Wallace's Tent on Salisbury Plain

Wallace's Tent on Salisbury Plain
Writing a letter with candle on clipboard, see Oct. 16 letter

Monday, March 31, 2008

March 31, 1944 Friday

[This letter is damaged along the lower right edge, and some words are missing; it looks like tiny teeth marks, a rodent?]

Dear Honey,

Have a hundred enclosures to make tonite. Know I’ll miss some but here’s at least a partial list—your [Jesus Maria] Sanroma program [a pianist], Laura’s news clipping, and some more pictures—Hamilton, this time [$10 bill? See also Feb. 2, 1944 letter to Mrs. Nelson for “pictures of George Washington” = $1 bills?].

Our assault gun problem today was something you should have seen. We manufactured a battalion tank attack, got the first wave going O.K., and then they put up a smoke screen between that wave and our supporting assault guns. Could see neither the enemy nor our own tanks. The lead [missing] folded up because of no support, [missing] wave got lost in smoke and our [missing] assault guns stood by amazed. Our victory [missing] clouded by smoke and it wound up [missing] stopping our attack completely. Wonder [missing] Napoleon would have done.

Got a letter from Laure today, with the (I hope) enclosed clipping which might prove of value to us. I have a lot of respect for Laura. She is having it pretty tough these days. Expects Justin to go any time. But her basic maturity shows up in her letters. She’s got it. Whatever “it” is in this case.

We had a chaplain speak to us today on the relation of chaplains to officers. He was an intelligent man, one of the few we heard among the chaplains. He bemoaned the fact that C.O.’s ignored chaplains. Most [missing] feel that the chaplain’s main [missing] is to punch T.S. cards. This one [missing] tho his own should be brought [missing]. Some day I would like to [missing] an intelligent minister and see [missing] they get that way. Among the candidates here we have supporters of [missing] any side and any topic, except that we have none that even claims to be a Christian in the real meaning of the word. I suppose that is understandable.

This week has been an easy one all round, honey. Has given me a chance to rest up, but I still feel rusty somehow. Need a long rest and a big change. Maybe this prospective Louisville trip will do it.

Oh, I just thought of why I liked Laura’s letter—I must be flattered to find that there is [missing] person in the world who writes as badly as I. Almost, anyway.

I’m very sleepy tonite, Bunny, and would very much appreciate the comfort of your couch. I do believe I could sleep one (1) solid week.

Remember I love you all the time, Honey, and am waiting for the day when I can really take care of you.

All my love,

Sunday, March 30, 2008

March 30, 1944 Thursday

Dearest Honey,

Expanded my “trousseau” to the tune of $45.45 by ordering a trench-coat—a pink overcoat. That figure astounds me. Wait just a minute until I figure my financial status now. Have ordered $178.75 worth of materiel so far. Can foresee items to total $222.85. Then we have to buy quartermaster items to fill out the $250 allowance. G.I. things to wear in the field.

Tomorrow we will go out on our first real field problem in tactics. The assault gun platoon.

Your Monday letter came today, and I can only say that if the Blue Grass Room isn’t good enough for you to sleep in, I don’t know what place would be [see March 23 letter]. Comfortable seats, fine orchestra, slow service. You’ll need to sleep before you get your order.

Since I am stealing this time in study hall, I must stop short tonite, Hon. Bye now, dearest.

I love you,

Saturday, March 29, 2008

March 29, 1944 Wednesday

Dear Bunny,

My name certainly should be called “Manual” tonite. The company supply room loosened up and started giving out manuals to the 61st class to keep. About this time we are supposed to be buying a field manual library, anyway, so we all grabbed as many as we could. Have too many to measure in numbers. Got about 10 lbs. or more of my own tonite. In my possession I have about 7 lbs. of gunnery manuals, 10 of G.T. and 20 of tactics. All told, I can barely turn over in bed with finding a field manual in the way. All will be turned in except those I got tonite. But the school realizes that we couldn’t possibly remember all we study here, so they expect us to buy most of the important manuals for future study. I will start that soon.

Tonite I finish up as first sergeant, and after this week we have no more D&D, so I’m strictly a tactician from now on.

Have to see if I can get those manuals into some kind of shape before study hall, so will get to it now.

I love you like the dickens,
All yours,

Friday, March 28, 2008

March 28, 1944 Tuesday

Dearest Marjorie,

How are you tonite? Still wading to school or tumbling on the school grounds? I liked your adventure of one stocking off, one stocking on! Very exciting!

Today we spent part of our noon hour watching the presentation of the Silver Star to some hero by a couple of generals. The hero was a Lt. Col., so I had to wonder how many undecorated privates were with him during his great deed. That is completely malicious, tho. I did notice that the hero was more bald than I am, even!

Invested in a G.I.’s Emily Post tonite—“The Officer’s Guide.” Which tells just when to wear poplins and chinos, etc. The more I buy of uniform, the more I see that I must be a field officer of the future. At least, I’d be a flop as a peace time officer.

There is some talk of an imminent invasion of Louisville this weekend, and I may become a member of the outfit. I haven’t been in in a dog’s age, and perhaps the change will make a new man of me. At least it will be fun.

Do you know whom you will vote for for President this year? I don’t. In fact I don’t know as I can vote without being registered. Will you ask my father just what the score is along that line, and see what I have to do? I would like to exercise my franchise just a little. I cannot see any of the Republican prospects, except Wilkie. Wallace sort of appeals to me, and Roosevelt has been going down in my book for some time. Can’t see what his foreign policy is, and I think that is the most important thing in the next election.

I beg your pardon. [switches from pen to pencil]

Some kind soul sends a copy of the Christian Science Monitor to our class every day. It gets here about four days late, but as first sergeant, I am the recipient these days. I enjoy the articles a lot and have stopped reading the local papers that come on time. If I did read them, it would be like peeking ahead in a continued story.

Things look like hell in Italy these days. No wonder, I guess. The equipment of the Germans is still about the best there is. Most of our new weapons are copies of weapons the Germans have had for 4 years. I guess we have a new wrinkle or two now, but we are just coming around to Germany’s spaced armor, bogey wheels, submachine guns, bounding mines, field glasses and lots of other things. They still use better anti-tank guns than we do.

I love you even more than usual tonite. In fact I doubt very much that, even with a knowledge of my alleged weak spot, you could come close to it. You would probably be too concerned in keeping your hair in place and your ears covered!

I love you,

Thursday, March 27, 2008

March 27, 1944 Monday

Dear Honey,

Today we dived into the core of tactics—the art of controlling armies. Got a bunch of majors and captains that look like champion chess players or Prussians to lecture on offensive combat and estimation of situation. Got into the theories of Clausewicz [sic for Clausewitz], already. Quite fascinating.

Did I ask you yesterday if you would send me my R.O.T.C. uniform the next chance you get? I’d like to have it down here now to put with my other stuff and see if it is still in style. Officers are very fastidious, it seems. You can’t wear a chino shirt under a blouse, only a poplin shirt. I can hardly tell the difference, but they say there is one. I’d like the complete outfit, minus the Sam Brown belt. That is no longer worn. Thanks a million, Hon.

Bought a foot locker tonite—a small trunk. All this is charged to us and will be paid by our allowance of $250. If we do not graduate it can all be returned!

I am enjoying being a mean first sergeant today. Straightening out a few things that I have no power over as a private. I can see why 1st sergeants are not popular. They have to assign all the details and keep the wheels rolling in general.

Thanks for the two nice letters I got today. You’re a darling and I love you always.
Yours forever,

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

March 26, 1944 Sunday

Dearest Bunny,

This has been a rather busy weekend. Haven’t enough time off to write the kind of a letter I want to—or planned to. Am taking an hour off and will rest and ramble at the same time. By the way, I love you extremely.

Last nite we finished work at 5, had a delightful beer party until 6. The company’s P.X. dividend pays for these affairs and our C.O., Lt. Browning, thinks they are a good thing for candidates. Big time in a little time idea, I guess. At six went back on guard for the rest of the evening. This morning we got to the Military store at 8 a.m. and spent the morning buying uniforms to the extent of $125.05. That is just a beginning, but I have enough insignia now to dazzle me. Have seven sets of gold bars in my locker now! Whee!

My bunk-mate Braley and I took our weekend between 12:30 and 3:00 to go to the village of West Point for a big meal and a ride in his car over Kentucky landscape. Found some very beautiful scenery. As the Symphony was playing the Beethoven concerto I was gazing at a breathtaking, broad, flat, settled Kentucky valley. Very effective. Needless to say, I thought about you and wished so much you were there. Thought of you hearing the music, did you?

On return I did some duties as first sergeant—which job I start tomorrow for three days. But the board has met now, so I don’t mind.

Oh, don’t worry about our work here, Bunny. Maybe I have overdrawn it. It isn’t easy, but nothing for you to be upset over. I really prefer this to basic training. They at least treat you like a man. Your letters are the best thing you could do for me here, and you are right in that I have everything I need. True, the uncertainty here is lousy psychology, but it is a deliberate part of our training. Battle is like that, and they want to find out who can work well in such an atmosphere. I think I have learned a lot from it.

This war is very much out of line with the work I want to do. Briefly, I want to work at something that finds truth and is based on that. Soldiering doesn’t do that, but this war is a very big reality and as such provides much solid experience from which a lot of truth might be learned. Also, by forcing you to face the most grim realities, it helps you to overcome the natural fear of many real things. You can’t fool yourself in war and live long. It can make you better able to adjust. Good adjustment is based on seeing things as they are. According to some articles I read, many of the psychological casualties of battle are among the ones who never settled in their own minds just why they were fighting, or had been satisfied with ideas they only half-believed until they saw action. As civilians, they might have gone on fooling themselves, but you see what happens when the chips are down. They find they are playing with real things that illusions cannot change.

The most solid attitude that I can take toward the war is that it is another struggle for power between nations. Completely apart from a consideration of doctrines. The men who make wars work for their country first, and a doctrine second. Each country wants to be “top dog.” What they will do when they are top dog is important but unpredictable. It is foolish for people to fight other people. But the war is on and somebody must become a top dog to end it. The top dog determines history to a large extent. Germany and Japan are trying to do this, and necessarily at the expense of us. I would rather have the course of history in the hands of people like me; if it cannot be a cooperative matter among all people. Ideally, I am for a world community. In view of reality, I am willing to fight to keep control of the course of history. As long as we are in control there is a chance that we can be smart enough to stop the dog fight and accomplish something worthwhile.

My watch says that’s all for now. Come up for breath, let me kiss you, say good nite, and to the devil with everybody but us. We’ll worry about them tomorrow. Meanwhile, you and I are the whole world.

I love you always,

Monday, March 24, 2008

March 24, 1944 Friday

Dear Hon,

My friend Frankie Brown did me a favor and got me some more of this stationery! I know you appreciate it.

Met Ken Erwin over at the P.X. just now. He is all set to graduate in about two weeks. He is being very original and getting married as soon as he gets his furlough! A girl in Montpelier. His class is going to battle training right after they graduate, too. And will probably be there until the 61st comes out. So the best information now is to plan on about four weeks of work then after graduation, on April 22nd. That will give the snow time to melt in New England and make it almost exactly a year from our engagement. Speaking of snow, if you will point out the boy who threw the snowball at you, I will kick his teeth in. Maybe I have lost my proper attitude, but they can’t do that!

The little summer school UNH pamphlet brought up pleasant memories. Pretty campus, isn’t it? Also reminds me that we must decide about your summer school requirements sometime. Guess it will depend pretty much on where I am stationed. If it is where we could be together and still be solvent plus, financially, I think we should definitely do that. If it isn’t, then summer school would be best. We’ll just be ready to make quick decisions when we know what the situation is.

I can feel another long letter on marriage coming up when I get some time off, since that is what I have been thinking about most lately. Always write down directly what I think to you, Hon. I hope it is in English, and that you know a lot of it is just the way I muddle thru to some attitude that isn’t clear to me.

I can never write down the way I feel about you, either. There are a swarm of ways to say I love you, but I never seem to be able to talk about it the way I feel it. It’s a real short-coming of mine that I can’t talk to people very well, at least as far as expressing an emotion goes. It always winds up looking like a stock market report. That is why I always have to give up and ask you to understand even if I can’t say it very well, because, damn it, I do love you just as enthusiastically and whole-heartedly and romantically as anybody ever could. I think so many crazy, idealistic thoughts about you that you’d think I was an adolescent if I ever wrote them down. Maybe that’s why I don’t very much—it looks so superficial to write them down, because we use the same words superficially so often.

You’re the one I love, Marjorie, the only real one, and that will never change. Believe me, honey.

All yours,

Sunday, March 23, 2008

March 23, 1944 Thursday

Hello, Hon,

Please excuse the pencil. I’m over at the barber’s waiting my turn and neglected to bring my pen. My writing is so legible that it probably doesn’t matter which I use. Well, anyway, it doesn’t matter which I use as far as reading it is concerned.

Hope “Fort Knox” pleased you. He was what I was going to send around Valentine time, but the P.X. was all out. He wasn’t fluffy and nice like the best ones, but maybe he has personality.

This week my hours of luxury will be stolen away, but for a good cause. Sunday morning the class is going to get measured for uniforms. Flattering as it is, I can see that it will be an exhausting chore. Got to buy a complete boudoir, or retinue, or wardrobe, or something all at a whack. Nobody knows just what to buy. The Major wants us to spend every cent of our $250 allowance, our O.C.S. regulations gives a minimum requirement list adding to about $400, and Lt. Shalala (who bids goodbye to us every day and still stays on) says spend just as little as we can now—then buy what we need when we get stationed. This last sounds O.K. to me. The Major (Major Riley, head of G.T.) says our R.O.T.C. uniforms will not do. They will after we get our commission, however. Guess I’ll just go up and buy whatever appeals to me. They have some very catchy combinations.

As you know, this is “suitability week,” and since I haven’t been an officer, nor called out to instruct at all, I assume that all is well. It is going hard on a few men, tho. Four or five men in each platoon are marked men, and have been under the glare of the “tac” officers all week. I feel sorry for them. They get criticized for every move they make. Only observation could show you how tight they get when nothing they do id allowed to pass without a sneer or a forceful correction. It’s all done to see just how much these doubtful men have on the ball. It’s really tough.

You can see from the extra length of my letters that the sun is shining for me these days. This has turned out to be a very good week for me. Our last gunnery test—range estimation—was O.K., the report is that the whole class passed map reading. Soon D&D will stop completely and only tactics is left. That is tough, but since my past average will count for something now, it should come out satisfactorily.

The board meets tomorrow and soon we’ll se just how many men will be leaving us. It won’t be many—our class has set records scholastically and is good all round. We started with about 80 and should end up with about 60. That is extremely good.

Saturday night I am on guard again. My week-end won’t be too hilarious, all round. Am slightly proud of my financial status for the month, Hon. Looks as tho the next installment will be slightly above par. How much have we got now? Pa says I have two bonds now at 23 Pleasant. That is an asset, too.

Louisville is not at all cramped up, Hon, as you dreamed. Very nice town, which I hope you may see soon, and for more than a movie. That’s all theory, tho, but I had a swell day dream about it today during a lecture on German mines. We spent an evening in the Blue Grass room of the Brown Hotel, slept there, had breakfast at the French Village and left for Keene about the middle of the next day. You would like those places, I know. And we had a lot of time to talk and relax together.

Gee, I love you, Hon, and wish we were married right now. On second thought, I wish it very much. Because I admit that my heart jumps right into my throat when I think of a wedding ceremony. It will be a real test of courage for a tanker. Maybe it’s because of the flowery environment at a wedding. All I can think of is being the center of a fluttering mass of Belle Wrights and thin coffee cups that you have to balance on one knee. However, you are well worth it, and I promise that the tremble in my knees will not be visible beyond the 3rd row. Being Mr. and Mrs. will be better than becoming so, I’m sure.

I love you very dearly always,

Saturday, March 22, 2008

March 22, 1944 Wednesday

Dearest Hon,

If you heard a faint roar this afternoon, it was probably class 61 out demolishing. We divided up into crews and blew up everything in sight. Gus [?] and I and a few others blew over a tree over 2 feet in diameter with 18 lbs. of TNT. We devised a system to knock it down in the direction we wanted by attaching a smaller charge to the top of the tree. [sketch of tree trunk with positions 1-4 labeled]

1. Main charge to cut tree, forcing trunk to left [at bottom right of tree]
2. Small charge to push top to right [at top left of tree]
3. Theoretical position of blown tree [some distance to right of tree]
4. Connecting cord for simultaneous detonation [dotted line connecting 1 and 2]

That was initiative, the thing they looked for. I hope that in the confusion they did not notice that the tree did not assume position 3 at all, but fell at right angles to it. That’s war—always the unexpected!

Also am sorry to report that the beautiful Kentucky daffodil that I picked especially for you was lost during the ride back in. It would probably have met with the same fate as the cotton ball I sent you from Georgia. Anyway, I love you loads today, Hon. Could hug you a very great deal and only wish I could. You are the very best girl I know.

Which reminds me to ask how your interfacing is coming along. Scruptitiously, I trust.

You’re right about us being together again relatively soon. The class just graduated went directly to battle training the Monday after Saturday graduation, so I imagine that’s what we’ll do. But, even so, it won’t be long now before we are into another “decisive” period. You know how we start one thing and let time pass automatically for some time, then a break comes and we get our bearings, make some new decisions and start in on another phase. One of the breaks is coming before long. I am beginning to think that I might actually become a lieutenant. Before, that has been a goal, an end. Now I can see that there is much to come after it. For one thing, I will have to make a positive decision on my attitude toward the war. So far I have coasted along, a student half-heartedly playing soldier. Now it looks as tho I’ve got to decide whether to be a soldier in a very professional sense of the word, or whether to goof along waiting for the war to end so I can be a student again. I haven’t put that very well, but it’s really a problem. Because there seems to be little alternative but to be an active soldier, while I find that very hard to harmonize with what I want to do in the long run. I’m going to think that one over. It’s got a lot of angles.

About us, there are not many problems—except what to plan. That’s very hard, Bunny. We don’t need to discuss army uncertainty any more! Sometime I’m supposed to get a furlough. That’s about all we know. I don’t even know just how long it will be. Around 10 days, I think. However, that’s a life time and we’ll try to spend every minute of it together. The exact dates being so uncertain, I don’t know as we can plan a real 3-ring wedding. But we will be able to have the best one possible. That’s what I want. We can start planning, anyway, Bunny, using all information we can as it comes along. What I want is you, Honey, and if we can’t fix up everything in 10 days we just aren’t living in 1944. What am I worrying about? We’ll just have the swellest honeymoon you ever saw! And after that any number of chances can come to us to be together, maybe all the time!

You’d see how much I love you if you were here tonite, Honey. There’s no end to it.

All yours, always,

Friday, March 21, 2008

March 21, 1944 Tuesday

Hello Hon—

Probably you know that Pa got $33 of my income tax of last year back. That’s good, but since he paid the original tax, he will naturally get the check. I knew they couldn’t impose a tax like that on me and get away with it.

Well, I feel ten years younger tonite, now that map reading is over. My first test came out O.K. and I don’t think I messed this one up so that my final course average won’t be satisfactory. I measured a few items inaccurately on the first test, but when the raw scores are changed it should be around 84 anyway.

Now I’m a demolition expert and will be for the rest of the week. Am learning how to blow bridges like “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” It’s very interesting, with formulas for determining how much TNT to use and how to detonate the charge. Explosives are usually used to blow up tank obstacles and anti-tank mine fields. Glad to find out how because I had been wondering just how to run a tank thru a mine field. The Germans are producing as many anti-tank mines as they are artillery shells, so they should be pretty numerous.

I have been meaning to expound a little on the teaching situation in the tactics department. It has everything the ardent “progressive educator” ever dreamed of. I won’t talk about its basic faults tonite, and they are many, but here’s an idea of the set up. Each classroom is nearly as big as a gym with excellent fluorescent lighting. The desks are roomy, well spaced tables, and the speakers platform is right out of the 25th century. A raised stage with a blackboard at least 60 feet long, and 20 feet high. (I swear—maybe not quite 60 feet, but at least that high.) As if this weren’t enough, it is 3 blackboards thick. When one is full, or the instructor wants to reveal another bunch of figures, he rolls it like a big garage door to one side and the next layer is visible. In addition a big screen for movies and a large frame for visual aids are on the stage. Visual aids are prolific—anyway 4 or 5 to an hour’s lecture, and the smallest is 6 feet square. Sand tables with Fort Knox terrain or the Italian front are scattered thru the 6 or 7 tactics buildings. Airplane models hang from the ceiling. News posters are all over, and cokes are available during the breaks.

All teaching principles, except teaching to the individual, are rigidly kept. It is remarkable the number of facts they can put across, and the timing that is put into the lectures. It’s generally “G.I.” deluxe. You’d be impressed two ways. At how clear teaching complicated subjects can be made by using good teaching methods. And how meaningless it it to use those methods if you haven’t anything to teach. It is admirable training but not education at all.

Now we can go to study hall the way we did before we took map reading—with just a book or two. Should say manual. Have been lugging small map factory around the last week or so.

I have soaked in more field manuals since I got here! Every new one I get, I have the same silly thought. Don’t know whether it refers to me reading so many manuals, or if it is a possible name for our son. Anyway, the old line from “The Messiah” always goes thru my head “And his name shall be called, Manual.” I usually sing it, too, but nobody appreciates it.

I love you always and always,

Thursday, March 20, 2008

March 20, 1944 Monday

Hello, Hon,

Am taking a few minutes out to write to you tonite regardless of the fact that we got in late and haven’t too much time to study for our big awful-awful in map reading tomorrow.

Had loads of fun this p.m. on a field maneuver in reconnaissance. Piled into some scouting half tracks and followed a map all over the country. We went rapidly over some absolutely impassable muddy old roads. Didn’t stop to see that we couldn’t make it, so we got thru with a lot of flying mud and roaring motors. Beautiful way to express your savage instinct, or something. We had one peep along and it went across a couple of streams that I swear you could float a battleship in –almost.

Am on my way to some more exacting phases of map reading tonight. Just thought I’d let you in on the fact that I love you a great deal before I settled down to the grind.

‘Bye now, card shark,
I love you,

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

March 19, 1944 Sunday

March 19, 1944 Sunday

Dearest Honey,

Here is Sunday again and another chance to think a little while I write. Am sure you realize that I write whenever I possibly can. Nevertheless, I am really sorry to have missed so frequently lately. These are not usual weeks, tho. So cheer up, after next week things should be relatively settled for a while.

You see, ever since we hit tank gunnery we have been in the weeks that usually tell the story on who will be here after 17 weeks. Tank gunnery, Cedar Creek, map reading and suitability week. During those weeks everything counts, and pressure is consciously built up to new highs every week. They do a very good job at it, too. Map reading brought the peak. And this last week the whole class has been very tight almost continually. Each man was really all out. We all passed the first big map reading test. We have one more coming Tuesday. That, and the fact that next week is “suitability week” are the two main hurdles left. I feel that I’m O.K. on suitability, and should get by the map reading exam all right.

It is very interesting to watch the men as the pressure rises. It is all done so subtly, and it is so effective. They get the men to working much harder than getting a commission even warrants. But they do it by insinuation that leaves your imagination free to build up its own pressure.

Starting with the 9th week they started to build on to the usual rate of pressure by just giving more work than we could really do. Then they started holding back test grades for a longer and longer time – letting us “sweat out” exams as the dropped hints of how many had flunked. Then before map reading, although we all knew that it was the critical course, they held a very formal meeting in which the company commander read the regulation that anyone “who, after receiving adequate information and instruction on map reading, fails to achieve a satisfactory grade, should be relieved of his status as a candidate.” The instructors never mention this fact in map reading lectures, but their manner of teaching implies it all the time. They teach much more carefully than in most courses. And every word they say is planned. There is always a high ranking officer or two in the rear, checking to see the instruction is adequate.

All in all, the effect is to get the men more tense than they had ever been. Strange silences come over the squad room when not a man is talking. Bunkmates as a rule do not get along very well together. And the occasional nervous laughter over a lousy joke is as unusual as silence in the barracks.

The test Friday broke it down a lot, because we found that a map reading test is within the reach of some human beings, but a lot of the men are still pretty taut. Tom and I have been taking note of all these things, and while we haven’t been exactly relaxed ourselves, we have kept our feet on the ground much better than some. It is an atmosphere that I have never seen before—as if each man were walking on a tight rope over Niagara. It is very silly when you think that all they are after is a pair of pink pants! But I guess the fear of flunking out after investing so much also enters in.

There, that’s out of the way. Now how are you, Sweetheart? I love you very much. It’s best for you not to count too much on furlough plans. The only thing to do is to realize how fluid all plans are. If you become convinced that anything is going to happen, you get hit much harder when it doesn’t. It’s a good thing to know, because then you won’t be fooled so often. Nothing wastes so much time as sitting around waiting for something to happen. We’ll have plans, but will know that they are plans only, and live from day to day.

Oh, a major event in my minor life happened yesterday—I turned in my rifle and was not issued another one! A soldier without a rifle is a rare and happy animal. A rifle is the main item in an inspection, and it sure feels fine to be without it.

Ma writes that this farmer-draft question may eventually effect Bob, which I hope is completely idle rumor.

Was glad to hear about Jeff and Ralph Rieth. Would like to see them both. Sometime I must re-contact them and Sherm and several others whom I have let drift off since I have been here.

I have a heavy date with a couple of maps and aerial photos this p.m. They say it takes more time than usual, so I must start early.

Have been absorbing your pictures a lot lately. I keep them with my stationery. Like them a lot. ‘Bye now, Bunny, I love you always and always.

All yours,

March 19, 1944 Sunday
Dear folks,

Just got your letter this noon. Still have to pity you all for your weather. This last week there were days that at noon were just a trifle too warm for comfort.

Have just finished a busy week of studying map reading for at least 9 hours a day. Have a lot of instruments and maps that are very fascinating. We surveyed an area, and plotted in highways, and Friday night we took a march by compass. It is fun, but you have to be too absolutely accurate and neat for my abilities.

Next week we will finish map reading and go into tactics. It is also “suitability week”—the week the tac officers turn in their final opinions on each candidate. If I get thru that O.K., things will definitely be looking up.

There is no doubt that the war is lasting too long. I don’t see how they can possibly get along if they take farmers, too. But it will probably take some time before they start it. Army wheels turn slowly, so don’t borrow worries by imagining things that haven’t happened.

Give Old Russ my thank—as you were, my tanks for his punitive and puny letter. Can’t decide whether he is a flashy wit or a witty flash. Would like to respond in kind, but my correspondence is necessarily limited these days—at least for a few more weeks. I include him in these letters.

Love to all,

Sunday, March 16, 2008

March 16, 1944 Thursday

Dearest Honey,

Altho I appreciate the good condition of the tires on the truck picture you sent, I didn’t think the picture as a whole was nearly as nice as the ones of you. But I can understand—I send pictures of my vehicles to you, so naturally you want to return pictures of your vehicles. I think it is a very nice truck and a fine photo subject. Clear, no flaws, centered. Maybe it lacks human interest a little, but who care about that?

Somebody is doing a little wishful thinking, I guess. At least, this enclosed price list [of military apparel and accessories] came to me from a Louisville firm today. We all got them, and our reactions were mixed. It would be more appropriate a couple of weeks from now, maybe. If and when we graduate, there is a $250 uniform allowance for such things. It is none too much, I hear.

Tomorrow we have our first of two map reading exams. 2-hour jobs. Very crucial. They always have us sweating out something, and right now, that’s it. So cross your fingers again, Hon. It gets to be a daily process, but it seems to be working so far.

I love you always, don’t forget. As a map-reader, I should say “keep well oriented on that point.”

Yours forever,

Saturday, March 15, 2008

March 15, 1944 Wednesday

Dear Marjorie,

I am using my spare minutes to good advantage the last couple of days. Now I’m all ready to go to bed, but have a few minutes before lights go out. I love you, just in case they go off before I expect them to. Very much, Honey.

Today we did map work in the field. Intersection and resection, they call it. For a liberal arts man, I’m getting a broad taste of mechanics and engineering.

Also a Brigadier General reviewed us tonite in a colorful affair with band and a pretty flag for every platoon. I was right up in the front row of our company, beside the flags and strode by the general in a very cocky manner.

Nite – I love you,

Friday, March 14, 2008

March 14, 1944 Tuesday

Hello, there,

Pretty unusual for me to be writing at this time. It’s during our noon hour, but we have a few minutes to relax from the unending classes on map reading, so here goes. You would think I was a surveyor or a draftsman. We have maps and maps, and every bit of equipment you can imagine. I think that the plotting pins with colored heads are the best, but our Bo-peep colored crayons are fun, too. We have to be very, very accurate and neat. Of course, that describes my usual type of work (!!) so I am not bothered beyond losing a little hair. Couldn’t lose more than a little, I hear you saying.

The summer season started officially today. We had our first practice for a ceremonial review for the whole school. Lots of flags and color. Reminds me of the Rockettes, somehow, as we drill and drill on little points of who is where and when.

Your pictures came this noon and I thought they were very, very good. Seems good to see you. I like the dress with the two little figures on it a lot. I shall look them over at length later on.

I love you very much, dearest. Gotta run now—

Always all yours,

Thursday, March 13, 2008

March 13, 1944 Monday

Dearest Honey,

Nothing like O.C.S. for quick changes. After a week at solid gunnery, we turn into desk workers as we start our map reading course. We will be with the tactics dept. from now on. And just so as not to let the pressure off as we start what is actually a new school, this first course in it is the key subject here. One flunk in it, and no questions are asked. That’s all there is to it. But I’m not seriously concerned about it yet. Most of our gunnery marks are in—all mine are 85 or better. Got the 85 in the big “County Fair.” I am more than happy with it. Map reading lasts only a couple of weeks, but takes every minute of those days, except for D&D.

Of all things, I got a letter from Bob today! Full of wit and very enjoyable. Seems reasonably contented where he is—altho his situation is one I would personally not prefer to my own. But that is all a matter of taste. Gosh, it’s really been a long time since I have had a good session with old Russ. Will be good to see him again.

Yes, Cedar Creek was a dandy hideaway—we will have to enjoy the natural scenery of Kentucky together someday. It has hills and valleys of a very different kind than New England, but very neatly formed. And the woods are clear with no underbrush—cedar trees. And there is a slight mist in the morning that makes me think of the way I’ve always pictured the place where Rip Van Winkle met the dwarfs bowling. In general, it’s almost as nice as a WPA picnic ground!

Strictly speaking, this is a 17 week course. We get our commissions then. But the month at the Replacement center is sort of half part of the course, too, and that comes after the 17.

Have you ever thought that there might be some reason for your hair being at its best when I’m away? ‘Course, I don’t know what it’s like then, but I have always been thoroughly satisfied with it. I wish it was here now—with you under it. Gee, we’re going to be happy. I can’t wait to see you again. Just thinking of it makes me feel good.

I love you always,

P.S. Saw the movie “Lady in the Dark” yesterday and it made me homesick for some psychology. Very beautiful picture, too.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

March 12, 1944 Sunday

March 12, 1944 Sunday
My dearest Honey,

At least I can write to you again, and I am very glad to. Feel the way I used to when I didn’t write in my diary, when I can’t write you. My diary is suffering these days—haven’t written in it since January. I’ll write a sketchy summary sometime, tho.

Liked your letters an awful lot while we were at the Creek. You are very understanding and say many things that show that. Would like to talk about each one, but I haven’t the letters now—I haven’t been able to keep your letters here long, Hon. No place provided for letters in the regulations. I don’t forget them, tho, and when we are together we will have a lot of things that we understand without talking about them then.

For some reason, you seem to know very well how I feel about O.C.S. Much of the time I don’t feel like writing about it, since it is what I get a break from when I do write you. I’m glad you understand that. Other times I feel like talking about it. Probably in the future you will get very tired of hearing about it, if I’m like many old soldiers. I have my heart set on not talking any one’s ear off on “what happened to me in the army,” so I’m counting on you to keep me away from than if I ever get the habit. I’m counting on you for many things, aren’t I? Let’s see—to tell me if I’m too G.I., to remind me that we want to learn truth more than to gain money or rank, to see that I don’t get arbitrary (like a field manual) and over-simplify things, and now to keep me from being a typical “old soldier.” All these are easily picked up in the army and are all number one fallacies. They are also traits that you are not likely to get, and will be able to spot better than I. You have said that you have an aversion to being a typical school teacher. Now I’m not likely to get any of those traits here, so we should complement each other well, as far as observing the earmarks of our professions goes.

I keep stressing these things to you, because actually about the only time I think about them is when I’m writing to you. We are being taught a lot of professional material here—by itself very interesting and absorbing material. It is only when I think how utterly opposed it is to anything I believe in that I see it rightly. It is useless, or worse, it works against everything we consider worthwhile. As long as I realize that I’m just in it temporarily, O.K.; but if it creeps into a position where it looks like an end in itself, it will be dangerous.

But to get away from that hazy stuff that isn’t even clear to me all the time—I got an announcement of Alden’s wedding. It was addressed to O/C Pvt. Wallace Russell. Maybe thought I’d be a private again by the time I got it, I don’t know. Is there anything I should do about it, or have you done the honors for both of us? I hope so.

I stole the first page of this letter to show you just what the armored command insignia was like. The triangular part is a patch that goes on the sleeve. The officers insignia is a Mark IV tank that pins on where an infantry officer’s crossed rifles go.

After taking the course codes and ciphers, you didn’t expect to stump me long with your Chinese letter, did you? I might say that I expected it after finding the first page at the end. It wouldn’t be so tho—I had to look twice to find my way thru it. I also found your thoughts “mirrored” on the envelope flap of another letter. Have been considering sending you a message in our division field code, but I guess the authorities would not enjoy it, nor you, either.

Another flash came over me, that we might possibly go home by way of New York if we started my furlough together in Kentucky. Could see Laura’s latest and some things in town. That would of course depend upon the objectives of the furlough, which we will decide beforehand. The objectives we can talk about if I’m still here after the thirteenth week, and maybe decide on only when we know where I’ll be going after the furlough. Tomorrow we start tactics with its all-important map reading course. Also D&D will be watching me as a platoon sergeant the next few days. I love you just as much as I hope you love me.

Always yours,

March 12, 1944 Sunday
Dear folks,

Well, I got letters from everybody and his uncle while we were at Cedar Creek. That was good, except that I couldn’t answer them. Didn’t even get a chance to write to Marjorie much of the time.

We learned a lot at the Creek, tho. Applied continually all the new things we have learned. Used every tank weapon, alone and simultaneously and with moving targets and moving tanks. When not firing we were cleaning weapons and studying indirect fire—where you shoot a whole battery of tanks at a time by figuring angles, etc., from an observation post. Like this:

[sketch of 4 tanks shooting at the same, single target, placed on the other side of a hill; off to side, a person labeled “me at observation post with radio, math, tables, and binoculars]

Friday and Saturday we did only indirect fire by platoons. Real artillery material.

We lived comfortably in barracks like those at Camp Wheeler. Ate a great deal and slept hard.

Laura wrote me and told about her intelligent children. Wish I could see them. They must be very lovable. She must be very busy, but gets a lot of enjoyment from them. She is worried about Justin and the draft. Hope it turns out well.

Love to all,

Sunday, March 9, 2008

March 9, 1944 Thursday

Dearest Honey,

Here’s a note to let you know I love you more than anything and am thinking of you all the time. We are on the go from 5:15 am to 10:00 pm out here. All the time. But it is physical work without much pressure on us. I get just comfortably tired and eat a lot and sleep hard. Good change. We have more tanks than we can use and more ammunition than we can fire. We are getting much of the practical work of using tanks and caring for them in the field. We need it very much, even if we do gripe at cleaning weapons until nearly seven, and putting around the motor park. Then at 7:30 we start having classes until 10:00, on fire technique, ammunition, etc.

Your letters are coming here very well. About a day late, I guess, but they are well worth waiting for.

Bye now, dear, I’ll really write to you just as soon as I can. Meantime, I love you very, very much. Every night I think how lucky I am to have such a perfect “prospective wife.” I love you like the dickens.

All yours,

Thursday, March 6, 2008

March 6, 1944 Monday

My dearest Marjorie,

Cedar Creek is a story book place, very hard to describe well. It has several parts, but the place we are in used to be the site of some super-secret tests of equipment made by the army. It is a small group of green, tarpaper barracks snuggled into a deep valley completely surrounded by typical Kentucky hills – steep but even and covered with cedars. A windy dirt road brings you in. There are only a few barracks, but it was modeled for men to live here a long time in secret and it has everything – P.X. (with beer), barber shop, and small movie theatre.

We got here last night before supper and after tossing the fantastic amount of ammunition we are to fire around for a while, we had the evening off. The whole crew, including our N.C.O. instructors, but not officers, of course, went to the P.X. to drink beer. By far the largest part of us soon became very happy – but not me; I diplomatically primed the N.C.O.s to get them on my side, and find out just what the story is here at the Creek. I had to buy a good many G.I. beers before they really got loose and friendly. I now have the most inhuman instructor here – a Corporal Nelson – no relation, I trust – as a good friend and advisor, and have found some things that are good for a candidate to know. After this unorthodox apple-polishing, we went to the movies to complete the evening. Today I was on Corporal Nelson’s tank and fired with great effect.

We were up the Creek in more ways than one today for a while. It rained guns, as of course you could guess it would. We carried on this a.m. and fired a lot of rounds from both light and medium tanks. I am beginning to feel somewhere near competent in a tank turret now; I fired with Gus today, by the way. We discussed our girls between bursts over the interphone. He feels that Ruthie is getting fat but doesn’t dare to mention it to her.

This afternoon, however, we got out on a range on the other side of Cedar Creek, and the creek rose and we couldn’t get back. We sent out a target detail and they also got cut off from us by rising water. That is when we felt literally up the creek. We had to leave about 30 tanks, and assorted trucks, jeeps and halftracks out there and wade home across the creek. Finally made the indescribable comfort of barracks and lots of hot food and an evening off.

Feel very good tonite, just tired enough to feel relaxed and “mellow.” This is real army here, but with enough comfort to almost enjoy it. I love you very much tonite, and can see that I will be dreaming of you very soon. Other nights this week we have classes so I don’t know how the letters will run. I’ll do my best, Honey. Got your regular letter today. They brought it right out. I can see how you might not envy Alden and Harriet. Marriage is what they want, but you wonder if they can really have that with the war on. Is their problem solved or augmented? That’s a question I haven’t the energy to answer tonite. Obviously it isn’t completely solved, but maybe they don’t expect that. It may be the best answer possible. I rather think so.

Nite now, Bunny, I love you very much,
Yours always,

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

March 5, 1944 Sunday

March 5, 1944 Sunday
Dearest Marjorie,

Today we leave for Cedar Creek, so it isn’t really a day off at all. Did sleep a little later, tho, and have some time now before dinner to write you.

Old John Shalala was pretty square on that silly report that was turned in over the siren affair. I told him what happened and he took it as any sane person would, and got a good laugh out of it. He just tore it up, I guess, because no gigs have appeared from it. That’s good. We are now well over our half way point and I still am under half the quota of gigs allowed for the whole course. And they aren’t coming in at all these days.

Since I wrote last we have been having some rugged days. Another big performance test on Friday over all weapons, and a big inspection yesterday. Haven’t heard yet about the “County Fair” results, but the medium tank performance we had before, I got an 84 in. Many flunked it – including Tom O’Donnell. So the class is pretty much astir over it. We had a session with Lt. Shalala yesterday and everybody got his particular gripe against the gunnery department off his chest. Made everyone feel better to blow off steam for a while. I have no complaints as long as they don’t treat me as they do some others. Seems they haven’t been flunking enough in gunnery, so they are out for blood with the 61st class.

Those are my only troubles right now, how about you? You know, I like to write good letters to you; it’s the most pleasant thing I do here. I do wish I could take more time with all of them, but until that is possible I’m counting on you to believe all the things I can’t write in the 15 minutes or so I get to write. I know you will, but I also know it is hard to go on believing when you have no tangible proof of how I really feel. I do love you, Honey, more than I have ever loved anything, and I always will. O.C.S. isn’t a human place, tho. It’s a big machine. Very efficient, very fast and turning out precision instruments. They don’t want you to be human, particularly, just an accurate cog. And this machine is very powerful. For hours on end I am completely absorbed in it. It doesn’t allow you to think of anything else. For a long time, I’ll be completely G.I., figuring out how things work in a tank and how I can make it run correctly. Then I’ll turn human again and think about you and what I wish I was doing and wish that I’d never see another azimuth indicator – or whatever I was working on. Being G.I. is good to keep relaxed and free from thinking. But I don’t want that. I just keep hoping that someday I don’t simply remain G.I. and not start to think again. That’s what can very easily happen here. That’s what they want.

This is a great place to build up unconscious attitudes – G.I. attitudes. Thinking of everything in terms of steps or outlines, being positive and arbitrary and trying to force things to fit your idea rather than to understand them as they are. A little of that may be beneficial in influencing other people and making good impressions. But I would rather be completely without it than to adopt its basic artificiality. I find myself using more of it almost daily, and even thinking that way. Consequently I look better and know less than I have for a long time.

Oh, Bunny, scraps of information about our post-cycle furloughs are beginning to come in. We don’t know whether they will come before or after our month of work with basic trainees. Probably after. If we go to a new station, we will get 10 days and travel time. If we are stationed here, just 10 days. I was thinking that if things were right, we might arrange for you to be here when the furlough started, then we could be together during the time it took to get home – and maybe see some things en route. It would be at least a day and a half more together. Isn’t that good dreaming?

I love you always,

March 5, 1944 Sunday
Dear folks,

My embarrassment knows no end. I shouldn’t have been bitter about the lip mikes. It is obvious now that the War Department is trying to mislead the enemy by announcing to the public that throat mikes are lip mikes, and it isn’t your fault at all. We still use throat mikes here and I never heard tell of a lip mike before. The picture you sent doesn’t look as tho they would be as handy as the ones we have.

This afternoon the 61st class is going to leave camp for a week at Cedar Creek. There we will live in barracks, I guess, but things will be a little more uncivilized than here. We will finish our 9 weeks of gunnery by shooting and shooting all week. All weapons, but primarily tank gunnery. Indirect fire of a tank platoon and moving tank-fixed target problems, etc. When we come back we will start the final phase of our course – tactics.

This last week has been a rugged one, with some big tests – 4 or 5 hour jobs and careful inspections. Haven’t heard how they all came out yet but have no bad news either. One test was a four-hour performance test in which we covered every weapon we have had.

Best of luck to Alden and Harriet. Hope everything turns out well.

As for Bob’s remarks about mortars, he should be absolutely mortarfied to crack such puns.

Have to go throw some things into a barracks bag now, so so long until more leisure comes around.

Love to all,

Sunday, March 2, 2008

March 2, 1944 Thursday

Dearest Honey,

Would like to talk about something else tonite, but all my world has only one topic at present – tank gunnery. Tomorrow we take our fabled “County Fair” exam, where we go from room to room disassembling and assembling all the weapons we have had, and doing innumerable other skills that we have supposedly absorbed to date. That is where all my energy is aimed, and, believe me, it is no sure thing that effort will bring success. It is a bigger version of the .75 exam we had. They tell us we all did extremely poor in that, tho we haven’t seen the result.

And today in tank crew drill I pulled a goof-off that probably will wreck my gig record. The affair was an accident, and could have happened to anybody – but it was me. In dismounting we fly out of the tank faster than anything, and while flying, I nicked my overshoes against the siren button and created a nice groan from it. Well, I didn’t think that would be worth anything more than a scowl and a caution, since noone had told us to beware of it, or even said where the siren was in a light tank. I see different now. There was no scowl, but an immediate turning in of my name to D&D for “not complying with orders.” How they dreamed that up I don’t know, but as worded it can bring any number of gigs. Which I shall appeal if there are too many. It’s such a silly thing that is makes me angry to see such wheels put into action. I shall stop it if I can.

Goodnite, Hon, and keep your fingers crossed. I love you – much more than tank gunnery.

Yours always,

Saturday, March 1, 2008

March 1, 1944 Wednesday

Dear Honey,

Will have to make it very short tonite because I have a whole lot of studying to do. This is the first time I have been hurried by course work – usually that comes easily in study period and the hurry is to clean equipment. Now the climax of gunnery is coming there seems to be more studying to do than could normally get done.

Friday we have a four-hour exam on light tank gunnery, and performance tests on all weapons we have had to date – and that is a lot. Next week at Cedar Creek involves only gunnery and has several big tests lined up. Wish me luck.

The notice you sent about Ernie Bedaw’s wedding interested me a lot. He is one of my “proletariat” pals. A good boy, but just didn’t fit with the rest of the people I know. Yes, we should get a little something for Alden and Harriet. Can you look after it?

Got to run now, Honey. Remember I love you a thousand times more than these notes would indicate.

Always yours,