Thirties depression days
My “mother road”
Signified going home
Thirties depression days
My “mother road”
Signified going home
Jan. 9, 1944
It was hard for me to get used to putting down 44 instead of 43. Some of my letters I know that I have used the old year.
This is Sunday again. The weeks seem to roll by. I’ve spent all of 29 months in the service now and am going on the 30th one. I sure wish that I could be home after three years of it.
I would like to be home in time to put in a crop in ’45. I don’t know though, as the war sure seems to be dragging out. It don’t look like any of the boys overseas are going to get back either before the war ends except those discharged or sent back for limited service. As soon as the war is over, the boys with the jobs waiting will have the first chance at the discharges. If and as soon as I hit the states again I’m going to try to get to come home. I’ve had about enough of this or will by that time and want to do something else for a change.
Editor’s note: In Europe the war took a nasty turn, as the Germans took advantage of bad weather, and American overconfidence. It was their last-ditch effort to break through Allied supply lines–in what would be known as the “Battle of the Bulge.”
You are having some real winter weather back there now, I hear. In Dorothy’s last letter she said that it was ten below that morning. I believe I would freeze to death in that kind of weather. I don’t think I would get any chillier than I do now of a morning though.
You spoke of having to move the garden in the spring as you had chickens in the old orchard where we used to have potatoes? That would be all right for a garden wouldn’t it? It would be a little unhandy as you have to go through two gates.
I don’t know whether I told you or not, that Aunt Mary enclosed some pictures in with her Christmas card of the Horn family. They all look about the same except Helen and she looks awfully thin. She did have quite a time when the baby was born, didn’t she? I suppose that she never picked up since. The youngster, I think favors the Horns quite a bit.
Well, someday if this war doesn’t last too long, maybe Dorothy and I can have something like that to comment on and take up our time. That’s when the fun will begin, if you want to call it that. I hope that we can have more than one as I don’t to raise one youngster by himself. I’d like a boy and a girl, but I’ll have to settle for whatever happens. Ha!
Editor’s note: As it turned out, I was the second son in a family of four–three boys and one girl (another daughter, Julia Jean, died at birth in 1962).
I’m still getting Christmas cards. I received three today. I still haven’t received Dorothy’s package, but haven’t given up hope yet as they are still coming in.
You spoke of Wiese’s having a sale. Is the old man selling out to make room for the younger generation, or is he quitting.
I’m sending you a paper that we get over here to read. It is put out by the Army and we get it once a week. It contains a lot of interesting news we have from the outside world except the radio. It may take a bit longer to reach you than the letter.
I’ll have to close. Everything is about the same with me. I hope you are all well.
Jan. 15, 1944
Here it is Saturday night and no place to go or nothing to do which is usually the case. If I were home now on Saturday night, I probably would just sit around not knowing what to do.
I finished chow a couple of hours ago and have split up wood and carried it in the basha for the stove since then. I built a fire to knock off the chill.
Last night we had a double feature movie that I attended. One was a western and the other was a comedy. It rained on us a little, but we stuck it out and soon it stopped.
I received your letter of Dec 19th yesterday. You say Leo Rigsbey is in Hawaii now. That is a pretty nice place from the reports that some of the fellows send back home from there.
I hope they do something about this eighteen months overseas bill. I’ll be good and ready to go back in another six months. It seems that everybody is getting tired of it over here. The climate is such that isn’t too good for a person either.
I suppose that Uncle George looks about the same only a little older. Looks like he’s undertaking quite a bit to feed the cattle this winter. I’ll bet he has all he can do all day long with their chickens to take care of.
Well, there doesn’t seem to be much to say tonight so I’ll close hoping you are well. I hear there has been quite a bit of flu around.
Jan 17, 1944
Received your letter today that you wrote on Christmas day. Your letter was air mail and Dorothy wrote one on Christmas Day also and sent it with three cents and they both got here at the same time. So you see it doesn’t pay to send air mail anymore. V-mail really comes a little the quickest, but I don’t care much for it as they are so short. You say you got my letters in about two weeks. On the average with the exception of before Christmas a short time, my letters come in three weeks time.
Our Christmas dinner was nice, but sure didn’t come up to my vision of Christmas dinner back home, especially from your description of what you had. Dorothy had quite a dinner at her house on Christmas day. From what she said they must have had quite a program out at the school. She said that she invited you, but you weren’t there so she supposed that you didn’t have a way. There were eight in her car so she didn’t have room or she would have picked you up. She said she put some presents on the tree for you.
Yes, I got a lot of Christmas cards and am still getting them. I got three today and one yesterday.
It seems that almost everybody back in Missouri is working in a defense plant. That should sort of give them a lift financially.
I had been wondering if you had any source of wood this winter. We have been burning wood in our stoves in the basha. They cut it up with a power saw and split it in large chunks and pile it for us to use from. There is a detail for this job. We split it up as we use it and that reminds me of home when we used to have wood in the winter time.
You are getting quite a few eggs now, but the price seems awfully unstable. I understand that they are high in the cities. When all the pullets get to laying you’ll have to have a wheelbarrow to haul the eggs to the house.
Is Harold Adam still located in Alaska? How long has Charles Clements been in the service now? I remember that he was the conservation agent when we were down there in ’41.
How is Frank Simily getting along? The last I heard about them was when he was recuperating for an appendicitis operation. Aunt Mary had told me that Dorothy S. was sporting a diamond. They’ll probably be getting hitched the next time he gets home.
Well, I’ll close for this time. Write often.
Editor’s note: The following is a letter to Dad’s parents penned by William R. Barr, a young serviceman from the community, upon his discharge from the military. It was intended as an assurance of Dad’s safety in India. The Saturday Evening Post issue dated 12-25-43 included a well-written, informative article by Edgar Snow. I may include it in a separate post.
January 18, 1944
Dear Mr. Adam
Recently I returned from India, having been discharged from active duty with Army because of my age. I was in the same company with your son, Clyde; and he asked me to write you upon my return to the states.
When I left late in October he was looking well and his quarters, food, etc., were adequate. The company has one of the best locations in that area.
Clyde is located in upper Assam. If you have the Christmas issue of the Saturday Evening Post you will find a good article about the country where he is, and the project going on there. The title of the article is: “The new road to Tokyo,” (I think that is correct, I do not have a copy at hand.) I’m sorry this news is not fresher, but it requires a long time to travel half-way around the world under present conditions.
Clyde is in as fine an organization as I have seen in my travels. The men are doing fine work. Of course everyone is anxious to get the job done and to return to the best country on earth
Wm. R. Barr
Jan 23, 1944
Another Sunday almost gone. I have every other one off and today was the one. Now, I’ll have to work next Sunday.
I’ve already answered your last letter so I don’t know how this one will turn out without one to comment on.
Tonight seems to be a night of reminiscences as we all have our pictures out showing them to each other and telling who they are and where they were taken. Every so often we have to do this.
By now you should have gotten a print of the negative of the picture I sent Dot. I’m going to give you a little description of the background in the picture. This was taken one Sunday by one of the fellows. Due to the shortage of printing paper over here, I could only get the negative to send. I understand that now we can no longer send pictures of any kind home. To get back to the picture itself, I was standing on the steps of the basha that I later moved into. To your left you can see a tent in which I was living at the time. At the time this picture was taken I had my hair cut real short. Outside of that and being a little thinner than I was before I left the States, I don’t think that I’ve changed much. They tell me I have a few gray hairs, but not many.
The basha as you’ve noticed, has a woven bamboo floor that is set up off the ground about 18 inches. As you’ll notice the roof is leaves from the bamboo.
Jan. 24, 1944
Due to an interruption, I failed to finish this letter last night, so I’ll do so tonight.
I got some mail today again. There were five letters and a belated Christmas card, but none of them were from you. I’ll be getting one though one of these days now.
Tomorrow, I see by the duty roster, I’m on KP. That is one job I hate the worst and it comes around quite often anymore. It looks like after two years and a half a person could graduate from that job, but I guess no such luck.
I finally received Dorothy’s package on Saturday night and it had the most delicious fruitcake in it besides soe candy, chewing gum and cigarettes & tobacco and stationary.
Write often. Hope you are well.
Jan. 30, 1944
I received your letter yesterday of the 2nd and one today of the 12th. So you see how the mail runs. I also received a telegram from the wife, yesterday in the mail containing birthday greetings. As near as I could tell it had been sent on the 15th.
The pillow will sure be nice to have, as pillows with feathers seem to be scarce over here. I have a small one now that have to double to get much out of it as it is so flat. It is filled with cotton and packs down and doesn’t fluff ut no matter how hard I try.
I got several Christmas cards this year. In fact most of them came after Christmas. The one that Dorothy sent ( a nice big one) was mailed the 30th of Nov. and had been missent to another PO and came about a week ago. The boys are still getting packages. There were so many I guess it was hard to get them over here in time. I think the post office did a remarkable job considering.
Dorothy told me that her mother had the flu. I don’t think she is very well this winter.
I’m glad to hear that you don’t have much to do this winter. It’ll give you a chance to sort of recuperate for another season. I have hopes of being home in time to help put in the crops in ’45. I don’t think the war will be over, but have hopes of getting back to the States by then and if I do that maybe I’ll have a chance to come home to do a little farming for a change. Anyway, I can try after having been overseas. There should be plenty of replacements by that time and I sure don’t want to get caught in the army of occupation as that means several more years.
I suppose that it does make a lot of difference in who feeds cattle and an old-timer at the job (although *Finis should be an old hand at it, he just doesn’t take an interest or have the knack) seems to make quite a difference. I think that the cattle did fairly well when I was feeding them. Anyway, I took an interest in them and liked to take care of them. It makes a difference when a person lives right there with them too, and doesn’t have to run back and forth.
Editor’s note: From records, Finis Wade, [Grandpa’s hired-man], would have been in his early sixties.
I’m glad that you have been able to get the place limed. It should make a lot of difference in the crops. Now, if we can just get it tiled, it should be in good shape.
It seems funny to hear you say that the corn is all shucked as the way I remember it, we used to have plenty of shock corn to shuck during the winter (much to my dismay).
You spoke of the price of eggs having gone down 30 and 31 cents a dozen. One of the fellows whose home state is in New York state says that the consumers back there were paying around 75 cents the last he heard. There seems to be an awful lot of difference there. Somebody must be making a lot of money on the handling of eggs.
We fed our hogs the garbage from the mess and kitchen along with rice as grain (rice seems to be a common food among the natives as well as the animals). In parts of India they raise wheat and barley as well as rice. They raise many other products which I won’t mention as I would have to refer to a book the same as you. Rice and tea are about all that I could verify at the present from having seen it growing and consumed.
Thanks for straightening me out on the birthdays. Dorothy was the only one that I was in doubt about as you had told me the others before. I’ll have to close. Write.
Feb. 3, 1944
I received your birthday card yesterday with your picture. I certainly surprised when I opened it and found you looking out at me. It is such a plain picture of you both that it made me feel that you were actually present. You both have a pleasant expression on your faces. Dad, you are as poor as ever and mom you are as plump as ever. Ha! Mom, you seem to have the most gray hair of the two of you.
Your are in the middle of your winter the same as we are but there is quite a difference. That is about all I can tell you about the weather. I might add, if the censor will allow, I am reminded of some of the springs back there. We have been burning wood for a couple of months.
You say that you have ordered chickens already. You must be going to get an early start this year. I suppose that you have to get your order in early. Are you going to raise more chickens this year since you are getting another brooder house or is ti because the others are filled with pullets.
I don’t think I told you yet that I received the second Christmas package from Dorothy with more gum, candy tobacco, cigarettes and a fountain pen, (which I am using now).
You haven’t mentioned the car lately, so I take it that it’s working OK since the trouble last winter. I think you’ll find if you use it more often it’ll give you less trouble than if you let it sit idle for long periods at a time. A car motor and the other moving parts are like anything else, which corrodes and rusts from disuse unless they are specially stored.
The news on the Allied fronts seems encouraging enough of late even though it is a slow process wich is no more than to be expected. We are hoping that the war will be over by the end of ’45.
Oh yes, I must tell you that I saw a very nice show here the other night put on by the “Swing Patrol” of the Air Corps boys. The captain in charge was none other than Melvin Douglas formerly of the movies. The “Swing Patrol” was a very nice orchestra to be so far out in the sticks. It sure was a treat and they gave us a full hour and a half of entertainment in the form of a make believe radio broadcast. We had an amplifying system but the stage was sort of a crude affair with a tarp roof.
Editor’s note: The following gives more show information.
Dateline: January 27, 1944, Entertainment news, “C-B-I Roundup,” pp. 17-18
To Be Rounded Up to Entertain Troops
Over a period of months, the Theater has been the recipient of various and sundry promises that USO shows would tour this haven known as “the end of the line.” Al Jolson started out, but went back with some dread disease that probably necessitated the use of a wheelchair upon his arrival in Miami. Joel McCrae got as far as the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan and turned back because he suspected CBI audience reaction would not be suitable to his 14 carat talents.
That caricaturist, Don Barclay, who was touring with McCrae, decided he didn’t expect quite so much from his audience, so he continued. Joe E. Brown managed to drag his “fiftyish” carcass this far and put on a series of swell shows that wowed the lads in the weeds. A USO group of kerosene circuit performers, traveling under the direction of one Wesley Pierce, got off in India by mistake and finally made the grand gesture by putting on a show in Karachi. Afterwards, Pierce, as reported in a previous issue of this journal of enlightenment, raised hell because he was furnished American coffee and doughnuts and not Scotch and soda.
It seems that most of these touring prima donnas either become critically ill or lose their ardor “to do something for the boys” while en route. This situation has caused various “brains” in the Special Service Division to do a little thinking. (We don’t mean to infer that they have never thought before). This first product of this thinking was mined by the late Maj. Clark Robinson, who dreamed up the ATC show, “Assam Dragon” which was a pip.
This show covered India and is now making some one-night stands in the Middle East. Upon return, Maj. John Nixon, Theater Special Service Officer, feels it should be offered to China. This show was such a success and the “Hurry Up and Wait” show, now touring the Ledo Road, was so good that Special Services said to hell with outside shows, and decided to dig up its own talent.
Joe E. Brown and his crony, Harry Barris, were so impressed with a GI orchestra in Karachi that it was decided to take the band on tour. Called “Swing Patrol,” This organization is now in New Delhi rehearsing for a forthcoming tour. Capt. Melvyn Douglas will conduct this trip as an excuse to get out into the Theater and dig up more talent for more of the same. Should any of you feel you have any talents, be sure and give for the captain if and when he hits your area.
The Theater commander is sincerely interested in these shows and they are being organized as fast as his little body of hand-picked men in Special Service can do it. Lt. Leonard Bailey, assistant SSO for the 14th Air Force, is working on things from that end. The business will never be a complete success, however, if you G. I.’s hide your light behind a mango tree. If you don’t bump into Douglas, write him a letter addressed to Special Services Division, Rear Echelon Hq., APO 885 (Delhi).
There is plenty of latent talent in this Theater. Don’t be shy. If you are a pretty hot sketch on a harp, write in. If you can blow “Pistol Packin’ Momma” out of a cider jug or play a musical saw or recite Shakespeare or do any other damn thing, write Douglas a letter. His mail has been pretty light since he left home.
I don’t think I told you that I also received a cablegram giving birthday greetings from my wife. I wasn’t alarmed as she had told me that she planned on sending me one some of these days. It came in the mail and took two weeks to arrive form the States. The one that I sent her for our anniversary arrived in a weeks time.
Well, I don’t know much more to say. I’m still doing KP and guard duty. I had guard last night and am tired and sleepy tonight. I think I’ll turn in as soon as I write a few lines to Dorothy.
I’ll have some more money to send some of these days. I have to save over fifty dollars before I can [send] it by radio as that is the minimum. I don’t like to send money orders as it is too easy for them to get lost and there is too much red tape to recover the money in case they are.
I’m expecting to get back to civilization by the end of the year or the first of they next. The sooner the better. If we don’t, there’s going to be a lot of disappointed boys. I just hope the second one seems as short as the first. I’ll have to close for this time. Write often.
August 21, 1943
I thought I would get some more mail this week, but I didn’t. I hope that you have been able to keep cooler than I.
I don’t remember whether I told you or not that we got in some more PX supplies this week. We got another carton of cigarettes and 2 more cans of beers besides a couple of packages of chewing gum with the exception of a stick per man given out by the Red Cross a couple of times. That makes 24 cans of beer that we got this month.
The boys here played a challenge game of volleyball last night with another team and got beat pretty bad.
We are getting a shower built. Some of the fellows have used a bucket or can with holes punched in the bottom. You can pour water in the can and stand under it and enjoy it while the water lasts. We can’t be too free with the water because all our water has to be hauled except what we catch off the tents when it rains.
Some one just brought me your V-mail letter of August 3rd. That wasn’t bad time, as it came in 18 days. It takes several days for a letter to reach me after it gets to India.
You speak of Dad plowing for wheat. Didn’t he get all the ground put into crops this time or is it the stubble ground that had wheat on it this year? Your corn is rather late this time, but if it is a quick maturing hybrid it’ll probably beat the frost. I suppose silo filling will be much later this year. Maybe it will be better as the weather won’t be quite so hot as it usually is during that time.
It was too bad about Dr. Sarginson. I suppose the Skinner’s will sell the house as well as most of the other things they don’t want to keep. that will put Harold without a home of any kind. I wonder who will buy the house? It would be nice if Dorothy had that house instead of the one in Carlinville. It would be closer to her school and handy to visit. you. I just happened to think that would be a good opportunity for you to get you a house to live in during later years when you retire. It is close to the home place and everything. Of course I don’t know what your plans are. If you want to buy that and needed a little financial backing, I could let you use the extra money that I’m sending home, which will amount to 30 or 40 dollars a month as long as I’m overseas with a corporal technician rating.
Well, you should have a lot of beans to eat this winter along with tomatoes. I would like to have some of that good home cooking again. I’m just about to get burnt out on this army chow. Now, I know how Uncle Pres feels about some of the things he no longer liked after getting so much of it in the army.
I hope you got the letter explaining the Christmas mailing overseas packages between Sept. 15th and Oct. 15th. The post offices back there may post bulletins of similar nature.
Well, I hope this letter finds you all well. We’ll close for this time as I have to write to my wife yet. I wrote a V-mail to Carl Getz. He is good about writing.
8-23-43: 2nd day of diarrhea–Was up half the time last night. Went on sick call today. The doctor gave me a bunch of pills to take (7-3x with water.)
8-24-43: Feel better today. Only made two trips so far to crapper. Still taking pills. Guts are sore. Got back letter from my wife–July 26. Wrote her a V-mail. She sent a couple of air mail stamps and these were stuck to envelope on inside.
August 27, 1943
I received your air mail of August 9th yesterday. I am glad to hear that you have got caught up on your work.
You should have plenty of beans to eat this winter. That is one nice thing raising your own eats, you don’t have to worry about rationing.
You can pretty well figure what I am doing most of the time. We always run on about the same schedules. On week days we get up at 6:15 and go to work at 7:30. On Sunday we sleep an hour later. We get most of the Sundays off to straighten out our tents, wash clothes, write letters or whatever we want to do. Of curse if we are especially rushed with work, we work then just like any other day.
No, I haven’t been to church in the last three months. It is a little too far to go and conditions aren’t always so favorable. If a person does go from here it takes up the biggest part of his day.
You spoke of the tomatoes ripening. I sure would like to have some nice sliced tomatoes. We get quite a few of them they come out of the can. They still taste good to me though. I have been eating better here the last few days. My appetite has seemed to have improved.
I can’t understand why Harold S. isn’t able to keep a job. I thought that now a person could get a job most anywhere. It’s too bad that the army wouldn’t take him as he doesn’t have anything to do anyway.
We got three more cartons of cigarettes this evening. We are supposed to continue getting about 4 cartons a month from now on. They cost us 8 cents per pack or 80 cents a carton.
I don’t remember just how much I’ve told you about India. I’ve been here long enough that things no longer seem strange to me. I take it all as a matter of course.
The women of the lower classes dress very simple. They take a couple of yards of cloth or so and wrap it around them a few times until they are pretty well covered and then throw one end over their shoulders. This is the process of dressing. When they wash they have just a long piece of goods–no fancy frills or tucks.
The men use practically the same method except they bring the strip of cloth up between their legs once which gives the effect more or less of pantaloons. Every caste (religious sect) dresses in a different manner. Some of the men wear a sari which is a turban sort of affair that they wrap around their heads.
Some of the men wear just shorts and undershirts. There is a sect that will not take a bath in the nude because it against their religion.
Some of the men wear long hair like a woman. I’ve seen this more in the Indian Army than anywhere else. Others have haircuts just like us Americans. Others have short hair cuts but leave a little pig tail in the back so that they will be pulled into heaven by it when they die.
There are 2300 castes, sects, and creeds in this country and they all have different customs. Often times one sect won’t have anything to do with the other. There are 222 different languages spoken. Now you can see what a variety there is over the whole of India. I have only seen a small part, so I could only touch very lightly on the subject.
Bamboo grows very abundantly around here. Whenever we need a pole or a post we go cut a bamboo. For fire we burn dry bamboo and it really burns once it gets started.
I’ll close for this time. Hope you are all still well. Write.
I don’t have much to say tonight so I’ll just send you a few lines. I know you don’t like these brief letters any more than I.
Things are still going about the same as usual. We got a few more PX supplies. Chewing gum, cigars, soap, matches, and razor blades.
Some of the fellows here have been getting their packages from home. One in my tent today got a package from his wife in Detroit. It contained two pipes, a pound of tobacco and a carton of chewing gum. It was mailed some time the last of June.
I heard from Dorothy today in a letter written in Arkansas about the 16th of August. She said she didn’t think much of Arkansas as it was too dry and hot.
The news has been encouraging here of late. I hope it continues to be so. Write.
9-5-43: Drove truck to Hell Gate. Saw Fred. Seemed in good humor after making T-5. Said he might come down next Sunday. Gave me book to read “Postman Rings Twice”-Good.
9-6-43: Finally heard from Dorothy again (Aug. 11th). Said she had cut her leg with a reap hook and had infection in it. She also sent watch strap in her letter.
9-7-43: Felt bad today with cold. Sinuses on right side of face hurt me last night so I couldn’t sleep. Took aspirin this morning and it relieved pain. Sneeze and have sniffles tonight. Got a letter from folks dated Aug. 16th. Answered it.
9-13-43: Lt. told us tonight as chow that we are to move to 34 M.P. at end of week. The morale dropped immediately. Everyone likes it here and knows what it’ll be like back in the company.
9-14-43: Loaded up and hauled to Hell Gate some of our spare parts this morning. Immediately after chow, a truck of Chinese turned over at the curve at our camp here. We all rushed to help them. Took the wrecker to lift the truck off two or three of them. Nome were dead when they left the scene of the accident, but some were unconscious.. Several had broken arms and legs. There were about twenty injured. We had the injured picked up and sent to the hospital and the truck turned upright in hour and half.
9-17-43: Preparing to move to Hell Gate with rest of outfit. Went to Lido & Margherita today with some of the fellows. I bought a couple of souvenirs. A little brass bowl and a silver box. *Saw amphibian 6×6 and Jeep. Had wreck on the way back. No one in our bunch was hurt. One of the natives riding in Chinese 6×6 that hit us was hurt some. Waited for wrecker and it pulled us in.
Editor’s note: The Ledo Road was built in rough jungle country with steep grades, dropoffs, and switchback curves. During monsoon season it was especially treacherous.
9-18-43: Very hot today. Wash dirty clothes. Not much activity as are waiting for orders to move. Four fellows went up to prepare area.
9-19-43: Got 2 letters from Dorothy. Answered them and wrote to parents. Still very hot. Have very annoying cough. No orders to move as yet.
9-20-43: Eighteen new men came into company today. Have been here at Hell Gate about 2 weeks.
10-13-43: Caught guard last night for first time in about 5 months. New fellows started work in shop this afternoon.
Oct. 14, 1943
I got the package today that I’ve been expecting. It came just three months and one week to the day since it was mailed. That is about the average time for a package to come from home.
You sure sent me plenty of lead and pencils. I gave a couple to some of the other boys that didn’t have any. I gave one to Fred, who is my best buddy, his being from Illinois. I should have enough writing tools to do me for the duration now. I really hope the duration doesn’t last that long.
The flash light batteries are the wrong size for my flash light that I have here. They are real good batteries and I’m going to have to wait and see if you send me a flashlight in my Christmas package and then use them in it or else try to get one somewhere. I’m keeping them in a box so they won’t corrode as everything molds that isn’t kept put away out of the dampness.
The erasers I can use everyday. I can use the whisk broom to brush the varmints and bugs out of my bed at night before I get in it. I’m pretty well stocked up on razor blades too, now. I can use the thread to sew my stripes on when ever I do it. I’m not too eager to put them on until I leave for home.
Thanks a lot. I appreciate the trouble you went to, to send me this stuff. I can make good use of it and what I can’t use myself I can help out some of the other fellows that are short.
You remember Fred Hauser? He and I are working together now. We can use a couple of the pencils between us as he is always losing track of his little old stubby one and it isn’t much force as it is.
I don’t remember whether I answered your last V-mail letter or not. It made better time than most of the others. Yesterday I heard from Dorothy as of Sept. 26th. I have been getting more mail here of late so my morale is higher. A letter from home seems almost like a visit home or seeing someone from there.
I’m glad to hear that Harold finally landed a job. It will sort of relieve you folks.
I had guard the other night and it was nice and moon light. I sort of enjoyed it which is unusual for a job like that. It sort of reminded me of the moon light nights I used to spend at home. It is more like early fall here now. I have been crawling way down under my blankets at night. The days are more comfortable to work.
I missed out on some excitement the other day as our native KP’s got in an argument with the natives working for a neighboring organization. It ended up in one of our natives getting his head cut by one of the other natives that hit him over the head with a bamboo pole. It was all over some ducks that the other natives were supposed to have stolen from our natives. I heard that our natives evened up the score the next morning before one of the fellows put a stop to the feud.
Speaking of ducks, we have a couple running around here now. Some of the boys hae been catching rats in traps (not Japs) and the other morning one of the traps had a duck in it. It caught him by the foot. After he was turned loose he joined his buddy and did a lot of talking about it. He never let out a whimper though before they let him loose. He seems to be all right now, so I guess it didn’t hurt him very bad. It was both amusing and pathetic at the time. A poor old duck seems so helpless any time.
I hope that you are well back there. I suppose that you are enjoying the cool weather now after the warm summer.
I heard that one of the younger Hewitt girls married the younger Huyear boy. That should be quite a nice juicy bit of scandal for Chesterfield.
I’ve sort of petered out of anything to say so I’ll sign off and get ready for bed as lights will be out in another hour. I got to get my beauty sleep you know.
Write as often as you can.
Oct. 22, 1943
Dad, I received your letter yesterday. I was glad to hear from you again. I hope that your corn gets a chance to mature before frost. You should have quite a few beans if they mature. What are they worth now? That is a good cash crop now isn’t it?
There isn’t much difference in the price of wheat and corn now according to what you said you paid for both. What is the price of hogs now?
Well, sure would like to shuck some of those old ears of corn again. I saw some pictures of cribs of corn stored in Illinois in a “Life” magazine. I also saw a field of corn just cultivated over for the first time in a field near Champaign, IL.
Fred showed me the pictures and it made both of us sort of homesick. He lives at Arthur which is about forty miles east of Decatur.
I started this letter last night and Fred came along and we got started talking over old times and future times until it was time to go to bed. So, I didn’t get to finish the letter. I’m n guard tonight and I just came off the first shift. Our PX supplies came in last night and we got them tonight. We got three cartons of cigarettes, two bottles of Indian beer and our choice of chewing gum and hard candy. I sold one of my bottles of beer as I don’t care too much for this Indian beer.
I’ve been unusually busy this week. I worked a couple of hours a couple of nights to sort of keep caught up.
Fred got a package from home today and it was mailed July 2nd. He got some pipe tobacco which he gave a package to me (Sir Walter Raleigh). He also got a flash light from home and he loaned it to me to use until I get one. I am now using my batteries that you sent me. He has an issue flashlight that he is using now.
He also got some stationary and envelopes and some razor blades. He also got a pocket knife.
Well, the news seems good enough. I hope the war doesn’t last too much longer. I hear that congress passed a law limiting the men in service to 18 months overseas. I haven’t put too much stock in it yet, as I haven’t heard too much about it. I hope that it does take effect though.
I hope you all are well.
Oct. 27, 1943
I received your V-mail letter today of Oct. 7th. The mornings here now remind me of the winter mornings we used to have in southern California when we were living under similar conditions. I could sure use my sleeping bag now if I had it. I don’t see why they wouldn’t let us bring them along. We got another blanket here some time ago and it sure comes in handy. A couple of months ago I would have laughed at the idea.
The Skinner place brought a good price all right. I imagine the other stuff such as furniture brought a good price also. There are four of the children, aren’t there? They should get about five hundred dollars apiece.
You said that W. H. Dams had a sale selling out his farm implements and livestock. Does he have someone renting his place now?
You spoke of getting an announcement card from Wayne Hudgins of a daughter born. Who is that, anyway? I just can’t place the name. It must be some relative, but I’m at a loss, who.
well,I’m as busy as usual now-a-days and I’m glad that I am, because it keeps my mind occupied and I don’t have time to think of home too much.
I heard from Evelyn Getz today. She was pinch-hitting for Carl again as I suppose he was too busy. I’ll have to answer tonight, I guess. Take care of yourself.
4-27-43: Worked at 85th. Rained some this morning. Went to show and saw “It Happened In Flatbush.”
4-28-43: Latrine detail today–easy job. Worked around basha remainder of the time.
4-29-43: Worked at 85th.
4-30-43: Worked at 85th again. Helped G. K. on Intern. truck. Payday received $11.10 (36 R.) 1a. On guard.
5-1-43: Stood guard all day because of alert. Had first beer at supper since I left States. Indian beer at 1 R per quart. Drank 2 of them.
5-2-43: Sunday, but we have to work on our own equipment. We checked over all our trucks. Went to church this morning. Bought a woven bamboo seat.
5-3-43: Worked at 85th all day. Very hot. Had very dusty ride back. Took good bath and felt better. Always feel worn out during afternoon and evening. Wrote to folks and Carl Getz.
5-5-43: Went with Hartke & Kinzel to unload crated motorcycle, but rained us out. Had cherry pie for supper [Dad’s favorite]. What a rare treat.
5-6-43: Went to 85th again and helped Les on International truck. Had to scuffle a drive line ran into some grief. Very hot. Game tonight 2nd shift Showers. Wrote letter to Dot.
5-7-43: No day guard, but got moving off to wash clothes. Native came around and washed my coveralls, paid him a couple of annas and gave him a cigarette. He wanted my GI soap, but I gave him a piece of Sunlight soap instead to get rid of him. Worked on own trucks this afternoon. Goldbricked mostly though. Played horseshoe with Peck as my partner. Lost 2 games to small arms, but won 2 from Instr. section. cigarettes & PX supplies given 3 R’s worth at a time today and yesterday.
5-8-43: Went to **Dibruggarth on pass. Hitchhiked up. Got Chev. at 12. *Ordered a ring for myself & Fred. Rode in car with four nurses. Got back about 9:30.
5-9-43: Sunday–Late breakfast. Cleaned up around basha this morning and went to church. Pitched a few horseshoes this afternoon and then laid around the rest of the afternoon.
5-10-43: Worked at 85th.
5-11-43: Worked at 85th.
5-12-43: Guard. D. S. boys return.
5-13-43: Washed this morning and made me a shelf to put some of my stuff. Rained all afternoon so I cleaned my gun (disassembled) and took it easy. Wrote a letter.
5-14-43: Received 4 letters 1 from Dot, 1 from folks, V-Mail from Carl Getz and an Easter card from Laura Cooper, Lakeside. Wrote V-mail to Carl and started air mail to folks. Went to show at 48th Evac. Double feature, “The Hard Way” and “Life Begins at 8:30.” Got to bed shortly after 12.
5-15-43: Saturday, worked at 80th. Helped put in a transmission in International Truck on dead line. Put up drive line. Took good bath and talked to Fred about Fords, etc. in the basha until bed time.
5-16-43: Sunday–8 o’clock breakfast. Washed in morning. Went to church. Shined shoes after chow and cleaned up in basha. Laid around about an hour till inspection at 4.
5-17-43: Worked at 85th with Les on International truck again. Almost finished it. Shop trucks came in today.
5-18-43: Stayed here today and checked over tools in Automotive tool truck. Guard tonight 3rd shift (10 till 12 & 4 till 6). Have been reading some of old mail. Sure wish I could write back and tell them just what I’m doing. (eight lines marked out)
5-19-43: Worked here again today, placing tools and parts in the spare parts truck. Checked tools in the 2nd Echelon set #2.
5-20-43: Checked over tools again today. Received 3 letters today noon, 2 air mail from my wife, and one from my folks. Received 2 V-mail letters tonight. One was from Mr. Bucholtz and the other from folks written about April 11th. Last letter from folks mailed April 27th. Last letter from Dot mailed Apr. 26th. Wrote nice long letter to Dorothy tonight.
5-21-43: Checked over tool boxes and spare parts truck. C. O. came back from inspecting new area. Expects us to move out next week some time. Finished writing V-mail to my folks.
5-22-43: Rained all morning and the ground is very sloppy. My feet have been wet all day. Have been checking and re checking tool boxes. Finally got 5 completed as near as I could with what we have. Have to make out a list of tools in them tomorrow. This kind of work is about as hard on a fellow as anything a person can do, I believe. We probably (some of us) will be moving out of here Mon. morn.
5-23-43: Work all day trying to get truck in order.
5-24-43: Move up road about 24 miles [30 MP]. Lt. Br. commanding. Shop area in very bad shape. Sloppy mud axle deep in places. Spend afternoon digging ditches and trying to drain area. Tents with electric lights hooked up to generator on truck. Awful hot. (exhausted).
Editor’s note: Road construction moved eastward in sections. Sections were marked with mile posts [MP] starting from Ledo. Some mile post markers had colorful names that only GI’s could give. As the road moved, so did those providing support.
5-25-43: Got up at 20 till 7 this morning. Breakfast at 7. Good. Work at 8. Worked on truck today. Morris & I. Parts came in this evening. Took bath in river tonight. Water cold and refreshing. Wrote 2 letters. 1 to Mrs. Cooper, Lakeside and one to Mr Buchholz, Had coffee. I believe I’m going to like this place.
5-30-43: A lot of parts have been coming in the last few days. Been very busy. Area is improving with a lot of work. Today has been the hottest yet. If it gets any hotter I’m done for. I’m all in tonight. Took a bath in the river again tonight and stopped at the Chinese camp to see if there was to be a show, but the projector was broke. Pay day today. I received 26 Rupees and 2 annas ($7.90) $3.20 out for statement of charges.
6-7-43: Has been rather warm today. Moved the two parts trucks today behind the shop. Put the rear ends together and stretched the canvas cover. Some of the boys were issued boots today. Went up river tonight to wash clothes and take a bath. Took monkey with us and she hung around my neck all the way up there. Got a letter from my Dad tonight mailed on the 2nd of May. The first letter that I ever received from him when he wrote by himself.
6-10-43: It has been a busy daylike most days are now. Went on sick call this morning with feet and had them treated. Painted them with a solution for ring worm. Lt. B. went with me. We drove a weapons carrier and had to go back down the road about 4 miles to Horse medics. Picked up some Chinese soldiers on the way back. We are to hear the Articles of War tonight at 7 o’clock. The area is getting a lot better now since the boys have hauled in so much gravel. I think of home a great deal during my spare moments. I don’t have too much time to think of such. Fred B. [Bratton]. Went back up the road to the company this morning after spending a week here with us. I hope Fred and I don’t get too far apart. I hope we can go home together like we did when we went home on our last furlough 7 mo. ago.
6-11-43: Went on sick call again with my feet. They feel worst. My left foot pains me some and I have a headache. I think I’ll go to bed early.
6-12-43: Admitted to 73rd Evac. Hosp. in the evening. Find the “Doc” medics from the company in my ward (D-3). Lots of malaria patients.
6-13-43: Three boys leave this morning. “Doc” one of them. Harry Grant comes in this afternoon with malaria. Soaked my feet this morning in a solution of potassium permanganate and water. And and then powdered them afterwards. Found a book to read about nature–Australia.
6-15-43: About the same today. Nothing unusual except heard them practice firing guns up in the hills this morning. Still no mail. Read a book today. Captain North in “Exile Murders in Singapore.”
6-16-43: Barton brought Harry G. and I some cookies and candy from our PX have been reading about how the hardier varieties of wheat were introduced in our midwestern states and Canada. The title of the book is “Hunger Fighters” by Paul DeKruf. There are several good articles that I yet have to read. It is interesting as well as educational. I think I’ll write a few lines to my folks as I haven’t written for over a week.
6-17-43: Received 6 letters this morning written all the way from May 9th to May 22nd. Saw Gorski last night and (Pismo Pete) Merlin Peterson a little while ago. I think I’ll answer some of these letters now while I have the inspiration to write.
6-18-43: I am still reading “Hunger Fighters.” Very interesting and educational. I found out how hybrid corn was discovered. Some colored boys came in this afternoon to visit some of their buddies and I was quite amused at their speech. Played three games of checkers with Keelong, the fellow next to me, this morning. My toes are almost dried up. I think a few more days will be all that it’ll take.
6-19-43: Had slight fever this afternoon.
6-20-43: Felt OK today.
6-21-43: Had temperature about 101 this afternoon and a slight chill. Beginning to look like malaria. Blood smears showed no malaria.
6-22-43: Feel all right today. Doctor says I can leave soon.
6-23-43: Felt fine this morn. Doc said I could leave tomorrow. This aft. had a bad chill and run a fever close to 105. Blood smear still shows negative.
6-24-43: I was supposed to have left today, but they started giving me quinine. I felt fairly good this morn. outside of being weak.
Editor’s note: It wasn’t like Dad to miss diary entries. Soldiers suffered from fungal infections and various mosquito-borne illnesses.
7-2-43: I’m taking atribine [atropine?] now and have been for 4 or 5 days. I’m ready to leave, but may have to stay another week. Have been in hosp. for 20 days now. Finished reading “A Blind Man’s Eyes.” A very interesting book. Returned to Chaplain Hurt’s office and got another. Wrote a V-mail to Wendell D. yesterday. Wrote an air mail to my wife yesterday and a V-mail to my folks. Received a V-mail from folks yesterday morning dated June 14th and an airmail dated June 7. Heard today that I’ve been made T/5. I’ve waited quite a while for that. Hope I can keep it.
7-4-43: Here it is 4th of July and I’m in the hospital. I wonder what they are doing back home today? We had a nice fried chicken dinner today.
7-8-43: This is my third on Plasma pills. I finish on the 10th. I should leave here on the 11th for my company. Wrote a V-mail to my wife. Hard to write letters as there is so little to say. Haven’t heard from her for week or more.
7-11-43: Came back to station at 24 MP today. Got here in time for a chicken dinner. Very hot here this afternoon. I took my things out of my barracks bags and bring them out to dry as they were damp. Wore me out completely as I was weak anyway.
7-12-43: Went back to work and found that I was way behind on my knowledge of stock on hand.
7-17-43: Ate only supper. Off at stomach and bowels. Received 4 letters. One from Carl G.; and 2 air mail from Dorothy. Sent one wedding picture.
7-18-43: Sunday–8 o’clock breakfast. Pete S. went to Hell Gate. Going to write some letters today. Sort of expect Fred down.
7-31-43: Going to write to Dorothy tonight. Got a letter from her yesterday and answered it last night. Went to Chinese show last night. Couldn’t understand it. Didn’t make sense. It was my first and last.
8-8-43: Made my first trip to Hell Gate this morning with water trailer. It rained on my way up and part way back. Road was sort of slick. Saw Fred and he said he was coming down next Saturday.
I haven’t gotten any mail now since last Sunday. We just finished our noon chow. We are going to have duck for supper. Some of the boys cleaned them this morning. We’ve had them running around here for the last few days. It reminded me of home to have ducks around. They are the colored kind though.
We got our first ration of American beer last week. It sure tasted good in comparison to this Indian beer. We got 12 cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon and Rupperts beer. We also got 24 pack of cigarettes this time.
I washed some of my clothes last night before dark. Coveralls are the hardest to wash as I wear them every day and they get dirty, greasy and sweaty. If I use a brush I can do a fairly good job, if not, grease spots will show. A person has to keep his clothes dry over here or they’ll mold if they lay around long.
On your last letter of July 11th you spoke of having the wheat cut. I don’t suppose that threshing will take as long this time. Probably by the time you read this it’ll be over. Did you have any oats this year or was it too wet to get them in? I hope that your corn crop turns out better this year than it did last. I imagine that it is rather hard to buy corn anymore and is rather high. A person can’t make much on hogs if he had to buy all their feed. The price of hogs has come down too hasn’t it?
I often get to thinking about things back there and it makes me eager to get back on the job again. I keep planning on what I’m going to do.
I am surprised to hear of Harvey Crowder getting married. When I was around home he was just a kid yet. He probably married some young thing that doesn’t realize what it is all about yet, but got married because everyone else seemed to be. Maybe I would have been better off if I had gotten married when I was a few years younger. If I could have found one with some money it might have worked. Ha!
One of the boys bought some souvenirs that look nice. He bought a little ivory goddess and a pair of red pajamas for his wife. He also has some silver pins that were made over here. Some of the fellows were buying stones such as rubies, etc. Until they found that they weren’t genuine. That sort of dampened their interest.
I would like to have a few things to take back, but I’m in no hurry and I sort of hate to let go of the money. I guess it would be all right to have a few things, but not too many. I’ll have to close for this time. Hope you are all well. Write often.
PS: I forgot to tell you that you might as well save the money that it costs to buy air mail stamps. The postal authorities sat that letters sent air mail seldom travel any faster than ordinary mail. When there is a bag of mail to go out they sent it whichever way there is room for regardless of whether it is by plane, train, or boat. I’m going to take advantage of the free postage from now on and save that 6 cents. I would write more V-mail but a person can’t write enough on them. If he could type a letter on them it would be all right. Even at that, after it is reproduced it makes small print. I think I’ll mix V-mail with regular mail. I told Dorothy the same thing as she has been sending all her letters air mail and has even been sending me air mail stamps. There doesn’t seem to be much difference in the length of time it takes the different types of letters to get here. It all depends on the mail service anyway.
8-10-43: Made 2nd trip to Hell Gate today. Stayed for dinner. Talked to Fred for quite a while.
8-11-43: Went to river tonight. Water was very swift and cool. Laid the windshield down on the weapons carrier. Shaved my chin whiskers off tonight after having over two weeks of growth. It was a good start. Maybe I’ll try again sometime. Got our PX supplies last night. Bought some peanuts, pencil leads and Kleenex. Handy to clean my glasses. Haven’t gotten any letter from Dorothy or folks since week ago Sunday. Should be getting some any day now. Received letter from Aunt Mary Trill yesterday.
8-12-43: Signed payroll this morning first thing. Made trip to Hell Gate today with water trailer. 3rd trip. No mail at all today–11 days now since I heard from folks or Dot. Corgialotti came back today from hospital. Road good. Sun shone all day–hot. In case I forget, we call the 24 MP [mile post]–Pissin’ Post Junction–sign along road where the drive is. Wrote V-mail to Dot. tellng her of Christmas parcels. Fred bought me 2 large bars of Palmolive soap today. Cost 3 R’s (96 cents) way too much to have to pay for soap–these robbing Hindus!
8-19-43: Wrote to Dorothy tonight. A couple of nights ago got our second ration of Am. beer and other supplies. Got 2 packs of gum and 1 carton of cigs. besides candy (Walnettos) and mints, etc. I have very urgent desire to be home tonight as I gaze at Dorothy and my wedding picture. I hope she realizes how much I miss her and would like to be back home. I suppose she misses me and wishes just as much that I were there.
8-21-43: Has been terribly warm today. Was on fatigue, but didn’t work very hard as was too hot. Went after sand from river and took a swim while we were there. 3 natives fishing. One swam across river with his fishing pole and fished on other side. Wrote 3 letters tonight. Got V-mail from folks dated Aug 3rd. Boys here played volleyball with team from above and got badly beaten last evening. Have felt tired and blue all day. I think I’m getting homesick.
“Gates of India” Bombay [Mumbai]
3-4-43: Got passes from 1:30 til 9:30. Didn’t get to leave until after 2. Everyone took off and started down town. I got three dollars changed to 16 rupees and 8 annas. I spent 6 1/2 rupees. Ate twice once at coffee-house (for 1R and 1 a) and again at English canteen where I go a meal for half R. Natives beg a lot. Live dirty. Spent the day wandering around. Talked to British flying sergeant.
3-5-43: Part of soldiers left boat for destination, cleaning detail started. We have the run of the boat more or less. Washed some shorts. Had good chow for supper.
3-6-43: 19 months service today. Leave boat about 9 am. Board train and leave about 10. Arrive at British Camp about 3:30 AM. Bamboo shacks about 2/3 way down. Tile roof. Dusty floor. Natives clean quarters polish our shoes and make our beds for 1/2 R per week per man. Went to canteen for warm soda and cake. Can get shave for 1 a. Bring tea around in evenings and mornings. Talked to some of the English boys here in casualty section.
3-7-43: *Dealale, India-location of camp. Laid around most of the day and washed clothes. Sent a few clothes to laundry. Eat at dining hall taken care of by natives.
3-8-43: Same as yesterday. Talked with British soldiers. Laundry came back in evening.
3-9-43: Spent quite a bit of time at Bazaar. Bought silver ring, towels, cigarette holder and ate at Chinese restaurant.
*Editor’s note: Camp Deolali is located in western India, about 100 miles northeast of Bombay. During WWII it was used as a transit camp for soldiers arriving in India and awaiting assignment in the CBI (China-India-Burma) theater–Wikipedia.
3-10-43: Prepared to leave in morning. On baggage detail. Board train at about 5:30. Pulled out at 7:30. Have 6 men to a compartment.
3-11-43: Had our three meals, such as they were, on the train. Have a table in compartment to eat on. Occasionally you see a bunch of monkeys in the trees. Farmers threshing the crude way. There are banana trees (small). Fields are very small.
Editor’s note: After the war, Dad told about how they made tea from hot water, taken straight from the locomotive boiler. “Hot water was hot water–wherever it came from.”
3-12-43: Slept till 8 o’clock. Went through a little jungle. Saw a farmer plowing with oxen. Natives look cleaner here and dress some different. Every RR station has nice flower garden. Every field has a ridge around it for irrigation. People seem to live in villages. Many of the kids run around in shirts that cover the upper parts of their body only. Some wear nothing. Yesterday afternoon, huts were made of stalks and straw in poorer sections.
Afternoon today-Ran through section with red clay. Several tile roofs on brick or stone houses. Quite a few scattered trees over landscape. Stopped at Bilaspur, In. (958 ft. above sea level) at 5:15 PM. Slightly sick at stomach during night.
3-13-43: Passed through some jungle and rough country. Stopped about 5 at a British canteen and had tea and cookies. Saw an airfield.
3-14-43: Still riding. Scenery changing some. Changed trains at midnight.
3-15-43: Got to bed at almost 4 AM. Had compartment with only four of us. Good deal. Got off train again shortly before noon. Did without breakfast till 2 PM. Backed up to pier and unloaded box cars onto boat. Coolies did the work. Slept on top deck. Pulled out about 10 PM. (Saw an elephant on train.)
3-16-43: Had breakfast consisting of wieners, bread & coffee. Some of the natives took bananas, eggs & oranges and were selling them to the troops. O. D. [officer of the day] finally caught on & put some more guard on duty to watch the rations. Read short story in Reader’s Digest (Dec. issue) this afternoon. Took a nap before dinner. Dinner consisted of corned beef, peas, bread and butter substitute and pears & coffee. Pulled alongside boat with nurses a couple of times this afternoon. (Riding on Duffla). Frequent sand bars in river and along bank. Have passed several barges & canoes or fishing boats. Someone said valley where river is located is 30 miles wide. Sewed on barracks bag this morning. Just read through diary. About supper time (6:20). Several card games in progress. We pulled into the pier about 9 PM. Worked till after midnight loading from boat onto train. Had tea and bread about 1 o’clock. Came to car and slept from 3 to 7.
3-17-43: Had bread and jam, dog biscuits & tea. Had tea & dog biscuits for dinner again. Pulled out about 1:30 PM. Country is mountainous. Saw some cars off track that had been wrecked. People are beginning to look more oriental. Saw some good land and some land that either never was in cultivation or wasn’t take care of. Beginning to get in jungle. Occasional fields. Few wildflowers of a lavender color. Saw some monkeys this morning. There are lots of vultures, crows, white cranes, or a similar bird and a long-legged, long-billed bird. There are lots of banana palms and bamboo trees. Here in Assam the houses that aren’t made of bricks are made of woven split bamboo. The fences are also. The houses of the natives all have grass roofs. There are lots of banana palms and other trees that I do not recognize. Some are tea bush which is planted in rows. The bush, or what ever you want to call it, is slightly higher than a man’s knees. The tea is generally shaded by trees. I saw white ducks, tame, the same in size as ours at home. I also saw some geese about the size of our geese with a little different coloring. Saw a bird the size of our robin. It had sort of rust colored body, dark head and tail with yellow around eyes. We’ve covered very little ground today. Have seen several tea plantations today. Saw some more wrecked railroad cars. We ate better today. We had canned rations. All of the telegraph poles made of steel throughout India.
3-19-43: Arrived at destination about 8 AM. Americans already here. Chinese truck drivers & guards. Unloading baggage as I’m on baggage detail. Ride on baggage truck to our new area. Chinese driver, and he is rather wild. Tents like at Lakeside. Mess hall is bamboo. Also latrine. Put up racks for mosquito nets. Plenty brush cut off campsite. Boys cleaning it up. *Natives building road nearby. Women carrying buckets of dirt. Received mail for first time since Jan. 20th (18 letters). Made me and everyone else happy to receive mail although some of it was over 2 months old. Got mail mailed from Jan 2nd till Feb 18th. Guard duty starting 6 tonight for 24 hours. On 2 and off 4 hours.
3-20-43: Sat.: Off guard–did last shift. Rather listless. Must be climate. Have read some of my mail. Will have to answer it. Received 6 more letters. Mail up to Feb. 18th.
3-21-43: Worked all day around tents cleaning up brush and stubs. Wrote a letter to my parents.
*Editor’s note: The road under construction was the Ledo Road. It was a new supply route to connect to the Burma Road and eventually go to China–our ally. Japanese encroachment in Burma cut off surface roads and as a result most supplies were moved by air transport over the Himalayas. This air route was known as “Flying the Hump.”
March 21, 1943
I finally got to where I can write you a few more lines. I don’t have too much time to write as it gets dark quickly here after supper and we have no lights. I have a lot of correspondence to catch up as we got our mail yesterday and the day before. I got 18 letters day before and 6 more yesterday. I got all your letters up to Feb. 15th and Dorothy’s up to the 18th. I sure was glad to get it.
I am in good health and enjoying being in a strange country. I wouldn’t care to live in India, but temporarily it’ll do. I suppose you have heard or gotten my previous letter giving you a description of the people.
The climate is warm in the daytime and cool and damp at night. There are lots of mosquitos and insects, but we sleep under nets to keep them out.
The scenery is interesting. A person can see mountains in the distance. There are monkeys and elephants around close. Our mess hall and out buildings are made of split bamboo. It proves to be a useful wood. A building can be mad completely of it. The leaves are used for the roof.
I suppose you are enjoying spring weather by now as it is that time of the year. I sure hope that I can be there next year. Your spoke of Nelson Fenton having misfortune. So far I hadn’t heard from what, you said, and I gather that the brooder must have blown up or something like that. It is too bad.
He’s had his share of misfortune.
Did you receive three letters from me since January 20th? I hope that you did. I hope that i’ll be able to write more regular for now on. There may be times where I’ll be unable to write, but don’t worry about it.
I received two letters from Mr. Bucholz and he said to tell you hello. One was a seasons greetings and the other contained a circular on the religion of MME Chiang Kai-Shek written by herself. She is the first lady of China and Mr. Bucholz said that I would read it with interest. It proved to be very interesting, at this time especially.
I received a letter birthday greeting from Aunt May. Dorothy sent me a cute birthday card. I’ll be writing letters for quite a while to get all these answered. By that time I’ll probably get another bunch.
I appreciate the newspaper clippings that you send. It makes me feel closer to home to read news from there. I have received lots of mail since I’ve been in the service and I appreciate it.
It is getting dark so I’ll have to close for this time. Note that I have a new APO # (689), I think I gave it to you in the last letter. Write.
3-22-43: Rained during night and part of day. Helped build fireplace for kitchen out of brick and mud. Wrote letter to my wife. Raining again after dark.
3-23-43: Rained in early morning. Raining showers this morning. Very sloppy & muddy around tent.
3-24-43: Dug slit trench. Rained during night.
3-25-43: Finished slit trench. Guard duty. Rained all night.
3-26-43: Finished guard 6 PM. Showered all day. Wrote 2 letters.
3-27-43: Still raining–10 more men went out on D. S. Working around area.
3-28-43: Showering this morning. Working in area giving?? sidewalks. Went to church in afternoon, but Protestant chaplain couldn’t come because of no transportation. Sun starts shining and is pretty nice. Ground starts to dry.
3-29-43: Sun shines all day. Is getting dry around area. Wash clothes this morn. Carry bamboo this afternoon. Short arms at 3. Write V-mail home. Shoes dry today for 1st time in several days.
I am enjoying good health and hope you are enjoying the same. We had a nice sunshiny day today. Our section had the morning off to wash our clothes. I had plenty of it to do as I hadn’t much time to do it. This afternoon we went back to work.
I made out an allotment of 20 dollars yesterday to be sent home to you. You can invest the money for me or put it somewhere that I can obtain it when I need it after the war. When there is enough of it you could start investing it in some livestock for me if the opportunity arises. You’ll probably get the first payment in May as it comes out of my April pay. I do not need all that money over here.
I went to church yesterday afternoon. Write when you can and tell me of home.
3-31-43: Showers–Pay Day–212 R’s and 6 a. Went to bazaar and bought tin of cigarettes & safety pins.
4-1-43: Showers. On gravel detail. Laid around most of afternoon. On guard tonight.
4-2-43: Showers–On gravel detail. Laid around most of afternoon. On guard tonight.
4-2-43: Slept most of day. Alert in evening. Drew 60 rounds.
4-3-43: On rail detail, but postponed. Feeling bad from typhoid shot yesterday afternoon. Laid around all day.
4-4-43: Went on rail detail till 4:30.
Editor’s note: The frequent mention of rain made me immediately think, “Mother Nature’s welcome to the tropics.”
April 5, 1943
A few days ago I received some more mail. One was a V-mail letter from you written Feb 28th and the other March 7th. I had been thinking a good deal of home and was glad to hear from you.
You spoke of having not seen Dorothy for almost a month. She has spoken of having been rather busy and I suppose she doesn’t have much spare time.
What did you mean when you said that you were really surprised at how she had changed?
We all got some typhoid shots the other afternoon and we had sore arms for a day or two.
It was just the other night that I was trying to figure out how long you had been married & just when the anniversary was.
Editor’s note: Grandparents, George Adam & Rosa Clements, were married 2-23-07, making it their thirty-sixth anniversary.
Uncle George and Aunt Minnie [Gahr’s] picture sure looked natural.
It seems to take at least three weeks for mail to reach me from the states.
I am sorry that I cannot tell you more about myself, but I am not allowed to. I am enjoying good health and conditions are as good as can be expected.
I go to church services on Sundays. They are held close by and there is no excuse for not going.
4-6-43: Rain today. 20 months in service today. Wrote letter to folks. No work at all today. Did my laundry in morning, but never dried.
April 16, 1943
Dad, how is everything going about the farm this spring? Is the tractor running OK and are the tires holding up all right? If you could make a trade for a good F-20 on rubber I believe it would be a good deal. I believe they are better tractors than later models. Our old tractor will give good service yet for a while, but the chance ever comes to get a good F-20 Farmall on rubber, I would take it and you get more power and a few good improvements.
What horse are you matching with old Prince now since you’ve sold old Lady?
About this allotment of 20 dollars I am sending you every month starting with my April pay. I would like you to invest it in livestock for me after enough has accumulated.
I intend to use this money to stock up with when I get back to the farm. If you could take this money and buy a good cow it would be a start for me. Of course it’ll take several months to get that much money ahead.
This time of the year makes me have the urge to be back on the farm. I am looking forward to the day when I can be back home.
Has the car give you any trouble since I fixed it up last November? Does the oil filter keep the oil clean now?
Write and tell me how things are going when you have time. I know that you are plenty busy this season of the year.
4-7-43: Started on rail detail. Labor trouble between Negroes and Chinese drivers. Came back to camp. Put duck boards in bottom of slit trucks this afternoon. Received letter from D. of D. S. S. Class [Daughters of Dorcas, Sunday School Class].
4-8-43: Carried bamboo all morning. Worked on road in aft. Heard orchestra over at horse medics.
4-9-43: Started on rail detail, but came back–showers. Wrote letter to Dot.
4-10-43: Went to Marg–on rail detail, but came back. Cut some wood in aft. Helped carry a couple of bamboo poles in.
4-11-43: Stayed on R. D. till noon. Most of company had day off. Breakfast at 8. First Sunday off. Went to church at 2:30. Hauser came from Linurkia with knife. Good knife with bone handle.
4-12-43: Changed R. Detail. Wash clothes this morning. Wash wool O. D.’s Come out in good shape. Go after gravel this afternoon. Go way on othe side of bazaar. Get truck stuck on road on return. Bought my ration of A. Cigarettes today (17 pkgs.) at 3 a’s a pack. Also, tonight cookies and 1 cigar.
4-13-43: Work had on gravel detail all day. Guard at night. Leitch & Myers first 2 casualties in company. Killed in plane wreck. They were on D. S.
4-14-43: Work at 85th Ord.
4-16-43: Still working at 85th. Got caught in heavy rain in open truck. Several beds got wet. Lower part of mine got wet. Third casualty in this company. Busing.
4-17-43: Worked at 85th.
4-18-43: Sunday off. Washed, Went to church, new chaplain, very nice. Church next Sunday at 11 AM. Wrote letter to folks. On guard tonight.
April 18, 1943
This is a nice quiet Sunday. The natives are working around here this morning and we have been washing our clothes. Our work during the week makes it necessary that we wash today since we aren’t working. A person can do a surprising good job with cold water and lots of soap. Some workdays I use a whole bar of soap, which costs six annas (equivalent to 12 cents). My coveralls are the hardest to wash as they get the dirtiest and I wear them the most.
My last letter from you was mailed on the 29th of March and I received it a couple of days ago. The last one from Dorothy came yesterday and it was written on the 17th of March. So air mail seems to travel the fastest. I have to send part of my letters V-mail because of scarcity of paper over here.
We got a phonograph and radio in our company supplies yesterday. So now we have music. The chow whistle just blew so I’ll have to postpone this till later.
I just got back from chow and we had canned corn, corned beef, bread and butter, hot tea, and fruit salad. Or eats are getting better than they were at the start.
I just got your V-mail letter written on the 14th which proves what I just said about air mail coming faster. You surely have heard from me by now. I wrote three letters on the way over and I’ve written about every week since I’ve been here in India, which was the first week in March. Occasionally some of the mail gets lost. A person has to take that in consideration. So far I think that I’ve gotten most of my mail. If you numbered each of your letters it might help me to tell if all of them arrive.
Several of the boys here have requests to home for cameras and films. May I can get some of the prints of pictures taken over here and send them home. I asked Dorothy to send to the publishers of Reader’s Digest and have it sent to me. It isn’t necessary to have a letter written signed by the C. O. for that.
I’m going to church this afternoon if nothing interferes. So far I’ve been lucky enough to be free to go every Sunday since they’ve started services in this area.
I just returned from church and we had a different Chaplain. He is a young fellow and appears to be very nice. He preached a very nice sermon on faith.
I have guard tonight, which comes around about every four or five days. Starting tomorrow we have three steady KP’s. So that eliminates KP.
Continue writing when you can.
4-19-43: Off again. Did some mending in the morning. Cleaned rifle this afternoon. Wrote to Dorothy. Wrote to W. Dowland.
4-20-43: Worked at 85th.
4-21-43: Worked at 85th Ord. B tags came in. Everything intact. More equipment came in.
4-22-43: Stayed here and cleaned tools and equipment. Received 3 letters today, folks, Dorothy, and Carl Getz. Wrote letter to Carl.
4-23-43: Went on sick call this morning for headache and general weakness. Gave me ASA pills for headache. Took temperature a 5 PM, none. Stayed rather quiet for most of day.
4-24-43: Went to 85th to work. No headache today, but still feel draggy. No energy. Guard tonight.
4-25-43: Easter Sunday. Breakfast at 8. Read an old paper. Go to services at 11. Eat dinner at 1. Read some in “HIstory of World” by H. G. Wells.
4-26-43: Natives finish our basha. Instructed to prepare living quarters in *basha. Do my washing and Bratton & D. Lieb clean out shack, fill in and move into one end. Read some more tonight. Bought lantern (Fred & I) T-shirt, flashlight & knife from Sieberlich and pillow.
Editor’s note: “Basha” is British military slang for shelter or sleeping quarters per Wikipedia.
August 16, 1942
Here it is another Sunday morning and it doesn’t seem much different from any other day except that we got up three-quarters of an hour earlier than usual. There isn’t so much activity around camp as there sometimes it, but there hasn’t been so very much since we came out here with the exception of getting our camping area straightened out. We haven’t started taking any work to do yet because we aren’t settled for sure. We’ll probably move to another area in a few days. Where we are supposed to move is a lot dustier because of more traffic. This isn’t so bad because we are sort of out to ourselves with the exception of the hospital which is just across the street or road. The road has a hard surface and hasn’t any dust where the other road is awful dusty and rough. I think the command figures that we’ll closer to our work over there and they don’t consider our working conditions. The heat is bad enough alone without having a lot of dust and dirt. Several of the fellows are sick. I’ve been sort of off feed. It is too hot for anyone that isn’t used to it and then this army food doesn’t set good on one’s stomach when it is sort of weak anyway. I have lost quite a bit of weight already.
I took my Saturday night bath in a water bucket. The water that came out of our water trailer after having set in the sun, was just the right temperature to take a bath in. They have showers up the road aways, but it is so hard to get a chance to get in there and after you do you only get to stay about a minute and a half. I decided that I would bathe farmer style.
The Santa Fe railroad runs within about a quarter of mile from here and the trains run often both day and night. The other day I kept track for half an hour and there were 3 in that time. A lot of them are double headers. They are using several of those diesel locomotives now. Last night one of them had the longest string of cars behind it I’ve ever seen. This morning since daylight I haven’t seen any trains. It might be because it’s Sunday.
It is partly cloudy this morning and it hasn’t gotten so hot yet, although it is warm enough. Yesterday afternoon a cloud went over and it rained a few drops. They say there was a 4 inch rain here last week, but water goes right down and evaporates immediately. I did some washing yesterday morning and it soon dried. Most of the time there is a breeze and even though it is hot, it helps keep one cool.
In the evening they sometimes give us lemonade or ice tea to drink. That is generally about all that tastes good to me at that time of day. Last night after dark they put some ice in the water to cool it off. I think our water comes from a well that the railroad has. You can hear the pumps going most of the time. By the time the water is hauled to us it is rather warm. I can drink warm water all day and it won’t quench my thirst. That’s about all there is to talk about right now so I’ll close.
August 22, 1942
I’m writing this in the camp hospital out here in the desert. I came here yesterday morning. I was weak and tired. I had a fast pulse, but no fever to speak of. They called it early heat exhaustion. I haven’t felt very good since I came out here. I feel fairly good tonight. I think I’ll go back to active duty tomorrow. I don’t think I’ll ever be too good as long as we are out here in this heat.
They bring fellows in here every day with heat exhaustion. Some of them are pretty far gone. They have a cooler here to put them in when they have too high temperature. There they maintain a temperature of 68 degrees and the patient is cooled off sufficiently to bring the fever down. There are several diarrhea patients in the hospital. Our company has about six here with the same ailment.
They turned the lights out on me last night, so I couldn’t finish this letter. I am supposed to go back to my company this morning, but it is almost 11 o’clock and no transportation has shown up yet.
We moved to a new area last Tuesday, I think it was. Monday night we had an awful dust storm and wind storm. It blew down most of the tents and filled everything full of dust and dirt. I was on guard at the time. We packed our stuff in trucks and some of us pitched pup tents to sleep in that night. We knew that we were to move the next day anyway. Some of the fellows slept around in trucks or near them out in the open.
Dad supervising digging a latrine
The next day we moved the new area which in only about three-quarters of a mile from where we were. We have a building there recently constructed that we can use to work in.
That night we had a beer bust. The mess sergeant took money from the company fund and bought beer and Coca Cola. Most of the fellows drank the beer. The cold beer sure tastes good after a hot day.
The chaplain brought this paper into the hospital yesterday afternoon. I had none, so I used some of it.
Two or three days ago they set up a tent for us to eat in. Before we had to squat in the sand and eat our chow right out in the hot sun. That spoils a person’s appetite as quick as anything when a person is hot already and doesn’t care much whether he eats or not.
I sort of dread going back to company to duty. It is so hot there and no good shade to get in unless you can find room in one of the large tents and they are generally full of something or other.
They came at 11 o’clock to take me back. Seems like it is hotter here than it was over at the hospital and a lot dustier. I don’t know how long I can take this heat and dirt. Seems like my pulse is fast most of the time. If I get to feeling to bad again I’ll go back to the hospital and maybe if they find out that this climate doesn’t agree with me at all they’ll send me back to San Luis. I still feel weak after lying in the hospital for two days. Night is the only time it is half way comfortable and I can’t recuperate in a night’s time. One consolation maybe will be that if they find out that I can’t stand this sort of climate they won’t send me overseas to a similar climate.
I received your letter this afternoon after going back to the hospital to get it. It had been sent from here up there but had never been delivered to me. It took it five days after you mailed it to reach here.
Yes, I remember Dewitt, It takes me back to a year ago when I came into the army. In a way, I’m glad the first year is over. It is always the hardest although the rest are none too easy. Write.
Sept. 9, 1942
I think I told you that I went to the hospital again for a few days. About all they did was give me a good rest and starved me. For three days I had nothing but bread and mild. The last day they gave me a general diet.
The first day I was there I didn’t want anything to eat but after that I got hungry. There was a PX near the hospital, so I lived on beer, potato chips, and ice cream. After the first day, they moved me out into some tents with some more fellows. There are an awful lot of the fellows that get sick out here. I think I’m OK now for a while.
Yesterday afternoon we had an awful strong wind that blew down three tents and blew dust into everything.
We’ll probably move from here to new location within the next week. We’ll follow down along the Colorado River along with the maneuvers.
We have a good location here for water and we are only a mile from town. We have our camp about two hundred yards from the river and we pump water right out of the river for showers. The water is cold, but it cools one off.
The town doesn’t amount too much as a means of entertainment with all the soldiers around. Most of the restaurants sell out early in the evening and close their doors. The bars are generally loaded with soldiers buying drinks.
We have our own PX here and we can buy all the beer we want and candy, ice cream and such. There really isn’t much incentive to go to town. I go through town several times during the day to go to the A. P. O. and headquarters which is on the other side. There are about as many army vehicles there as there are civilian cars.
It is a nice appearing little town to be located in the desert. Of course the river affords them plenty of water to keep their lawns green and to water the trees. There are several trees right around and in the town, but they are all the same variety. They look something like a willow, but the foliage is more fuzzy. There are a few palms also.
It is such a contrast out here to what it is back home that I just can’t come to like it.
If I do have to do foreign service I would almost do anything to keep from having to be in a place like this. *Although, since we are getting all this training here, they would probably figure that we were fitted for that kind of climate.
*Editor’s note: This statement would prove to be both prophetic and ironic. After the first year of military service, Dad resigned to the quirks of Army life. He’d learned the meaning of “hurry up and wait” and about doing things the “Army way.” The harsh conditions took a physical, emotional, and psychological toll on these young soldiers.
No one knows whether this company will go overseas after maneuvers or not. Since we are getting all this training it looks more than likely, but we have only half enough strength and would have to have more men. They could soon attach more men. Again we may be out here to take of the equipment of those on maneuvers and afterwards continue to furnish men for cadre forming new companies elsewhere.
I see in the papers that the allies are beginning to open up over in Europe as well as on the Japs in the Pacific. The Allies have a mighty war machine to keep going this time and they are scattered all over the world. In my opinion the sooner they get going the sooner the Axis can be defeated. It will be a tough war because it covers so much more territory and the war machines are so much more expensive than the last war.
The US has such a vast supply of resources, that with a lot of hard work, sacrifice and proper management, there is no excuse why we can’t win this war and do it without taking too long. Of course there are still those that are in the game for the money only. By now I think that most people realize what we are up against.
How are you folks progressing back there? Do you think that you’ll be able to get by another season? It looks like those that are left behind are expected to do an awful lot.
Many are the times that, while I am here with idle time on my hands, I wish that I could be doing something back there that was really useful.
The first year wasn’t so bad although I had several weak moments when I got rather homesick. Now it looks sort of hopeless. If I was doing something really useful toward the war effort or something constructive it would be different.
This army is a mess, but I guess it can’t be any other way with so many different kinds of people in it running it. It has to be run more lass standard and what fits to some doesn’t to others. I know enough about the army and there are others like me that when it is over I want to wash my hands of the whole thing and forget it completely. When I hear some fellows talk of how they like the army and would like to make it their career I soon form an impression of them that they’ve either been handed a commission on a platter or else they haven’t the ambition to work for a living on the outside.
Anyway from this you should get a rough idea of what I think of it. I feel the urge to fight those dirty Japs and Germans but I feel like a man with his hand tied behind his back.
I wish I had enough money to go around so that I could buy me a camera and take pictures of all these places that I have been. It take a lot of money–more than one would think and I’m trying to save enough to start a home after I get out of here. If a person doesn’t have something to plan and look forward to it all looks so hopeless.
All of this desert is more or less alike. Almost any spot in it you can see mountains in the distance although they aren’t so high.
If you ever need any help, let me know. It can always be fixed somehow.
Needles, CA on Route 66
Sept. 20, 1942
We are getting ready to go out on actual maneuvers. So far we have made our camp and the stuff to be repaired has been brought in to us. We were on the red army side before and we are on the blue side this time.
We are going right out among the maneuvers and follow the combating units. We put grease on the windshields leaving just a small space to see through. That is to keep the glass from reflecting the sun. We’ll probably do most of our moving after dark during the blackout so that the enemy won’t spot us. We are supposed to leave this area tonight about dark. We fastened a sign painted blue on the trucks so that they know whose side we’re on. On the other side it is painted red. It we should get in enemy territory we could turn the sign over. I imagine that we’ll be on the move about all this week.
This area here is getting so dusty that I’m not sorry to leave it, but I suppose it will be rather rugged moving around all the time and then a person is liable to get captured.
There are a few clouds to obscure the sun occasionally which is unusual for the weather here.
I don’t suppose that we’ll get our mail very regular either. I don’t know what kind of setup they’ll have for the post office. Write.
Editor’s thoughts: Dad had previously mentioned considering marriage. There will be more to come on that subject. I’m closing this post with a picture of my mother from the early forties. This was her first school assignment after graduating from Blackburn College in 1940. It was one of the last rural, one-room schools in the county, before consolidation in 1948.
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