February 1944

LETTER 069

Bill is issued equipment for the upcoming bivouac — over $400 worth. He applies for a furlough with no sign that it will go through.

February 2, 1944
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Wot a week this has been! Whew! I might as well begin at the beginning and maybe you’ll see why? On Monday we were issued out bivouac equipment—over $400.00 worth of equipment. I got special heavy all wool knee-length stockings (each pair is as heavy as my civilian oxfords) special boots with 3/8 inch felt insoles, waterproof pants, wrist length heavy field jacket, heavy sweater, a 50% angora wool ¼ inch thick muffler that must be worth about $10.00, a fur coat (squirrel or rabbit or sumpin’), a heavy reversible parka with hood, wool lined hunting type hat, 2 pair of wool mittens which go inside a pair of leather mitts, a special pack and a sleeping bag. Wooie.

Tonight I signed up for a furlough. That’s no sign I’m going to get one but it’s a step in the right direction.

I received your packages. The cake was delicious and the socks will be plenty handy. Thanks a lot.

I’m awfully tired now. I know this isn’t much of a letter but it’s the best I can do tonight. I’ll try and write again tomorrow.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 070

The bivouac starts at 5:00 sharp tomorrow morning. The men are looking forward to exacting revenge on some of the officers during bivouac, having been told that officers were fair game if “captured” when playing the role of the enemy during simulated night raids.

February 6, 1944
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Oi! Vot a day! Vot a week! My head’s spinning and my fanny’s dragging. It’s Sunday night and we’re all in a dither about the bivouac which starts at 5:00 tomorrow morning. They’ve had us on the run for the last 3 days so much that we haven’t had time to do nuttin’.

You should see me in my outfit. I look like sumpin’ out of the Klondike.

Everything’s been bivouac, bivouac, bivouac this week. I really don’t have anything much else to write about.

It’s going to be pretty rugged because the weather is getting warm and there’s mud and water everywhere, but then it’ll be fun because it’s pretty close to the real thing, and what’s better we’ve got a chance to get even with some officers from whom we’ve had to take a lot of crap in the past. Here’s the deal. Every night groups of officers from the camp form raiding parties, try to slip through our outguards, and raise hell inside our area. But! If we catch them—heh, heh. Other battalions have caught officers and made them strip out there in the cold. They caught the gas officer out there without his gas mask so they marched him right through his own gas. They told us that the more brass they carry the more we should rough them up. Boy will that be fun.

Since the last line the Lieutenant came in and told us what we’d do the first couple days. Ah—open time—it sounds more like a picnic that maneuvers.

Running short on time.

Love, — Bill

LETTER 071

Bill finally goes on the long anticipated bivouac. The men roll out at 5:00 am. and march double-quick 5 miles to a frozen swamp where they dig in and set up camp. The river is frozen solid and they must break holes in the ice to put supports down into the water for a foot bridge. While doing this Bill and 3 other men fall through the ice and get a frigid soaking. It snows most of the time. The bedrolls are soaked. So it goes for the duration of the bivouac. Not surprisingly Bill catches a “hellova cold.” Bill interviews for transfer to the signal corps. He is selected as “one of 5 for an entire battalion who is given a chance for radio operator.”

February 13, 1944
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I just got back from calling you about an hour ago. It was certainly wonderful to hear your voices even if I couldn’t tell what you were saying about ¾ or the time. I don’t know why I can’t tell what you’re saying, or hear rather. Part of it is the noise outside of the booth, I know; but even so you sound faint and indistinct. I asked the operator about it but she said that if you could hear me all right I should be able to hear you. I don’t know but it is too bad.

Well, I guess you’d like to hear about the bivouac. Wot a life that’s been. I’d give almost anything if it were all over. In the first place, they rolled us out about 5:00 last Monday morning, gave us a hurry up meal in our mess-kits and then marched us at double quick time about 5 miles out to a frozen swamp where we were supposed to dig in and set up our camp. As soon as that was done we rushed over to the river and started to construct some foot bridges. The river was frozen over so we had to break holes in the ice in order to put our bents and supports down into the water. Well, you can guess the rest. Four of us were carrying a heavy bent across the ice when a big hunk broke loose and “kerplop!?” in we go. The big hearted bird in charge then told us to go over by the dinky little fire and get dried out. The temperature that day was about 15°. When we finally did get to the area and got dry clothes on we were pretty miserable. To top it off that night it snowed and all the bedrolls got soak(ed) and wet. I was ready to call the whole thing off. The next day we had to tear down a bridge. This was a heavy wood bridge of about 15 tons capacity. It was still snowing and we were still pretty badly off. However, the bird that let us freeze out fell in the river himself under suspicious circumstances which made us all feel a little better.

That night it stopped snowing but I stayed up until 12:30 A.M. drying my bedroll. Then they made us all get up (at 12:30 mind you) and march 14 miles through a foot of snow in the God damned S.O.B dark. I fell down so often I felt like a tenpin. Of course, we were the leading company and as usual we marched at the “C” co. running pace. It wasn’t so tough on us but the other companies who don’t generally go that had a hell of a time. They were passing out all over the road. The meat wagon was packed and they filled up a couple more trucks. I don’t care but I don’t think they should beat men that way. I don’t have any trouble on marches but I know how it feels to be half dead when I’ve come off the obstacle course. We got to the new bivouac about 6 o’clock in the morning and camp was set up by noon. Then I caught up on my sleep. I slept all afternoon and all night. The next day we broke camp and moved 7 miles more. That night I had 4 hours guard duty; the next day we did mine laying all day; and that night I was on road block guard duty all night. God! what a grind! By the time we came in the next morning I was so damned tired.

About 2:00 Sat. afternoon they called out about 40 of the men in the co. for Specialist Training Interview. They called off our names and then put us in groups. One group was under consideration for Ordinance school. The second group was for Engineering school, and the 3rd. group (my bunch) was for signal school. Then they called 3 names of my group for radio repair, 5 for radio operators including me and the rest for electrical school. I was one of 5 for an entire battalion who is being given a chance for radio operator. That would give me 17 more weeks more schooling and probably (sketch of tech sergeant’s stripes here). Well, here’s hoping—I hope, I hope, I hope. [sketch of 4 leaf clover and horseshoe here] I’m going to go after it tooth and nail. It sure beats this God damned pick and shovel work we’ve been doing around here. If I never see another pick, shovel, saw, and so forth again, it’ll be too damn soon.

I’ve got a “hellova” cold now and it’s settled in my jaw. I couldn’t even close my mouth all day. I’m getting awful hungry. It’s getting better tonight but this morning they thought I had the mumps. Heaven forbid!!

I’ll call you again next weekend if they don’t confine us to company area like they did last Sunday.

Best Love — Bill

LETTER 072

Bill gloats that “C” Company was able to exact revenge on some Captains and Majors who were “captured” during bivouac battle simulations. “We treated those officers as if they were real Nazis.” He goes on a surprise detail and says “sometimes I feel like telling someone off but my better judgement prevents me from doing so.”

February 20, 1944
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

Here it is Sunday again and I’m as sore as hell. After going through another week of “apcra” out in the bloomin’ tullies they got us up this morning and took us out on detail. Some of the guys were able to slip out the back door of the barracks, but most of us were hooked. As a result I’ll have a hard time getting my telephone call through this afternoon. Sometimes I feel like telling someone off but my better judgment prevents me from doing so. There’s a lot of fellows here, however, who haven’t got better judgment and so I at least get the pleasure of hearing someone else doing a little blowing off.

Well, “C” Co. made quite a record out on the bivouac. We had 100% security for the entire 2 weeks tactical period. That is, no one ever was able to get through our outguard into camp. This is an enviable record, but it was made at a “hellova” cost as far as the men are concerned. Last week I had 6 hours guard duty every night except Wednesday. That night I was on duty 10 hours and slept 2. You can imagine how tired a body gets with an average sleep of 4 hours out of 24. Anyhoo they didn’t get in and when they were captured—O; it shouldn’t happen to a dog. We treated those officers as if they were real Nazis. It’s a wonder some of our Lieutenants weren’t busted for the way they treated some Capt’s and Majors. Our mess sarge remarked, “You guys don’t give a damn fur nottin’, do you?” Well, they said they wanted us to be tough. They’ve got no squawk coming now.

How do you like the snapshots? The one taken out on bivouac, I think is pretty good. Whenever a fellow has his picture taken around here there must be as many fellows in it as possible in order to conserve film. In that picture, however, I believe I got the best deal.

I received your letters out in camp (it’s a swell time to tell you, I know). I think that those letters of recommendation are very fine and that they may be very useful if I get to go to school. Do you think I should write a letter of thanks to the Bishop and Mr. Hamilton?

Very tactfully you’ve made no mention of the fact that I’ve made almost no statement about my finances lately. Welllll–, things are not too bad but nor is everything too good. During the last two months I’ve collected from the gov’t. $68.72 of which at present I have left $57.39. That’s not bad but I had to sign the payroll out in the woods last week and my hands were so stiff with the cold that I wrote below the line. That’s bad. I may get “red-lined” this month.

I’m going to try and call you up now.

Best love, Bill

LETTER 073

February 20, 1944 (Later)
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

God, am I dumb!

Bill

LETTER 074

Yesterday was graduation and today is the last official day of training. Bill is in a feisty mood. He sarcastically calls the Commanding Colonel “the old fossil.” He writes a letter of thanks to Bishop Gooden which he calls “a veritable masterpiece of linguistic manipulation.” Bill laments not knowing what the army plans to do with him exclaiming, “Oh well, SNAFU.”

February 27, 1944
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

This is “posiloutely” our last official day in training. Yesterday we graduated and this morning we turned in our equipment. Ever since we’ve been sitting on our tails in the barracks taking it easy—quite a novelty around here. Well, it’s sure swell to be all through. I’m no longer a trainee but a full fledged Combat Engineer soldier. HORSE—!

Yesterday we went out and paraded around like a lot of damn fools in a snowstorm for about 2 hours and 45 minutes and then the Colonel, the old fossil, got up and made the following speech. ‘Trainees! I (ha! Ha!) have made you strong, sturdy, healthy, robust, and tough! You are now ready to go into combat. I (great emphasis) have made you the best Engineers in the world. May God speed you in your future battles.” It’s a wonder God got any mention at all.

I wrote a letter to Bishop Gooden and another to Ann and Reiney last night, so I am caught up at least a little bit on my letter writing. The note to the “Bish” is a veritable masterpiece of linguistic manipulation. I used just enough four bit words to make it good. You probably already read the note I sent to Ann and Reiney.

I sure wish they’d come out and tell me exactly what they’re going to do with me. Oh well, SNAFU. I wish I had something interesting to tell you but I ain’t so———

Bestus Love, — Bill

∫—(dropping spirits)

LETTER 075

Feb. 28, 1944
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

Well, I finally got this off even if it is $10.00 short. I have the ten, but with all the moving around that seems in store, I think I’d better keep it. The first month a fellow is in a camp he may not get paid so I am keeping $26.00.

I hope everyone is well and that the weather’s cleared up.

Bestus Love, — Bill

LETTER 076

Bill is now a member of the Casual Company. After one day he is “just about to go nuts with boredom.” He caustically remarks, “they run us around like the devil for 17 weeks and then have us sit on our cans for I don’t know how long. Bill tells his folks that “school is almost a certainty now.”

February 29, 1944 (9:45 A.M. Tues.)
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I’m now a member of the “Casual Co.” I still sleep in the same bunk in the same barracks but I’ve got a new Capt. and am on a different roster.

This morning the fellows who are going on furlough went through their deprossessing. The rest of us who are going to school got the morning off so I am writing. You’ll be glad to know that school is almost a certainty now. The fellows who are going on furlough are really getting schneidered. Even the birds who went A.W.O.L. during the course are getting furloughs and that means only one thing—that those guys are already slated for the banana boats.

Yesterday I went on my first day of detail. Wot an experience! They run us around like the devil for 17 weeks and then have us sit on our cans for I don’t know how long. When you’re not used to it you just about go nuts with boredom. I guess I shouldn’t complain though. It sure is disgusting though. They have ten or twelve civilians working down in the maintenance shop and foundry where I was detailed, and they’re not doing a goddamn thing except sit on their fannies—all for over $200 a month. It’s not their fault though. The foundryman took me into the jernt and showed me what was holding them up. They had an army version of a blast furnace which, of course, wouldn’t work. They spend millions around here on nothing and then ask the soldiers to buy more bonds. Phooey!

Best Love, — Bill

P.S. I hope the weather’s a little nicer down in L.A.

P.P.S. My mail still goes to C-54

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