Wallace's Tent on Salisbury Plain

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

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

April 30, 1944 Sunday

Dearest Honey,

For no good reason we stayed out last night, or rather Friday night, with a company that is on its bivouac. Made a bed roll and slept on the ground rather than pitch a tent. We got up early and followed the tanks on a blackout march. We officers were given a sector to guard, so I sat out in the moonlight and thought about us for an hour or so. It’s fun to think over all the possibilities. Our situation is one that could exist only in wartime. It gives us a chance to come to a lot of conclusions we never could in peacetime. As long as we don’t get scared of the whole thing, we’ll be in a position to do a lot. Perhaps we are lucky in that most of the usual patterns are broken down, and we can almost chart our own course. In the ordinary course of events we would be hemmed in pretty well to a small part of New England, and limited pretty much in profession and class of people we’d meet. Now anything can happen geographically and socially. We may get a chance to find out how big the world is, and how we stack up in it. If we are big enough ourselves that is all to the good.

The Nazi platoon attacked another part of our camp and tossed tear gas all around. They have been doing that all around since we got here and none of we “observers” have gas masks. I have shed a harmless tear or two over our plight, believe me.

My peep license came thru today, so I can go spinning off in one any time the opportunity arises. I hope it will be soon. I have told you what type of vehicle they are – they have replaced all the motorcycles in the armored outfits and can really go anywhere. Small as they are they are built like a truck in the way they shift. They have a four-wheel drive and all so they can just about lift themselves up by their own boot straps.

You must be crashing into Westmoreland society in great style. What with bridge putting you into the more exclusive circles and with the playwriting making you the idol of the masses. I knew they would appreciate you when you had a chance to show your abilities. How is your piano playing? Any appearances in the offing?

Once I went to a public card party; I think they were playing whist, but I never found out for sure because they played to fast that I could never get my cards arranged, to say nothing of following the game. I didn’t win any prizes.

Last night Tom and I went in to the Post to supper. We went over to the Officers’ Club there and paid our dues. Looked around a little bit. It is a nice place, all right. Listened to the last part of the hit parade and played billiards with Tom. Came back to sleep very late this morning.

Big news about Bob volunteering. Too bad he has to join up at all, but perhaps it’s best. He wants to be in the navy, so I hope he makes it. Be cleaner work than the army, I imagine. And the army is about at a standstill as far as advancement goes. The Armored O.C.S. closes completely with the 68th class, which is just starting.

Tomorrow I start on my first assignment as an officer. It’s as I said – I am to have point 12 on the crew tactics course, and for the first time in my career I will be a teacher rather than a student. Have a nice 10-minute lecture on ammunition selection and tank firing positions, as well as a critique of a practical problem. Have a visual aid and a sand table to help me. Expect the trainees will leave point 12 weak with emotion and filled with undying zeal for choosing the correct ammunition. I’ll tell you how it goes.

We didn’t get off early enough on Saturday for McCully and me to see about those blood tests. Even the P.X. was closed when we got in around 7 o’clock.

Word has it that since we have been assigned almost to a man to the A.R.T.C. at Fort Knox, almost all of us are due to a stay of at least one cycle, or 17 weeks, right here at Fort Knox. If that is the case, does that give you an idea as to where you could spend your summer vacation? Pat’s wife would be a big help to us in finding a place in Louisville or Etown. If your school is out by June 9 or so, we could work that out and be together at least until September.

Do wish we could get together for a nice long talk about now. We both have so many things to get coordinated before we can make definite plans. I can see how very busy you are at Westmoreland, Honey, and how a wedding would throw all those things out of schedule. But this leave is the time for us to get married. I can’t see a better time coming in this “epoc” of army life at all. And if we can get married, you see, we’ll have chances to be together thrown at us a good many times. Probably all this summer. Then we don’t know, but we’ll be ready for anything. As I see it, you have your job, finishing college, and your mother to consider. You have to consider getting away from your job only for the actual wedding ceremony. The rest enters when we want to live together. If you can get off just for 15 or 20 minutes while we have the ceremony, I’m in favor of getting married now. Anything more you can get will be so much better, of course. We can talk over the others when I’m home. They won’t be too hard for us, as I see it. The time from leave until your school lets out is about what we need to act on plans we can make then.

Remember I love you always, hon, and think if you more and more as the days go by. The great day is coming.

All my love,

April 30, 1944 Sunday
Dear Ma,

Your letter came yesterday and had a lot of news in it. It’s getting so you can’t tell any more what is good news and what isn’t. Joining up could be good thing for Bob, although he doesn’t need the lesson in “living with people” they always talk about. He got that in college. He does look good in blue, and besides, think of the monstrous fox-holes he’d need in the army. In the armored force they always seem to put big men in light tanks on the assumption that even a small man doesn’t have room to move. So they let big men be stationary in a light tank and put little men in medium tanks where they can move a little. That’s why I expect to go to a medium tank outfit – plus the fact that my commission is in the infantry where most of the mediums are. Bob would be able to take a good rest in the service, tho, compared to what he has been doing.

There is one subject I’d like to bring up at this time. It’s a rather delicate one but I feel I must mention it, and I’m sure you would be interested. You remember that book by Chic Sales – The Specialist? As I remember he was pretty proud of his ten-holer. Well, you can imagine our pride here at battle training. We have what is undoubtedly the holer to end all holers. We claim the world championship with an officers latrine with a beautiful twenty-four holer. It is an artistic job, as well as being large and utilitarian.

About 6 young lieutenants from class 61 have been assigned to the position of field engineers. They go around over the bivouac area and supervise the installation of latrines. Super-latrines, they call them. They take great pride in their work, and we love to talk to them about it. When their girls are at the club, we like to ask them about field engineering and how their latest field fortifications are progressing.

Monday I stop being an “observer” and start my first assignment. They have a crew tactics course here with 20 locations. At each location they have an individual tank problem – an enemy machine gun or A.T. gun, for example. Tanks work from point to point and solve each problem. After doing so they assemble and listen to a critique and short lecture on the principle involved in the problem. That’s me. I will be in charge of location 12, stimulating trainees to fire H.E. ammunition at machine guns, while remaining in defilade themselves.

Now Ma, you do not have to hold your breath for the four weeks I am out here. My life until my third week is almost as civilized as yours. On those crew problems we fire no live rounds. Very few people ever have accidents at Battle Training – and then it’s usually a trainee who fell asleep at the wrong time. Just picture battle training as big area where a lot of men are playing cops and robbers.

Am glad Bob got his picture in the paper for my graduation. I didn’t get the clipping but you should save one for future reference, anyway. They just took the best looking Russell picture they had, I imagine.

My leave is scheduled to start May 20th, and I’ll be taking the first train home – arriving maybe on Sunday night. Will be on bivouac with my platoon until the day I leave, so I may not write for two weeks preceding my arrival.

See you soon,

Sunday, April 27, 2008

April 27, 1944 Thursday

Dear Honey,

Today I found out a little more about my schedule. Next week I am assigned to the driving section at Battle Training. That means that I will have a rather easy time next week. They have a course here for individual tank tactics. It consists of 20 points with a situation to be solved by the tank commander at each point. Probably I will be assigned to one of these points. I will act as an antitank gun or what have you and toss out firecrackers. The tank will decide how to capture the anti-tank, then I’ll wave them in and critique the problem. This show will be repeated over and over all day. Men go mad on the job, but I anticipate boredom – a change from O.C.S.

This makes certain that I will be on bivouac with a platoon the two weeks before my leave. So let’s get ready as best we can.

K. Erwin leaves to get married this Saturday. He received an invitation to his own wedding tonite. He hadn’t known for sure when it was, or where. He is going home via New York, which is a good way. Fare to N.Y.C. round trip is $21.50. Goes up to Boston from there. Plans to attend his wedding!

W. McCully is in my group, planning the same thing, only he has to go to Colorado. He plans to get married the 23rd, and is also in a position where he will be on bivouac the two weeks prior to that. If I get a tank platoon, there almost surely will be no time to write. They work until midnite or so on maintenance of tanks. I may get a mortar, assault gun, or reconnaissance platoon. If I do I probably will be ablt to write. McCully and I are going in to Fort Knox this Saturday and see what can be done in the way of army blood tests. Also will get our officers’ identification cards.

Two or three of us plan to get married over this leave, so we are definitely in the swim, Honey. I am waiting anxiously for your outlook on all these things.

Today I took my peep driving exam, and passed. Now all I have to do is get to be on a job requiring a peep to go touring around in one. A peep is an armored force jeep. Same thing. They are a great little vehicle.

Tonite I got a letter from my old A.S.T. roommate Bob Mosker. You never met him, but he knows all about you, and hopes we can get married now. He is at Yale tking a pre-med course now.

Suppose you have noticed by now that my serial number has been changed to O547328. What’s in a number?

Tomorrow we go out to Bivouac no. 5 to stay over night. Seems kind of silly, we have no reason to stay out. But the army is like that. I guess it is jut to complete the orientation we have been exposed to.

You know, I have never done so little during the day as this week. We go to an area and wander around and look all day. Say a few words here and there, and try to look like Lieutenants. Which is difficult. Our fatigues re baggy old things, and we don’t look at all dapper. But we try hard.

If there was any kind of a book around here I’d have time to do some reading evenings. Haven’t read much at all lately on non-military things. And I need that. It’s as I thought it might be – if you get saturated with G.I. subjects long enough you get so that you naturally think in a G.I. manner. It’s habit forming – all set and secure, with an answer for every problem. Very easy to sink into it and forget that there is anything else. That’s what the army would like its men to do. That’s not good. Because army habits are unthinking ones and undemocratic ones. They make a soldier a very nice tool in the hands of a person who wants to use them.

We won’t be like that, Bunny, because we know what the bigger things are. We can always keep that idea about you and me and truth alive enough so that even the army can’t take control completely. And unless it does that, our idea will eventually win out. See what I mean, Bunny?

Bye for now. I love you, Bunny, always,

Saturday, April 26, 2008

April 26, 1944 Wednesday

Dear Bunny,

Made a few sage observations today and got to fire 125 rounds of cal. 30 machine gun at a radio controlled airplane. Fired them all in one long burst. Also saw a spectacular air demonstration. They had planes of all types come flying by us at about shoulder height, for identification. Then they demonstrated tactical air force methods of attack. You would have been thrilled at seeing the fighters zoom down right at you.

Got in a little late, but to start an evening off at 6:30 is a big thing to me. A lot of the men hurry right in to camp, but I’d rather take it easy here at the club. Tom and I usually have a good talk and a beer or two. Generally a great life, and we are making the most of it.

By the way, what is our financial status? I will get paid on May 1st for about 10 days as an officer. That should be close to $50. That is all we’ll get between now and the leave. After that tho, we shall be fairly well off. An officer gets about $100 more a month if he has a wife. That, of course, is the main reason I want to marry you. Until that starts coming in we’ll have to use what we have saved. I’ll look up the travel costs from here by train this weekend. Then we can start to plan on how much to spend and where.

What would you like to do on our honeymoon? I still prefer a hotel and a life of ease for a few days. Where? Capitol Hotel again? That’s O.K. with me. We can write for reservations again if things work out. Perhaps we could come back to Louisville together from there, depending how much time you could get off. I’m working on the assumption that that is possible until I find out otherwise. I realize that all this is just thinking now – but we always have liked to plan and if you can get off, this could be reality much more easily than many of our plans.

If we want to conserve on travel time we could go to Boston. But I don’t know as that would save much – New York isn’t too far out of the line to Fort Knox. And we could drop in on Laura before we left New York and see her smart children. She sent me another fine picture of them. We won’t need to plan much beyond hotel reservations, tho.

Bridge rivals even poker and black jack as a popular game here. No doubt you could teach them a trick or two, with all the practice you are getting. I have learned the fundamentals of bridge a couple of times, and have now forgotten them again. I would be scared to play with you now. I’m afraid I could never become an expert at it.

It’s raining tonite, so I’m glad again that I’m not with a Battalion. One of the boys who is got a commendation today for the way he handles his mortar platoon. That’s fine, but things like that don’t mean much any more, and I’m glad they don’t. I am glad to have things let down for a while. I’m really getting back into pretty good condition and am starting to think like a human being again. Things were pretty stiff back at O.C.S. for a time. Now it’s easy, and as soon as the two weeks of battalion work is passed by, we’ll be together again. Then I’ll really feel good. It’ll be so good to see you again. For both of us, I hope. I appreciate more than before how much I love you and how much I want to be with you. You and I can do anything, you know that?

I love you like everything always,

Friday, April 25, 2008

April 25, 1944 Tuesday

Evening, Bunny,

My first mail as an officer came today, your Sunday letter. The post office here is divided into two windows – enlisted men and officers. I have a box and feel like Henry Ford or somebody going after my mail.

Have another night completely off after 4:30. Can’t get over that. So much time. Dressed all up in my dark green pants, dark green shirt with brown tie and belt and came up to the officers club to write you. Must try out all my combinations!

Our work here consists of going out to a training area in the morning and “observing” enlisted men in training. It’s wonderful! We stand around offering comments here and there and sticking our noses into other instructors’ problems. Today we went with a reconnaissance problem. We’d watch how well the men worked – correcting errors here and there. Every now and then we took a bunch of firecrackers and went out to act as enemy for the patrols. Great fun, and we could quit at our own pleasure. This afternoon we critiqued formation tank driving and rode on the rear decks of the tanks keeping the men on the ball.

This life of Riley will end when I go to a platoon on bivouac. Our men who are out now are in sad shape – working night and day. But I enjoy this no end. I’m a great observer and critic.

Being a new shave-tail is all right, but there are those who do not think much of us. Older lieutenants call us “O.C.S. Lieutenants,” as if that was a particularly troublesome kind of weed.

And maybe you have heard of the Nazi Platoon they have here. It is a group of German speaking men that function all the time in German uniforms, know German drill and all, and haunt the tactical area of battle training. Whenever you are there and make an administrative or tactical error, they capture you and take you to their headquarters. They specialize on Lieutenants, and the sentence is 8 hours in their prisoner of war camp – “Schicklegruber’s Pokey.” I know because 10 men of Group 61 were caught today as they slept thru the tank formation driving. We saw them in the Pokey, and they are still there now. They got all our “Big operators,” so it gave us all a big laugh. They did not have any security out, so they were surrounded.

It still makes me feel like a heel to see the basic trainees. They are in the tactical area all the time, and a more beat crowd I have never seen. They must be under pretty severe discipline, they act so scared. One company spent all p.m. One company spent all p.m. on arm and hand signals that we never took up in O.C.S. – just soaked up by being near tanks. And after four hours, they couldn’t learn them! They must have been very tired from the bivouac.

Say, I hope like everything you got my yesterday’s letter. I wrote a long one and enclosed a graduation program. I don’t remember mailing it but I couldn’t find the thing anywhere this morning. The only thing I can think of is that some “pal” of mine picked it up from my foot locker and mailed it with his letters. If you got it, please let me know. What I said was that I am in favor still of getting married right away, and want to know if it was entirely impossible for you to get from May 20 to June 1st off. Also told you about graduation and the weekend in Louisville. I have been aggravated all day because I couldn’t definitely account for that letter or one I wrote home. Never saw things disappear as they did. I had some very good reasons for overcoming all difficulties to marrying and living together. Can’t remember just how it went now, but I am entirely convinced it is the thing to do. Please let me know just how serious your school and teaching complications are. That is a terrible time for a teacher to get off, but I hope there is something we can do to work it. Also, can you find out what we can do now to allow us to get married as early as possible in my leave? We have to have a blood test and a license. Why don’t you get yours sometime around May 1st, and ask if I can’t get one thru the army. I have had dozens and could get another if necessary, I believe. I am sure my father can help us out on getting a marriage license if that offers any trouble.

As far as plans for the ceremony are concerned, we have the same problems we had before. With all the things that could come up, I think plans should be pretty flexible. That means pretty small and informal, so that the date can be changed some if necessary. Just as a suggestion, would May 23rd make a good tentative date? With the wedding at my house, and friends invited in the best way possible after we are sure of the date?

I would like to get married as early as possible in the leave, so we could go somewhere, anywhere where we can be together, and have as long as possible. Then I expect we would separate for a time until I had made arrangements for you and maybe Grammie to live near wherever I am stationed.

That is about as concrete as we can be for now. These plans leave almost everything up to you, honey. And I know how busy you are, too. But I am very helpless out here at battle training. Don’t know a great deal, and have no place to find out. The two weeks I am with my platoon, I may not even get a chance to write. We are right out in the woods all thru it, with 5 big tanks to keep going and 25 men to keep alive and learning. So I would like to get just as much planning done as possible now.

These things I’ve suggested tonite are completely subject to what you think, Honey. If you can’t get time off, or can see no way to take it, that is a big thing in our way. About all I can say is that I fully expect to have from May 20 to 30 off. Figure a couple days travel time on each end that leaves only 6 days at home. I guess about all I can supply is myself, and at that particular time. You can see what the situation is in Keene. If there is any way you can arrange for to get married in that time, I’m entirely in favor of it, no matter what it is. And if there is anything I can possibly do to help in planning it, just let me know what it is. I feel stuck way off here in the wilderness, and am only guessing as to what is going on in Keene.

We will have a chance to make a play of our own soon, tho, and if we do it looks as tho we will be able to work it so that we can be together for some time. As before, most of the work, and the discomfort in case our plans don’t work out, lays with you. Because you are there where the plans will work out for better or worse. After we are married, I will be able to take the responsibilities and make the plans. That’s the way we want it, so let’s try like everything to make it that way.

Planning a little wedding isn’t so much, when you think of it objectively. Let’s plan it confidently. We can certainly work out something in the time we have. I can get off. Let’s do anything to get you away from duty for a while. That’s all we need to get married. You and I free for just a little while. We can beat everything else easy enough.

I love you very, very much, Honey. We have a lot of living to do. We’ve got a good foundation and good plans for all the future. Let’s get going on it.

Always all yours,

Thursday, April 24, 2008

April 24, 1944 Monday

Dear Honey,

Even here at Battle Training, which is about 20 miles from Fort nox – near Cedar Creek – they have a very nice officers’ club and that is where I’m writing you from tonite. I really feel rather guilty about being such a damned aristocrat. It wouldn’t be possible in a democratic system. All the soldiers live in old quarters and have only a small P.X. – we get a special mess with waiters and all, and this fine club to relax in – plus the inestimable luxury of not having to stand formations – reveille, chow or retreat! I’m beginning to feel like an individual again, but pretty snobbish, too. The army is very unjust.

Today we observed the 5th training battalion on its first day of its two-week bivouac. I will take that bivouac with some platoon of another battalion before I leave here. Good to learn the ropes first.

They have given us all our orders and military records to keep in our own 201 files. Among them was a new transcript of my college grades. They have now given me 6 credits for English 1; I will get 6 R.O.T.C. credits for getting a commission. That leaves only 7 credits necessary to graduate – they have recorded my A.S.T.P. grades which may count someday and there are also a few courses I took “audit” that I might get changed into credits. Altogether, that leaves me very, very close. Perhaps an army course or two would push me over. Then we could start in on bigger things when the war is over.

I guess I’m talking about myself a lot these last letters, Hon, but things are so different that I still feel as tho I was trying to “catch up” with myself. Tell me if I’m boring you.

The arrowhead I found is still in my locker waiting for me to find something to wrap it in – I will get it to you soon, so be patient.

My address has another addition – getting pretty complicated now. Here’s the latest –
Lt. W. Russell, O547328
Attached Officers’ Group 61
Box 192
Battle Trng. Det.
Fort Knox, Ky.

Just beginning to think about my new financial status. After paying all bills, I have $60 in my billfold. I still have a $15.00 valopak to buy, and am still mulling (is it a word?) over buying a pink shirt or maybe a tropical summer outfit. Now I get a base pay of $150 a month plus $21 for rations. Giving me a check of $171. My war bond allotment has been forced up to one bond a month, which is quite a slice -- $18.75. Now I have a lot more expenses, too. Pay for board, big cleaning and pressing bill, officers’ club dues (that is not optional, but an obligation) and a lot of other things I haven’t found out about yet, they say. Have had to buy my own sheets, for instance.

On the whole, tho, there should be a lot more left than before if we keep reasonable.

We can plan on my furlough starting May 20th, knowing there’s no such thing as certainty. That’s awful for you and your job. I can see that. But there’s nothing I can see that can be done to change the date. And I can’t see letting another chance go by without our getting married, Hon. Things are happening too fast. We’re missing too much. I think we can afford to get married now, and that with any reasonable luck we can get to live together for some time. With the right attitude, we couldn’t go wrong, and things would be sure to be better than they are. I miss you too very much.

Now that’s just my side of it, Honey. You seem very concerned about being able to get off at the time my leave will come. Is it absolutely impossible? And what about Grammie – we could consider having her move where we were, since it is not easy to think of leaving her alone. Of course that would depend on where I’m stationed. Perhaps we should aim solely at getting married now at the first chance. Then we can make some more decisions about living arrangements as the situation changes. Please write just exactly what you think about the opportunities between May 20 and June 1 – how much, if any, time you can get off or any other things you can think of. Tell me just what you think, as you always have. I feel it’s time we took things into our own hands for a while and started making our own luck.

These are big times, Honey, and I want to experience them with you. There’s no limit to the things we can do together. We don’t want to sit out all this just waiting. We have too much to do.

I love you forever,

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

April 23, 1944 Sunday

Hello, my Honey,

Lt. Russell now finds a break in the mad rush of official obligations to stop and think of better things. Namely, you. How are you, Bun – hair all dried out from last Friday? Well, I feel I was just lucky to find you home at all. I felt pretty sure of finding somebody home at 23, but I figured you would be at a movie. Was very happy to get you, tho, because I didn’t know what would come up this weekend.

The graduation went off well and was satisfying. Everything was just as it should be, except that I felt more like an onlooker than a graduate because there was noone here I knew or that knew me. A surprising number had relatives or girls down. Naturally that made me lonely for you, and if you had been here it would have been a big day in our list of big days. We’ve got to get together soon, Hon; I get very impatient seeing things like this go by, meaning so little, when they could mean so much if we could have them together.

It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm. We fell out all prettied up at 8:00 and had pictures taken by everybody – for school papers, newspapers, and alumni college papers, etc. Then we marched behind the band to theatre No. 1. We marched in three columns – one on the very left of the road, one in the center and one on the extreme right. That spread us out so it looked like a large group – and to see so many pink pants in perfect step was very thrilling. The exercises were like a college graduation. A lousy speaker included. When we had received our diplomas, the band played marches while we broke and went to all parts of the theatre to have our bars pinned on by mothers and wives and sweethearts. That is where you should have been, Hon. Pat’s wife, Milly, was the only girl I knew, so she pinned mine on. Then we went out and paid a dollar to the first person to salute us. Mine happened to be a soldier driving by in a car, so I saved a dollar. (Leave it to a Yankee, they say, to save his dollar.)

Then back to work. Got about 300 dollars in back pay and paid out most of it for uniforms. And to innumerable collections and knicks for everybody. These tips and contributions went on all day, until it seemed that palm greasing was a Lt.’s chief duty.

Left for battle training at 1:00. All the parents hanging around still made it like the day school lets out. They followed us out to our new quarters – old C.C.C. cabins near Cedar Creek. We were oriented there, and came back in around five and got a free ride to Louisville with nothing more than a longing look.

Then we found out how social life is made easy for officers. Also how the smooth way is paved by tips. The Seelbach was full, but the clerk remembered a room for four when the four Lt.’s – Skofield, Doon, O’Donnell and Russell asked for one. We went to the “Colonial Gardens” for our class party and took over the spot. There was an awful lot of drinking. All our tac officers were high and many of our instructors also. Most of them are Louies, too, and they really let down their hair. Seemed very queer to see the barriers so quickly dropped. I took advantage of the situation to get into a very stimulating talk with Lt. Klee, who is one of the few thinking instructors we had. Along the Mr. Stearns type – tho you won’t like that. We got quite chummy, I met his wife and got a ride back to the hotel. He’s got a lot on the ball – is owner of two retail stores in Chicago. You’d take him for a professor, tho.

Now I have slept and had a good breakfast here at the Seelbach. That’s my career as an officer to date. Officers get much better service from everybody and have a real advantage as far as doing things goes. I am glad I am a Lieutenant, but my military ambition is now satisfied. Promotions from here won’t amount to enough to warrant breaking an arm over. I am content for the duration, and shall spend my time doing my job rather than trying to get to be a general.

My next objective is to marry you, Bunny, and we’ll start on that right away. I understand it is much easier to be a married officer than a married E.M.

Bye, Hon, I love you more than ever and wish very very much you were here now.
All yours,
P.S. Pat’s wife is very anxious for us to marry and for you to live near her in Louisville.

April 23, 1944 Sunday
Dear folks,

Graduation came off on schedule, and was quite an impressive affair. The wife of George Patten, and A.G.R., pinned on my bars in the absence of Marjorie. So now I am a Lieutenant and starting a new career in the army.

We are now still together, not as Class 61 but as Attached Officers’ Group 61 – my complete address is more than I gave over the phone:
Lt. W.A. Russell, O547328
Attached Officers’ Group 61
Battle Training Det.
Fort Knox, Ky.
That’s quite a mouthful for an old C.C.C. camp where the Armored Force basic trainees come for the last two weeks of basic training. The trainees are called “Thunderbolts” from the A.R.T.C. motto – “We forge the thunderbolt.” Looks like we’re in for a rough month, but we’ll learn a lot and that’s what we want now. Seems good not to have to keep bucking for a commission. I probably won’t be more than a 2nd Louie, so now I can just work at doing well at that, and not worrying about advancement.

Had a big weekend in Louisville; we had a class party. Now I am back at camp getting ready for tomorrow. We are going to have a week getting oriented about work here. 20 of us were chosen to take a platoon tomorrow morning! They went alphabetically, so I was glad my name was Russell.

Will see you soon.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

April 20, 1944 Thursday

Good evening, dearest,

We had a good solid day in the field today. Armored infantry problem with a real enemy and a big area to chase him in. Came back and dashed madly into our new extra specials and acted as part of the reviewing party at tonite’s parade. We are a pretty smart looking class in our uniforms – everybody is young and able and on the ball. Too bad all the army isn’t like this class.

Tonite we turned in our G.I. foot lockers, packs, shelter halves and field equipment. Good to be thru with them, but it took me all evening to re-settle after losing my foot locker. Have two trousseaus in stock now, my new and the old.

Tomorrow we turn in more things, listen to three or four farewell lectures and become civilians for a day – on paper. Oh, I saw what my new serial number will be today – O 547328. O fro officer, 5 for 5th service command – that’s as far as I can interpret. Don’t know what will become of old 11083692 – he was a good number.

Bye now, Hon, I hope everything is just as it should be in Westmoreland. I love you like everything.

Yours always,

Saturday, April 19, 2008

April 19, 1944 Wednesday

Hello dearest,

Here we are again with a million things I want to say. Tonite I have almost an hour in which to write so let’s see what I can cover.

First of all, I love you more than ever and am beginning to feel excited at the thought of seeing you soon. Thanks very much for the 25 dollars. It came in plenty of time. Also read and read your letters while we were in the field. We’re awful nice people, don’t you think? To be so close just thru letters.

Now let’s see, let’s get up to date on what I have been doing since Monday when I wrote. The arrowhead I found is in a little black box now, all cleaned up, and I will send it to you as soon as I can. Don’t know what you want of an arrowhead, but just as soon as I found it I knew I’d have to send it to you. It’s kind of a rough old arrowhead, but it’s real. I got a thrill out of it and I hope you will, too.

They kept us going all the time at Hayes School, night and day. Came thru without any ill effects. Three or four men had accidents or got sick, tho. Nobody hurt seriously, but they may not be able to graduate.

Tuesday we had a light tank problem with live ammo and Tuesday night a security problem. Today we saw a large scale armored infantry attack from a high observation post. They had a complete company with supporting artillery all using very real bullets. Whale of a fight! We won. The view of the OP was breathtaking – almost like an aerial photo. You would like it a lot.

We came back to civilization this afternoon and again I appreciated what a great thing civilization is. You don’t know how nice warm water, heated buildings and mattresses are until you go without them a while. We’re in heaven most of the time and don’t even realize it. By the way, this was the coldest weather I have ever bivouacked in. Tom and I rolled in together and kept well above freezing anyway.

From this short but intensive trip I learned that altho I may make a good average officer, this will always be way out of my line. Training helps immensely, but like anything else you have to have a natural leaning toward it to excel in tank work. I learn with practice, but it’s not at all like a duck taking to water. It requires you to make snap judgments and use brief language. I do better at thinking things thru and splurging all over telling about it. Am improving on the first, but it will never be my best way of thinking.

We got back to school to find ourselves now called the “graduating class” in official circles. Tomorrow we will be the reviewing body at the battalion review. We will wear our new uniforms, except for the bars. All very complimentary, we feel. Also we turned in our dog tags tonite, which is an awfully good sign that we are thru as enlisted men. They are the last thing an EM loses.

Tomorrow we have our last field work, Friday we become civilians and Saturday we graduate in Theatre No. 1 at 9:30 a.m. That’s the schedule, looks very good. I have been miserable to my folks again and not written as I should. Haven’t been able to write you as I should, even. I will try to phone them before Saturday to let Ma know “how to picture my graduation” as she says. If your 25 dollars holds up, I will call you, too, I guess, just to hear you some more. Anyway this weekend.

Saturday we are kicked out of here and taken to our home for the next four weeks, address – “Battle Training Det., A.R.T.C., Fort Knox, Ky.” Ah, Lt. Russell, not O/C Russell unless you hear otherwise. There isn’t much I particularly want to do this weekend. Don’t feel like cutting up any large capers, but since I can’t sleep here, I will probably take a room with the boys and look in on our class party at the Colonial Gardens in Louisville. My chief hope is that I can find a good place that’s quiet where I can write to you. You’d be surprised how hard it is to find both a time and a place.

At Battle Training we spend two weeks with “battalion,” so-called, where we have out own platoon of basic trainees on their last two weeks of training – it is a bivouac. Then we have two weeks of some indefinite work that is said to be chiefly observing and critiquing training problems. Either two weeks may come first.

To answer your question about leaves – if anything can be done to put it off for a short time I will do it. But I doubt very much if it can. You see, it’s not a real leave, but a 10-day delay en route to a new assignment. The new assignment will probably start on a definite date. I’ll keep my eyes open tho, and watch for a chance. I get leaves if I am an officer, and furloughs if I’m an enlisted man. Time off by any name is equally valuable to us, tho.

But now, I have to graduate first. Uniforms are the chief headache, with their transportation a second problem. The exercises themselves will be something like a regular college graduation, militaried up with a band. Probably will be a more impressive display than my scheduled UNH graduation would have been. I’d choose the less impressive one tho a thousand times sooner than this. We had an instructor the other day that I felt must be a kindred soul or some such thing – he really tried to get away from grades and nice talk and teach us something. He said, “That’s the trouble with everything. Somebody always trying to impress somebody else.” He saw a difference between how a thing looks and what it actually is.

Since he agrees with me, I think he’s a great guy.

My hour is about up. Been nice to be able to say a little tonite. Maybe we won’t be so rushed from now on. There are lots of other little things I’d like to talk to you about, Honey. Things come into my head, and I say I’ll remember to write that to you. I remember about 1/10 of them when I get to writing on paper. When we are together, tho, we won’t have to postpone the little things. Then we’ll really start to live.

I love you always,

Thursday, April 17, 2008

April 17, 1944 Monday

Dear Hon,

Here’s a few minutes to tell you a little about Hayes School. We are having a rather luxurious bivouac. Pitching pup tents for four men and burning individual fires of pretty red cedar.

During the day we ran a big tank problem using live ammunition against real targets. Very instructive.

My biggest thrill came this noon; we found a new plowed field near our area and some of the boys picked up chipped pieces of flint that suggested Indian work. I investigated, and what do you know – I found a nearly perfect genuine Indian arrowhead. I will send it to you as soon as possible. I guess they are pretty numerous around here, but it made me feel good to find it.

I love you very much, Hon. Have to start out on a night problem now.

Always yours,

Outline of my archaeological remnant

April 16, 1944 Sunday

Dearest Honey,

Well, today we leave for three days at Hayes School. Believe me, we have been pushed the last few days, but it is all for a good purpose now. The end is in sight. We took our last graded exam yesterday, and will finish our work in tactics Wednesday.

Meantime, we don’t even get our usual short weekend. We have been up since early this morning getting ready for Hayes School, and worked late last night preparing a field problem.

Hayes School is a real bivouac. We live in pup tents and it is all tactical. We have problems day and night. One of the objects is to show how little sleep you get in combat, so we have scheduled work for all except about 4 hours a day – between midnight and early morning.

That doesn’t look as tho there will be much time to write, but I am taking stationary and will write every chance I get. After Wednesday I think there will be time to really write you the way I want to.

Meanwhile, you know I love you more than anything or anybody.

All yours,

Friday, April 4, 2008

April 13, 1944 Thursday

Dearest Marjorie,

Well, here I am, Honey. Quite a long period “on duty” since Monday. Big bunch of night scouting and patrolling, light tank problems, medium tank work and stuff. Covered about everything we have studied, and in our spare time we put on two formal reviews with all the fixins. I don’t suppose you’ve ever tried to control a platoon of tanks? I have the last three days and it is not easy. It was all very practical field work—marches, security, attacks and defense positions with the demonstration regiment as enemies. I got killed two or three times a day, on the average.

And tonite we got our uniforms. They are quite nice. Sam made the pants too long, but I guess they will be all right when they have been cleaned a couple of times. It gave me a thrill, too, to sign my honorable discharge from the army. Yes, we will be civilians for about 24 hours between the time we are discharged as enlisted men and signed up as officers. I am trying to figure out a way to have it so that I don’t have to get in again, but I haven’t discovered the method yet. We closed our service records, and I am being “favorably considered” for a good conduct medal! All this was signed tonite, but dated April 21, giving me 1 year and 6 days as an enlisted man.

Finally, we took a big exam in tactics. We still are immersed in maps, and problems. “Actions and orders of Lieutenant 1st platoon” is a phrase that I will never forget. Lieutenant 1st platoon gets into the damnedest messes and they always expect me to get him out.

So, Honey, you can see that big changes are going on. I am still astounded when I forget the problem and look at me standing in the turret of a tank giving orders to four others over the radio. It is still one of the things that doesn’t happen to me. But usually I am too busy to think about that, and I do get a lot of fun out of it. The drivers we have now follow the course we designate, and I’ve been knocking down some of the biggest trees in Kentucky with the medium tanks. They are wonderful. Go anywhere.

Would like to tell you all about the things that happened. This week has been crammed with experiences. One of the ones that pops into my mind is the time my gunner, who controls the radio, flipped the switch from interphone to radio and I found myself broadcasting instructions to the driver of my tank on a range of 40 to 70 miles. I guess everybody got them except the driver. They were good instructions, tho.

Tuesday and Wednesday I didn’t even get to the mail room when it was open. We got back so late. But I got your letters today and your dandy maple sugar. Tastes like home, all right. Thanks very much.

Your surprise week off must have been welcome, anyway. Hope you had a big time, Dear. You know, I think I saw the “Marriage of Figaro” by the same troupe you did when I was in Durham. I am not smart enough to remember the cast, but it is the same opera and the program reads the same. It was when I was a sophomore, I think.

Gee, I have a lot of things to say tonite. Wish I had time to elaborate. How is Grammie now? I asked that Monday, but then I didn’t know about her nose bleed. Hope it was nothing of consequence. Someday we must expect something serious, and I hope like everything I can be with you when it does.

Sometimes life seems pretty complicated! All full of things happening that we don’t have much to say about. A little undemocratic, but like a roller coaster, it’s full of surprises. Can’t help but get a thrill out of it.

If I show signs of forgetting Laura’s birthday on April 21, Hon, will you remind me?

Oh, yes, and while I’m rambling, I might as well do a good job of it and say that my opinion of gangbuster Dewey is not complimentary. He is strictly a party man and supported by every outstanding isolationist in the country. I do not like “party” candidates and isolationists drive me mad. If Wilkie is really out of consideration by any party, I guess my choice will be a democrat. Wallace would be good, but they will insist on Roosevelt and I would choose him at least in preference to any of the possible Republican candidates.

Paper is running out and the lights will be out soon. Goodnite, Bunny. I wish you were here to talk to. I love you much more than a reasonable person should. I’m not at all reasonable about you. Soon I’ll see you and show you how much I love you.


April 10, 1944 Monday

Dear Hon,

Well, here’s a minute to say I love you in. We toured over the greater part of Kentucky this morning and afternoon on a reconnaissance problem. In armored cars and peeps. Kentucky has some very nice countryside. We rode along and waved at pickaninnies between plotting our map position and using the radio. Finally ran into the enemy and got ambushed, but they gave us another chance and we weren’t fooled the next time.

Tonite we are going out on night scouting and patrolling. It is already raining guns so I anticipate a good time! After a while, you get rather a kick out of being uncomfortable. Pleasantly miserable, you know.

Bye now, dear, I love you always,
All yours,

April 9, 1944 Sunday

Dearest Bunny,

The operator must have known that talking to you was just no ordinary affair. She put us together just as fast as she could, even tho it was Easter and everybody, including Tom O’D. and Jim D., had been waiting a long, long time. I came over late, and still we beat all of them. You sounded just the way I hoped you would. I have to check up now and then to see if you talk the way I think of you. You can say so little in five minutes that it really doesn’t matter much what we talk about. I guess I’ve already forgotten most of it; it’s just hearing you that counts, and knowing you’re there. Puts us very close together for a few minutes.

How is Grammie these days? Very fine and cheerful, I hope. And those roses should be as pretty as I hoped they would be, if my picture of Apt. 2 this afternoon is going to be correct. I have been very lucky to find you home every time I have called. I always take a chance and call station-to-station. Usually aim to call about the time of the Philharmonic, because then you are likely to be in. Missed it by a mile or more today, but that is because I was expecting a much longer wait.

We had a little excitement last night. Tom caught a robber. Some guy dressed up as an officer has been stealing purses lately, and last night Tom happened to be awake and saw him come into our own barracks thru the attic. He let him come in, got between him and the door and turned the lights on. The guy started to go but Tom scuffled with him and held on, yelling, “Boys, let’s get ‘im.” It wasn’t long before we had him surrounded and everybody just waiting for him to try to get away. He thought the better of it pretty quick and waited quietly while we got the M.P.’s. They took him away and it looked like we had the fellow on about 4 charges. But today we find that he escaped from the M.P.’s this morning! We done our duty, however.

Don’t be surprised, Honey, if I am not able to write the next two or three days. From Monday thru Wednesday we are in the field all day, and have scouting and patrolling problems every night until midnight. I will write, tho, if the time shows up anywhere.

At least three of us in our section of 33 men are going to get married on our leaves. Candidates McCully, Bay, and Russell. Probably more will join us when the time comes. Bill B. got married one weekend here some time ago. He was my bun-mate at the beginning of the cycle, remember?

Do you know that I love you very much? I do, and I am becoming quite optimistic about doing something about it. I’d give anything to be with you, and that loks quite possible before very long.

One more faint rumor came in today. It is that after battle training we will go to an officer’s replacement pool here at Fort Knox to wait assignments. Understand places like that are nice to loaf in, and I could stand some very heavy loafing for a while. That’s not very definite, tho.

The music on the air was good this afternoon, wasn’t it? I came back to the barracks and listened and slept most of the afternoon. Consequently, I have now a very nice “Sunday” headache. I wonder what causes them.

The quartermaster things that we buy, must be paid for in cash I find. And we buy them before we get our first pay. So will you please refund me from our stores about 25 dollars? If you send it Saturday, it should get here soon enough. Thank you loads, and I promise to send back $25 as soon as they give me $250. Today it looks as tho I may be able to squeeze in that pink shirt, after all. And I am also getting socks, underwear and stuff from the quartermaster. QM things are very inexpensive.

Bye for now. I love you like the dickens. I d, I do.
All yours,

April 9, 1944 Sunday
Dear folks,

This week I’m back on schedule with my writing. Slept real late this morning and then came over to the service club for a late breakfast. Now I’m going to call Marjorie and write in my diary and maybe go to the library for a time.

The 61st class caught a robber last night! Fellows have been losing wallets lately and twice fellows have been wakened by a man in officer’s clothes going thru the barracks late at night. Last night Tom O’Donnell heard him come down to our squad room thru the attic and head towards the bunks of some of our boys. He jumped out of bed, turned on the lights and sounded off. The guy tried to get away but Tom held him and in about 10 seconds we were all out surrounding him. He was a fake officer from the airport, with no kind of story to explain his actions. We turned him over to the M.P.’s, got out our military law books and began to think up charges, only to hear this morning that he escaped from the M.P.’s early this morning! We hope they catch him, but for his own sake, he should not re-visit the 61st class!

Well, two weeks from now, I hope to be an officer. After graduation the schedule calls for four weeks leading basic trainee platoons in their final two weeks of training. Then comes furlough time, when I will return to my native haunts, and haunt you all again.

Happy Easter to everybody. Thanks for your cards, letters and pictures,
Your loving son,

April 7, 1944 Friday

Dear Bunny,

You can see that my stationary has come up in dignity, even if it has lost color. Don’t know what to do with the infinitesimal envelopes that came with it. Paper shortage, maybe.

Some evil first sergeant has put me on guard again this Saturday. Can’t I draw any day but Saturday? It isn’t bad tho. I don’t have anything planned but sleep, and I’m going after a lot of that. Guard only involves an hour of walking, and it gives me time to ponder the woes of the world a little. I suppose they will give us a beer party tomorrow, since I wouldn’t be able to stay for it.

Friday is always a day of surprises—our laundries come back. Usually you get several items that are new and unique. This week I got a beautiful pair of shorts—red, white, and blue shorts. Best yet, tho I have got some real pretty handkerchiefs before.

We are solving enough tactical problems these days to make the invasion of Europe look simple. I go around with rolls of maps covered with hieroglyphics mumbling about double envelopments, covering forces, defenses in depth, etc. Another big battle today. Lost three tanks. Spent 4 hours this morning advancing 1000 yards on a sand table. Thought I was thru and could write more tonite, but they are just passing out another big map and a reconnaissance problem to pass in tomorrow. Here goes Napoleon Russell.

I love you, Bunny, every minute.
Yours always,
P.S. Keep care of your sprained appendage, dear.
P.S. What will Wilkie do now?
Bunches of love,

April 6, 1944 Thursday

Hello, Hon—

Managed to get another $26.00 worth of uniform tonite. Shoes, O.O. shirt, 2 one-piece fatigues. Am beginning to push the 250 dollar mark and I still have my quartermaster things to get. Am getting only required things, too. Had hoped I’d be able to get one thing as a luxury item—like a pink shirt. That’s not required but the pink trouser and shirt combo is real fascinating. And they have those tropical worsted outfits that are just out of this world. However, I probably wouldn’t have much chance to wear such things anyway.

Hope your ailing digit is better by the time you get this. Your writing isn’t half as bad as you make out, Hon. No doubt such things are relative, but relative to mine it’s fine.

I promise to fill my pen before tomorrow night, so help me. [This letter is written in pencil.]

We were in the field all day today, observing a first class, full scale tank-infantry battle. A little tired tonite. That article that came with my uniform was right in that tanks can’t go anywhere. They aren’t intended to. They are designed for use against infantry and automatic weapons. Employed with our own infantry they are pretty effective in my biased opinion.

I love you, you know,

April 5, 1944 Wednesday

Dearest Bunny,

Another big day today. Have been table waiter the last three days and tonite we had a review on top of it. With platoon flags and flashy drum corps, all O.C.S. classes took part. We have another tomorrow, too. However, I got over to the P.X. and accomplished my main mission concerning you and Easter. Was going to get some more uniform but wasn’t able to.

Your intuition wasn’t as completely hay-wire as you might think. I came very close to calling you last Sunday. We were slower getting going than I had thought we’d be, and the time never came. Hope I didn’t disappoint you too much, Hon.

Would like to discuss at length our plans for the immediate future. It looks very promising. But actually I know very little more about it than I did when I first got here. I may graduate if I can hit a tactics exam or two, I will probably go to battle training for from 3 weeks to 5 weeks. And then I should get a leave of 10 days. If I go to a station other than Ft. Knox it will be plus travel time. If it is at Ft. Knox, 10 days only.

Now what can we do with that? What is your schedule? When is your vacation exactly? When does school let out, and KTC or Plymouth TC begin? The main thing is to make it so we can be together the whole of the leave. When I get to battle training we can start wheels going again on licenses, announcements, blood tests, et al. We’ll be old hands at that. Then we can get married as early as possible in the leave, go somewhere and be very, very much together just as long as we can. If we can do that, that’s all I want.

It would be very nice if you could come down for our graduation, but that’s not practical, so we won’t consider it unless things turn out to be very auspicious. I have a yearning to be impractical, anyway. However, that would dig rather deep into our nest egg—is that what you call it?—for the short time we could be together. I would like you to see Louisville sometime; I have dreamed of you so much there. Maybe at the start of my leave we could meet there. That will depend on the situation, so we’ll just be ready to make snap decisions as things turn up and take advantage of all opportunities. We want to get married and be together as long as possible over the leave, so we will decide at the time how best to do this.

I enclose an invitation or two to the graduation. Like our wedding announcements, we know that this may or may not be valid. If it isn’t we can start a good collection of false evidence. Looks nice, tho, doesn’t it?

I love you so much, Honey, and hope we can always share our lives together. Nice that way, isn’t it?

Bye for now, every bit of my love,

April 4, 1944 Tuesday

Dear Marjorie,

Your package came today, and everything was in fine condition. Thank you very much. Don’t know how all those notes got into my trousers. Don’t remember putting them there. Made me feel at home, tho.

I really goofed off on a tactics exam this morning. Didn’t know a thing on it! We’ll see how far my guessing ability takes me. Drove home the fact that there are still 3 very full weeks before we graduate, and that tactics will require study the same as anything else.

Today we had our first experience on the school’s big “Haskard Map.” A gigantic landscape to run tactical problems on. Something like inside the perisphere. You look down on the map from upstairs. As the instructor talks, assistants, unseen under the board, run tanks around on the map with magnets I guess, and make puffs of smoke and sound effects and such. Extremely realistic and perfect to practice tactics on. We each have a desk, binoculars, a map of the board itself, oral order blanks and radio net hook-ups so we can act as platoons on the same net and give orders as we watch our own tanks moving along below us.

Will lock the door after the horse is stolen and study tonite, and maybe even write a letter home. I feel very lax because I haven’t written home in over a week.

Gee, I love you Honey, more than you can ever guess.
All yours,

April 4, 1944 Tuesday
Dear folks,

You must think I have forgotten you-all. I definitely haven’t, and I hang my head in mortal shame for not writing. Haven’t been busier than usual, but the time when I usually write (Sunday p.m.) has been taken up the last two weeks and there never seems to be a good substitute time.

We went to be measured for uniforms a week ago, and I went to Louisville this last weekend. All is well here. I am swimming thru tactics and feeling like Eisenhower. The instructors do not agree with me on that score, however, and I am getting my lowest grades to date. Much fun, tho, like playing cowboys or chess. A little of each, I guess.

Those pictures of Carlton were great. Laura sent me some of her masterpieces, too. She’s really good.

Doesn’t spring ever come in New Hampshire? Every letter I get warns me not to believe any reports I have about good weather there.

Will write more next Sunday. Happy Easter to everybody.
Love, Wallace

Thursday, April 3, 2008

April 3, 1944 Monday

Dearest Honey,

Our weekend in Louisville proved to be a long affair, because we stayed over to go to a movie Sunday p.m. and didn’t get back to camp until nearly lights out. That is why I didn’t write. I am sorry I didn’t, Bunny.

It was a good weekend, tho, with a good bunch—Tom, Herm S., Jim D., Aus, and Pat H. We rode in with my bunk-mate Braley and hired a suite at the Seelbach. Had a monstrous dinner in a private little cove of the French Village. T-bone steak, shrimp cocktail, martinis (which greatly resemble hair tonic, I found) and lots else. Then we split up some, but we sifted up to a new place the Elks have at the Henry Clay Hotel eventually. I played billiards for the first time. It is very interesting and exasperating too, I bet. We had some highballs during the evening, but not too many. Even Frankie Brown had one, and you would have to know him to appreciate the fact. Then back to the suite and to sleep very soundly until noon on Sunday. Wonderful beds at the Seelbach. We had another good meal, went to a long movie and came back around 9:30.

The change is the main thing. It’s very good not to be a G.I. for a while. I think of you more in Louisville than here even. It’s fun with the fellows, but we could have so much better times together—just you and me. We could do much the same things, but they would be completely different. Yes, we must be married the very first minute we can, and that won’t be too long, either. By the way, you mentioned a few letters back that you had some complications to get eliminated. Don’t know what they are yet, but maybe you’re just holding out because I promised a long letter over a week ago and never have written it. Well, mine has simmered down to the fact that I want to marry you right away. How are yours making out?

I hope your hand allowed you to work on your coat, so you can have it ready for Easter. I remember once you got a whole new set of things all in blue for Easter. I can remember them just as plain as can be. You were on the high school steps first time I saw you in them.

Well, we have just three more exams in tactics and the end will be at hand. On of them is first thing tomorrow. Am going to cram for it now.

I love you, Darling,