April 1944

LETTER 085

Now that he is up to receiving 10 words a minute Bill is feeling a bit better about his code work. He is also working as an instructor in demolition, mines, and booby traps. The additional responsibility suits him. Bill complains that most of the men in his barracks are “the dumbest bunch of Bohemians I ever saw.” He says that he does get to “talk a little common sense now and then with a few A.S.T.P. men and a few Chinese fellows here”, including Tall Kay Loo, a cousin of the actor Richard Loo. Bill closes the letter with a comical sketch.

April 1, 1944
[Camp Crowder, Missouri]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

At last! After not receiving any mail from you for over a week today I got a pile of letters and also two packages. I received the money order too. It seems that my mail has been floating around all over the camp for the last week or so. And I thought the Camp Abbot P.O. was bad. Thanks a lot for the money and the packages.

Today is G.I. Sunday. It’s really Saturday but for the first time I’ve been in the army I’m getting a two day weekend. It’s really sumpin’. I slept this morning until 8:00. That wasn’t so late but after getting up at 5:30 all the time it was like staying in bed all day. After getting up, getting a shower and shaving I went to the Service Club for breakfast. Then I went to the library and started reading the March “Atlantic.” I got pretty interested in that and the next thing I knew it was noon. Since then I’ve been reading my mail and eating those swell cookies.

I’m picking up a little in my code work. I was getting pretty discouraged awhile there but now I’m up to receiving ten words a minute so I feel a little better. It’s funny but my trouble lies in distinguishing between the characters. I have them memorized perfectly and can transmit quite fast but when it comes to receiving I have a tough time. I am getting there though. I’m determined not to fail. Fizzling out on things was always my great weakness but this army life has made me so aware of the necessity of succeeding that I’ve just got to make it. Of course, there’s no reason to believe now that I won’t succeed.

I’m enjoying life around here more and more all the time mainly because I’m now treated like a soldier instead of a trainee. I get more work and responsibility but I’d rather have it that way. Being an Engineer they’re using me now as an instructor in demolition, mines, and booby traps, the basic techniques of which are being taught to the Signalmen in this company. Life is pretty easy compared with Abbot but this sitting all day long is ruining my appetite. I now weigh a good ten pounds less than I did when I came in the army—160 now. However, my shoulders are becoming better developed and I’m hard all over.

Here in the barracks everyone’s from New York. You know the kind. Either you’re from New York or from the sticks. What saps! Here’s some of their names—Wasielewski, Wartislavski, Merriaslowski—the dumbest bunch of Bohemians I ever saw.

However, there are also some A.S.T.P. college men here too, so I do get to talk a little common sense now and then. We have quite a few Chinese fellows here and you couldn’t find a nicer bunch. One sleeps right next to me and we pal around quite a bit. His name’s Tall Kay Lou and he’s a cousin of the Richard Lou who is in the movies. He’s a swell fellow. He was born in this country but was brought up in Hong Kong. His family is evidently quite wealthy. His father runs several businesses in Seattle and several in China. Most Chinese here are pretty stiff in the way they act until they see you don’t hold their color against them but then you couldn’t find a more pleasant people nor as sensible. Lou is really a funny duck. He was asking one day what I thought of England. After I told him, he said he (was) surprised so many Americans dislike England. Then he told me what the Chinese think of England—Wow! What a speech.

The war news sounds pretty good these days. Despite our air losses and the Italian fiasco, the Russian drive toward Czechoslovakia and Hungary looks pretty good. So does our raids on islands like this Palau—so near the Philippines. Maybe this war is nearer over than we think—I hope.

Must close,

Best Love, — Bill

P.S. If Richard is still around say hello to him for me.

LETTER 086

Bill continues to progress at code taking. He is attempting 10 words a minute and “doing fairly well.” Bill remarks that the weather is adding to his “state of misery- “yesterday…80 deg.–this morning it SNOWED.”

April 4, 1944
“Chowder”

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I don’t even intend to send this letter if I can help it, but last night I was on guard and tonight I must help G.I. the barracks so I don’t know whether I can get time to write a real letter or not.

Yesterday I received the Easter package and letter from you. I concluded from certain “derogerary” remarks in the letter that I had better write. I’m writing this in class and therefore the “yaller” paper and G.I. printing. I’m having a wonderful time eating the eggs. They’re delicious. I cut the chocolate eggs up into slices. (not in class)

I’m progressing a little better in my code at present and it seems that the crisis may be passed. I’m now attempting to take 10 words a minute and am doing fairly well.

With every day that passes I get more fed up with the state of “misery”. Yesterday the temp. was actually 80° –this morning it snowed.

I just got back from lunch and mail call. I received 3 letters from you. The pictures are swell and I was sure glad to get them.

Well, I guess this damn thing is going to have to do for a letter after all. It’s late in the evening now, and after being up all last night I just haven’t the courage to start a letter. Hope you’ll forgive me.

Bestus, Love — Bill

LETTER 087

As Bill continues his struggle with radio school his mother suggests that he might like “explosives” better than radio. Bill responds by saying that ” I do think they’re safer than radio and that’s no kidding.”

April 6, 1944
“Chowder”

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Camp Crowder Headquarters

Again I start a letter by saying I just got off K.P. I say this with a mighty groan for I have been quite ill with an upset stomach for 2 days and somewhat weak from lack of food. This evening I’m much better, however and so I’m writing. School is dragging along as badly as ever. I’m getting so nervous that I snap at everyone. Of course they’re nervous too and snap right back. Many are starting to drop out of radio now, but I guess I’m doing well enough. I don’t give a damn as far as radio itself is concerned but as I’ve written before, I don’t want to fail. You mentioned explosives in one of your recent letters saying I might like them better than radio. I do think they’re safer than radio and that’s no kidding.

Details are coming thick and fast around here now and it seems I never get a minute off. OH WELL, WHAT THE HELL (old army saying).

The pictures are coming along swell and I sure enjoy them.

This isn’t much of a letter but I’d better close.

Say, I’d like to write Richard but you didn’t say how long he’d be in town.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 088

Bill gives up trying to call home on Easter Day after waiting for 7 hours and being told the wait could be “6 or 7 hours longer.” Radio is getting ” worse and worser” as Bill says, “if I stagger in the door someday waiving a C.C.D (medical discharge) you’ll know I went nuts.”

Easter

April 9, 1944
[Camp Crowder, Missouri]

Dearest Folks,

I have spent all day trying to get you on the phone but the delays are so bad that I couldn’t get through. You don’t realize just how difficult it is to make East-West calls—-7-8 hours delay ordinarily and today it was 8 or 9 and longer sooo——–. I put the call in this morning at 10:00 and when I went back at 5:00 they said it might be 6 or 7 hours longer so I canceled the whole damn thing.

I’ve been having a fairly good time today going to free shows and such. Things in camp were pretty lively. The trainees and their wives and friends were parading up and down in all their Easter finery and the hot sunlight it made a very pretty picture.

I made some inquiry into the status of the towns around here. One is Joplin and the other Carthage. Evidently is easy to get reservations in both except over the weekends when they’re full of soldiers. However, if it takes a month to get transportation there’s not much sense in coming here because by then I’ll either be out of camp or in the field on another bivouac (Bivouacs here are equivalent to Camp Fire Girl outings.)

We got some letters from some of the old gang today. They’re at Camp Beale, California awaiting shipment overseas. They are evidently having a swell time. I rather wish I were with them at times.

Radio is getting worse and worse and worser. All the Signal Corps men are trying to get into something else. We can’t. If I stagger in the door someday waving a C.C.D. (medical discharge) you’ll know I went nuts.

— Bill (lots of love)

LETTER 089

Bill is on Barracks Guard at 2 am. He says that Radio School, “which looked so good at Abbot now appears to be a hellova job.” He points out that field radiomen go overseas “very quickly” and that casualties are “extremely high.” The word around camp is that there will be no 2nd front until after the election and Bill opines that, “most of the fellows here in camp are getting sore as hell about the war.”

April 11, 1944 (2 am.)
[Camp Crowder, Missouri]

Dearest Mother and Dad,

Here I am on another detail, damit! It just seems impossible for these palookas to get it through their thick skulls that the men need some sleep occasionally. Aw! I’m getting so damn tired of this army that I could die. Tonight I’m on Barracks Guard which is just what the name implies—-but why they need a guard is what I can’t understand.

Well, this code business is reaching a crisis fast. Two of the fellows I came down here with have already flunked out and have gone to Ft. Leonard Wood and 4 others including me are pretty low. I have been doing a little better, however; so we’ll just have to do the best we can and hope.

This radio which looked so good back at Abbot now appears to be a hellova job. There’s only one thing I can say about it and that is that I’d like to know radio, but I don’t want to be an operator in the army. This is mainly because the strain of the taking code hour on end plus the strain [one] must endure on the battlefield anyway would be just too damned much. I may sound like I’m making excuses for myself but there are even better reasons—-one being that field radiomen go overseas very quickly and another is that casualties among field radiomen are extremely high. If you’ve seen pictures of the marines invading the Marshalls you know why.

They’ve discontinued radio night classes now because so many students complained of nervousness due to them so I don’t have to worry about that anymore. Most nights I don’t do much, however, because I’m so tired. Sometimes I go to a movie—the ones we get here are new and usually good—but more often I stay in.

When it comes to weather I sure pull the lousy camps. On Sunday the temperature was 80, the next day it rained and today it snowed. Oh god! Puleeze send me back to California.

Most of the fellows here in camp are getting sore as hell about the war (not that it will do any good) but now they say no 2nd. front until after the election. There’s certainly a shift of opinion against Roosey these days.

I could write a lot more but it’s cold soooo–.

Bestus Love, — Bill

LETTER 090

Bill is feeling “corny as hell tonight as you can tell from the salutation.” He tells his folks that nothing he is learning at radio school is of practical use when it comes to commercial radio. He goes on a 16 mile hike and gets his “fanny in a sling” for marching too fast, sarcastically saying, ‘”the poor little Signal Corp Boy Scouts couldn’t keep up.” Bill closes commenting on the political view of the Chinese fellows in camp.

April 13, 1944
[Camp Holeinthewall Misery]

Dearest Mater and Pater,

Camp Crowder Theater

I feel as corny as hell tonight as you can tell from the salutation, so I guess you’re just out of luck.

Before I go any farther or is it further let’s get a few questions settled. Yes, do sell the bow and arrow. It’s too powerful to use around home. About the amateur handbook—I believe I have one already. I bought it up at the P.X.

One question you asked about was whether or not I was learning anything practical about radio repair. No, the fact of the matter is that despite the fact I’m racking my brains trying to learn this crap. It’s really of no real value to us. All we learn is 5 letter code groups, cryptographs, and that’s no good when it comes to commercial radio. One thing I have learned is how to read new ticker tapes, but I taught that to myself.

You wrote that you find it difficult to write a newsy letter. Well, it’s no different in the army and I imagine it’s even worse. We follow a routine that’s just the same day in and day out. It’s really discouraging.

Last night we went on a 16 mile hike and [I] got my fanny in a sling for marching too fast. The poor little Signal Corp Boy Scouts couldn’t keep up. To top that off all the Engineers got in dutch for singing in ranks on the hike. At Abbot the made you sing—damn near, but here “Es ist verboten”. Wot a life! We work like dogs doing nothing; it’s the truth.

Richard must be some pumpkins on that mandolin. I’d hate to hear him.

You were talking about the political views of the Chinese and about the Russians muscling in. According to the Chinese fellows I know the communist army in China is much more insignificant than we are led to believe and as far as giving Chaing the air they say the average Chinese especially peasants and common people worship the very ground he walks on.

I’m on fireman here all night tomorrow. Nice what? They give me about 3 hours sleep the next morning and then send me back to code. Baw!

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 091

With a code operating speed of 6 words per minute Bill is now the lowest in his class. He expects to soon be transferred out of radio. Bill is on duty as night fireman “stoking 5 furnaces and 5 hot water heaters.

April 15, 1944
[Camp Crowder, Missouri]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Here it is the middle of the night and I’ve got another GOD DAMNED detail—that’s exactly how I feel about it. This time it’s night fireman. I’m stoking 5 furnaces & 5 hot water heaters. I’m on all night and will probably get about 3 hours sleep tonight. Nice, huh? Yeah.

Well, here comes the bad news. It looks like I’m going to be transferred out of radio. I know that sounds bad but it may not be. I’ve worked as hard as I know how with it but for the last week and a half I’ve made no progress. I’ll not make any excuses because now they’d merely sound like alibis. However, believe me this radio is not what it’s cracked up to be. I’ve worked hard at it because I wanted my army record to be flawless but if I only knew back at Abbot what I’ve found out since here. Today the two lowest fellows from the Engineers were called up for reclassification. That leaves me the lowest in the class. I have an operating speed of about 6 words a minute. Murphy, who was in my platoon back at Abbot, and who has a background in education exactly like mine was offered a course in administration. That’s mainly clerk work but hell, all the clerks end up 1st. sgt. these days.

Your mail is coming through pretty good these days although some old stuff pops in every so often. Those post cards for instance did not arrive ‘till just a few days ago. That’s about all of everything for now. I’ll write you more about this transfer the minute I find out about it. One thing you’ll be glad to hear is I stay in the camp for 12 weeks anyway, whether I take radio or not. At least that’s what they told Murph.

Best Love and don’t worry about me — Bill

LETTER 092

Bill is still in Radio School but expects to be reclassified. This is OK with him and he draws a diagram to illustrate his reasoning. It depicts him being “triangulated” by enemy direction finders and shot.

April 17, 1944
[Camp Crowder]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I’ve only got time to write another note but I guess you’d rather get the note than nothing at all.

I’m still in radio studying procedure and radio installation but I won’t bet on how long I’m going to stay in it. For me the perfect deal would to be able to stay in radio until I had learned everything I want to and then be reclassified. You probably wonder why. The reason is quite well explained by the following diagram.

Diagram showing “triangulation” of Radio Operator

I think this is self explanatory. I haven’t mentioned the high number of radio operator casualties before because I figured you’d think it just an alibi but now I’m either in or out and it doesn’t make so much difference. What I’m doing is extremely easy and for the most part quite interesting, but I know that code is still pretty bad and I don’t relish the idea of getting myself blown to hell. I’m afraid there’s a lot of things in this army I don’t relish. Maybe the war’ll be over by the time I have to go overseas.

There go the lights.

Best Love, — Bill

P.S. Ain’t that Ruby sumpin!

LETTER 093

The men go out on a “night problem” which Bill describes as “typical Camp Crowder Boy Scout stuff.” He says that even if they let him finish the radio course he won’t have the requirements to be an operator. Bill continues to work on a furlough but says, “don’t get your hopes up.”

April 21, 1944
[Camp Crowder, Missouri]

Dearest Folks,

I’ve been getting 2 letters every day from you for quite some time now and you have no idea how good it makes me feel. I had good intentions of writing you at least every other day myself but this bloomin’ army is no respecter of my good intentions. Wednesday it was K.P; Thursday—guard; tonight G.I. Party (scrubbing out the barracks) No! I have it wrong. Thursday we had a night problem & Tuesday K.P. & Wed.—guard.

The night problem was typical Camp Crowder Boy Scout stuff. It was night compass work. We had a typical dumbbell corporal in charge (a clerk). Well, as you can guess we got hopelessly lost. Finally the dope gives me the compass and says that I should find the way out. Six years of that crap at Harvard did me good then. I’d been watching the stars so we got out in about 20 minutes. Then this so called corporal said he’d got us lost in order to see if we could get out of a tight spot. Holland (one of my bunch) then proceeded to tell him off. Boy! We’re about as popular around here as a bunch of cobras. Really though we’re not trying to act smart. They’ve just got an inferiority complex.

I seem to be doing the same as ever in radio. I’m doing fine in radio installation and procedure but I still don’t know code. Even if they let me finish the course I don’t have the requirements to be an operator. I can’t complain though. That just means that I get the pleasure of taking the course and then stand a chance of going to yet another school.

The more one learns the better he’s off.

I’m glad the fellows told you code was tough. It makes me feel a little better anyhoo. Rice said that after 10 weeks he got out of code. We got out in 5 (I could use the other five).

Don’t get your hopes up, but I’m working on a furlough. I might transfer out of here in a week or so and then I’m immediately eligible for a furlough.

— Bill

P.S. got the figs and funnies.

P. P.S. I lost the post cards I think

LETTER 094

Bill is “floating in the middle of a great void,” waiting to be “tossed out of radio school.” Turning to “pleasanter things” he notes that he heard the last few words of the popular Bing Crosby song, “The San Fernando Valley” and it sounded “swell.”

April 24, 1944
[Camp Crowder, Missouri]

Dear Mother and Dad,

I received 3 swell letters from you today so I thought I’d at least better write you a note. It looks as if I’ll be out in the cold for the next 2 nights so I won’t be able to write. All this Boy Scout stuff you know. Things are pretty much the same around here—lousy in short—so I really don’t know what to write. I’ve been expecting to get tossed out of radio every day but they still haven’t heard anything so; I haven’t heard anything rather; so I don’t what is coming off. I find radio installation pretty interesting but without code there’s not much profit in it. I’m really floating in the middle of a great void. Nobody seems to know what goes and myself most of all.

Let’s talk about some pleasanter things. At the very most I’ll be out of here in about a month and maybe sooner, and the minute I get out of here I can apply for a furlough and don’t think I won’t be quick about it. They really don’t have to give me a leave but I’ll make ‘em wish they had. I’ll make an application every day if I must. I think I’ll be able to, however.

All I’ve heard about that song about San Fernando is the last few words I happened to hear in the Recreation Hall. You know, “and make my home in [the] beautiful San Fernando Valley.” That little bit sounded swell.†

When you wrote about how Richard felt about leaving I felt awfully sorry. As much as he used to talk and all that he seemed to me less suited to military life than any of the rest of us. It’s probably pretty hard for him.

Best Love, — Bill

† Bill is referring to the song, “The San Fernando Valley” which was recorded by Bing Crosby in 1943. It was a huge hit. Bill was raised in “the Valley” so the song held special sentiment to him.

LETTER 095

Invasion rumors are “humming” around Camp Crowder. The Germans have announced that the Allies are massing shipping in England. Delsin, a company “screwball”, and former soldier in the British Eighth Army predicts the invasion will come in 10 days or less. Bill says that he is “just as dumb at code as ever, but still in radio.”

April 28, 1944
[Camp Crowder, Missouri]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Here I am again, way behind in my writing, Tuesday Guard Duty, Wednesday night hike 22 miles, Thurs. went to show, tonight “G.I. Party” so I’m still behind. I’m a bum.

I’m still in radio—just as dumb at code as ever but still in radio. The course is good as over so even if I do get kicked out I’ve had a course in radio. However, they’re beginning to hint around that somebody’s going to be dropped, but they’re nice about it anyway. They just say some fellows just aren’t cut out to be radio operators.

There’s a lot of rumors humming around here and most of them are about the invasion. There’s a fellow named Dalsin in our company who served for over a year in the British Eighth Army. He’s quite a character. One of those screwballs who probably get a commission but who’d rather be a private. He’s obviously very well educated and a very interesting talker. He’s spent some 5 or 6 years traveling in Europe and the Near East and can tell and show a person many interesting things. Anyhow—this Dalkin predicted this afternoon that the Invasion would take place in 10 days or less. He admitted it was quite a bold prediction yet who knows? This afternoon the Germans announced that the Allies are massing shipping in England.

Haven’t much else to write—Sorry. Guess I’m just getting sleepy.

FOREMOST THOUGHTS: FEELING FINE!

HOMESICK!

WANNA COME HOME!

Best Love, — Bill

P.S. Could use some stamps.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s