DAD’S WWII LETTERS: Chapter 22, World’s Largest Service Station, Ledo Road

The American GI is really fighting, because he wants to get his job done and get back home 

–Gen. Joseph Stillwell–

As you were having warm weather in March you should be having real nice weather now in April.  You are probably really busy hauling manure and probably plowing by the time this letter reaches you.

I’m glad to hear the cattle are doing so good. Maybe you’ll make a little money on them this time.

Uncle Pete will have a time this year, if he doesn’t find a man.  Olin Trill [Uncle Pete’s bro.-in-law?] can be forced to come back to the farm, though, can’t he?  I thought agricultural workers were frozen for the duration.  Of course, if Uncle Pete released him in the fall it might make a difference.

I’m glad to hear that you were able to get the car fixed up in fair condition.  How’s the condition of the motor?  Does it use much oil yet?

If you had the tractor fixed up last year, it shouldn’t give you too much trouble this year as you won’t use it only half as much.  Do you still have trouble with the gear on the steering working loose?  I don’t suppose it gets as bad now, since it’s on rubber tires.

tractor on steelVintage 1936 Case tractor on steel wheels

It’s a good thing we got you convinced that rubber was the best on the tractor before I got in the army.  Otherwise, it would have been much harder to operate and would have cost some more to operate and repair.  Someday, I hope to have all my farm equipment mounted on rubber.  The main thing to make the tires last longer, is to keep them properly inflated.  Don’t run them too low, because they puncture more easily and also weaken the side walls.  It isn’t even good for them to sit flat.

Editor’s note:  These words spoken like a true mechanic.  When Dad later farmed, he did most of his own repairs–with the exception of welding.  He passed along knowledge of basic maintenance to me and my brothers.  Only one of us turned out to be a good mechanic.

It doesn’t look like I’ll get home before June at the soonest.  I was hoping that I could get home in May.  I sure hope that when I do get home, I won’t have to come back overseas anymore.  I guess I’ll sure find out what I’ll have to do when I get back to the states.

I guess I’ll have to get one of those loans when I get out of the army and set up for myself.  I might as well set up good at the start, and then I can benefit from the few good years that’ll follow the war.  It’ll be my only chance to get off to a good start.

Well,, I’ve about run down for this time.  Don’t work too hard.  Do what you can and let the rest go.

I’m feeling fine.  The heat is getting bad, but I’m looking forward to getting out of here.

PS:  I cancelled the 20 dollar allotment coming to you this month, so you won’t get it next month.  I did that because when I get back to the States, I’ll lose that much in pay.  I’ll need the rest to get by on as I want Dorothy to stay near me as long as I’m in the States.  Instead of getting $97.50 minus allotments, as I am now, I’ll only get $81.90 minus allotments, because of the 20% overseas pay.  I should have between 6 & 700 dollars by this time.  That should help some day.

cbi roundupEditor’s note:  The GI newspaper was now the “India–Burma Theater Roundup.”  Soldiers in China had “The Lantern”  The following is transcribed from the March 8, 1945 edition of the “India-Burma Theater Roundup.”  It described where my Dad worked.

World’s Largest Service Station Operates Along Ledo Road

Today, the world’s most unusual and largest super-service station operates along the Ledo Road,  American-built highway between India and Burma.

No neon lights or brightly colored signs clamor for patronage nor do white-coated attendants hover about.  Rude, bulldozered driveways lead to this jungle garage squatting in the shadows of the Patkai hills of upper Assam, where open-sided bamboo sheds house an impressive array of both modern and ingeniously improvised automotive equipment.

img015

Beneath these tall shelter, roofed with Jeng leaves from the nearby wilderness, sweating, coverall-clad American soldiers and Indian workers are keeping a never-ending stream of Uncle Sam’s trucks rolling to the Burma front with vital war supplies.

Nowhere else does the Army run a localized maintenance system on such a large-scale.  It is, in fact, an innovation, an example of American initiative and resourcefulness, resulting from exceptional circumstances and conditions.  It grew out of a need to lick, and to lick immediately, a motor maintenance problem which is the hardest, toughest, most heart breaking in the world.

Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Pick, Base Commander, and himself a producer of miracles, called upon his Ordnance Officer to produce a maintenance miracle.  Lt. Col. A. A. Kaufman, a hard-hitting Texan, knew what the General meant.  A firm believer in the Army’s time-tried “echelon” system of maintenance, he swiftly set about making work under almost unbelievable conditions.

Kaufman planned something similar to a mass-production assembly line whereby each vehicle could enter a shop, roadworn and dirty, and emerge completely washed, checked serviced, and repaired.  The normal maintenance personnel and tools of all truck companies would be pooled.  Indian mechanics and laborers would be employed as needed.  Every branch of the Army would be called upon to furnish the best of equipment that could be used.

With whole-hearted cooperation of Col J. A. Stewart, Chief of Transportation, the plan was quickly approved.  On Gen. Pick’s order, the Engineers started clearing the jungles, and Transportation Service Shop No. 1 was officially born.

Covering an area of between four and five jungle-cleared acres, this shop consists of a series of bamboo structures set in a square pattern around a parking lot, which is capable of holding 300 trucks.  Designed to support a vehicle population of 1,000, it can, on a 20-hour operational basis clear up to 300 vehicles.

It is operated by 110 Army soldiers, 140 Indian mechanics and laborers, and a transportation Service staff of five officers, headed by Major R. J. Keefer.  An Ordnance Warrant Officer, Motor Specialist, and an Ordnance Sergeant give technical advice and assistance.

Every effort is made to finish a repair job on the same day it enters the shop, with a driver on call at all times to deliver the vehicle to the proper organization.

The shop has its own supply room, and once parts stockage is maintained, where there might otherwise be 16 or 20 in separate companies, 16 or 20 parts clerks tied up, 16 or 20 supply vehicles going to and from the Ordnance Depot.

Success of the project, the result of foresight, improvisation, and cooperation among all branches concerned, is proved.  While many other factors contributed, it can be fairly stated that Transportation Service Shop No. 1 was largely responsible for (1) reducing vehicle deadline in this area 83%; (2) increasing by almost 100% the average vehicle life-time, thus enabling hundreds of vehicles to continue operation at a time when they are vitally needed and, (3) conserving costly replacement parts.

by S/Sgt. I. M. Sohureman and Sgt. C. M. Buchanan, Roundup Field Correspondents

Dad & co-workers in IndiaDad, at duty section, front row, right

ledo road

making a roadConstructing Ledo road through mountainsfirst convoy ledo roadFirst Ledo road convoy Jan. 28, 1945commemoration 1st convoyFirst convoy commemorative marker in English & Chinese

Editor’s note:  The following from the Feb. 8, 1945 issue of the “India-Burma Theater Roundup.”

STATISTICS OF WAR DEPARTMENT SHOW LEDO ROAD TOUGHEST JOB

Washington (ANS)  The War Department this week backed up with statistics the proud boasts of G. I.’s who built the Ledo road that theirs was “the toughest road construction job ever undertaken.” 

In an official release, the following facts about the road were disclosed:  the 478 mile highway was built at a rate of about one mile per day through some of the worst jungle in the world and over 4,000-foot mountain passes.  During one seven-month period, 175 inches of rain fell to hamper the work.  By comparison, Eastern states of the U. S. average less that 45 inches per year.

Approximately 70 acres of airstrips were built at points near the Ledo road.  The road’s builders moved a total of 13,500,000 cubic yards of earth–it would take a string of railroad cars 470 miles long to transport the 1,303,000 cubic yards of gravel spread on the road.  To top it off, there’s an average of one bridge to every three miles of the road.  So, take a well deserved bow, boys.   

Editor’s note:  Road building was a cooperative effort of American, Chinese, and Indian workers.  Chinese soldiers fought alongside Americans to drive the Japanese out of Burma.  The following is a souvenir Chinese 10 Yuan bank-note with an inscription [front and back], found among Dad’s effects.  The inscription written by a Chinese Lieutenant:  “[Back] Have you hear [heard] the Victory Voice of China?  Help China some more!”  “[Front] We advance side by side and gloriously occupe Japs capital–Tokio!  Victory for you!  Souvenir from Chinese Army in India 2nd Tank Bn. Lt. Yuan.”     

Message on Money (Front)

Message on Money (Back)

 

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DAD’S WWII LETTERS: Ch. 13, Midwestern Corn, Upper Assam

March 14, 1944

Clyde in India (2)Dad standing near banana tree

I received your letter of the 20th day of Feb. day before yesterday.  I went to the show last night and got wet before I got back.  It started out to be a good show, but the rain put a stop to it.  It was a picture about the underground movement in the occupied countries of Europe.  We left the hero in a mighty tough spot.  I’d like to know how it turned out.

I read about the spell of winter that you had back there in Feb.  In some parts of the country they had as much as 14 inches of snow.

Your cold storage locker should make it nice now that you can have fresh meat during the summer.  Just how much space do you have?  Is one hog all that you have room for?  About how much does it cost a year?

I had been wondering if Gene Parker had sold his motorcycle or what?  It made nice cheap transportation for him while he had it.

Yes, I suppose it’ll be tough on some of these women that have children when their husbands go into the service but no more so than others.  I know of fellows that have been in for a least a year that have three kids or more and they didn’t volunteer either.  Maybe some of these people will finally wake up to the fact that there is a war going on.

You should take the car to a garage and have the ignition system checked over good.  I have an idea that the points are pretty well-worn by now and the plugs are possibly dirty.  If you don’t do this it may quit running altogether.  If the ignition system is in good shape, it should start in cold weather the same as any other time.  If you leave it sit around and not use it, it’ll be like it was the last time I was home.  You’ll have to overhaul it before it’ll start at all.  A car is something that deteriorates faster when you let it sit in the garage for a month at a time without so much as even starting the engine.

Well, I guess I’ll close for now.  Hope you are well.  I imagine that you will be pretty busy with spring work by the time you get this.

March 19, 1944

I received your letter of the fourteenth of Feb. a couple of days ago.  It seems that some of my mail has been mixed up.  Yesterday I got a letter mailed March 7th.  this is good time in comparison to the way they generally come.  Several of the fellows have been getting their mail in a week’s time.  It seems they have speeded up the mail service.

I got a letter from Aunt Mary this last week.  She was saying that she had heard from Viola H.  and she had just heard that I was married.  I would have thought some of the folks would have told her.  Aunt Mary said that she needed to have a tooth pulled.  The teacher that boards there tried to get an appointment at the dentist’s and he told her come back in a year.  I guess they are swamped with work.

You seem to have from one extreme to the other in weather.  I read in the paper where a cold wave and storm had passed over the States.   By now thought the weather should be moderating quite a bit.

You spoke of needing moisture in the ground and water in the cisterns.  It sure is extreme to what you had for a couple of years when it was so wet.

Dorothy said that she was planning on putting in a garden this summer and doing some sewing.  As long as school is going on, she doesn’t have much time for anything.  She is taking a course in the evening out at college too, to keep up her teaching credit.

I have today off–it being Sunday.  I worked last Sunday.  I did a little washing–some socks and handkerchiefs.  I used the brush that you sent me on them.  Today isn’t a very good drying day thought and I don’t think they’ll get dry.  When the sun shines they dry fast.

There isn’t much news, so I guess I’ll close for this time.  Hope you got my cablegram.  I sent it in plenty of time for you to get it.  Hope you are well.

March 26, 1944

Here it is Sunday again, but this time it was my time to work.  I received your letter of the 12th of March day before yesterday.  Her of late some of my mail has been making much better time.

You spoke of having cold weather the first of the month but by now I imagine it is more like spring.  Here the only difference in the seasons is that it gets warmer and the rainfall increases.  Dorothy could probably tell you considerably about things like that as she has pretty well figured out.

So Kenneth Woods has been called.  By the time you get the, he should be in.  I wouldn’t doubt but what apartments are rather hard to rent now.  I wonder why Louise doesn’t live with her folds or are the old folks still living on the farm?

Yes, there are jungle flowers over here.  Orchids grow wild here and in large numbers.

Yes, we eat very well considering everything..  We get pies and cakes occasionally.  I don’t care so much for their cake, as it is generally coarse, but I like their pies.  I’ve had lots of cherry pie.  Occasionally we get apple pie made from canned (of course) apples.  A night or two ago we had raisin pie.  I’ve gotten where I’ll hardly touch Vienna sausages (a glorified name for wieners).  I’m getting tired of Spam, too but I will eat it in small amounts.  We get fresh vegetables, such as cabbage, small tomatoes, etc.  Of course most of our food is canned.  I manage to get enough to eat to hold my own.  I’m not complaining about the food because I figure that we are getting fed pretty well.  After all we aren’t home.

Editor’s note:  Cherry pie was always Dad’s favorite.  Made from fresh picked orchard cherries–especially good.  The label on Armour’s Vienna Sausages, “America’s Favorite,” sharply contrasted with Dad’s opinion of the canned meat product.  vienna sausages

Was Charles C. [Dad’s cousin] home on furlough?  You mentioned him going back to Hawaii.  From what I’ve heard about the fellows that were stationed there, they seem to like it pretty well.  One of my buddies has a brother there.

Dorothy has been talking about spending her time this summer sewing and raising a garden and canning some stuff in preparation for our home.  I thought of the idea tha if she would spend some time there with you folks this summer it might help prepare for being a farmer’s wife.  She could help and at the same time get some experience along that line.  You could give her some pointers on this and that.  I don’t know much about  canning and housekeeping, etc.   I guess she knows quite a bit about cooking and keeping house.  I thought they maybe if you and I both suggested it, she might stay awhile this summer with you.  I think that it would be good experience for her.  Don’t you?  She could find out what it’s like to be on the farm.  I would like for her to see the house down at Uncle George’s some time so that she can get an idea of the layout.  She had suggested it to me.  Maybe you could arrange that sometime?

Editor’s note:  Ironically, Uncle George’s place changed hands.  The buyer, someone named “Green.” This was our first family home, known as the “Green Farm.”

It is possible that I could get to come home this year yet for a furlough, but I’m not counting too much on it.  Once I do get back to the States again, I hope that I don’t have to go overseas the second time.  That would mean another eight months to two years or even longer.

I guess that you are rather busy now-a-days with the usual springtime jobs.  I sure would like to see how it looks back there in the spring once again.  This is the third spring now that I’ve been away from home.  I can just see the grass starting to grow and the trees budding out putting forth new leaves.

Well, I’ll have to close for this time.  Hope you all are well.

March 30, 1944

I received your letter of March 6th with the clippings.  Dorothy Simily seems to have married quite a guy.  I feel somewhat the same way he does about Alaska and if there isn’t any opportunity around home after the war, I’ve thought about going there myself.  I’ve thought of that for quite some time since it first came into the public eye.  It would be a wonderful place to do some pioneering and wouldn’t seem so bad after being where I’ve been in the last year.

Editor’s note:  I wondered if my mother ever heard about Dad’s Alaskan homesteading idea?  Or was this just a “pipe dream?”

I’ve had my wisdom teeth pulled since the first of the year.  I’m glad they are out now so they won’t cause me any more trouble.  My teeth are like they always were–no good.  I have a few that have never been filled.  If I lose many more, I’m going to have to have some fill-ins so that I can chew steaks, if I get a chance to get any.

Yes, I wear glasses practically all the time.  If I don’t my eyes become irritated and sometimes the lids swell.  I have packed my civilian glasses away in a box and I wear my GI ones all the time.  Before I came overseas they didn’t want to give me glasses because they said my eyes weren’t bad enough.  After I gave them an argument though, they finally gave them to me.  We were supposed to get an extra pair before we came over.

I was talking to a fellow last night that was telling me about his two brothers back home farming and it made me kind of homesick.  I’ll surely be glad when I can start out the spring of the year farming again.

I suppose that you are very busy now with baby chicks if you got them on the 27th.  I sure wish that I could see them.  It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen any.

It seems that some of the fellows are over eager to get in the service when they sell their businesses before they know they are going for sure.  By the time they’re in as long as I, they won’t be so enthusiastic.

Things seem to be pretty well in favor of the Allies at present and I hope it keeps on being so.  This war cannot end too soon to suit me.

Well, I guess I’ll close for now.  Write as often as you can.

4-2-44:  Sunday off. Planted 2 hills of corn (4 grains in each)

Editor’s note:  Springtime and planting season were the hardest for Dad.  Would midwestern seed corn thrive in  Upper Assam?  There was a long growing season and plenty of moisture.

corn seedlingCorn seedlings

April 2, 1944

I’m wondering how the weather is back there by now.  You should be feeling spring about now.  The grass should be starting to grow and the foliage should  be coming on the trees and bushes.  The days are getting pretty long now.

I finally planted some of the seed corn that you sent me last summer.  It looked all right yet.  If it sprouts all right, the weather is warm enough that it should grow right up.  I spaded a little space up among some stumps and roots.  I know there’ll be plenty of moisture and heat to encourage growth.  Everything else grows fast enough.  The main difference that I notice in the change of season now is the more rapid growth of vegetation and increase in amount of rainfall.

I got an Easter card from Dorothy yesterday.  I don’t know for sure just when it is, but someone said it is supposed to be next Sunday.  It’s pretty hard to keep track of dates like that over here without a calendar.  I made a calendar sometime ago but never got the important dates down in red.  I can keep the day of the month and the month and year straight as I use them every day.  Otherwise, I probably would be all crossed up.

I’ve been looking through some of the pictures that I have and ran across a family picture of the Horn family excepting Viola and her husband.  If you want it, you can have it.  Uncle John is standing in the center with his big bay window.

I saw a show last night.  It was a show that I had seen a long while back.  Most of the time there are shows that I haven’t seen.

Well, I’m sort of lost when I have Sunday off.  It’s a good to get away from my work for a day, but the environment is still the same.

Editor’s note:  Dad didn’t talk about work.  Keeping equipment and vehicles running kept him and coworkers busy.  In the picture below, Dad is in the front row [standing] third from the left.  Dad’s company was the 115th Ordnance Co., Medium Maintenance.  There will be more about the companies’ history later.   

Dad & co-workers in India

We had canned chicken for dinner today with peas, mashed potatoes and gravy and fruit cocktail for dessert.  Some said that we are to have fresh beef for supper.  That hits the spot about as good as anything.

I’ll close for this time.  I hope you are enjoying good health.

4-9-44:  Corn popped thru ground yesterday morning earlier.  By noon had grown quarter of inch.  Tonite it is up 2 in. and first leaves are uncurling.  Plenty of rainfall about now.  Willing to bet that stalk reaches an enormous height.

April 9, 1944

well, another Sunday almost gone and it was Easter too, by the way.  I would have gone to church today, but was on KP, so I couldn’t.  The war must go on and the boys must eat.

The mail has been slowing down this past week for some reason.  Consequently, I didn’t hear from you this week.  I had three letters from Dorothy and a card from Mr & Mrs. Jones.  They said that Wesley was not in Colorado.

I told you in my letter about planting a couple of hills of corn last Sunday.  Of the eight grains I planted, (4 in a hill) six came up (3 in a hill) yesterday morning.  I first noticed them coming through the ground.  By noon (I’ll swear) they had grown a quarter of an inch.  Today the first leaves are beginning to uncurl.  I’ll bet that it grows like wildfire over here.  It’ll probably grow about ten feet high and not have any ears on it.  Conditions here are favorable for growth as there is an abundance of rainfall and ordinarily the water doesn’t stand.  The ground is so loose that it soon soaks down and evaporates.

I’d like to stay in this location long enough to see how tall it really gets.  If it works out satisfactorily, I’ll try more.  Maybe I’ll be sending home for vegetable seeds next.  There’s no reason why a person couldn’t have a garden if he stayed long enough to get the use of it.

The soil here is of a yellowish color, but is rich in vegetable matter as it was jungle up until the time  parts of it was cleared for army camps.  I find weeds and grass similar to those we have back home.  Some may vary a little in looks but there is a resemblance.  The bamboo is new to me of course.  The trees are all strangers.  Banana trees grow abundantly and wild.  The bananas are shorter than those you buy back home, but have a rich flavor.  I think I’ve told you that orchids grow wild.

We have some pheasants close to camp.  We can hear the rooster crowing in the mornings.  I think there a bunch of hens setting close by.  They are probably feeding out of our garbage pit.  Some of the fellows the roster was fighting off a bunch of crows this morning.  The crows around here are plentiful.

We have a volleyball tournament scheduled for this week among teams picked from our own company.  Each man participating is putting up one can of his beer ration for this month and the winners take all, while the losers will have to be satisfied with what they have left of their ration.  Weather permitting, it is to start tomorrow right after chow.  It gives us diversion as well as exercise.

I guess you are putting in garden to beat the band by now.  I wonder who plows the gardens around the town there now?  Ansel Dowland used to do quite a bit of it when I was home.

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

April 16, 1944

Today is one of those days that a person doesn’t venture out very far.  A person is content to stay inside.

I received your letter of the 20th and your V-letter of the 27th this week.  The letter came first.  My latest from Dorothy was postmarked the 30th.  I hope by now that the weather back there has changed from winter to spring.

The corn I planted two weeks ago has gotten a good start.  It is up now to the size where if a person had a field of it, he could cultivate it nicely without covering too much of it.  I had intended to plant some more today if the weather had permitted as it is my day off, but will have to wait.

Does Tedy D. [Duckels] have anyone working for him now or does the other Duckels boys help him?  I guess Tedy had to really buckle down to it now since he has more land to take care of and no one to help much.  I guess Beulah keeps him stepping.  Ha!  I suppose the draft gives him some incentive, too.  Maybe he’s too old for that though on second thought.

I guess Peewee Keele (What a name) has quite a time.  How’s Bob K. and his family getting along?

I can’t understand quite this business of calling men off the farms while they are worrying about the manpower shortage on the farms causing a food shortage.  Why don’t they sharpen up in Washington?  They’re going to have the country so badly messed up that we’ll be better off to stay in India after the war’s over.  At least we wouldn’t have to worry about the tax collector catching up with us.

Editor’s note:  Dad was obviously frustrated with “catch-21” governmental policies.

The news in some sectors sounds pretty good.  This war certainly has turned out to be a long drawn out affair.  I don’t believe I was ever so tired of hearing so much about one thing.

I can’t understand why Robert K.’s eyes should limit his service.  He must have some pull somewhere.  Physical deficiencies like that seldom have any bearing.

I’m glad you received my birthday greetings in time.  It is hard to tell sometime just how long it’ll take for them to reach their destination.  I hope it didn’t give you a shock before you opened it to find out what it was.  I sent Dorothy some greeting too, as her birthday is this month.

We have a volleyball tournament going among teams in the company.  My team played last night and we won our fifth straight game.  We lost our first, but all the teams have been defeated once or more.  All we have to do now is to stay undefeated and  we’ll win the beer.

I went to a show last night, but was disgusted because you couldn’t hear but very little of what the actors said.  It’s like seeing a silent picture without any explanation of what’s going on.  The picture was good.  Do you go to the show anymore?

We should get our supplies tonight as they are here and there’s no show or anything.

We had creamed chicken for dinner today which was a change.  My appetite has been failing here lately.  I guess hold of some vitamin pills and see if I can’t get sharpened up a little.  I guess what I need is some good old fresh vegetables, fruit, milk, etc. like what comes off the farm.

Well, I guess I’ll say so long for this time.

DAD’S WWII LETTERS: Chapter 6, India: Boats & Trains

gateway of india

“Gates of India”  Bombay [Mumbai]

3-4-43:  Got passes from 1:30 til 9:30.  Didn’t get  to leave until after 2.  Everyone took off and started down town.  I got three dollars changed to 16 rupees and 8 annas.  I spent 6 1/2 rupees.  Ate twice once at coffee-house (for 1R and 1 a) and again at English canteen where I go a meal for half R.  Natives beg a lot.  Live dirty.  Spent the day wandering around.  Talked to British flying sergeant.

3-5-43:  Part of soldiers left boat for destination, cleaning detail started.  We have the run of the boat more or less.  Washed some shorts.  Had good chow for supper.    

3-6-43:  19 months service today.  Leave boat about 9 am.  Board train and leave about 10.  Arrive at British Camp about 3:30 AM.  Bamboo shacks about 2/3 way down.  Tile roof.  Dusty floor.  Natives clean quarters polish our shoes and make our beds for 1/2 R per week per man.  Went to canteen for warm soda and cake.  Can get shave for 1 a.  Bring tea around in evenings and mornings.  Talked to some of the English boys here in casualty section.

3-7-43:  *Dealale, India-location of camp.  Laid around most of the day and washed clothes.  Sent a few clothes to laundry.  Eat at dining hall taken care of by natives.

3-8-43:  Same as yesterday.  Talked with British soldiers.  Laundry came back in evening.

3-9-43:  Spent quite a bit of time at Bazaar.  Bought silver ring, towels, cigarette holder and ate at Chinese restaurant.

*Editor’s note:  Camp Deolali is located in western India, about 100 miles northeast of Bombay.  During WWII it was used as a transit camp for soldiers arriving in India and awaiting assignment in the CBI (China-India-Burma) theater–Wikipedia.

3-10-43:  Prepared to leave in morning.  On baggage detail.  Board train at about 5:30.  Pulled out at 7:30.  Have 6 men to a compartment.

3-11-43:  Had our three meals, such as they were, on the train.  Have a table in compartment to eat on.  Occasionally you see a bunch of monkeys in the trees.  Farmers threshing the crude way. There are banana trees (small).  Fields are very small.

Editor’s note:  After the war, Dad told about how they made tea from hot water, taken straight from the locomotive boiler.  “Hot water was hot water–wherever it came from.”

3-12-43:  Slept till 8 o’clock.  Went through a little jungle.  Saw a farmer plowing with oxen.  Natives look cleaner here and dress some different.  Every RR station has nice flower garden.  Every field has a ridge around it for irrigation.  People seem to live in villages.  Many of the kids run around in shirts that cover the upper parts of their body only.  Some wear nothing.  Yesterday afternoon, huts were made of stalks and straw in poorer sections.

Afternoon today-Ran through section with red clay.  Several tile roofs on brick or stone houses.  Quite a few scattered trees over landscape.  Stopped at Bilaspur, In. (958 ft. above sea level) at 5:15 PM.  Slightly sick at stomach during night.

3-13-43:  Passed through some jungle and rough country.  Stopped about 5 at a British canteen and had tea and cookies.  Saw an airfield.

3-14-43:  Still riding.  Scenery changing some.  Changed trains at midnight. 

3-15-43:  Got to bed at almost 4 AM.  Had compartment with only four of us.  Good deal.  Got off train again shortly before noon.  Did without breakfast till 2 PM.  Backed up to pier and unloaded box cars onto boat.  Coolies did the work.  Slept on top deck.  Pulled out about 10 PM.  (Saw an elephant on train.)

3-16-43:  Had breakfast consisting of wieners, bread & coffee.  Some of the natives took bananas, eggs & oranges and were selling them to the troops.  O. D. [officer of the day] finally caught on & put some more guard on duty to watch the rations.  Read short story in Reader’s Digest (Dec. issue) this afternoon.  Took a nap before dinner.  Dinner consisted of corned beef, peas, bread and butter substitute and pears & coffee.  Pulled alongside boat with nurses a couple of times this afternoon.  (Riding on Duffla).  Frequent sand bars in river and along bank.  Have passed several barges & canoes or fishing boats.  Someone said valley where river is located is 30 miles wide.  Sewed on barracks bag this morning.  Just read through diary.  About supper time (6:20).  Several card games in progress.  We pulled into the pier about 9 PM.  Worked till after midnight loading from boat onto train.  Had tea and bread about 1 o’clock.  Came to car and slept from 3 to 7.    

3-17-43:  Had bread and jam, dog biscuits & tea.  Had tea & dog biscuits for dinner again.  Pulled out about 1:30 PM.  Country is mountainous.  Saw some cars off track that had been wrecked.  People are beginning to look more oriental.  Saw some good land and some land that either never was in cultivation or wasn’t take care of.  Beginning to get in jungle.  Occasional fields.   Few wildflowers of a lavender color.  Saw some monkeys this morning.  There are lots of vultures, crows, white cranes, or a similar bird and a long-legged, long-billed bird.  There are lots of banana palms and bamboo trees.  Here in Assam the houses that aren’t made of bricks are made of woven split bamboo.  The fences are also.  The houses of the natives all have grass roofs.  There are lots of banana palms and other trees that I do not recognize.  Some are tea bush which is planted in rows.  The bush, or what ever you want to call it, is slightly higher than a man’s knees.  The tea is generally shaded by trees.  I saw white ducks, tame, the same in size as ours at home.  I also saw some geese about the size of our geese with a little different coloring.  Saw a bird the size of our robin.  It had sort of rust colored body, dark head and tail with yellow around eyes.  We’ve covered very little ground today.  Have seen several tea plantations today.  Saw some more wrecked railroad cars.  We ate better today.  We had canned rations.  All of the telegraph poles made of steel throughout India.   

tea harvest in assamTea harvest in Assam, India      

3-19-43:  Arrived at destination about 8 AM.  Americans already here.  Chinese truck drivers & guards.  Unloading baggage as I’m on baggage detail.  Ride on baggage truck to our new area.  Chinese driver, and he is rather wild.  Tents like at Lakeside.  Mess hall is bamboo.  Also latrine.  Put up racks for mosquito nets.  Plenty brush cut off campsite.  Boys cleaning it up.  *Natives building road nearby.  Women carrying buckets of dirt.  Received mail for first time since Jan. 20th (18 letters).  Made me and everyone else happy to receive mail although some of it was over 2 months old.  Got mail mailed from  Jan 2nd till Feb 18th.  Guard duty starting 6 tonight for 24 hours.  On 2 and off 4 hours.

3-20-43:  Sat.:  Off guard–did last shift.  Rather listless.  Must be climate.  Have read some of my mail.  Will have to answer it.  Received 6 more letters.  Mail up to Feb. 18th.

3-21-43:  Worked all day around tents cleaning up brush and stubs.  Wrote a letter to my parents.

*Editor’s note:  The road under construction was the Ledo Road.  It was a new supply route to connect to the Burma Road and eventually go to China–our ally.  Japanese encroachment in Burma cut off surface roads and as a result most supplies were moved by air transport over the Himalayas.  This air route was known as “Flying the Hump.”

March 21, 1943

I finally got to where I can write you a few more lines.  I don’t have too much time to write as it gets dark quickly here after supper and we have no lights.  I have a lot of correspondence to catch up as we got our mail yesterday and the day before.  I got 18 letters day before and 6 more yesterday.  I got all your letters up to Feb. 15th and Dorothy’s up to the 18th.  I sure was glad to get it.

I am in good health and enjoying being in a strange country.  I wouldn’t care to live in India, but temporarily it’ll do.  I suppose you have heard or gotten my previous letter giving you a description of the people.

The climate is warm in the daytime and cool and damp at night.  There are lots of mosquitos and insects, but we sleep under nets to keep them out.

The scenery is interesting.  A person can see mountains in the distance.  There are monkeys and elephants around close.  Our mess hall and out buildings are made of split bamboo.  It proves to be a useful wood.  A building can be mad completely of it.  The leaves are used for the roof.

I suppose you are enjoying spring weather by now as it is that time of the year.  I sure hope that I can be there next year.  Your spoke of Nelson Fenton having misfortune.  So far I hadn’t heard from what, you said, and I gather that the brooder must have blown up or something like that.  It is too bad.

He’s had his share of misfortune.

Did you receive three letters from me since January 20th?  I hope that you did.  I hope that i’ll be able to write more regular for now on.  There may be times where I’ll be unable to write, but don’t worry about it.

I received two letters from Mr. Bucholz and he said to tell you hello.  One was a seasons greetings and the other contained a circular on the religion of MME Chiang Kai-Shek written by herself.  She is the first lady of China and Mr. Bucholz said that I would read it with interest.  It proved to be very interesting, at this time especially.

I received a letter birthday greeting from Aunt May.  Dorothy sent me a cute birthday card.  I’ll be writing letters for quite a while to get all these answered.  By that time I’ll probably get another bunch.

I appreciate the newspaper clippings that you send. It makes me feel closer to home to read news from there.  I have received lots of mail since I’ve been in the service and I appreciate it.

It is getting dark so I’ll have to close for this time.  Note that I have a new APO # (689), I think I gave it to you in the last letter.  Write.

3-22-43:  Rained during night and part of day.  Helped build fireplace for kitchen out of brick and mud.  Wrote letter to my wife.  Raining again after dark.

3-23-43:  Rained in early morning.  Raining showers this morning.  Very sloppy & muddy around tent.

3-24-43:  Dug slit trench.  Rained during night.

3-25-43:  Finished slit trench.  Guard duty.  Rained all night.

3-26-43:  Finished guard 6 PM.  Showered all day.  Wrote 2 letters.

3-27-43:  Still raining–10 more men went out on D. S.  Working around area. 

3-28-43:  Showering this morning.  Working in area giving??   sidewalks.  Went to church in afternoon, but Protestant chaplain couldn’t come because of no transportation.  Sun starts shining and is pretty nice.  Ground starts to dry.

3-29-43:  Sun shines all day.  Is getting dry around area.  Wash clothes this morn.  Carry bamboo this afternoon.  Short arms at 3.  Write V-mail home.  Shoes dry today for 1st time in several days.   

I am enjoying good health and hope you are enjoying the same.  We had a nice sunshiny day today.  Our section had the morning off to wash our clothes.  I had plenty of it to do as I hadn’t much time to do it.  This afternoon we went back to work.

I made out an allotment of 20 dollars yesterday to be sent home to you.  You can invest the money for me or put it somewhere that I can obtain it when I need it after the war.  When there is enough of it you could start investing it in some livestock for me if the opportunity arises.  You’ll probably get the first payment in May as it comes out of my April pay.  I do not need all that money over here.

I went to church yesterday afternoon.  Write when you can and tell me of home.

3-30-43:  KP–Sunshine.

3-31-43:  Showers–Pay Day–212 R’s and 6 a.  Went to bazaar and bought tin of cigarettes & safety pins. 

4-1-43:  Showers.  On gravel detail.  Laid around most of afternoon.  On guard tonight.

4-2-43:  Showers–On gravel detail.  Laid around most of afternoon.  On guard tonight.

4-2-43:  Slept most of day.  Alert in evening.  Drew 60 rounds. 

4-3-43:  On rail detail, but postponed.  Feeling bad from typhoid shot yesterday afternoon.  Laid around all day.

4-4-43:  Went on rail detail till 4:30.

Editor’s note:  The frequent mention of rain made me immediately think, “Mother Nature’s welcome to the tropics.”

April 5, 1943

A few days ago I received some more mail.  One was a V-mail letter from you written Feb 28th and the other March 7th.  I had been thinking a good deal of home and was glad to hear from you.

You spoke of having not seen Dorothy for almost a month.  She has spoken of having been rather busy and I suppose she doesn’t have much spare time.

What did you mean when you said that you were really surprised at how she had changed?

We all got some typhoid shots the other afternoon and we had sore arms for a day or two.

It was just the other night that I was trying to figure out how long you had been married & just when the anniversary was.

Editor’s note:  Grandparents, George Adam & Rosa Clements, were married 2-23-07, making it their thirty-sixth anniversary.

Uncle George and Aunt Minnie [Gahr’s] picture sure looked natural.

It seems to take at least three weeks for mail to reach me from the states.

I am sorry that I cannot tell you more about myself, but I am not allowed to.  I am enjoying good health and conditions are as good as can be expected.

I go to church services on Sundays.  They are held close by and there is no excuse for not going.

4-6-43:  Rain today.  20 months in service today.  Wrote letter to folks.  No work at all today.  Did my laundry in morning, but never dried.

April 16, 1943

Dad, how is everything going about the farm this spring?  Is the tractor running OK and are the tires holding up all right?  If you could make a trade for a good F-20 on rubber I believe it would be a good deal.  I believe they are better tractors than later models.  Our old tractor will give good service yet for a while, but the chance ever comes to get a good F-20 Farmall on rubber, I would take it and you get more power and a few good improvements.

f-20Farmall F-20

What horse are you matching with old Prince now since you’ve sold old Lady?

About this allotment of 20 dollars I am sending you every month starting with my April pay.  I would like you to invest it in livestock for me after enough has accumulated.

I intend to use this money to stock up with when I get back to the farm.  If you could take this money and buy a good cow it would be a start for me.  Of course it’ll take several months to get that much money ahead.

This time of the year makes me have the urge to be back on the farm.  I am looking forward to the day when I can be back home.

Has the car give you any trouble since I fixed it up last November?  Does the oil filter keep the oil clean now?

Write and tell me how things are going when you have time.  I know that you are plenty busy this season of the year.

4-7-43:  Started on rail detail.  Labor trouble between Negroes and Chinese drivers.  Came back to camp.  Put duck boards in bottom of slit trucks this afternoon.  Received letter from D. of D. S. S. Class [Daughters of Dorcas, Sunday School Class].

4-8-43:  Carried bamboo all morning.  Worked on road in aft.  Heard orchestra over at horse medics.

4-9-43:  Started on rail detail, but came back–showers.  Wrote letter to Dot.

4-10-43:  Went to Marg–on rail detail, but came back.  Cut some wood in aft.  Helped carry a couple of bamboo poles in.

4-11-43:  Stayed on R. D. till noon.  Most of company had day off.  Breakfast at 8.  First Sunday off.  Went to church at 2:30.  Hauser came from Linurkia with knife.  Good knife with bone handle. 

4-12-43:  Changed R. Detail.  Wash clothes this morning.  Wash wool O. D.’s Come out in good shape.  Go after gravel this afternoon.  Go way on othe side of bazaar.  Get truck stuck on road on return.  Bought my ration of A. Cigarettes today (17 pkgs.) at 3 a’s a pack.  Also, tonight cookies and 1 cigar.

4-13-43:  Work had on gravel detail all day.  Guard at night.  Leitch & Myers first 2 casualties in company.  Killed in plane wreck.  They were on D. S.

4-14-43:  Work at 85th Ord.

4-16-43:  Still working at 85th.  Got caught in heavy rain in open truck.  Several beds got wet.  Lower part of mine got wet.  Third casualty in this company.  Busing.

4-17-43:  Worked at 85th. 

4-18-43:  Sunday off.  Washed, Went to church, new chaplain, very nice.  Church next Sunday at 11 AM.  Wrote letter to folks.  On guard tonight.  

April 18, 1943

This is a nice quiet Sunday.  The natives are working around here this morning and we have been washing our clothes.  Our work during the week makes it necessary that we wash today since we aren’t working.  A person can do a surprising good job with cold water and lots of soap.  Some workdays I use a whole bar of soap, which costs six annas (equivalent to 12 cents).  My coveralls are the hardest to wash as they get the dirtiest and I wear them the most.

My last letter from you was mailed on the 29th of March and I received it a couple of days ago.  The last one from Dorothy came yesterday and it was written on the 17th of March.  So air mail seems to travel the fastest.  I have to send part of my letters V-mail because of scarcity of paper over here.

We got a phonograph and radio in our company supplies yesterday.  So now we have music.  The chow whistle just blew so I’ll have to postpone this till later.

I just got back from chow and we had canned corn, corned beef, bread and butter, hot tea, and fruit salad.  Or eats are getting better than they were at the start.

I just got your V-mail letter written on the 14th which proves what I just said about air mail coming faster.  You surely have heard from me by now.  I wrote three letters on the way over and I’ve written about every week since I’ve been here in India, which was the first week in March.  Occasionally some of the mail gets lost.  A person has to take that in consideration.  So far I think that I’ve gotten most of my mail.  If you numbered each of your letters it might help me to tell if all of them arrive.

Several of the boys here have requests to home for cameras and films.  May I can get some of the prints of pictures taken over here and send them home.  I asked Dorothy to send to the publishers of Reader’s Digest and have it sent to me.  It isn’t necessary to have a letter written signed by the C. O. for that.

I’m going to church this afternoon if nothing interferes.  So far I’ve been lucky enough to be free to go every Sunday since they’ve started services in this area.

I just returned from church and we had a different Chaplain.  He is a young fellow and appears to be very nice.  He preached a very nice sermon on faith.

I have guard tonight, which comes around about every four or five days.  Starting tomorrow we have three steady KP’s.  So that eliminates KP.

Continue writing when you can.

4-19-43:  Off again.  Did some mending in the morning.  Cleaned rifle this afternoon.  Wrote to Dorothy.  Wrote to W. Dowland.

4-20-43:  Worked at 85th.

4-21-43:  Worked at 85th Ord.  B tags came in.  Everything intact.  More equipment came in. 

4-22-43:  Stayed here and cleaned tools and equipment.  Received 3 letters today, folks, Dorothy, and Carl Getz.  Wrote letter to Carl. 

4-23-43:  Went on sick call this morning for headache and general weakness.  Gave me ASA pills for headache.  Took temperature a 5 PM, none.  Stayed rather quiet for most of day.    

4-24-43:  Went to 85th to work.  No headache today, but still feel draggy.  No energy.  Guard tonight.

4-25-43:  Easter Sunday.  Breakfast at 8.  Read an old paper.  Go to services at 11.  Eat dinner at 1.  Read some in “HIstory of World” by H. G. Wells.

4-26-43:  Natives finish our basha.  Instructed to prepare living quarters in *basha.  Do my washing and Bratton & D. Lieb clean out shack, fill in and move into one end.  Read some more tonight.  Bought lantern (Fred & I) T-shirt, flashlight & knife from Sieberlich and pillow.     

Dad in IndiaDad standing in doorway of Basha

Editor’s note:  “Basha” is British military slang for shelter or sleeping quarters per Wikipedia.