Wallace's Tent on Salisbury Plain

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

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

May 31, 1944 Wednesday

Dearest Honey,

Somehow it seems funny to be writing to you again. I still feel as tho you were close enough to talk to. And I hope you will be soon, because I do miss you very much. It helps a lot to know we’re married, but still can’t feel quite right with you away.

Well, I’ve been running around all day signing things. Tonite at 10:30 the train leaves for Texas. Our class is being split among Camp Cook, Calif., Camp Chaffee, Arkansas, Camp Polk, Louisiana, and Camp Barkeley, Texas. Except maybe for Chaffee, I’ve drawn the best one. Tom is going there, too, and also Bill Sayre – who got married when we did. He brought his wife back with him, and now they are going to Barkeley together. I have talked with him, ad we will hunt for quarters together. He suggested that together we might rent a small house and split it between us. Might do it if the house divided easily into two parts. They are nice people, but not quite the kind that would be our best friends, I think. A little too flowery and keep-up-with-the-Jones-y. Like music, tho.

Barkeley isn’t as well located as Knox for cultural advantages, but I hear it is less crowded and that Abilene is a pretty city. I’ll get busy as soon as I get there and we’ll have the best place in town! We can learn from Sayre’s experience and spare you breaking into a new place. It may not be any longer than we had planned, so go on as scheduled with your work – but keep flexible. We’re doing all right, when, a change of a thousand miles doesn’t have any serious influence on our plans! I love you, honey. Always more and more. Everything seems so good when I look at my ring. “There’s half of you, Russ,” I say to myself.

This afternoon I took a nap and caught up on sleep. When I woke up I laid still and caught up on my thoughts. Have to stop every now and then and digest the new things that have happened. No denying I have never felt so satisfied over anything as our marriage. Still purr when I think about it. Tom says I’m smug about it – but I think he’s jealous!

I got a lifetime of things to remember from our honeymoon – did you? Wish we could have had another week to spend in places like the Library court yard. We still have some things to talk over, and those are the places that bring them to mind. Just got a few things I have always said to myself that I must say to you. Very definite things that may explain why I want to do the things we are planning later on.

If you’ll excuse me now, I’ll get some more rest before setting out for Texas. I love you so much that you’re never out of my thoughts all the way. I’ll write very soon.

All my love,

Oh, Mrs. Russell – a letter to the 12th Armored Div., Camp Barkeley, Texas, would reach me sooner or later.

May 23, 1944 Tuesday

[Wallace A. Russell and Marjorie A. Nelson were married in Keene, New Hampshire at the Second Congregational Church.]

Friday, May 16, 2008

May 15, 1944 Monday

Hello my honey,

Will you marry me say 196 hrs. from now? If you can’t make that, maybe 198 ½? That’s practically right now, isn’t it – compared to the times we have waiting. This time I feel very confident that everything will work our O.K., in fact I feel very smug about it – don’t give a damn about anybody.

This is a wonderful bivouac, or maybe I’ve got spring fever. It hasn’t rained at all and everything is smooth. My platoon is now strictly in the groove on morale and discipline. Have just 2 men that continually pity themselves and they are on sick call today. I hope they stay there; they are my only problems. Just old men that cannot adjust to the army. I suppose they feel sick, but there is nothing physically wrong with them.

All the time I think about our wedding plans, but actually know very little about them. Wonder if my imagination is right. Close enough, I guess. Gee, I feel good and love you most to death!

Ken E. is out here with a training battalion now, acting as executive officer. Just had a long talk with him. His marriage went over fine and he is very happy. Here’s an idea he gave me. I don’t know what Dr. Holmes has done about my blood test or needed physical, but it is just possible that this official looking document from my 201 file will impress him into signing. Ken says it has worked. If it does it might smooth the way some when I get home. You might have the license and things.

This morning I have sent my men out on two details for the engineering dept. So I have nothing to do but sit here in my peep with Ken E. He’s reading a mystery story. You see, married men never write their wives. I hear you say something to the effect that I am sadly mistaken if I believe that. Well, I don’t believe it for us, anyway.

Yesterday I was in charge of the whole company almost all day. The C.O. left in the early afternoon, putting me on as O.D. – I stayed on up until midnite last night. Made very few weighty decisions, tho.

One of my minor worries is about getting my uniform out of the cleaners. I sent a lot of stuff and must arrange to get it before I leave on Saturday. Can handle it, tho, one way or another. We get off Friday night. Khaki’s are in order here, but not in the New England area. So I can wear about what I want, I imagine. Somewhere along my way home I’ll let you know when I will arrive. Expect it will be Sunday evening, early. Just next Sunday!

Today we are on the first leg of a 36-hour problem without sleep. I am not too worried, tho, I have been going without sleep so much out here. I make it up by getting easy spells during the day. Like this. Tonite we have a dismounted march, a mounted march and a platoon problem. Then tomorrow’s work before going on as O.D., until midnite on Tuesday. Whee! May not get a chance to write you again before I see you.

Have I any last minute messages? Love you like everything and am just bursting to get on my way. It’s a great life – we’ll ne so nice together. We’ll show them what marriage should be like.

Yours with all my love,

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

May 14, 1944 Sunday

Dear folks,

‘Ere long I’ll be up in your country, and will see you just as much as I can and still accomplish my mission, namely, matrimony. I have things all planned and should have a couple or three days at home.

This bivouac is a big improvement over our Georgia adventure. Have been out here over a week and it hasn’t rained yet – ideal weather. Being an officer is an interesting experience – lot of advantages, many headaches. Main thing is you aren’t under the regimentation you are as an enlisted man – I keep unauthorized material in my tent, use a mattress cover as a sleeping bag, let an “apple polisher” clean my mess kit and such. My recon platoon offers a lot of work for a prospective psychologist.

Will see you soon and find out
1. How Pa likes his job
2. How tough old Russ is (and his future)
3. What Ma thinks about the war
4. How smart Carl is

Be prepared on all these subjects, and also be able to orient me on my own wedding. You probably know more about it than I do.


P.S. Gosh, look how military I’m getting – the list, the order – oh my!

[No date]

Hello Hon –

Am going on Battalion in about 2 hours, but got to write about something in this. Here is the sealed report of my blood test, only Dr. Holmes can open it. I don’t hardly think that he will complete the thing without me, but you might act as tho you expected him to and get away with it. The people at the Hospital looked up all the NH laws and decided this was all we could do here.

Also here is a ticket on Stir-Up to win the Derby – he let me down. Very pretty horse, tho.

I know how much work you will be doing, Hon, and will be thinking of you every minute. Please try not to worry about anything at all – we’ll fix anything. I love you more that I thought I could.

All yours,

May 13, 1944 Saturday

Morning Honey,

The weather is still dry and so far this has been a very easy bivouac. Not much sleep nights, but enjoyable work. Every night I arrange for our bivouac security, lead all the tanks into position and send out patrols. My platoon has had three battles with the Nazis, not counting bivouac raids. We have some thru with one man only going to the pokey – he went with the C.O. Some of my old men’s bones are creaking but they work as hard as they can.

I got two of your letters last night and am perfectly satisfied with the way things are working out. Just a week now and I’ll be on my way. I can hardly believe it yet, seems too good to be real. But I’ll be there, sure ‘nough.

It’s unbecoming of an officer to ask for money, but if you get this in time can you send me $15 to back me up on the way home? I have spent wildly since I got my commission, just seemed to slip away. It won’t go so easy from now on, Hon, so don’t give me up yet.

Won’t it be nice just to relax together without any secrecy? I believe I’ll take you up on going to sleep the first thing. I got about 45 minutes last night, but am amazed at how good I feel. Everything is rosy, hon, I keep saying to myself – “You never had it so good.”

All my love,

Friday, May 9, 2008

May 9, 1944 Tuesday

Ha, Ha, Hello,

You didn’t think I’d write today, did you? I find that being in charge of a unit offers a little spare time during the day. My platoon is on a “field engineering problem” today. That is, they are policing an old bivouac area for “C” ration cans. Nothing on schedule for Recon today, so –

Of course, I can’t work myself at this, so I organize the endeavor and follow along in my peep to see that all goes well. Now I am writing you from “Quibble,” my peep, clip board on steering wheel is my desk.

At night I am busy, tho. Officers meetings, reports, maintenance, security. Never get to sleep very long at a time before my runner wakes me up and says somebody wants to see me. Last night the Nazis captured almost all the big shots in the company. Company commander, Executive officer, 1st sergeant, almost all the C.P. – the recon platoon was well protected, all we lost was our runner who was at the C.P. – they’re all up in the pokey now for eight hours! Tonite we’ll hear what the Company Commander, 1st Lt. Bruderlind has to say. No doubt it will be plenty, and we’ll all be on guard all night from now on. He’s a good man, tho, reminds me of Al Greenwood.

What’s the latest on Bob and the service? Is he going to be here for our anticipated nuptials? Rather good line, anticipated nuptials. Is it nooptials or nup-shalls? Anyway, I like it. Never did get to try on the wedding ring we finally got for me, did I? It’s a theoretical fit, and I don’t think I’ve grown any.

Looks like it will be just the opposite from what we anticipated on mail. I don’t see how any mail will get thru to me, but I have it fixed with a guy to mail mine. The trainees get mail from the Post, but I have no address there. None comes from B.T. yet. I sit here and think of the things you must be doing – hope it leaves you some time to sleep.

See you soon – isn’t that a good way to end a letter, when it’s so?


Thursday, May 8, 2008

May 8, 1944 Saturday

Hello, Hon,

Here I am, writing from the relatively civilized movie barracks. My recon platoon is seeing a picture on scouting I have seen many times.

How are you? Everything in order, I hope. I’m much more interested in what you’re doing than what I’m doing.

Had a busy day yesterday. As soon as I arrived at the area they put me in charge of the maintenance platoon and the Recon platoon. My recon platoon is in sad shape – only 12 men with 2 peeps and a half track. The maintenance platoon has three half tracks and about 20 men. These last kept me busy yesterday. Then I became Officer of the Day (O.D.) and spent most of last night inspecting the guards and all. Today I have only to march the men to class and keep a guard on our vehicles. Got some sleep, but the ground was clean but cold.

Well, I saw the Kentucky Derby as you know. Just like the pictures. Then I called you from a restaurant in Louisville. Tom and I got a table next to the phone and ordered dinner while it came thru. Only took a little while.

Gee, I love you, Honey, and in only two weeks we’ll be together. Seems like a long time because the bivouac looks so big. I’ll learn a lot about being a lieutenant. My thunderbolts look to me for everything. There are so many little details that come up – like relieving guards. Suppose I should forget where I left a certain guard – he might stay in one place unrelieved for years! I won’t forget, tho. I love you just as much as ever – even more out here in the woods.

Always yours,

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

May 4, 1944 Thursday

Dear Hon,

Here’s a new brand of bad taste, but I swear it is all I can get at the P.X. Case of necessity, not choice. Wish they would leave some space to write in. What kind of a plane is it? (Close to a B-25) What model tank? (Ha, ha, M4)

That concludes today’s quiz. Some more news came in today on our future. Fun to watch things work out day by day, isn’t it? Got my bivouac assignment today. They were assigned alphabetically and I find myself at the head of a reconnaissance platoon. That is both good and bad. For our immediate future, it is good. They say that the recon outfit is an easy job, so I may end up in better condition. I was anticipating really getting my teeth into the meat of leading a tank platoon, tho. Here I will have a half track and two peeps, I believe. That’s not a recon platoon according to the book, but what they have here. My duties will be to run reconnaissance problems, go ahead of the company and scout out bivouac sites, keep everybody from getting lost, and do most of the jobs nobody else has to do. Will satisfy my recent dream of putting around in a peep and looking official, tho. The heart-rending job of tank maintenance and recovery will not be mine. Some say the RCN platoon contains most of the company’s illiterates, which I hope is not true. The schedule for the platoon is not full; they do not have problems every day. On the off days we do our own company work.

We will have the 18th battalion, which is currently rumored to be all black and to contain all the Fort’s illiterates. Don’t see how they can both be true. Anyway, that leaves me with the illiteratest of the illiterates. Well, Binet and Simon did all right with feeble minded people to work with.

Tonite I took my blouse, not the R.O.T.C. one, a pair of pinks, summer khakis and assorted shirts and ties to the cleaners. Theoretically I will next wear the blouse when we get married. I will also sort out what things I’ll take home and what things I will mail to the Fort to my A.R.T.C. address. Then when I come off the bivouac on May 19, I will be all set to leave immediately. Just think, by this Saturday I will be all ready to get married. Then for two weeks of the primitive life. After that, we’ll be together. I’m very happy with the world. Great place, isn’t it?

It’s raining as tho its heart would break today and tonite. Trainees got all muddy and their morale was next to zero, so I spent most of my critiques trying to cheer them up. Developed quite a little song and dance that should have left them raring to go. They react very easily. Come up so glum and cold and wet. I built a big fire for them to stand around while I critiqued their problems, told them how good they were and told an old story or two to illustrate in a funny way why they have to go thru the discomfort of maneuvers.

The old men are hardest. Their bones just creak crawling in and out of tanks all day – and they are so beat by the army system. They act like whipped dogs. I think it’s because they don’t get treated with the respect they used to – no traineed does – and they can’t find a way to get used to it. A decent word or two to them helps, and if you can find time to talk about their civilian jobs they relax a lot. Then you can slide right into the problem at hand and they think about it as a man should, not like a scared trainee.

By the way, I had an assistant today – Private Brosnahan from South Dakota. Had point one, where I played the part of a machine gun and Private Brosnahan took a rifle and fired blanks at the side of the tanks. Great team we had. He’s the man who cleans the rifle at the end of the day, bless his soul.

Aunt Flossie sent me a card for being a Louie. I answered it yesterday and let her know that we would be glad to receive any information she could give us as a result of Alden’s furlough wedding. Should pave the way if you want to enlist her on our wedding projects as before. She’s good at that kind of stuff.

Last Monday there was a picture of the UNH men that got commissions here, in the Manchester Union. That is the remnant of 50 infantry juniors who studied together when we left for Wheeler. We’ve had some great experiences together. I’d like a copy of the picture very much, if you see an old Union laying around. Maybe my mother can find one from some of her friends.

This would be a good night for one of those walks in the rain. We would need some good raincoats, tho, and we’d have to avoid where the tanks have been or go over our heads in mud. So let’s have it be along a good sidewalk somewhere. We’ll just stroll along as if we didn’t know it was raining. Be nice when we get back, too, warm and snug. Maybe some coffee (or tea, if you must) before we go to bed. Some ripe olives, too, even if they are out of order with coffee.

‘Nite now,
I love you always,

Sunday, May 4, 2008

May 3, 1944 Wednesday

Dear Bunny,

I’m improving. Tonite I have my pen with me, only it is empty. Soon I will get pen, ink, and paper all together at once. Can you read this? If you can, I admire you more than ever.

Moved to another new point today and instructed on the tactics of tanks crossing a defended ford. We have a groups of non-coms out here getting ready to ship out, and I did feel erudite lecturing to 30- and 40-year-old staff sergeants and such. They work the problem, then I push the model tanks around on a sand table, showing where they should go. You get a cross-section of the country taking basic, all right. A good way to wake them up is to ask a question and then ask for a man from, say, Minnesota to answer it. You’d be surprised how often you find a man from the state you mention. He seems pleased to think of his home state and everybody gets a kick out of it. Pretty soon they start volunteering in order to get their state into the discussion. Works very well, and is interesting to people from Florida, Maine, California, and Joisey all in the same outfit. Everything from Ph.D.s to kids that are still hoping for a high school diploma, too. They try very hard, too, and are easy to talk to. Far from dumb.

A New York City tailor now working at driving a medium tank looks homesick as hell and tells how his wife wants to know if he really sleeps on the ground. “If she only knew” he says breaking into his C rations.

A kid from Virginia wants to know if graduating from high school wasn’t just about the biggest moment in my life. I told him it was.

There’s the operator who says “Lieutenant, we’ve learned more here than at any other point. It must be a difficult one to teach. Would you want to swap your sandwiches for a C ration?” No.

Also the slick 35-year-old Florida man who goofs up his problem and like a well oiled lawyer talks his way out of it at the critique – “I assumed that your emplacement was meant to be at a greater range than it actually is, so I used H.E.”

And nationalities – accents are everywhere – Mexican, Swede (very thick accent, so I had him talk a lot, wonderful to hear), Italian, English, and all the U.S. accents. “I’m from Texas. We declared war the same time the U.S. did.” An Austrian smuggled some food in and comes out with black bread, figs, and salami instead of C rations!

I get a tremendous lift out of it. Then I feel like a heel again and leave at 4:30. They get ready to pitch pup tents and I come back and have cold beer with Tom, and shower and get my mail. Then I’m so comfortable I almost forget about what a racket this officer business is. About the filthy rifle I fired all day that I left for some enlisted man to clean, for example. May be silly, but it makes you wonder if you’re doing anything to rate such a preference. These men are almost thru basic, and will ship out soon. Consequently, I do try to show them some things they must know. Lot of practical things they don’t know.

Well, anyway, the next couple of weeks I won’t get anything the men on bivouac don’t get. Then I can complain about how uncomfortable it is. That’s always fun.

It’s rumored that Battle Training will close down in three weeks – that’s when I leave, of course, but I don’t mean to intimate the two are connected. They will use this area for maneuvers, and the regular A.R.T.C. officers will come out with the men they have been with for 15 weeks. Personalize training – that’s a good thing. Maybe basic won’t make the trainee feel he’s being run thru a mill.

Lt. Sayre has the location before mine. Every now and then he sends a message by a trainee, telling me to stop thinking about getting married and get on the ball. This burns me up, because he’s getting married, too, and I don’t get a chance to return the messages. All the trainees work in the other direction. When a problem goes wrong, tho, I blame it on him because he orients the men on my problem.

Found out today that in all probability I will get Sat. p.m. off to get a blood test in. Aren’t I wonderful? How are you doing with the minister, church, gown, invitation, test, etc., etc. – I’m sorry, Bunny, that I can’t do my share of the work now. Did get my train reservations for May 20th.

I love you out of all reason, Hon, and look forward to our week together more than anything I ever have,

All yours, always,

May 2, 1944 Tuesday

Hello Bunny,

Your real honest-to-goodness Sunday letter came today. I was very glad to get it. Clears up things a lot to see what you are thinking about these things. Now we can coordinate.

My leave will start on May 20 and I will get home Sunday night or Monday, not sure which. Now I will probably have to start back here on the 28th – that’s Sunday following, or maybe early Monday. So that amounts to about one full week at home. If you can get off for that, it should do very well. That would let you be back by Memorial Day.

If it’s a church wedding you want, let’s have one by all means. I thought it would be a lot more work and all. If it is possible, however, let’s do it. You can’t scare a tanker! Much.

On the blood test, I know N.H. is comparatively strict. However they have a whole section at the station hospital set up for pre-marital blood tests. The doctor here at Battle Trng. says that a test there is good in any state that requires one, for the length of time that the state has for its own tests. That would be 30 days for us. They have regular forms for it and it looks very official. I’ll keep in mind about getting an N.H. registered man, tho. I have the doctor filling out and signing the form now and will do everything to get to Camp before 5 p.m. this week to have the test taken.

The license plans you mention look very simple and effective!

In view of the fact that you will need to be back to start school on May 29, we would save travel time by going to Boston. I prefer whatever you say on that. The Bradford it will be. Can you make the reservation, OK?

Noon wedding, midnite weding or before breakfast is all the same to me, Hon.

One of the things I have learned recently is just how little I know about psychology. I never really have studied it, but these last months there has been a lot of chance to observe people. There is a great deal to know – they are all so complex. I imagine I would want to be with you always even if we hadn’t been forced apart. That emphasizes it tho, no doubt.

We can talk over all about summer school sometime when I am home. That’s in the next phase, so well get thru this one first.

You know that starting next Sunday I will be on a 2-week bivouac in charge of a platoon. I won’t get mail, and won’t write any, they tell me. So if there is a big silence from me the two weeks before we get married, don’t be at all disturbed by it. I will certainly let you know if anything comes up to interfere with our plans. And we’ll try to cover everything between now and this Sunday.

I will plan to call you this Saturday night, May 6, at 11 Court St., and we can see what the score is then. I will do everything to get that blood test and get my things ready to move out the minute I come off the bivouac.

If I turn up with a blood test and a big kiss (maybe two, or even more), can you see about the other things? Big order, but I hope you can do it. Let me know what else there is for me to do, too, if you can think of a thing I can do. Gee, they better not induct Bob before then, or we’ll be short a best man! We can pick up some guy off the street if necessary, tho.

My passionate pleas to trainees today totaled some four hours of actual speaking time, and I’m hoarse – there was a big wind (don’t say that was me, please) to talk over. I can still croak I love you, and mean it very much, Bunny.

Yours forever,

Thursday, May 1, 2008

May 1, 1944 Monday

Hello Honey,

Well, I was Queen of the May today and knocked the 5th battalion dead with my lectures on ammunition and position for tanks. Brought the house down with my punch line – “For a tanker, position is everything in life.” Went over all twenty times I gave it. Got a little tired of it myself, tho.

Tonite Tom and I went to Post and finally got a valopak and some other very important items – a mirror (haven’t seen myself well for a week now) and a clipboard to help me look official. Tomorrow I will be an anti-tank gun at point four.

Today I got $51 in pay for just the last ten days. Spent $16.01 for the valopak. Called about reservations on the Jeffersonian from here to N.Y.C. on May 20. Will know about them in a couple of days. Most of the N.H. men are going home that way, so I guess it will be best.

Got back here by 10 p.m. and jotting this down before I go to bed. Wore my pinks with all the nice little notes in them tonite. I leave them there and take them out when my morale is low. I love you very, very much.

All yours,