December 1943

LETTER 034

Bill is still down in the dumps. He pulls nighttime guard duty during a snowstorm. It appears that he’s “all washed up” as far as the ASTP program is concerned. He has not received mail he expects. In the evening he hears the Great Northern train heading south. This adds to his homesickness. On the positive side, Bill receives his back pay of $65.30. The War news seems good. At the P.X. he hears a radio broadcast that says “the Germans are already trying to make peace.”

Dec. 1, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

Gee, I sure feel blue today. I don’t know why except for this A.S.T.P. It looks as if I’m washed up as far as that’s concerned. The thing that hurts the most is that after they got me to enlist for that damn thing and after I turned down an appointment to the Air Corps for it, they don’t have the decency to let me know why I didn’t make it. I’ve decided to find out what my chances are for a transfer as soon as possible. I may not be the smartest guy the world has ever seen, but I know damn well I’ve got more ability than anyone I’ve seen in this company; and whatever ability I have will never get a chance to show itself here. The trouble is that I have no interest or ability as the engineering is concerned. I really think I’d be better off if I were even in the infantry. Although I’m not letting it get me down too much and I don’t say anything to anyone about it I’m beginning to detest both engineering and Camp Abbot. I know it’s homesickness more than anything else, but nevertheless that’s how I feel. After a person has been around a place like this for a while he gets so he can only see the inefficiency and graft and that’s all. I ain’t never gonna like this lousy war. I sure hope the European part of the war is over soon. I was fortunate enough the other night to hear a news broadcast on the radio over at the P.X. and according to it the Germans are already trying to make peace. I suppose it’s too good to be true, but it’s heartening anyway.

I didn’t receive any mail from you last night, but I suppose I shouldn’t complain. I haven’t been able to get off nearly as many letters as I wanted to send, and I guess you’re having the same trouble. Like a sap I’ve meant to thank you in my last 3 letters for the swell chocolate you sent me. They sure are good on a cold night.

That reminds me. I pulled Guard Duty again last night — 3 hours in the snow. Now do you wonder why I have colds? For the last 2 nights I haven’t got over 5 hours sleep per night, and tonight it looks like we’re going to have a night problem, which means I probably won’t get to bed again until the crack of down.

Well, I finally got my pay — $65.30. I’m sending $50.00 home as soon as I can get to the post-office and send a money order. You may get the money order before you get this letter and again you may not.

There was something else important I wanted to tell you or ask you, but now I can’t seem to think of whom or what it’s about.

Today I’m barracks orderly and that’s the main reason that I’ve got enough time to write this letter. From now on I should have more time to write, but I can’t be sure around here.

Boy! What I wouldn’t give to come home. If I could only see you now and then this training wouldn’t be so bad, but to be doing something with little or no hope of ever getting anywhere with it and then being so homesick on top of it all is pretty bad. Sometimes in the evening I can hear the Great Northern heading south and it pretty near knocks me out.

Well, if I don’t stop that moaning this letter is going to start sounding like a dirge.

I’m beginning to believe more and more that we’ll move out of this camp as soon as the snow really gets deep. More and more fellows are going to the hospital every day and literally everyone has a bad cold-me especially.

I was supposed to go over and get the proofs to my pictures last night but the guard duty and this night problem will keep me from getting them until Thursday at least. They say it’ll take 10 days to get the finished pictures after that. So they should reach you not later than Dec. 15. That doesn’t give you a hell of a lot of time to mail out the little pictures, but it’s the best I can do.

Write soon and write a lot. It may not seem like much to you but when you’re up in a hole like this even the goings on in the Valley Times is interesting.

All the love in the Whole darned World, — Bill

LETTER 035

Bill’s frustration continues as he is unsuccessful getting an interview with the Company Commander. He says it’s not a matter of what you know but who you know and makes his point with the sarcastic comment, “The birds who go out and get drunk with the non-coms on Saturday evening are the ones who are [made] acting corporals and so forth.”

Dec. 3, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

As I write this it’s after reveille Friday morning so as you can probably imagine I haven’t got a hell of a lot of time, but I’m beginning to worry so I thought I’d better write. I haven’t received any mail from you for over 4 days now, so you can see the reason for my anxiety. I know I haven’t been writing regularly, but I’m going to try and get back on the old one day schedule starting right now. Not getting your mail makes me see clearly what it’s like not to get any for awhile. I know that you‘ve been writing steadily and it’s just the fault of the damned post office, but you know how it is. I just can’t help worrying.

Still nothing about my status in the god damned army. I’ve been trying to interview with the Company Commander, but my success has been nil. I’m telling you. It’s not a matter of what you know around her, but who you know. The birds who go out and get drunk with the non-coms on Saturday evening are the ones who are acting corporals and so forth. All I’m hoping for now is a transfer. Maybe if I get somewhere else I’d have a chance to get somewhere. You can’t do your best when you know it’s not going to get you a damned thing. Actually, I know damned well a lot of the cadre here and that includes officers who dislike me because on some subjects I know more than they, and I haven’t been a know it all either.

Well, write soon. I sure wish I could see you.

Best Love to the best Folks, — Bill

LETTER 036

A fellow in the barracks gets a medical discharge and gives away “everything he owns,” including $3.00 worth of Special Delivery Air Mail Stamps to Bill. Food and mail continue to be high on Bill’s priority list. The scuttlebutt is that everyone will have to work all day Christmas.

Dec. 3, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

Boy! Oh Boy! I finally got some mail from you. I see by the date on your letters that the fact I haven’t received anything from you for the last four days is not your fault. It’s just the usual high efficiency of Camp Abbot Services Forces. Probably they’ve been sitting on their fannies as usual and letting all the mail stack up in the booming post-office.

I’m sending you a money-order for $50.00 as you see so you can open that account you wrote about. If I can send home some money every month, I ought to have a nice little sockfull of dough when I get out of the army and start back to college.

That fruitcake you talk about in your letter sounds great. We get such odd food around here that the very mention of such delectable food just about kills us.

I saw the proofs of my pictures last night. One of them I think will be pretty good after they take the bags out of under my eyes, but in the other one I think I look like “Little Lord Jesus.” The photographer promised me it would look much better after the real print was made up so I let him make one up, but if it comes out like the proof I’m going to bury it.

How do you like the Special Delivery Air Mail Stamp. One of the fellows in this barracks got his medical discharge yesterday and then commenced to give away everything he owned. I got about $3.00 worth of these stamps. I’m dropping this letter in the box at 10:00 pm. tonight, Friday the 3rd. I wished you’d write and tell me when you receive it. If it gets to you pretty fast I’ll use the rest of them but if they don’t I’ll sell them.

Bestus Love, — Bill

P.S. I hear that we’re going to work all day on Christmas. Oh how I love this army life. Phhhtttt!!!

LETTER 037

It snowed all day yesterday so Bill decides to cancel his Sunday trip to Bend and sleep in. He gets the sad news that his friend Bill Vaughn has been killed. Rumors persist that Camp Abbot will close. He has polished off the chocolate bars from home and is anxiously awaiting a six pound fruitcake. Bill reads in the Sunday Oregonian that Leipzig has been bombed.

December 5, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

Leipzig Bombing

I sure hope you’re beginning to get my mail regularly now. There were 3 days when I was I was unable to write but I’ve been doing much better ever since. As I told you in my last letter I didn’t receive any mail from you for 4 days but now everything seems straightened out. How do you like this paper? The darn thing about it is that I didn’t know I was buying (it) even. I thought I was getting the kind with a spread eagle on it; but when I got into the barracks, this is what I found. I like it though.

Well, the rumors about us moving out of Camp Abbot are beginning to assume real proportions. There are some medical and engineering experts from Fort Leonard Wood here right now studying the mess. Right now, about 20% of all personnel of the entire camp is in the hospital with some kind of cold, flu, or pneumonia and the situation is getting worse. Even officers predict openly now that the camp will be closed by Christmas. If so we’ll probably go somewhere in Texas.

Today is the most beautiful (and coldest) I’ve seen since I’ve been here. All day yesterday there was a heavy snowfall. Of course, I would have to be out on detail all day in that crap, but to get back to the point. Right now at 9:30 in the morning the ground is covered with about a foot of blinding white snow and the sky is as blue as can be. I sure wish I had a camera so I could take some pictures, it’s so beautiful. I was planning to go to Bend today but with all this snow and cold I think I’ll be better off right here. If I get cold here I can always come back to the barracks but if I get cold in that burg I can’t do a hell of a lot about it. I hope you’ll excuse my bad writing.

This morning I stayed in bed until 9:00 and it sure was swell.

I received the box of chocolate bars and finished off the last of them yesterday. I think they made me feel a lot pepier, peppier, peppyer, (take your choice). I have not as yet received the apron but am looking for it.

I was sure sorry to hear about Bill Vaughn † getting killed. Wouldn’t you know that’s the way it would happen after floating around on one of those damn tankers all the time.

Mr. Hamilton must be very proud of Johnny. He must really be doing a great job over there. He always seemed like such a kid it’s hard to realize that he could accomplish such a job. I bet no one will know him when he gets back, he’ll have aged so.

Hot Dawgs! Boy! Oh, boy! A six pound fruitcake. My tongue’s hangin’ on the ground already. As I probably told about 20 times, there’s nothing in the world more important to a soldier next to mail from home than food from home. However, I certainly don’t want you to go without just so you can send me stuff. I can manage.

That Ruby sure must be a kick. Honest to god I never heard of anyone like her. I sure liked your picture, Mother. It gave me a good laugh.

I’m sure glad to hear that we’re going to get something to make up for all the headaches that Hughes clan has given us. If anyone deserves that 5% it’s you.

The trouble that Fulton Lewis has had in getting to the Army camps on the west coast has received much talk here in camp. Everyone knows that there’s something crooked right here, and it’s probably that way elsewhere. As I’ve written before, the C.O. here just happens to also own the land on which the camp’s built. He also controls the bus line here as well as half the town of Bend and all the camp P.X.’s. Nice layout, huh? I’d like to be getting what he rakes in.

I see by the “Sunday Oregonian” the only news I get all week that they really gave hell to Leipzig last night. Boy! If they keep that up there won’t be a town left in Germany.

Well, that’s about all right now.

Bestus Love, — Bill

P.S. Did you get my letter saying I made sharpshooter and had missed expert by only 4 points — 176 out of 180?

[Note: William Frank Vaughn, Pharmacist’s Mate 2c, USN, Wife, Mrs. Madeline Vaughn, 1218 S. Menlo, Los Angeles]

LETTER 038

Bill tries to sell his special delivery stamps but gets no takers. Some sort of nasal infection is sending hordes of men to the camp hospital. It’s no wonder to Bill who says the men are injected with deadly germs, sent out into the ungodly climate and worked to exhaustion. He fixes the broken radio in the P.X. and listens to “Andre Kostolanis, the Prudential Hour, the news and several other things.” Bill’s friend, whose relatives all live in England, tells him that the British are suffering terrible war weariness and “all everyone speaks about is peace.” He says the current government there is “about as popular as Hitler.”

December 5, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Mother and Dad,

In case you get 2 letters at the same time, this is number 2. I decided to sell my special delivery stamps or to be more exact part of them, but nobody wants them so I guess I’ll have to use them. It seems awfully plutocratic to send all my mail by special delivery air mail at 16 cents a letter, but there’s no use letting (them) sit around until they get lost or sumpin.’ However, I am going to save some of them for emergencies.

It’s now 5:30 in the evening or 1730 as we are supposed to call it in the army — but don’t. Since I wrote this morning’s letter I’ve heard quite a bit more about the camp closing up. The inspectors evidently are doing everything possible to keep the camp here but things are so bad they aren’t getting anywhere. The night before last the 52nd. went out on an all night problem and after they came in the next morning 150 men went to the hospital. That’s almost 1/5 the personnel of that battalion gone in just one day. I don’t remember whether or not I told or not but almost ¼ of the 7000 or so men here are now in the hospital. It seems to be some sort of nasal infection which rapidly develops into pneumonia. Nobody is dying or anything like that but there are a hell of a lot of sick fellows around here.

Hamilton — the fellow who sleeps next to me —  said one of the doctors at the hospital said he didn’t know what the War Dept. was thinking about. He says what’s really wrong with the men here is exhaustion. First, they bring men up to this ungodly climate, exercise them as if they were trained athletes, inject them with all sorts of deadly germs without giving them much needed rest, and then wonder why the hell they don’t take it. Quote — There’s two ways to do a thing-the right way and the Army way — unquote. Ne’er a truer word was spoken. Oh well! They been doin’ this sort of thing for years and I guess they’ll keep on doing it for years no matter how dumb it is.

I went over to the P.X. recreation room today and fixed their radio for them. Someone had pulled some wiring loose and even an amateur like me could handle it easily. Then I sat down for a short return to civilization. I listened to Andre Kostolanis (or whatever his name is), the Prudential Hour, the news, and several other things. You can’t imagine what a treat it was for me.

After those minor setbacks last week the war news seems to be pretty good again. Everyone here still thinks the war will be over pretty quick in Europe. I’m not as optimistic as some but it really doesn’t look as if it can last much longer.

Hamilton, who’s relatives all live in England, says that war weariness is so bad in England that all everyone speaks about is peace. I guess they’re pretty miserable. He says that they want the blackout lifted right now despite the chance of attack, and that the present govt. is about as popular as Hitler with the British people. If the Germans with all the raids, defeats, blockade, and losses don’t feel a “hellova” lot worse, they must be “supermen.”

Talking about “supermen” if I get through all this training with no nervous breakdown or physical collapse, you’ll know damn well I’m a “superman”. I’m damn proud of myself already. As one of the corporals told us, “If you can get through combat engineer training you’ll be among the toughest men in the world, and if you can’t, it’ll be no disgrace.” That’s sumpin’ in my opinion.

I’ve a lot more to write about what’s going on here, but I guess it’ll have to be later on.

Bestus Love, — “Rookie Billy”

LETTER 039

The camp rumor mill is “grinding away at full speed,” indicating that Camp Abbot will close in 4 weeks and move to Needles — about a five hour drive from Bill’s home in North Hollywood, California. Bill admits that this sounds too good to be true. During the day the company works with anti-personnel mines and booby traps. Bill draws a sketch portraying the action. He is scheduled for K.P. the next morning which he describes as “the lesser of 2 evils” since he will miss a 10 mile hike.

December 6, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

I’m really becoming concerned over your not receiving my mail. I haven’t been as regular with it as I should, but I’ve been doing better than you letters seem to indicate. I don’t know what’s wrong, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the fault may be found right here in Camp Abbot. I certainly hope that by now you are receiving my letters regularly. I haven’t been getting mail from you the way I should but I rarely go more than 3 days without getting any and then I usually get a pile.

Well, the camp rumor mill is grinding away at full speed. According to the latest from the front, we’re moving out of Camp Abbot sometime within the next 4 weeks and packing off lock, stock, and barrel for no place less than Needles, Calif.

Boy! That would be a gift straight from heaven. Cripes! I could get 3 day passes and spend a day at home. No, I mustn’t even think about it. It’s just too good to be possible. However, even if we were sent to some place like Texas or New Mexico I’d feel a “hellova” lot better. No matter what anyone says about this climate, there’s one thing that’s a certainty. From now on our training is going to be darned limited if we stay here. In zero weather a man’s capable of just so much and no more.

Today we worked with anti-personnel mines and booby traps. Of course, instead of having T.N.T attached to them there are only firecrackers but you could give yourself a nice burn with one of them. The mine that I made was so fiendishly conceived that the fellow who was supposed to put it out of action, theoretically was blown up. I put one out of action with no trouble.

Well, have to close now. I’ve got K.P. tomorrow and that means I’ve got to get to sleep early. By getting K.P. I miss a 10 mile hike so it seems I’m getting the lesser of 2 evils.

Bestus Love, — Bill

LETTER 040

Bill spends an unexpectedly interesting day on K.P. At midday he goes into the field to help serve lunch and gets a chance to see the surrounding countryside for the first time. It doesn’t impress him. In the evening he listens to Gabriel Heatter on the kitchen radio, catching up on the war news. He takes note of the date — the 2 year anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

December 7, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

I’ve only time to write a short note tonight due to the fact I was on K.P. up until 9:00.

The K.P. wasn’t so bad, but it’s a rather discouraging job. Of course, that’s the Army. One thing good about it was that I got to go on a truck out into the field to serve lunch. It was a nice ride and it was the first chance I’ve had to see the surrounding country-Phooey. The lumber companies must have come thru this area like a cyclone. Nothing but stumps, stumps, and more stumps. You can’t tell it right in the camp area, however.

Gabriel Heattier

I got to listen to Gabriel Heatter over the radio tonight in the kitchen. Boy! It looks like big things are about to break in the Balkans and Middle East pretty quick now with Turkey edging up to the allies.¹  They may not know what they’re talking about but the officers here say this is going to be the real thing-and that it’ll wind up the war in Europe by spring. Personally I don’t think they know a bit more about it than I do. I think, however, that it’s going to be all over pretty quick now.

Notice the date — 2 years. It sure doesn’t seem that long.

More and more guys are going to the damn hospital. I’ll be damned if we can keep it up much longer.

I didn’t get any mail from you today, but I got a swell package of cookies from Grandma and Jess.² I’ll have to write and thank them soon.

Bestus Love, — Bill

P.S. I’ll try and write a real letter tomorrow.

P.P.S. Are you getting my letters yet? I mean the old ones.

[Note 1: Turkey’s role in the war effort was discussed at the just concluded Teheran Conference but there was no agreement and Turkey remained neutral until February 1945, when it declared war on Germany as a precondition for membership in the United Nations.]

[Note 2: “Grandma” is Bill’s maternal grandmother and Jesse is her son from her second marriage. I guess that would make Jesse Bill’s “half-uncle” as his mother Alice was a product of the first marriage.]

LETTER 041

The men are undergoing combat training. Yesterday they marched four miles to the Anti-Aircraft range and fired .22’s at moving targets. Today they will toss hand grenades loaded with firecrackers rather than T.N.T. Bill receives cookies from grandma. He wishes for more war news from home and closes airing his frustration at not knowing where he stands with “the A.S.T.P thing.”

December 9, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Momma and Poppa,

This is another of my post-reveille letters. I didn’t have time to write last night; and knowing how irregular the delivery of my mail has been, I thought I’d better get at it.

I been feeling pretty good for the last few days, but I’m developing a little sinus trouble and I don’t like it a bit. This damn climate sure can raise hell with a body. The number of men in the hospital is still growing, but I’ve heard nothing more about them moving the camp, worse luck.

Yesterday I received a nice box of cookies from Grandma and Jessie but they were in pretty sad condition. Good though. I’ll have to write a letter and thank them, but I threw away the wrapper to the package and I can’t seem to remember the address. Maybe, if I just put down the “Anchorage” State College, Penn. it’ll get there.¹

We’ve been marching so much and so fast lately that my feet are about worn off. Yesterday we marched about 4 miles out to the Anti-Aircraft Range at over 4 miles per, and let me tell you that’s a grind—4 miles back too. In A.A. firing we use .22’s and fire at moving targets. Its fun but I couldn’t hit anything but blank space.

Today we go to the grenade [area] and toss around some hand grenades minus the T.N.T and loaded with firecrackers.

How’s the news? As far as that’s concerned we’re still pretty much in the dark. According to the last word I heard, it looks like the big push is going to come soon. I hope so. I’m not getting so I love army life any the more as time goes by.

About the A.S.T.P. thing I’m going to get “personal” as soon as possible and find out just where I stand. Then if I don’t seem to be anywhere I’ll apply for my transfer to the Air Corps. This thing is really discouraging. You’d think they’d be a little more concerned after they get me to enlist and all that. You know that if I had accepted the Air Corp in October I wouldn’t have been even called up until January.

Bestus Love, — Bill

P.S. Will write again tonight if it’s possible.

[Note 1:  The Anchorage is a family-run restaurant not far from the campus of Penn State University.]

LETTER 042

Bill decides to put in for the Air Corp. He continues to get the run around about A.S.T.P. and says “it’s the only branch into which an Engineer can transfer.” The thermometer hit zero degrees yesterday and Bill would “gladly waive all pay” to be sent somewhere warm. As Sunday approaches he ponders whether to go to Bend or sleep in on his cherished day off.

December 10, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

This will probably be another very short note because we have to leave pretty quick. I received a letter from you, Daddy, last night and will write more about it later. Since we’re having another of those damn night problems tonight I’m not at all sure I can get my regular letter off, but if I can I’ll write tonight.

It’s been very cold here for the last few days — 0 degrees yesterday. I really don’t know what I’m going to do. That kind of weather is just too much for me. I think my damn cold is going to last forever. Don’t worry though. It’s more annoying than anything else. If they would send me to some camp in California or Arizona or any place warm I’d gladly waive all pay.

There’s still a lot of talk about us moving out and I hope it’s true. From what I’ve heard they’re still undecided. I’m praying that they make the right decision. I don’t know whether I’ve told you or not but one of the cadre here that once one’s six weeks are up he can never be sure when he’s leaving or where he’s going. According to him, one day I might be training as a combat engineer and the next day I might be a clerk bound for Missouri or a baker in South Dakota. God! What a system. I never have seen such a heap of crap in my whole life as the goings on in this army. I don’t know what they’re trying to do but whatever it is they’re certainly making a mess of it. I’ve pretty well decided to put in for the Air Corps. It’s the only branch into which an Engineer can transfer. I’m not crazy about it but I know it’s better than this. As far as A.S.T.P. is concerned I’ve only got one chance to get it and that’s mighty slim. After 17 weeks I would be screened and then maybe I might be taken. The personnel officer himself doesn’t know exactly what that means. However, I’m going to do some scouting around & see if I can find anything out. Everything’s so mixed up here that no one knows what’s really going on, so as a result I can’t find out anything definite. Undoubtedly you can see how disgusting the whole damn thing is. Oh well, one’s got to be somewhat a philosopher and take what comes in this army. Otherwise you’d go batty in nothing flat.

This is turning out to be more of a letter than I thought when I started. Well, today’s Friday. Only one more day until Sunday. Daddy, you know how much Sunday means to a poor struggling soldier: sleep late, loaf, write letters, loaf, go to the show, loaf, sleep some more and loaf. Ah! If the Army was only like that all the time. Lately we haven’t been doing anything on Sundays, thank God, so maybe this Sunday I’ll go to Bend. I’d like to sleep all day, but I get almost enough sleep everyday but I never get enough recreation.

I haven’t yet received the apron but I’ll write a letter of thanks to Mr. Van Vorst as soon as I do. I still owe a letter to Grandma and Jessie, so I guess I’ll quit rambling on to you and write them a note.

Bestus Love, — Bill

P.S. Receiving my mail yet?

LETTER 043

Bill is in heaven after having discovered a quiet reading room almost directly across the street from his barracks. His 6 weeks of infantry training is over so Bill anticipates more free time to read and do other leisure activities. The men spent the previous 2 days on combat principles and map reading.

December 12, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Mother and Dad,

What a dummy I am. I’ve been here 6 or rather 8 weeks and I never found out that almost across the street from our company is one of the nicest, quietest reading room you ever saw. Nice soft easy chairs, good light, lots of books and new magazines. The best thing about the place is, however, the fact that it doesn’t attract the noisy riffraff. Places like the battalion P.X. or the Service Club are nice, but there’s always a bunch of loudmouth dopes around to spoil it. A reading room, of course, holds no interest for them so the rest of us get a break. I’m writing this letter from the reading room right now. I’m going to spend about all the free time we get over here from now on. Now that our 6 weeks of Infantry training is over we should have an easier time of it so I can get in a little reading. I was wondering whether or not you’d send up my language books so I could do a little studying in my spare time — if any.

Boy! This has been a tough week, but with a promise of better things to come I haven’t minded it so much (I hope you’ll forgive my terrible penmanship). The other day we worked with grenades with a temperature of 0 degrees. Burr! Remember I told you we were going to throw grenades with firecrackers in them. Heh! Heh! There was TNT in them. We throw them like a football and I bet I tossed mine 200 yds. For the last 2 days we’ve had combat principles and map reading. I really shined at that.

You had better not expect any letters from me for a couple of days now because we are going on night problems both Monday and Tuesday and you know what that means.

Right now I’ve been talking to a fellow who’s almost through with his training and he says it’s pretty smooth sailing from now on. Hot dawgs! A lot more open time and all that. Some time next week we’re s’posed to get a half day off to go Christmas shopping in Bend and the word has just come through that we get Christmas day off and make it up the following Sunday. Maybe the army has a little heart after all.

I’ve noticed on our schedule for next week there’s a lot of open time. Of course, we’ll probably do something in that time, but it’ll be something that doesn’t amount to a “hellova” lot.

The only thing I dread now is our 3 week problem. It means 3 weeks of sleeping out in the snow and cold and living a rugged life. Chances are, however, that they won’t be able to have the problem here and we’ll have to go down to California for it. Oh Hell! You never can tell what’s going on here.

I’m still on the trail of A.S.T.P. and am going to keep on doing my damnedest to get it. I don’t know what my chances for O.C.S. are but I’m going to see about that too. I’m going to take all tests I can and ought to be able.

Bestus Love, — Bill

P. S.  It seems that when I write, it’s always the same damn mournful drivel. If there’s anything special you’d like to hear about even if it’s just the layout of the camp be sure to let me know.

LETTER 044

The men go out on a night problem and “dig up booby traps and anti-personnel mines without the aid of any lights whatsoever.” Bill says that things are looking up dispite weather at -2 degrees. The company is getting time off to go Christmas shopping in Bend. He makes a drawing of the Camp Abbot layout and of the Service Club.

December 14, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Hiya Folks,

Right now it’s 10:30 in the morning and believe it or not, strange as it seems, I’m loafing in the barracks. I don’t know how long it’ll last, but its sure swell. Don’t be surprised, however, if this letter has an abrupt ending.

Well, at long last life is beginning to agree with me again. I feel better and my cold seems to be breaking. The world doesn’t look so dismal anymore. ♪Yippee♪

We went out on a night problem last evening and it was really the nuts. We had to dig up booby traps and anti-personnel mines without the aid of any lights whatsoever. Nobody wants to be out there-including the officers, so once we got the hang of it we made a bee-line back to the barracks where we got cookies and hot coffee. We needed it too, although I still won’t drink coffee. Yesterday morning the maximum temperature was 35°, minimum -2 ° –and it’s still only fall. Yesterday morning we had to use pickaxes for ½ hour before we could drive a single heavy stake into the frozen ground. Yet, I seem to be getting used to the cold. The other morning I came out and thought to myself that I seem pretty warm. Then I looked at the thermometer————16° !??

Friday afternoon the company gets a half day off in order to go Christmas shopping in Bend. I’m practically broke but I’m going anyway. We get free transportation and all that. I’ll buy myself a quart of milk, go to a show, and buy a little “sumpin” to send home, buy a steak, if such a dream is possible, and generally have a good time.

As I told you in my last letter, I’ve caught a slight sinus infection. It doesn’t bother me the least bit except that the damn thing smells and tastes as if I was beginning to rot up in my head. It’s enough to turn your stomach.

Lately I’ve been spending my money like a drunken sailor, so that money you say you’re going to send me will really come in handy. I’ve not been getting any mail from you for several days now so pretty soon I had ought to get quite a few letters. The mail clerks here are so lazy that half the Christmas mail won’t arrive on time.

Camp Abbot Service Club

P.S. Maybe my crude drawing will give you some idea of what Camp Abbot looks like. Hope you can keep mum on all the military objectives given away. You’ll notice that my favorite places are identified. I guess I’ll tell you about them. In the first place everything here is painted green like a forest rangers station or CCC camp. Our movie (theater), although it doesn’t look so hot outside is pretty nice inside—good heating, good acoustics, large stage, hard benches to sit on. Really though they’re pretty good for wooden seats. The service club is a large 2-story building. I’ll draw it for you.

The floor below is covered with easychairs, radios, reading lamps and writing desks.

Oh! Oh! gotta go now. — Bill

Sketch of Camp Abbot by Bill Taylor in December 1943

This map was included in the official program of the Camp Abbot Dedication on September 2, 1943. The program included 4 phases: 1. Observing the Training Activities 2. Tour of the Cantonment Area 3. Parade of the Troops 4. The Dedication Ceremony proper. Bill’s sketch of the Camp is very close to this rendition, but with enough differences to imply that his map was made without reference to the Official Map

LETTER 045

Bill receives a bonanza from home-6 letters and 3 packages. The weather is too cold as usual, 5-6 below zero with fog and wind. Bill got an airmail letter from home that took “only 2 days.” There are no new rumors about the camp closing.

December 15, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Mother & Dad,

Boy! do I feel good. Last night I got 3 packages and 3 letters and tonight I got 3 more letters. Boy! that’s all I can say. I put the 3 packages in my footlocker. There they will stay until Christmas Day — I swear it. That’s 10 days of fighting back curiosity. It’ll be quite a battle. I’ll win though.

Say! What’s that about all the weather you’ve been having down in L.A.? Maybe a little of Camp Abbot has moved down there. You’d better take care of those colds or I’ll come down there and put ya to bed. You don’t want to end up with “Camp Abbot Consumption” like me. Speaking about weather, you ought to be here: 5 & 6 below zero every day. Today’s high was 28° F. with the sun shining all day. Tonight a biting cold fog and wind has blown up. Wot a future we got here.

Well, it sure looks as if that A.S.T.P. has gone to hell. Well, that’s the way it goes. If there’d been no A.S.T.P. I would not have been called up until January huh!

Gee! I don’t know where to start in answering your letters. Six is a little overwhelming. To begin with don’t worry. I’ll go easy on the victuals. They’re going to last awhile.

Hey! The stink about this war is sure getting heavy. As long as a lot of gravy is being thrown around I wish I could get a desk job in Washington and get some. I should live so long.

Mrs. Hamilton must be pretty bad off. What’s the matter? Too much booze or sumpin.’ Ain’t I awful?

Since you like these Special Delivery Airmail letters I’ll keep ‘em flying. For awhile, however you’ll have to get along on the old kind. I’m suffering a little pecuniary embarrassment and have only 2 stamps left. However, we’re going to be paid early this month and then I’ll buy some. That last Airmail letter you sent me, Mother, got here in only 2 days. Maybe it’d be a good idea to start them again. I liked that poem, “Excelsior.” †

Haven’t heard anymore about the Camp closing. Will write a lot more tomorrow.

G’nite—Love, Bill xxxxx

† An allegorical poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow about holding true while striving for a higher purpose.

Excelsior
The shades of night were falling fast,
As through an Alpine village passed
A youth, who bore, ‘mid snow and ice,
A banner with the strange device,
Excelsior!

His brow was sad; his eye beneath,
Flashed like a falchion from its sheath,
And like a silver clarion rung
The accents of that unknown tongue,
Excelsior!

In happy homes he saw the light
Of household fires gleam warm and bright;
Above, the spectral glaciers shone,
And from his lips escaped a groan,
Excelsior!

“Try not the Pass!” the old man said:
“Dark lowers the tempest overhead,
The roaring torrent is deep and wide!
And loud that clarion voice replied,
Excelsior!

“Oh stay,” the maiden said, “and rest
Thy weary head upon this breast!”
A tear stood in his bright blue eye,
But still he answered, with a sigh,
Excelsior!

“Beware the pine-tree’s withered branch!
Beware the awful avalanche!”
This was the peasant’s last Good-night,
A voice replied, far up the height,
Excelsior!

At break of day, as heavenward
The pious monks of Saint Bernard
Uttered the oft-repeated prayer,
A voice cried through the startled air,
Excelsior!

A traveller, by the faithful hound,
Half-buried in the snow was found,
Still grasping in his hand of ice
That banner with the strange device,
Excelsior!

There in the twilight cold and gray,
Lifeless, but beautiful, he lay,
And from the sky, serene and far,
A voice fell, like a falling star,
Excelsior!

LETTER 046

Bill is on duty as latrine orderly and it is to his liking. He sends some pictures to home. He continues to be frustrated about the ASTP “deal.” With Christmas approaching Bill is more homesick than ever and particularly misses his dog “Johanna.” He closes with a sketch depicting him honing his goldbricking skills.

December 16, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Mudder & Dad,

Today I’m on duty as latrine orderly or as the GI’s less delicately put it, “turd sergeant.” In spite of that, it’s a plenty soft job. In the morning a squad comes in and cleans up so all I have to do for the rest of the day is stoke a small furnace and a couple of space heaters. Pretty good, huh? Another good feature about it is the fact that it lets me out of guard duty tonight. So I get all day to sit around and write letters and all night to sleep. This is how army life should always be.

Tomorrow we get the entire day off and all afternoon and evening to go to Bend for Christmas shopping. I think that they’re beginning to realize that men can be driven so far in this weather before they break. The number of AWOL’s and desertions around here is pretty high for engineers.

Last night I sent the pictures home. It was late but the best I could do. I insured the packages. I definitely don’t think the pictures are so hot. I especially don’t like the oils. On one of them my nose looks as if it were wrapped around my face and the other was made up sloppily. I rather like the little picture, however. I’m s’posed to have a fellow take some snapshots of me sometime over the weekend. If so I’ll send some to you. How would you like me dressed with full field equipment? As I said in last night’s letter, “you should live so long.”

About this A.S.T.P deal—I’ve just about decided that the best thing to do would be to continue on with my basic and then see what’s up. I might just might be able to get to be cadre. They’re going to move all the old cadre to line outfits after this period. That means they may get some of the new from the present bunch. Of course, this is just speculation but I’ve got my eyes open in all directions. Somewhere in this army there must be a decent opening for me.

Of course the war may not last so much longer. In spite of some recent allied setbacks, I don’t see how Germany will get thru the winter. In that case my chances of advancing in any direction will be slim.

Only 9 more days until Christmas, gee. This year has sure gone by fast. I do hope you do some kind of celebrating over the holidays. I’m going to try and have as nice a Christmas as possible under the circumstances and I’d like to think you were doing the same. I’ve got it all figured out how I can have a tree. It’ll be about a foot high and will stand on my shelf.

Since that last paragraph was written about 2 hours have passed. I ate lunch and generally “futzed” around during all that time. I’m getting to be an expert goldbrick. What little work I had to do on the stoves this morning I don’t have to do this afternoon because I was told to let them go out for some reason or another. So here I sit—-Ahhh.

That little note from the paper about Shirley Temple and Hotchkiss, the sap, sure gave me a laugh. The more I see and hear about people the more I like and admire dogs. That may be corny but it is oh so true. Speaking of dogs, always when I’m down in the dumps I get cheered up (by) one of the company mutts. He’s a fat, spoiled (by the mess sarge) little cocker spaniel named Pup that reminds me so much of Johanna that it hurts. He sure is cute and so fat he can hardly waddle. By the way, how is Johanna—just as big a pest as ever I suppose.

As Christmas gets closer I’m sure getting homesick. At night I’ll lay in my bunk and think about it. God, this war’s a pain in the neck.

I was wondering if you could pick up a camera somewhere and send it. I can get films and I sure could get a lot of pictures.

Well, I’d better close. I’m beginning to bore even myself.

Best Love, — Bill

P.S. Thanks for the $15.00

LETTER 047

On Friday Bill gets the afternoon off and visits Bend for some Christmas shopping. He buys a 15¢ malt and 3 doughnuts for a dime. Grandma and Jessie send him $10. On Sunday he “loafs” and says that he has a “feeling big things are about to break in the war.” Bill recites a poem entitled “After the Engineers.”

December 18, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Well, it’s Saturday night and another enjoyable week at beautiful Camp Abbot has faded into memory, praise the Lord! This really has been a tough week. We’ve been working like dogs and I feel lousy-not sick, mind you but just all pooped out. Boy, this Camp sure gets a man down.

Yesterday afternoon, however, we got off to go to Bend for Christmas shopping. It was the first time I’d been in during the day & it sure was a lot better. I walked around all over town trying to find something to buy but had little success. I saw a fur-lined coat costing $75.00 that I’d damn near give my right arm for up here. I bet it would keep a man warm at the South Pole. Seventy-five bucks. My tastes would have to run in that bracket. Oh well, it was a civilian coat anyway.

In Bend I found a swell malt shop. For 15¢ a person can get a malt that would put Curries to shame. Also they make doughnuts in the window. I got 3 for a dime while they were still hot. They were the best I’ve ever had—Ummmm.

I got some of those little golden outhouses, but they’re nowhere near as nice as the ones I had in mind.

There’s still evidence that we’re going to move out, but if so it won’t be until sometime in January. Over at the hospital they’ve received a lot of new equipment but they’re not going to unpack it until they know what the score is.

I’m beginning to wonder if anyone knows what’s really coming off.

The 51st went off on a 27 mile hike today and had to be brought back on trucks. They get their 3 weeks problem starting next week and they’re scared to death. If they can’t make (it) the rest of us are supposed to go to Needles for our 3 week problem, as I believe I’ve told you already.

I received $10 from Jessie and Grandma today. Pretty good for a poor rookie, huh? I’ll have to write and thank them very soon.

That package they sent me before didn’t have any peanut butter in is as far as I know but it did have some peanut butter cookies in it. Maybe that’s what she meant.

I’m awfully sleepy right now so I think I’ll finish this letter tomorrow.

good night

good morning

I just picked up a cute poem I think you’ll like. Here it is:

“After the Engineers”

Oh, the infantry is the first to land —
after the engineers
Marines get things so well in hand —
after the engineers

And when they sound the mess call
you can bet a round of beers —
The Cavalry’s the first to eat —
after the engineers

The tanks are always out in front —
after the engineers
The paratroopers bear the brunt —
after the engineers

And when the war’s all over but the shouting and the cheers —
The boys will all go running —
Before the engineers.

I like that.

Well, it’s Sunday morning and everybody’s taking it easy. We’ve got another radio and it’s playing Christmas carols. That’s about all that’s gone on all morning- just lazy loafing and boy do we need it. The longer I stay in this camp the more pooped out I get. When I get my furlough I’m going to lie down and sleep for a week.

I don’t know but I have a feeling big things are about to break so far as this war is concerned. I have little access to the news as compared to you, but I just have a feeling. Maybe my hunch is just wishful thinking but I’ve still got a feeling that the war’s nearer over than most think.

That’s enough prognostication for today. You asked me about my laundry, mother; so here it is. We can send it out once a week and as much as we want for $1.50 a month. They do a very good job on wool socks.

I’d better close now.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 048

December 20, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Mudder & Dad,

As you can plainly see I’ve run out of stamps. I’m going to get some more as soon as possible but I don’t know when that’ll be. Until then all my mail will be by the old unreliable “free” system. If I can, I’ll have the stamps by Wednesday. You’ll notice how uncertain I am about the whole thing. That’s the army for you.

Your mail has been coming in spurts, but I know it’s no fault of yours. The way they run things here it’s a wonder that I get any at all. However, those airmail letters are coming through “on the double.” Your letter of Dec. 18, Mother, reached me today –not bad.

Christmas is sure a comin’ fast. Only 15 days-swish! With the exception of the last 10 weeks, this year has sure rolled by. A little while age I was trying to recall what I was doing at this time last year and was surprised at how well I could remember the things I did at school, around home and so forth. I can’t remember what happened the day before yesterday but I can remember that.

Today we worked on machine guns and tomorrow we fire them all day. I enjoy this more than anything we’ve had so far.

I’m being cut short by the “Sarge” who’s demanding that we all clean our gas masks. I could put it off but I’d better do it. I think this must be about the 3rd. letter that bird has ruined.

Bestus Love & Merry Christmas, –Bill

LETTER 049

Christmas is approaching and Bill is hoping he won’t get KP. The Portland paper has stories about the bombing campaign over Germany (“four thousand tons in 24 hours”) and a “big [tank] battle in Russia.” The men hear a War Dept. lecture about the progress of the war which Bill characterizes as “designed for the stupid GI Sad Sack, yet informative.” According to the lecturer Germany is taking a “hellova” beating and he gives Bill the impression that “we’d never see any action in Europe for sure.” He tells them the engineers are building a “new Burma Road.” Bill closes describing how he “cut down a tree” while firing the .30 cal. machine gun.

December 22, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Mudder & Dad,

I’m writing this letter just after lunch. I’m barracks orderly again and therefore have the time to write a good letter. I probably won’t get this off until tonight, however, since I won’t have any airmail Special Delivery stamps until then.

Things are pretty much the same around here. The heavy snows are still holding off and the weather has been at least bearable. Work has been getting progressively easier, and in general things are pretty good.

As far as moving out of here is concerned, I guess I’ll be finishing my basic right here. Some of the newer outfits may move out but nearly everything we do from now on can, if necessary, be done indoors. That’s why I’d like to have those language books. Up until about a week ago it looked as if we might move out at any time, but they’ll keep putting it off until the winter is over. I wouldn’t doubt it a bit, however, that we have our 3 week problem somewhere else, but that’s a long way away.

Well, it’s almost Christmas and I can hardly wait to get my hooks into those Christmas packages. Oh boy! I think that every building in the Camp must have its own Christmas tree. There’s a huge one growing on Group Ave., the main street, and it’s beautifully lit up at night. It really makes me homesick. I guess you’ll have the lights out this year, huh? Nobody here is going to get passes on Christmas. It makes no difference to me but some of the fellows are sure broken up about it. As far as I can see there’s more fun to be had right here in camp than anywhere else except home. I don’t think, however, that any shows or such will get up here. The camp’s too small. I’ve only one fear and that’s that I might get K.P. over Christmas. It’s getting pretty close to my turn.

I received 3 letters from you yesterday which was pretty good. When I get mail like that I feel as if it were my birthday, er sumpin’!

Burma Road

Someone brought in a Portland paper this morning and I see by it that we’re pounding the hell out of Germany again. Four thousand tons in 24 hours. That’s really der stuff, ain’t it. I really don’t see how Germany can keep it up much longer. If they do the Germans must be even dumber than I thought. I guess the big battle in Russia that is going on right now will be over by the time you get this letter. Tank battles hardly ever last very long.

We had a lecture given under War Dept. auspices yesterday on the progress of the war. Of course most of it was designed for the stupid GI “Sad Sack” and was almost insulting to the average person with any intelligence but, nevertheless, some of it was very informative. For one thing it was very optimistic as far as the European situation is concerned. That’s unusual for anything put out by the war dept. Most of their movies and such are as gloomy as hell- predicting a long war and all that, but this was different. According to the lecturer Germany has suffered 3,000,000 casualties in Russia since last July and that 700,000 more are menaced at the present time. It seems that Russia’s grand strategy is to cut the German front in two driving part of the German armies back into the Balkans where supposedly they would collapse. According to intelligence reports Germany is having a “hellova” time of it. In fact, he talked as if we’d never see any action in Europe for sure. “Germany may make a go of it with a few last desperate haymakers but they won’t do her any good.”

Another thing he touched on was the “new Burma Road.” It’s that bloomin’ “highway” the engineers are building up through Northern Burma and Tibet. He said, “This road is especially important to you engineers.” I don’t like the way he said that. Maybe I’m just imagining things —I hope.

Yesterday I fired the .30 cal. machine gun. Wow! When you get behind one of those babies you feel like you control the world. While firing at the target I cut down a tree in the background.

Best Love and Merry Christmas — Bill

P.S. The Merry Christmas is just in case the mail’s fast.

LETTER 050

Camp Abbot is getting ready for Christmas. Carols and dance music can be heard over the Service Club PA system “as plain as day” all the way to the training areas. The holiday schedule is light and Bill looks forward to “having it easy for the next 3 days.” He spends the previous night as a fire guard.

December 23, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Mudder & Dad,

Well, the Christmas rush is on at Camp. Everything is being prepared for a really nice time. Christmas trees are being decorated, and they’ve set up a powerful loud-speaker over the Service Club. You can hear dance music and Christmas carols all over the area. This morning we were out on the rigging sites about a mile and a half out of camp and yet we could hear the music as plain as day.

The weather’s been quite nice for the last few days but tonight there’s a strong south wind and that looks like a storm. I hope that the weather stays a little warm for the next week or so because next week — Wednesday to be exact — we have an overnight problem. We go 5 miles out,  sleep out, and 5 miles back the next day — FOOEY!

Despite our ironbound schedule we’re going to have it a little easy for the next 3 days. Tomorrow we can sleep late and we get to do the same Sunday morning.

I didn’t get any mail this evening but after 3 letters I really didn’t expect any today. They always seem to come in bunches.

How do (you) like this stationary — quite artistic, huh?

I have a lot of other things to write but last night I was a fire guard, a sort of night watchman; and I only got about an hours sleep all night long. So you can see that I’m damned tired.

Bestus Love, — Bill

P.S. Suddenly it’s snowing like hell. I ain’t never going to like this lousy state.

LETTER 051

It’s Christmas 1943. Bill makes a call home from the new Telephone Building. It looks as if they are staying at Camp Abbot for the winter as cold weather uniforms are being shipped in. Bill’s pal is trying to get his father to get them a transfer to “Shore and Harbor Patrol.” It is a long shot, but Bill says, “I can’t lose anything.” He closes the letter with a sketch of him wearing the new winter uniform.

December 25, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Hello Mother and Dad,

Well, I just got through speaking to you on the phone about a hour ago. Since then I’ve had a fair Christmas dinner and have had my picture taken by one of the fellows in the barracks. I sure wish I could have heard you a little better on the phone but there was so much noise in the Telephone Building and I couldn’t hear you so well anyway that it was a little tough. (Daddy’ll say that last sentence is awkward –won’t you?) It was swell to hear your voices anyway. I haven’t received any mail for 3 days and although I know you’ve written it takes the pep out of a body anyway.

If you don’t mind the cost I’d like to call you again when there isn’t such a rush.

As I was telling you over the phone it doesn’t look anymore as if we’re going to get out of here- right away at any rate. They’re shipping in winter uniforms right now and they’re some stuff. Fur lined coats, pants, shoes, heavy wool lined field jackets. Tough coats that are reversible with O. D. (olive-drab) on one side and white on the other. These have hoods too. In short we’re getting all set for a hard winter. I guess it can’t be helped.

“Me in Winter Uniform”

I still haven’t been able to find out anymore on A.S.T.P. transfers are becoming very hard to get for engineers but here’s the lowdown on that transfer I was telling you about. My pal, Blair Hamilton’s father is Naval Construction engineer down at San Francisco, and he has connections with a lot of big Army and Navy officers in charge of the port. Blair wanted to go in the Navy but couldn’t make it because his eyesight is rotten. He then thought he’d be turned down by the Army- but wasn’t. Now for about the last week his father has been trying to arrange a transfer to a small branch known as Shore and Harbor Patrol. It’s more or less an M.P. job—you’re sure to be located near a big city—maybe L.A.—and you’d probably be permanently stationed. Blair said his father might be able to arrange it for two and I told him to go ahead and try. I imagine my chances are pretty slim but I can’t lose anything.

I’m enclosing a note to Mr. Van Vorst. With my usual dumbness I misplaced his address and got myself all messed up.

I hope my coughing over the phone didn’t scare you too much. Everyone up here is hacking the same damned way. I really don’t feel half bad now and as I told you I’ve gained back all my weight.

Best Love, Bill

(sketch here) —Me in winter uniform

LETTER 052

The officers and noncoms are hungover from their Christmas celebration. As a result, the men have an easy schedule for the day. Bill uses the extra time to write a letter. He says the food is improving now that “we are off field rations and on garrison rations.” The 54th is scheduled for 2 “night problems” next week and Bill says, “phooey.” He closes with a sketch of a hungover officer.

December 26, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Hiya Folks,

It’s sure some laugh. They told us that we’d have to work today Sunday, because we got yesterday off, but when this morning rolled around the officers and noncoms had such hangovers that it was a real laugh. We fooled around all morning and got the afternoon off, so I’ve got enough time for a letter.

This next week is really going to be the nuts. We’ve got 2 night problems and one of them is an all night affair—sleeping out in the snow with sleeping bags. Phooey! In spite of this, however, the work is getting relatively easy now—no more rat races and we get a lot more time to do just such things as this. The toughest part of army life with the exception of combat is over.

Well, we had a white Christmas and today the roads and walls around camp are as slippery as hell. Blair Hamilton and I have fallen on our fannies at least 10 times apiece in the last 2 days. Wot a life.

Boy! am I enjoying the candy that you sent me for Christmas and that cake—wow! As Awful Fresh MacFarlane would say “It’s gooder than anything.” Talking about Awful Fresh MacFarlane—he is a friend of Blair Hamilton’s father and so we had some swell candy for Christmas.

I’m glad that you’re sending a camera up. I can take some swell shots around here, and I know you’ll be glad to see them. The scenery is beautiful around here, and I know you’ll get a kick out of pictures of us in uniform.

I’m on K.P. again tomorrow so I probably won’t get a chance to write. Tonight I’m going to the show. I haven’t received any mail from you for quite some time now but I expect some tonight. The way the mail is run around here anything can happen.

The food here is steadily improving now that we’re off field rations and are on garrison rations. This afternoon we had steak—imagine! It sure is great to get steak after you get to the point where you can’t look a hunk of goat in the face.

Tomorrow the 51st goes out on the 3 week problem. They’re well equipped and the weather’s not too bad but we’re all praying they can’t make it. The poor guys have got a hex on them. Everybody hopes they fold up so the rest of us can get out of here. (That is, get out of the last 3 weeks).

I’d better close before this gets too boring.

Bestus Love, — Bill

LETTER 053

Bill has 15 hours of K.P yet says “I feel like a million dollars.” He spends most of the time “shooting the bull” with the mess sarge. The unit draws “K” rations for their upcoming overnight bivouac.

December 27, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Hello Mother and Dad,

You’ll probably receive this and my last letter to you in the same delivery. I wrote the other one yesterday afternoon and then forgot to send it.

Well, today I was on K.P. 15 hours straight and yet tonight I feel like a million dollars. How do I do it? Well it’s quite a story. The last time I was on K.P. I worked like a dog all morning in order to get some time off to go to the post office. I made such an impression on the Mess Sarge that he let me take it easy all afternoon. Today he gave me all the jobs that look tough but are actually easy. Most of the time he spent shooting the bull with me. I don’t have to goldbrick. I’m literally forced into it.

Tonight we drew “K” rations for our overnight bivouac. A whole day on that crap. Of course, I’m not complaining about that. The fellows overseas live on “K” rations but they don’t like ‘em either.

I sure hope the candy and camera get here soon. I don’t know about the condition of that little one. The way I treated it when I was little was a crime. Here’s hoping anyway. I don’t have a hell of a lot more to write so good night.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 054

Today the men of the 54th had an exercise in combat principles that involved taking a hill occupied by an enemy platoon. Bill says, “we had to crawl 300 yds. through the snow to take the position.” Tomorrow the men go on an all night bivouac. Turning to politics, an opinionated Bill says, “I had the misfortune of hearing Roosy’s [Roosevelt’s] speech the other night.” He also hears that experts give Germany only a 50-50 chance of going through the winter.

December 28, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Hiya Mudder & Dad,

General Eisenhower

Tomorrow we go on our all night bivouac. That’s a phrase that strikes terror into the heart of the poor unfortunate rookie. Woe is me and all stuff like that there. Personally I’m looking forward to the damn thing with great enthusiasm. I’ll probably be cured of that quick enough, however. I believe that we march some 23 miles all together. I won’t like that but I’m afraid my likes and dislikes won’t amount to an awful lot as far as the big shots are concerned. In the afternoon we have to charge up a lousy hill with bayonets and gas masks on. I won’t like that either. Come to think of it, there’s very little about this man’s army I do like. Oh well ya can’t have everything. The only trouble with that is that we don’t get anything.

Today we had a nice little problem in combat principles. One thing—that is, problem—required us to take a hill on which an enemy platoon was stationed. They were armed with firecrackers which they were supposed to shoot off when they spot us. We had to crawl 300 yds. through the snow to take the position—I was soaked from head to foot.

I received your swell letter, Mudder, the one you wrote Christmas Day. I guess your Christmas must have been as corny as mine. Well, we did get to talk to one another anyway. That was sumpin’. I plan on calling every so often from now on since they’ve built a telephone building on the post. All one has to do is make out a slip and let them put through the call. It’s really okay.

I finished up the fruit cake today and finagled me another one from some guy who got too many Christmas presents. It’s not as good as yours, but who am I to get snooty about it.

Now I’m stuck—I can’t think of anything to write but I’m too Scotch to waste this entire sheet of paper. Now let’s see—hummmmm.

I’ll talk about the news. I had the misfortune of hearing Roosy’s speech the other night.† One thing I noticed, however, was the attitude of the men in the barracks toward the old bag. “That great man” is a thing of the past which has been replaced by “That son of a bitch.” It does my heart good. I see where Eisenhower says the war in Europe will be over by the end of this coming year and the experts give Germany only a 50—50 chance of going through the winter. Here’s hoping.

This is the 2nd day of the 51st 3 week bivouac. I wonder how they’re doing. They should be okay since the weather here is pretty good right now.

Good night & Best Love, — Bill

† The speech to which Bill refers is probably Roosevelt’s Fireside Chat of December 24, 1943 in which he reports on his recently concluded conferences in Cairo and Teheran with Churchill, Stalin and Chiang Kai-shek. In this broadcast Roosevelt hints at the coming invasion of Europe and announces Dwight D. Eisenhower as the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.

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One response to “December 1943

  1. Hello there! I have a photograph of “The 56th Battalion U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1st Platoon, Camp Abbot Oregon, December 1943,” in which my grandfather, Henry J. Oosterhouse is standing in the middle of the back row. Your father and my grandfather were at Camp Abbot at the same time. I have a training schedule for the “Army Service Forces, Third Service Command, ASF Personnel Replacement Depot, Fourth Training Regiment, Indiantown Gap Military Reservaton, PA,” wherein Cpl. Oosterhouse is listed as the Replacement Officer under Major Hill to teach “Fuses and Booby Traps” from 0930-1120 on Tues, February 20, 1944. It is possible that my grandfather instructed your father about booby traps at Camp Abbot around December 6, 1943. It is also possible that they were on the same train to PA where your father arrived at Camp Reynolds and my Grandfather was sent to instruct soldiers at Indiantown Gap Military Reservation. The more I learn about these men, their service, and their leaders (especially General Alexander “Sandy” Patch), the more I am in awe of their daily challenges and hope to live a life worthy of their sacrifices to protect their families/country. God bless!

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