Posted by: notsofancynancy | November 1, 2012

World War II chapter 36 SNAFU

World War II


Chapter 36

30 January 1944

30 January 1944, Camp Butner, North Carolina

In the last chapter Dad got the news he was hoping for. Mom will take the train to Nebraska to meet him while he was on his furlough. Now if we can get the Army to let him know for sure if he will get the furlough and the exact date he will get it, we will be doing good. Some things in the Army never change.

Dearest Vi, Well honey guess I owe you a letter. So I’ll try to get that done now. Its [sic] chilly here today. I imagine it will be all next week. Just because we have a number of trucks that have to be washed. Our drivers come in tomorrow and will they be tired and dirty. Then we will be ready to work. I got a letter from home and I guess Dad has to go to the hospital again. His papers have been made out and now he has to waite [sic] until they have a place for him. Don’t really know what is the matter this time. Said something was the matter with his stomach. There goes my savings. Guess I should have sent you that hundred because it probably won’t do us any good later now. Well if it helps him that’s good. Otherwise than that they didn’t have much to say. Guess they haven’t received my letter saying I was coming home. Bob and I again went to the show. This time it was “The Fighting See Bees” I thought it was very good. Bob didn’t have nothing to say about it. It seems as though every time I write I have been to the show. That’s all there is to do.

The “Fighting Seabees” starring John Wayne and Susan Hayward is described like this:

Construction workers in World War II in the Pacific are needed to build military sites, but the work is dangerous and they doubt the ability of the Navy to protect them. After a series of attacks by the Japanese, something new is tried, Construction Battalions (CBs=Seabees). The new CBs have to both build and be ready to fight

(Watch the whole movie by clicking here)

We have to go to town next week. I have to get a pair of shoes and some other things. Bob wants to get his watch fixed. Did I tell you he broke it. Don’t know how it happened but it stopped. They sure are feeding us up good for the kill. One day last week we had duck and today we had chicken and Ice Cream. Guess I had roast beef on mind because I almost wrote that. We certainly have been getting good eats. I guess we are lucky. We got Sat. Afternoon and Sun. off. That the first time since before maneuvers. Sure seems good to be able to sleep late and not have anything to do. Just to think. Someone said we were to have a party. The first 32 W.A.C.S have been invited. We are to have been also. Waite [sic] I’ll probably be writing we had a Civil War right here in the Company. We are on the verge of something like that anyway. As all Wars start a little spark and all will blow to pieces. I’ll grant you if that happens someone will get scratched up. Hope I am in the middle of it I’m in a bad mood myself. I guess I should quit now darling. I love you very much. Wish I were with you. But am not so I’ll have to waite [sic].

What was that like for the 32 women in camp? I bet they felt very popular.  The thousands of men in camp all trying to get to dance, or chat with them. I can see where tempers might flare.

1 February 1944

1 February Camp Butner, North Carolina

Dearest Vi. Darling I wish I could actually tell you what is on my mind. I can’t. Anyway I can’t rely on the date of when my furlough will be.  It seems as though every day it gets more complicated. Right now it looks like it may come around the 16th. And if I can’t get it then I’ll be a damn poor private. I have gotten 4 of my men on now so if I can’t get myself on I shouldn’t be a Cpl. If it comes up then but I could only tell you the mess things are in here you would understand why I don’t know anything definite. The ones (orders) that should have gone today are here on the Captains desk. They start at 12 tonight and they leave tomorrow at noon. Things are all mixed up. All I can say honey is that you go ahead as planned only send me your address in Salina and when I leave I’ll wire you there and you can start then. Or if you would rather go on up home and visit there I’ll be around sometime. With your getting 3 weeks off and chances of getting more we should be at a good time. Or if you want to waite [sic] at home until I’m sure I can wire there when I’m sure of when I leave. God I knew when we started this something would happen but I guess that is fate. In case you do need any money write my sister-in-law and give her your address. She will know what to do. I’ll tell her that if you write to send and you won’t have to ask. Hows [sic] that? I am on C.Q. today and it sure is a headache. Boy I’ve taken a million steps and the night is still young. I wish the ice would break and we would get things on the road. Boy this will get me. God I have a furlough to look forward too. More than ever to my seeing you. They had another dance at the service club. Bob just came in and said it was another formal. I wonder when they are going to get tired of them. Why should I care. In a couple weeks I’ll have someone I enjoy dancing with. Man I can’t waite [sic]. All our trucks are back from Tennessee now. They are sure in a mess too. The whole bunch were dead lined and can’t be driven until some work are [sic]done on them. I guess this was a rough trip. I guess I’m about run down Honey. So I getter quit. We have a 15 mile hike tomorrow and its 12 now. So you see my let down. Besides I want to write Mom (Mom’s mom) at least a note. Nite[sic] now my sweet. Hoping to see you soon. All my love, your Lefty

In the next envelope there are two letters, one to Mom and one to her Mother. Since the one to Grandma Susie is dated first we will look at that one first.

Camp Butner, North Carolina. 1 February 1944

Dear Mom, I haven’t much time Mom but want to at least drop a line. We are in a mess Mom. Don’t know where to turn next. And maybe that will be an awful wet turn and soon. We have things settled to a small roar except where the furloughs are concerned. They seem to be undecided. No one knows anything and even so isn’t putting it out. We know we get them but from here transportation is so bad we can’t get away. You asked about Durham. It’s a nice place. Quite large and only 14 miles from camp. Bob and I went in last night and it wasn’t half bad. A lot of Jews and such but clean and to me that counts. I imagine about 20,000 pop. University of N.C. is located there also. They have a nice small town closer, Oxford. I haven’t been there but seems the fellows who live there thinks it [sic] nice. The camp here is swell. I think it is the best we have been in. They have about everything one needs so there is no use going out. We have three dances a week in the service club which is just across the street and the best shows one wants to see. I wish we were staying longer. I like it anyway. I am glad Vi is over her cold. I still have mine. But even I think I have it under control. A slight cough and once in a while a sneeze so I’ll live. I must stop now Mom. I’m glad you let Vi come out. Wish you would have come along. I’m not even mentioning getting married. Perhaps I should but I think I know better with what we have ahead. I’ll be very happy to get to spend what little time we have together. If they only let us be that long. Love Lefty.

Things seem so frustrating to Dad. Still no definite date on when he will get his furlough. After he got that letter from my mom confirming she will be joining him on his furlough, it now seems like he is depressed because he is getting no confirmation on what dates  he will actually get to go.

5 January 1944

Gosh honey with you’re leaving the 17th makes it nice as far as I’m concerned now because on those times we should get home about the same time. I thought I had made a mistake saying the 14th but I guess the way things are turning out I shouldn’t have said anything about dates in that letter. I feel sure though my furlough will begin on the night of the 16. So I’ll be in there also Sat. You said “there” in your letter so I take it you meant Lex. (Lexington Nebraska) If you meant Salina (Kansas) well it won’t be much longer. God Darling I can hardly waite [sic]. Time has been going so damn slow here. Seems like all we do is work. And I sure hate to do that. I will be so happy when we are together. I think you asked what SNAFU means I’ll tell you exactly when I see you . It means in Army slang everything is normal but that isn’t all.

I looked this up and the acronym means Situation Normal All F__ked up. No wonder he did not want to write that in his letter. I can’t even write it here.

I guess Camp B (Butner) could be seen in some pictures. It is very pretty. I have found out why they didn’t gouge all the trees out though.  This was at one time considered “Combat Zone” And they left the trees here to camouflage the buildings they certainly do too. The more I’m here the better I like it too. Although we are certainly in for a lot of work. And are we doing a lot. Trucks to be (unreadable) except to be cleaned and inspected barracks and everything has to be in first class shape. We have really been hitting the ball. I got a letter from Mrs. Johnson today. I am going to save it so you can read it. I would send it but I think it would be better to save. Anyway she wished us all the luck in the world. Whether we get married or not. That’s the main thing. I went to the show tonight and I don’t believe I believe I saw half of it. God Darling time flys [sic] slow. Today has been so dead. Everyone has gone to town. Even Bob went. Most of the time I was here alone and been doing lots of thinking. If I could only keep my mind on my work for awhile I guess time would go faster. Only 12 more days to go. I got my permit pass today. That means when I am off duty I can go to town. And the only duty we have at night is Guard and C.Q. which comes about once a month. I haven’t written for several days and yet I can’t think of anything to write. Guess as I said before I can’t keep my mind on my work. I started buying gum again. We can only buy two packages at a time so I have to get an early start. Something more about the brakes on the truck Bob drove back. They had to put all new brake lines a new hydro value and master cylinder. In other words the whole works. It took about 2 days to get them fixed. They worked on the one I drove a week ago and couldn’t get parts so with all the work it still doesn’t work to [sic] good. But it runs now and that is almost more than when we got here. We have just been talking over the 35th situation assistants going over or not. We can’t figure whether we are or not. By now we have enough replacements to begin all our training over again so no one knows for sure what will happen. I love you my Darling and can hardly waite [sic] until I see you. It was a good thing though that you are coming the 17. Due to my last letter you’re probably wondering. Well I based my thoughts on leaving the 14 and am still happy that things don’t change. I’ll let you know as soon as I find out. I won’t leave the 14th it will be later. Good night my Darling. I love you so. All my love, your Lefty. Tell everyone hello.


I can understand my dad’s frustration with the Army not telling him if and when his furlough will be.  Here he is trying to make plans and he gets conflicting information.  I wonder if the Army will change its mind and not give him a furlough before he is shipped overseas.  From what I have read he has not gotten a furlough since he made the mad dash to California with a couple of his buddies in July 1943 when he presented Mom with a ring and asked her to marry him. That was almost seven months ago. It seems all of his plans hinge on the Army. I am not sure that is good odds.

© 2012 notsofancynancy

Robert Winter, Claude R. Gordon



  1. Wow! I am frustrated FOR him! He does sound so depressed, and with good reason, as if being in the service during war isn’t enough….I’m hoping he gets a nice long furlough soon. He certainly needs, and deserves one.

    • Yes I have to agree with you. His last furlough was in July and here we are in January with no time off. Crazy I tell you!

  2. When you think about it Nancy it is amazing that you have all these letters and snapshots into the past. Truly a treasure to hold in your hands and the fact that you are sharing is bringing back so many memories for my mother as I read them to her ::: I can not thank you enough for this Blog.

    • Wow Mary I cannot tell you how much it means to me that not only you but your mother also is enjoying his story. I feel blessed!

  3. Reblogged this on Author, G. D. Grace.

  4. I sure do feel his frustration, I can only imagine how your mom was feeling. Both on pins and needles for sure. My father told us that SNAFU meant “situation normal all fouled up” I think I was 25 an army wife myself when I learned the true meaning! 😉 In my household we always referred to it the way dad said, until that is my son went in the army….guess that secret doesn’t say secret for long!!

    • ha ha I love how truthful the internet can be. Thanks for sharing your memory!

    • You are too much a lady, thoughtsfromanamericanwoman! Old Man Jack re-iterated MANY times the sailor’s version of “SNAFU”. 🙂

      • I sure wish I had got to meet Old Man Jack, we are lucky you listened and remembered his teachings. We are also lucky you share them!

      • ;D ha ha

  5. Wonderful insights once again into the European Theater of 1944! One thing to note, though, of “The Fighting Sea Bees” mentioned by your father. It was only one of a few where John Wayne gets killed. The other one, of course, was his iconic “Sands of Iwo Jima”.

    • Thanks for that bit of trivia! I did not know that. It has been many, many years since dad and I watched those movies. Thank you for sharing!

  6. My husband was in the SeeBees during 1943, 44 and until Dec. 45
    He was with the 13th NCB – was drum major with the 13th band and marched down Market St. for the premier of The Fighting Seabees.
    Two of his favorite people starred in that movie, John Wayne and Susan Hayward, they were their for that parade. I lost him in Aug. 2012 – I still have a lot of pictures and memories of his time in service (we were not married until 1946) we had sixty-six years together.
    He was a HANDSOME Drum Major during this time in his life.

    • Thank you so much for your interesting comment. If you are interested in doing a guest post about him on my blog contact me at I would love to honor him. Thank you for his service!

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