September 1944

LETTER 119

It’s Saturday, Bill hasn’t got a pass, and tomorrow he has K.P. The weather as usual is bad and Bill has another cold in addition to diarrhea. Needless to say, he’s “overcome with the blues.”

September 1-2, 1944
[England-still]

Dear Mother and Dad,

I received three letters from you today: one dated Aug. 15, one Aug. 17, and one dated Aug.21. The V-mail letter of the 15th took a week to get to me after it had arrived in the U.K. Wot a system. Your letters were certainly newsy, however I was rather surprised to hear about [Uncle] Herbert. I guess in his condition any illness is pretty bad, however, I note by your latest letter that he’s better or at least there is no worse news.

By the time you get this letter you’ll probably be pretty discouraged by the scarcity of letters from me, but believe me over here it’s a “hellova” lot different than it is in the states.

The Harvard boys sure get around don’t they. (I read Ozzy’s write-up) Ozzy sure never impressed me as the type of fellow that would make a Fortress pilot. I noticed also that Tony Trainor was killed over in France. It’s sure a hellish thing when a man does all he’s done and then gets run over by a friendly tank. He got quite a write-up in all the British papers.

The war news is so exciting and fast moving these days that I hardly dare mention it. The bloomin’ war might be over by the time you receive this letter.

Again this isn’t much of a letter but I’d better close.

Best Love, — Bill

September 2, 1944
[England]

Dear Folks,

Well, I didn’t write or I should say send the letter. That’s obvious isn’t it. I’m sure down in the dumps tonight. It’s Saturday. I haven’t got a pass. Tomorrow (Sunday) I’ve got K.P. We’re having some lovely English weather, and I’m overcome with the blues in general. My cold is worse and I’ve got a touch of diareaha, diarrhea, diarrhea (I’ll take a chance on that last spelling). All in all everything is just wonderful.

I hardly know where to start tonight. Several questions that you’ve asked and which I should have answered long ago have just popped into my mind. One thing is that course in German. I’ve still got the papers and all I have to do is send it to the London offices but I’ve kept hesitating due to the uncertainty of the situation over here. I don’t know from one day to another how long I’ll be here or where I go when I do leave.

I never did receive that telegram from [Aunt] Elizabeth but I have written to her. You know, as much as I hate this army life it’s doing a lot for me in some respects. I think it’s making me more certain of myself. I’ve had a greater chance to stand on my principles, such as they are, and have succeeded in this so far. Having principles is a drawback in the army and one has to pay for living up to them, but nevertheless personally I feel stronger for having them. As I reread the above, it sounds like so much baloney and muddled at that. I was trying to be serious, however.

At any rate I think I shall be able to live a fuller life when this is over. I want to do things and see things and just for the “helluvit” I want to kick the pants off the very first gazebo who up and sez “Hey! You!”

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 120

Bill continues to “train, wait and wonder”. He says the “dull, dreary life is dulling my mind.” He believes that he will be moving out before long but won’t be going very far.

September 9, 1944
[England]

Dear Mother,

This is a poor excuse for a birthday card, I know; but I haven’t been able to get a hold of anything that would be worth a damn. Happy birthday anyway. I just hope we’re able to spend the next one together.

I think I’ll be moving out of here before long so don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from me for even a longer time than you usually have to wait. I don’t think I’m going very far, however.

One of the reasons I haven’t been on the ball about writing since I’ve been here is the depressed way I feel about 9/10 of the time. There’s so little to do except train and wait and wonder. I splash around in the rain all day and then catch cold, sit around when you do get some time off with nothing to do. Really it just about drives everyone off his nut.

You don’t know how much your letters mean to me over here. They make the only bright spot in an otherwise godawful existence. That in itself makes me damned ashamed of myself for not doing better in my letter writing, but it’s the same old story. This dull dreary life is dulling my mind I guess. (This makes a dismal birthday greeting, huh? Sorry.)

Best love, — Bill

LETTER 121

To Bill’s utter amazement he is transferred to the Infantry. He now is slated to go through infantry basic training. Rather than fearing the possibility of combat, Bill is convinced that he will never see active service in the ETO saying, “at least you don’t have to worry about me going into battle…it’s very doubtful that this war will last as long as the training.”

September 17, 1944
[England]

Dear Mother and Dad,

Well, at last I’m settled. My future is assured for some time to come. In short I’ve been transferred to the Infantry, the Infantry. When they told me that I was transferred and to go through an infantry basic, I damn near dropped dead. I still don’t know exactly what to say. At least you don’t have to worry about me going into battle.

As a combat engineer I was more or less a finished product ready for the front lines. But as an Infantryman, I’m only a rookie. I can’t tell you how long a period of training we’re going to get but I can say that it’s very doubtful that this war will last as long as the training.

I actually believe that the reason for all this lies in the fact that they just don’t know what in the devil to do with us. We’ve finished training yet they can’t use us so they stick us in another branch and start all over again. If pretty soon I write and tell you I am in the Horse Cavalry don’t be surprised.

I am now quite a distance (as distances go in England) from my old camp. This place is just about 1000 times better than was the jernt I just came from. The quarters are odd for a soldier, but comfortable. They won’t let me elaborate on this for some silly reason. The entertainment facilities are much better, the food is good and unlike the last camp I can get all I want (I went hungry more than once back there). The training is easy (at least so far) and the weather here is a “helluva” lot better.

All in all this place is not bad but on the other hand I’ve lost all interest. Before I was (or thought I was) getting all set to go over. Now I feel that I’m not needed. Before I wanted to get all I could in the way of training because I felt that my very life depended on it. Now—I know it’s just so much baloney.

At last I think I can put in for that course in German. I’ll be settled here long enough to make it worthwhile.

I read by this morning’s paper that we’ve cut a hole through the Siegfried Line. It looks as if Germany is all washed up.

I don’t hear much about the election over here but from the weekly straw votes I see where Dewey is steadily mounting attacks made upon him by the British press. Of course, they would know how England benefits by the present regime in Washington. We’re not supposed to say anything against England in our letters but you know what I think.

I haven’t received any mail from you for several days due to the troop movement (me), but I suppose they’ll be along any time.

I’ve decided to send in now for the course in German. I’ll be for long enough to get started “anyhoo”. Always before I’ve been so busy and so uncertain about what came next that I didn’t care to go in for anything like that.

Well, I think I’ll go get a haircut this afternoon. I can listen to the radio while I wait. Then maybe I’ll go to the Red Cross and get a “Coke.”

They finished up the blackout over here today and that’ll make things a lot more agreeable than they’ve been before. If there’s anything I hate to do it’s having to fake around in the dark.

Sometime in the near future I may get a pass to London. If so, I’ll write all about it. That’s about all for now.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 122

Bill is in the dumps but his mood takes a 180 degree turn when he receives mail from home. He chronicles this event with a humorous sketch. Bill reads the newspaper headlines to a fellow soldier who cannot read or write and states,” there was something about that that made me feel so damn lucky.”

September 19, 1944
[England — That other Eden: Shakespeare]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I was planning to sit down tonight and write you a long tale of woe about my being in the army a year almost with no promotions, no outfit, no nothing when some “gazebo” slaps me on the shoulder and says, “You Taylor? Ya got some mail.” Suddenly my world brightened and thoughts of how lucky I am began to race through my mind. After all, tonight I’m sitting in a comfortable warm barracks. I could be in a bloomin’ foxhole. I’ve got a lot of advantages when it comes right down to it. I’m safe and could be “daid.” That may sound silly but it could have been—very easily. I was talking to a fellow a few moments ago and he casually mentioned that he couldn’t read or write. I was somewhat taken back but it was not until I’d talked to him that I really understood what a handicap it was. Although he was extremely interested in the war news he knew nothing of what was going on other than the unreliable word of mouth information that he picked up in conversation. He asked me to read him the headlines. I don’t know, but there was something about that that made me feel so damn lucky. Well———–.

I got a letter from Richard and from what he says the Navy routine must be getting him down.

[Sketch here:] “This is ‘Sad Sack’ Taylor contemplating a good day”- 5:00 P.M.

[Sketch here:] “Top ‘o the Heap Taylor. Master of all he surveys”- 5:10 P.M.

Dear Censor- Don’t you think this deserves a section 8?

Dear Folks- A section 8 is a discharge from the army for those who prove mentally unbalanced.

He thinks that I’m quite lucky to be stationed in England. Probably so but just because this is better than 49,000,000 other dumps hardly makes me feel like cheering.

Your letters sure were swell even if you did have to mention that delicious ice-cream. That Air Mail stationary is pretty nice. That about does it.

Best Love, Bill

LETTER 123

In this short note Bill recounts a conversation with his bunkmate from Modesto, California. They talk about travelling up the Redwood Highway and the Columbia River. By comparison Bill states, “Oh Boy! Does England look sick. Phooey.”

September 20, 1944
[England]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Just time for a short note tonight. I’ve had a real tough day of sitting on my posterior doing dry runs on rifle practice. If this soft life continues much longer I’ll be even a more confused bum than I am now, if such a thing is possible. It’s funny but the less I do the sooner I want to go to bed at night. Now it’s only 8:20 P.M. and I’m as sleepy as the devil.

The fellow who sleeps under me is from Modesto and this evening we got talking about traveling up the Redwood Highway and up the Columbia River. Oh boy! Does England look sick. Phooey. So far I’ve been to several of the large towns around here. If a plague and a blackout were to descend on Studio City it’d still be 3 times as lively as the largest of these dumps. Oh well, maybe I’m too exacting.

That’s about all I’ve got time now.

Bestus Love, — Bill

LETTER 124

Bill takes a shower and exclaims, “what an ordeal….right now I can’t tell whether I’ve been fried or frozen.” He is bored and sarcastically quotes Shakespeare,”This other Eden–this England.”

September 21, 1944
[England]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Only time for a short note tonight. I gotta do a little work on the old “shootin’ iron”.

I just came back from taking a shower—-what an ordeal. The showers here run intermittently scalding hot and ice cold. Right now I can’t tell whether I’ve been fried or frozen.

Boy! Am I bored. Stuff I’ve done a thousand times all day and nothing to do in the nighttime. “This other Eden—this England” I repeat myself, I know; but I can’t help but think of it every time I lose myself in the fog.

I’ll try and write a real letter tomorrow. I suppose that this is pretty disappointing as far as information goes but you said you wanted to hear from me even if it was just a word.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 125

After almost a year in the army Bill is “right back where I started…….a private in the rear rank.” He is sick and tired of being “an eternal replacement” and says that he is “even tempted to join the paratroopers.”

September 22, 1944
[England]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I feel tonight like the last rose of peaches. My physical condition is not bad with the slight exception of a “beastly code in na head” but mentally—–phiffft! If you know what I mean. I don’t know whether it’s the army in general that’s all “Snafu.” I’ve been in now for almost an entire year but as far as I can see I’m right back where I started. At times it makes me feel down right ashamed. Six years of military school and here I am—a private in the rear rank. I know I’m a good soldier and more qualified for combat as an infantryman or engineer that 99% of these birds around here but still this job of being an eternal replacement is making me feel like a third rate bum. If I only was in an outfit. I was even tempted to join paratroopers. I thought better of it, howev—of course—naturally. I don’t mind risking my life for my country, but intentionally committing suicide, no! but definitely.

But enough of this silly griping. Let’s get down to brass tacks. There’s very little of anything special to write about. That is, there’s very little they will let me write about ( I know, too many prepositions at the end of sentences).

When I was home last I noted that you were quite concerned about whether or not I wanted to go on with college after this mess is over. I reiterate the answer is yes. I’ve seen so much ignorance in this army that it seems more important than ever.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 126

Bill dares the censor to cut his letter. He describes a visit to Chester, in Chester County. Sights described include the ruins of St. John’s Abby — a “magnificant cathedral dating from about 1250” and “a number of inns and alehouses built in Shakespeare’s time.”

September 24, 1944
[England]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I received two letters from you today and they were well in order. It was sure swell to get them. They were both postmarked the 4th however, and even with a war I think that 20 days is a “hellova” long time for a letter to be on its way. Oh hell! I got them and that’s what counts. I notice that the newspapers at home have been building up the ideal that the war would be over by the time we’d be able to say Jack Robinson. Of course it’s the same over here with British public opinion, but it’s still dragging on and Army people are not so enthusiastic. From what I saw of the Krauts back in the states this feeling is pretty well founded. Jerry is a tough baby and won’t give up until he’s had the living daylights knocked out of him. It could be over by the time this reaches you but I’ll bet it isn’t. (didn’t I butcher that last line though?)

Things are running pretty much according to plan with me these days—same old routine. It makes it rather difficult to write a decent letter as you can plainly see.

I don’t think the following will be censored now. I didn’t see anything against it. “Anyhoo” write me if what comes next ain’t here.

(Dear Censor, if you must—cut here ———-)

Chester, Cheshire County, England (1930’s)

One of the cities I visited while at my last station was Chester, in Cheshire County. The town is about 20 miles from Liverpool and has quite a historical background. The name Chester itself comes from the Roman “castra” or fort and at one time a Roman garrison was stationed there. I saw some of the Roman works but they were rather meager.

Around the center of town is a wall that dates back to the 13th century. To me it’s difficult to believe that these things are so old. They don’t seem very well kept yet they’re in good condition considering their age. There is one tower on the wall that I climbed and stood in the spot where King Charles I watched Cromwell defeat his army on Rowland Moor in 1647 (me and King Charles). I saw some Abby Ruins (St. John’s I believe) which dated from 600 to around 1100. Also there is a magnificent cathedral dating from about 1250. In the town are a number of inns and alehouses built in Shakespeare’s time. All in all it was quite interesting.

I think I’d better close now. Hope all is well.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 127

For the first time Bill acknowledges that “I guess I’ll see some action yet.” He reveals that he is in Southern England and closes with a typically opinionated slogan on the upcoming U.S. Presidential election.

September 28, 1944
[England]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I always start out by writing that it’ll be a short note—well, it will be. Very little of interest has been happening around here since I last wrote and on top of that I haven’t received any mail from you for several miles (several miles. Isn’t that awful? Here I am trying to write with a couple of “yahoos” blabbin’ about how far it is to some burg.) Anyhow, that’s not miles but rather days.

It seems now that all our rosy ideas about the war being over by the 1st. of October was just so much baloney. Now they talk about it lasting at least another 2 years. I guess I’ll see some action yet. Probably by the time I get home I’ll be eligible for on old age pension. Brrrr! Ghastly thought. The main trouble with us Americans I think is the way which we go to extremes. Everything must either be rosy red or black. One day they’re predicting the hour the war’ll end and next they’re groaning about it dragging on ‘till “nineteen-leventy-leven”.

Slogans for Servicemen

Dewey:

“Home alive in ‘45

Roosevelt:

“Pearly gate by ‘48

This is making the rounds over here.

P.S. I am in Southern England. I can say no more.

Best Love, — Bill

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