World War II
Second Half of August 1943
Robert Winter and Dad are at Camp Rucker, Alabama with about 40,000 other soldiers who are also training and living there. What would that have been like for the residents of that small town in Alabama? It is like a huge city moved in the neighborhood, all at once. It does seem like the training is getting tougher. The Army keeps them in the dark about when they will go overseas. I think the important thing is that they “will” go it is just a matter of “when” they will go. The answer to that question seems elusive at this time in Dad’s service.
11 August 1943 find Dad on field maneuvers and he writes
Bob and I have another house built together. Only this isn’t as good as the other. We borrowed part of the farmers fence and made this one out of. It has quite a sag in the middle. And as yet we haven’t found a remedy for it. But it sleeps anyway. The flies are a lot worse in the place than others we have been in.
On another field maneuver, Dad wrote about, he and Bob built a house-like shelter, with tarps and pine boughs. I wonder how many more times the two will build a tent together before the letters end.
Darling I am going to lay my chips on the table. If I had the money I would send for you in a minute. Only I haven’t. As you know I have an allotment made to Dad. Well when I got your letters today I went straight to the orderly room to see if I could get that cancelled. Well I can’t. I wrote home to see if Dad would send the check to me and as far as I could find he wouldn’t. Man Darling it hurts to think your [sic]there and I haven’t even enough to get you here. Of course after we were married that would build up to about $86. We could get along nicely on that. Or at least get along. What would your folks say to your coming down to get married anyway? If I thought we could get along until that allotment came through I would sure have you on the way. I am going to try writing Dad and maybe by the time we know what we are going to do for sure we’ll have it figured out. And then Honey it will be up to you. But as you say I am yours and am getting to a place where I can’t waite [sic] much longer. Guess what we are eating. Rations that is a 4 oz chocolate bar with 600 calories in it. Man are they ever condensed. It is suppose to take ½ hour to eat one bar. Well I have eaten one all day and have 2 left so I’ll send you one when I get back to camp. Darling I have been inquiring about the allotment. One kid said it took only a month for his to come through. Now we only have two things to worry about I have to convince Dad into sending enough for you to come down on and then to see what we are going to do for sure. Oh darling I hope you can come down. Of course I know your folks won’t want you to. And I also know we should waite [sic] but I am at the end of my rope. Now it is up to you. What you say goes. I love you so much darling. Thank Aunt Dick and Aunt Clara for me too. I imagine we’ll need a lot of luck.
Aunt Dick and Aunt Clara are my grandmother’s two sisters. Aunt Dick’s husband, Gerald is also serving in World War II. I just heard a story I did not know. Apparently Uncle Gerald got injured in the war. It was bad enough for him to be sent home and he received a Purple Heart. He was always so much fun, but Grandma’s family always was.
I just stoped [sic] by the kitchen for a little snack. So now I feel full at least. There was only a little cheese and a tomato. But that was food. Oh yes I went to the dance tonight and now it is after eleven and I am now in the day room. This is getting to be a habit. It is time to quit all my chatter and tell you I love you. Even more than usual. This place is getting to us. About 10 out of the company are in the hospital and as one Lt. says to the Colonel “Your[sic] putting the rest in fast.” He’s new here though. Bye now my darling. Be good and keep on loving me. This war can’t last forever. Oh Darling, love forever with kisses.
Those keys Bob and Dad made themselves to the ice boxes have sure come in handy. Hoodlum! That is what Dad is!
Well Bob got a definite answer from Madeline. I guess they will waite [sic] awhile before they get married. Bob didn’t like it so well and I don’t blame him. I suggested he not write for a couple of weeks and she would change her mind. But there are some good points in waiting right now.
I would say there are a lot of good points on waiting. The biggest, there is a war going on! It seems like Madeline has a good head on her shoulders.
I had a rumble with the Platoon Sgt and I guess he hates me again. I called him Fatso and a few other things and I guess he didn’t like it. Maybe he’ll get over it when we get to talking again. That will take a couple of days. I guess I better tell you how much I love you now cause I haven’t much time left and I have some shoes to polish also and besides that I have my pack to get ready. I love you. I love you. I love you. Lefty
Dad is not only a hoodlum but a troublemaker. This is a part of him I did not know. Once again I can understand his frustration with being told what to do for so long. I have to believe that the uncertainty of the situation has to be weighing on a lot of men.
Gosh another day nothing done. Well we were up at 4:30 this morning and started to the range about 6. So we got an early start on today. Then I didn’t even get to fire. The whole thing was a mess and even though we didn’t get to fire Bob and I handled around 7,000 rounds one at a time. We were in charge of the ammunition. And filled the magazines when they were returned. The company goes back to the range again tomorrow but I am on CQ so I guess I fire next week.
I think one of the biggest things I do not understand about training the how you do that without actually “having ammunition.” How does that work? It seems they only get ammunition when they are practicing marksmanship. Then I also think about a half a million men all learning to shoot. I wonder if they picked up to gun casings and reused them. Just more question I would ask Dad if he were still here.
Bob got to fire today. He made 161 out of 200. That wasn’t so bad. About average run. Or maybe I should say better than that. I only hope I can do as well.
I guess we leave for the south tomorrow afternoon. I’m not sure how long I’ll be gone. Maybe I’ll be back the same night and maybe I won’t be back. The Inf. Rgts. (Infantry Regiments) are having maneuvers down there. They are suppose to be gone a week. 1500 men are leaving the division in the near future. Post office unknown.
What Dad means here is they have no idea where these 1500 men will be sent. It seems like it is hard for Dad when the men get shuffled around and it seems like there is a lot of that going on. I am sure it took quite a while to see where all these men were best suited when they went overseas.
Hi darling, Well here comes nothing. But I must write anyway. I missed yesterday. Had to go on a convoy to Florida. We arrived back about 1:30 this morning. Was I tired. At first I didn’t think I was coming back but talked my way around it. Boy that was good. 5 trucks had to stay. They will be back about Sat. I didn’t take a darn thing with me so it was good I came back. I hope I don’t have to go back again. I wanted to go to the dance here but I could not make it. Oh! Well. I guess we’ll have 13 weeks here. Every other two in the field. I guess they are going to give passes from there. We have quite a schedule. We are going into that 13 weeks training. After that the schedule says maneuvers. But everyone say [sic] we won’t have them. We’ll go across instead. And I think they are right. So in about November we’ll be gone. If we stay that long and I am sure we will. I was surprised when you said what you did about Bob. I didn’t know he had been sent back with us has he [sic]. I thought he was still out in Texas or where he went when he left us. I haven’t heard of any issue of clothing like that around here and we issue all the clothing. Bye for tonight sweetheart. I’ll see you in my dreams It will be something new if I don’t. I have for weeks. So for now I love you lots.
I did not realize Dad and Bob had been split up. I wonder when that happened. It sure would be great to find out what clothing issue he is talking about.
Darling, How’s my sweetheart tonight. Me I guess I’m OK. Had such a hard day I ‘m not sure. Got up as usual went back to bed at 8:00 and slept till ten then loaded 120 mattresses and then it was noon. This afternoon I didn’t do anything. Really we had to make a parking lot for our trucks. I have about 5 blisters on my hand from using a hammer. Pretty soft ain’t [sic] I. So you see there surely is nothing to talk about tonight. I guess we have quite a convoy tomorrow. Going to haul the Inf. back then we really get into the game. Good night my Darling. I love you lots and lots. Lefty, your Darling.
I have visited a lot of General Patton’s Camps here in the desert of Southern California and have seen pictures from back then. You can still see tank tracks in places in the desert where not many vehicles have gone since then. By looking at the rockwork you can still see how the camps were laid out when the soldiers were there. They have lined road, pathways, and cook tents among the camp. It was a lot of work but it would take a lot of work to keep that many men busy.
I didn’t get to write yesterday. I took off about 10 for Florida. Well we didn’t get quite into Florida but only a few miles from it. We got back today. We had quite a deal. 2 Sgts. And myself went. We left ahead of the convoy to check M.P.’s at the crossings to see if they have been posted. Well we really drove and when we wanted we stoped [sic] and ate or something. Really had ourselves a time. Then last night we took the jeep and 4 of us went to town. (Of course with the Captain’s permission) Did we do the town over. It was about 85 miles down there and the charts in on the jeep were 299 miles altogether. Not bad huh. We sure had fun. Had to call the Captain at 5 this morning or we probably could have done better. It was about the same way coming back today. We weren’t with the convoy so just went to suit ourselves all the way from 5 mph to 60 mph. That is the way I like to travel. It is about 10 now and I have been forcing my eyes open for the last couple of hours. So I must stop. I don’t know much more to write about. The Colonel said that in 3 months this division would be in Hawaii. Sounds like things might be moving doesn’t it. Good night my darling. Love always, Lefty.
Interestingly enough my dad continued to love to travel this way after the war, slow, taking his time, seeing the sights. When he got to the end of his career as a milk man, he would have three to four weeks’ vacation and we would travel to many destinations across the United States, him seeing the sights from behind his windshield. He was never in a hurry and loved to travel that way, slow and steady not making many stops. Mom never drove the truck with the camper, ever. I am not sure if he did not trust her driving, but he was the king of the road when we traveled. He really did love to drive and my brother and I got to see the country from the windows of that camper.
That ends the August 1943 letters. Will Dad be shipped to Hawaii soon? Will he get the anticipated furlough he is looking for? If so will they marry? Only time will tell.
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