World War II
Foxholes, Tanks, and Rattlesnakes
My father is still training at Camp Rucker, Alabama. He had gotten a furlough and hitched a ride with some buddies, drove 1,500 miles one way, to California and asked Mom to marry him. She of course said yes and here we are in September of 1943. They have been corresponding since 1937. It has been a long five years. Dad is doing some serious training in these next letters. He is writing so many letters I want to use as many of his own words so that I feel I am preserving his history. Here we go.
2 September 1943
Darling, Thanks Darling for the stationary[sic] it’s swell. And just what I needed too. I was almost out but now I won’t have to buy any for a long time. Thanks again and a million times more. It rained a little today. Boy did it seem swell. A little rain sure can do wonders to the climate around here. I do believe it is cooling off a little through. But this month is suppose to be hot yet. I have been in 18 states that I can remember up to date. Maybe there are a few more somewhere along the line I don’t know. Have you heard lately that I love you. Gosh honey I guess I do cause I can’t get you off my mind and that’s good. I dug out my picture albums the other night just to see the pictures we have taken together. They were swell. This isn’t very long but I’m not very winded. Bob and I are going to the show. So remember I love you lots and lots. Love forever your darling, Lefty.
That stationery will be featured throughout this chapter. Wow, 18 states? I can remember him writing my grandma and he had only been through 8 states. If I remember correctly it was on his way to Camp Robinson, Arkansas in 1940. He has put a lot of miles on the Army’s trucks. He told us how rough it was riding in those trucks. Getting jostled and jarred around for so many miles, it had to be hard on their bodies.
Hi my Darling. Here I go again. How’s the little woman tonight. Up and coming I hope. I sure am. Here I sit plum nude waiting for a little breeze to come up so it won’t be so hot. It is thundering out though so maybe it’ll rain and get cool. I hope. Everything here is up to par. We have had a big inspection on trucks yesterday in our platoon and in the others today. All posted ok I guess. Anyway I haven’t heard much about it. I was suppose to go with the Capt. today to inspect the other trucks but had a convoy detail and went on that. That was much better though the captain and I don’t get along so well. I just took a shower and my hair is wet and now I feel like eating. I am either going to have to go to the kitchen or the canteen. Guess which? The kitchen is only about 40 feet away.
Oh, I did not need that visual of Dad in the buff. But I figure it is of historical importance because it is how he dealt with the unrelenting heat. How many other soldiers practiced this and do I really want to know?
Just as a reminder Dad and Bob Winter rigged up keys to get into the refrigerators, in the company kitchen and if it comes down to it Dad will just go see what he can rustle up in the kitchen.
I am putting on a front to you about going out. I haven’t been out of camp only on detail since my furlough. You can believe me or not. We have a dance here in camp once a week though I always go to. Along with 300 other soldiers-only about 20 woman come though. So that isn’t a front either.
What kind of odds are that 300 men to 20 women? I bet there were a lot of soldiers dancing with each other. But I wonder about those 20 women. Where did they come from? I bet their dance cards were full every night.
Oh yes as I have told you we go to the field for two weeks starting Monday. Well in that time we have to dig fox holes and have tanks drive over us. Also several gas attacks. And other little things like that. Lt. Gordon was saying the captain said everyone should buy a bathing suit. Well I asked him if the Captain was going to put up the money for the suit and he kinda changed it. He said that swimming would be a must. So that put the brakes on that. All they are interested in anyway are the ones who can’t swim. Then he told us not to use any barbed wire on our hammocks. He tore his pants on it last time so to that I had to add that he shouldn’t have been running so fast the barbs wouldn’t hurt him anyway. Well he said he wasn’t running. He was walking backwards. I let it go at that. We always have words like that only sometimes they aren’t humor. I haven’t much else to say only I love you heaps and heaps The Hit Parade just came on. They are playing “All or nothing at all” 5th place. It’s raining outside again or should I say now. “In my Arms” is seventh. I wonder about that one. I guess I had better stop on that. I love you lots and lots darling and don’t forget it. Love forever and millions of kisses, Lefty.
I know that Dad always seems to be getting into it with the squad leaders. I guess I am like him and we do not like to be told what to do. So now it is foxholes and tanks running over them. And I am sure they will be throwing firecrackers and shooting blanks. What would that be like? I bet you one thing Dad will certainly have all his clothes on.
It was really fun doing a search and then listening to the songs my father was listening to in September 1943. It set the perfect mood for reading the letters. The internet is an awesome thing!
15 September 1943 my dad writes.
Hi Darling, I didn’t have time to write last night so I am going to try it this morning. We started out on a tactical problem last night at 1900 (7:00) and no lights were to be lit. So we had to waite [sic]. Up until that time we were issued blanks ammo and fire crackers for the battle which came about 12:15. It was quite an affair. I believe all of the officers were captured and nearly half of the enlisted men. But the right flanks held out. Bob and I can laugh this morning. I wish you could have been here to have seen the thing. You would have still been laughing. Bob and I both laughed so much at Sgt. Ozanne we cried.
Now this is a name I have heard of, Allen J. Ozanne from Lexington Nebraska according to the 1945 D-day roster. He has also mentioned Lieutenant Claude R. Gordon, from Bakersfield, California before. After the war Dad went to a lot of the reunions and it seems to me the Ozanne’s might have lived in California, or came to visit but I know I have met both of these men when I was young. I have just the slightest memory of him living in Simi Valley, California. I just put two and two together and realized I met Mr. Gordon also. I remembered this picture that was taken in our back yard about 1962.
My Dad is standing on the right, “Pop” Gordon holding my Brother. Could one of these other men be Mr. Ozanne?
15 September (continued)
I can’t write it as it happened so some day [sic] I’ll tell you about it. It was darn funny anyway. Lt. Gordon (alias Little Eddie) was captured and I sure razzed him. Then he had to explain why he was captured. Man was he and the Captain ever excited. In case you haven’t noticed by the drops on the paper it is raining again this morning. I just moved under my shelter so maybe they won’t be so bad from now on. It has cooled off quite a bit here and it is pleasant living now. So I can’t complain of the heat. In fact as I have said before we have slept cold here in the last weeks. But a good bath would sure do me good. We have no way of taking one here except a sponge bath and that sure does not do the job as a good shower does. I don’t think it rains anymore while were in the field than when in camp. It just actually rains, [sic] here. So we have to take it as it comes. It rains about every other day. This morning is mostly fog. What is coming down is coming off that. Well honey tonight we make a complete blackout moveout [sic] so I imagine that means not much sleep tonight and tomorrow night we have a shuttle movement leaving the Inf. So that nite [sic] is shot. They are talking about working on the trucks so I imagine I had better go. I have to carry this about ½ mile to mail it and I’m sure Ozanne will have a fit at that so Darling I love you more than anyone in the whole world. Love always, Lefty.
It does not seem to me as they are taking this seriously but having a bit of fun with it. I almost want to take him by the shoulders and shake him since he needs this training for what is to come. Then when these men get overseas it won’t be that funny.
17 September 1943
It has been raining almost all day long. I am not on the Chamber of Commerce either so I don’t have to brag about this. Just waite [sic] a month or two and you’ll have mud there also. Probably more there than here. I have run my knife throwing money up to $1.30 from Bob and $.10 from a couple other kids. I owed Bob $.75 so that won’t be so much cash but it was a lot of fun. Bob said he is OK and writing to his sweet stuff. He also said to ask Pop if he is keeping his nails turned around straight. If he does not remember what he is talking about tell him to remember the moron story Bob told him.
Dad told us of him and his buddies making knives, and then having contests with them. Good to know he is earning the big bucks for it. I am glad he had that to keep him busy.
Yes Darling I wish we were using that moon. There is no use letting it go to waste. You know I have seen some of the prettiest moons down here than anywhere I have been. But one in Calif would do if I could be with you. Oh! Darling I miss you. I guess we are going to brew a lot of coffee tonight we have to (because)this is the last and we may not all be together again to have coffee. Boy with the exceptions of the Platoon leader and Sgt. We have a swell bunch of men to be around. I would sure hate to leave them. I think back on the others ones on their way out though. About the first chance that comes along. You should see me. I haven’t shaved for 2 days and taken a good bath for a week and I am dirty. Of course I have washed and taken a sponge bath both but they aren’t much good. I could almost scare a skunk away. Talking about animals and worms.
It makes me wonder about deodorant in the 1940’s. I am sure they have something but I don’t see soldiers wearing it. That must have been one regiment of stinky soldiers.
They killed a timber rattler in the area we moved to. It wasn’t very big. But I don’t think they get so big. I believe that is the second snake we have seen on the detail. And I hear the termites working on my hammock again. He is sure an ambitious little devil. Every night he works. I think he just does it to keep my nerve on end. He makes the darnest [sic] noise. Well now I went posted the guard brewed coffee and here I am again. Even have a cup of it here while waiting to drive. It tastes good too. Just came down and have a cup if you don’t believe me. Of course we don’t have a nice new coffee pop but an old gallon can does as well. We have milk and all the sugar you want too. We didn’t buy it but Uncle Sam will never miss that. He has lots. Gosh just think back to camp a bath and sleep in a bed where you don’t have your head down and your feet up or vise versa. And mail coming and going regular. Then maybe I can get my mind on my work and tell you how much I want to be with you. Of course you won’t believe that but I do. I love you lots darling. Believe me I’ll be happy when this damn war is over. Oh yes. I got strict orders from Mrs. Johnson (This is actually my mothers, fathers, cousin) to go home on my next furlough. It will sure be cold at that time. So I don’t know. I don’t ever know whether I’ll get one or not. God Honey I don’t know what to do. So maybe I had just better waite [sic]. I do love you now though. I’ll close on that. Good nite [sic] Darling. Love always Sweet. Lefty
More snakes? No wonder Dad seemed like such a hero whenever we came upon one when we were young and out camping. I thought he was the king of the snake hunters. I did not take after him in this sense. If you have not read my post “Snake Season” you might want to. Snakes make me scream like a girl. Oh yea, I am one.
When I first started 4x4ing, and camping we used to travel with a man we called Sideshow Bob. He had no insides for his metal coffee pot so he would open the lid and throw the coffee grounds in the water. Let it boil a bit and hit it with a shot of whiskey, which he insisted caused the grounds to sink to the bottom. I thought it was pretty cool, but at the time I did not drink coffee and certainly did not drink whiskey, in the morning, or any other time. People make do with what they have, that is for certain!