March 1944

LETTER 077

Bill is not faring well in the Casual Company. He laments the inactivity and lack of information about his future. He says, “Its the same old story. Keep ’em in the dark; don’t be definite about anything; and if you don’t know the score yourself, make it look like a military secret.” He adds that, “In the Casual Co. right now there are over 1350 men and jobs for about 100. You can imagine how that works out.”

March 2, 1944
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Here I sit like a bird in the wilderness waiting for something to happen. I’ve been on detail all this week now and it looks as if I may be on detail for the rest of my life the way things are going around here. One day I work in the supply room or spread sawdust around the boxing ring—the next I’m room orderly or K.P. It’s really the craps. There’s no work but it’s so boring that a fellow can’t help but be blue. All the rest of the men are leaving on their furloughs and the place is as lonely as a haunted house. The worst part of it is, however, the fact that we don’t know where in hell we stand. It’s the same old story. Keep ‘em in the dark; Don’t be definite about anything; and if you don’t know the score yourself, make it look like a military secret. Do you wonder why a guy gets so damned disgusted? They won’t give us a furlough but we’ll probably still be sitting around here a week or maybe a month after the furlough men get back. Right now I don’t know where, when, or if I’m going, but I know where some of these big shots here ought to go.

I’ve been going to the show just about every night this week—anything to keep my mind off this lousy deal we’re getting up here. Really that is just about the sum and substance of what I’ve done lately. One thing that’s been a godsend has been those language books. After I’ve spent an hour or so studying them I feel as if I’ve accomplished something—a feeling one rarely gets in the army. I don’t think anything is worse than to work 8 hours and then realize you haven’t done a single thing worthwhile.

In the Casual Co. right now there are over 1350 men and jobs for about 100. You can imagine how that works out.

Did you receive the money order?

I’m glad you liked the pictures. I’ve got some more coming but I don’t know if I’ll get them before I ship out. I’ve got another one I took of the platoon, but it’s so big I can’t find an envelope large enough to send it in.

That just about sums up the news from here. Revolting isn’t it?

Best Love, Bill

P. S. After reading this over I realize it sounds pretty pessimistic. Don’t take it too seriously. I’m just mad.

LETTER 078

In a desperate attempt to overcome his boredom Bill grows a beard. It is “bright red and extremely thick.” He shaves it after 2 weeks. A “latrineogram” is going around that “we ship out on the 7th.”

March 3, 1944
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Anudder day of K.P. has came and went and am I glad it’s over. I finally got the pictures I told you about and although I’m not in all of them I think you’ll enjoy seeing them. I think they show and tell you more about the “rugged” than all the letters I could write. The only thing they don’t show is the beard I tried to grow. It was bright red and extremely thick (huh!). After 2 weeks I couldn’t “shtood” it any longer and shaved.

I hope you’ll forgive me for not writing more but it’s very late and I’m awfully tired.

Best Love, — Bill

P.S. There’s a latrineogram going around that we ship out on the 7th. I hope so.

LETTER 079

Bill ships out by train to Camp Crowder, Missouri. He describes the Camp as “a really beautiful place….everything that Camp Abbot isn’t. Bill dismisses the Signal Corps as “the biggest laugh in the army….real Boy Scouts.” He says the camp includes about 50,000 people, including a large WAC detachment as well as many prisoners of war. As for the P.O.W’s Bill says, “I saw some of ‘them thar Nazi Supermen’ today. Har! Har! Hawr!”

March 11, 1944
[Camp Crowder, Missouri]

Dearest Mother and Dad,

I’ve been trying in vain for the last 3 days to telephone you to tell you I was on my way. I should have sent a telegram I know but it always seemed that I’d be able to get through at the next stop—Pocatello, Cheyenne, and Denver, and Kansas City; but it just never turned out right. Tomorrow is Sunday and I’ve got K.P. Nice start, huh? However, if I get half a chance I’ll call home. Really I’m trying hard but circumstances are working against me. I guess me and the Army way will just never get along.

Camp Crowder is really a beautiful place—big 2 story barracks, lawns, sidewalks. In other words Camp Crowder is everything that Camp Abbot isn’t. But! Camp Crowder is what is known by G.I.’s as chickens—t (crude, I know, but pointed). However, the climate is so mild and the camp so nice that no one really has a right to complain.

The Signal Corps is the biggest laugh in the army. The Engineers and Infantry here hold them in the most utter contempt. They are the real Boy Scouts of the Army. They complain to us if they take a five mile hike. They have an obstacle course that is a laugh. In fact, those guys have a lot of nerve even calling themselves soldiers and we let them know it. Sooner or later there’s going to be bloodshed. (they outnumber us about 50 to 1) but, even they realize that their training is a joke.

There are a number of Camp Abbot men here but only 8 of them I know. All in all I believe I’m going to like it here. Of course, anything looks good after Abbot. There are about 50,000 men here, a large Wac detachment as well as many Prisoners of War. Talking about the P.W’s I saw some of “them thar” Nazi “supermen” today for the first time. Har! Har! Har! Hawr! They must have swept the stables to get those birds.

We really had quite a time on board the train coming back here. We had Pullman’s, but R.R. service is so bad now that it’s a laugh. Once we couldn’t get on a train in spite of being under “traveling orders”—some stuff.

I’d sure like to see you again. Once in a while I get awfully blue. If at all possible send some pictures of yourselves.

Bestus Love, Bill

P.S Address may be revised but…

LETTER 080

Bill is starting to learn code at Radio School. He remains decidedly unimpressed with the regimen at Camp Crowder saying, “I’ve never seen such a boy scout outfit yet.” Bill says that he is shocked at seeing so many POW’s in camp noting that, “you may run into them at any time.”

March 13, 1944
[Camp Crowder, Missouri]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

German POW’s

I’ve only time to write a short note tonight, I think. Boy is this camp sumpin’. The fellows from Camp Abbot and Leonard Wood are just floating in a sea of amazement. I’ve never seen such a boy scout outfit yet. They don’t carry rifles and their training is a laugh. I found out today that they, and myself, therefore, get ten minutes free time out of every hour all day long. Though life, huh? I don’t know whether I can take it or not. The funny thing about it is that these signal boys think they’re having a tough time. Boy! would the old Camp Abbot boys get a laugh if they could hear them.

Today at radio school we started code work. It’s pretty nerve-racking but in true Camp Crowder style they make up for it by having the radio play nice soft music over the earphones whenever the key is not in use. Some stuff.

I sure have gotten a shock around here as far as prisoners of war are concerned. They’re all over the camp working at various trivial jobs and you may run into ‘em any time. A group of 20 or so will only have one guard. They look and act a lot like Americans and seem to be very interested in us. Of course, we can’t talk to them and it wouldn’t do much good since their English is atrocious. I hear they keep the one’s that speak good English locked up all the time.

Well, I’d better close now. I know my letters have been not too informative of late but it’s the same old story. Nobody knows nuttin’.

Best love in the whole world, — Bill

LETTER 081

After a day and a half of radio Bill is showing signs of stress saying, “this is the kind of stuff that can actually drive a man screwy.” He continues to strongly identify as an engineer and proudly states that, “as engineers we rate around this joint. We’re combat troops and the Signal Corps boys aren’t.”

March 16, 1944
[Camp Crowder, Missouri]

Dearest Folks,

Well, I’m just about getting into the swing of things here at Camp Crowder. I’ve had about a day and a half of radio and if one of these days they drag me home in a straight jacket, don’t be surprised. This is the kind of stuff that can actually drive a man screwy. If I don’t have a nervous breakdown I should make a good operator. I’m slower than most, as usual; but I’m a lot surer of myself than most. Code is very simple and surprisingly enough for this reason it’s pretty tough. One’s mind has a tendency to rebel against that constant repetition. It’ll be a cinch if I can get into the rhythm of the thing, but meanwhile it’s certainly no nerve tonic.

As I’ve told you before this is really a nice camp, but it’s still just an Army camp and therefore—phhht! As Engineers we rate around this joint. We’re combat troops and the Signal Corps boys aren’t. For some reason the cadre around here seems to respect us. In fact I think they must be afraid of us. Of course, maybe that’s because “rough, tough and robust”. In the Engineers if you don’t agree with a non-com you tell them so—not disrespectfully mind you, but the important thing out at Abbot was to get the job done and if we had a better way to do a thing we were free to say so. Well, we can do that here and these boys go into a spin. They don’t know whether we really know out oats or (are) just tough. We don’t try to act tough but compared to this bunch we do know our oats.

Closing now. Be sure to address letter exactly as below.

Pvt. William W. Taylor, Jr. 19203811
Co. B-37
Camp Crowder, Mo.

Bestus Love, — Bill

LETTER 082

Bill has been at Camp Crowder for over a week and is struggling with radio school. He says that, “it is about the dullest and most nerve wracking thing I’ve ever done.” As for the German POW’s Bill contemptuously states, “those dumb Nazi’s still think Hitler’s going to win the war.” Continuing in this sarcastic vein he exclaims, “the more I see of people, the more I love dogs.”

March 20, 1944
[Camp Crowder, Missouri]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

In the last few days I’ve received 3 letters from you, and they sure have given my old morale a boost. Well I’ve been in Camp Crowder for over a week and to be perfectly frank with you I find the place rather disappointing. Of course it’s been so long since I’ve been home that I can’t really be satisfied wherever I go. The camp itself is really nice, and the weather is somewhat better that that at Abbot but the officers and non-coms certainly don’t measure up. Most of the officers don’t do any work themselves and most of them act rather “superior.” They pick on everyone constantly and yet there is little in the way of discipline. I guess I just ain’t never goin’ to like this here war.

The thing that is really getting me down, however, is this radio school. It’s about the dullest and most nerve wracking thing I’ve ever done. I thought it would be interesting but it isn’t. We just sit in class all day long hour after hour and have that crap banged in our ears. One finally gets so he can’t distinguish one letter from another. It makes me awfully nervous and to top that I don’t have much of an hearing or ear for it, so I have just about twice as hard a time as most fellows. I am working hard though and I’ll get it in the end. They’re now thinking of giving night classes and that will be hell. I guess you just can’t get a good deal in this army. I’d sure wish I could just write one letter to you in which I had nothing to gripe about.

I’ll answer the letters by just taking one and starting in.

The situation with the folks back East is certainly the nuts isn’t it? It appears to me to be a very unhealthy situation. I guess it’s just another one of those things that have been giving us a pain in the neck all these years.

I certainly have missed you of late. I guess even though I knew that I couldn’t get home on furlough I had some forlorn hope of seeing you right up until I left.

You mention the P.W.’s here and ask how they’re taking it. Those dumb Nazis still think Hitler’s going to win the war. Imagine! What can anybody do with saps like that? They stand around and laugh at the rookies here and never realize that it was a bunch of amateurs not so much better than the rookies that licked the pants off them. They all wear their hair long like Johnny Weissmuller and love to flirt with the girls around camp.

I sure like that deal about Higgins wanting me for Major—after all this time. God, the more I see of people the more I love dogs. By the way, how is “her Nibbs”?

That guy, Dude, sure has turned out to be a false alarm. Not saying I should have been Major, but he’s certainly not making much of a showing for an “ex-Harvard School cadet commander” is he? He’s evidently about the biggest pill I’ve ever known.

About Crowder to get back to the dreary side of life, they’re beginning to chicken out on this rating business for radio men. I might have known it. I can see the dirty end of the stick coming my way already.

Evidently I’m not getting payed (paid?) this month end so I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask for a few bucks.

Best Love,

Your pore sad sack son, — Bill

LETTER 083

Bill is now copying code at 7 words a minute but has not yet started sending. A rumor that Roosevelt and a “bunch of big shots from England” are going to hold a conference at Crowder fails to materilize. In typical fashion Bill sarcastically states, “They were probably all somewhere hoisting a few.” He closes by sending a coded message to his folks.

March 26, 1944
[Camp Crowder, Missouri]

Dear Mother and Dad,

Today I received two letters from you in which you quite rightfully bawl me out for not writing. It just goes to show you what code is doing to me. I don’t even know whether or not I’m coming or going. Believe me, I’m sorry. I guess I’ve been spending too much time at the show and P.X. lately. I’m now copying code at 7 words a minute but have not started sending yet. We have 7 hours a day receiving that code so you can imagine how refreshing it is to get away in the evening. You were right about code though; it doesn’t bother me anywhere as much as it did.

Things are pretty much the same here, however. We follow an easy routine day in and day out without much change. However, today we got schneidered. Today is Sunday but we had to go to school anyway because a bunch of big shots from England were here on a tour of inspection. They’re holding some sort of a conference here and there’s a rumor going around that Roosie is going to be here too. Anyway I worked all day. No generals came around, however. They were probably all somewhere hoisting a few.

Gee! I really don’t know what else to write. We haven’t been doing anything remarkable of late. Yesterday we went on a hike. The Signal Corps thought it was tough stuff—The Corp of Eng. almost died laughing. I’ll write more regularly from now on. It may not be much but I’ll write.

Best Love, — Bill

— ••• • ••• — • — •• ——— ••• — • — ——— — •••• • — ••• • ••• —

••—• ——— •—• —•— ••• •• — • — •••• • • —— ——— •—• •— •• —••

TRY TO FIGGER THAT OUT ∕ •—— •—•

LETTER 084

Bill laments that “Radio code is getting worse and worse for me.” He learns to his dismay that he is a “guinea pig” in Signal School whereby low scorers in the Signal test are taught under a new system. Worst of all is the boring repetition of code where “a man becomes a machine.” Bill undergoes the Signal Corps version of booby trap training which he lambasts saying, “just about everything they teach here is wrong.”

March 29, 1944
[Camp Crowder, Missouri]

Dear Folks,

I planned to make this a long letter but now I have a nosebleed and I don’t know.

Well, things are getting pretty rough around here. Radio code is getting worse and worse for me. It’s funny but I think I’m working harder for this than anything I’ve done yet I’m doing so poorly. I asked one of the officers about it and he said I was doing alright but that I was at a disadvantage since I received such a low score in the Signal test I took at MacArthur. I found out that certain of us in my class are guinea pigs. We are supposed to be somewhat inept at distinguishing signals, but under this new system they think they can teach us anyway. I hope so. I know I can make it if they give me time. I do have a lot of trouble, however. I’m taking your advice, Mother and not worrying. That’s the worst thing a person can do.

It’s certainly boring though. Radio sounds interesting but it isn’t. When receiving code a man becomes a machine. He automatically takes the stuff down and doesn’t even know what it is since it’s all in cryptograph.

XLCK WRMP YL4L etc.

The sets we have are practically useless as far as interest is concerned since they can’t pick up much. Between you and me it’s the nuts. I do want to succeed though. I haven’t failed in anything in the army yet and I don’t want to S.N.A.F.U. now.

The other day we had a big inspection by the Chief of the British Signal Corp and a lot of other officers. It was the usual “baloney.” We had to pretend we were new students and everything we did was rehearsed. The Eng. general was supposed to get a true picture from that—-Phooey!

As you know we have an hour of basic every afternoon after school. The boys are now on an Engineer Specialty, “Booby Traps.” These poor guys won’t have a chance on the battlefield. Just about everything they teach there is wrong. The cadre here knows nothing about such things but they get sore if you try to tell them anything. I shoot off my mouth anyway. I’ll be damned if I’ll let ‘em give these poor guys a bum steer that may kill them. The rest of the Engineers feel the same way. They should teach them only 2 things about booby traps-how to recognize and mark them, and then HANDS OFF. I’ve had a lot more experience with explosives than these guys will ever have and I wouldn’t fool with ‘em. I’d let the demolition men handle them.

Boy! I’m sure hepped up over those cookies—drool! Talking about food I bet you’ll be surprised to hear that I’ve become a tea fiend in the last 6 months. Ain’t it a laugh?

Congratulate Ann for me on becoming a citizen.

Best Love, — Bill

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