Posted by: notsofancynancy | December 3, 2014

The Suitcase, Chapter 14, Camp Rucker

Now with updated picture, Special thanks to the family of Marvin Cain

The Suitcase

Camp Rucker, Alabama

Chapter 14

May 1943 letter

In the last chapter we found my father in intense, or at least what he thinks is intense training and learning about Chemical Warfare in Camp Rucker, Alabama. It seems they are really trying to get all of these men ready to fight in the upcoming war. Dad has gone through marksmanship training and also machine gun training. I wonder if they are still trying to make him shoot right-handed. He mentioned it early on in the letters but has not mentioned it again. Dad’s discharge papers tell me that he got a medal for Rifle Sharpshooter in October 1942 (click here to learn more)and would go on to get his Carbine Sharpshooter(click here to learn more) in March 1944.

From Dad’s Discharge Papers

7 May 1943 he writes,

It is about time I found time to write you. Haven’t much time now. It’s about 6:40 and we have class at 7:00. I have been one of the busiest boys you have ever seen. The last 4 days. Today won’t be bad though. Chemical Warfare school was rough. I came in third in the class but it took some work. You can blame Colonel Cobb about not hearing from me. I never studied so hard in my life. 8 hours a day classes and I never got to bed before 12 at night and I wasn’t running around. We have a truck and ordnance Inspection the 12th and Personal ins.(inspection) On the 23. They cancelled furloughs for 15 days so I guess it will be a good one. It will be by 7th Corps and that means rooouuuggghhh [sic] so it will be busy for a while yet.

The Chemical Warfare classes sound like they took most of the day. So they are not doing much other than learning about this nasty way of fighting. It does not seem that they would have much time for anything else. You can tell he is in a hurry as the letter has been hastily written. I do not like that fact that my dad might need this training in the near future.

9 May 1943

I saw “My Friend Flicker” [sic] tonight it was good. Wasn’t there some good scenery in it. Boy we went up to go about 1:15 minutes ahead of time and there was a line ahead of us about a block and a half long. God I hate to waite. [sic] Nothing has happened here I filled an application for a specialist school yesterday and I guess only 2 from the Company goes so I probably won’t have a chance. Anyway it was a good idea. Go to college. Wouldn’t that be nice.

(Read about “My Friend Flicka” here.)

Marvin Cain Wrote " Camp Rucker" Courtesy of the Cain Family

Marvin Cain Wrote ” Camp Rucker” Courtesy of the Cain Family

I wonder how different our lives would have been had they let him into that school? I mean I don’t believe he went as he comes out of the Army driving a truck, same as he is doing at this time.

16 May he angrily writes,

Just to show you what kind of an a-hole we have for a captain we have last week we passed three inspections and one drivers test. We were second in the division on the drivers test with an average of 97 and in the inspections we rates as excellent by our own I.G. (Inspector General) and by the I. G. of the second army we were rated one of the best QM he had ever inspected. The other one we passed satisfactory. Oh yes we had an ordnance (inspection) by the 7th corps and they said we were some of the cleanest rifles they had ever seen. Then the Capt. Have guts enough to call a non-com meeting and really chew us about 20 minutes worth. And say it wasn’t us but by the grace of God and Good luck we passed it. He was the only one who did anything to aid the cause.  So we have about all quit. He gets all the credit let him have the work too. Waite[sic] until next week until we get a chance to talk to the I.G.(inspector General) The closer the 23rd gets the harder they drive us. Believe me by next Saturday we will be going night and day. Last week I was on duty 5 nights and that wasn’t anything.  The 23rd starts our 7th Comp. Inspection and we have to be good. At least they say so. If I were as sure about some of the officers passing as the E.M (Enlisted men) I wouldn’t worry.

He sure is mad. I can understand it when he feels like he has been so cheated. Plus he has all this training in Chemical Warfare to learn. It seems as though he does not have time for anything more than what the Army is asking of him. The uncertainty of things to come and the training they are putting him through starts to show in the following letters. It is evident in the hurried script of his handwriting, but he still finds time to write almost every day.

1940 Era Gas Mask

(Courtesy of

(Click here to learn more about the 1940’s troops preparing for war)

20 May

I have been in school again. And about all we had we the same thing we learned before. Anyway we put in 8 hours and have 8 more tomorrow. Then we have a four hour test. The test consists of decontaminating 96.67% pure mustard gas. If we get burned and have to go to the hospital we flunk the test. Doesn’t that sound good. Any way I hope it [sic] good. I think I told you I had some poison oak. Well I have one hand. I am going to the Medics with it in the morning. I can hardly close it and have some good size blisters between my fingers. It is about to drive me nuts. Are they ever excited about the inspection next week. Boy we are getting everything ready. I hope we don’t even get to first base. But damnit when we all get in a mood like that we run into lady luck again and pass it. That is the way it goes. I guess I won’t make that specialist school. You have to have at least one year in college and I haven’t.   So I guess I’ll just have to wait until something else comes along. Oh well the army is the Army whenever you find it.

What does that mean! How does one decontaminate mustard gas? Does one not need to be in contact with said gasses to decontaminate them?

21 May

I have been on the range running targets. Boy what a time. We have 60 men who have to qualify and maybe we will get through this day firing and rifle marksmanship. So all the Non-Coms in the pits have made up our minds to give them enough points to pass the. In two cases this afternoon I know of a couple of scores that couldn’t have been over 6 and we gave them 20-22 to get through with the affair. They can’t shoot so something has to be done. No Bob didn’t get married but I guess she is coming down and they are then.

That does not sound like good odds. It just brings more questions than it does answers.

Marvin Cain Wrote "Camp Rucker" Courtesy of the Cain Family

Marvin Cain Wrote “Camp Rucker” Courtesy of the Cain Family

25 May

Two fellows took a jeep and went to town the other nite [sic]. They got caught and were both busted and grounded. Man was that bad and one was in my squad and also a good driver. He might be able to drive later I hope.

It kind of reminds me of a day in the past in a little town in Arkansas where Dad drove his buddies somewhere other than the picnic he was suppose to be headed to. He ended up running into the front of the convoy. But they did not get in trouble. It seems that the Army is keeping a tighter rein on the soldiers.

27 May

We just had a blackout. Gosh what an experience. We had to move out in the dark and all and all that. About 2 minutes after the whistle started we couldn’t see anything. Less than four we were moved out. How is that for efficiency. Of course it was just part of the inspection. I don’t know how much area it covered. It lasted about 20 minutes of course I didn’t time it. The inspections have been going damn good. At least I think so. In the last two days I have skipped five classes on of them were at night. And one inspection. So I haven’t done so bad. You see a certain portion of the Platoon is called at a time to be inspected Well my squad was inspected on Field Sanitation and today we had 30 minutes to pitch pup tents display full field equipment and strike tents. We did it in 25. Beat the old Recon troop by 8 minutes and got another excellent for the Company. The rest I have skipped. I would have missed that too but they caught up with me. To tell you the truth I don’t give a damn anymore and I am acting the same way. So as I have said before don’t be surprised if you have to start writing a private.  The last rumor I hear today is that we are moving to Ft. Ord. But then I know we have 26 weeks more of Combat training and them we have maneuvers. By that time I will be in a padded cell so I won’t have to worry. Bob says hello.

I can still feel the desperation in his words. In Chapter 11 we hear about my Grandpop going through a “blackout” in Pasadena. (Click Here to read it)  Here is a glimpse into what the soldiers went through when they were on “blackout.”

Viola in 1942

There are 10 letters in June 1943 on 1 May he writes,

Another day another dollar, Still nothing done to help win the war. I’m sure in the dumps. Boy what will the kids think of an old man who couldn’t even get across in three years. I am almost in the mood to take a bust and joining the Rangers. We can now. But only Pvt. And Pfc’s can though. It sure wouldn’t take much coaxing. I sure hope you had a good time at the beach. I know you did so take care of the sunburns and all the insect bites. If you find any smears on here it is sweat. Man is it hot. And I want to go to a dance after a while. I’ll bet that is a hot place. There are over 400 WAAC’s in Camp. Maybe they will come up and we will have enough women. I hope. I just found out something for sure. Today was Bob’s birthday. I knew it was soon but not exactly when. I am in a heating[sic] up mood I have another letter after I finish this and then carry on so take it easy.

8 June

Gosh Darling I sure feel good tonight for some reason or other. Maybe it’s because I got cussed out twice today. Gosh I am reforming. Bob and I have just been discussing again. Maybe I am wrong about Madeline not liking me. But I’ll take my hunch until proven not guilty. We had a bitching session about recreation today. The Special Service Officer is going to try to arrange a dance in Enterprise and invite the WAAC’s. I guess we go into the fields for a week starting around the 14. Boy will that help pass some time until I get out. I wrote home for my money yesterday. I am getting all in the mood. By the way darling what kind of chewing gum do you like best. We can buy it here two packs at a time and I sure have been stocking up. So name your favorite kind. Gosh Darling I still don’t know about getting married. I sure hate to put it off and I hate to get married and not have you with me. Lets waite [sic] and talk it over between Mom, Pop, you, and I. How about that? Maybe they wouldn’t like the idea anyway? After I read your letter I would have gotten married right then and not even thought about the things we should. I damn near cried. Baby, ain’t [sic] I. By now though I have only read it about a dozen times through. See Darling I do love you and like your letters very much. Bye Darling, Love always, Lefty.

Lefty and Vi, in Kansas Dad’s first leave

It seems like Dad has gotten some kind of encouragement from Mom. I think it is sweet that Dad wants her Mom and Dad a part of the planning process. I wonder if he ever gets the chance to sit down with Pop and Grandma. I wonder if it is true or just the dream of his to be married before he sees action. It seems like he has been teasing Mom about getting married since about 1938 and here in 1943, five years later he is still waiting in the wings to sweep her off her feet. Will she let him?

© Copyright  notsofancynancy 2012

Posted by: notsofancynancy | November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 1944

Dad Wrote "Chateau of Chow" Mr. Cain wrote " Chow, St. Max"

Dad Wrote “Chateau of Chow” Mr. Cain wrote ” Chow, St. Max”

I was reading on the Veterans Facebook page and they were asking for stories about Thanksgiving while being deployed. I wondered what exactly where dad was and what he was up to. Here is his letter from that day.

23 November 1944, near Chateau-Salins, France

My Darling Wife,

Say Mommie you don’t know how near you came to not getting a letter tonight. After chow I put on water and took a bath and washed my pinkies. Then made my bed laid down and was almost asleep. Had I completed the letter you would have been neglected, but today being Thanksgiving I just couldn’t do that. We sure had a good dinner. Turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberries, peas and carrots, raisin bread apple cobbler and of course coffee. It was really good too. But supper killed that. Spam again. Say in case you can’t read this I’m all cramped up trying to write in bed. Have to be in a bad position in order to see. Again I didn’t get any mail. But a couple of men got packages so we ate. But again that isn’t helping my morale anyway. We still have tomorrow though and when we haven’t that to look forward to we won’t need the mail. Have been looking at our picture. Honey you know you’re the prettiest woman I know. Gosh I love you so much my darling. If I don’t get on the ball your [sic] going to miss tonight-anyway. I got to thinking about you and that’s as far as I got. Gee honey I miss you so much. I haven’t anything to say now except how much I love you. I love you so much my Darling. I hope you and Jr are getting along ok. I wouldn’t want either of you getting sick now. It just won’t pay. I love you honey. I love you so much. I love you. I love you.

All my love,

your husband, Lefty

Please take a moment and say a prayer for all those deployed. I hope they are not having to eat Spam

Posted by: notsofancynancy | November 18, 2014

The Suitcase, Chapter 13, On the Move

Now with updated pictures! You can click on the pictures to view larger.

The Suitcase

Chapter 13

On the Move

Marvin Cain wrote "Odell, Byfield, Hayes, Blank"  Courtesy of the Cain Family

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?

Camp Rucker

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

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.

April 1943 letter

Dad is using paper provided by the Army, and it is very thin and could be used for toilet paper

10 April

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.

Is this one of the men Mom dated?

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

Getting groggy

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!

Waking up

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

15 April

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.

April 1943 letter1

Mom wrote on each letter, “ans” to make sure she answered each one.

16 April

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

Marvin Cain Wrote “Camp Rucker” Courtesy of the Cain Family

19 April

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.

24 April

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.

27 April

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.

30 April

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.

© 2012 notsofancynancy

Posted by: notsofancynancy | November 5, 2014

The Suitcase, Chapter 12, Training Year Three

The Suitcase

Training Year Three

Chapter 12

1942 was a big year for my family and with both Mom and Dad ending up on the California coast at the same time; it has to be far more than a coincidence. Hum, Divinely orchestrated, I would say. So far in their relationship it seems like Dad is doing all the chasing. I sure wish that I had Mom’s letters. To me it sure seems like she is leading him on but I would be speculating. Thank goodness my brain decided to forget what I had been told growing up because as with you, this is all new to me. And at the same time I am thankful I am writing it down now so I don’t forget it again.

Left-All of the letters Right With 1937-1942 missing = how many I have left

This is where it is going to get hard in putting this story into words.  There are 132 letters in 1943, So Dad starts writing a lot. There are sixteen total in January, February, and March. My Dad is stationed in San Luis Obispo, 200 miles from where my Mom is living in Pasadena. He had told Mom that he was going to come down over New Years Eve but he did not get off until 8:00pm.  He would have had to find a way to get there, and by the time he did it would have been time for him to start back to the base. He wishes her a happy birthday which is on the 11th and in 1943 she turned 20. Is that not old for back in those days?

Dad begins to speak about a fellow soldier by the name of Robert “Bob” Winter quite a bit at this time. I am not sure if he has just gotten there or if he has been with the unit all along. I don’t remember my father speaking to me about him but Bob’s name comes up quite a bit in these three months and from now on in my dad’s letters. I get the feeling that Bob has met my mom somehow as dad is acting like they have met. Interesting enough Bob is from the same small town my father’s family was, Cozad, Nebraska. It makes me wonder if they might have known each other before the war. It is very possible.

Robert “Bob” Winter’s note written on Dad’s letter 20 March 1942

January on the coast of California can be pretty wet and 1943 was no different. My father complains he threw a towel over his shoulder and went to the wash room which was only 40 steps about from him and the towel was soaked with rain.  When he tried to dry off after the shower he was still wet.

In his letter dated 25 January 1943 he writes,

Know I wasn’t the one who got mad. Not Mad “Vi” just a feeling as usual of playing second fiddle. Only this time it won’t work. Friends yes, but nothing more. You see if things had turned out right Sat. nite [sic] it might have been different but why should I carry on with the feeling that someone else has you and I haven’t even a smell. I thought the world of you until Sat. nite [Sic] but somehow it has changed now. Everyone was in the story but me. I was miles away. So again have lost. But me I can take it I guess. Have lived all my life that way and so why change now. Anyway as in three faces before I held my end up and will continue to do so. Remember we are still friends.

I guess he told her or she told him? I am really not sure. In this letter Dad includes a cartoon and a newspaper clipping. The clipping is a poem titled “We got the Basin Blues” Written by Private Eddie Cherokose, Fort Mc Arthur

A sleepy Latrine,

A pastoral scene, with two at a basin,

The Job isn’t fun,

The mirror is one you can’t see your face in.

The lighting is bad,

It’s driving you mad. That’s half of it brother,

The farther you go,

The first thing you know, you’re Shaving each other.

A sleepy latrine,

Where soldiers convene, with Natural intentions,

And then hang around,

And finally should like seven Conventions.

One fellow “heard this,”

And another “heard that,” and that’s

How they start,

For rumor careens,

In sleepy latrines,


Dad notes in the top right had corner that you can sing it to a song that was popular in the 40’s called “In the Sleepy Lagoon” by Eddie Cherkose.  Fun Fact, Mr. Cherkose would go on to write several songs for Roy Rogers.

“How can I get rid of pests?”

Oh dear, Now that I am looking at this cartoon could it be that my father felt like the wolf in the cartoon,  and felt like Mom thought of him as a pest? Or is that just the way he was feeling?

He complains how hard it is to keep his truck clean and has washed it three times in the last week. Then someone else drove it and got it dirty again and is frustrated he has no time to wash it again.

It seems Dad has gotten both a card and a letter from Mom in the same day and he is once again inspired to keep writing back. He goes on to write,

Bob and I had quite a time tonight. Our stove wouldn’t work right so we slipped over to some vacant tents and got one. The darn thing hadn’t been shut off and when we lit it it [Sic] blew up and we spilt oil all over the floor. So we took it back and changed it for another. While coming back a guard stoped {Sic} us and did we have a time explaining. We got the stove and it works so everyone is happy. Had to mop the whole floor though. Took about a half a can of bleach. More fun. Anyway we are set here in peace now.

Ok how many times it he going to try to light things on fire?  (Click here to read about it) First he tries to catch his truck on fire and now his barrack! Oh dear!

On 30 January he writes,

“Vi” in your letter you mentioned something about the time I came down. You remember that so maybe you remember me asking if I was butting in on someone else. In case I am wrong and didn’t ask you that stops me. If I remember right you said no. In fact you didn’t even mention your going with Dale the whole time I was there. So whose fault was it if someone was being let down. On the other hand several times you asked me to come down-UH FORGET IT.

Wow Dad!  He does add a postscript, “Tell everyone hello from Bob also.” First he is mad and then he ends like nothing is wrong.

Oh gosh, in the next letter he goes on,

Thanks Vi, Now that the whole damn is settled lets forget it. From now on It can’t make much difference anyway. Possible I won’t get down by the time the duration is over you’ll have someone else on your string and then I’ll have to start over again-anyway. But one never knows does one.

In this statement I get the feeling that Dad thinks he may be going home soon or at least hoping he will. I believe he may mean for the duration of his time in the Army or the duration of this training he is doing I am not sure.

6 February 1943 he writes that he got a magazine and card my mom sent. He does not seem so mad at her. He goes on to tell he is the Cpl of the guard that night. He goes on,

I am going to have to get up every two hours to relieve the guard. So you know how much sleep I am going to get. On Saturday and Sunday too. The whole deal came when a guard was caught asleep last night. Up until then we had a deal they could relieve themselves and the Cpl could sleep straight through. New we can’t and we even have a prisoner to guard. He goes to the stockade tomorrow though. Ain’t [Sic] it awful.

On the 13th Dad has been down to Pasadena to visit mom and had a heck of a time getting back to camp. It took all night and morning to get the 200 miles back to base.  He does not explain why though except he went to find his cousin and went to the wrong address. Then when they got back to camp they had a two hour drill followed by a two mile hike. He was beat when the day was done. He does not say more of what happened with Mom. But on the 16th he is back to calling her “Darling.” And is back to signing “with love.”

It seems that at this time my father is spending most of his time being a soldier with a routine of driving people and things up and down the coast, inspections, guard duty, hiking, and drills. Then when they are not working taking care of the truck Bob and him are going to dances, the USO, and to see movies. The two have also finagled it so that they can both go on furlough together. But he warns Mom to not hold her breath because they Army can change their mind at a moment’s notice.

Mrs. Ann Howard, Bob Winter, and Mom-Courtesy of the Winter Family

Mrs. Ann Howard, Bob Winter, and Mom-Courtesy of the Winter Family

Then on 10 March he writes,

A rumor is out that Bob leaves tomorrow. Hope not. I have been trying to get to go and he hasn’t and he might get to and I won’t for sure.

At this time he is still unsure whether he will get his furlough on the 20th. He goes on to tell that they are having a machine gun problem. He does not go into detail but it has happened two nights in a row and they are working on it for that night’s exercise where Dad will take on the gunner role. He goes on to finish by saying “everyone is all hyped up about this machine gun. I guess it is some stuff.” In the next letter he is still talking about the machine gun. Dad will get to fire it the next day. Given 98 rounds he is excited to get his chance, “rain or shine,” He boasts. Then he writes

I sure hated to leave on Sun. Boy you don’t know what went on in my mind. I guess all good things come to an end. I beat Bob in Sun. He didn’t get here until after 7 Mon. Good thing they didn’t check up on him. Everyone is happy now though.


"Obstacle Course, Camp San Luis Obispo Riley-Sellers, Ladder " Erceil Sellers Collection

“Obstacle Course, Camp San Luis Obispo Riley-Sellers, Ladder ” Erceil Sellers Collection

He then goes on to write a list of all the ways he is planning on getting back to see her which included a lie about an emergency to get him off base. Then this,

I am getting use to leaving also. But every time that same empty feeling and all is there. Maybe I shouldn’t be such a sissy. But I do love you. Wish this war was over so we could carry on as planned. Probably then we wouldn’t get along.  That is about the way things work. You wanted to know what went on in my mind. I wanted to go back to you and never leave. It took a lot of will power not to too. I sure wish we could be married and stay together always. But it is not in the card just yet.  So will have to make the best until later. Maybe then we will make up our minds. Lots of water will pass under the bridge. Please write soon.

Ok that touched my heart. She must be encouraging him in some way for him to feel this way about her. 19 March 1943 Dad writes while he is on guard.

Here goes nothing. I could have started on my pass tonight only I was on guard. So now I have to start tomorrow nite[Sic] You will know this before you get his letter so why should I write it.

Oh my goodness! He goes on to tell a dirty joke. Since I hope my Grand kids will read this someday I will refrain from sharing that with you.


Bob’s girl name is Madeline. Funny I graduated with her. She was the most bashful girl in the class and I the most bashful guy. Therefore we did not get along. Bob might get married if he gets home this time. He probably won’t though. Sounds like the Army is agreeing with Dale. Like it is with lots more. Wish I could same the same for myself. It is making a damn sissy of me. I am sure not a in a writing mood. Waite[Sic] until next tour and see then.

Wait is this the same Dale that Dad thought was spending time with Mom when he is not with her? I don’t get it! But here is the good/bad part; this is last letter Dad wrote on the California Coast. He is on the move again.

Copyright notsofancynancy 2012 ©

Posted by: notsofancynancy | October 24, 2014

The Suitcase, Chapter 11, The Big Move



The Suitcase

Chapter 11

The Big Move

Up until now my father has been writing to my mother in Brookville, Kansas. He has been stationed at Camp San Luis Obispo located 200 miles up the coast from Los Angeles. But it seems a big change has happened for my mother and her family.

2 July 1942 I find my Dad’s letter postmarked from Ventura, California which is 60 miles north of Los Angeles.

Mr. Sellers wrote: "I'm setting slightly back of Sgt. Charlie Hancock (Mess Sgt) on a rock on top of Cero-Renaldo Camp San Luis Obispo, Calif, Jan. 29, 1942. Out tents are in the right hand corner of the picture. X is our tent. This is the Mt. I spoke of climbing a while back. Erceil, The buildings in the background are farm buildings and then the hill on back of them." Erceil Sellers Collection

Erceil Sellers Collection. Mr. Sellers wrote: “I’m setting slightly back of Sgt. Charlie Hancock (Mess Sgt) on a rock on top of Cero-Renaldo Camp San Luis Obispo, Calif, Jan. 29, 1942. Out tents are in the right hand corner of the picture. X is our tent. This is the Mt. I spoke of climbing a while back. Erceil, The buildings in the background are farm buildings and then the hill on back of them.”

Guess what address is used for his next letter to Mom. I find it very humorous but yet interesting, yep my mom’s family is now in Pasadena, California. Pasadena is located only about ten miles from Los Angeles and only 55 miles from Ventura which is where my father seems to be driving between. Their fate has been sealed. What are the chances for this kind of coincidence? Who knew that when these two who first met at a barn dance in small town in Nebraska would lead to having both of my parents living in Southern California in 1942 at the same time and due the war. My grandfather is welding in the shipyards and Dad is driving up the coast with the Army. I know that it is just a coincidence but it just seems divinely orchestrated. What are the odds? I just had another light bulb moment. My grandfather is complaining about driving in California and my dad is a truck driver becoming experienced in driving all over California. I grew up here in Southern California. Pop never drove anywhere when my Dad was around, Dad always drove. Now, I am laughing again. It just seems I have written a whole paragraph of what could be interpreted as “signs” from above. But sadly we have another year to get through before my parents finally tie the knot.

That first letter in July shows that Dad has been to Pasadena on a 24 hour pass to visit Mom and her family, so he has somehow found out that they have moved. I have to assume they have a phone in big town Pasadena. I am not sure at this point how he found out she is there. That first letter there is written explaining that he has a date and has been dating other girls. It makes me wonder if he actually is dating or if he is just making up a good story to make her think he has been. He says that he wanted to come over but thought she would be “busy.” He then goes on to explain that he has been “Red Lined” by the Army. That means he has not been paid yet. I am sure he is broke as he is still sending part of his pay home to his Dad.

The next letter is not written until 13 July 1942.

Glad Pop is working and Likes It. I am doing OK up here but I think someone else is taking my place. But who am I to argue. I have no strings tied and besides that I have no proof of it. In case there is he hasn’t anymore[sic] time than I have. I have been here ever other day. And it has been one grand time after another. Believe me going to her place is like going home. I can have as much fun. You know I am getting as well acquainted here in Ventura as at home. Everybody knows Lefty. Or at least about everyone.

Those sound like fighting words. This whole time I have been looking from my father’s point of view. I would imagine that my mother was having a good time with all the service men around. Between my Grandma Susie inviting soldiers over and now Grandpop working in the shipyards they had to have invited quite a few soldiers over. It was the way they were, always supporting our troops.

Dad goes on to explain that he heard through the grapevine that his sister has had a baby girl. He has not heard from anyone at home but has run into someone who knew. It sure does not seem like he is getting any mail from home, or at least any that he mentions.

He writes again on the 20th stating that he has quit writing to everyone but Mom and Madelyn (whoever that is) and he has not really been anywhere. He talks again about how there are lots of girls around that like him so for her not to worry about him. Then he asks,

Why didn’t you drop on up when you were in Oxnard? That is only nine miles from here and I was home all day on Sunday. Could be maybe I’ll be down sometime this week. Who knows?

Dad is not signing his letters with love at this time. This one he signs, “So long worthless, Lefty. “

Marvin Cain wrote "Main Gate at Camp Luis Obispo" Courtesy of the Cain Family

Marvin Cain wrote “Main Gate at Camp Luis Obispo” Courtesy of the Cain Family

He does not write again until 4 August,

I was coming up there but decided not to. I was in L.A. Sat. nite [sic] and Sunday. Sure had a grand time. Went to the Palladium Sat. nite [sic]and danced to Woody Herman. Boy was he good. He sang one song named “Fan it Baby Fan it.” I really liked it. We really have been driving lately. Since I saw you. I have driven 700 miles. And 300 of that has been blackout. We bent up one truck and trailer. Boy what luck. Not much damage was done. Bob (Robert Winter) is back with us again I guess he and I are going to a show tonight. We were going last night then they decided they needed some trucks. See we being the only one here had to drive and I had to break a date with Dorothy (now who is Dorothy?) That was bad. It was the first day she had off in 2 weeks. And it may be that long again. I hope not though. They tell me I am to be make a Cpl. Don’t count on it though cause I hope not. And there is no order on it yet. That was the word of some of the men back at the company. Don’t take any wooden nickels. Love Lefty!

Robert Winter was from the same small town my father’s family was from, Cozad, Nebraska. I am not sure if they knew each other before he enlisted or not. But there are many references to “Bob” throughout my father’s pictures and letters.

According to Wikipedia ( Woody Herman was an influential Jazz musician who was popular in the mid thirties. He got his first professional gig when he was 15 years old. His first record was recorded in 1936 and the group was known as “The band that plays the blues.” He was also known as a bandleader, saxophonist, clarinetist, and singer. He continued to perform well into 1980 when he passed the torch to the leader of his reed section, Frank Tiberi who continues to make the same type of jazz music as he had. Woody Herman passed away in 1987 and was buried in Hollywood, California.

Oh my goodness! The next letter is not from my dad! It is from someone I never heard of. Is this why Mom was so distant from Dad at this time? I am almost afraid to open it. Who is this? How did she meet him? Why has she kept this letter? What does this mean? Is this the guy she was engaged to?

Pvt. R.L. Metzger
Victorville, Calif.

I was pleased to read your letter in the Echo this issue and as I never think of the few weeks I spent in Brookville without thinking about you. I just couldn’t keep from saying “Hello” and welcome to California.” I hope you like it and I know you will soon have lots of friends out here. But let’s always remember those swell ones in the friendly little village. It is ever this—we lose friends, gain new ones, only to lose them again, to make new ones, for in cycles are we whirled, [sic] but fond memories we can always keep. I find good old Lynn on every page of the Echo, then I think of the few people who took an interest in my work bad as it was, and there I have a picture of Vi sitting on the extra box watching a bum drawing a bum reproduction. Brookville and area is now undergoing a great change due to the war. I suppose all this is vital in our war effort, I am rather glad that I’m not there to witness the peaceful country side change into a huge war machine. How is Rose and Vance? Tell them hello for me. Hope this finds you well and happy. I remain
Your friend,
Leroy Metz

Well it was not what I expected. It is a really nice letter. He knows my Grandpop and Grandma by their first names so I am left once again with more questions than answers. What is the Echo, who was this Leroy, and will I find more letters from other people maybe other men hidden among these letters? I searched for a magazine or newspaper that in 1942 was call Echo with no luck I then searched for the man’s actual name in case he was someone famous and again no luck. I guess that is one question that will never be answered. Interesting that he knows my mom’s family and Brookville, Kansas.

Dad on his 23rd birthday 1942, Bob Winter on the right

The 13 August 1942 letter finds him back in Van Nuys.

They are running me to death or if it isn’t them it is me. I have been made a Cpl. As much as I hated it. It isn’t so bad though. At least not yet. I have only been here a few days. Had to go on guard to catch up on some sleep. Am coming over as soon as I can get there. Boy they sure got me the other morning. Lt. Smith called on me to give mass commands for the exercises and I didn’t know a darn thing about them. I guess I did OK for the first time. But my knees were sure shaking. That was the second day I had been with the company. And things sure have changed.

There are three other letters in August. Dad was just trying to make small talk in all of them. He is driving all over Southern California with little rest. It seems if he isn’t on guard duty or sleeping he is driving.


On 29 August he writes that he will be getting a 15 day furlough in the next couple of months. It seems as though he goes back and forth from Van Nuys, California, then the rest of the time the postmarks are from Ventura. He must have gotten the furlough as there are no letters from 29th August though 7 October He also writes that he had a good time at Mom’s house so he must have been by there for a visit.

Furlough pass 20 October 1942, Dad’s birthday was on the 22nd

Furlough Pass for 20 October 1942

There are three letters in November, quickly written and not having much news.

6 December 1942 he writes that he has not written because there is nothing going on. Then he goes on,

Verlin [sp?] went to Van Nuys and came back with heaps of it (news.) First, sometime next week I am to be transferred back to L.A. somewhere about it anyway. I am going to like that though. I probably won’t be in Van Nuys long. But waite [sic] I haven’t told you the best news yet. Under the new set up I wasn’t assigned a squad and that means only one thing. Maybe in Jan. Around the 10th Wont that be a good birthday present getting rid of me. Nothing is definite yet but someone has to go and I sure hope it is me. As I told you I was about first on the list for Cadney. Maybe I’ll have a tale to tell the Grand Kids after all. I hope. Well if you don’t write soon maybe the next time you hear from me I’ll be in Africa. I hope.

Christmas card 1942

Africa? When does Africa get into the equation? According to Wikipedia ( The North African Campaign, lasted from 1940-1943. My husband just told me that was where Patton and his German counterpart, Edward Rommel did battle. Gosh I must have missed that day in school. I really did not remember. Why does Dad want to go there?

Dad's Best Buddy, Bob Winter

Dad’s Best Buddy, Bob Winter

The last letter that was written in 1942 was from Ventura. Dad is talking about how fast the year has gone. He is also complaining that the weather here in California is what he believes is unseasonably warm. He goes on,

Bob (Robert Winter) and I went to a USO party last nite. [sic] We hit several places first and was in a good mood when we got there. But that soon wore off and the party was dead. Pardon the delay had to go to a show. The last one before he leaves. I guess there isn’t much more to talk about anyway so I had better go to bed. I am sitting here in my underwear anyway. Love Lefty.

And that letter ends the year 1942. My parents have been writing to each other for five years now. It does not seem like Dad has gotten anywhere with Mom. We started the year off feeling like they were in love and Dad was going to spend the rest of his life with Mom but it does not seem she has the same feelings as he does. Also he mentions that he is estranged from his family. I know that his father was neither healthy nor well-educated and it was probably hard for him to read or for him to write a letter to Dad. He does not talk about getting any mail from anyone else. It seems like this was a lonely time for him.

Copyright 2012 notsofancynancy ©

Posted by: notsofancynancy | October 20, 2014

The Suitcase, Chapter 10, California

The Suitcase

Chapter 10


Marvin Cain wrote "Breakers at Fort Ord" Courtesy of the Cain Family

Marvin Cain wrote “Breakers at Fort Ord” Courtesy of the Cain Family

Dad has been in the Army a year and three months and he has been stationed with the same men up until now. On 1 March 1942 my father is pretty upset as he writes,

I guess at midnight there ceases to be a 110th regiment. We are getting smashed. Anyway that is the way I put it. Some of us here and some of us there and who knows where the rest goes. I guess I stay with the same outfit. Only it will be called something else. I am not sure just what that will be. They gave us drivers test and a lot of the men couldn’t pass it so they go to a different place. Some say it will be the Camp Army and others say the service troops and others say in a QM someplace.

1 March 1942 – QM reorganized from QM Regiment to QM Battalion.

Various Stations and Area's Occupied

Various Stations and Area’s Occupied


I know that my father is facing a big change. When I was working with a Victory in Europe Day roster, I found that 80 per cent of the revised 35 Quartermaster Battalion was from small towns all over Nebraska. All being from the same state made the men feel a bond. The other soldiers were from other states and now I understand how they got there. It had to do with this reorganization of the 110 Quartermaster Regiment which became the 35th Quartermaster Battalion 1 March 1942.

Up until now I have been confused with the Army’s “numbers.” My father’s discharge papers have him with the 448th Anti Aircraft Artillery Weapons Battalion and he never mentioned this battalion. I asked my siblings, who do remember more of Dad’s stories and they had never heard of it. We knew he was very proud to be known as 110th Quartermasters. Now the men are all mixed up and they will get a new name. It seems as though the Army continues to keep the soldiers guessing about what was going to happen next. And as I sit here in 2012 I have just confused myself more.

Next he writes,

Now maybe I can continue writing. Had to go get ready to go to a parade or something. I guess we are going to parade for the general. Or maybe he is going to tell us goodbye and how good or bad we are doing. Anyway I have been figuring all day how to get out of it and as yet haven’t done it. We lost probably the best officer in the Regt. Last week. He was transferred to S.F. (San Francisco) Boy we sure liked him. He was a Major before he left. He came over to say goodbye. By the looks of it he hated to leave as much as we hated to see him go. Anyway he said he would see us over there. We have to fall in 5 minutes so I better quit for now. Maybe I can tell you what the general says.

Dad writes again later that night,

The general didn’t have much to say about the same thing they have been since we started. That we are the best regt. In the U.S. Army, and that he hated to lose any of us. I’ll bet you hate to see your dad go. I believe I would too. He will only be about 200 miles from here if he go [Sic] to L.A.

Where is Pop going? Is he coming back? Is he going to Los Angeles?

7 March 1942 postmarked from Pasadena California

Well this letter is not what I expected. I am holding in my hand, with tears streaming down my cheek, a letter that my grandfather wrote in 1942. I cannot believe it but it is true. There are others, I see six in total. My grandfather passed away in 1972. He was sick for a long time so I do not remember much about him. A family story passed down was he lost his farm in Kansas when he could not raise wheat because of his severe allergy to it, but how did he get to be in Pasadena, California?

Pop in his cornfield

Dear Sonny Boy:-
Well here it is I just got back from town. We walk down almost every afternoon. I live just fourteen blocks from down town Pasadena just a nice walk have not used the truck since I drove in last Mon. I go down to the welding school around 10:30 at nite [Sic] and get back around 3:00 in the morning sleep till about 8:00 get my own breakfast and dinner most of the time. Sure is a nice climate just cool enough to want a coat in the morning and evening and nice and warm during the day. There are mountains all around this town you can see snow and the Mt. Wilson observatory from the house here most of the time.

My grandparents only had one child and it was a girl. With all the nicknames in Grandma’s family it is only natural for them to call Mom by a nickname, was this it? My sister told me that just after mom was born Grandpa said something to the affect of “well that foolishness is over and we won’t have to do it again.” I guess he did not want more kids, or was it just he did not want Grandma to go through that pain?

He goes on to explain that there are a couple of German brothers living where he is and asks what Mom has been doing. Then,

Please write and tell me all the news and your troubles. I haven’t heard from Susie (Grandma’s nickname) guess maybe I have not had time but it sure seems like a long time. Well it smells like something is cooking so maybe we better go down and see. With love, Pop

So it is 7 March 1942 and my grandfather is in California going to welding school. My sister also told me that after losing the farm he saw an advertisement in the newspaper offering free government training in California to get his license to be a welder. So Grandpop takes advantage of this and drives his truck from Brookville, Kansas to Pasadena, California and gets settled in a rooming house. Coincidentally, my father is just up the shore a mere 200 miles away.

Pop and the tuck he drove to California

14 March 1942 there is another letter from Grandpa; He calls Mom Sonny Boy twice in this letter. Mom has been sick and he is worried about her. He actually is sick himself but he is doing a lot better now that he is in California with its warm weather. I wonder if this is part of the reason he came to California. Since I am not sure I have to let it go. He is surprised that his landlady is so trusting letting him use her brand new Chevrolet to drive to get groceries. What I found interesting is he is afraid of the roads here. I guess Pasadena was busy back then because he talks of the two and three lane highways, but everyone drives in the middle of the road. Some things never change only I am sure there are bigger highways and a whole lot more people now days. I think he scared himself as he never teaches Grandma Susie to drive. She did not learn until he passed away.

He goes on to say,

I am going down to the California shipyards with Bill tomorrow. He is going to take his test. He has been going to the school for seven weeks. Says he is going to marry me thinks I am a better cook that the landlady. Seen former President H. Hoovers house yesterday. It sure looks like a big house it is out on the side of the mountain north east of Pasadena.

It is good to see this side of my Grandpa. I don’t remember his personality because he was sick for so long, but, I can see he had a sense of humor. He would have had to have been humorous because Grandma was such a joker.

I cannot find any mention of Herbert Hoover living in Pasadena but I do find evidence that his son, Herbert Hoover Jr. lived in Pasadena, so maybe that is whose house he saw.

Mom does not get another letter from my dad until he writes on the 17th. Boy he sure is in a sour mood.

I am glad you said we are good friends. You know it could have been a lot worse. I kind of figured I was getting away a head of myself. But I wanted to be sure. One reason I have no intentions on coming back. Why should I. I am worth more dead than alive. Besides the chances are only about 25 to 1. Anyway in a short time we will be over there and then things will be different. The sooner the better for me. At least I will get out of the Army even if it is in a box.

This is killing me. Why don’t they just figure things out. It seems like Mom might not be ready to settle down yet. I feel bad for Dad but I know how this story ends. He goes on to confirm that he is only 190 miles from her Dad.

Viola in her play, standing far left

31 March Grandpa writes a letter to her once again.

How is my little family? What has become of my dog? I sure am glad your play was a success and wished I could have been there to see it I haven’t been to a show or anything since I came here. One of the boys that stays here big Bill has gone to work at the shipyard it is quite a drive 40 miles from here and there is so much traffic it takes 2 hours. Our land lady is trying to rent a house in Long Beach which is 30 miles closer to the shipyard if she finds one we are all going to move down there. There doesn’t seem to be many places for rent down there. I went and looked at a trailer yesterday didn’t like it there a lot of people live in those here. There sure are a lot of soldiers around here. They have camps every place where they is any defense industry. I got to see the search lights chasing a plane around the other nite [Sic] he was awful high but they sure held the beams right on him didn’t look any bigger than a fly. I quit working the hours were so long it interfered with my welding to much only got to sleep four or five hours after a few days it wasn’t enough. It is five thirty and somebody had Fibber MaGee [Sic] on the radio.

I wonder how many people saw that same plane and thought it was the enemy coming to bomb them. How many of them did that plane scare? I know I would have been scared.

The “Fibber McGee and Molly” radio show was on the air and popular beginning in 1935. According to (, a husband and wife vaudevillian team, Jim and Marion Jordan, were listening to a radio show in Chicago with his brother in 1925. They said they could do a better job than the person on the radio and Jim’s brother bet them $10 they could not. They all went to the radio station and announced the bet. The station manager let them audition which resulted in Jim and Marion going on-the-air immediately at a beginning rate of $10 per week. After several years on various local and regional programs, “Fibber McGee and Molly” became a national radio show in 1935.

He ends the letter with “Whatever became of Lefty?”

So it is interesting to see that Pop was wondering if my dad was still in California.

9 April 1942 Grandpa writes again,

I went down to the welding school last nite [sic] at 8:00 o’clock and around nine there was a black out. I was busy welding when all at once my arc disappeared and there I was in the dark I stumbled around and found my way out on the street and the only light in sight was a neon sign a couple blocks down the street and it only lasted about a minute. We sit around about an hour and a half and then started to walk home it is sixteen or seventeen blocks about every other block there is a air rade [sic] warden every other one wanted to argue seems you are not supposed to go anywhere in the dark. When we were three blocks home we were told a plane was the cause of it and you couldn’t even hear a plane here so never even got a thrill.

What would that have been like? Living through the mandatory blackouts? Being afraid every plane that flew overhead might bomb you. In the aftermath of 9/11 I felt that fear. We have a heck of a lot more planes than they had back in 1942. On the evening of 12 September I sat outside and it was eerie not having a plane flying overhead. I guess now I do understand how helpless Dad, Grandpa, or anyone in the United States felt in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on the United States. Wow! Breakthrough! It has only taken me ten chapters to come to the conclusion that the attack on Pearl Harbor WAS a terrorist attack!

I find another letter from Pop dated 27 May 1942. He talks of looking for family living in the vicinity of where he is staying. Is he planning to move the family to California? He asks about my dad and says the two brothers who live in the rooming house with him have family in San Luis Obispo and they want him to go along with them up the coast to visit them. He is going to try to find Dad when he is there. Grandpa is starting a government welding school that day and continuing the one he is taking at night. He figures he will be learning twice as fast and be twice as good by continuing both classes. Pop is wondering how Mom is doing in school and is wondering when the graduation exercises will be. He really wants to come home to attend them if he does not get work by then. So he is actually looking for work? Will he go to work in the shipyards? How weird is it that my Pop is in California at the same time my father is here? Wow! This is starting to sound like it would make a good book!

Viola’s graduating class

15 May 1942 letter starts by congratulating mom for getting her diploma and he wants to hear all about the fun time she is having as a senior in high school. He goes on about visiting a friend of his and he is living in a tent a half a mile from Warner Brothers Studios. He uses candles for light and has a portable radio and “the cutest little wood stove you have ever seen.” How was your play? He wonders. He has talked with someone from home who went to see it and truly enjoyed the production.

15 May Dad writes “I heard you are going to get married, is that true?” Wait! When did that happen? Oh dear me! That is hard for me to read. That must be why she has not written him. It seems as though Mom’s Uncle George, the one who introduced Mom and Dad is now in the Marines and is stationed not far from Dad. My father does not go into much detail other than George is expected to pass through where Dad is stationed.

George Vance

In the same envelope he writes to Grandma,

I am sure I would have enjoyed the play. I always did like them. I sure have enjoyed the last nine days though. I have been in Washington so that adds two more states to my list. I sure fell in love with Oregon. Boy there is so much more there for one to see. I guess California has a lot of things but to me they stink. You see I don’t like Calif. or what they stand for. As soon as we got in Oregon we started enjoying ourselves and did all the time we were there. I cannot say that about this place. Really Mom I am not too low you see I really meant what I said. And I wasn’t in a bad mood either. I have a lot to live for but what is the use. When I get out of here I am going to have to go to work and I am afraid I won’t like that. And I have $10,000 worth of insurance that would really be used in a good way back home. I am serious. I am quite sure I am going to be in Calf. When you get out I am just not sure where. I can’t get off to see Pop. They have taken all the passes away from single men. And here I was going to a dance tonight.

I just remembered I was in Oregon when I was 22, the same age my father is in this letter. I stayed about a year and a half. I remember how it looked to someone who was just passing through when I visited the first time. Not that my dad would have had time to stop and visit. He told of driving and sleeping 24 hours a day to get to the assigned location so sightseeing had to have been done from the windshield of the truck.

I remember Mom and Dad driving to Oregon in their camper when I lived there. They camped with my daughter on the Rogue River. I will always remember Dad had her fishing when I got there after work. She was about five years old and sat with her Grandpa holding her pole. Dad got up to get a beer and Tania was standing with the pole when she hooked one! That child threw her pole in the river, ran into the camper slamming the door before anyone could react! I will always remember how tickled he was to tell that story again and again throughout the rest of his life. It will always be a happy memory.

Well this is quite a shock there are no letters for the next two months. With so many letters left how can that be? In looking at how many letters I have read, and how many are left I cannot see him skipping a couple of days. These letters are very odd to me because Dad was always a quiet person. He never talked to me about his time in the service so I am totally surprised to find that all these letters exist.

Maybe that is why he was always so quiet, because he was writing a “book” while he trained in and then attended this war.

Copyright 2012 notsofancynancy

Posted by: notsofancynancy | October 8, 2014

The Suitcase, chapter 9, In the Army Now

The Suitcase

Chapter 9

You’re in the Army Now

(The California Military Museum)

January 1942 finds my father still at Fort Ord (for more info click here) in northern California where he was sent to help guard the coast and transport solders and supplies. This will be interesting changes in not only my father’s life but also my mother’s and it will be interesting to see how these changes will affect their relationship. There are a total of 28 letters in 1942.

Dad writes on 16 January 1942 that his regiment is hauling soldiers out to the woods. He does not say why but I have to assume they are having training exercises. He had the kitchen on his truck so he drives back to the base once a week to stock up on supplies.  He is sleeping in his truck at night which is where he spends the first hours of 1942. The first night was the coldest because of the lack of heavy blankets. Can you imagine spending the whole night wondering if you will freeze to death along with the fearing of being attacked by the Japanese and killed that night? It must have been hard for all the men and women.

Then he writes to my grandma,

We sure had a bad News Years. We were in the woods both eve and night. I can’t see why but that made somebody happy so I guess it was OK. Boy it was cold. I just about froze. The first night I slept alone and that didn’t work so the next night we doubled up and that didn’t work any better. I had the kitchen on my truck so to be smart the Kid [Sic] who was sleeping with me and I decided to light a stove. While working on the project we split [Sic] some gas on the floor of the truck. We somehow or other it got lit and did we ever do some fast moving. I had twenty gallons of gas besides three stoves and a lot of other supplies. If that had ever got going someone would have thought sure the Japs had landed. Anyway we got the stove going but it didn’t do much good. It warmed the top of the truck and the rest was like an ice bag.

Oh my goodness! I am really glad that fire did not go any further. But I probably would have tried to do the same if I had a stove and was freezing.

Marvin Cain wrote "Breakers at Fort Ord" Courtesy of the Cain Family

Marvin Cain wrote “Breakers at Fort Ord” Courtesy of the Cain Family

He goes on to say that he is enjoying the food. They had oysters, of all things, two nights and fried chicken. They have had fried chicken only once in the whole year he has been in the Army.

On the 14th still in Fort Ord he writes,

Well you asked for it. You couldn’t get rid of me even if you wanted too. And I don’t think you will have to do any chasing. If anything you’ll be running to get away. One good way to stop either would be to join the Ambulance Corps. That would be about the only thing that would make me mad enough to end it. There will be plenty of things to do without doing that, they have woman working in Canteens and Service Clubs out here and also in Robinson. I really don’t think I could have anyone I know take what they have to. Soldiers aren’t humans and you would probably be around a lot of them. I can see your point of view about some of the people in this old world. The only thing I can see is why do we have to take this old s_ _ _ anyway. There isn’t many here that would take action in stride. But having to do this and stay here too. That’s bad. Someone has to pay and I am sure it won’t be the enlisted men.

Well he certainly has a strong opinion about the Ambulance Corps. The mention of working in the canteen or service club surprises me though.  There are a lot of happier soldiers there. I wonder if he is afraid that if she is in the Ambulance Corps. She would have to work in the war zones.

Marvin Cain wrote "Fort Ord" Courtesy of the Cain Family

Marvin Cain wrote “Fort Ord” Courtesy of the Cain Family

He then goes on to talk about their Colonel trying to take bets on where they will be when their next check comes. The colonel bets they will be back in Arkansas. It seems Dad also got inoculated, he explains,

We had a physical examination Sat. They also gave us shots for Typhoid and Smallpox. I took them both in my left arm. (He is left- handed)And they both took. God I can hardly move it yet today (Tues) Was I ever sick Sat night and Sunday. I guess I am going a live though.

He goes on to explain that they are having good weather during the day and it is still cold at night. He also tells that he has not unpacked his clothes since he arrived in camp, not being sure where or when they will move again.

In Grandma’s letter he writes,

The order just came that we were to pack everything so we would be ready to go. And have what we don’t take ready to go so someone else can take it if we don’t come back. Fine stuff. I still don’t think we are going to leave. The only thing I can see we are moving Inf. and looking for a move in between times. I am going to close this now and get things ready. Where the next one comes from God only knows.

He ends my mother’s letter with:

I am sure I can’t write as long and swell a letter as you did so I’ll quit by saying. If everyone has someone like you and your mother back home we have no reason worrying about the war.

Pop and Viola

Mom and her family have sent him a package for Christmas which included cookies and a new wallet. Knowing my dad he shared them with his buddy’s. I know if my mom would have cooked them he might not have wanted to eat them. She was not a good cook. Knowing grandma though she would not have let mom send them if they were bad so I am sure she helped.

The letter on the 16th finds him still in Fort Or and writing to Mom,

I hope you heard the same newscast I did. It was about a German in Russia. He was scarcely dressed and he said he was glad the U.S. was in the war. Because as in (19)18 it wouldn’t be long now. I wonder how right he is. I hope I can live up to the Reputation that is waiting for me. I ‘m not worth it though. No soldier is. If there is one I have not seen him

That sure made my heart sad. I wonder why he is so down on the soldiers. Is it because he has been living among them for over a year, or is he just mad at the situation he is in.

18 January 1942 – QM arrived at Camp San Luis Obispo, California

The letter from the 18th has three separate letters in it. The first one reads,

Well we finally got moved. We are now at Camp Luis Obispo, Cali. so that will be my address for a while. The last group that were here 2 days. So we don’t know where or how long we will be here. We moved last night about 130 miles south of where we were at Fort. Ord. Boy is it warm here. We are right in a valley between four mountains. Some fun getting up every morning and looking them in the face. We are about nine miles from the ocean now. You can see it from here if you get high enough. That means some good walking. Another kid and I tried it today. We went quite a ways but still did not get to the top. Our next move will probably be a boat ride. We are only about 200 miles from L.A. now.

(Visit The California Military Museum here)

This trip to California had to be the first time my father has been off the plains of Nebraska.  He may have come west once before but he had never been away this long or this far. They are having below zero temperatures in Nebraska about this time and they also have record- breaking snow. Dad tells Grandma that he would gladly be shoveling snow than be at camp.

Oh dear, in the next letter dad writes,

Sorry I haven’t written. Have been too disgusted. I probably would have written the wrong thing and that wouldn’t have been nice. Say why don’t you call me sucker everyone out here does. So you think I am too serious Huh? Perhaps! If you only knew. Anyway I thought that you wanted it that way. Anyway a man isn’t too old to change at 22. From now on I am just your loving correspondent as you say. Beside the pickle I am in now calls for a change anyway.

Again I am left wondering what exactly she wrote in the letter. He seems crushed.

A little southeast of Morrow Bay lies Camp Merrian (read more by clicking here.) Given the name Camp Merrian in the late 1800’s it was renamed Camp San Luis Obispo in 1940.  It was comprised of approximately 10,000 acres including 4,200 acres near the mouth of the Salinas River located about 20 miles away. A dam was built there and it was used to help supply water to the Camp. It was equipped to house about 12,000 men.

I have been past Camp San Luis Obispo a few times. My sister lives not too far from there and when I visited I saw it from in the car on the highway. When I look at pictures of the camps these days, whether it is of Camp Robinson or San Luis Obispo it is quiet, it is just too quiet now. I have had the opportunity to visit many of the training camps Patton ran out in our desert and I feel the same thing looking at pictures of these camps or what is left of them. I feel like it is sacred ground. I walk lightly, respectfully, and speak in hushed tones. I have even been known to shed a tear. These camps were in the middle of the desert.  I cannot imagine what it would have been like to see these camps bustling with soldiers in them.  Although the camps that Dad has been to have more to them, such as permanent buildings they still command the same quiet respect as the ones I have visited in the desert.

Dad talks about playing ping pong but they have a limited numbers of balls and when they all break he seems to write more letters. Then the Colonel decided the men were making too much noise playing it and he made them move the table out. Then the men started playing craps and that was ok because the “Big Kicks” liked to play.

Marvin Cain donning his Fort Ord t-shirt, January 1942, courtesy of the Cain Family

Marvin Cain donning his Fort Ord t-shirt, January 1942, courtesy of the Cain Family

He has to drive back to Fort Ord to transport another group of men down the coast.  On the way back I guess they decided to see just how “much” their trucks could take.

I bet we drove them 2/3 of the way in a ditch. We sure got the devil too. I don’t think there were any of us that didn’t get called down by a civilian cop somewhere along the way. The best though a Coke Wagon started to pass us. We soon changed the tide and started to pass it when we would go by we would reach out and grab a bottle and then go on. I’ll bet he lost at least 2 cases. Then he stopped.

I am laughing out loud at my Father  for being such a hoodlum.

We are still looking for a move. I really don’t know how soon. The more I am around here the better I like it and this is sure no country for a working man. So you moved. Are you glad or sorry. I’ll bet you miss the old place. I even miss Arkansas and was only there a year.

Up until now my grandparents lived on a part of my great-grandparents‘homestead in Kansas. Although he does not say it, my grandfather loses his farm. I was told by my oldest sister that he was a corn farmer and the government wanted him to sell wheat. My grandfather was extremely allergic to wheat and could not be around it so it seems at this time they have moved. The address remains the same, Brookville Kansas.

In the last letter in this envelope he writes,

Well the big change has taken place and we are all very unhappy. At least we don’t like the new Co. Commander about the brake ups [Sic] we don’t feel bad about that that although I am the only one left that was in the tent. They sure took our fun away from us. We can’t take a truck to town anymore. We can but it has to come right back. Before we could take one almost anywhere within 25 miles and be in before 11:00.

I know that he was upset about them breaking up his regiment. He had been with most of these men over a year now and I know that after the war they had a special bond. One of the men’s daughters recently told me that she remembered Vi and Lefty (my parents) and they had received Christmas cards from my mother until she got sick which would have been as late as 1996, which was 55 years later. It amazes me that it has been that long.

My father goes on in this letter about the confusion about their relationship. He wants to know where they stand. He is serious about her and wants to know if she is as serious. He is so uncertain about how they should proceed.  He goes on to explain that he is writing the letter in the truck and I hope he is not doing it while driving. Then he goes on,

We drove out into the country and camouflaged our trucks. Then next we hauled the Inf. out. And today I am here. Maybe sometime I will have a day off. All I did today was haul bread. About 50 loaves and had a two and a half ton truck to do that. Took me about an hour. The rest of the time I just sat around. Am here an hour too early.

That last sentence “Am here an hour too early” would be a natural thing to my father after the war. He was a milk man for many years. It was a great day when my brother and I got to go with my father on his route. We always got there at least an hour early. It was always dark out. He would sleep in his truck in the parking lot until they got there. My brother and I were always so excited to get going because we would get special treats from the shopkeepers, so I never slept. I just pretended to sleep but I always kept one eye open watching for the headlights of the owner’s car. I knew the treats I would be given were just a locked store away.

Foothill Dairy early 50’s

The last letter in January was written on the 22nd. He talks about the weather and being sick because they have been giving him typhoid shots. Dad had spent two days in bed and that night he had to stand guard.  The he goes on to say,

Too bad about Carol Lombard getting killed. She was such a nice girl too. There was a kid here today that graduated with me. Boy it was sure good to see him. He has been up here 18 months and is making around $125 dollars a month. It takes about that much to live out here. 2 cokes and 2 hamburgers came to about $1.00. So see you would not eat much here.

He goes on to explain that they guy invited him over to his house for dinner but he can only get a pass to be gone 6 hours and “what can one do in that time. Not me I think I will stay in camp.”

Carol Lombard was a beautiful quirky comedian born in 1908 (for more info click here) She was one of the highest paid stars working in Hollywood at the time. On 16 December 1941 she was involved in a plane crash traveling home from a World War II Bond tour in her home state of Indiana. The last words she spoke to the fans was, “Before I say goodbye to you all come on and join me in a big cheer, V for Victory!” Flying back to Hollywood after the event and 23 minutes into the flight they ran in to a peak outside of Las Vegas. Everyone aboard the flight including her mother and 20 others were reported to have died instantly in this tragic event. She was married to Clark Gable at the time and he was devastated by the loss. Flying immediately to the scene he began helping to make decisions on the rescue efforts. Interestingly enough shortly after the crash he joined the Army Air Forces and headed a small unit attached to a bomber. He filmed the B-15’s in flight, completing five missions himself. There would never be an answer to why the plane crashed. There are plenty of stories out there though. One being that all but one of the airplane beacons in the area were turned off or ‘blacked out” as a matter of precaution.  There is a lot of speculation and little concrete evidence.

There is about to be a big change in my mother’s life. It will change everything my mother knows about small town life and will play a key role in my parent’s lives.

© Copyright 1012 notsofancynancy

Posted by: notsofancynancy | October 3, 2014

How Much Do You Love Me? by Paul Mark Tag

by Paul Mark Tag

by Paul Mark Tag

What you may not know about me is I love to read so when I was contacted to do a review on a historical novel based on the history of the Japanese internment in 1942 I jumped at the chance. After Pearl Harbor was bombed the Internment of 110-120,000 Japanese to get them away from the shoreline has always fascinated me. My father was sent to help guard the coast of California so this story ties right in to his.

In his book, How much do you love me? Paul Mark Tag weaves a tale based around the Tule Lake internment Camp in Northern California. Having been to and done research on the Manzanar Camp a couple hours away from my home I was interested to see how true to history Mr. Tag kept his novel. I was impressed to say the least and I have to admit I may have learned some new facts I did not know. Although this book is a work of fiction Tag’s descriptions of the camps and what went on there was right on. I felt like his characters could been anyone of the hundreds of thousand internees that actually were at the facilities but the twists he puts on the fictional part of story is never ending.

Keiko Tanaka and James Armstrong, and here is the first twist, a bi-racial couple meet and fall in love before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. With the outbreak of war James Armstrong proposes to Japanese-American Keiko before James enlists in the Navy. They marry before he ships out while she and her family are sent to the Tule Lake internment camp. The novel jumps from 2000 where James and Keiko’s kids are trying to come to terms with dealing with the last days of their parents lives to the 1940’s as Keiko’s family deals with their internment. Oh and what good secrets Mr. Tag has weaved into this story.

If you like this era and want to learn more about the history this book will do you good. I will put it in my top ten favorite historical novels.


Amazon, How Mow Much Do You Love Me?

Visit Paul Mark Tag’s website by clicking here

Posted by: notsofancynancy | October 1, 2014

The Suitcase, Chapter 8, Pearl Harbor

The Suitcase

Chapter 8

Pearl Harbor

December 1941 I am very nervous to read the December 1941 letters. My heart beats fast and I am feeling hot and shaky. Out of all the letters I have read, I know what will happen on 7 December 1941 will be the beginning of the end for many a young man in the United States. I have started to read the letters several times now but I have not been able to get past the first letter. I have held it but I have not been able to open it. So for the sake of preserving history I will push on.

Camp Robinson Stationary

Camp Robinson Stationary

The beginning of December finds Dad still in Camp Robinson, Arkansas, and getting pretty bored. But maybe it was more than that. Maybe he was just trying to right the wrongs he made by not visiting Mom on the last furlough he was granted. He will have been in the Army for one year on the 23rd and he has just turned 22. Something must have been said about not being discharged, or maybe his quest is just to see my Mom before he went to fight in a war that is becoming more real. For now he is focused on getting that furlough long enough to visit my mom and her parents for a few days.  I wonder how many others made that last minute choice and got married because of a war. I am sure way more than I can know. The United States was new in the act of war.  We had fought several wars but never with the weaponry than will be used to fight this war. Dad is beginning to look at mom family as “his” family. He thinks he will be getting furlough sometime around Christmas in 1941, although he is not certain. There seems not to be much of anything going on other than the usual inspections, watching training films, and having the Army changing its mind about what the soldiers should be doing. Then this,

You know I told you about a convoy home. Well that blew up. The colonel wouldn’t give permission. We had the generals’ but that was all. Boy we sure were mad, you see it was to get furniture for our day room. The Texas Chamber of Commerce gave $300 for it. I don’t know how we will get it here. I suppose we won’t. Maybe he will change his mind.

I am not sure why the Texas Chamber would give the Nebraska boys who are in Arkansas money. But it looks like they cannot find a way to get it to Arkansas anyway. Wait! I remember some Texas Girls made a stand about a certain 15 mile hike can this be why? In the same envelope he writes to Grandma,

Well I guess we get travel time on our furlough but that is all. They are giving 10 days and 1 day for every 500 miles on the road. I really don’t know what to do. Right now all I can get off is the 31st and I don’t know about coming then. I asked the Co Clerk and he said he didn’t think I could get gone any before that, I still have the top kick to ask. I think he’ll let me go around the 20th.Right now he is engaged in a big crap game and I couldn’t possibly interrupt that. If I did I know darn well I wouldn’t go. Darn the Army anyway.

There you go he is still thinking he is going to get a furlough but they have just pushed the date back. Did stuff like that really happen? It brings back memories of the television series MASH, sitting around in their underwear, smoking cigars, and playing cards. Although the actors in MASH were in a war zone these men were not worried about it. No one realizes what is going to happen in little less than a week.

Camp Robinson 19411

When I think of Hawaii I see surfers, palm tree’s, beaches, beautifully brown skin kissed by the sun, girls in hula skirts, men in beautiful costumes, drums, drinks served in pineapples with umbrella’s, fruit, and a kicked back life. I cannot get my mind wrapped around the actual event that happened there on that December day in 1941.Although I know that Hawaii is a beautifully magical land, I am now aware that this horrific event happened there. Thankfully my father was not at Pearl Harbor but I cannot help thinking how many men were killed.  I believe in my mind I have always kept Hawaii separate from the Pearl Harbor Naval Base.  This catastrophic event would seal our fate and send our soldiers into a frenzy knowing it was now their duty to guard the United States. As I write this I feel frantic to read what was written in this next set of letters but let’s take a look at the facts of the bombing. According to Wikipedia (Click Here) a little before 8 am on 7 December 1941 a swarm of over 300 Japanese planes filled the sky in a surprise attack over Pearl Harbor Naval base. It was located on the island of Honolulu in a perfect horseshoe bay called Pearl Harbor. It was a Sunday and a lot of the service people were off the base to attend Sunday church services, or it might have been a whole lot worse.

Courtesy of the Cain Family

Courtesy of the Cain Family

It would be a time where the people of the United States were scared and many paranoid. My family came to the United States to get away from war. Never before had it hit so close to home and never had our people felt so vulnerable. When the smoke cleared and inventory was taken over 2,500 people were killed and 1,000 were wounded. All eight of the Navy battleships were damaged and of those, four sunk. Also damaged or destroyed in the attack were three cruisers, three destroyers, and approximately 180 airplanes. Thankfully four of the Japanese’s intended targets were missed. Three of our biggest battleships were out at sea and thankfully the fuel tanks located on the island were missed. The attack was the last straw in failing communications between Japan and the United States. This is what my father and his buddies had been joking about the last few years, having to actually fight in a war.  The safety of the United States just got dumped on these young men’s shoulders. My father told me of being sent to California to guard the coast from any further attack. I cannot even imagine what it felt like to be being threatened with that kind of force here in the United States? 8 December, President Roosevelt came over the radio wires with the same sentiment others in the United States felt.

Yesterday, December 7, 1941–a date which will live in infamy–the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

Anyone who was living that day would always remember where they were and what they were doing when the news of the attack reached them.  The whole country was unbelievably surprised by this attack and it sent more than one American’s life into tailspin of uncertainty.

Marvin Cain wrote "December 8, 1941  Courtesy of the Cain Family

Marvin Cain wrote “December 8, 1941 Courtesy of the Cain Family

I have seen the movies of Pearl Harbor and not once has it hit me as hard as this research into the causalities of Pearl Harbor. Maybe it is because now I am looking at it for more personal reasons. I am anxious to find out how this bombing will play out in my father’s story. To me this is the one incident that would change my father’s life forever.  I wonder if he had gotten home in 1941might my parents have gotten married? The way Dad is talking right now I think it is a possibility. This one earth shattering event affected not only my family but the families of over 17 million men and woman who served in this war. Still in Arkansas on 11 December 1941 he writes to my mom,

Up until an hour ago I still had hopes in coming home only for four days. Then a bomb struck them. [Sic} Where will we be by then, God only knows. I only hope we get it over with in a hurry. There is so much I haven’t done and I would like to. Well here are the circumstances good or bad. We might move from here in a half an hour and it might be six months before we go. That is as much as I can tell you. I know one thing though I was a damn fool for not coming when I had a chance. I guess that is too late now. Remember though it is the same as when I was up there before. You’re the only thing I really have left. I hope I can say that???? I guess you can tell me what your Grandmother gave you. I am sure I will be home for some Xmas but not this one damnit. I never did plan ahead of time that worked [Sic}. No I guess you didn’t say you made up your mind. Well we have one thing in common now. At least we won’t argue about it for a while. I had a good argument to put up though when I got there. Hope you had a good time while you were in Emporia. I imagine you did though. I haven’t much to say so I guess I better quit. Adios, Lefty, Tell everyone hello.

He sounds so desperate and alone. He has his family in Nebraska but his dad is not healthy and will soon go to live with my father’s brother, Dad’s Mom has been gone for four years now and I am not sure why he does not have much contact with his brothers and sisters.  He has family who writes him but he does not have the connection he has with my grandparents.  It is sad to think he felt so alone. I am really glad he had my mom and her family. It is beginning to make me realize why Dad was always so loyal to my mom’s parents. He was always close with them and you could tell how much he loved and respected them. After my grandfather died in 1972 my father would drive the half hour to Grandma’s house twice a week. Towards the end of her life in 1996 he drove there every day to help care for her. That is right Grandma lived another 24 years living alone. Grandma did not learn to drive when she came to California and 30 years later when Grandpa passed she had to learn. She was 71 years old. It was a scary time in our family, we were fearful to be on the roads at the same time! 1

6 December 1941 – QM departed from Camp Robinson, Arkansas

Marvin Cain wrote "California Bound" Courtesy of the Cain Family

Marvin Cain wrote “California Bound” Courtesy of the Cain Family

19 December 1941 finds the letter postmarked from Big Springs Texas. So they are on the move and there is more uncertainty,

Well here I am again. We left camp last night bound for God only know where. We are somewhere in Texas now. All we know it that it is suppose to take four days to get us to our destination. We are going by train (Note is scribbled) so if you can’t read this than it isn’t my fault. There isn’t much to write about only I love you. Wish I was headed your way instead of this. I have been on guard for the last two nits. [Sic] Sure am tired. Have 2 more Hrs and then I am done I hope. They split our Co in half. Half is with Co F 110th Engineers that is what I am in. Half is with Co E 110QM. I hope the whole Co. gets together again. We don’t even know whether they are going the same way. Well I guess I better close by the time you figure this out you will probably be gray haired. All my love, Lefty, Merry Xmas.

The only thing different in the letter he wrote to Grandma was,

I don’t think there is anything to get worried about though.  Anyway no one is here is. As far as we know Calif [Sic} is our limit. Maybe we will get to shoot a jay yet. We were supposed to have a convoy last Sunday but they could not get flat cars in fast enough to load the trucks. So we were waylaid until Thursday.  Merry Xmas, Lefty

The next is this postcard dated the 20th,


20 December 1941-post marked Bowie, Arizona

 It says “Good Scenery here too, Love Lefty. The Letter on the 21th we find him on a train where he writes,

I am just leaving Los Angeles. Not what I expected though. As far as I know we are still going west. I guess we are pretty sure to go to Ft. Ord Calif. for a while. In all the places I have been in yet I’ll take this. Boy you can sure see a lot (of mountains) We have been in them the last two days. That is in and out of them. I always though Texas was grazing country well what I saw of it was mostly farming. New Mexico and Arizona are the ones for that. Always [Sic] across both of them that was all we saw. I believe I had rather driven down though. I believe we could have had more fun. It would be colder though. I guess we are going through a tunnel before long. Anyway they just came along and told us to close our windows. I am getting a lot of experience on this trip. Just think right now there is an orange grove on each side. Everything is green and it is plenty warm. I wish you and I were taking this trip together, I sure bet we could have the fun. That was quite a tunnel. There seems to be more rocks on this side. That was a double header. On [Sic] another it seems to be a habit now. We seem to have a lot of them. This one seems to be a long one. We have the lights on in the car. Boy that really was a long one. The gas from the engine almost got us. It must have been all of a mile long. Gosh I can’t think of much more to say right now so I will close until later.

Marvin Cain wrote "On our way to Fort Ord, Calif"  Courtesy of the Cain Family

Marvin Cain wrote “On our way to Fort Ord, Calif” Courtesy of the Cain Family

24 December 1941 – QM arrived at Fort Ord, California

26 December 1941 finds him in California. There are two letters with the same date on them.

Darling, well guess what! I am still alive. Wouldn’t you know it? We sure have been having a time here. I have been on guard for the last 40 hours. No let up in site either. We have to stand until the company comes back. They are someplace around here close. Pardon the pencil but I just ran out of ink and everyone who seems to have some is gone.  It’s just as good though. You probably wouldn’t be able to read it anyway.  Gosh darling I wish I were there instead of this damn hole. I never did like to break promises. We could have so much fun if it wasn’t for the Japs. [Sic} Just wait. When my chance comes I’ll make them pay for it. That is if they don’t see me first. I am about a man to shoot the _ _ _ _ out of someone anyway. Well I guess I better close for now.

That makes me want to tell him to be careful! I know that he feels like it is his duty to keep us safe no matter what the cost to him would have been. It is how my dad rolled. To Grandma he writes,

Well by now you probably know I am in Calif. This is sure quite a place. It is a lot larger than Robinson is. We can harbor 40,000 men and if need be 80,000. I don’t know how many are here now. I know we are sure having a time. I have been on guard for the last 40 hrs. Boy am I tired. This is some way to spend Christmas Eve. There are only about 19 here, The rest took off this afternoon. We don’t know where they are or when they will be back. Only we do know that we are stuck with guard until they get back. They are taking every precaution against attacks. We even have ammunition on guard. About the first time in the last year. Well there isn’t much to write about. A motor cycle rider just came back from the rest. They ain’t [Sic] so far. I guess every truck in the Co. is going into San Francisco tonight. Boy I sure would like to be them. Maybe there would be some excitement. There sure isn’t here yet! Boy I sure would have liked to come up. It kind of hurt at first but there wasn’t anything I could possible do about it so I guess I have to do the best I can. Half of the Co came through K. C. Wichita and as far as I know Salina. I guess it was after night though. I guess I better get some sleep. As ever, Lefty.

Wait did I read that right? “We even have ammunition on guard?” I am not sure that is a good thing with my dad feeling as desperate as he is right now.

Marvin Cain wrote "Breaker's at Fort Ord"  1941 Courtesy of the Cain Family

Marvin Cain wrote “Breaker’s at Fort Ord” Courtesy of the Cain Family

And the second one reads,

Darling, Well I was right we are in Fr. Ord. how long I can’t say. This is quite a place. Have seen a little of it by now. We got here at 5 this morning (Mon.) unloaded and was going to take it easy. Well guess what, they called us out to help more inf. in. Well we were still going at 7:30 tonight. This camp holds 40,000 men. Quite a lot larger than Jolly Joe’s. We have barracks here. They seem OK so far. Not quite so much privacy but it isn’t bad. Things seem a lot better here than there. Anyway it is warmer. We have a nice view of the ocean form here. In fact we are only about a half mile from there. The rest of the company has not gotten here yet. I think now they will because most of the rest have shown up. Well must close for now and hope to hear from you soon. All my love, Lefty.

Ft. Ord is 80 miles south of San Francisco. It is 20,000 miles of prime beachfront property. Originally designated as Ft. Gigling, it was established as a military training base in 1917. With beach side training as well as providing wooded terrain and excellent training ground. It was also good having a ton of soldiers on the coast to protect it at the same time.

(The California Military Museum click here to learn more)

Viola wearing Pop’s WWI Uniform

27 December 1941

I wrote a little last night but I haven’t anything to do now so I guess I will write again. Boy I am tired. Haven’t been in bed for so long I don’t know how it would feel. I might get a few minutes tonight in a bed, I hope. Had a good chance last night but we had to take the trucks out in the woods and hide them. Then we tried to sleep in the cabs. Boy if I ever get in those positions again I think I will die.  Boy I couldn’t even straighten up this morning. I was so tired I couldn’t stay awake and I was a whole lot worse this morning. This is what I think of you joining the Ambulance Service. Don’t do it. You don’t know what you are in for, then if we can’t win this war without you we will deserve to lose it. If you think anything of me at all don’t do it. I have never asked much of you but I am asking this. That would just about be the end of us. If you know what I mean. And I hope you do because I love you. Bye now, Love, Lefty.

Well I guess he told her. I know this was also a hard time for the women in the United States. All of the people of the United States were thinking of ways to help in the war effort. 29 December 1941

Well here I am again and believe me I feel rotten. We got a good night’s sleep last night and it didn’t agree I guess. We get the afternoon off if the trucks don’t go out. I am taking all bets they do though. We can’t even go to town. And think of it we broke the last ping pong ball and now we have nothing to do. I really don’t know how sleeping would be but I suppose will find out. You know in every game a suckers had. Well we are on our way out. I don’t know how soon. So as far as I am concerned you won’t need to keep up with me anymore unless you want to. I might be here tomorrow and I might be somewhere else. Who knows. Anyway it has been nice knowing you and if it wasn’t for the darn Army I am sure we could have gotten together. The way it is I really believe it is better this way. I want your opinion on this whole darn subject. There isn’t anyone in the world I would rather have on my side than you. I’ll probably be sorry I even wrote this but if it does happen there is going to be a lot of grief for you. There will be times I won’t be able to write and times you won’t get the letters I do write. Take your choice. This is going to be a long war. Well the wind doesn’t blow so hard here but it has rained every day since we got here. Believe me it sure has been a job keeping dry. Especially if you are on guard.  As ever, lefty.

He sounds so depressed and hopeless! What will happen in the next months? I am interested to find out. I found this tidbit interesting; the average annual rainfall in at Ft. Ord is 14 inches and almost always occurs between November and April. No wonder it is raining so much. Those soldiers do not have a chance of drying out. I do not remember my dad talking about taking the trucks out each night and hiding them from sight. How long would he have to do this? How many nights would he end up sleeping in the cab of his truck? I wonder how many other soldiers were feeling the same way as he did, hopeless and uncertain. 1941 has been a big year for my father. First the National Guard, then the Army, then he fell in love, and now he is talking about sacrificing his life in honor of his country’s freedom. I don’t believe that he will ever be the same again.

Copyright 2012 © notsofancynancy

Posted by: notsofancynancy | September 24, 2014

The Suitcase, Chapter 7, Training for a War

With new update pictures!!!!

The Suitcase

Chapter 7

Training for a War

Dad has been training at Camp Robinson since January 1941. Most of the early training for the soldiers was behind a desk. What they found when they got all these young men drafted was that a lot of them were farm boys. They were not just from Nebraska but from all over the United States. The education level of the men was not up to the standards of Army training. So first they went through basic school subjects and educated the men as best they could in what little time they had. They would then start to train in the field. It was 3400 square miles of Tennessee swampland in the humid heat of summer. In July we find the 110th Quartermaster getting ready for the upcoming field maneuvers.

Company A Street, Camp Robinson

Company A Street, Camp Robinson, Marvin Cain Collection


26 July 1941

Our captain missed a cleaning detail last night and he had to get up at 4:30 this morning and do it and instead of getting the men who were suppose to do it he called us. Boy we sure have been telling him all day. Boy I darn near got busted down to $21 a month the other day. We had a field inspection and 9 from this company forgot their waist belts. The inspection was by General Lear (you know the old boy that made the men walk from Memphis) He was pretty mad at us anyway. One Sergeant and one Corporal was busted just for that. Darn I held my breath for a while. We had the best company there though. There is a chance that Company C will be stationed here during the Ark. maneuvers and haul loaded supplies to Southern Arkansas. Boy I sure hope so. Three weeks will be long enough without having to have to do the other three out in the field. We are supposed to get 27 more trucks next week. As far as I know I keep the one I have. I hope so it is a pretty good one. You said you have troubles. I worked on my truck all last Sat. and Sun. we had an inspection on. On Monday the darn thing was dirty. Boy was I mad I guess I’ll have to start driving again. My assistant went to the hospital today. I don’t even know what for. Say there is a good chance of getting out of here in a year. I hope so. I am getting tired of it. Want more freedom I guess. We have a division review tomorrow for General Lear. All the troops will be there. Have been practicing for it all week

Notice that Dad is still thinking he will get out of the Army in a year. If things go as planned he will be out in December. The reality now as we look back on it is so much more but I do not want to get ahead of myself.

2 August 1941, he writes to my grandma.

It seems like 10 years since I was up there. I had such a swell time and then had to come back to this dryed up old hole. On that inspections that I forgot my belt. I was on guard the night before and had breakfast at 6:30. I just changed into fatigues and didn’t put my belt in my bag to take along. I just wish the Army would make up its mind and keep It that way. They change it so much I can’t keep up with them. I have the handles of about 162 pick axes and shovels to paint and they can’t make up their minds how to paint them. A kid over in the 110th Engrs. got struck by lightning this afternoon. I don’t know how bad it hurt him. He was out cold and they took him to the hospital. We got five more trucks. We are suppose to get 21 more before maneuvers. Well I guess this is all I can think of tonight. Love, Lefty.

The man who was hit by lightening is actually listed as one of the causalities of the Louisiana maneuvers. 21 men were killed in an accident on one of the rivers.

Grandma Susie on the farm in Kansas

Here is a little insight about my grandma. Susie, as she was called, was very supportive of our troops. My grandfather served in World War I and I know he was proud of his country. She was a dreamer and was good at making others feel they mattered. There were always a lot of fun times and thanks to grandma’s imagination it did not cost much around her. She could make people feel like the old brick mill they grew up in was a castle. My grandfather, his brother, brother-in –law, and two friends all went down and volunteered to fight on the same day. I do not know much about his time in service. I do know that all five of them came home though. I am not sure if it had anything to do with that or not, but once they moved to California they would invite many young servicemen to spend weekends with them. They would entertain them and make them feel like family. One day I got a message from a lady who asked if I was THE Nancy Woodside that her uncle talked about all the time when she was growing up. The one who was a daughter of my parents, she knew their names. She went on to tell me she could remember this uncle talking about me when he was in the service. I went on to contact that uncle. He was so thankful for my parents and grandparents. He was in the Air Force and was stationed in near my family home in California. My parents and grandparents would take turns hosting him and his friends on the weekends. He went on to say how thankful he was as the Air Force pay was not much and he did not know anyone in California and if not for my family they would have had nothing to do and nowhere to go. My family made him feel like he was family and he was in contact with them until they all passed away. The interesting thing is this man was here for eight months in 1958. I was only a year old when he left and yet now in 2012, 54 years later this man still remembers me, my parents, and my grandparents. It makes me very proud to find someone who thought so fondly of my family.

Pop and Susie at the Brownstone Castle, Kansas 1930’s

5 August, 1941 he writes to Mom again.

Guess we leave for Birmingham, Alabama tomorrow or Wednesday. I don’t know how long we will be gone, I guess we will be back about Sunday. That will add two more states to my list. Mississippi and Alabama. I guess we will take all the trucks we have.

He goes on to talk about sending a picture album to her to hang onto so it does not get lost. He is afraid it will with all the moving around he will be doing. He ends with “tell Mom and Pop Hi. Love Lefty.”

Company A, (Dad was in Company C) Camp Robinson, Courtesy of The Cain Family

Company A, (Dad was in Company C) Camp Robinson, Courtesy of The Cain Family

I am seeing a pattern here. It seems as though Dad sent a lot of letters to Mom and Grandma in the same envelope. I am sure Grandma is writing him by the way he talks in his letters. He is answering her questions in most of the letters. When I first started this journey I thought these were only letters to mom but I am finding a lot that have letters to both. With my dad not having a Mom it seems like Grandma is taking him under her wings. I remember Dad talking about her sending him care packages. Grandma “Susie” was so loving to all she came in contact with it would only make sense he would gravitate towards her nurturing personality.

14 August 1941 – QM departed for Louisiana Maneuvers.

14 August 1941 He has found a typewriter and types.

We got started yesterday on those long waited for maneuvers. They took us down about 100 miles and dumped us out in the middle of a forest. Well the first thing we had to do was to make a road to get out of the damn hole. After I worked all day doing that they called me to come back to camp and bring a load of inf. We got back here about 2:00 last night and had to get up again at 3:00 and ate breakfast. So I didn’t get much sleep since 3:00 yesterday. We really have quite a place down there though. Right in the middle of a forest. The darn thing is sure a good place to hide the trucks though. I guess we will only be there 4 days and then we are to leave. I don’t know where we go. Right now I am in camp. We came back after another load of troups. Leave again at 3 in the morning. The kid I run with is on guard at the regt. Hgt. and I am working there now. Or I am writing this there.

From here the letter is hand written.

Well I got so darn sleepy that I couldn’t even hold my eyes open. Maybe I can write so you can read it. Gosh here it is 3:00 Thursday and we have eaten breakfast and all ready to load. We got one more night’s sleep on our bunks. I guess the 6 Div. is moving in sometime soon. They will be here 10 days while we have our Ark. Maneuvers then they move to Louisiana with us. I have never seen so darn many trucks. That is about all you can see along the way. Well I will write more next time Uncle Bulgy wants his pen and mine is parched.

In the same envelope is this note to Grandma. He addresses her as Mom in all the letters now.

Just like camp here, There you could look and only see hills, Here you turn around and run into a tree. Hot here there isn’t a breath of air. Plenty of snakes too. Otherwise it isn’t so bad, we have a fairly good place to go swimming only it is kind of muddy too. We move tomorrow night so maybe we will get something better. I am glad you liked the scarf. As for coming up Thanksgiving and Christmas I sure hope I can. I am in doubt now though. We don’t know where we will be then. I guess there is a chance of leaving Robinson. I hope we don’t if we have to go farther from home. Or even to some camp closer to home. That isn’t such a bad camp after all. Must go to work in a little while I guess. Lost my truck yesterday I am glad it sure is a wreck now. It was a good one until my assistant wrecked it.

Courtesy of the Cain Family

Courtesy of the Cain Family


On 23 August, 1941 he writes at the top of the letter he is “Somewhere in hills. Don’t know where that is.” The letter is postmarked Prescott Arkansas.

Thanks for the card it was sure swell. Well we got moved again. Three times in all now. I can’t keep up with them. If I get out of sight of my bunk I am lost. We are still in the woods. The second we were at is by far the best. I don’t think we will be here long. I hear the reds have captured the 35 Division Hqts. Now. I suppose we will move out tonight or tomorrow. We have until the 28 then we will move into Louisiana the 28th of next month we start for home. We are supposed to get 26 new trucks before maneuvers are over. But then we were supposed to have had them 6 months ago. I doubt whether we will get them I hope I don’t. There isn’t so much work to do. I have only had one night’s sleep in the last week anyway. Well sweet I can assure no snake will get near enough to bite me, but as for getting lost I don’t know about that. We went on a convoy at 12 the other night and got lost twice. The next night I was on guard and couldn’t find my way back to my own bed. Tell Mom and all hello. All my love. Lefty

29 August 1941 to Grandma he writes

Your answer to whether we got new trucks. We got the ones we lost a while back. We thought at first we got some new ones in the Q.M. No Luck. We got the old ones back. It sure is good to be here in camp again. A good clean shower and some good water to drink. I said good water it is just good compared to what we have out there. They put a purification plant out and pump it out of a river, because it is so darn dirty, what is the difference we have everything else that way. It isn’t so darn bad though. We get lots of sleep. That is the ones who doesn’t have trucks do. I have some painting to do. I think I could keep busy doing that. I really hope I don’t get a truck until after maneuvers. They are pretty hard to take care of out there. Then they are pretty particular in a way. We have been eating this canned rations, C Rations they call them. Really they are better than some of the cooks put out. We have some darn good cooks but the stuff they get to cook is what is bad. We have vegetable stew, hash, beans, and meat in the cans. Then in the other ones are coffee, sugar, a piece of chocolate candy and some cookies, they are in about a no 1 can. The coffee is so you can mix it and that is all there is too it. I really hope we don’t get moved further from home. I wouldn’t mind staying here as long as we have to stay. They are trying to make a triangular Division out of this, If they do there are two places we can go Ft. Smith, Arkansas. Which is about 190 miles closer and Ft. Murray, Washington. That is a considerable distance further. They have a lot of heat stroke in Louisiana and they might cut maneuvers 2 weeks short. Several have died from it down there.

I wonder if this is a picture Mom gave Dad

His 22 September 1941 letter finds Dad back driving the truck and he is in Louisiana at this point. They have to get the troops back to Camp Robinson and are planning on letting some of the men travel by train so the drivers do not have as much driving. He tells that a kid named Glen Mullins and he were the only drivers in the convoy of 21 trucks that did not have assistants to help them drive. The lieutenant finally got another man to take Dad’s place because he was afraid of his driving because he was so tired. He goes on to explain;

We had 65 miles of blackout one night. The worst I have ever been on. Down through a road that went through some swamps. I guess we had more luck than (the) service unit. We were hitting bridges that were only about a foot wider than the trucks. If you want to have some fun just try that sometime. Because you have trees about 200 feet high to keep what light there is restricted. Co. D upset one truck with 23 men in it. No one got hurt luckily.

On the 27th of September he writes,

Well according to all the rumors we are about ready to go back to camp. First load is supposed to be there by Sat. At least I hope so. You talk about it raining up there. You should see it here. By gosh I didn’t think it could be so wet. It started raining at about 4 yesterday afternoon and is still raining today. We were on a convoy lost night and didn’t know half of the time whether we were going to be the ditch or not .I guess we were pretty lucky. Co C only had one in and that was either the ditch or hit another truck. About washing you can’t wash when you aren’t around water. And you can’t have water when you aren’t around the Co. There is awful shortage of water. The Inf. regts. Have orders to use water only for drinking purposes. Well darling I know one place I would rather be than on this line waiting for the order to pull out in this damn mud. I believe it is as bad as that night up there. We had four A Co. trucks buried in the mud. I watched the wrecker pull one out. The first wheel was just buried. You know that hurricane that was in Texas? Well it was supposed to hit here at 12 noon 45 mile wind. The wind was blowing but not that hard. Looks like it might get here yet sure is cloudy.

This is kind of scaring me. First there are snakes, then heat stroke, not to count all the accidents, and now they are having problems with the water? All the time they have to drive under adverse conditions AND while trying to keep their trucks on the road? Now they have enough rain to make big mud puddles in the roads, and there is a hurricane headed their way. It sounds like these men are not catching a break.

2 October 1941

Well I guess maybe we are through for now but there is still a rumor that we go to South Carolina for six weeks more. Dog-goned. I hope we don’t have to. I am very insulted at you calling us a bunch of soldiers. Dopes wasn’t so bad but soldiers is out. If anything we are a bunch of prisoners. I saw action on the front day before yesterday. More fun. I sure got the shity shot out of me. Four machine gun firing on me. We had quite an argument about whether I was to be put out. Finally they decided that it was all mixed up and the other should not have been there so they were sent back where they came from and I kept retreating with a load of men. People sure crowded around to see the fighting. I really got in a good spot one place. Right by a filing station. Wow! I guess they want to see how much I could take. I drove over 1800 miles in the last two weeks and had an assistant two day and one day I had her we only drove about 8 miles. Oh well who cares. I would rather be driving than be around this damn company. The company is ok it is just the commanding officers. Our 2nd Lt. took us out for 2 hours close order drill this morning and we raised so much hell he gave up and we came back and for into one of the damnest football games ever. Maybe I forgot to tell you we finally got moved out of the trees into a pasture where it is pretty nice. We sure had a game anyway. That is about the first recreation we have had since the maneuvers started. I thought the Captain was going to stop it but I think he enjoyed it. It’s lucky we didn’t get hurt. I’ll bet we feel it in the morning. The 110 QM and the 110 Engineers were highly complemented by General Lear for their actions during maneuvers.

Does that mean that Yoo Hoo Lear finally made peace with the 110th? Sounds like it to me. The next letter was written 21 October 1941 and was sent from Lexington Nebraska. Apparently Dad got an unexpected furlough. I hope nothing has happened. It may be just because his birthday would be the following day, the 22. Dad would be 23 years old. Let’s read in.

Darling Vi, Well here goes nothing. Sorry I haven’t written before this. You know me. When I joined the Army I quit drinking and started eating. When I came home it was just appropriate. Up until Thursday Roy and I had bought 5 cases of beer. Besides what we drank at the bar. Not bad. Damnit you can’t have any fun around here unless you are feeling so good you don’t know what you are doing or don’t care. I was ready to leave about 3 days after I got here, would have been down if I had the money to fix my car. I just couldn’t spare it night now. So I am hoping to see you Christmas. That is if you still want me.

Ok nothing major just lack of funds. If I remember correctly Dad sends money home to his dad each month. Of course twenty-one dollars a month is not much. He talked about getting drunk a few more times. Then there is this,

Lexington came through too. They gave us free show tickets, and tickets to the football game and traveling and gum. That really surprised me.

If I read that right the town of Lexington just paid for Dad to have some fun while he was home. Awesome support! Then he goes on to tell Mom if he got a furlough at Christmas he would come to Kansas to see her “if” she still wants him.

6 October 1941 – QM returned to Camp Robinson, Arkansas, from Louisiana Maneuvers.

Camp Robinson 1941

Postcard found in Dad’s stuff of Camp Robinson

The 28th of October finds Dad back at Camp Robinson. He talks about being eighteen hours late getting back there due to the weather. I would think those boys got in a bit of trouble for that. And he goes on,

We sure hit some high water in Okl. I drove about ¾ a mile in water that about run into the car. It sure looked funny. There were kids wading and picking up things. We couldn’t figure out what it was. We got curious and stopped to ask what it was. Nuts of all things. The water was just covered with them. They said they could sell them for 7 cents a pound. I am still disgusted from not coming up there. I told the fella’s in my tent that and they said I would probably have been married if I had. Two in this tent got married and one discharged. That leaves two and two. They bet me I would be a married man when I come back Christmas. I guess I had better stop before I get mushy.

Lefty and Vi, about 1940

The next two letters, 8 and 14 November 1941 he does not say much more than he is waiting for a letter from her. He is not sure if he has done something wrong. He asks please to tell him what he did wrong so he can apologize for it. Then on the 14 after he sends a letter questioning why he had not received a letter from her He sounds very relieved when he writes,

Boy you sure changed me. Was I ever glad I got your letter. Even the rest here noticed it. One of the fellows said “I think Lefty feels better since he got that letter.” Thanks for the pictures they sure are swell. I have been showing them to everyone I see. Boy I sure thought you were mad at me. Boy was I ever in a bad mood. I darn near went nuts. If we had not gone to Springfield I believe I would. You see that kinda took my mind off things. And then I thought I would have a letter when I got back. I sure had a lot of trouble going. Everything went well until we got about forty five miles from there, Then the truck got hot and I found I had a broken block and the water was running out about as fast as I could put it in. Of all things we put 2 eggs in the radiator and that stopped it until we got there, than the truck wouldn’t run until we started home. Everything went well until we got part of the way home. Then water in the gas, more luck. I guess Uncle Sam has something on his mind. Anyway they got us all in a huddle and told us to get out woolen clothes out so they could check for shortages. They told us there was a Division order to see if we were ready to move into a colder climate. I am sure going to raise ____ if they don’t wait until I get up there. Gosh darling I wish I could take all your love. Nothing in the world I would like better. Would you accept mine? It’s yours for the asking.

Wow the last of that letter made me cry. The words were heartfelt and she really scared him with not writing. I am glad he finally got the letter and the encouragement from her he needed.

Have you ever read of putting an egg in a radiator? That is a new one to me! I wonder how many soldiers it took to come up with that one.

Vi in her band uniform


The Louisiana Maneuvers, as they were called involved 250 thousand men, 19 divisions, and 35 hundred square miles of Louisiana. Twenty-six men died while there including the one that Dad mentions who got hit by lightening. Most of them were due to vehicle accidents. One soldier that was a mere 26 years old had a heart attack.

There are two more letters in 1941. In both letters he is bored because there is nothing really going on in camp other than the usual guard duty, inspections, and painting for my father. He writes Mom on Thanksgiving Day just because he wanted to wish her and her family well. Both letters are full of relief that she is not mad at him. He asks her to go ahead and send back his photo album now that he is done with training. Then he writes;

Well love, maybe I am in a little bit of a hurry. (I think he is talking about getting married!) But I don’t think so. I did promise to wait a year though. God that year is a hell of a long time. Seems it should have been over a long time ago. Couldn’t we just rush it a little, say 6 months. Just what is the matter with eggs in the radiator? I could have frosting at anytime if I had had some sugar. You know it is a long time until the 13th or the 31st I guess we won’t be leaving camp for a while. We were going to Pennsylvania to strike duty. Now they have gone back to work. Well darling here’s hoping you agree with me.

Wait! What did I miss here? They must have talked about marriage sometime. I do not believe that my grandparents had a phone out on the farm. If I had to guess I would say they did not. It must have been when dad visited mom. I do not think they know each other well enough to get married. Weird I am talking about my parents! I think that is how they did it in the old days. Meet and get married while you still like the guy. At this point he is still thinking he is going to be out of the Army in December. We all know that Pearl Harbor was bombed on 7 December 1941.

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