THE LONG ROAD HOME

The Ledo road can still be seen on Google Earth.  What a massive   undertaking it was–to restore lost supply routes to China.  Some  engineers had credentials dating back to construction of the Panama Canal.

East met West in a colossal clash of cultures.  It’s a miracle the Ledo road was ever completed.  Myriad languages, superstitions, traditions, and religions complicated matters at hand.  Right of way delays due to evil spirits in boulders and trees were not uncommon.

At first, my father found, life in faraway Assam province, strange and new.  It challenged core values; if God were merciful, why had he been sent there?  Two years later, none of it mattered.  I was taken by father’s humble humanness reflected in letters home.  Quite different from the strict, everything by the Good Book patriarch, I remembered as a child.

War’s indelible stains tainted everything–same then, as now.  To survive, some bargained with Beelzebub.  Gambled, selectively followed orders, traded goods on the black market.  My father, like most soldiers, questioned everything–the mission, the war–absurdities of life.  Breaks from work afforded time to think about everything.  Some of it due to extended stays in sick bay from tropical maladies.

Dad in India

Home sweet home was a woven bamboo hut called a basha.  My father’s basha had a bamboo floor.  Brigadier General Anna Mae Hayes, C-I-B, WWII Medical Corps veteran, described Ledo, Assam living conditions as follows.

Now you may not know what a basha is, but it’s a building made of bamboo and, as I mentioned, the roof was made of palm fronds.  Our nurses’ quarters had mud floors–dry at times–just the same as the wards.  Each building had four swinging doors through which anything could enter.  It might be a jackal at night, or a cow during the day because the cow was a sacred animal.  At one time I wrote a letter home to my mother about how I was awakened by two cows at my bedside.

We slept on rope beds…had no bedside tables.  Crates taken from the mess hall or medical supply were used for bedside tables.  Clothes hung on ropes by their beds and they would iron them by sleeping on them at night.  It was rather rough living. I remember that during the first few weeks everyone had diarrhea and, of course, we didn’t have toilets.  We just had holes in the ground.  And then, when we did get those little “johns,” one would have to be very, very careful of the leeches.  Leeches were very hard to pull out of one’s skin so we’d have to carry matches with us so we could burn them out.  On balance, we really didn’t have too much, but we were still in it together.

Living in the basha wasn’t easy.  Insect control was a tremendous problem, especially mosquitoes and flying roaches.  I can remember one time when washing in my helmet, and that’s how we washed in the first year or so, I looked down and I saw a mouse or rat in the bottom of the water.  Later on we got better living arrangements.  New bashas were built with cement floors.  I can remember going into the basha one afternoon and finding a huge snake wound around my mosquito netting.  We were more or less used to seeing snakes.  When one lives in the jungle, one can expect that sort of thing, even though the immediate area was cleared.

The jungle was a strange dichotomy of beauty and hardship–feast and famine.  My father, being a Midwestern farm boy, attempted growing jungle corn.  It was a gigantic failure.  For my father and thousands of young men and women, the long road home passed through India, Burma, and China along the Ledo Road.

Dad's military insignia

Father’s WWII military insignia.  The Air Force insignia is mine from the Vietnam era.

************************************************************************

Brigadier General Anna Mae Hay’s oral history, WWII and beyond, is part of the Army Heritage Center Foundation’s Education Series–“Voices of the Past.”  Further information is available at www.armyheritage.org–a fascinating read, well worth one’s time.

 

Advertisements

DAD’S WWII LETTERS: Chapter 24, Home’s Where the Heart Is, Post War Reflections

  • Editor’s note:  Cynical GI’s claimed “C.B.I.” [China-India-Burma] stood for “Confusion Beyond Imagination.”  My father headed home, further indignities didn’t matter.  The army became a blurred memory–the incredibly inedible rations, long duty hours, KP and guard duty.  Dad’s thoughts about his letters, “I know my letters make dull reading other than knowing that I’m alive and still kicking.”  He probably wouldn’t want his letters published.  These stacks of old letters represented thousands of “Pismo Petes,” “Harry Grants,” others with families that worried, prayed for good news–members of the “greatest generation.”

History of 115th Ordnance (Medium Maintenance) Company

History of Dad's Company 1

  • Questions:  I wondered if Dad [like myself] had recurring dreams of being back in the military?  Was the story about my father taking a Jeep from the motor pool to a picture show, and it being stolen, true?  There was no corroborating evidence.  Had he hitchhiked and taken a wild eighty mile per hour ride, from Chicago, in a Chrysler Airflow down Route 66?  That could have been true, since Dad was inducted at Ft. Sheridan, near Chicago.

Honorable discharge record 1945Dad’s discharge record

  • Questions answered:  The return trip took twenty-eight days compared to forty-one days for the trip over.  Dad arrived stateside June 22, 1945.  He was officially discharged at Ft. Custer, Michigan [near Battle Creek] on Oct. 1, 1945.  More questions–medical records showed Yellow Fever contracted in March 5, 1942–a year before overseas deployment?  Mom was five-foot two.  Dad was five-foot three?  …Records center screwups?  What happened to Dad’s campaign ribbons?  Fred Bratton, Dad’s army buddy, made several visits during my childhood.  When my mother passed away in 1986, Dad sought the company of his old army buddy.

Clyde at Chesterfield after war 1945Dad, at home, summer 1945

Clyde & Dorothy Adam at Chesterfield in 1945 after war.Mom & Dad at ChesterfieldFred Bratton & Clyde Adam stateside in 1945Dad and Fred Bratton stateside

  • Favorite pictures:  The pictures reprised below, captured the essence of my father.  The picture of Dad with an adopted dog mascot.  My father looked contented in the picture with his truck.  He was a stickler for proper maintenance of vehicles and machinery.  He wouldn’t accept excuses or shortcuts.

Clyde & dog in India

Clyde near his truck.

  • Similarities & Contrasts:  I had more in common with my father than I realized.  My opinions of military life were the same.  I shared his feelings of being left behind, while the world at home went on.  We served just about the same amount of time overseas.  That’s where the similarity ended.  I can never hope to understand what it was like–living in tents and bamboo huts in wartime Burma and India.
  • Man of his word:  My father was a man of his word in all aspects of life.  I can now, understand more fully, Dad’s refusal to join family camping outings–not even for picnics.  His response, “I camped more than I cared to in the Army.”  
  • Mementos: tucked away in the pages of his diary.  A souvenir inscribed Chinese 10 Yuan bank-note [mentioned in Chapter 22].  Some Japanese occupation paper currency.  A newspaper clipping announced his marriage.  The names and addresses listed below.

Claude A. Kinzel
Rt. #3
Long Prairie, Minn.

Harry Grant
825 2nd Ave. No.
9th St.
Staples, Minn.

Wm. Starr
126 Clarensdale Ave.
Youngstown, Ohio

Willard H. Wagner
167 Halstead St.
Harvey, Ill.

Kenneth Schwittan
3412 N. 10th St.
Milwaukee, Wisc.

Wedding Photo 11.14.1942From the Springfield, IL “State Journal Register

Carlinville, May 6, ’43–Mrs. Nancy Clark is announcing the marriage of her daughter, Dorothy, to Pvt. Clyde F. Adam, son of Mr. and Mrs. George Adam of Chesterfield.  The ceremony was performed Nov. 14, 1942, at Palmyra, Mo., by Rev. C. Dorris.

Mrs. Adam is a graduate of Blackburn College and for the last three years has taught Albany school near Chesterfield.  At present she is employed by Owens-Illinois glass Co. at Alton.

Private Adam was engaged in farming before entering the armed forces.  He is now serving overseas.   

Japanese Occupation Money (Front)Japanese occupation currency [front]Japanese Occupation Money (Back)Japanese currency [back]Noumea, New Caledonia visited by Clyde Adam en route to India 1943Picture of New Caledonia [port of call not mentioned in letters]

WWII Poem, clipped from “Illinois State Journal-Register” 

img018

In Remembrance:  Chesterfield, Illinois, population 300, was barely a spot on the map.  This little town with a big heart gave its finest young men and women–four, listed below, made the ultimate sacrifice.  Here’s a list of names inscribed on the veteran’s memorial in front of the Chesterfield United Church.

–John K. Flowers–Robert Jacoby–Leonard Stone–Earl J. Wheeler– 

img017From 12-1-1946 Veteran’s Memorial Dedication

“In memory and in honor of these eighty-three citizens of this community, who served the nation in the armed forces of the United States of America, the Daughters of Dorcas Sunday School Class of the United Church, solicited the willing support of the entire community for the purchase of the two white marble benches, which now and forever, shall stand on the church grounds, eternal symbols of the gratitude and high honor in which these names are held”  

  • Names mentioned in letters:  John K. Flowers, Harvey Crowder, Ansel Dowland, Wendell Dowland, Theodore Hall, Harold Huyear, Floyd Nixon, Eugene [Gene] Parker, *George Parker, Esther Parker, Armin Rigsbey, Leo M. Rigsbey, Russell Scott, Albert Wilson, Kenneth Woods
  • Afterthoughts:  The black tapestries embroidered with silver thread, a silver bracelet, souvenirs from a strange-named place called the Taj Mahal didn’t mean anything to me when I found them in Mom’s cedar chest.  They were mere curiosities to a young boy meddling where he had no business.  Now, they represent treasured memories from almost seventy years ago.
  • Memories of “greatest generation” WWII veterans will fade away–if we let them.  We all know what happened in WWII.  The enemies were defeated, the world was made safer.  It’s important to remember why.  I set out to tell the story of one soldier’s contribution to the war effort in jungles of India and Burma.  I’ve gained a new appreciation for his sacrifices made in service to our country.
  • Acknowledgements:  George F. Adam Sr., brother, for access to pictures, documents from Adam family archives.  Ray Parker, hometown friend, [son of *George Parker], for newspaper clipping with poem, veterans memorial information.
  • Other Favorite WWII Blogs:  notsofancynancy–father’s war experiences told from letters home, No. 23 Squadron–about an RAF Mosquito squadron, “Greatest generation” Life Lessons–story of an ordinary family trying to live ordinary lives during an extraordinary time frame…, Pacificparatrooper–Pacific war era information     

DAD’S WWII LETTERS: Chapter 23, Roosevelt Era Ends, V-E Day

fdr's death

April 15, 1945

I’ll answer your letter of March 25th now. Today was another Sunday with the afternoon off.

It was too bad about the death of Pres. Roosevelt. Truman has quite a job ahead of him, now. I sure hope he’s capable of doing the job.

I haven’t learned much about typing. There’s a lot of difference typing out an address and typing a whole letter. Dorothy knows how to type though, and if the necessity ever calls for it, she can do my typing.

I wouldn’t mind taking a short course on farming after I get out of the army and before I start farming. I could do that in the winter when I couldn’t do anything else. I could work and earn a little as long as I could, if I’m free during the summer and fall months.

I’m afraid that the 300 dollars I get when I’m discharged, won’t do much more than buy my clothes as I’ll have to have a complete outfit. Then, too, I’ll have to convert my insurance which will probably take some time. I think I’ll have it changed to 20 year pay and then the money would come about right for the kid’s education, if there are any.

I sure want to stay in the States when I get there, and I intend to do everything I can to get to stay.

Right around here I haven’t noticed many flowers yet. things were torn up so bad, that if there were any tame flowers, they wouldn’t be here now. Wild orchids grow in some regions around here.

I’m glad you got the birthday present in time since I sent money to Dorothy to have her get you something and it just got there a few days ahead of time. Sixty isn’t so old nowadays if a person takes care of himself.

By the time you get this letter, I think the war in Germany will be over. That should make quite a difference in everything. Maybe by the time I get home, things will be sort of loosened up back there.

Well, that’s about all for this time, I guess. Everything is fine over here, except the heat.

April 21, 1945

I received your letter of the 2nd a day or two ago, but I waited until my regular time to write.

Tonight is the kind of night when a person is glad he has a roof over his head. Otherwise he’d get rather wet.

I wonder if you are still having rains? If not, I imagine everybody is busy with gardens and getting ready for corn. It’s hard for me to realize that another planting time has rolled around. I sure hope that by next year this time I’m home for corn planting or nearby.

I guess I’ll get to see the crop this year anyway, even though I won’t get to see it put in. Maybe I’ll be there in time to run a cultivator a time or two. I want to eat some of that fried chicken. If you have any strawberries, put a few away in the locker so I can get a taste of them.

I’m sorry to hear about Mr. Sawtell. He was getting pretty well along in years, I guess. There have sure been a lot of deaths around Chesterfield since I’ve been overseas.tree grows in bklynI’m glad that you two get out once in a while and see a show. I’d think you could go a little more often as you haven’t so many responsibilities now. I saw “Meet Me in St. Louis” over here a while back. It was a fairly good show. I want you to go see the show, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” because it’s very good. I read the book around Christmas and then saw the show about a month ago.

Uncle George and Aunt Minnie are pretty spry yet, I guess, if they still go to the show. I guess the “kids” take them. I don’t imagine that Greene or the other fellow living on the Gahr place, cares much about them carrying off stuff either, after giving up possession. It wold take a lot of nerve, looks to me like, for anyone to try to do that.

meet me in stl

If Uncle Val [Gahr] and Dowland haven’t any money now to pay for feed, they never will. They should have it now, if ever.

I’ll bet things are pretty around there now.

Bill Dams didn’t stay overseas very long, it seems like, but I guess he saw plenty of action while he was there.

I’ll close for this time. Hope you are well.

April 29, 1945

I have your letters of the 8th and 15th to answer tonight as they both came since I wrote you last.

I’ll keep writing you letters as long as I can, but I don’t think there’s any need for you to write me anymore as I more than likely will no longer be at this address when you get this letter. Now, don’t get excited about my coming home, as I don’t think I’ll be there before the last of June or the first part of July.

There sure have been lots of rumors coming over the air today, but so far most of them have proved to not have any foundation. The first thing this morning, we heard that Germany had surrendered and later found that they hadn’t, but had only asked for it. I don’t suppose it’ll be long, though, before they’ll actually be out of the picture, whether they ask for peace or not. There isn’t much left of Germany anymore that the Allies haven’t run over.

I was out to see Russell Scott this afternoon. I told that it would likely be the last time I’d see him for a while.

I’m surprised that you didn’t butcher any pork this year. It’s been a long time since you’ve never butchered a hog during the winter, hasn’t it?

There sure have been a lot of deaths around Chesterfield lately. I sure was surprised to hear of the death of Florence Reesor, as she was so young. Gertrude is going to be tied down now with those three kids.

So Clarence Dowland and Hazel finally got married. They sure waited a long time.

I hardly recognized Harold Huyear in the picture you sent me. I suppose after four years, one forgets faces that he wasn’t too familiar with. There’ll probably be a lot of people around home that I won’t know. Especially the kids that have grown up will be strangers.

I’m over the cold and sore throat OK now. I’m going to be awfully bad off if they can keep me from coming home.

It looks like Uncle Pete is having his share of tough luck now. He’s going to have a tough time of it this summer with no man if he’s still trying to farm the Wooley place.

May 13, 1945

Here it is another Mother’s Day in India. I believe it makes about the third one over here.

I’m sure sweating it out here as the weather is sure hot. I’m waiting for (censored).

I should be back in the States by sometime in (July). It’ll probably be hot back there too by then.

Well, now that the war in Europe is over, things should loosen up a bit back there in the States.

VE DayHeadlines announced V-E Day

Some of the luckier ones will get discharged, bit I guess I’ll be stuck for the duration. If I’d been in a combat outfit, I’d probably be getting out of the army by now.

I hope you have plenty of fryers as I’m going to want plenty of fried chicken.

I’m going to be plenty hungry as it’s too hot to eat here and I’ll lose weight.

I hope to be seeing you before too long.

Editor’s note:  That was Dad’s last overseas letter.  Exact details of his departure weren’t available.  Would things go according to plan?  After being away from home for so long, a little more inconvenience wouldn’t be a big deal.  Return transportation took time–probably less time than the trip over.  There’s more to come in the concluding chapter.

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)

 

DAD’S WWII LETTERS: Chapter 21, Spring, Friends From Home

March 4, 1945

Here it is March and usually back there this time of the year a person on the farm thinks of farm work.  I wonder if your winter weather has let up?  This is the month usually for lots of wind.  Over here the days are getting where a person doesn’t need any blankets.  The flowers are beginning to bloom.  The vegetation seems to be coming out of its winter dormant stage.  Even though it’s green all winter, the vegetation doesn’t grow much, although the native to grow vegetables, etc.

This is my morning off and I had to work this afternoon.  Things were kind of slow though, and there wasn’t so much to do.  Last Sunday afternoon, Russell Scott came over and we had quite a visit talking over our experience in the army and of old times.  He lacks almost a year having been overseas as long as I.  He is a medic attached to another outfit–in other words he’s on D. S.

I received your letter of Feb 12th the first of the week shortly after your letter of the week before.

You’re sure having quite a time moving chicken houses and fences for your chickens.  I can’t see why you don’t slow on the chicken raising.  I think you’ve raised your share and it’s about time you took things easier.Dad’ll probably have about all he’ll want to do to keep the place going.

Forty dollars for 30 hens is a fairly good price.  I can remember when an old hen wouldn’t bring a dollar.

raising chickensRaising chickens

I’m surprised that Olin G. [Gahr] has lost interest in the farm.  I thought he bought a small place out there near the home place.  I understand he’s running a tavern now.  I guess a person can make money at that racket if he has the right location.  I’m a little doubtful about that now, though.

What did Gov. Green have to say about the returning veterans?  I sort of doubt though, if we can get ahead of those that have stayed behind as they’ve gotten their start during prosperity.

I would like to take a short course of schooling on modern farming methods the winter before I go into farming in the spring, if possible, and it doesn’t cut too deep into our savings.

It looks like the Government is going to make it possible for a returning veteran to borrow money at a reasonable rate of interest.  I’ll have to borrow some probably to get set up.  A person is going to have to get off to a speedy start in order to reap some of the profits before hard times come again

Dorothy and I can furnish our home pretty good, I think.  I don’t know, but I think the war will be over by the end of next year.  Of course it depends on a lot of things on how much longer I’ll have to stay in the army.

I’m doing all right with the exception of a cold right now.  I’ve put on weight during the cool season.  I don’t know how long it’ll last thought in the hot season.  Write.

March 9, 1945

Here it is already well into March.  Spring is just around the corner.  I’ll bet the farmers are beginning to think of their spring work.  the weather is changing here too in respect to heat.

Yes, in Feb, it was a little early to think of putting in an early garden.  The trees in the orchard must be getting rather few and far between, unless you’ve set out some new stock.  Is your berry patch still in existence?

I wish I could see the cattle before they’re sold, but that’s impossible this time.  Why don’t you take a picture of them and send it to me?

You seem to be doing pretty good with your hens.  They must be bringing in between two and three dollars a day.  Of course the feed has to come out of that.  A person doesn’t notice the feed so much when it comes off the farm, but if you buy it, it eats pretty heavy into the profits.

Russell Scott’s address would have helped out a lot, if I hadn’t already seen him.  I’ll have to go see him or I may not get the chance again.

There just doesn’t seem much to write about tonight and I’m rather tired, so I’ll close for this time.

I sure hope to hear something about coming home before long.

Oh yes, I got a letter from Mrs. Kallal yesterday.

March 18, 1945

I didn’t get a letter from you this week.  I had four or five from Dorothy.  From what she said, you were still having winter weather the last part of February.

I had a letter from Wendell Dowland and he’s in England.  He seemed to be seeing the sights and enjoying his stay there.

He wanted to know if I’d been there.  I guess he doesn’t know that I missed that a long ways.

I guess by now, you’re beginning to get the spring fever, as surely as the weather had gotten milder.  Here it is the latter half of March already.  You’ve sure had a tough winter this year.  According to tradition, there should be good crops this year.

spring flowersSpring flowers

I guess, unless it’s rained by now, there’s sort of a water shortage.  My buddy, Fred B. [Bratton] said that his home town (Arthur, IL) was having a water shortage and were thinking of digging a new well.

The weather is getting warmer here.  The days are getting hotter and the nights are getting warmer.  There still isn’t any rain, except a few occasional showers.  We sure managed to get where there was a long dry season this time.  It’s the longest we’ve been dry since we’ve been over here in Asia.  Some of these days though, it’ll start raining though, I guess.  I’m hoping to get out of here before much of that.

I’m figuring on getting home in 2 or 3 months.  I don’t know for sure, but I think I will.  I’ve been over here over two years now.

Things are going about the same here.  I hope they are the same back there.  Write.

March 19, 1945

I wrote a letter last night, but since I got yours today, I’ll write another tonight.

It sounds like you did pretty good on your clover crop last year.  You must have cleaned up somewhere, if you had to pay that much income tax.  Taxes are awfully high now I guess.  I guess the sale was what made your taxes so high this time.

How are you making out on the payments on the place now?  You must have it whittled down considerably by now.  You should do fairly good on the cattle this time as you had all that corn from the other place that you otherwise wold have had to buy.

One good thing , you won’t have so much to worry about this year with the other place out of the way.  You’ll still have plenty to keep yo busy, though.  Not having any hay will help out.  Although you won’t have any to feed next winter, unless you have plenty left over from last year.

You sure won’t have much corn this time.  It’ll make a lot of difference in the corn crib, too, unless you have a good yield to make up for the acreage.  Why don’t you sow a few acres of sorghum to help fill the silo?  You could get a lot more tonnage to the acre or you cold get a special corn silo.

I’m figuring on getting home sometime this summer to look around and see how things are going.  It’s about time I was getting back.  Looks like as it was 26 months ago today since I set foot on US soil.  I hope that I can get back before it gets too hot back there and here both.  It’s already getting hot here.

How’s the old car running?  Is it still in running order?  How are the tires holding up?  I suppose that you could get more if you needed them.  Dorothy got three and has another on order at the ration board.  I’ll probably be wanting to drive it some when I get my furlough.  It’s going to be a little hard to get enough gasoline, I guess, as I hear they give only a gallon a day to soldiers on leave.  That wouldn’t be enough to make a trip a day to Carlinville and back.  Maybe you’ll have some you haven’t used by then?  Ha!

Well, that’s about all for this time.  I’m feeling fine except it’s getting too hot.

March 26, 1945

Today I had KP and that’s over again for another couple of weeks I hope.  I had planned on going to see Russell Scott yesterday afternoon as I had off, but I couldn’t get the transportation.  It’s too far to hitch–hike in half a day.

I received your letter of March 4th a few days ago.  No, I guess it doesn’t make much difference whether I send my letters free or air mail.  A person might as well send them free and save the six cents.

I guess by now, you are beginning to have spring weather as it’s getting toward the last of March.  By the time you get this, the leaves should begin to come out on the trees as I believe they do in April.  I sure hope I get home in May, as that’s always a pretty month.  Everything is always green and the weather is nice.

So you are bothered with a stiff neck, too?  I get one, too, once in a while.  The climate over here gives a person colds and such.  I’ll be glad to get out of here.  A person doesn’t get the right kind of foods either.  There’s plenty of starches, but not enough variety of fresh vegetables and fruits.  We haven’t had other than fresh fruit for a long while.  I traded some cookies out of my PX ration once for four eggs and one was spoiled.  They’ve  gotten where they won’t accept anything in exchange, but cigarettes or money and they want a preposterous price.  The trouble is some guys will pay it and then they always expect it.  Consequently, I just do without.

I and another fellow visited a native village yesterday afternoon, and the natives were friendly.  They gave us a cup of tea and the head man showed us some pictures of his family.  We couldn’t converse with them as we couldn’t understand each other’s language.  He understood only a few words of English and we didn’t understand any Shan.  Their homes are made of woven bamboo and grass.  They moved out there in these places during the invasion.  They had bomb shelters to go to during the bombing.  I was all very primitive the way they live.

It makes a person appreciate the US after seeing how these people still live like they did 2,000 years ago.  As long as they don’t know any better, I guess they are contented.  In a way, they are more satisfied with life than the average American.  He sure can’t get as much out of life, though, living that way year in and year out.  There’s never any chance for betterment.  Someday, I suppose, they’ll improve as the world grows smaller and communication improves.

April 1, 1945

Here it is the fourth Easter away from home.  I wonder how the weather is back there?  It’s hot here.  I had intended on going to church this morning, but I have a sore throat and don’t feel like eating all that dust coming and going.  I can’t seem to rid myself of colds.  For a while, I wasn’t bothered with them.  My resistance must be down.  It looks like I’ll lose the weight I gained during cool weather before I get home.  I just don’t have much of an appetite during hot weather.  I was hoping that I’d get home before it got hot back there, but it’s getting to look very doubtful.

By the time you get this, the leaves should be out on the trees and the grass green.  That’s always a pretty time of year and a person feels full of ambition.  It sure isn’t like that here.

I received your letter of March 10th yesterday.  It and a V-mail from Getz was about the only mail I’ve gotten for about a week.

It seems like a lot of farmers are selling and cutting down on farming.  There should be a lot of farms to rent when the boys come home.  The first one there will probably get the best places.

When it comes to household duties, etc.  I don’t think I’ll want anything to do with it.  Anything that reminds me of what I’ve had to do in the army, I don’t want anything to do with.

Well, there just isn’t much of anything new to talk about.  The war in Europe seems to be in the final phase.

April 11, 1945

I’ve been waiting to write thinking I’d get a letter to answer, but since I didn’t. I’ll have to write anyway.  There’s nothing new.  It’s the same old thing going on day in and day out.  I know my letters make dull reading, other than knowing that I’m still alive and kicking.  There just isn’t anything over here to tell about.

Of a morning I get up, eat breakfast, go to work, eat chow at noon, go back to work at one, quit in the evening, take a shower, eat supper and then go to a show, if there’s one, or play a game or two of ping-pong, and then settle down to writing letters or reading.

One day last week, we had six girls and some male members of a USO troupe here for dinner.  That sort of broke the monotony for the day.  It was the first time since we’d been overseas, that we’d been honored by fair guests.  That night we saw the show they put on.  It was very good.  One of the fellows in the company knew one of the girls which was the reason we happened to have them here for dinner.

USO Photo taken 1943Dad’s third from right in the last row

Editor’s note:  Were any of the six entertainers recognizeable?  I couldn’t tell from the picture.

The cooks went to a lot of trouble and made up a very nice dinner with ice cream for dessert.  I think they appreciated it as I heard afterwards, that they remarked it was the best meal they’d had since they left the states.  it was the most elaborate meal we’d had since Christmas.

I suppose everyone is busy around there now getting their spring work done.  It must be getting nice back there by now.  It’s been quite a long time now since I’ve been home to enjoy the springtime.

It doesn’t look like I’ll get home before June or July and then, it could be later.  Some of the boys are already gone.  Some are just more lucky than others.

What kind of condition is the car in?  I’ll be needing some kind of transportation when I do get home.  Dorothy has been having lots of trouble with her car this winter.  After they get so old, they need so much work done on them.  Now, it’s pretty hard to get anyone to do things like that, no matter how minor they are.

Well, that’s all I can think of this time.  Write.

DAD’S WWII LETTERS: Chapter 19, Cherry Pie Dreams, Christmas Venison

Nov. 27, 1944

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.

cherry pieFreshly 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.

V-Mail Christmas Card to Mom from Burma 1844Dad’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.

rose bouquet

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!

img011

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.

Write often.

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.

DAD’S WWII LETTERS: Chapter 17, Calcutta, Back to Work

taj mahalThe Taj Mahal

August 19, 1944

Well, I’m enjoying a fifteen day furlough.  Anyway I’m enjoying it as much as a person could in this country.  I’m in a rest camp and am free to come and go as I please.  It is located in one of the nicest spots that I’ve seen so far in India.  It isn’t so cool always here at night but the days are usually cool here in the camp.  We have a PX here and a recreation center.  We have a pass to go to town anytime we feel like it.  There are no duties.  The only thing we are required to do is to report when the time is up to go back.

I’ve been here five days in a row now and it’s beginning to get a little bit old.  Some of the fellows don’t even stay here, but get a room downtown.  That costs a little too much.  I’ve eaten downtown a few times and a person can get steaks that aren’t as good as they are back home, but they taste better than corned beef and viennas.

calcutta key bookletSoldier’s guidebook to Calcutta

The camp here feeds a lot of fresh meat.  We can buy all the ice cream and cold drinks we want.  They sell cold beer at the PX.  The first few days the weather was nice for going around seeing things.  Today though is one of those rainy days.

A day or two ago I went on a Red Cross tour and saw some native temples and places where they burn the dead.  I had heard a lot about how they burned the dead but was the first time I actually seen it.

It takes a lot of rupees to have much of a time down here but it’s worth it after being in the jungle so long.   It might be the last chance I have for a long time.  I hope that my next furlough will be in the States.

I hope you are well.

Sept. 2, 1944

I hope you don’t think that I’ve forgotten you.  I got back from my furlough in Calcutta last night.  I got my mail (14 letters in all) this morning and now I’m trying to catch up on some of it.

GI's at newsstandSoldiers at Calcutta newsstand

It’s nice in a way to be back, but it was hard to leave a nice place in civilization to come back here in the jungle again and go to work again for no telling how long.

I got to eat lots of steaks, ham and eggs while I was down there.  I got to ride around in taxis which reminded me of home more or less.  I rented a bicycle to ride  a couple of times while I was there and that was quite a sport.  It was the cheapest way to get around as they cost the equivalent of 16 cents an hour.

It’s no telling just where I’ll be for Christmas, but more than likely I’ll still be over here.  You need not send me any soap or tooth powder or shaving cream as we can get plenty of it.  You could send some after shave lotion.  You could send me a fairly good pipe (one of medium weight).  Oh yes, if you could get hold of some small scissors, I could use those.  There isn’t so much that I need right now and there’s no use sending stuff that a person can get over here.  It’s better not to send anything to eat as it usually gets stale by the time it gets here.  I’m hoping this will be my last Christmas overseas or away from home.  Let’s see.  I’ve been away from home for three Christmases now, and this’ll make the fourth.  If I think of anything else, I need I’ll tell you right away.

calcutta 2Calcutta streets

I’m sorry to hear that it’s so dry back there.  It’s too bad you can’t have some of this moisture we have here.  I guess you have enough heat the way it is.  It is cooler here today than what it was when I left.  It may just be one of those days, but it should get cooler now before long and I’ll sure be glad of it.

It’s nice that Kallal’s are able to take a little vacation.  When I get home you can take a vacation while Dorothy and I look after things.

It sounds like you are going to have some beef in the locker this winter.  I hope I get home in time to eat some of it.  Well, I may not get home quite soon enough for that, but I do have expectations of getting home by spring.  If not they surely don’t expect much out of me by then.

I can just imagine how Uncle George is puttering around getting everything fixed just the way Aunt Minnie wants it.  It sounds like the high school and grade school are having a time this year trying to get teachers.  I guess the shortage is getting critical.  The schools will be opening again in a few days as this is the first of September.  I guess everyone has their troubles in war-time.  Maybe the European situation will soon be settled.  I sure hope so, as that’ll simplify matters considerable.  That should give us older fellow more of a chance of getting back to the States sooner.

Uncle George should have a place like the old Barr place so that he could keep a cow or two and chickens to have something to piddle around at.  The way it is, he won’t have much to do and he won’t know what to do with himself.  I suppose though, that he’ll take of Opal’s garden as well as their own, and besides helping Aunt Minnie, that’ll keep him busy anyway during the summer.  I just can’t picture him sitting down and taking life easy.  I suppose Aunt Minnie would just as soon continue living out there on the farm, but she’s lucky that she got to live there as long as she did.

I don’t remember just what was the trouble when I told you I wasn’t feeling so good.  I’m OK now since I had a vacation.  I think I gained a few pounds because I seem to fill out my pants a little better.  A person gets off feed once in a while when it is so hot continuously.  The weather will be getting cooler now along and I hope to be out of here before the next hot season.  Don’t worry about me because if I do get sick, they have good hospitals and equipment to take care of a person.

After you get the crops all in this fall, you’ll be able to sit back and take life a little easier.  That takes quite a bit off my mind as well as yours.  I’m not going to worry about what I’m going to do till the time comes.  I think I’ll just take it easy for a while at first when I get back.

Write when you can.

Sept. 6, 1944

I received two more letters from you today.  The latest was mailed on the 28th of August.  That makes three of your letters I have to answer now.  We sure are getting some nice music on our radio now.  I think I told you that we have one in the tent now that one of the fellows fixed up from salvage parts.  It’s a pretty nice one too, even though it was made of pieces from here and there.

It isn’t quite as hot here now as it was, but is still hot enough that a person still perspires quite a bit.  The reason a person notices the perspiration is that the humidity is high.

What are you planning on doing with the cattle you have on pasture?  Are you going to sell them this fall or feed them through the winter?  Seed clover must be a good price now isn’t it?  I’m not going to worry about renting a farm until I get home and am ready for it.  Something else may come up by then.  The only thing I have to worry about is having enough laid away to get set up in farming.

The picture of Armin Rigsbey and his dad show quite a contrast between the way the soldier was dressed last war and this war.  There is as much difference between the wars, too.  I was sort of surprised to see the clipping showing the picture of Armin’s wife to be.  Seems like all those young fellows that were kids whin I was around home are getting married.  It makes me feel like an old-timer.

I’m glad the weather has cooled off some back there.

Yes, sometimes a person gets pretty discouraged being way over here and at times it seems that the war would last indefinitely.  The longer a person stays over here the worse it is.  Things look better though, now, and I’ve had a furlough. and feel a little more like carrying on.  I just hope I don’t have to endure another hot season over here.  I’ve picked up a little weight since I was on furlough.  I had some steaks and ham and eggs to eat while I was down there.  I’ve had a better appetite since I got back.

Snake Charmer in IndiaIndian snake charmer

As for feeling patriotic, I don’t feel so much so, after being over here and seeing what actually goes on.  I’ll tell you more about it when I get home.

I don’t put much stock in the good things that are going to be done for the returning soldiers.  I’ve been in the army too long and seen too many promises fall through for that.  I think the fellow that looks out for himself and grabs off what he can get will be the one that’s best off.  The ones that stayed home are getting the cream now.  They won’t have to worry so much about the future if they provide for it now.

It would be nice to take a short course in agriculture when I get back.  I don’t want to have to spend much time or money trying to get an education at this late date, though I’ll have to get down to scratching for a living as soon as possible.

Editor’s note:  Dad’s letters reflected realistic views of army life, the post-war world.  What he couldn’t talk about was army waste and corruption.  Dad felt left behind while life at home went on.  After the war, Dad took an agriculture course at the local high school, under Prof. Klaus–also my high school agriculture instructor in the sixties.

As for bookkeeping, I’ve learned quite a bit about it these last eighteen months.  I’m beginning to get tired of it.

Mary Sawtell sure made a nice looking young lady.  She’ll make all the boys run a temperature that she takes care of in the line of duty as a nurse.  Ha!

Well, I’ll close for this time.  I hope you are well.  Write as often as you can.

Sept. 10, 1944 Letter from India (2)Handwritten Sep. 10th letter

Sept. 10, 1944

Here it is another Sunday almost gone.  I worked this morning and this afternoon.  I passed the time by playing a few games of cards.  I played a few games of table tennis this evening.

We had ice cream for supper tonight. We have it quite often ow that we have a way of making it in the company.  We have cold drinks most of the time, too, except when we have coffee.  It sure us quite different from when we first came over here, when you couldn’t get anything like that.

I’m glad that it has turned cooler now.  It isn’t quite as warm here as it was.  The nights are cooler now.  A person has to cover up with a sheet now where before a person wore as little as possible all night.  Before too many weeks we’ll be looking for blankets to cover up with.  It seems like when it does turn cool, the dampness chills a person through and through.

The cow you bought is doing her part to step up production.  i imagine the veal calves are a pretty good price aren’t they?  Boy! I’d sure like to milk a cow again to see how it’s like.  It seems like it’s been a long tome since I’ve done anything like that.  I’d probably have to learn all over again.  i believe I did milk once when i was home last.

By now I suppose you are either in the middle of silo filling or else you’ve finished.  It shouldn’t take too long this year as you’ve got only one silo to fill.  Some of these days you’ll be starting to shuck corn.  that’s something else I haven’t done in a long time.  It’s been about four years since I’ve done any of that.  I think I told you that my corn over here didn’t amount to much.  The best I could get out of the two hills I planted were two small nubbins.  I was going to send some grains home to show how it turned out, but somebody threw it away when i was on furlough.  I had it tied up on a string drying out.

I’m glad to hear that you were able to get some new tractor tires.  Are they any heavier than the others?  What make are they?  You didn’t have to get new ones for the front, too, did you?  It seems like the old ones didn’t last very long as they weren’t on quite four whole seasons.  I guess they did a lot of work though and they weren’t hardly heavy enough.

I was surprised to hear that Uncle Alvin died.  I knew that he was poorly too.  I got a letter from Dorothy written on the 31st of August and she said she was at Dixon at the time it happened.  She was out there, though, after she got back and met some of the folks.  She said that Aunt Minnie was sick in bed then.

Mr. Banks death was rather sudden.  There sure have been a lot of deaths in and around Chesterfield since I’ve been over here.  There have certainly been a lot of changes made.  I’ll feel like a stranger around there.

Ed Kallal must be figuring on running the home place.  Mr. & Mrs. Kallal are getting pretty old to keep up the gait they’ve been going and i suppose they hate to move away and leave the place after they’ve worked so hard to fix it up.

I see by the clipping you sent me the Ed Jacoby family is having their share of trouble with their boys in the service.  I hope I don’t have to spend as long a time overseas as Eldon Miller before I get home.

I’ll close for this time.

Sept 17, 1944

Here it is another Sunday.  It isn’t so nice today, but is cooler this way.  I had guard duty last night so will be through with that for a few days again.

You must have gotten to see a lot of the folks out for Uncle Alvin’s funeral.  Yes, it’s too bad that it turned out that Dorothy was gone.  She met a few of them later after she got back.  I suppose you know by now the reason they were gone, and didn’t get back as soon as expected.  It would have been a good opportunity for her to meet a lot of the folds.

I imagine that by now everyone has their silos filled, unless it is someone who has some exceptionally late corn.  I had a letter from Carl Getz and he said that he had quite a bit of corn to cut up if he got it done.  It’s pretty tough now on the farmers that have to cut up so much corn for the shock as help is so scarce.  He could use a binder though unless the corn is down too bad.  He did talk like some of it has gone down.  I hope you enjoyed the show that you went with Kallals to see.  I don’t see why you don’t go more often.  Maybe you can go after you get through with the busy work.  You might as well enjoy life while you can.  I’m surprised to hear that Jesse Peacock is still out there with Mrs. Costley.  I guess that’s the only way she has to take care of her place.  I suppose she doesn’t want to rent it out and leave the place.  how do these boys court these girls so far from home in times like these?  I guess I’ve been gone too long to figure things like that out.

Will close for now.

Sept 25, 1944

The mail hasn’t been coming in so good the last week or so.  That’s usually the way it is though.  It comes in bunches and I received a bunch of it here a while back and am caught up for a while.

The weather also has been warm again for the last few days.  I’ve had a cold and you know how that is during warm weather.

There was a show tonight, but the weather was uncertain that I didn’t go.  I can’t enjoy a show much in the rain although some of the fellows go anyway.  Well, September is soon going to be gone.  I’ll bet the leaves will soon be turning pretty colors.  It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen anything like that.  Most of the time since, I’ve been where the vegetation stays green the year around.

The other night I got to thinking of the old Rigsbey place where we used to live.  I quite often dream of the place but it is never about anything that happened there.  It’s been fifteen years since we moved away from there.  It doesn’t hardly seem like it’s been that long.  The years that followed sure turned out to be hectic as far as financial troubles went.

After things straighten out after this war, I hope things run a little more smoothly.

Well, there isn’t much to write about seems like so I’ll close for this time hoping I hear from you soon.

Sept 30, 1944

I received your letter of Sept. 11th.

I sent you a letter telling you what I wanted for Christmas.  You’ve probably gotten it by now.  Yes, I’ll still be over here by then.  That’s for sure.

Well, by now I guess you are finished filling the silo in the neighborhood and are thinking about sowing wheat and shucking corn.

It’ll be quite a comedown for Ed Kallal’s wife to move out on the farm in an old makeshift house after having lived in the city.  I guess he wants to hurry up and get settled on the farm before the draft board catches up with him.

Who is the mail carrier now that Myron Parker no longer does it?

The new principal sounds like he believes in large families.  He’ll have enough kids to start a school of his own pretty soon.  It sounds like Chesterfield is going to be a strange place to me when I get back.

It seems like there’s a lot of sickness and deaths around there.

Uncle George will get a taste of what we had if he goes back and forth to feed this winter.  I guess they figured that as long as they didn’t own the place anymore there wasn’t any use of fixing it up.  If Green doesn’t get some one on his place that’s interested in keeping the place fixed up he won’t have much as he lives so far from it.

Editor’s note:  First mention of the new owner of Uncle George Gahr’s farm.  As I remember, the new owner lived in Detroit, Michigan.  Grandpa previously had crops and cattle on the place for several few years.  It was about three miles west of town.

Uncle George’s place in town may not make them a living, but they should have enough to live on now after selling the place.

I wish I could have seen the crops on the old place once again before someone else took over.  Oh well!  By the time I can start out it’ll be like starting out fresh in a new neighborhood anyway.

It’s rather indefinite when I’m going to get back there.  I first thought I would get home for a furlough the first part of the year, but it begins to look doubtful.  Oh well, the later I get back there, the more chance I’ll have of not having to come back overseas again.

Well, I’ll close for this time, hoping you are well.