Posted by: notsofancynancy | August 16, 2012

World War II, chapter 25, Letters Written by Campfires

World War II

Letters Written by Campfires

Campfire

Chapter 25

Dad has been stationed at Camp Rucker since March 1943 training to be sent overseas. That is eight months in Alabama. He has only been able to visit Mom in California one time in all those months which is when he asked her to marry him, back in July. She said yes and their only correspondence since then has been through these letters. Dad is headed back to Tennessee for more field maneuvers. It has been cold enough to freeze and the last convoy of trucks that went there had many mechanical problems.  I hope they got all the kinks ironed out.

The next batch of letters are postmarked in Tennessee.

14 November 1943,

Dearest Vi, Gosh honey I thought sure there would be a letter today. Because now it will be a week before I get any mail and probably a couple weeks before I have a lot of time to write. So you can have your choice you can write or stop. I am not going to waste much time at it because it’s going to be darn cold. Besides it’s getting to be old shit my doing it all (the letter writing) . Sooooo. We had to work today and was it ever a dreary day. Gosh it went so slow. I really didn’t know what to do with myself. I couldn’t find a place to sleep and had to wander around all day. I guess I’m about as tired as we were yesterday though. I almost feel asleep writing.

It seems it is hurry up and wait with the Army. I am told this hasn’t changed much.

We had a meeting at 7:30 this morning and what a meeting. The Top Kick was the main speaker and all he did was repeat what we had heard a million times. But the Co. (Colonel) was there to see that he did it so we had to listen. Say you had better forget what I said about buying things for after awhile. It seems the more money I send home the more in the hole I get. By the time I get out of this one I’ll be an old man.

Dad and Bob Winter

In the last chapter Dad’s buddy Robert “Bob” Winter’s girl Madeline bought them a bedroom set for when they get married. Dad had thought it was a grand idea and said so to Mom in a letter.

There isn’t much to write about. We leave at 8 tomorrow and that isn’t news anymore. I guess we get up at 4:00 though-have to clean the barracks a little better. We had a Medics Ins (inspection) of the barracks today and they brought around about 40 officers to do it. We had to get out so they could get in. It didn’t suit them. It had to be a little cleaner. I think every officer took one crack and found a little dirt in it so we had a lot of work to do over. I have my barrack bag packed and is it ever heavy and full too. God its [sic] packed so you can’t even press it in. There is sure a lot in it. Its [sic] about time I put a halt to this old chatter and close my correspondence for awhile. Don’t be surprised at anything I do. Because once I make up my mind its [sic] hard to change. And right now I have a lot on it. So for now Good Nite[sic] my Darling. Love always, Lefty.

He must have written this back at Camp Rucker before they left.  In the last chapter he writes he had sent a lot of stuff home to Nebraska including a lot of pictures he had. I wonder what all is in that his barracks bag.

20 November

Gosh honey here I go. I’m not sure how this is going to turn out. You see I am writing by what light I get from a bond [sic] fire. And that isn’t much. Playing Lincoln that’s me. But out here you just can’t reach up and pull a cord. Maybe you can but all you get is the moon. Also you can’t reach up and close the window. This is life though. At least we can look around and see some rocks. And not all sand. That’s something and I don’t mean maybe. As for the weather its warm now or has warmed up. The first couple of days we sure put on the clothes. But now we have taken them off again. Even my long handles have came off. The first morning there was snow here though. Didn’t last long though. Monday starts our first problem and we go for 4 day. If we have any time left then we get to rest and work on the trucks. Then the following Sunday nite (sic) starts the ball rolling again. So on for 8 weeks. If we don’t make it we go on desert maneuvers and this is the first winter maneuvers we have had.

Dad Overseas

I wonder what he means by “If we don’t make it we go on desert maneuvers.”  If they don’t make it through these field maneuvers, or fail some kind of test? If it is November the field maneuvers in the desert would be much warmer, at least.

I am back in the knife business again. Bob and I have acquired three more emery stones and some old files. So we are on the loose. We have one complete that should clear all of our expenses and have a couple dollars profit. It’s a throwing knife. I have been offered $3.00 for it but its[sic] worth $7.00 it is. If anyone wants it otherwise I keep it. We have two more almost done and they should be about the same price. I want one for my own though.  In all our expenses were $5.07. So you see it doesn’t take long to make that back but we have our works to add to that. Anyway Honey we keep damn busy and the time goes faster. Oh! Sweetheart I have the candy bars now you have to get the cigars. No I was only fooling. I do have two boxes of bars though.  You see I buy them for $.05 and sell them for $.10. Of course I haven’t made any sellers yet but waite [sic] until we hit those problems (field maneuvers) then they will come running. Where there is a will there is a way. I’m in the business…. Gosh I must be color blind. I didn’t know I wrote with pink ink. It probably was some that was mixed up. I was using someone elses [sic] pen.

Funny to note Dad was color blind, but I did not find any letters written in pink. I did not know this until my sister got married about 1981 and Dad wanted Mom to wear her green dress which was actually very blue with no green at all.

I guess you don’t want to see me very bad. You said you were saving $.03 every time you sent me a regular letter. That means $4.68 a year and it will cost about 90.00 to come down here. That’s .09 a week. I guess I should add my .18 a week or .06 a letter.  Of course I’ll have to let it add up so I can send a bill. But it’s a deal. I’ll start making now. I just got roasted on one side so I turned around to cook the other. Bob seems to getting up again. He isn’t so bad. I have been keeping him busy so his mind hasn’t had time to think about her (his girl Madeline). He gets down once in a while though and does he wish (he could be with her)

Robert Winter and Charles Lance, France

I sure hope someday Robert Winters family is able to read this. I have found his and Madeline’s graves on Find a Grave and left messages to contact me. I guess that is all I can do.

(Visit his Find a Grave memorial by clicking here)

My watch keeps swell time honey. I really like it. I don’t think I could get a long without it. If it isn’t one thing it is another. While I was working yesterday a piece of the emery flew in my eye and now I can’t get it out. Neither can the Dr. He got part of it today and I have to go back tomorrow. See what you are getting to marry. I wrote and asked Dad how he would like to come out there. In case I receive a furlough and had to pass through home. He said he didn’t know. Boy am I even in a hole now. Perhaps it can even be arranged though. I guess things just aren’t right. I must close now my sweetheart. Guess what? I love you very very much honey. There isn’t any moon out now but if you were here honey what good would a moon be anyway. I love you sweet. All my love, your Lefty.

What a hard choice to make to go to Nebraska to see his father or to California to see his fiance. They have not seen each other since the beginning of his stay at Camp Rucker in July 1943.

21 November

Here is your fireside chat for tonight. Only this one is kind of one eyed. You see I went back to the Medics this afternoon and Captain Maer worked me over. He deadened the nerves and then really went to work. He got what he was after though and instead of being what I thought it was it was a piece of wood. Man did he ever do a good job. I’ll bet he was a swell Dr. in civilian life. Except for going back in the morning to get this d___ patch taken off I’ll be OK again. It is kinda sore though but that will be well tomorrow the piece was only as large as a pin point. I sure like your stationary. Its [sic] nice. Its swell to hear from you too. Gosh for awhile I thought maybe you had found someone else. But now. Well your guess that s it. I love you.  Gosh don’t tell me you took that picture to work with you. Man you took an awful chance.  If someone around here would do something as bad or that they would give them a sections 8 (nuts) Darling you make me feel so proud when you say that you find you can have lots of fun being good and waiting. I think your [sic] so sweet. I can hardly waite [sic] until I can see you. If I ever get 10 sec sleep again I think I’ll die. We get to bed early enough but have to wake up every half hour and roll around to wake up our limbs so we can go to sleep again. We are finally getting used to it though. Now the problems start and we will be awake 9/10 of the time on them. Honey mind if I kind of bring this to a happy ending by saying I love you lots and lots. I can only see about half of what I’m doing and besides I’m getting tired. I love you sweet. All my love, your Lefty.

He keeps using the term “problems.”  What it seems to me is they are out in the field and doing the Army thing when a such and such problem happens and they have to figure out how to deal with the problem.

Vi and Grandpop 1940’s, Pasadena

22 November

Well this isn’t quite a fire side chat tonight. We can’t have a fire damn it.

They must have been operating under black out conditions. With all our electrical devices now how would that feel? What would it feel like to have to do everything in the dark? Back when Dad was in California they had lots of black outs. I can remember Dad talking about a time when he was in Fort Ord, California and they had to drive the trucks out into the woods each night to hide them. This was shortly after Pearl Harbor was bombed. Then in Grandpop’s letters he talks about civilian blackouts. I bet a lot of people were scared.

This is quite a day. I had no more than finished your letter than the wind came up and did it ever turn cold. Boy I almost froze this morning when I got up. It hasn’t warmed up much either. I’ll bet tonight will be a good one. Same home we don’t have to move yet. We probably will though. Just because its [sic] cold. I was to the medics again today. They said I was OK again and ready to fly over again (overseas). I guess it wasn’t as bad as I let on. Almost had to go to the Hospital though. That would have been bad. You know this maneuver   has started out as blind as Louisiana did.  No one knows what is going on. And no one seems to care. We do the next thing first and then quit and believe me we could go home now. I have had enough.  Those fires out there must have been quite an affair again. Gosh it seems like someday they will get everything burnt and they should quit. Anyway if we could have some of the down here maybe it would warm up. Then maybe it wouldn’t be. They say it gets cold here in January so I’ll probably be about frozen by then. Bob had to get up about one this morning and go out. He drove until about noon then the convoy came back. Man did he ever bitch. And was it ever cold about then. I struck my head out and acted about like a turtle. Went back in my shell. Boy does that bed roll ever feel good on nights like that. But we had to store our B bags and now I haven’t any place to keep my candy bars and pay. Bob and I are eating up all the profit. They are just setting there and are very tempting. Guess I’ll have to go into some business where there isn’t anything to eat. The knife idea is still good only we have to wait until we can get some welding done now. Then we have the three done. It should add up to a little profit I hope.  We have a new name for Lt. Gordon. Coney Island Jack off. I’ll bet he will like that when he gets back. Are we ever down on him. And will he ever be down on us before he gets here. He will really be in the mood. I guess I am about run down Honey. So maybe I had better quit for awhile. I’ll try again tomorrow. So for now, I love you. Bob asked Madeline to come down and help him keep his bed roll warm so he can’t get ahead of me. Will you come and help me? (unreadable) Of course. One down here is enough. I love you honey so for now. All my love, your Lefty.

I wonder if the fires he is talking about in this letter are notorious “California Wildfires” because that is where Mom lives, Southern California.  In researching further there were four big fires that year starting in September and ending with the Hauser fire in October. I am sure that with Mom being in California for their first wildfire season it was probably scary for them and really big news especially because soldiers died in the fires. I have lived through many fire seasons in California and it is always big news.

California Wildfire 2007

I did find there was a notable fire down near San Diego, California on 2 October 1943. It was started by gunnery fire on the Marine base. Then you have California’s horrid Santa Ana winds which quickly spread the fires. The Marines were fighting the fire when the winds shifted and blew the fire back up the canyon where they were fighting it. 10,000 acres were burned before it was under control. The fire was named for the canyon where it happened, thus it was called The Hauser Fire.

More than 70 Marines from the Pine Valley training camp and the 10th Army Buffalo Soldiers Cavalry Regiment from Camp Lockett fought the fire on 10/2/43, building indirect hand line in a steep drainage. When the strong Santa Ana’s (E winds) diminished, the normal canyon SW winds increased, reversing the direction of the fire. Almost all were caught and injured; 4 outran the fire. 9 Marines and 1 Army soldier (and possibly 1 civilian) were overrun and died.

Courtesy of (http://www.wlfalwaysremember.org)

(Read about the actual incident here. It even lists the names of those who perished including Buffalo Soldier, Leroy Carter)

© 2012 notsofancynancy

               

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Responses

  1. My thursday-story – thank you so much!!!

    • Thank YOU for the great comment! I am honored!

  2. I see that your Father’s Dad was in Nebraska. Where at in Nebraska?

    My Father fought in the South Pacific (Guadalcanal & Okinowa) in the Marines. His family lived in Nebraska 20 miles east and a bit north of Lincoln on a farm outside of Murdock, Nebraska.

    I really enjoy the letters. We have several from my Wife’s Father and her Uncle who were in the Army. South Pacific and Europe respectively.

    • My father’s family homesteaded in Cozad Nebraska in the Late 1800’s, which is where Dad was born. They moved to Lexington after his mother passed away sometime in the late 30’s. I still have tons of family back there, sadly I don’t know many of them.

      The letters have been and are eye opening experience. They really went through a lot before they were sent overseas.

      ps Love your name, gooseguts makes me laugh!

  3. Always a great read, thanks.

    • Thanks for taking the time to read and comment! Happy Trails!

  4. Those guys did have it rough. Sarge yelling all the time, telling you that your girl was shacked up with Jody. That they were never to be out of the army, that he (Sarge) was their mother, and father and sister. All harassment.

    • I bet it was a rough life with all that yelling.

  5. Breaks your heart to hear how homesick your dad was, and they hadn’t even gotten shipped out yet. I wonder if that’s all in the army plan, so that when they’re far away from home on foriegn soil, they’ll have the callus of training making them tougher. I guess all these men were drafted? Otherwise, it be tempting to go home when you had more then you could stand. I guess there’s good reason they are called ‘the greatest generation’.

    • My father enlisted the end of 1940. He thought he would have to only serve one year. Three years later he is still in and like you said they have not even shipped them overseas yet. He has threatened to quite several times but is still there.

  6. So fascinating to read history from such a very personal perspective. Thanks for sharing these with us.

    • Thank you for taking the time to read them and leave such a nice comment.

  7. Although I don’t have time to read all of this at the moment, I will be back. I’m a bit of a WWII nut especially the personal side of war e.g. gained through letters and the like. Have you considered writing a book using the letters etc? I am having my manuscript on a WWII bomber crew edited at the moment. Finding their story and writing it took three years but it was well worth it. These letters are a wealth of knowledge and so important to share.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words and I also feel that it important to preserve this piece of history I have. I hope someday it will grow up to be a book. But if it doesn’t I have my blog to share with others.

  8. This was the way history was experienced–one person, in the midst of it all, at a time. This is what it was really like–not like sweeping documentaries and grainy films, but captured in one unique experience and one man’s letters. It is awe inspiring, learning about the war in this way. Thank you.

    • And thank you for such an awesome comment!


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