November 1943

LETTER 016

Bill receives the ominous news that he is being shipped to another platoon. He fears that he is being put back in the training cycle due to the week he spent in the hospital. His frustration boils over as he exclaims, “I know about 3 times as much as these bags here will ever know, but they won’t give me a chance to show it. They’ll be sorry.”

November 1, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

Tonight I feel so low I could crawl under a snake’s belly. A few minutes ago I was informed that I was being shipped to another platoon. They didn’t say where I was going but I can guess. Just because I was in the damn hospital for a week they’re going to put me back a battalion & that’ll mean I’ll have to go thru quarantine again and all that crap.

By God, if they do that, I’m going to start hounding them for a transfer; and while I’m waiting for it, I’m going to be such a damn good soldier that they’ll wonder why the hell they ever let me go-damn ‘em! — god damn ‘em to hell! I know about 3 times as much as these bags here will ever know, but they won’t give me a chance to show it. They’ll be sorry. The first thing I’m going to do is go and ask whether I’m still in the A.S.T.P. If not, I’m going to ask to take the General Classification test all over again. Next time I’m just going to concentrate on the English and the stuff I already know and not spend so much time on the math.

Honest to Pete! If anyone’d say a damn word to me right now, it would be his last utterance. God! I’m mad.

Well, I can’t write on that for a whole letter, but I’m sure sore. Again I might be wrong about what they’re going to do with me, but chances of it are awfully slim.

Well, I received a letter from you, Mother, and you, Dad, and Ben Cottle also today. It sure is swell to get a lot of mail. If you didn’t get a letter one day, Mother, you should get two the next because I’ve been writing every day. Another thing is that I wouldn’t send anymore mail via air. Daddy’s regular mail letters are getting here just as fast as Mother’s air mail letters. Ben said in his letter that he has been let in the air corps as a Cadet in spite of bad eyes and a heart murmur!! God! They must be hard up for manpower.

If they set me back I guess all I’ll have to say in my letters is that “Today I did exactly what I did on Oct. 26 etc.” Crap!

Keep sending mail to the same address.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 017

November 2, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

I’ve only time for a short note tonight. It seems my worst fears are realized. I’ve been set back. Now I’m in the 54th., 2 whole weeks behind my old outfit—Hell! Don’t worry about the mail. I’ve made arrangements so I’ll be sure to keep getting my mail. My new address is as follows:

Pvt. William W. Taylor, Jr. A.S.N. 19203811
Co. “C” 54 bn.
(5th. barracks)
Camp Abbot, Oregon

I’m back in quarantine HELL!

I hope you will write a lot during the next couple of weeks. I’ll be feeling pretty low and won’t have a damn thing to do. Gosh, I feel as if I’d flunked a grade in school.

All the love in the world, — Bill

P.S. This was the only paper and envelope available

LETTER 018

Bill is settling into his new platoon. He is a bit sardonic when he proclaims that “[here] I’m a veritable genius among jerks.” He notes that the food is better and the barracks are “bigger and better in every way.”

November 3, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

Sorry but I’ve only time for a short note again tonight. I was pretty sore yesterday, but today I had some pleasant surprises. I knew more than most the other trainees in the 53rd. but in the 54th. I’m a veritable “genius among jerks”. Honest to God if I don’t think I know more than the bloomin” platoon commander. Another thing is the food. There’s more of it and it’s better.

The only thing that’s getting (me) down is the fact I’m in quarantine and have to do so much over again. Otherwise everything is O.K. The barracks I’m in now is bigger and nicer in every way.

Sorry I’ve got to close. Lights out, you know.

All the Love in the World, — Bill

LETTER 019

Bill continues a routine he describes as “strenuous and yet boring as hell.” He quotes a phrase his mother often uses, “I ain’t never gonna like this war!” After a month in the “bloomin’ army,” Bill states that “it’s the longest month I’ve ever spent.” He says his experiences have made him appreciate home.

November 5, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

Will wonders never cease? This afternoon I’ve got a little time to write a letter. Last night I didn’t have time to even write a note. I know how much you want to get a line every day, but I’ll be darned if I had the time. I haven’t had any mail from you for two days now so I know how it feels. I imagine it’s the fault of that goddamned son of a bitch of a Co. clerk over in the 53rd. He probably just doesn’t want to take the trouble to send it across the street over here. It would take me only five minutes to go and get it but they want to make things difficult, I guess, so I can’t even do that. What I’m worried about is that package (there’s nothing I wouldn’t put passed that clerk). I’d better get it though or there’s going to be hell to pay because if I must I’ll take (it) right up to the company commander.

Things have been as strenuous and yet boring as hell. March-march-march-run-run-run-freeze-freeze. I’ve got a peach of a cold in my chest and throat, but I think it’s beginning to break. This morning we had extended order drill and although all the snow from last week has melted, there were sharp ice crystals al over the ground and I just about cut my hands to pieces. This sort of thing goes on all the time. When we get through with this training we’re going to be pretty tough babies.

There’s really nothing else very important to write. Most of what I’m doing right now is merely a violent reproduction of what I learned at Harvard [Military School].†  One thing I can truthfully say though is, to quote Mother, “I ain’t never gonna like this war!” There’s one thing all this is doing for me, however; and that’s making me appreciate home. When I think of how great a brat I was when I was home, it makes me sick. What a pile I was! The things I used to gripe about having to do. God, what a idiot! That’s one thing you can be thankful for when I get home. No matter what you want me to do I’ll do it without a word. Oh! Oh! Gotta close, dammit!

Notice the date on the head. I’ve been in the bloomin’ Army just a month & a day. It’s the longest month I’ve ever spent.

Write all the news from home.

All the Love in the World, — Bill

† Note: The Harvard Military School was an exclusive school for boys in Los Angeles. Bill’s father, William Wellington Taylor, Sr., was the head of the English Department. He retired in 1957 after 36 years at the school.

LETTER 020

The mail problem seems to be resolved. The routine continues with “lots of marching and lots of marksmanship.” Bill is given the chance to do some instruction. In closing he urges Dad to keep sending him the news. “It really surprises me.”

November 6, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

Well, I’ve started getting my mail again. That moroon’ of a co. clerk over at the 53rd. in spite of what I told him, sent my mail to the “new 55th” —  a non-existent outfit. What a dope! It’s funny about the mail. I got two letters from Mother today. One was written Nov. 1 & the other was written Nov. 3. But! the North Hollywood dateline on the first letter was Nov. 3, and the dateline on the later one was Nov. 2. What’s going on at that post office, anyway?

I haven’t received the package yet, but the way things are here I don’t expect it for a couple of days. It gives me something to be excited about, anyway-almost like Christmas.

Things are pretty much the same around here. Lots of marching and lots of marksmanship. I’m doing pretty good and they’re beginning to let me do a little instructing. Cripes, maybe I’ll end up as cadre.

I’ll write another letter tomorrow concerning the letters I got today, but right now I’ve got to clean my rifle. Keep on sending the news, Dad. It really surprised me.

Love & Kisses — Bill

P.S. Con’t. tomorrow
Jr.

LETTER 021

Arising at 5:15 am. Bill and the boys go to the rifle range. It is so cold on the firing line that “nobody could shoot worth a damn.” Bill draws a humorous sketch depicting the situation. He tells his mother that he is exploring the idea of applying for “some special branch” of the ASTP program such as photography or camouflage. Bill describes a soldier in his barracks who appears to be having a mental breakdown and closes the letter with a ditty which describes “our snappy outfit.”

November 7, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

Wot a life! Wot a life! Today is Sunday –the day when the Army rests supposedly. Well, we got up at 5:15 this morning and went out on the range. When we go there it was still so dark that we couldn’t fire. Soooooo — we had to wait 45 minutes for the sun to come up. Of course, that 45 minutes could have just as well been spent in bed, but the Army wouldn’t take that into consideration. After we started firing it got so cold that nobody could shoot worth a damn. Whenever I wasn’t coaching or firing I stood almost on top of a big fire and drunk gallons of soup. The soup was at least some consulation (sp). After we finally got back from that we got the rest of the day off, but hell!

Yesterday was really a beautiful day though. It was so cold that in spite of the bright sun the frost didn’t melt until about 2:00 in the afternoon. All the trees around here looked as if they had been sprayed with white paint. Otherwise and anyway to hell with the jernt.

I promised in my last letter last night I’d answer your latest letters so here it is.

In your letter of Nov. 1, Mother, you asked what I was going to do if asked about a transfer. Well, I really don’t know yet. I’ve got a couple of interviews coming up yet and I’ll find out a lot more then.

As far as A.S.T.P is concerned I’m sort of behind the 8 ball. All the A.S.T.P. here is Engineering and as far as that’s concerned I’m pretty limited. However, I’m going to tell what I’ve taken in school, my grades, etc. and maybe I’ll get a chance at some special branch. There are a number of things like photography (camouflage?) and others I haven’t found out about yet.

I haven’t received any package yet, but if any buzzard tries to swipe it he’s going to meet a sudden and violent end.

In answer to your letter, Dad-I think that our C.O. is a descendant of Paul Revere. I think his main purpose in life is breaking down morale. Most of us can take it, but there’s one bird in the barracks that doesn’t do anything but lie in bed and blubber. Nevertheless we sure do a lot of talking about home here.

I’ve only one thing about Bob Chilcott in the Engineer A.S.T.P. Either it’s a hell of a lot easyier(sp) than they let on here, or

BULLCRAP

About the camouflage (I don’t know how it’s spelled) branch of engineers I know very little, but I know that we get quite a bit of it in basic.

One thing I’ve got to say about the Engineers is that it’s a snappy outfit and we know it. There’s a lot of dirty work in it but that little “Golden Outhouse” on my lapel means quite a bit in the Army. These are the words to our Engineers song.

We’re the fighting Engineers,
the fighting Engineers.
We do all the dirty work,
the doughboy gets the cheers.
We keep the outfit moving,
we cover up the rear.
We’re the God damned heroes,
the fighting Engineers-hey!

Keep sending the news; it’s the only way I ever hear it.

Love, — Bill

LETTER 022

November 8, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

I received both packages last night. Gee! It was just like Christmas. Everything was wonderful. The cookies went over big with everyone-especially me to whom the great majority of them went. They should last me a week or so yet in that can. The scarf is swell too. Everybody’s as jealous as hell. And the sweater too. It’s great. The hard candies were a swell idea too. I can put a couple in my pocket everyday to take out into the field. Thanks for everything.

I’ve been running my fanny off here today as usual, and I can’t write as much as I want. Guess I’ll have to quit here. Will write a real letter later.

Love, — Bill

LETTER 023

Bill gets “sucker punched” during a free-for-all boxing match and suffers a broken nose. He draws a sketch entitled “Canvas back Taylor” depicting his swollen mug. He reassures mom that despite the tone of his letters he is not down or depressed, just disgusted with the inefficiency and graft he sees around him. Bill reveals his political leanings and adds that “I hope this isn’t censored.”

November 10, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear folks,

This is about the 4th. time I’ve started this letter. This time if the ink runs I’m going to keep right on writing.

Daddy wrote in one of his recent letters that Horton Grant had broken his nose a’ la Dude. Well, guess who’s a’ la Dude right now-nobody else but ‘Yours truly”. Today we were having a free for all boxing match between two squads when some dirty stinkers sneaked up on me while I was slugging it out with another fellow and clouted me in the face. It’s a good thing for him I never saw who it was that did that because when I woke up I sure was mad. The rest of the day I got to lie around the barracks in spite of the fact that I felt fine. It was almost worth the busted puss. Tomorrow I’m going down to have it set. It never hurt a bit but now when I move it I can hear it go “pop” “pop”. Wot a sensation! Well, that’s enough on my ailments.

In your last letter, Mother, you wrote as if you thought the Army was getting me down. If my letters seem to convey that impression, don’t you believe it. Hell, this lousy Army just hasn’t got what it takes to really get me down. Sure, I want to come home; everybody does. I’m disgusted with the terrible inefficiency and GRAFT that even I can see in certain places, but I’m nowhere near down or anything like that. Don’t worry, I’ll make out.

I’ve met some swell fellows here and now I’m glad I’ve been sent to the 54th. I like the cadre, the fellows, and the conditions here better than in the 53rd. A kid named Hamilton from Alameda sleeps next to me & we get along swell. He went to Cal. and is more like the fellows I knew at school than anybody I’ve known in the Army. He’s even a Rep. and a Roosevelt hater. (I hope this isn’t censored)

Gotta close now. The Sarge just blew in about some crap.

Best Love in the World, — Bill

LETTER 024

Bill urges his folks to reconsider their idea to visit him at Christmas time. He states, “Camp Abbot is a million miles from nowhere.” He points out that the railroad stops at Klamath Falls, 145 miles south of the camp and the rest of the way is by bus. As for driving, Bill reminds his folks that gasoline rationing makes that impossible. He thanks Mother and Daddy for all the goodies they have sent him and begs for some chocolate saying, “such things mean more to the fellows in camp than a 3-day pass.”

November 12, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

As per usual I’ve got no time to write, but in spite of all I’ll try to get off a decent letter. I received a letter apiece from both you Mother and you Daddy today and they sure made me feel good. The cookies are almost gone but I’m hoarding the few crumbs like a miser. I want to thank you again for them and the other swell stuff you sent me. Such things mean more to fellows in camp than 3-day passes. Keep up the good work. Something I hate to ask you for because it’s so hard to get is chocolate. Up here in all this cold chocolate means a heck of a lot –- especially when it’s 5 or 10 deg. F, a dark night and you’re doing guard duty-by the way I get my first guard duty about a week tomorrow.

In one of your recent letters you spoke of coming to see me at Christmas. You know that I want to see you more than anything else in the world, but this is the situation. Camp Abbot is a million miles from nowhere. Bend is very small and has been completely taken over by the Army. There is no railroad into Bend except a freight line. The S.P. stops at Klamath Falls 145 miles south of here and the only communication between there and camp is a two by four bus line. And then even when you get to Bend chances are 100 to 1 that you can’t get lodging anywhere. If it wasn’t for gasoline rationing there’d be no problem because you could drive up and stay at Klamath Falls and then drive to the camp but since that isn’t possible, I don’t see how it can be done.

Seems as though I might be able to qualify as Expert Rifleman. Don’t know yet. There are a lot of “ifs”– but I can try.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 025

It’s Sunday and Bill sleeps in until 8:30 am. At 10:00 am. he hits the Service Club for a hearty 60¢ breakfast, which he can use as he has lost 20 pounds since reporting for duty. Rumors continue to circulate that Camp Abbot is closing for the winter. Bill expresses the political view that most of the soldiers in camp “would like to see Roosevelt get licked in the coming election.”

November 14, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Mother and Dad,

Well, at last I’m getting another letter off. Don’t think that I don’t want to write everyday as I promised over the phone, but they’re running the very tails off us here right now. As a result I hardly have time to crap much less write. Nevertheless, I’m going to keep trying to write every night.

Today is Sunday and that’s one reason I’m able to get this off without undue and undeserved trouble. I didn’t get up this morning until 8:30—ah wonderful! I didn’t even bother to get up for chow. About 10:00, however, I did go down to the Service Club and bought myself a 60 cent breakfast. I had grapefruit juice, cereal, bacon, two fried eggs, and toast with butter and jam. I underlined the “fried” because those eggs were the first fried ones I’ve had since I’ve been in the Army. I wore the scarf and sweater this morning and they really are swell. I also received the box with the sox last night. They’re so warm that even in the cold this morning and with my low shoes my feet were perfectly warm.

Yesterday the 54th. had to keep score on the range for the 53rd. They were firing for the record. As usual, we had to get out there in the middle of the night and then wait for the blooming sun to come up.

There’s more talk all the time about this camp closing up for the winter. Yesterday we damn near froze on the range and the weather’s been pretty good lately. How’s it going to be later on? Even on a cold day now it’s impossible to get much done. God damn this lousy pen anyway! (ink spill here) Some officers were overheard by the fellow that sleeps next to me betting we’d move out of here by January first. It may be bull but it’s plausible.

How would you like some pictures of me for a Christmas present? We’ve got a portrait studio here and although they hold you up a little, you can get some pretty nice pictures.

Some of the fellows went into Bend today and I told one of them to get some of those pins. I hope he remembers.

I don’t think you’d recognize me now. I’ve lost almost 20 lbs. and I’m only now beginning to gain it back.

Talking about politics, it’s interesting to know how all the fellows here feel. Most of them are really down on the administration and would like to see Roosevelt get licked in the coming election. Up here it’s obvious that the army’s getting too damn big and that the draft is being continued only as a club over the public’s head. As Engineers we get more and better equipment than probably any other branch of the service excluding the Air Corps, but even then there is a terrific shortage, especially in food and such. It’s utterly ridiculous that we should be spending money training some of the men we have here. Some or rather most of them will never be worth a damn to the army- fellows with only one eye-bad feet-deformed backs. Hamilton — the fellow from “Cal” that sleeps next to me has 20/100 vision and even thick glasses can’t do much for him.

Well, better close here. May write more tonight.

All the Love in the World, — Bill

LETTER 026

Bill is getting some attention from his superiors. He is made guidon [flag] carrier for the day and the sergeant calls him out to lead exercises. He runs “smack dab” into a private in full German Army uniform, carrying a Mauser. The rumor persists that the war in Europe is almost over and may end by the first of the year. The men are learning Judo and Bill brags that he can “kill a guy in 50 different ways (all dirty).” The hospital is full of cold, flu, and pneumonia cases. Bill depicts the scene with a sketch.

November 15, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]
Dear Folks,

Well, I haven’t got anything to do tonight so I can get off a pretty good letter. Everybody else has guard duty tomorrow, but I’ve got K.P. Kitchen Police sounds bad, but around here nobody minds it because it’s easier than training. Today was pretty soft, however, because we went to the show about 4 times for training and orientation films (orientation is another word for propaganda). The Lieutenant asked who could carry a guidon today and I said I could although I had my doubts. I came out all right though because I could remember enough of what my guidon carrier at Harvard did to get by. This morning with a smirk on his face the Sgt. called me out to lead the exercises. This is considered one of the toughest ways of drilling an outfit, but it was just my meat. I think the impression I made on the Lt. & Sgt. was pretty damn good. We had boxing but I wouldn’t do it because of my broken snozzle. That’s why I got the phys. Tr. But it was good to give a few commands instead of taking them-and with the officers present-well.

Today I walked around the corner, and ran “smack dab” into a private in the German Army—gray-green uniform—coal scuttle helmet and the whole outfit including a Mauser rifle. For a moment I was stunned and I almost beat him over the head with my Garand. Then I realized that he was one of my corporals. There were several of them wandering around the camp to show the soldiers what a German uniform looks like and to find out what the reaction of the troops would be. The corporal said that 99% of them thought the uniform was British (what jerks.)

I don’t know if it means anything or not but the rumor that the war in Europe is almost over continues to gain momentum around here. One fellow in our barracks got a letter from his brother in Italy saying that he would be very surprised if the war lasted until the 1st.of the year. I saw the letter myself. I’m sending you a clipping from a San Francisco paper. Has the news been along this line generally, lately? (bad English)

We’re learning “Judo” up here right now. I already know how to kill a guy in 50 different ways (all dirty) and can throw a man over my head with a flick of the wrist. (pleasant, huh?)

According to weather reports a cold wave is going to hit this region tonight sometime. The weather’s been beautiful for over a week and I was afraid it couldn’t last. Even with the nice weather colds have been terrible. The hospital is full of pneumonia, flu, and cold cases and now the mess halls are handing out hot lemonade every night. I’ll bet this camp folds up the by the first of the year. One thing that makes us think the war is almost over is the number of medical discharges that are coming through now. Men are getting CDD’s without having a hell of a lot wrong with them. Of course, that doesn’t mean a hell of a lot.

I haven’t heard anything about the A.S.T.P., but I’m going to get an interview with Capt. O’Grady about it as soon as I’ve made a good enough impression.

I’m sure glad my cold’s breaking up now. The ambulance is down at number one barracks right now dragging off a flu or pneumonia case. It’s the regular guidon bearer. Looks as if I may have his job for quite some time now. What a “jernt.” If this keeps up, there’ll be so few in the Company they’ll have to make me a non-com.

Best Love to the Best folks in the World, — Bill

LETTER 027

Nov. 15, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

Am I a sap. I forgot to put the clipping in the other letter.

— Bill, The Dope

LETTER 028

November 16, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Mother and Dad,

You’re going to or already have received some pretty messed up mail from me for a few days. It seems that I printed the “free” on my letters so the damned post office returned them saying that the “free” had to be on my own handwriting. How petty! If they’d spend the time getting the mail through instead of this kind of horsing around, we might get somewhere.

I just got off K.P. about 10 minutes ago. It is 9:45 P.M. and I have been on my feet since 5:00 A.M. For this reason this letter will be very short. Also “lights out” in about 5 minutes.

Well good night. I wrote this because I believe you want to hear from me even when I can’t write much.

Bestus Love, — Bill

LETTER 029

Bill spends a rare evening at the P.X. where he gets some ice cream and listens to the “March of Time.” He comments on an apparent story about trouble at a Japanese internment camp in California. His remark is blunt and no doubt reflects the prevailing attitude in the country at the time. Bill is finally out of quarantine. He has been doing well in his marksmanship practice and hopes to qualify for a medal when he shoots for the record.

November 18, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

My morale has taken an upward turn this evening. I had not received any mail from you for 3 days, but tonight I got a letter from Daddy. It was really interesting and made me feel good. You have no idea how much mail means to us fellows in camp. I can’t explain it, but a letter means more to most soldiers than a 3 day pass.

I’ve not been able to write very regularly for the last few days, but believe me, I just haven’t had the time. Tonight, however, was different. (I) got time enough to go over to the battalion rec. and P.X., get some ice cream and listen to the “March of Time”. By the way, why are those Japs down in Calif. getting away with so much murder? If the fellows here in camp got to guard them for awhile the trouble would be over.

Now to answer Daddy’s letter. Yes, now I’m out of quarantine. I’ve got the run of the camp. It’s really not too bad. It’s 18 miles from the camp to Bend. I could get into Bend on the weekends, but it’s better at camp from all reports. I guess Bend is all right though.

I haven’t got any interviews or anything yet and I am beginning to get disgusted. The A.S.T.P. sounds pretty good according to your book but I don’t really know what the score is. I’m going to find out though even if it takes a month of Sundays. About the camouflage division, I know very little but tomorrow afternoon we’re going to get some experience with it so I’ll tell you about it in my next letter. My chances for getting a medal in rifle marksmanship seem pretty good. In practice I’ve qualified either expert or sharpshooter every day. A lot depends on the weather, however. I can’t shoot when my hands are cold.

As you know by now I did get my packages and they were really swell. Nearly everybody in the co. drew guard duty Saturday night and Sunday, but they missed me.

My cold still is hanging on but it’s getting better. Keep writing all the neighborhood and world news. It means a lot.

Bestus Love, — Bill

LETTER 030

Bill writes from the guard house where he is pulling graveyard duty. Despite the cold and drizzle of a miserable night he says it’s not so bad because as a sentinel he was able to stop an officer and make him show his pass. “It made me feel good to give him the orders.” Mother writes that despite Bill’s warning she and dad plan to come to visit him at Camp Abbot. Bill gets paid, “a grand total of $10.oo.” In training, his company is chased by tanks. Bill promises to write more about this in his next letter.

November 21, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

I am writing this letter from the Guard House. Don’t worry! I’m not an inmate of the jernt I’m only on guard duty. Two hours on and four off it’s really the nuts. One tour was from 2:00 A.M. till 4:00 on a lonely post in a heavy but drizzily rain. There’s only one compensation for the misery of Guard Duty and that’s the authority that the sentinel has on his post. I stopped an officer and made him show his pass, etc. It made me feel good to give him the orders.

I hope you’ll excuse my not writing for the last several days. I know how it is, but there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. We work from 6:00 in the morning till 10:00 at night with hardly any time to crap, and then over the weekend when we’re supposed to get a day off we draw Guard Duty-24 hours straight. After Sunday Guard Duty we should get a week day off-but we should live so long.

I see according to your letter Mother that in spite of my warning you intend to come see me. I really am glad. For awhile I was afraid I really might stop you from coming. But let me say again!! Do everything in advance or you won’t be able to get near the camp.

You asked me in several of your recent letters about my pay. Yes, I was paid several days ago. The grand total of $10.00. I don’t know when I’ll get the rest, but I will send most of it home in the form of a money order when I do. I gorge myself with ice cream, candy, malts, and Sundaes, whenever I get the chance, and yet I still seem to have more money than I know what to do with. Of the money you gave me when I first came into the Army I’ve still got $9.50.

The other day we did something very interesting. We had TANKS chase us. It’s almost chow time so I’ll have to tell you about it later. If I can I’ll write more this afternoon or tonight.

Bestus Love, — “guardhouse Bill”

LETTER 031

Bill describes being charged by a tank. The trick he says is to roll out of the way, not run. The doctor says his nose isn’t broken but Bill notes that it has healed “a little crooked.” When he is asked in a letter from home what he would like for Christmas, Bill replies “food, gadgets, clothing.”

November 23, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

Well, today I received two swell letters from you. They really made me feel good. I hope you will understand about my not writing regularly of late, but if you could see my schedule for this and last week, I’m sure that you would forgive me. I had guard duty during my supposedly free weekend, and this week we’ve got night problems. I don’t know how long they intend to keep it up, but almost everyone’s beginning to get to the end of his rope. I’m not doing so bad but I’m getting a little irritable, and a lot of the fellows are getting downright nasty.

In my last letter I said that I would tell you about being chased by tanks. It’s quite an experience. A foot soldier rolls out of the way when charged by a tank, and we all had to try it out. We’re marching along an open road when suddenly we get the signal for tanks. Boy did we scatter! At first we couldn’t see the damn thing but could only hear it. Then over the hill he came, about 20 miles per hour. Then for about 10 minutes he charges up and down as if he was trying to run over us. If a fellow doesn’t lose his head and he rolls, it’s impossible for the tank to hit him even if the driver wants to. However, several fellows got up and ran-the worst thing they could do-so the tank chased them until they dropped over exhausted.

I’ve gone all over camp and have had several fellows try to get me some of the Engineer pins but with no luck. I guess I’ll have to go to Bend myself and try to get them. I haven’t gone there myself yet because from all reports a person can have more fun in camp than in Bend.

I’m sure glad to hear that the candy is on the way and also the apron. I’m sure going to like both.

I’d sure like to be home right now so that I could get by that fire. The temp. is so low here that I hate to think about it.

I don’t know how these birds manage to get leaves. After 6 weeks, 8 weeks. Hell! It just about takes an act of Congress to get a furlough around here.

You asked me whether my K.P. was regular detail or otherwise. Don’t worry. I’m not in trouble.

No, I haven’t fired for record yet. We get that the 26th. Wish me luck. I’m doing okay in practice. The only thing that can mess me up is the cold. My hands get stiff and I’m not so hot.

About my nose, I’ve rather hated to tell you. When I went to the hospital the “Doc” (horse doctor) told me it wasn’t broken and gave me the brush-off. It’s healed now, but it’s just a little crooked. If I ever see that so called doctor after the war, he’s going to be the one with the busted snozzle. It doesn’t bother me, however.

Your talk about hamburgers damn near moidered me. I haven’t had one since I left home. We are going to have turkey for Thanksgiving, but we’re going to have work all day and have a night problem. Damn white of them isn’t it?

You ask what I’d like for Christmas. Well, here’s what I’d like in order of importance; food, gadgets, clothing. I’m regaining the weight I lost pretty fast now.

I’m trying to get some snapshots and am going to Bend as soon as possible to see about having some pictures made. They’re very strict about taking snapshots here for some ungodly reason. It’s almost lights out soooo.

Good night and all my love, — Bill

LETTER 032

Bill gets the news about the RAF night bombing of Berlin and exclaims “hot dogs!” Thanksgiving Day starts with a 7-mile hike in full field dress and ends with a traditional dinner with all the fixings. On the rifle range Bill qualifies as a Sharpshooter missing Expert by only 4 points out of 180. He draws a sketch of the medal he receives. Bill has his picture taken and is buying a complete set for $14.00. He continues to pursue his options regarding ASTP and in closing mentions that he finally visited Bend, saying “it’s bigger than everyone around here has let on.”

November 28, 1943
[Camp Abbot, Oregon]

Dear Folks,

Well, you must be about ready to murder me for not writing sooner, but I’ll be damned if I had the time. Today, however, is Sunday –ah! This morning out of force of habit I jumped out of bed at 5:30, but when I remembered what it was, I jumped right back in. I finally did get up about 8:30.

I hadn’t heard any news about the bombing of Berlin until I received your letter. Even then I didn’t think much about it, but this morning when I bought the Portland paper I really got a pleasant jolt: “1/3 of Berlin in ruins,” —  “500,000 Berliners homeless,” —  “13,000 Berliners killed.” Hot dogs! By the time you receive this letter Berlin will be just a “use to was.” †

We sure had some Thanksgiving here this year. We worked like dogs. I don’t think I ever did so damn much marching in my whole life. We ended up the day with a 7-mile hike with full field equipment. Daddy, you know what that consists of — steel helmet, rifle, cartridge belt with canteen, gas mask, and full field pack with bayonet — all in all about 70 pounds. It wasn’t bad until we had to march a mile or so with our gas masks on. I couldn’t get enough air and I thought I was going to pass out. We did get a good dinner, however. We had turkey with dressing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, salad, cottage cheese, celery with cheese, olives, pumpkin pie, ice cream, cake, candy, apples, and oranges. We also had music with the meal, pretty good, huh? You should get a load of the crap we’ve had ever since to make up for it. Turkey hash, goat stew, horse croquettes — ptui!

Well, I guess what you really want to talk about is what happened on Friday. That was record day for rifle marksmanship. it sure was a heartbreaker. Out of 180 points to qualify as Experts Rifleman I made 176. I missed by only 4 points. That hurts. I made sharpshooter with 11 points to spare. When we got out on the range about 8:00 in the morning it was so cold that I couldn’t shoot worth a tinkers damn. In my first 2 positions I didn’t even qualify at all. That didn’t my nerves or my score any good. A bit later, however it warmed up and I went to town. On the 300 yard rapid fire shoot I made 8 bulls eyes and 1 four out of 9 shots; 44 points out of 45. if that one shot had been ½ inch to the left I would have had a “possible.” That would have meant $5.00 and a 3-day pass.

Here’s what we fired — from the 200 yd. line 4 shots kneeling and 4 shots standing — also 9 shots sitting rapid fire: from the 300 yd. line 4 shots prone and 4 shots sitting — also 9 shots prone rapid fire; from the 500 yd. line 8 shots prone. It took all day because of the number of men firing.

Here’s a crude representation of what my medal will look like. A marksman’s medal is the same without the bullseye. An expert’s medal is the same except the cross is a bit smaller and is surrounded by a wreath. I don’t know when I’ll get the damned medal; some fellows have had to wait as long as a month.

Well, (I start off with too many wells) today I had my picture taken. I borrowed a garrison cap and went over to the portrait studio. The way they’ve got it fixed over there it costs almost as much to get 4 pictures as it does for 14. It sounds terrible doesn’t it? To get two large oils would cost me $10.00 plus 2 small pictures would total $13.00, but 2 large oils and 12 small ones cost $14.00. I told the bird it was too much, but I was informed that I could take it or leave it; I took it. I guess you’ll be able to give a picture of me to everyone in the family. They’ll be in 2 poses and for that price they’ll either be good or Camp Abbot will be minus a photographer. Fourteen pictures-god, I always did think I was nuts. You can give one to Mrs. Feber and maybe she’ll send me something.

I talked to my lieutenant last night about A-12 or A.S.T.P. it doesn’t look so good. From the Engineers one can go into only 2 branches of A.S.T.P. – engineering or languages. I haven’t had enough math for engineering and a new ruling says that for languages one must be able to speak one foreign language fluently. I really don’t know what to do now, but I’m going to keep on trying. I’ll see the Co. Commander and if necessary I’ll go down to “personnel” and find out what the score really, really is. In some ways I’m getting awfully tired of this army.

That house of Jesse’s sure is a pain in the neck, isn’t it? Boy! I wish I’d never heard of the whole gang.

I sure hope something comes up so you can get those gas coupons. Last night I went to Bend and found out it’s bigger than everyone around here has let on. It’s no metropolis but it’s not quite a Podunk. Also if you could get to Klamath Falls I believe I could get down there over a weekend.

Bestus Love, — Bill

† Note: This is a reference to the opening phase of the Battle of Berlin, a series of RAF nighttime bombing raids over Berlin from November 1943-March 1944. Bill’s statistics are somewhat overstated and the allied military objective of winning the war by bombing Berlin into submission failed to be achieved. Still, the raids caused immense devastation and loss of life in Berlin. It is estimated that 4,000 were killed, 10,000 injured and 450,000 made homeless by the attacks.

LETTER 033

The Company is beginning demolition training. They start with explosives. Bill says they don’t use dynamite as it is too dangerous. Instead they use “Nitro Starch” and a putty-like stuff called ‘Composition C.” He complains about his meager pay and the lack of free time saying, “they don’t give a damn about you here.” The men get new bayonets. Bill draws a sketch entitled “Beautiful day at Camp Abbot.”

Nov. 29, 1943
[Camp Abbot]

Dear Folks,

I just received your letter, Daddy concerning that god damned house. What a pain in the neck that thing’s been. I sure hope you’ll be all through with the “jernt” by the time you receive this letter. I hope you make a little profit out of the thing too.

I just happened to think tonight that I never heard anything from the University concerning my credits. Did you ever find out about it?

Tomorrow is payday and I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m going to get another ten bucks. They don’t give a damn about you here. That reminds me. If Col. Higgins is right about the army being honor-bound to give the Sunday guard another day off, then the Camp Abbot Engineers aren’t part of the army. That wouldn’t surprise me either. Anyway we didn’t get the day off. They’ve been working us like dogs around here and it’s getting us all down. My cold is no help either. It doesn’t get any worse, but it doesn’t get any better. I guess it’s the climate here. One fellow to whom I talked at the Service Club the other night told me he’s had one for almost 4 months.

Tonight at the P.X. I picked up a copy of “Life” and saw an article on Los Angeles. It sure made me homesick. When I get back home I’ll never roam.

We had demolition work today and to tell you the truth I was scared to death at first, but the army uses the safest explosives known and if a person has any brains at all he can’t get hurt. We don’t use any dynamite at all because it’s considered too dangerous. All we use is Nitro Starch and a putty like stuff called “Composition C.” It’s 3 times as powerful as T.N.T. but it’s almost impossible to set off. The most dangerous things we have to handle are the caps. We made all sorts of things, but mainly we worked on primers.

Tonight we turned in our old 14 inch bayonets and were issued the new 10 inch type. The scabbard has a sharpening devise inside so that taking the bayonet in and out of the thing automatically hones the blade.

Keep sending the news. I find out almost “nottinks” here.

I’ll write more tomorrow if I don’t get guard duty. *&%^#*%#!

Love, “Yardbird” (my mental condition) — Bill

P.S. Rain, Sleet, Snow, Slush- Oh god, why this hole?

(sketch here) Beautiful day at Camp Abbot

2 responses to “November 1943

  1. Hello there! I believe my grandfather, Henry J. Oosterhouse, taught your father about demolitions on this particular day. Nearly all of the information about Camp Abbot that I temporarily had in my possession from my mother has since been given to my aunt and to Henry’s grandsons. My grandfather is my hero and reading your father’s letters about daily life makes me appreciate my grandpa and others at Camp Abbot even more! 🙂

  2. Dear Cathy,
    It is exciting to think that your grandfather was my father’s demolition instructor at Camp Abbot. If I might ask, what information do you have that indicates that this might be the case? I could not find any information in my files about that. If there is any way to get more information about your grandfather and his experiences at Camp Abbot I would love to hear about it and possibly add that to this website. If Henry’s grandsons have any interest in this subject you could have them contact me on the website or at aakermit@earthlink.net
    -Greg

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