beach.  Santa Barbara is a pretty place.  There are a few palm trees along the shore and sail boats, yachts, and large boats in the water.  Looking inland you can see beautiful homes built off in the distance with mountains in the background.  There are a lot of well-to-do people who live around here.

Around 1:30PM we caught a ride with three soldiers back towards camp.  We stayed in town here until 11:30 when we caught the bus back to camp.  In order to get a seat on the bus you had to fight your way through the soldiers.

Clyde near his truck.

Dad standing next to his truck

This is our last week in camp according to what the captain told us.  We are to leave here for manuevers Saturday morning at 6 o’clock.  We are loading the trucks now in preparation.  We start on the manuevers near Needles, Calif. and follow the Colorado River down.  If we stay the whole maneuver, we’ll be there till the middle of October.  Where will we go from there no one knows.  We might come back here and we might set up camp elsewhere or even go for a boat ride.

The fellows that have had yellow jaundice don’t have to go out, but stay here and guard the camp.  I’ve about said all I know at the present, so I’ll close.  Write.    

Needles, Calif.
August 4, 1942

We moved to Needles yesterday afternoon.  It is hotter over here than it was at Goffs.  We are about thirty miles father east than we were.  We are right along the Colorado River and there is some green stuff in the river bottom which breaks the monotony of nothing but sand and dry sage brush. 

Our camp is located about a mile outside of the town limits.  I like this location better.  I don’t know just how long that we’ll be here. Our old area back at Goffs was getting so dusty that it was almost unbearable.  We left the old area a lot cleaner than we found it.  We policed it about five times before they were satisfied that it was clean enough to leave. 

If I remember right it was about two weeks ago today that I entered the hospital at Goffs.  I got out again on Sunday after I got rested up pretty good.  Today I got back in again.  Last night I felt bad and this morning I had cramps in my stomach and felt weak so I came on sick call.  They told me that I might as well spend a few days in the hospital.  I slept about all afternoon and sweat.  So far they haven’t given me any medicine.  I haven’t eaten much all day.  I drank a bottle of beer a while ago and ate some potato chips which tasted good.  I suppose after I get rested again I’ll be all right.  It seems like I can take only so much of this heat before I have to rest. 

I got my mail here a while ago which is a lot better than I did the other time.  These medics here seem to have a better arrangement.  This outfit is from Camp Young, I think.  There are two or three nurses on duty all the time (Women nurses).

I am in Needles high school gymnasium which they are using as a hospital.  We have air conditioning, but it still feels pretty warm.  It is a nice set up for a field hospital. 

You asked me a while back if the Masonic lodge sent me anything.  About two weeks they sent me a card with my name on it and showing that I am a son of a member of the organization.  This might come in handy some time if I should happen to get up against it in a strange town.   

I want to write a letter to Dorothy so I’d better close.  She sent me some pictures of herself yesterday.  They were very nice. 

Don’t worry about me.  I’ll get along.  If I get sick the hospital will take care of me that’s what they are for.  Write.     

August 7, 1942

I received your letter this noon.  We have an advantage in the weather here in San Luis valley.  The days never get very hot and the nights are rather cool.  Regardless of the season with the exception of winter when there is lots of rain, the weather seems to remain the same.

Clyde's camp taken from mountain at a distance.

San Luis valley from a distance

According to your letter the draft board back there seems to be taking men at a rapid rate.  That is almost five times the number of men called when I went.  By the way, I have spent my first year in the service.  Conditions are a lot different now than when I went in.  In a way I’m glad that I have gotten my basic training and have become accustomed to the army.  The recruits are pushed through a lot faster now and given less consideration.

Our trip to the desert has been postponed for a few days.  We were to have left Saturday morning, but now we are to leave Tuesday morning.  We are to turn in our wool clothes tomorrow.  From then on we have to wear our sun tans.  We are to travel by convoy to Needles.  It will be about a 600 mile trip and will take three days. 

We seem to be gradually losing men out of the company all the time.  Two left this morning for duty at Headquarters.  Another leaves tomorrow for officer’s training school at Aberdeen.  Two others left a week or two ago for the same.  All these have gone since the thirty men left for Texas.  We haven’t gotten in any new men yet to replace them and the company is getting rather small. 

I have KP again tomorrow.  It comes around about every 9 or 10 days now.  It seems like I have done my share of KP.  This week, besides my KP tomorrow, I have done fatigue and guard which are all extra duties that come around regular when your name comes up.

By the way did those fellows that were examined such as H. Skinner, Joe Pressler, W. Dowland get deferred or are they holding them for the next quota?  

How are all the old men in the neighborhood getting along with their farm work?  I suppose they have to work among themselves.  They claim there is a shortage of meat now on the market.  With the shortage of labor by another year there may be a greater shortage. 

I see the civilian traffic is going to be restricted on buses and trains after the middle of the month.  That will put a stop to those soldier’s wives and girlfriends coming to see them.  The rubber situation looks like the result of a lot of dirty politics.  They could be producing synthetic rubber on a large-scale now, if the government would only let them.  To the politicians of this country, the welfare of the big business is still more important than the winning of the war.  If it was half as important to them as it is to us in the service, things would be moving a lot faster.  We want to get going before it is too late and we have to spend the rest of our lives in the army.  *Another good policy for some of those strikers would be work or fight for Uncle Sam. 

We’ll be busy the next few days getting everything ready to move out.  There trucks to be loaded and stuff that is to be left behind will have to be left in order.

I am sending a ten-dollar money order for you to deposit for me.  I instructed them to send a receipt home for my defense bonds.  I have one receipt on my person.  If you do not receive one, I’ll send it home because I stand a chance of losing it anyway.  So far I have a savings of $78.75 including the bond.  If I can keep up at that rate in a year’s time I should have a few dollars. 

From now on while we are on maneuvers, my address for first class mail only will be.

Pvt. Clyde F. Adam
115th Ord. Co. (M. M.)
A. P. O. # 7 Desert Maneuvers
c/o Postmaster, Los Angeles, California    

*Historical perspective:  The largest labor unions (AFL and CIO) gave “No-Strike” pledges.  In 1942 the United Mine Workers, under John L. Lewis, left the CIO and threatened numerous strikes.  This activity led up to a twelve day strike in 1943.  John L. Lewis became a much hated man.  From Dad’s perspective, from this point forward, labor unions deserved nothing but contempt.              

Desert Maneuvers
August 14, 1942

Sleeping quarters on maneuvers in Indio desert, California

Here we are out on the hot and dry California desert.  We pulled in here last night about 4:30 and it sure was hot.  Two men here have been overcome by heat already.  We set up four man tents to sleep under by fastening four shelter halves together.  It gets cool enought at night that one can sleep comfortably without cover. 

There is railroad station here by us, but the nearest town is about 30 or 35 miles east of us, which is Needles. 

They give us six salt tablets in the morning to take during the day.  I took four the day before yesterday, but they made me sick.  I took one this morning and it stayed down OK. 

It is so hot that I don’t care about eating.  All I want is something cool to drink and cool water is a problem during the heat of the day.  We keep our water in a tank trailer and it gets hot when the sun shines on it. 

During the three days of the convoy we covered about 150 miles a day.  The first night we stayed in a ball park in Bakersfield with another convoy.  The second night we stayed near Barstow. 

Yesterday we crossed some very hot desert country.  The wind blew off the lava and it was so hot that it would cook one’s face.

We had two drivers to a truck and traded turns driving.

Last Saturday I had KP and Sunday we were busy all day.  Sunday morning we got the trucks ready to go.  Sunday afternoon I did some washing.  Monday I was busy driving.  Monday night I had to fix a tire on the command car.  I haven’t been doing much this morning except trying to stay in the shade.  I had to take the mail down to the post office which is a truck in another area.  This is actually desert out here.  About all the vegetation there is, is sagebrush and greasewood with occasional cactus.  The cactus has plenty of thorns.  There are plenty of ants, snakes & lizards.

The sandy is so sandy that you have to drive a truck in 4 wheel drive to get enough traction.

I think if I get used to this type of climate, I can stand almost anything. 

The maneuver hasn’t started yet.  All the men haven’t got out here.  There are supposed to be around 90,000 men after they all get here. 

I’ll write you more later after I have been here awhile and find out more more what it is like here.  Write.      



Author: warturoadam77p

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

2 thoughts on “DAD’S WWII LETTERS, Chapter 2, Desert Maneuvers (Cont.)”

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