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.
Vintage 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.
Editor’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.
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, at duty section, front row, right
Constructing Ledo road through mountainsFirst Ledo road convoy Jan. 28, 1945First 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.”
I received your letters of Dec. 10th and 17th today. It’s the first time I’ve received any mail in a week besides a package from Dorothy that came three days ago. I don’t see why you haven’t been hearing from me. I’ve been writing all the time and I usually get your letters OK outside of maybe they don’t come one week, but the next I get both of them. I certainly hope that you’ve heard by this time. I’m glad that you got my Christmas card anyway.
You must be having real winter weather. Dorothy said that she was having a time getting to school in the drifts. Harvey had been driving her.
So Mrs. Senior outlived Lila. I thought sure that Lila would be left alone. I guess the old Senior place [later called the Hick’s house] looks mighty lonesome now, with no one there. I’m glad to hear that Myrtle Rigsbey is improving. She must have had quite a time of it.
I got a letter from Evelyn Getz here awhile back and she said that Wendell was headed overseas, but she hadn’t heard where yet. She was awfully anxious to hear. If he happens to land in the thick of things, she’ll wish she didn’t know then.
Esther Parker is getting to be quite the career woman. The picture of here in the clipping doesn’t look much like her. Those printed pictures don’t always turn out so good though. Maybe she’ll capture herself some big shot in the army.
I got the Christmas boxes OK. I got the one the Farm Bureau sent me. I’ve been using the pipe you sent me and in Dorothy’s package there was some tobacco so the two go together. Surely the letters I have written you will get there eventually. They may have ben held up for some reason. I’m nursing a cold now, but it’s improving, otherwise OK.
Editor’s note: Apparently, there was frustration on the home front about regular mail from overseas.
Jan. 13, 1945
I wonder how you folks are tonight? I’ll bet you are sitting close to the fire toasting your toes. It’s nothing like that here, although, a fire does feel good in the evenings and early mornings. I have a little fire going now in one little stove.
I hope that by now you’ve heard from me. Your last letter said that you hadn’t heard for three weeks. I guess the mail just got held up somewhere along the line. If these letters don’t get through, I’ll have to try V-mail as it seems to always get there.
Christmas is over and New Years is over and here we are about the middle of January already. Time seems to go pretty fast.
I spend my leisure time writing letters, reading and going to movies. I don’t find much time that I don’t know what to do with. I heard from Gene Parker about a week ago. I answered his letter a few nights ago. He is prompt in answering. I get his letters in three days. I guess he’s glad to hear from someone from home. I know that I am and sure wish it were possible to see him. He’s doing about the same kind of work that I am.
My last letter from Dorothy was Dec 29 and she said that it was cold and slippery out, then. I’m glad that it was during her vacation, so she wouldn’t have to drive over the slick roads. She said that she’d gotten another new tire for her car, which makes three, now. She needs one more to make a complete new set. She’ll have to get it before school is out, as the ration board probably won’t let her have one, otherwise.
Editor’s note: Worn tires, slick country roads, a dangerous combination.
I’m wondering what I’m going to do for gas when I get home? I’ll want to do a little getting around when I get home, as it’s been so long. I guess a person can always manage as long as there’s any tractor gas, if you know what I mean. I’d sure like to get home in time to help a little bit in corn planting. A person never knows for sure, though. In ’42, I got to help sow beans and that’s the last time I got to do anything like that.
From the news broadcast, it sounds like some of these younger farm boys that so far have been deferred, are gong to have to change from overalls to uniforms. Well, I can’t see that it’ll hurt them to do some of it, too, rather than let us older ones do it all. That’s going to hit kind of hard around home, I’m afraid, as there are several boys below thirty. Let’s see, there’s Burns, Leach, Woods, Chism, and probably several more that I can’t think of at the present. Families sure aren’t keeping them out.
Editor’s note: Dad frequently compared his situation to boys at home that had escaped conscription. Was it just his bad luck and their good fortune?
Well, I’ll close for tonight, I guess, as I want to write to Dorothy yet, before bedtime. It seems like bedtime is here before one knows it. I hope you are well.
I received your letters of Dec. 25th and Jan. 1st. From what you said, you did have a white Christmas and also a white New Year’s Day. I’m glad that you finally got my letters before Christmas. I got two of my Boxes before Christmas and two more shortly afterward. Charles Clements didn’t have to go back overseas, then, after his furlough. I heard somewhere that Ammie Zimmerman died last fall.
I was wondering what Clarence Dowland is doing now? I wonder who Bill [Rigsbey] will get on his place, now that Floyd’s gone?
Finis [Wade] is eligible for a pension, isn’t he? Along with the work he gets, he should be able to get along.
It seems that the war is starting to take its toll from Chesterfield.
Bud Scott (Russell) must be around here somewhere. If I knew his address, I could probably find out his whereabouts. He could probably be close around and I’d never know it. Yes, It’s much nicer here than any place we’ve been located yet in this theatre. We have a bigger and nicer camp with more conveniences. It seem that the food is getting better. We have more fresh meat now. I’m not worried about the Japs.
Kallals seem to be having quite a time.
Your hens are doing good for this time of the year. Eggs around here were so scarce that some of the fellows were paying 30 cents an egg for them. They’ve dropped now to about $2.14 a dozen or 7 rupees in native money. Lots of fellows buy them so they can have fresh eggs to eat. I satisfy myself to eat the army grub, as I feel it’s too much to pay for extras.
Everything is going on as usual over here. Camp life is getting more like garrison every day, in spite of the fact that we’re in a foreign country at war, and there’s plenty of work to do. So long for now.
Jan. 30, 1945
I went a little over time in answering your letter this time because I was on the move again. I’m still in Burma, though. I’ve seen quite a little of Burma now, and I like it much better than India. It seems that the country is more beautiful. There is plenty of jungle in Burma, but I’ve seen more open country here, than in India. I guess it just happened that I was in those parts.
I hate this moving, because there’s so much hard work to it, and then a person is always unsettled. That’s the army for you, though.
Well, the one month of the new year is almost gone. The Germans seem to be coming out on a limb right now. I sure hope it’s over before long. Maybe then, I’ll have more of a chance of staying home next time. After 3 1/2 years, this is getting old. Whoever said a year wouldn’t be long was altogether wrong. It’s been the longest year I ever spent.
It looks like you’ve been having plenty of winter this time. Dorothy said it has been the toughest she’s had to get back and forth to school. I guess it is better for the cattle when it stays cold as it doesn’t get muddy. I sure hope you do good on the cattle this year as it’ll be the last time you’ll be able to feed as large a bunch.
I guess it was the right thing to do to sell the horses if they were eating their heads off. Is the team of old white mules all you have in the horse line now? Whatever happened to old Joe.
Well, I’m still figuring on coming home this summer. I don’t know yet whether it’ll be on schedule or a month or so later. I think I’ll still make it, though before winter starts again. I sure hope so.
Its getting chilly here as we haven’t any stoves and I guess I’ll have to go to bed to keep warm. I have a light rigged up so I can read in bed. That’s a good deal.
I hope you are all well. I’m fine, considering this climate for 24 months.
Feb. 3, 1945
I received your birthday card on a very appropriate day–on my birthday. All the celebrating I did was to go on guard that night. That’s my fourth birthday now, in the service.
Dorothy has some snap shots of me that were taken during the summer. I sent her the negatives and thought she would give you a print from them. Not having a camera or film myself, I couldn’t get many pictures. If I’d had them I sure could have gotten lots of interesting pictures from over here.
I’m glad that you don’t have to do much more than chores this winter. It should be sort of a change and rest not to have to worry about the other place.
It looks like Pete Burns has stalled off now until he’s above the age bracket where the army doesn’t need him. I think that’s a dirty trick, since his brother has to go and has a family. Some people, though don’t have any conscience when it comes to saving their own skin.
Our morale has gone up recently as several of the boys from around here that came over at the same time have gone home and others are leaving shortly. So, if everything worked out like it looks like it’s going to, I’ll get home in the spring. That makes me feel more hopeful as I was beginning to feel sort of doubtful about it. I had known some to be over here as long as thirty months.
We are being entertained tonight by music from our amplified phonograph. We have a handy radio man who rigged it up. A record sounds like it’s coming from the radio. It helps cheer up the lonesome evenings over here.
As I sit here and smoke my pipe, I can just see the two of you sitting in the living room reading. It’s funny after being away from home awhile, a person can visualize those old familiar scenes just like it was only yesterday. I think I’m going to be a home loving body from now on. I’ll have to close for this time.
Feb. 11, 1945
Here it is the 11th already. Seems like the time sure flies now, that I’m so busy. I have this afternoon off, it being Sunday, and I get the afternoon off one time and the morning the next. We even sometimes have to work at night if necessity calls for it. So a half day off is quite welcome.
I received your letter of the 21st of January this week. I’m surprised to hear that Uncle Elbert [Clements] is working in Hawaii. I’m glad he likes it. Maybe he’ll get a new lease on life now. Lots of the fellows that have been in Hawaii have liked it. It sure must be nicer than the country over here.
It seems hard to realize that Harold Clements is old enough to be out of high school. He and some other kid is the same age. I can’t remember who it is, unless it’s Val Adam Jr.
It certainly be fine, if I could get located in the States, but I haven’t much hopes of it until after the war with Germany is finished. The present system has been to give the boys a 21 day furlough at home and then ship them to another theater. It’s beginning to look like I’m just going to be an old army man. If I’d started out when I was eighteen, I’d have some time in by now. It wouldn’t have been so hard to take either, then. I sure don’t intend to stay in any longer than necessary. Even at that, it’s going to be kind of late to get a fresh start in life, especially if I have to pile up two more years overseas after this. I sure hope that I get to a better theater than this has been. Another two years, like the last two, would about drive a person nuts.
You have the wrong slant on an only child being held in the States for the duration. That is in the event that one or more sons have been killed in action and in order to spare the last son; he’s either left in the States or sent to a theater where there’s no action.
Well, we got our weekly roundup this afternoon, so I guess I’ll sign off and read the news in it.
Hope you are all well.
P. S. I’m sending some Chinese folding money.
Feb 18, 1945
Here it is Sunday morning and my morning off. Next Sunday I’ll have the afternoon off and Russell Scott is supposed to come pay me a visit then. I guess I didn’t tell you that the other day, I got a letter from Carl Getz and he gave me Russell’s address. From the address I know of an outfit of that number. The first person I saw from that outfit, I inquired if there was a Scott there, and he said, sure, he knew him. He said he’d bring him down the first opportunity. One morning a couple of days later, Russell walks in and we shake hands. I was so busy, that we had to talk in between times, except finding a date for him to come down next Sunday afternoon when I’m off. It seems he had something to interfere with his coming this morning.
It seems good to see someone from around home after all this time. Of course, he looks like another GI, but he’s still someone I knew before I knew the army. I sure wish I could see Gene Parker before coming home. There’s not much chance of doing that, though, unless I could happen to make a trip into China and he’d happen to be at the right place at the right time.
It’s sure cool here in the barracks here this morning. the sun outside is nice and warm. This is about the coldest place I ever slept in, I believe. It’s so big and there’s nothing but mosquito net around sounds [?] and the damp air comes right in. I use all my blankets, sleep with my pants, socks and heavy undershirt on to keep warm. During the day after the sun gets up a person starts peeling off, and if he’s right out in the sun, he peels right off to the skin. The temperature doesn’t get low enough to freeze (in fact I haven’t seen any freezing weather since I left home), but the air is so damp when the sun is not shining. I much prefer actual cold weather. A person can wear enough clothes to keep warm then.
It seems the Nixon family, including the in-laws (some of them), have managed to escape the realities of war. Maybe it’s all right to keep out of it, if you’re smart enough, but it’ll never look right to me. In some ways, I wish I would start out fresh in some new community, as I’ll always be more or less of an outsider. There seems to be plenty around home that have avoided being called and there’ll always be friction between the ex-servicemen and the others.
It sounds like your hens are doing all right regardless of the cold weather. I’d sure like to have some of those fresh eggs to eat.
About my pictures, I was quite a bit thinner then than now, because it was hot weather and I always lose weight then. Of course, the fellow standing next to me is a 200 pounder, and is a little bit larger than I. That fellow is Fred Bratton, the fellow that Dorothy and I went to see the Sunday after we were married. We’ve been together now for three years and he’s about the closest buddy I guess I’ve ever had.
We’ve been through a lot together. I get Christmas and letters from his folks. You couldn’t find any nicer people.
You are mistaken about the mustache being gone. I still have it and have shaved it off only once in over three years, and that was when on maneuvers, and then I let it grow right back out. Anymore it seems as much a part of me as an eyebrow. I’d feel naked without it. the Jap flag was a borrowed one. The rifle is a Jap one, that Fred acquired.
Fred Bratton [left] and Dad with Japanese rifle & flag
I think I’ll go to church after a while. It’s quite a little ride from here. It’s held in a stone chapel that was spared from the war except for one end, a few window glasses, and the roof. the roof has been covered over with tarp. Another church not so far from it was pretty well shot up. There isn’t much left of the rest of the town, as it was really blown up.
Editor’s note: The previous paragraph was Dad’s first mention of war destruction.
Well. I’ll have to close for now. I hope you are well.
Feb 24, 1945
I received your letter of Feb. 4th a couple of days ago. I did pretty good this week on letters. In all, I heard from Dorothy, Gene Parker, Viola Bigelow, and Helen Barnett.
Helen wrote a V-letter, and didn’t say much, except she said that Carla was a big girl now, and was two years old in November which makes a person realize how time flies. Viola was in California in December during Christmas with Vincent. She said it didn’t seem like Xmas as she went swimming at Long Beach. I spent a couple of Christmases in California myself, so I know how it is. Vincent is at Pearl Harbor now.
Gene said that he had talked to a fellow that had heard of my outfit. I’m expecting to see Russell Scott tomorrow afternoon as he talked like he’d come to see me then.
I guess that’s about the first of my letters that was opened by the army examiner as I never heard about it. I’ve only received one so far that was opened in the same way and that was almost two years ago. It was one of Dorothy’s letters. They spot check then and very seldom get the same person’s mail.
How old is Uncle Pres’s baby girl, now? I’m sure getting behind the times. I’m sorry to hear that Uncle Pres is selling off his cows. If he doesn’t have feed for them thought it’s about all he can do I guess. I wonder what kind of job he’s figuring on getting in St. Louis? He’s getting sort of old for a job like that. He’s sure had a tough time of trying to keep things together and raise a family. It looks like I might be in the same boat as I’m getting such a late start.
Myrtle Rigsbey is sure having a tough time of it.
I didn’t know the Ida Lockyer was sick. Edgar [local grocery store proprietor] must be having a tough time of it trying to run the store himself. Everyone has their troubles, I guess.
Grandpa Adam [Great-Grandfather] must be getting pretty well up in his eighties by now. This winter has been a tough one for old people as it’s been so cold.
Well , that’s about all I have to say this time, I guess. I’m pretty busy nowadays. Hope you are surviving the cold weather OK.
I received your letter of Nov. 6th. It’s getting hard to find time for my correspondence. I usually write your letters on Sunday if I have one to answer, but this time I just couldn’t squeeze yours in as I had some laundry to do after supper.
I’ll bet the old ears of corn are really bumping into the wagons back there now, unless everyone is finished shucking corn and I doubt it very much. I imagine that you folks have yours about finished though.
It sounds good to hear someone talk of canning fruit. We get canned fruit, but no near as much as I could eat, especially during hot weather when I don’t eat so much of other things. Our usual fruit diet is pineapple, fruit cocktail, peaches, pears, apple sauce or apple pie and occasionally cherry pie. I hope you have some cherries all canned just waiting to be made into a nice, luscious pie. I have hopes of eating some of those home cooked pies before too many more months.
Freshly baked cherry pie
I never did learn to eat sweet potatoes. They have them once in a while for chow. Neither can I go for these dehydrated spuds. This dehydrating process is a failure as far as I am concerned. I’ll take my food prepared the old-fashioned way. It’s possible I might get to eat some of that beef. It’s been a long time since I’ve had any good corn-fed beef. I sure wish that I could have seen the twins [calves]. I’ll bet they were cute.
Your hens are making a few dollars for you now. Forty three cents a dozen sounds better that twenty.
I guess Uncle George hates giving up the place. He’ll sure miss the farm chores although, I guess Aunt Minnie will find enough for him to run him ragged. Next summer they’ll probably take care of all the neighbor’s gardens.
Dorothy said that she took the kids out to the Pitman sale for dinner.
I’m surprised to hear that Floyd and Nellie [Rigsbey] are moving off Bill’s place. I’ll bet that Bill is upset. I suppose they wanted a better way out. Is little Bill old enough to go to school already? Maybe they’re just getting set. What’s Clarence Dowland doing now? I heard that Myrtle was in the hospital. She was always so healthy looking and full of pep.
Yes, I voted, but I don’t know whether it was legal or not, as one of the fellows from Chicago got his ballot back today. I sent mine to the county clerk,so that may make a difference. Anyway, I tried.
I had a surprise today in a letter from Ab [Albert] Wilson. He was in Belgium when he wrote it. He didn’t say anything about anything there, but just inquired about Dorothy and old times together that we naturally think of while we are far away from home. I had written him a letter and he got it while he was still in England. He seems to be getting around quite a bit. In that respect he’s doing better than I.
I’m expecting some of my Christmas packages any day now, as some of the fellows have received theirs already.
It’s getting close to bedtime, which seems to roll around awfully fast. So, I’ll have to close for this time. I’m well and hope you are both the same.
Dad’s V-Mail Christmas card to Mom
Dec. 4, 1944
I received your Christmas card and your letter of Nov. 14th. I wrote a letter to Gene Parker using the address you sent me. I also heard from Ab Wilson last week and I answered his letter. He was in Belgium when he wrote the letter. He didn’t say much about anything over there, but just talked about old times and discussed some of the fellows in the service.
Editor’s note: Ab [Albert] Wilson, was Mom’s cousin. When we visited the Wilson farm as a child, the place seemed beset by tragedy. His father, Bruce Wilson, passed away, leaving his mother a widow. Ab Wilson returned from duty in Europe after the war, lived with his mother, never seemed to make a go at anything. The house and farm slowly deteriorated, until their deaths.
I’m glad to hear that you’ve been having nice fall weather. That should give the farmers a chance to get their corn out of the field. I suppose when the weather does break, it’ll really be rough. How’s Mr. Kallal getting along? Ed mush be having a time trying to keep things going.
I’ll bet that it looks quite a bit different around the house there now, with those trees cut out. I imagine it does make it quite a bit lighter inside the house.
You don’t need to worry, as I’m still interested in farming and intend to do some of if I ever get out of the army. Even if I should get out during the middle of a year, I imagine that I could find plenty of work to do to keep me going until the following spring when I could rent me a farm.
I expect I’ll need plenty of help when I first start in for myself because it’s been so long ow that I’ve probably forgotten a lot of things and I can use some advice on a few things.
It looks now like I’ll get home for a furlough sometime the fore part of the year. If things don’t change a lot between now and then, I’ll probably have to go over for another two years. That part I hate to think of.
I haven’t heard from Dorothy yet, since she received the flowers. I’ve been expecting to hear of it. I received an anniversary card which was awfully sweet. (Of course I’d think so). From your description, it sounds like what you ordered should have been a nice bouquet.
Dorothy told me she wore glasses now. She kept talking about that she thought she needed them and I told her by all means get them, it she needed them, because a person should take care of their eyes when they’re young. I have to depend on my glasses all the time now. My eyes bother me too much if I don’t wear them.
It sounds like the horses you’re working must be awfully cagey. I’ll never forget the time the old gray and black mares of Uncle George’s ran away with me one fall when I was shucking corn. I was lucky to not break anything. You should have a nice lot of corn if you haul from the other place.
I hope you’ll excuse my scribbling this letter as I’m writing it rather hurriedly in order to get it done before bedtime We had a meeting tonight and after that, I had a chance to get my haircut. Barbers are hard to find over here at the present–anyway, the tools are the scarcest. I certainly needed a haircut as the hair was growing down my tail bone–as you used to say.
Hope to hear from you again soon.
Dec. 10, 1944
This is a nice peaceful Sunday morning. We get Sunday mornings off instead of afternoons. A person can sleep now all morning if he wants to, but I’d rather get up as there is always something or other i have to do. I was on KP yesterday and I had enough time to wash out some things. We can hire our laundry done by some natives, but if a person has them wash everything, it doesn’t pay. It runs into too much money. They don’t do a very good job on white clothes and often times lose handkerchiefs and socks. Consequently, I wash out the socks and handkerchiefs and sometimes shorts myself, and let them wash coveralls, shirts and pants that are dirtier.
I got Christmas cards from Aunt Catherine and Aunt Mary T. [Trill] this week. Uncle John and Aunt Catherine are in Jefferson City, Mo. now as the card was postmarked such.
I received your letter of Nov. 19th this week. So Clyde Lee is a baker now? I had the impression that he was a supply sgt. I don’t know why I thought that, except for what someone said in a letter. It seems that store clerks turn out to be cooks when they get in the army.
It seems strange for some of these young guys to be getting married, but they’re getting at the age now where they do such things. Howard, Bob Kallal, & Peachy [Edwin] Leach will be 24 their next birthday. They are six years younger than I, and that’s hard for me to realize that age is creeping up on me.
I’m glad to hear that you almost finished with the work. I guess it’s been a good fall to get things done.
It sounds like there are going to be lots of farms for rent next spring. I wonder where they are going to find renters for them? It looks to me like all the farmers now have all they can handle without taking on any more. If i get home next spring on furlough, I wonder what chance I’ll have of working my way out of the army, and back on the farm. It looks to me like, they are going to have to let some of the men out to take up the farming that the older men are retiring from. If they don’t, they are going to have lots of farms laying idle pretty soon.
Editor’s note: Farming wasn’t mechanized, it was still labor intensive. Draft animals were widely used. It was no wonder those on the home front felt the additional strain.
Olin Trill has quit Uncle Pete to start trapping. Some people don’t realize that there is a war going on. Some day though they are liable to realize it, especially if it lasts another two or three years, which it looks like it might do. Uncle Pete is going to have his hands full, looks like. If he should have a sick spell again, he would be up against it.
P. S. Dorothy went wild over the roses. Thanks a million.
Dec. 17, 1944
Her it is Sunday morning again and is a nice day as usual this season of the year. I just got back from church service which we had in our mess hall. It is the first time I’ve gone since I’ve been up here. It’s the first time we’ve had church in our own area. I should be able to make it every Sunday now.
I received your letter of Nov 27th in yesterday’s mail. John Flowers is the first loss of the men in the service from right around home, I guess, as I’ve never heard of any others so far. I’m sorry you don’t hear from me regular. I write every week. I’ve been hearing from you weekly now for quite a while. I’ve gotten several letters from Dorothy this week, but for about two weeks before, I only got one letter and a card from her.
I got a Christmas card from Aunt Katherine and Uncle John. I also got cards this week from the Hounsleys (both) Mr. & Mrs. Bruce Wilson [Ab Wilson’s parents] (they attached a note saying it was about time I was coming home), and from Aunt Mary Trill.
Dorothy sent me the picture this week of you two standing by the new brooder house. She said that she had sent it to me several months ago, but I guess the letter got lost as I never received it. So she sent me another, and this time I got it. It looks like quite a fancy brooder house. You both look about the same. Mom, you’re not getting any thinner and you, Dad aren’t getting any fatter. Ha!
Grandma’s new brooder house
You are probably having genuine winter weather now. I wonder if you’ll have a white Christmas this year? Yo;u should have the cribs bulging with corn now. Is Uncle Val buying corn for Dowland?
I’m glad that you got to go to a nice turkey dinner for Thanksgiving. It would have been kind of lonesome if you’d had to stay at home. I hope that I can be home next year at that time.
It seems strange to think of Ed Kallal as a family man, but I guess it happens sooner or later to everybody.
If Uncle George moves the brooder house to town, the next thing they’ll start raising chickens again. Aunt Minnie will find some excuse to do it.
We just had mail call, but I didn’t get anything today. I can’t be fortunate every day and get mail though. Mail call is one of the most important events of the day over here.
I’m sure getting homesick. I have high hopes of getting back there in the spring. That’s the best time of year to get back there, only I believe I’d be satisfied to go anytime.
It’ll be chow time in about forty minutes and I’m sure hungry. I could sure go some nice fried chicken with cherry pie for dessert. A nice juicy steak would sure taste good. I don’t know what there is for chow, but it sure smelled good while ago when I walked by the kitchen.
So long for this time.
Dec. 25, 1944
Merry Christmas! It is almost over for another year. I started out the day with sunrise church service. Then I had lb reakfast and worked till noon. I had the afternoon off.
I did pretty good today on mail. I got four letters and five cards inclluding your card and letter. I had cards from all three Horn girls and one from Kallals. It made me feel full of the Christmas spirit.
We had Deer meat for dinner that some of the boys killed while out hunting. Tonight we had canned chicken and ham which sure tasted good.
According to reports, you must be having a white Christmas back there along with some cold weather.
I’m glad to hear that you got your standing corn out of the field before bad weather started. It sounds like you are gong to have everything full of corn by the time you are through with the shock corn. That’s what looks good on the farm though–all the cribs full of golden corn.
Stock cattle must be awfully high now. It’s going to be sort of a gamble unless the price holds up good in the spring. Your hogs should bring a few dollars when you sell them. I guess you’ve bought corn to feed them.
You say you have four horses and mules to feed. Do you mean you have two horses and two mules or four horses and two mules? I didn’t know you had any mules. I hope that you can hang onto four of the best ones until I get home in the spring (which I hope to do) and find what I can do, or whether I’ll have to go overseas again. I’m hoping that I can get out of the army and take up at home where I left off.
I’m in good health and am sweating out the remainder of my time over here.
PS: I don’t remember whether I told you or not that I received your package and thanks a lot. I got one from the farm bureau since.
Jan. 1, 1945
Here it is a brand new year. I have high expectations of this year. I’m planning on doing something that I haven’t done in over two years and that is coming home.
I didn’t get a letter since your card and letter. I postponed writing this a day, thinking maybe that a letter would come today, but decided I’d write anyway. I try to get off at least one letter a week and more if I happen to recieve another letter in the meantime.
Tonight is show night, but I didn’t go tonight as I’d seen the picture already. I see quite a few shows just to pass the time.
There is a show somewhere around almost every night.
From reports and letters from back there, you must be having real winter weather now. I read reports of a blizzad htat swept across form the east coast and caused some damage. It must be like one of the winters we had befor I came in the army when a big snow came awhile beore Christmas and the weather stayed cold and there was at least a month that the snow never melted off.
I’d sure like to see a winter through back home like that again, although it is awfully inconvenient to do farm chores. It’d be nice though just to be there.
Since I’m figuring rather strong on being home in the spring or early summer, I’ve been wondering what chances I would have in getting out of the army and getting settled back on the farm. I know that I can’t find out anything until I get back there, but I want to have the stage all set so that I can go into action immediately after I hit the States. I won’t have any time to lose, because in some cases, the boys are being whisked right back overseas immediately after getting their furloughs.
What I want you to do is to find out if anything can be done about it. Maybe the Farm Bureau could advise you. As soon as I hit a camp back there, I’m gong to see someone that can advise me and see what they advise. I can’t see coming back overseas for another two years, and then if the war is over having to figure on starting out on my own. By that time, I would have in six years of service and I certainly don’t want to make a career of it. It doesn’t seem right that some should have to devote all their time while others don’t devote any of it to the service.
Things are the same as ever over here. There’s nothing new that I can tell you. I hope that you are surviving the winter weather in good shape.
Editor’s note: When was the war going to end? Every soldier wanted the answer, nobody with a lick of sense was going to ask. Soldiers didn’t call attention to themselves. The army did what was convenient for the army. Excessive griping would be met swiftly with extra duty, or gems of wisdom, “Don’t like it?” “Then, go to the chaplain and have your TS, (tough s**t), card punched!” It was better to keep quiet, hope the war ended sooner, rather than later. Letters home were Dad’s only sounding board.
I didn’t get a letter from you this week, but I’ll try to write anyway. I just finished cleaning up from a day of KP. This being Sunday and being on KP will mean a week two weeks long. It doesn’t make much difference anyway though as one day is like the other, except we usually get a day off on Sunday.
I’ve been unusually busy here of late and will probably so for some time.
I suppose you noticed that there have been a couple of changes in my address. I finally stepped up a grade higher after I had given up hopes. It was quite a surprise to me. The change in APO doesn’t mean anything except that you’ll have to address my letters different.
Here it is fall again. The time seems to go by pretty fast. I’ll soon be away from the states two years. Sooner, yet, it’ll be two years since I was home. It’ll soon be Dorothy’s and my wedding anniversary which is on November 14th. I’m sending a money order along this time, and I wish you would do me a favor by ordering some flowers for me to have delivered to Dorothy on that date. I believe roses would be as good as anything for an occasion like that. You don’t have to make a special trip to Carlinville to order them, but you leave the order sometime when you are going.
Mom visiting Grandpa & Grandma during WWII
We had fried chicken for supper last night and it sure was good. It was the first we had in quite a while. We all chipped in five rupees apiece to get them as they didn’t come in the rations. We also had ice cream for dessert. For the majority of the time we eat pretty good considering the conditions. Potatoes are a problem over here as they usually so small that it takes forever to peel enough for a mess. Over here we eat what we would call culls back home and throw away.
I suppose you are progressing with your fall work and preparing for winter. I wish I were there to experience such goings again.
Well, I’ll close for this time and hope to hear from you soon.
Sgt. Clyde F. Adam
115th Ord (MM) Co.
APO 218, c/o Postmaster
New York, N.Y.
As I haven’t received any mail for quite some time, I’ll write a V-mail tonight. There isn’t too much to write about so this space will hold about all I have to say.
The nights are getting noticeably cooler now. I’ve been using a blanket the last few nights. It makes it much more comfortable to not sweat through a person’s clothes all the time. A person has to be covered in the evening because of the mosquitoes.
We’re pretty busy now. It makes time pass much faster. The evenings are the worst to pass and they are getting longer now. We have movies three times a week. A person can read to pass the time although I get tired of that at times.
It won’t be too much longer before we’ll be eligible for rotation, Although I don’t put too much stock in it. I hope to hear from you soon.
October 19, 1944
I received two letters from you today after over two weeks, so it looks like our mail is sort of messed up. I’ve written to you every week and if you don’t eventually receive all of the letters you’ll know that they’ve been lost.
Editor’s note: Receiving mail was the only connection to home life. There was no internet or instant communication.
I wonder how a fresh peach would taste? We get quite a few canned ones. The last week or two we’ve had fresh grapefruit a few mornings for breakfast. They must be a native variety as they are full of seeds and are hard to get the juice out of. The juice is good though. Last night for supper we had a banana pudding that was sure good.
Wish we had some of those fresh eggs over here. They sure would taste good. All we get are dehydrated and they don’t taste like much. Last year we had fresh eggs occasionally. If you buy them in the bazaar, they ask about four rupees for them which is the equivalent to dollar and a quarter. You can see that these Indians are getting rich off the Americans. I don’t buy anymore than I have to because of that. After the war is over and prices go down to what they normally were over here, they can live the rest of their lives in luxury on what they made off the GI’s.
Cows and calves
I wish I could see your calves. I’ll bet they are really cute little rascals. I’m hoping that I do get to eat some of the beef that you put in the locker this fall. I don’t know though. I don’t think I’ll get home before March or April, if then. Of course I’m hoping for the best.
I didn’t even know that Myrtle Rigsbey was sick.
I wonder what it would be like to cut corn again. I’ll bet it wouldn’t last long now until I get hardened in to hard work again. I figure that it’ll take me six months to get toughened up again like I was before I came in to the army.
I’ll bet Mrs. Viola Nixon is relieved to know that her boy is back in the States. I know that she did a lot of worrying about him from what she said when I was home last. He’s been through a lot and deserves a good rest in the States.
I wish I knew Gene Parker’s address. I would sure like to write to him. Maybe you can get it and send it to me.
Well, I’ll close for this time, hoping you are all well. I’m pretty busy, but healthy.
October 24, 1944
It hasn’t been quite a week since I wrote to you last, but since I got two letters from you last time and I only answered one, I’ll answer your letter of Sept. 24th now. I have to answer them one at a time because I can’t always get one and then I don’t have any to answer. It’s almost impossible for me anymore to write any kind of letter without one to answer.
Here it is getting along towards the latter part of October and by the time you get this, it’ll be the first part of November and the snow starts flying in that month. My memory of snow flying is a pleasant one as it has been so long since I’ve experienced such, If I had to actually go through that, it probably wouldn’t seem quite so nice. Although I think my first year back at home will ba pleasant one as it’ll be so much different from what I’ve been used to for the last three years and over.
I sure hope that I can eat some of the stuff that you’ve put in the locker this year, but it’s more probable that I’ll be eating some of next year’s crop at home. I’d like to see home anytime now but then again, it I thought I had more chance of staying home, I would be willing to spend six months to another year over here. Anyway, I’ll be eligible for rotation anytime after the first of next year.
Editor’s note: Many people had refrigerators, but few had deep freezers. I remember the locker plant and people renting locker space–just like rented mailboxes at the post office.
I suppose I’ll get my box around Christmas. It doesn’t seem like it has been anytime at all since last Christmas. Of course it hasn’t been, but ten months. Even that they have passed rather quickly, seems like time does seem to pass more quickly when a person is busy. The older a person gets the more he finds to occupy his mind and he doesn’t notice the passage of time. When I was a kid, a year seemed like a long time.
I guess Aunt Minnie wants to stay on the old place as long as possible. How long have they lived there? I’ll bet it is sort of tough to move off a place like that after having lived on it for so long and there are lots of memories attached to it, too. Even yet, I dream of the place at Getz’s. I don’t believe I’ve dreamed yet of the place at home.
Well, I suppose you folks are very nearly finished with your busiest work. You probably still have corn to shuck down at the other place. After you are finished with that place, I hope you both go easier and take more time to enjoy yourselves. You are getting up in years you know, and you might as well enjoy the rest of them to the fullest. You should be pretty straightened out financially now. As for me, I should have enough laid aside to get a pretty good start.
I don’t think I’ll go in for anything heavy after I get out of here. I think I’ll sort of take things as they come and make a comfortable living and enjoy life as I go. The main thing si to keep a person’s head above water, because I don’t think anybody is going to get rich after this. I’ll close for now, hoping to hear from you now.
Oct. 30, 1944
Tonight is regular show night, but I think I’ll stay home and write some letters. I went to the show last night and saw “Life Boat.” It was taken in a life boat when a cargo ship was sunk by German U-boats. It was a pretty good show.“Lifeboat” movie poster 1944
I have two letters from you to answer tonight (Oct. 2 & 7th). I sort of got caught up on my mail now. There for a while I just wasn’t getting any.
According to the clippings you sent me, John Pitman is going to retire from farming. Is he as old as that?
I guess it begins to look like beginning of winter back there by now. Two years ago, I was home by this time (by the time you get this). I wonder how much longer it’ll be before I get there again?
Do you still have the separator [cream separator] and still use it? When you are rid of the calves, you should get quite a bit of milk. I sure would like to be situated where I could milk cows again. I’d a lot rather do that than what I’m doing. I think I’ll have several cows when I get back to farming again, if there’s any money in it. I don’t want too many, but four or five wouldn’t be so bad. I don’t know yet, though, just what I’ll do.
A lot depends on how much longer I stay in the army on what I do when I get out. Sometimes I think that it might be just as well to get a job at something or other for a while and then farm the home place when you folks get too old to take care of it. Sometimes I feel like I don’t want to have to start out farming too big. I wish we had about another forty acres on the home place with another house and then Dorothy and I could settle down right there. Maybe I’ll feel different though, when the time comes and I get back there. I know one thing for sure, I don’t want to have to invest too much capital right off in stock and machinery, which a person would have to do on a large farm.
I wish that we could fix up the home place such as tiling it, fencing it in all around the farm and putting up say one large barn instead of two small ones. It would be better to have one with cribs more convenient. I suppose a person can tell more what can be done after the war is over. Oh yes, something else that could be added, and that is a good *machine shed large enough to hold all the implements instead of leaving them out in the weather. That’s something that pays for itself in no time.
Editor’s note: The previous paragraph alluded to tiling–that would have been for drainage. The southeast corner of Grandpa’s land drained slowly after heavy rains. *A machine shed was constructed circa 1956.
I suppose I’ll have to study up a bit on farming before I take hold of it again. I’ll have to be more or less my own boss next time. After being in the army so long I’ll be more or less a stranger to the farm.
I’ll bet Kallals are having a tough time of it as there is so much to do around there and now they have no man. I’m afraid that Ed will really have to buckle down to hard work this time. He can afford to do just that since he’s been lucky enough to stay out of the service. It would be much better if the old folks move off, I’m sure.
Do you mean the roses on the trellis on the porch are the ones that are blooming?
I’m sure glad to hear that you got your wheat sowed. It didn’t take long to get it done this time, did it?
I’ll bet it looks rather bare in the yard without the mulberry tree. Things will sure look a lot different around there probably when I get home.
Are you going to haul our half of the corn from the other place up home and feed it out, then, or sell it with Uncle George’s half? You’ll probably keep it, is my guess as corn is probably scarce and you usually have to buy some.
I’ll close for this time. Hope you are all OK.
Nov. 11, 1944
Here it is Armistice Day for the third time in this war, but it doesn’t mean much now. By this time next year, I hope it does, though.
The nights are sure cool now, but the days are warm. A person can sleep good if he’s got a couple of blankets over him. Otherwise, it gets rather uncomfortable along towards morning. This time of the year over here reminds me of the season of the year in southern California. The temperature doesn’t get so low, but the dampness makes it feel so chilly.
I’ll bet the corn sure breaks out nice, now that the frost has nipped it good. I sure wish I could shuck some. I used to sort of like to shuck corn. Maybe I’ll get a chance next year.
Yes, I remember the trip we took to Uncle Carl’s and Aunt Bertha’s one Sunday. That was a pretty good trip for one day. Three hundred miles is quite a way to go to spend the day. A trip like that now by automobile would be an impossibility and I suppose it will be for quite some time. Those were the good old days. I look for times like that to be a long way off as I suspect that rationing will continue for a while even after the war is over. The US will play sucker and try to supply the world. You may get the impression that I’m not in favor of this lend-lease. Well, I’m not, since I’ve seen what goes on in the world.
Dorothy told me about the boys coming home on furlough. Nixon is rather unfortunate to have malaria as bad as that. I’ve seen similar cases though, in this outfit. They keep having to go back to the hospital.
I have hopes now of getting to come back to the States during the first half of next year. I’ll have my time in by then. As for having to come back overseas, some of them have to. I have hopes of getting to stay in the States. I’m going to try to I have several reasons. I sure would like to run across Gene Parker. I haven’t the slightest idea where he is as I don’t know what kind of outfit he is in or his APO. Why don’t you get it and send it to me. Who knows, he might be close to me.
I’ve been getting lots of mail the last week. I makes up for the weeks that I’ve gone without. I sure hope that you are getting my letter OK, now. I received your letter of Oct. 22nd today. I’m glad you got the money order OK as I’m not sending any greetings this year other than letter and Dorothy would sure be disappointed if she didn’t get something. Ten dollars isn’t so much to make someone happy that deserves it when millions are being spent for destruction. Thanks a lot for taking care of it for me. I appreciate it and I’m sure that Dorothy will be tickled to get them. How’s my bank account coming? I should have around 500 dollars in there by now, shouldn’t I? I’ll be able to send some more before too long.
The way I feel about getting a better rating, is that I’ve earned it and might as well have it as the next fellow. My responsibilities have certainly increased the last few weeks, which was due to circumstances other than my rating as I still have the same job plus other work.
I would sure like to attend the sale [at Uncle George’s farm] for sentimental reasons. Now’s a good time to sell, I guess, as things bring a good price. I hope things go down a little before I have to start buying.
Yes, maybe it is just as well that Dorothy and I didn’t start out on that place. It was a good place to farm, but I guess every good thing has its seamy side. I always knew that Aunt Minnie demanded a lot of attention and was awfully cranky. She had better be careful, as she’s liable to live a long time yet, and I don’t think Uncle George can go the gait much longer.
I’m glad that you have cut down your farming now, as you don’t have to work so hard. When I get back on the job again, maybe we can [have] things fixed up satisfactorily for us both.
It seems like all the young around home are getting their families started. I guess I’ll have to see what I can do on my next furlough. Ha!
We had coffee and doughnuts for refreshment about 30 minutes ago. It helps out on such a cool night like this. My main trouble over here is not having enough appetite to eat enough to give the energy I should have. I’m doing better now, since cooler weather, though.
I’ve sort of over stepped my usual self tonight in writing. I guess I was just unusually full of gossip.
Nov 18, 1944
I received your letter a couple of days ago. I’m glad to hear that the things sold good at the sale. now is a good time for a sale, I guess as prices are high. From the figures that you gave me in your letter, I figured that you must have cleared about 1500 dollars. That should come in handy. I know that if I tried to set up in farming now, it’s sure to cost a pretty penny.
I figured that you would keep your part of the corn from down there to feed out your cattle. you usually have to buy corn anyway. I sure wish I was there to help shuck some corn. I’d like to feel the old ears and hear them hit the old *bang board again. I believe I could still shuck 80 bushels a day easy enough. It’d probably take me quite a while to get toughened up though. Right now, I believe I’d poop out pretty easy. It’ll probably take 6 months for me to get this Asiatic lethargy out of my blood.
*Hand shucking midwestern corn using wagon with “bang board.”
Editor’s note: Bang boards were high side boards on the back side to deflect thrown ears of corn into the wagon. Thrown ears hit the boards with a solid “bang.” They also used a shucking peg–a device strapped around the hand with a flat metal blade. In the first part of the process, the corn ear was cut from the stalk. Then the husks [shucks] were twisted off, leaving only the ear of golden corn.
You won’t have more than forty acres left to put in corn and beans next summer, will you? That’ll be enough to keep you busy next summer along with your other work.
My days are longer now and the nights are shorter, even though the daylight days are shorter. The hours of work are longer now.
I like this part of the country [Burma] better here, I believe. There isn’t quite so much jungle right around here as I’ve been used to. The days are rather warm and the nights rather cool. a person can sleep under a sheet and two blankets and be comfortable. I sure hope that I can get out of this country before another hot season. that is what gets a person down. According to rumors floating around, some of the men are supposed back on rotation around March. Of course a person can’t put too much stock in that. That probably won’t include all the older men, but I might be one of the lucky ones. That’ll make me 2 years in this theater and that is certainly long enough in this climate.
It looks like I have a day of KP ahead of me tomorrow, as I see my name is on the duty roster. It seems like I just can’t get away from it. Maybe I’ll get away from it when I get out of the army, and then, Dorothy will have me washing dishes. Ha! So long for this time.
I received your letter of the 18th of June today and the one of the 25th yesterday and it was so hot that I was too worn out to write last night. It hasn’t been any cooler today, but I feel more like writing tonight.
I was wondering if you would bale the hay down at the other place this time. It’s much easier to handle that way. Which Fenton is it that has the hay baler?
I looks like these Home Bureau meetings etc. would be too much for such a busy time of the year.
If you had some of this mosquito repellent it would keep the mosquitos away for two or three hours between each application all right, but the stuff burns a person’s skin when he’s sweaty. Why don’t you put netting around your porch or make a net just large enough for the bed. We have nets for our beds. It isn’t as cool that way, but keeps out the bugs. I never remembered the mosquitos being that bad at home.
Yes, my corn is turning brown, but it isn’t due to lack of moisture. It is reaching mature stage, I guess. I’ve never shucked the ears as I wanted them to mature first. I’ve felt of them and they don’t seem to have but very few pieces on them. It was partially under water about a week and a half ago when the water got up.
it sounds like you are busy all right with hay, wheat to cut and corn to cultivate. I imagine Finis does have a hard time keeping up with the binder as a person can cut a lot of wheat in a day with the tractor.
It sounds like you should have some cherry pies in the future with eighteen quarts of cherries canned. When I’m home and there is another good cherry crop, I’ll have to get Dorothy on the ball to can plenty of them so I’ll have lots of cherry pie. Ha!
Floyd Nixon is rather lucky to be stationed at Aberdeen as an instructor and can have his wife close. Is Dale still at home helping his Dad?
I’m not too much surprised to hear that Laura Duckels has left Ed if he still boozes as much as he used to. She put up with it for a long time. A lot of things and people are going to be changed by the time I get home. It’ll be almost like coming into a strange community.
Well, I have hopes of getting to see home before another six months. At times we hear encouraging rumors which makes a person feel awfully hopeful. *I know that I’ve had about enough of this climate. I hope that I can stay home the next time I come, but if I can’t I’ll enjoy the time I do spend there.
*Editor’s note: After Dad passed away in October 1995, his army buddy Fred Bratton said in an interview, that Dad suffered repeatedly from heat related ailments.
I hope you are both well. Don’t work too hard. If there’s more you can do, just let part of it go because there’ll always be work to do when we’re all dead and gone.
Write when you can.
July 20, 1944
I received your letter of the 2nd.
It has been a little cooler that what it has been. I shucked out one of the nubbins form my corn crop this evening. The climate or soil condition or both are no good over here for raising that variety of corn. The cob of this particular ear was about 6 inches long and had about 60 grains on it with most of them at the butt. There might have been too much rain during pollination. What grains there are, are beg and healthy looking. When I get some dried out, I’ll send you a few grains. I have one ear hanging up now. I haven’t picked the rest of it yet. The stalks are about dried up. I planted it if you remember about the middle of March.
I thought maybe you would combine the wheat on the other place as you wouldn’t get to use the straw anyway. May you can bale the straw anyway and sell it.
Dorothy sort of took a liking to the house down at Uncle George’s after she saw it. If the new owner was on the ball and fixed things up nice, it might be a good place to rent. If I were home now, I might consider it if the new owner made me the right kind of proposition.
I don’t see what difference it makes to Uncle George what the new owner does and the place is not longer costing him anything.
Where do Grant and Martha Wilson live now? Things are going to sure be changed around home with places changing hands and people moving around and the older ones dying off. By the way, I just happened to remember that Ted Dowland’s lived in the Episcopal parsonage didn’t they?
I got a V-letter from Nellie R. [Rigsbey] last week and she said that she had attended the H. B. [Home Bureau] meeting at your house and had met Dorothy for the first time. They seemed to have made favorable on each other. So maybe Floyd and I can renew our old acquaintance. He’s sort of got a head start as far as family is concerned.
I answered “Sgt.” Charles Sanders’ letter a short while after I got it. He seemed to be striped happy as he ended his letter Sgt. Charles Sanders.
I hope you’ve gotten rain by now to break the dry spell. It’s almost time you raised a bumper corn crop. That’s one thing we get plenty of over here.
I’m not standing the heat as good as I did last year because I’m not in as good physical condition, I guess. It hasn’t got me down yet so I guess I’ll pull through all right.
I sure hope I don’t have to go through another hot season over here. I feel confident that I’ll get home by the end of this year or the first of next.
I’ll close for now. Write often.
July 25, 1944
It sounds like you are having a hot weather too. It certainly is hot here. I can hardly write a letter for the sweat dripping. I have to put a blotter under my hand.
I received your letter of July 9th yesterday. I went to the show last night so didn’t get a chance to write then.
I suppose you have finished threshing by now. I can remember when we used to thresh around the ring for a month.
About the Dams place, I think you should try to sell Dorothy on it in a sly way. Let her take a look at the house on the inside.
When I got around to shucking my corn, I only found two nubbins that I could anywhere near call corn. The rest were just cobs with no grains at all. Only one of the two that I did shuck looked much like an ear of corn. The other one was just a cob with a few grains on it. I’ve come to the conclusion that this climate is not a place for raising corn. Consequently, I don’t think I’ll settle here. Ha!
We had a meeting this evening on the set up of a company such as ours. You may wonder why I haven’t made any more advancement after being in the army as long as I have. Well, you might as well forget about it as it is a rather complicated matter to go into to explain. I’ve worked just as hard as the next person, but the cards just didn’t come out right. I’ll be satisfied to just get back safe and sound. As far as expecting advancement a person is just beating his head against the wall.
Editor’s note: Dad felt overworked and underappreciated. The fact was, he and the others in his company worked hard maintaining machines to keep things going. Where Dad worked was called the, “World’s Largest Service Station,” in the March 8, 1945 issue of the “India-Burma Roundup.” The picture below shows Dad’s American and Indian co-workers. Dad talked about how, occasionally, some foreign workers unscrupulously brought old scrapped out parts to exchange for new.
I’m most interested in getting back home to the old way of living. It reminds me that things are events are still going on at home. It’s been so long since I’ve had contact with home except through letters that I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like back there.
I don’t imagine that you get much out of my letters from over here, but there really isn’t anything interesting to talk about under circumstances. I suppose though that a word is good news and that you look forward to my letters just like I look forward to yours.
Aug. 7, 1944
I finally received some mail today. I got your letters of the 17th and the 24th.
Boy, you aren’t the only ones having hot weather. It’s so hot here that it just about gets me down. I’m as near all in tonight as I’ve been in many a day. We do get cold water to drink now and ice cream several times a week. It sure tastes good, too. The first we had was such a shock that it made my mouth hurt, but has sort of gotten used to it by now. One main trouble over here is the humidity is so high that when a person sweats there is practically no evaporation and doesn’t really cool a person. At the present, the temperature runs between 90 and a little over a hundred.
I’m supposed to get a two-week furlough beginning with Friday and maybe I’ll get a chance to recuperate if i can find a place cool enough. There are lots of places over here in the mountains where it’s cool but it take too long to get there for such a short time. besides it usually takes plenty of do-re-me and I have to be conservative on that. I have two hundred dollars worth of rupees but that won’t go so far over here. Ever since the Americans came, the prices have been hiked up.
I spent over a dollar and a half today for a meal in a restaurant in the bazaar consisting of Beef steak (tough too–must have been one of those old water buffalo) scrambled eggs–2 glasses of lemon tea and a couple of hot cakes. It was almost more than I could eat, but I was eating not for pleasure but for sustenance.
Maybe you wonder why I got away from camp when the eats aren’t any better. Well, I occasionally am away from the outfit at noontime and it’s a case of necessity of eating out, or doing without till supper and that isn’t so good.
I’m afraid (as you’ve probably noticed) that I won’t be able to send much more money home while I’m over here except for the allotment that you are getting at present. Let’s see–I have went about 440 dollars counting the allotments so far. I thought maybe I could make another rating which would help a lot, but I’ve given up hope. Maybe I’m lucky to have what I’ve got. Some fellows are more fortunate and got ratings last month. You can’t say that I didn’t work hard and try.
I suppose you remember that yesterday was an anniversary and not a pleasant one either. I’m starting on my 4th year in the army. It sort of scares me when I think of the time a wasting and I’m just counting time and not accomplishing anything. That is where those other young fellows back home have it over me. May I should hand it to them for being smart enough to stay out of this mess. If I had it to do over again, I sure would do things different and knowing what I know now, I sure wouldn’t have any guilty conscience.
It sounds like you might have had quite a time with threshing, if the machine broke down so much. Does Kallal have a separator now? I have the impression that he has.
That’s OK about the Dams place. I suppose there’ll be plenty of time for that. I would like to have a little time to sort of get readjusted before I start right out again. It’ll be quite different at first as I’ve been in the army so long.
Maybe Dorothy and I can get us a house to live in for a while? I’m sure that she’ll want to sort of get out to ourselves as soon as possible. If I don’t want to rent another place maybe I can find work somewhere and farm the home place along. I’m not going to worry about it. What’s bothering me more now than anything is getting home. I don’t believe I ever was so tired of one thing as I am of army life.
I was rather surprised at Susan Carter leaving her property to L. Banks. She must have had it in for the relatives. That sure is a lucky break for Push and Stella.
I wondered what Ed Kallal was doing now or is planning on doing? I was wondering what Kallals would do with their big place as they are getting too old to carry on so heavy. That’ll make a pretty good set up if Ed builds a house right on the place and lives there with the folks. If Ed and his woman settle down and work, they should be able to do pretty good.
Well, I believe this war will be over sometime next year and then we can all settle down to the regular way of living again. When I get back and all the other young men, the older folks can settle back and take life easier.
I don’t think that I’ll ever be interested in any world cruises. Ha!
Goodnight, and I hope this finds you all well.
Editor’s note: Dad was about to leave for Calcutta on furlough. In Chapter 12, there was a picture of elephants being used in road construction. Elephants were used as replacements for power equipment. Below is a picture of elephants being used to shuttle railroad cars.
Here it is Sunday and it sure was a nice day. I took most of my laundry outside and am letting the hot sun dry it out. Things mold over here so fast during this season.
I received your letter of the 14th three days ago. I’ve sort of caught up or maybe I should say my mail has pretty well caught up with me now.
I’m glad you got the card and flowers for Mother’s Day. I could have sent flowers through the army system, but missed the chance, so I sent Dorothy the money and told her to get them.I was wondering if the things in the box that I sent home would mold by the time they got there. As they get damp over here, they mold easily. How do you like the little brass bowl? I thought that it was sort of novel and thought you would like it. You can use it for powder or something like that.
I’m glad to hear that it finally got dry enough so that you could work in the fields. If it stays that way maybe you can get the crops in before it gets so late as last year.
Well now that Uncle George has sold his place that settles that. I’m glad in a way as it has always been more or less of a worry. You won’t have to work so hard after this summer. You can farm on the home place more leisurely so that you can handle it yourself and don’t need to hire a man.
As for Dorothy and I, we can find us a place somewhere close enough so that we can help you out on the home place. By that time there be lots of opportunity as these older farmers will be ready to retire.
One nice thing if there won’t be any cattle fed down there on the other place next winter, you won’t have to fool around filling the silo and you can shuck all the corn standing. You should keep half (yours) of the corn or as much as you needed and you won’t have to worry about buying any next winter or spring.
If you get the place pretty well paid up you won’t have to feed more hogs than what you can raise the feed for.
I don’t think that Uncle Pete will want to give up the place now as he has paid up as much as he has. I suppose he had paid off all the other debts he owes you. Of course that’s still plenty.
Of course, if it should happen that he would be willing to turn the place over, maybe it could be worked out so that we could handle it. If there had to be a little money put up to gain possession, I’d be willing to put some in on it. of course at the present, i don’t have very much, but every little bit helps. If the place was put up for sale, I don’t think it would bring over seventy-five hundred. That’s a good price. Of course it’s a pretty desirable small place. The buildings are in pretty good shape and the location is good. The land is good and a buyer that really wanted it might be willing to pay a good price. To us it would be worth quite a bit as it is close to the home place.
Editor’s note: Grandpa and his brother [Great Uncle Pete] had adjoining farms.
Write and give more particulars about the situation as of course I’m interested. The main object is to clear the home place as near as possible.
If I had some money (enough to put down on a small place), I wold be willing to buy a farm now and get al loan that I could pay off in a few years. I’ll never go very far in debt though as I’ve seen too much of that already. I think the government is going to help the service man out a little after the war is over. Of course there isn’t much use of me thinking o buying a place as I’m getting too late a start and have no money now. Of course later in life, if I’m fortunate to make some extra capital and get a good opportunity, I might invest in land.
In the meantime I’ll just have to rent and then someday take over the home place. I feel that for about five years after the war a person can make a little money on the farm.
Well,I’ll close for this time. I know you are busy now. Hope you are feeling well. Would sure like to drop in for a chicken dinner.
Editor’s note: Operation Overlord (D-Day invasion) took place on June 6, 1944. At long last the war seemed to be ending in Europe and gave Dad hope for the future. His life had been on hold for three years, now it was time to look ahead.
June 11, 1944
Here it is another Sunday and it my day off. I went to church this morning for a change. That took up most of my morning. this afternoon I haven’t accomplished anything up to now.
Yesterday broke the delay in mail as I got four and had done without any for about five days.
By now you should have most of your corn in, providing the weather allowed. That’s too bad for the tractor to fail during the busiest time of the year and after having it overhauled. I guess it’s getting about wore out. I was in hopes it would hold out till I got home and then, l thought, maybe after a year or so we could get a new one.
One of the two barns–this one called the horse barn.
Yes, when I get home maybe we can all work together and sort of fix up the home place. It sure needed a lot of work when I left. I hope to get out of the army in the late summer or early fall so that I’ll have plenty of time to get set before spring. Maybe dad and I can repair things around there during the fall and winter. the house needs something done to it and the barns also. I’ve often thought that on a place that size, it wold be better to have one large barn instead of two small ones. Anyway the cattle barn is much too small. I have an idea the shed west of the cattle barn is about all the way down by now. Maybe we could enlarge it or something.
Don’t worry about me finding a place to farm. Just keep the home place going while I’m gone and that’ll be enough for you. I’m counting on getting home sometime next year. Depending on the way things go will mean whether it’ll just be a furlough or be home to stay. I certainly hope it is the latter.
Dorothy said that they couldn’t get anyone to spade up their garden. It is sod and is too tough for her to handle. I wish that it was so that she had a garden to work with this summer, but I’m too far away to be able to do anything about it. I sometimes wonder just how it’ll be for her to get accustomed to farm life and possibly starting a family all in one year. Of course a person has to expect those things. Sometimes I think it would be better to postpone a family for a year or two until we sort of get settled. We are both getting to the age where we should have kids as soon as possible though. Dorothy is 25 now and I’ve heard the younger a woman has her children, the better luck you have with both. Enlighten me on that if you can. You’ve had more experience than I have. I’d like to have at least a couple of kids even though I am getting a late start. It looks like most of my old buddies back home have gotten the jump on me.
Editor’s note: Dad asked Grandma for advice on starting a family. Things worked out as planned, the first child was born two years after the war, in 1947.
WelI, I hope this was doesn’t last over another year and we can all get down to business again. Everything is going as well as can be expected with me. The hot climate is more that I bargained for but I guess it’s better than what some have to put up with.
Write as often as you can. It sure helps a lot to get letters from home.
I received your V-mail letter today of May 30th. I’m glad to hear that you got the corn all in on the other place. By now I guess it’s all in and you are cultivating it.
My corn crop looks like pop corn. I doubt if the ears have many grains on them, it sure doesn’t look much like it. they look like there might be some nubbins, but I felt of one yesterday and it didn’t feel like there was much inside. I guess that is the wrong type of corn for this climate.
I wonder what Ern Lee wants with another house. I suppose he’s just speculating though.
I sure would like to be there to eat some fresh strawberries. It has been quite a while since I’ve eaten any. Send me a picture of your roses if you get a chance. I’ll close for this time. Everything is OK, but awfully hot.
June 18, 1944
I received your letter the evening of the 4th of June. I’m glad to hear that you got your corn and beans in. I suppose that you finally got the tractor fixed up so that it runs right now.
How much corn can you cultivate in a day with the tractor? It takes longer when the corn is small, but when it gets up a foot high you can really go to town then. I’d sure like to do something like that again. I remember that it runs into real work during hot weather. The sun beats down and the tractor got hot and so did I.
That cold storage locker is all right. You can have fresh stuff after the season is over. How long can you deep fresh fruit and vegetables before they spoil? What is the average temperature in the locker?
You speak of blackberry and raspberry bushes dying out. Maybe the chickens killed them out. I remember one year we had all kinds of blackberries and raspberries. I believe that was the same year there were so many cherries. Speaking of gooseberries, do you remember when I was kid how I stemmed a bucketful for a quarter? It took me a whole afternoon if I remember correctly.
If you have a good wheat crop, maybe it’ll help out if you can get it harvested. The fertilizer must be doing some good.
Yes, my appetite has improved and I’m eating enough, I suppose for a hot climate. I’m not losing any weight. I seem to be holding my own. I’ll fatten up again when I get in a cool climate again.
Editor’s note: Like most mothers, Grandma worried about her son’s health, the quality and quantity of army food.
Well, I’ll close for this time. I hope to hear from you again soon.
June 27, 1944
I put off writing a couple of days this time because I thought that I might hear from you, but as it is I haven’t heard since week before last. I think the last letter I got was a V-mail.
I had guard last night and I should not have any more details this week. It is still awfully warm which can be expected for quite some time to come.
Since the invasion has started I suppose a lot of the people back home are very much interested in the war over in Europe.
It looks now like we might get a furlough in the States the fore part of next year as the rotation seems to have started over here.
I just couldn’t think of anything in particular to write last night so I just laid the letter aside. I received your V-letter of the 12th today. I’m glad to hear that you are pretty well up on your work. By now I suppose the wheat is ready to cut, or are you combining it this year? I didn’t know you had cattle on pasture this year. Did you save some back or did you buy some on the market this spring?
I played some volleyball this evening and then took a shower. After that I washed out a few pieces of clothing before dark. Most of the fellows went to the show tonight, but I just wasn’t in the mood to go.
I’ve been thinking it over now since some of the men out of this theatre, that have been over here two years, have started home on furloughs. If they continue that policy, I should be getting home the first part of next year. sometime ago you spoke of the Dams place being open for rent and asked me if I wanted you to rent it for me. If you think that it is practical to do so why it is OK with me. If the war should be well enough alone by that time and a lot of things can happen in that length of time, may I could get home to farm it. Now, I don’t want to throw any extra burden on you, so do whatever you think best about it. Since you have livestock and equipment to handle it, it looks like a shame to get rid of lit and then have to restock later on.
I’ve asked Dorothy how she would like to move out on the place in the country such as that and have a cow, chickens and a garden. Of course in the event that I wouldn’t be able to get out of the army by then, she could help with some of the farm work. I don’t know what she’s going to say. I’m waiting for an answer now.
I’m putting a lot of stock in the war ending sometime next year.
Well, I guess I’ll close for this time. I’m as well as can be and hope you are the same.
July 1, 1944
I was running through old letters tonight, as I haven’t gotten any mail the last few days, and I ran across the two letters that you wrote me the fore part of April. It sort of put me in the mood to write about the things on the farm.
I guess by now you have cut the wheat, unless you intend to combine it. If it turns out good you should make a little more on wheat this year. I suppose the price must be up around a dollar and a half, unless it drops around harvest time.
Is Uncle George working his two old white mules this summer? I can just see him wrestling something like that around, I imagine they get around as slow as he is.
Farming with mules
It seems funny for that place to be in other hands as it has been the Gahr place for so long. I can’t remember them living anywhere else. I suppose it’ll be a relief to not have to bother about feeding down there this winter. It used to be quite a drag going down there when it was so muddy. I didn’t mind it too much though, as I was interested in feeding the cattle.
Did the tractor finally get to running all right after you had trouble at the start of the season? That sure didn’t speak so good for the guys that overhauled it. I hope we can buy a new one with rubber tires, lights, starter and all, after the war. I suppose that it’s near impossible to get them now. How are the tires holding out on the tractor? Did you ever change the rear tires from one side to the other? Next time we buy tires for a tractor we’ll know to get heavier ones.
So you had to finally get a fuel pump for the car. Dorothy had to put one on her car recently. How are your tires holding out? Have you ever had any flats? Dorothy said her tires are getting pretty bum. When they are gone I suppose she’ll have to do without. They are four years old now and that is pretty good life for a tire. These synthetic tires aren’t so much.
If you haven’t had the points checked since I’ve been home, you had better do before winter again. You had better get complete new wiring, if possible and if not, have the old checked. The car is getting pretty old,and the wiring usually goes bad after so long a time, and can give all kinds of trouble, even to shorting and causing a fire. Lots of cars burn up by shorts and I wouldn’t take a chance. Sometime when you have the time, you can take it somewhere and have all the lights, as well as ignition wiring replaced if you can possibly get it done.
Editor’s note: Had all the good mechanics gone to war?
Your cattle sure did good last winter. They gained a fraction over 1.6 pounds a day figuring that you fed them for 140 days. You got a nice margin on price, too, at $4.75. That sure is different from what it was during the thirties.
I wonder what a good milk cow would cost when the cows you put on the market brought a hundred dollars apiece? I wonder if you would buy me a young heifer so that I’ll have a cow by the time I need one. I hope to be getting back to stay sometime next year. It looks now like the war might be over sometime next year. I hope so. I got a lot of things I want to do besides fight a war.
Well, I hope you are well. I know you are busy. Write when you can.
7-2-44: Dug ditch to drain shop area yesterday afternoon. Worked on it this morning. Rained all morning. This afternoon the water started to rise and covered most of the area. Water was 1 1/2 feet deep in day room. We had to move some boxes we had stored as the water was about 2 feet deep around them. The water came within six feet of our tent and run back thru our drain ditch into the area. At 7 o’clock the water had quit rising. the news sounds better all the time. I feel that Germany will be out of the war by the end of the year. I also feel confident that we’ll get to come home after two years. [last diary entry]