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On the Move
Marvin Cain wrote “Odell, Byfield, Hayes, Blank” Courtesy of the Cain Family
Since shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, my father and his regiment were sent to help guard the coast of California. He remains there for a year and three months. He is a truck driver and is driving supplies and soldiers all up and down the coast of Southern California. He has been able to get quite a few furloughs and is able to visit my mom and her family who are now living down the coast from him in Pasadena, California. From Dad’s letters it seems like Mom is dating other men. I really cannot blame her with all those handsome soldiers around. According to Pop’s letters he spoke about Pasadena, “There sure are a lot of soldiers around here. They have camps every place where there is any defense industry.” So there would have been plenty of opportunity to do so. On 19 March 1943 Dad writes his last letter from the California coast. Dad has been in the Army since 23 December 1940. He thought he would only have to serve a year. It has been two years and three months.
I love that saying, “Just when you have things figured out God changes the rules.” Now I have to say, just when you fall in love the Army will move you. Dad is on the move once again. Is this a move to go overseas or just more training?
Picture Courtesy of Encyclopedia of Alabama
His next letter is postmarked Camp Rucker, Alabama. According to Wikipedia,
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the War Department decided to add a number of new bases for training the military to fight. Alabama had 58,000 acres of Alabama wilderness along with some farmlands available. Fort Rucker was opened the 1 May 1942 as “Camp Rucker.” It was large enough to house 44,000 soldiers.
There are twelve letters just in April 1943. The next is dated 3 April 1943 and he writes,
Got your letter today. And was I ever glad to hear from you. I should have written but we couldn’t send anything from the train. So what was the use. I like the Camp here but that is all there is to like. The climate, the wind, sand, and all the rest isn’t so good. I really believe it is the best camp we have been in. I’ll probably change my mind a hundred times before we move out. I guess we have 13 weeks training again and then no one knows what will happen. Boy things are stirred up. Maybe we should have gotten married while I was there. Lots of fellows did. Our nearest town is 30 miles. Don’t ask me which way. I haven’t been there yet. Don’t think I will get there soon either. Seems to me as if I should save some money now. My vacation is over now. I think I am going to turn down my next furlough. No future in going home. At least when you can’t see the right person.
He goes on that he had a nice trip from California to Alabama and they took almost the same route they did on the way to California from Arkansas. They traveled through eight states which only left Mississippi that he had never been to so he adds that to the list he is keeping of new states he visits.
“Erceil, Byfield, Scholl, Kennedy, kitchen door on the train to Camp Rucker, Al” Erceil Sellers Collection
In his letter dated 5 April he says he has turned his furlough down because he is so far away from Mom in California. He goes on,
You see I even turned my furlough down. I am trying to sell it. Maybe I can make a little profit out of the deal. We have our first touch of what our training is going to be like. Well so far it is not bad but I bet that will change. I guess we will be wearing shirt sleeves starting on the 15 so you see we have a different climate here than there. We work year round there. We had a two mile road march and along with that we ran the obstickle [sic] course twice. It isn’t as bad as the one there, but bad enough. They say this one is the worse [sic] one in the U.S. I don’t believe it. I ran this one in 3 minutes and the one out there in 6. So you can see the difference. Anyway we took off on through the woods on our hike and it sure was like Little Rock. Boy it was like home. I mean Arkansas. After all we are the adopted sons of Arkansas.
Sell it? Did you know men sold their furloughs? Did the Army know they were selling furloughs? I have never heard of such a thing, have you?
What he says next confuses me.
Say in my last letter I aimed to ask you more thoroughly what was the matter with you and Emile. [Who is Emile?] If it’s anything I could have caused. If so I am sorry. If not well tell him to be careful. I hate to have my future wife beaten up. Bob is well and talks as much as ever. He says hello.
I just don’t understand this and I am not sure who Emile is. Is this the rumored fiancé? Was he there when Dad went to visit Mom? It sure sounds like it to me. Just more questions.
Marvin Cain wrote “Going onto a ferry to cross the Mississippi River at Baron Rouge La. On our way from Calif to Camp Rucker Ala.” Courtesy of the Cain Family
If Dad’s buddy Bob is still stationed with him I am sure he will be able to get news from home. Bob did come from the same hometown, and many of the men in the regiment were from small towns in all around them.
There is a letter almost every day, now. I want to get the most historical stuff documented, so here we go.
Man what a life. Something happening every day. Always the same though. Now we are suppose[d] to run 30 minutes before the 17th. Well if they would promise me a 30 day furlough maybe I could do it but otherwise I don’t think I’ll be able to. Besides you do not get any more [pay] for doing it than otherwise. We can double time for about 10 minutes now and have only been trying two days. That is the most of us can. We have another road maneuver tomorrow afternoon. Besides one hour close order drill. Maybe you think that doesn’t bring up a sweat. Boy I’ll bet if I were to weigh now the scales would have to pay me. We really have a rough training schedule ahead of us. Believe me when one gets a furlough now you have to take a written examination to see if you are well trained enough. If you don’t pass no furlough. I turned mine down. Maybe later I will get a better deal. None at all.
I guess they are really cracking down on getting the soldier’s educated. I read somewhere that once they drafted all these men into the Armed Forces their education level was not where it needed to be to understand the Army’s written instructions. Somewhere Dad talks about how they want them all to be educated through high school and one year of college under their belts. I wonder how long a year of school is in the Army. It seems to me Dad has been in school for 2 years and five months and he is still in school learning how to fight in a war.
Dad is using paper provided by the Army, and it is very thin and could be used for toilet paper
You talk about missing me. Well I miss you probably a lot more—not because I am away from home but because I have no place to go. I mean of interest. If I didn’t keep myself busy all the time I would probably go nuts. When I come in at night I am just dead. That tired. Therefore I go straight to bed and don’t have any time to lay [sic] around and think. Saturday afternoon and Sunday are the worse. And I sure hate for them to come around. But within a limited time we will be busy then also. So all we have to do is waite[sic]. And I guess if 5,000,000 others can do it I should. Maybe sometime we can catch up on lost time.
He goes on to talk more about his training. He does not seem to think that the obstacle course is as bad as everyone makes it out to be. It seems the reason it is not so bad is the two hour hike they do afterward. They have to trudge through thick Alabama underbrush and he feels like this is harder to get though than the course. He goes on to write,
“Vi” are you sure I didn’t just catch you on the rebounds from John. I was afraid that was the way when I was there. That is why I really didn’t want to get married then. It happens that way a lot and marriage doesn’t last. When I get hitched I want it to be the one and only. And everyone has to enjoy it. That is everyone envolved [sic] therefore I want someone whom I can trust and that trusts me. Other wise no deal.
Wait! Who is John? This is the first I heard of a John. Man, I cannot keep up with Mom. And what is up with the statement about trust. Why is he bringing it up now and they talked about marriage? This is really a side of my parents I have never known.
This is definitely not my dad. Could this be John? Is this one of the other men Mom dated?
13 April 1943
Most of the New Yorkers are here but they are in the Service Platoon and I am in the third truck Platoon so we don’t see much of each other. (Goody Goody) I guess we loose [sic] the whole service Platoon though so that will be O.K. A new T.O. [Training Officer] is coming down and that breaks the Company again and forms a railhead Company. It will be better that way because there will be more men envolved [sic] and can take care of the railheads. Man can you figure that out. If you do tell me what I meant. Don’t wreck yourself on those skates after all I want something left when I get to see you again. Bob and I went to a show here in Camp last night. Man was there ever a crowd. One time I was going to pick up my feet and see if I could stay there with out them. The crowd was that thick. Well I couldn’t pick them up. They were standing on them too. It was a good show though “Happy Go Lucky.” Only I am on CQ (Charge of Quarters) today and can’t get out.
The Army terminology has thrown me off a bit. I am not up to par with what all the letters mean, such as CQ. When I was reading articles on Word Press one day I came upon an article called “CQ.” It was written by blogger, Chris Connell on his Falling Down to You, Word Press blog. I knew I had seen those letters in what I had read that day. Was this fate? How was it that that exact poem was in my blog reader that day? Did my father have anything to do with this, I wonder? I was going to research a few of those letter combinations just as soon as I finished with reading posts and I did not have to go any further than the Word Press Reader. Now I have a firsthand account of what CQ meant in fact here there was a whole poem about it. I read it and could not believe how his words fit exactly with the way Dad talks when he is Charge of Quarters. I don’t know much about blogster Chris, other than he can capture feelings only a soldier who has served has felt. I do know he is a Paratrooper in the Army and he has served in Afghanistan. I will take a moment here to thank him for his Service. Thank you Chris!
CQ (Charge of Quarters)
Such a long night
Worse than them all
I’m losing focus
Just staring at the wall
Now my pants are soggy
What the hell
What did I do
Okay, nothing to worry about
I just spilled my Mountain Dew
But I’m starting to see things
Like dancing flowers
Are you sure it’s only 24 hours?
Things are bouncing around
Careening around my head
I just want to beg
Sarge! Just let me go to bed!
Watching the drunk ones come
Can’t help but laugh
They look so dumb
Queen Mab keeps calling me
Taunting me with sleep
In which I want to flee
Away to her dreamscape
I would love to go
Instead I am stuck staying up late
It’s been a tiring week
My legs hurt and my back aches
Though it should
It’s not helping me stay awake
Half past two
Only six more hours to go
But be glad it’s not you
Because this really sucks
Being on CQ
Bob leaves on his furlough tonight. Man is he a happy lad. He will probably come back a married man. He hopes. He has been going to Catholic school and all that. Maybe he won’t though. He says maybe. But he thinks he will waite [sic] until after the war.
So it sounds like Bob is serious about his girl, Madeline. Dad goes on to talk about how if all four of them get married they can all live in the same neighborhood and how all their kids would grow up together. Dad seems to think Little Rock, Arkansas is just the place to do it.
Mom wrote on each letter, “ans” to make sure she answered each one.
Remember that training schedule I told you about. We have to be able to run 30 minutes by the 17th. Well three of us ran 32 this morning. Man that is a long time. In high school 1 mile seemed long but we ran about 3 this morning. Overall it didn’t seem to hurt us much but our legs sure knotted up. I am a little stiff but I believe I can do it again. Altogether I sent home $52 out of my base pay last month, 7.70 for insurance and 1.50 for laundry. About 3 for dry cleaning. Not bad huh. Had 5 left to start with. Have 3 left of that. So I have not done to [sic] bad.
If you add up those totals you come up with $69.20 cents. I am not sure how often he gets paid but that sure isn’t a lot. It is a good thing the Army is picking up his room and board. How long does he have to make that three-dollars last?
Marvin Cain Wrote “Camp Rucker” Courtesy of the Cain Family
The pictures were grand. Only one thing. What makes you think you would get any back now. We had to send our cameras home .I have been over to the Chemical Warfare warehouse. I might get a chance to transfer there. In case I do I will get a Sgts. [Sargent] Rating and be in charge of supplies not bad huh. Boy that will be interesting anyway. Issuing gas and equipment. This isn’t supposed to be out but I sure hope I can make it. You see a staff Sgt is all I can get here and there I can make master if I have luck. And it can’t take any longer to [get] somewhere than here. Have been here 2 ½ yeasr and only a Cpl. [Corporal] Anyway I live in hope. My legs were sure sore for a couple of days after running that 32 minutes. O.K. now though. I guess I am going to live after all.
Chemical Warfare? I don’t think I ever thought about the soldiers needed training in Chemical Warfare before. From what I have read about it Mustard Gas was used in World War I. It was a horrible chemical that was used to injure people but this gas caused death. That is sure a scary class but they would need all this training. I sure wish he would go into more detail about what he saw or did while he is there. It is also interesting to note that they had to send their cameras home.
We got a man back who went A.W.O.L. for about 25 days. He only got 1 year, a D.D. and a forfeit of all pay. Not bad for that long. We thought at first he was going to get away with it but they laid it on, Think if you had something like that to look forward to. He went and got married while he was gone.
Interesting I wonder who this was? He got a D.D. which assume was a Dishonorable Discharge or maybe Drunk and Disorderly but still ended up doing a year behind bars. It makes me wonder how many others had gone A.W.O.L in the years leading up to this war.
I figured out what I would be making if I got married. $107.33. Not bad huh. Of course Dad would get $20 my insurance would get $7.39 and laundry and dry cleaning about $4 the rest would be practically clear. We haven’t gone on any maneuvers as such as yet. We are training though and that means a lot. We have had the same thing about 60 times. Why in the hell don’t they just send us across. We could shoot our way out then. I am getting so damn disgusted. I told one kid in my marksmanship class today I hoped the first jap he saw got him. He really boiled me over. I guess Bob will be back about Sunday. Anyway he should be. I wonder did he or did he not get married. If he did I will. How’s that?
That would be a big payday? A little over one hundred dollars and he would be clear a whopping 76 dollars a month? Wow that sure puts things into perspective. Can you imagine having 70 dollars to spend for a month? Dad has mentioned several times throughout his letters that he expects Mom to work when they get married. I can see why he thinks she would have to by looking at these figures.
I have to go to Chemical Welfare school all next week. That should be good. If Colonel Cobb teaches it I know I will. I have heard him before and I know what he is like. I’ll tell you what we will have one boy and a girl and see how that turns out. Say maybe you might say when you said if I got back out on the coast we wouldn’t waite [sic] anyway the latest rumor is will be there in about 4 months. Of course that is just a rumor. But one can pray can’t one. God darling I hope so. This place is sure getting me down. I believe that if I really let myself go I could really get some good fighting done. It is about to drive us all nuts and the officers ain’t much better. In fact a hell of a lot worst [sic].
Dad has also been insistent he only wanted two kids. This month, one of each sex is his choice. It seems as though each time it comes up Mom always chooses the bigger number. It is interesting but I have always been under the assumption that Dad wanted a bunch of kids and Mom only wanted one. I guess you will have to read the whole book in order to find out how many they end up with. I will never tell, well not until the end of the story.
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