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“We Rest Here” April 18, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Exercise & Fitness, Humor, People.
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Dad enlisted in the Army and reported for duty on June 27, 1946, at age 18.

His enlistment, at the end of his first year at Northeastern University, coincided with the end of World War II, just before the Korean War.

On August 17th, dad got paid for the month of August ~ $71.78 after all deductions taken out.  He sent a $50 money order home for safe keeping:

“The physical training is getting more difficult, but as we are getting used to it we don’t get any more tired than we did the first few weeks. Yesterday, the mile that we run after each physical training period was not alternated with periods of walking.  We double timed all the way.”

“You asked how my score on the rifle compared with the others.  I would say that approximately 15-20% of the company made expert, however there may not have been quite that many.”

On August 22nd, he wrote Margaret:

“The weather here has started to cool off nights.  One army blanket is hardly enough to keep you warm.  We have two if we want them.  It’s a lot nicer sleeping here than at home ~ it is the days that make it uncomfortable.

“This afternoon we hiked 3 miles with 50 pound packs, which included blanket, gas mask, rifle, bayonet, raincoat, mess gear, steel helmet, etc.  Also tents.  When we arrived, we pitched tents, dug water drain around them, took them down, and marched back.  It was just practice in preparation for next week.  We camp out overnight then.”

“Perhaps you and some of the others would like to know what “Alabama” means.  It is the Indian word for “We rest here.”  Pretty good!”

On August 25th, he reported on firing the Browning Automatic rifle:  “It is the type of weapon that most countries call a light machine gun.  I got 67 out of 80 which qualifies me as a sharpshooter.  I needed 70 to get expert. The officers told us that the majority of the company didn’t qualify, that is they got less than 50.”

In the same letter, he shared an interesting anecdote:

“We have one fellow in our company that was in Europe during the war.  He was born of American parents in France.  During the war, he was a spy in the French underground.  With forged papers, he went through Germany and Austria, collected information and sent it to American authorities in England.  He said he sneaked through the German lines 7 times.  He is pretty much of an expert with an automatic because he carried one with him all the time.  That must have been an exciting life for a fellow of only 15 or 16.  The reason he was picked for the job was that he could speak German without an accent.”

As basic training wound to a close, he continued to tease his younger sister Marjorie about being a poor correspondent:

“By the way, isn’t it about time you wrote.  I don’t think that I like your postscripts to Daddy’s letters.  They aren’t very complimentary.  Now you know that I wouldn’t write anything like that to you.  You had better write a good letter back if you know what’s good for you.  Can’t you think of a better signature than Stinky.”

In a letter dated September 2nd, he filled his dad in on the next leg of his journey:

“We have only 32 hours of training left now.  all the hard work is over. Everyone is beginning to spend a lot of time thinking about going home.  The first of us are supposed to leave in about a week.  Don’t be too surprised if after I am home I have to report out west and get shipped to the Pacific.  I think a lot of us are going in that direction.”

“Yesterday when I got off K.P. I found a package waiting for me.  The cookies arrived in good condition.  Tell whoever cooked them that they did an excellent job.  Was it Margaret or Marjorie?  If Marjorie cooked them maybe you had better say that they were just fair.”

Two days later, he sent a follow up letter:

“Today we had a little information given to us in regard to our “delay in route.”  Most of the company, including myself, is going to the west coast probably to be shipped overseas.  They give us a ticket to Cincinnati and a ticket from Cincinnati to our [ordered] destination. When we reach Cincinnati, each of us will buy a round trip ticket home. From this you will probably see why it is called a “delay in route.”

“There are only 2 1/2 more days of basic left.  Tomorrow we fire the 30 caliber machine guns and the 60 millimeter mortars.  This morning we practiced throwing hand grenades.  Saturday it is all over.  We have graduation, parade, and are given our diplomas or whatever you want to call them.”

“The other day we had 4 hours of classes in how to stop riots and house to house fighting.  They even had a platoon cause a riot while our platoon moved in on them in wedge formation, with fixed bayonets and gas masks.  We even threw some mild gas grenades at them.  A lot of fun for us, not them.”

On September 9th, he wrote his last letters home:

“We are really getting ready to leave here now.  We are handing in all the equipment that they gave to us.  Our rifles were just taken.  The only things that we have left are our bayonets and foot lockers. Yesterday, we turned in our packs, tents, rifle slings, entrenching tools, etc.  Did Aunt Pete tell you about my writing to her and saying that I am earning $82.50 a week plus room and board.  This is mostly on account of the G. I. Bill ~ the amount they will pay toward college.”

“This Friday I leave here for home.  I expect to get home Sunday.  I will have to leave in time to get to Camp Stoneham California on September 30th.  Camp Stoneham is an overseas replacement depot.  I am pretty sure to be sent to the Pacific.”

After basic training ended, dad received a furlough and headed north to Vermont for a short visit.  

_0001 (2b)

Aah . . . that’s better!

To be continued . . . Over Hill, Over Dale, Over Seas

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Comments»

1. suzicate - April 18, 2014

I know I already said this, but wow what a treasure for you to be able to read the “ordinary” days of an extraordinary time in your dad’s life.

nrhatch - April 18, 2014

I’ve enjoyed hearing about life then ~ the low relative rate of pay vs. today’s dollars, the early rises, the weather’s impact on the trainees, his teasing of his sister, his success on the firing range.

I’m going to share some of his letters from Korea too . . . but only one day a week. We’ll resume regular programming tomorrow.

2. katecrimmins - April 18, 2014

This is a great story. I am surprised you tagged it humor. It is so much more than humor.

nrhatch - April 18, 2014

I agree. But what I enjoyed the most was seeing dad’s sense of humor peeking through the long hot days and the short, short nights!

katecrimmins - April 18, 2014

What I loved was his sense of adventure. There was no whining. If anything, he kept implying that it wasn’t so bad. Not sure if the kids today can do that without major whining. Will there be more?

nrhatch - April 18, 2014

I agree. Not sure that I could do what he did without major whining.

There will be more. Starting Monday are his adventures in Korea. I’ll post them once a week on Mondays, with regular programming in between.

3. Pix Under the Oaks - April 18, 2014

I really enjoyed this Nancy. Makes me want to go down and get Dad’s letters again and read them.

nrhatch - April 18, 2014

Oh, good. I bet you’ll enjoy re-visiting your dad’s letters.

4. Don - April 18, 2014

Quite fascinating Nancy. Correspondence like this is extremely precious, especially from one so close to you.

nrhatch - April 18, 2014

I found the personal aspects interesting ~ a window into dad’s past. But I also found the more global perspective interesting as well ~ what it was like to go through basic training, being on the rifle range, getting up for KP, how much/little they got paid, etc.

Glad you enjoyed. Starting on Monday, I’ll have once a week posts about dad’s time in Korea.

Don - April 18, 2014

Look forward to that.

nrhatch - April 18, 2014

Yay! Glad you’re enjoying this series.

5. Booksphotographsandartwork - April 18, 2014

I didn’t realize it until I read Kate’s comment but what makes these letters so interesting is the lack of complaining. He is taking it like a man and just writing what is. Living it. I fear that today we are raising a lot of whiny boys. They aren’t allowed to be rough, to work things out for themselves. To think, to create or solve problems. Too many rules in school. No creative outside play. Etc.

nrhatch - April 18, 2014

They called dad’s generation “the greatest generation” for a reason ~> they accepted full responsibility for their actions and the consequences of those actions. They didn’t look around for a scapegoat when things didn’t go “according to Hoyle.”

My dad knew that he had chosen to enter the military for the GI benefits he needed to afford to go to college. Since enlisting was HIS choice, he accepted the “what is” (both positives and negatives) without whining or complaining. Very ZEN of him!

What I notice most about younger folks is that, if they don’t like what someone says to them (or thinks about them), they feel a need to argue that people shouldn’t say or think those things.

I always want to say, “Why let it bother you?”

It’s so much easier to change the way WE think than it is to police other people or insist that THEY change to suit US.

colonialist - April 18, 2014

Agreed!

nrhatch - April 18, 2014

Here’s to the greatest generation!

“The easiest way to transform the world is to change your perspective.”

6. colonialist - April 18, 2014

These letters give a fascinating insight into life in training.

nrhatch - April 18, 2014

I’ve enjoyed reading and sharing them, but I’ve missed posting on other topics for the past 6 days. Going forward, I’ll share dad’s experiences in Korea on Mondays and resume “regular programming” the rest of the week.

7. “Ready, Aim, FIRE!” | Spirit Lights The Way - April 19, 2014

[…] Concludes tomorrow . . . We Rest Here […]

8. Grannymar - April 19, 2014

I enjoyed these posts and look forward to the next phase. My husband signed up at the age of twenty, just before conscription in 1940. He said he did so. in order that he could choose what part of the military he wanted. His war took him on a world tour that ended for him at the foot of a ravine in Burma. He was shipped home in what he called a ‘coffin ship’ to have his leg amputated in the UK, I think it took six weeks. Having survived the journey and protesting about amputation, they took bone from his hip and built a bridge over the shattered femur. He was then put in plaster from the armpits to his L ankle and left that way for fourteen months! Two positions in all that time front or back, no sitting or standing. Those guys were tough.

nrhatch - April 19, 2014

Wow! That is some story, GM. How did he manage once out of the body cast? Today, I shall be grateful that I am free to move about the cabin of my own volition.

Grannymar - April 19, 2014

When the cast was removed – this was very heavy Plaster of Paris and not the microlight casts of today, his knee would no function, we are talking of 1945/6 here, they put him in traction and tried to force the knee to bend. It bent only slightly and the leg was about 5cms shorter than the other. He learned to walk, and drive and and marry Irish women, of which I was the last. A happier man, I never came across! It was like Christmas for all of the almost 21 years that I was married to him.

nrhatch - April 19, 2014

What a great attitude he had, GM ~ a joy to be around.

Some people complain about anything and everything . . . and others make the BEST of any situation. I’m glad you hooked up with a Tigger!

9. jannatwrites - April 19, 2014

What a fascinating story about the young spy. I wonder if a boy of 16 or so really ‘gets’ how dangerous it is, or if he saw it as a crazy adventure. I’m enjoying reading about your dad’s time in the military – the time period and the service are two things I’m not too familiar with. (When my cousin was in Afghanistan, I wrote a couple times, but between super-secret locations and slow delivery, I don’t know if he ever received anything… he wasn’t much of a writer!

nrhatch - April 19, 2014

I expect most boys of 16 would evaluate the risks and rewards of crossing enemy lines in a different way than we would ~> an exciting adventure rather than a dangerous occupation.

Letter writing was more prevalent at that time ~ my dad only called home ONCE during the 8 weeks of basic training and the reception wasn’t very good. He probably didn’t phone home at all while stationed in Korea. Now, with Skype and e-mail and cell phones and texts, honest to goodness letters are few and far between.

Have you seen your cousin since he returned home?

jannatwrites - April 19, 2014

I’ve only seen him a couple times. He’s had a lot of problems since he got out. We’re pretty sure he has PTSD but he angrily denies it and won’t talk about it. He’s turned to drugs and alcohol but that’s not working out well for him. It’s sad to see, really.

nrhatch - April 19, 2014

Janna, you might suggest that he contact the Wounded Warrior Project for help (if he gets to the point that he admits he needs help):

http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/wounded-warrior-project-spends-58-of-donations-on-veterans-programs/2132493

It may not be an “efficient” charity, but they do offer help to wounded vets, including those with PTSD.

10. Three Well Beings - April 21, 2014

I’ve never heard of Camp Stoneham, Nancy. I will need to check into that. There are certainly spots all over the coast that were once military. I wonder if he went to the Pacific! I’ll read on…

nrhatch - April 22, 2014

He did, Debra. Camp Stoneman was near Pittsburg and it was decommissioned after the Korean War.


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