January 1944

LETTER 055

It’s New Year’s Day 1944. Bill is catching up on his sleep after an overnight bivouac. The men hike 10 miles and then spend the night in slit trenches with no fire. Supper consists of “half frozen K-rations.” The next morning, after a breakfast of more K-rations, Bill stays behind to help fill the trenches while the rest of the company crosses the Deschutes River in assault boats and takes a hill with overhead machine gun fire. Bill closes his letter with a sketch of him sound asleep in his bunk entitled, “Me-welcoming in the New Year.”

January 1, 1944
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Happy New Year Mudder & Dad,

I hope you’ll forgive me for not writing the last 3 days. Except for Wednesday night I have no excuses except my expert but excruciating laziness. (How’d ya like all dem ex’s) But anyhoo I’ve got a lot to write. As you know, last Wednesday we had our overnight bivouac. Boy! Was that the craps. To start out we had a 10 mile hike, and when they say 10 miles they mean about 13 miles. As usual they started off at a pace of about 4 miles an hour and of course I had a “hellova” time keeping up. As time went on the birds who started that stiff pace began to straggle and finally I ended up at the head of the column. We had good bedrolls made up of 3 wool blankets a comforter and a shelter half, but still we damn near froze because we had to put the rolls down in slit trenches. We couldn’t have any fires and had nothing for supper except half frozen K-rations—Phhhttt!!! During the night I had to get up and go to the latrine, and when I came back I couldn’t find my foxhole. I must have faked around out there for about 20 minutes before I found it.

The next morning I had another cold K-ration for breakfast and then had to fill up about 10 officer’s slit trenches. After that I came back to camp since my company moved out while I was filling the holes. However I was lucky there. I had only about a 4 mile hike back to camp whereas the rest of the company had to cross the river in assault boats and take a hill with overhead machine gun fire. I got the afternoon off. I was so tired I slept every minute of it.

I received the camera and German Dictionary. I also received Ann and Reiny’s box of candy. It’s really swell. You mentioned my not saying anything about the $50.00 you put in my account. Of course, I think it’s wonderful and the only reason I haven’t mentioned it that I thought I’d already thanked you for it. Please forgive me.

I’ve been getting mail pretty regularly now so maybe the situation here is getting better—I mean for good. I received that card with the drawings on it—hot stuff!

I went down to the studio last night and asked about having those pictures made. They said yes but when they tried to find the negative they found it was gone. I’ll try again.

Best Love, — Bill

P.S. Let’s hope that when New Year’s 1945 rolls around we’ll all celebrate together.

LETTER 056

The men spend 2 days learning how to use jack hammers to build roads only to be given picks and shovels for tools. As Bill says, “ya got to be ‘filosofical’ about the army–they never do anything right.” In spite of this, he boastfully exclaims, “the Combat Engineers is an outfit to be proud of.”

January 3, 1944
[Camp Abbot, Oregon)

Dear Mother and Dad,

Wot a day! The highest the temperature has been all day is 20° and all morning it hung down around 0° while we built roads. That’s another pain in the neck. They spend 2 days teaching us how to use jack hammers and other pneumatic equipment and then on the day we start on roads guess what we get for tools—picks and shovels. Oh well! ya got to be “filosofical” about the army. They never do anything right.

But getting back to the weather I never saw anything like it. Our lieutenant froze his ears so badly that he had to go to the hospital for a couple of hours and have them treated—nice place we got here.

I had a long talk with the lieutenant this afternoon about the Engineers and found out a number of things I never knew before. One of them is the number of branches to the Eng. The Air Corp Eng., the Armored Force Eng., the Artillery Eng., the Amphibian Eng., the Airborne Eng., and many branches within the Combat Engineers themselves. I might become a specialist in roads, heavy pontoon bridges, demolition, sapping, and a thousand and one other things.

Here at “Basic” we become “jacks of all trades” but “masters of none” to use an old cliché (did I spell that right?) but when we get out of here we get some sort of specialist work almost for sure. Maybe there’s something special to this outfit after all. All kidding aside and is spite of my dislike of Camp Abbot the Combat Engineers is an outfit to be proud of.

As I told you over the phone I got payed last week. I’m sending home $45.00 in a couple of days by money order. I would like you to take part of it & get me one of those swell bracelets that Daddy described so well in one of his recent letters. I would like one with a heavy chain. I know they’re somewhat expensive but I’ve wanted one for some time and I might as well get a good one while I’m at it. I’d like my name, serial number and “Corp of Engineers” (am I butchering this letter or am I butchering this letter) if possible.

I better close while you can still read this.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 057

Bill is kept busy going on 2 “night problems” and guard duty. With only 4 more weeks of training the men are beginning to talk about going on furlough. Bill says the food is getting worse and he is tortured by the craving for a hamburger. The War news is good with the Russian Army moving toward Poland.

January 6, 1944
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Mother and Dad,

You’re probably wondering right now where the hell I’ve been. Honest! This has been the damnedest week. In the first place, I was moved out of my old barracks into a new one. That, of course, entailed a whole lot of horsing around. On top of that we’ve had 2 night problems and a night of guard duty. I can’t say I’ve haven’t had any time to write because now that our Inf. basic is over we get quite a bit of free time as I’ve told you before, but one can never tell when you’re going to get it or for how long.

We haven’t been doing too much that is new or different but the work is easy and not too boring, and next week we start working on bridges which should be pretty interesting.

We had a beautiful storm over yesterday and the day before and now there’s about a foot and a half of snow on the ground—anyone who wants my 50,000 acres of Oregon land can have it for 30¢ in 12 easy payments—nothing down.

The mail situation here is in a muddle again. The last time I got mail was last Monday. That’s the day I got the books which by the way I’m getting quite a kick out of. They’re really a lot of fun. But getting back to the mail, I sure am itching for some letters. I’ll probably get about six within the next few days.

Well, we’ve only got about 4 more weeks of training now and then that lousy bivouac. We’re already beginning to talk about what we’re going to do on our furlough. We’re slightly premature—huh? At least it’s pleasant to think about.

God! I’m hungry for a hamburger. Oh! If I could only sink my teeth into a home cooked meal with fried potatoes. Oh! What torture. Of late the food here in camp has taken a turn for the worst. After our 6 weeks were up it improved considerably but now its taken a dive. They had the nerve to serve cold cuts and potato salad two nights in a row when the temperature was zero. Twice I left the table so hungry that I had to go down to the service club and get a meal. I’m “regusted.”

I haven’t heard any news for the last 3 or 4 days but it sure looked good with the Russians driving into Poland and all that.† It looks as if the war in Europe may blow up in Hitler’s puss at any time now. I sure hope so. The sooner Adolf folds up the sooner we can finish Japan and the sooner I can get out of this goddam army—Amen.

Best Love, — Bill

† Bill refers to the Dnieper-Carpathian Offensive launched by the Soviets on Christmas Eve 1943. This action drove the Germans out of the Ukraine and Moldovia territories and into Romania and Poland. By April 1944 the Red Army completely destroyed 18 Wehrmacht and Romanian divisions and reduced another 68 to below half their original strength.

LETTER 058

Bill is in an upbeat mood. His nagging cold is finally gone and lately he’s been “splurging and having a great time going to shows and eating at the Service Club.” Even the training is fun. Bill gets a chance to fire a variety of special weapons and draws an amusing sketch of the action.

January 9, 1944
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Mother and Dad,

You’re probably wondering right now why I’ve been so lax in my writing of late. I’ve had plenty of time so there’s no excuse I can give except that I’ve been having such a good time lately that I haven’t given it as much thought as I should. I’m not kidding. I’m really beginning to enjoy army life. Much of it is as disgusting as ever but since my cold has gone away and the work let down it’s been pretty good. As you said in your latest letter, Dad, I’m getting Esprit de Corps. In spite of my dislike for the “old army life” I can’t help but be proud of this Corps. No matter what anyone says the Combat Engineers is a slick outfit. We have to fight better than the infantry and have to build and destroy better than the Construction Engineers. We don’t think very highly of ourselves do we? Oh well, who will if we don’t?

This afternoon we had a broadcast from Camp Abbot. Right now I’m holding my nose. The only thing that saved the show was the Camp Abbot band which is damned good for a military band. They can make symphony music sound as if it isn’t being played by a band.

Last Friday we fired special weapons. That was really fun. I shot that new .30 carbine, the Thompson .45 cal. submachine gun, the .50 cal. light machine gun. Light they call it—128 lbs. The damn thing is really a small automatic cannon. That carbine and Thompson sub are really honeys, however.

Contrary to all belief none of those guns kick–not the least bit. They jump up but not back.

Lately as I as I said before I’ve been splurging and having a great time—going to shows—eating at the Service Club—and generally enjoying myself. Oh boy! This letter really differs from some of the old ones, huh?

One of the fellows that bunks near me is teaching all about stonecutting and gems. It’s really interesting. Also I’m having a swell time with those language books. At last I’m learning something of value in this army.

Bestus Love, — Bill

LETTER 059

The A.S.T.P program is cancelled leaving Bill in limbo. The men start bridge building and climb an embarkation tower built on pontons in the middle of the Deschutes River. It’s cold —  “down to 0 degrees in the mornings” —  but this doesn’t stop Bill from buying ice cream at the P.X.

January 10, 1944
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

This’ll be a surprise to you—2 letters in two days. Maybe I’m getting back into the old routine. Anyway there was no good show tonight. Oh! Oh! Shouldn’t have said that that.

Today we went out for bridge building the first time. We learned the ground work for building a 25-ton pontoon bridge. The work is pretty interesting, but I’m afraid I’ll never be any great shakes as a pick and shovel man. I ain’t got the talent.

After we did the bridge building we tried out the new embarkation tower. It’s set on pontoons and looks exactly like a section of a ship with debarkation nets hung over the sides. We come up in assault boats and then climb up the nets about 3o feet to the deck. Then we climb down the other side into another boat which carries us to shore. All the time this is going on a speed-boat rushes around stirring up waves which rock the whole works violently. We went over it twice—once without equipment and once with rifle, pack and gas masks. I’m all bumps and bruises.

How did you like the picture? Lousy, huh? It was the only one that came out at all. At least I think that I look better than anyone else in the damn thing.

Well, A.S.T.P. is a thing of the past. Why I couldn’t get anywhere with it is “poifectly” clear. Yesterday night they posted a notice that stated that no more A.S.T.P. applications would be accepted in this camp and that those already appointed would have their A.S.T.P. cancelled—period. Ain’t it the craps.

My cold has completely broken although the temperature hangs around 20° even in the afternoon and is down to 0° in the mornings. We’re getting to the point where we walk around in shirt sleeves if the temperature gets above 10°–no foolin.’

I’m getting hungry. I think I’ll go over to the P.X. and get some ice cream.

Auf Wiedersehen — (HOT STUFF)  Bill

LETTER 060

It’s “lights out” at Camp Abbot, so Bill writes “just a note” from the latrine. He has a 17 hour shift on K.P. scheduled for tomorrow and does not expect to have time to write.

January 12, 1944
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

I planned to write you a long letter and tell you how thrilled I am over the swell bracelet you’re sending me, but as usual I got involved in a bull session and now it’s past “lights out” and I’m writing just a note from the latrine. I sure am excited, however, about it. I bet it will really be beautiful. I think the way you’re having it engraved is much nicer than my idea.

I’ve got the $45 in the company safe and have been intending to send it home for a week now, but I’ve never been able to get to the post office. The damn place is hardly ever open.

Well, tomorrow I’ve got K.P. again so I won’t be able to write, probably seeing as I’ll be at work from 5:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M. (GROAN) Let’s not think anymore about that gruesome thing.

There’s a lot of things I should tell you now and a number of questions that I should answer but I’ll be damned if I can think of what they are.

Good night and best love, — Bill

LETTER 061

Bill is off K.P. and he writes a short letter home announcing that his last day of training will be February 26, 1944 at which time he will transfer to the “Casual Company” to await further assignment. He tells “Mudder” he longs for home cooking, but says “Puleeze No Lamb” which he says they get “about 8 or 9 times a week.”

January 13, 1944
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I just got off K.P. a few minutes ago, and when I dragged myself into the barracks I found your letter of Jan. 9, Mudder. I really didn’t feel like writing but seeing how I’ve been shirking my writing lately I thought I’d better get at it. I’ve been getting mail as regularly as clockwork again now for several days. It’s been a lot better that way.

You were wondering when my basic would be up. I thought I’d already told you but evidently I didn’t. The last day of training is Feb. 26. After that we go to the “Casual Company” where we go on detail for an indefinite time—anytime from three days to three weeks.

They moved me out of headquarters barracks to the first platoon barracks just so everyone would be in the same place. That’s all.

Those meals you mentioned, Mudder, about the hamburgers and fried potatoes—rabbit, squash and moulded salad made my stomach do flip flops. I hardly remember what good food tastes like anymore—and one thing more when I get home, please! Puleeze! No lamb. I don’t think I could stand it. I bet we have lamb or goat as we call it about 8 or 9 times a week.

I got quite a laugh out of the “Sentinel” you sent—especially the protest over having to stay after school 45 minutes on Thursdays. The student in righteous indignation demanding his rights—when I read that I’d been working like a slave, for 16 hours straight. It’s funny how ones point of view can change in a few months. Last year I would have been just as sore about losing a little of my free time, but now I’m glad and thankful if I can get just 5 minutes to myself.

Bestus Love, — Bill

LETTER 062

Bill finally receives his long awaited bracelet. The men protest getting a steady diet of cold cut from the mess by eating at the Service Club. Bill tells “Mudder” that he would send her a couple of poems making the rounds of Camp Abbot, but “I won’t dirty up the mail.”

January 16, 1944
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Well, here it is Sunday again and I’m all excited about the bracelet. I really should get it today if it was supposed to be here by Friday or yesterday. Of course, one must take into consideration the damned way in which the lousy Post Office here works.

I damned near laughed myself to death when I read about the Higgenses in your letter, Mother. Isn’t it just like those knotheads. When I got to the part where she said maybe the good Lord would reach down and get them all I nearly had a fit. I can just see the old gal.

Well, we finally got the best of that bunch of bums in the kitchen today and are we happy. You know we’ve been getting cold cuts and damn near nothing (else) for the last couple of weeks. Well, today some fellows took some milk off an empty table so they’d have enough for cereal and coffee. The head cook got all burned up and said we’d have to eat out of our mess kits at dinner, so we just went to the Service Club for our meal. The Cap’t., who’s a really swell fellow heard about it and sent for a couple of men to go down and explain the situation to him. After that he gave the kitchen staff hell so maybe now we’ll get some decent food.

I liked your poem very much, Mudder. We’ve some here in camp that are pretty popular too but I won’t dirty up the mail. I’ll finish this later.

Well, it’s later now—a whole lot later—a whole day later. You probably think I’m a “hellava” pill, and I don’t blame you a bit if you do. When I was working like a dog and had hardly a minute to myself I still managed to write but now that I’ve got plenty of time I don’t.

Today the bracelet arrived. It’s really the nicest one I’ve ever seen. I’m so proud of it I’m about ready to burst my buttons. I showed it to my lootenent a little while ago and he just turned green with envy. I’ve still got the 45 bucks in the company safe but have been unable to get to the Post Office with it due to the funny hours the jernt has.

Bestus love, — Bill

P.S. Ain’t that a hellova way to end a letter.

LETTER 063

Today the men finish building floating bridges. Bill complains about not knowing what the army has planned for him and says in frustration “there’s a couple of noses I’d sure like to punch.” He sends mother a list of food he’d like her to send, but adds “for gosh sakes don’t use a lot of ration points to make stuff for me.”

January 20, 1944
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Mother & Dad,

Boy! Does time fly in this bloomin’ army. It seems that the weeks are flying by like rabbits lately. Only 5 more weeks to go including bivouac. I wish the first 6 weeks had gone by like that. Oh well! That’s past history.

This is the damnedest country around here. This morning it was so bitter cold I almost froze in spite of a mountain of clothes, but by afternoon the temperature was up to 70°. It’s the first time I’ve seen warm weather since I left good old California.

Today we finished floating bridges. About all we have left in our course is one 23 mile hike, fixed bridges and rigging—that’s not counting the bivouac which is really not part of our regular basic.

I tried again to see whether or not I could get those pictures for you but they seem pretty damned unconcerned down at the studio. Talking about pictures I’m having a “hellova” time getting my film. Another thing, I noticed was my camera doesn’t have a spool in it so I won’t be able to reset the films even after I get them.

I sure wish I could find out what my future is in this army. They do everything in such a highhanded manner that it burns me up. When the war’s over and I’ve got my discharge there’s a couple of noses I’d sure like to punch. By the way, you should hear some of the sentiments expressed by the boys around here on how the country’s being regimented. No wonder Roosey doesn’t want the soldiers to vote.

That orange bread sure sounds good. In fact anything you can send—even white bread or a bottle of pickles I’d really appreciate. One kid’s folks even sent him a loaf of rye bread and a little jar of peanut butter. Don’t bother to go to a lot of trouble to get candy, however. That situation is much improved and now I can probably get it easier than you. And for gosh sakes don’t you use a lot of ration points to make stuff for me.

I’ll write again for sure tomorrow night. We’ve got Guard Duty and can’t leave the Company area.

All my love, — Bill

LETTER 064

The men run the obstacle course with gas masks on. Next week is the 23-mile hike which Bill notes includes “other horrors too numerous to mention.” The one consolation he says is “we’ve only 2 weeks basic left.” Bill say the army has got him “snookered” and any transfer from the Engineers is out as of January 1.

January 21, 1944
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

Obstacle Course, Abbot Engineer

I will have probably called you before you get this letter, but as funny as it may seem I didn’t call last Sunday because I thought only a week had past [sic] (how do you like that) passed since my last call. Imagine! It must be the altitude. I probably couldn’t tell you what day it is if you were to ask me. Oh hell! who cares what day it is in this army anyway.

This last week has been pretty hectic but next week is really going to be a dilly. Oh groan! 23 miles hike–, 10 miles reconnaissance trip—a `pied, heavy rigging, heavy fixed bridges and other horrors too numerous to mention. Today we ran the obstacle course with gas masks on. The only consolation is that we’ve only 2 weeks basic left. The bivouac is more like (maneuvers?) war games.

In about 2 hours I go on guard duty so I’ll have to cut this letter short and get some sleep, but first I want to answer some of the questions you’ve asked in your latest letters.

As I already wrote I think the bracelet is wonderful. No one I’ve seen has one anywhere as nice. I always wear it so everyone can see it. The fellow in the middle of the picture is named Johnny Melonas—it was his camera. Speaking of Blair Hamilton, he’s been in the hospital for almost 3 weeks and it looks as if he may get a medical discharge. I don’t know exactly what’s wrong with him.

As far as A.S.T.P. is concerned I don’t know any more than I did before but it seems the army is reaching its peak and there are no openings anywhere. It seems I got in the army at the wrong time. As for as the transfer is concerned it’s out. No one can obtain a transfer from the Eng. as of Jan. 1—so there. I’m afraid they’ve got me “schnookered.” Yes I got my medal. I think it’s made of lead. I’m afraid to fool with it for fear of breaking the damn thing. It looks nice though. Ain’t that sumpin’ about Boogums Ciary though. I think we had better make peace now.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 065

Bill tells “Mudder” that he would answer more of her questions if he knew what was going on but “they really keep us in the dark as much as possible.” He says the result is a “strained relationship between the enlisted man and officer.” He reassures Dad that he won’t fall for any “Victory Girls” because “most of the girls in Bend” look like the girls one sees from the old country.”

January 23, 1944
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Mudder & Dad,

Well, I’ve just got back from making a phone call to you. I guess you told me, Mother. Well, I had it coming, but really I did think I wasn’t s’posed to call until today. Time flies so fast here that it makes my head spin.

When I said that I didn’t answer a lot of your questions because I didn’t know anything more than you about them I wasn’t kidding. Really—in spite of the bull one hears over the radio about ours being an informed army. We just don’t know what’s going on. They really keep us in the dark as much as possible. As a result there is a strained relationship between the enlisted man and the officer. When it comes right to bare facts the half assed way things are run around here in the whole army as far as that’s concerned is causing a lot of the trouble. Most the men in this barracks feel as if the higher ups are afraid to let them know what’s going on. At an orientation lecture the other day an officer after making a simple statement said he would go over it again so we wouldn’t be confused. It was so simple that a moron could understand it. Of course everybody was sore then.

We sure caught the Germans flat-footed there below Rome. Imagine 6 hours before a single Nazi plane showed up.

Dad, this part of the letter is especially for you. I hope it answers all the questions in your letter of the 18th. I just can’t see why in the devil the War Dept. finds it necessary to send boogie overseas. I think they’re trying to sabotage the war effort.

By the way I’m going to write a dirty letter to school if they let those kids get away with what I couldn’t get away with last year.

Don’t worry about me falling for any (ahem) Victory Girls. Most the girls one sees in Bend look like the girls one sees from the old country.

Now to get down to the questions. You asked if anyone fell in the drink on the debarkation tower. No, but a lot of equipment did. That’s what I was afraid of. I had over $100.00 slung loosely on me when I went over. The 51st. did all right on their bivouac but the weather’s been unusually mild here lately. We had rain yesterday.

About getting mail on the bivouac I don’t know but I’ll only be able to write when in over weekends. The casual company, which is just around the corner, is just a place for us to hang our coats and sleep while we’re waiting for furlough and shipping. You asked if I’ve decided what I’d like to go in for. I’d like special weapons or camouflage but in true democratic manner the Army is going to decide for me.

I’m afraid that the film situation here is no better than it is at home. We’re supposed to get them but don’t. If I could get the film I’d be taking pictures constantly. I know how you’d enjoy them.

As I told you I’ve finally got my medal after all this time. As far as firing over again is concerned I don’t know. One must fire for record at least once a year but no one can tell when I can shoot again if I wish.

Bestus Love, — Bill

P.S. The S.M.R.L.H on the envelope stands for Service Mail Rush Like HELL.

P.P.S. Sure am homesick today.

LETTER 066

Bill is “down in the dumps” as he girds for the 23-mile hike on Friday. Training is rapidly coming to a close and he is hoping for a furlough. As for Camp Abbot he emphatically states, “If I ever get out of this camp no one will ever be able to get me back here, not even at the point of a gun.”

January 26, 1944
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Mother and Dad,

This is a “hellova” time to start a letter, but I thought I’d better get at it before you massacre me. Yesterday we went on a 12-mile reconnaissance (I wish you would spell that for, Dad) march. Of course, we ran all the way and I was so tired that when I had finished dinner I went right to bed, and that’s all I remember until 6:00 this morning. It makes me mad since we only go at such a terrible speed so that the lieutenant can get home early, and he doesn’t have to lug a rifle and pack.

This is our big training week. I should say it’s our last training week. Next week is mainly review and getting ready for the bivouac. This Friday we get our 23 mile hike. If it’s as icy along the road as it was yesterday I’ll never make it. With that one weak ankle of mine I just have a devil of a time walking on the ice and snow.

I’m sure hoping for furlough when I finish my training, but if I get sent to a specialist school I won’t get one. Otherwise I get one automatically. I should get 7 days at home and possibly 10. I hope so. We sign up for furloughs at the end of next week.

If I get out of this camp no one will ever be able to get me back here not even at the point of a gun. The way I hate this place is phenomenal. If someone told me I could come home I’d not even take the time to pack my things. I think the only good word in army language is demobilization. Oh well, maybe I’m just down in the dumps today. The only trouble with that philosophy is that I always feel this way.

Well, I have something interesting to tell you, but I’ll let it wait until tomorrow when I can tell you the whole story.

Bestus Love, — Bill

LETTER 067

The training is intense. The men complete the “Blitz Course” and the 23-mile hike. Bill describes the Blitz Course as “our forth and worst live ammunition run.” After completing these training assignments Bill says, “I thought I was getting tough but that changed my mind…I’m not a superman yet.”

January 28, 1944
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Mother & Dad,

Blitz Course, Camp Abbot

Well this is the letter I promised last night, but here I am late again. I told you I had something interesting to tell you. It’s something I’ve wanted to tell you for the last 13 weeks but haven’t because I knew it would worry you unnecessarily. Yesterday I went under machine gun fire for the fourth time since I’ve been in Camp Abbot. Yesterday it was the Blitz Course, our worst and last live ammunition run. We had to crawl about 75 yards across snow and ice and under barbed wire with .30 cal. machine gun bullets humming overhead and land mines blowing up all around us—very distracting. I wasn’t afraid going through the course but we were all pretty pensive while waiting to start. It teaches one a “hellova” lot even when the military end of it is not considered. The other courses were not as bad since the fire was about 8 feet above the ground. However, the explosive charges were so big at times that they’d damn near knock one down. But it’s all over now, thank God.

Today we went on our 23-mile hike, Oh groan!!—four miles per hour (Engineer cadence-the Infantry marches from 2 ½ to 3 m.p.h.) I thought I was getting tough but that changed my mind. I guess I’m still just a human being after all—not a superman yet. I feel paralyzed from the hips down. All we had to eat was “C” rations—cold of course. A “C” ration is a corny version of a “K” ration (Phooey on ‘em both).

I don’t want to close so abruptly but the fellow below me is pretty sick from the hike and is asking for me to turn out the light. No interesting news anyway.

Best Love, — Bill

P.S. Have put in for bivouac clothing and equipment.

LETTER 068

The men build a Bailey Bridge. Bill says it is “our toughest yet.” His required training is now over and Bill confidently exclaims, “if I were to go to the hospital tomorrow for 2 weeks they couldn’t set me back.”

January 30, 1944
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

Well, here it is Sunday night and I’ve nothing to look foreword to except another week of slavery. I haven’t gotten any mail from you for several days so I can’t exactly answer any questions or anything. No, I shouldn’t say that. I did receive all that reading material which I’m eating up with great gusto. I also received a box of cookies from Grandma and Jessie as well as a letter from Horton Grant. So you can see I have been getting mail.

Well, (I’m getting so I can’t say anything without starting off with “well”) all my required training is over. If I were to go to the hospital tomorrow for 2 weeks they couldn’t set me back. Mind you, I’m not contemplating it.

Bailey Bridge

Yesterday we had our toughest bridge, the Bailley (Bailey) bridge.† It’s an English type and very good. The only trouble is that it weighs over 36 tons. Panels weigh 600 lbs., transoms weigh 400 and so on. As a result today I’m paralyzed from the hips up. That makes me completely paralyzed, doesn’t it. My brain was paralyzed when I turned down the Air Corps and my legs were paralyzed by that 25 miles hike.

You’re probably wondering where in hell the money order I was supposed to send home is. It’s still in the company safe—at least $35.00 of it is. I figger that since tomorrow is payday I might as well wait and send the whole business at once. I’ll be able to make up for the extra money I spent this month because with the bivouac and all I won’t be able to spend much money next month.

Best Love, — Bill

† The Bailey bridge was designed by Donald Bailey, a British civil servant who built model bridges as a hobby. It was adopted by the Corps of Royal Engineers and first used in Italy in 1943. The Bailey bridge was of a unique modular design that could be assembled by army engineers without the use of a crane or other heavy equipment. All parts were interchangeable and much like an erector set the bridge could be made as long and as strong as required for the purpose for which it was to be used.

The Bailey bridge provided an excellent solution to the problem of German and Italian armies destroying bridges as they retreated. By war’s end, US and British troops had built over 3,000 Bailey bridges in Sicily and Italy alone. In 1947 Field Marshall Montgomery wrote, “I could never have maintained the speed and tempo of forward movement [in Italy and Europe] without large supplies of Baileys.”

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