Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The War Letters

February 27, 1944

"Sunday has well arrived." Not sleeping as well as before. The church business is "quite a problem", having given instructions to be awakened in time for Mass, but then not being awakened until too late for 7 o'clock number - made the 9 o'clock instead. Library was closed, so no quiet place to study. The exams will be tricky because they're not given a lot of time per answer and some are put in to stall them and snap answers are required. Once the exams are over, he intends to catch up on his letter writing unless the go to the Rifle Range. He's looking forward to payday, getting low on cash. "Don't get the wrong idea. I have held on to a comfortable margin. Enough and to spare I think for round trip home in case I ever get a chance to take it. I want to leave this money strictly alone - aside from it I have enough - 33 cents I think but that's plenty. A show is only 15 and cigarettes 12." He'd like to exchange his blouses for ones that fit better but he's afraid he'll get second hand ones but "the Army is a great teacher and one of the biggest lessons is that here, as in life, generally you can't have all you want." Frank has some misgivings about how the Army training they are receiving may impact the men upon returning to civilian life. "I hope not but I fear that the same chaotic conditions that were attendant in the wake of the last war will manifest themselves here after this one. What then? American youth will find a new "enemy" in civilian life - one they can't see and have not been educated to understand. An enemy that will come close to home and affect all of them. How will they cope with it? The Army is teaching them to fight dirty - with no principle. It's teaching them to be completely ruthless. If you could see a couple of the movies I've seen about methods of close combat you'd understand just how close men are getting to savagery in the South Pacific. Let us hope these men will not try - even as a last effort, to apply these principles to civilian life when they return to it. What can we do about it? I don't know - it is the only way to fight the enemy we have at hand - I hope we won't see repercussions of this 'no quarter' training in civilian life in the next 10 years."

The War Letters

February 26, 1944

Two letters today - a shortie with endorsed cheques enclosed and a shopping list...please send "all white T-shirts from home and 4-5 bars for Camay or Cashmere Bouquet soap" would be appreciated...

"Well I just got back from Post Office and general scouting mission." Here he confesses that he's missed mass AND Ash Wednesday PLUS ate meat 2 or 3 times. "Fine one I am! Just when I need the Lord - I forget all the training I have ever had." Catholics are in the minority in N.C. and that still surprises him. After walking a good hour, and covering 2/3 rds of the base, he finally found a chapel that had Mass - 7 bells tomorrow. Exams are next week. Searching for info on confessions and plans to be in a "state of grace again" by the time his mother receives this letter. The examiners did interviews today in case they don't make Cadet, so when they don't make it, they'll get their second choice, but many get no choice. Only 4 schools are still open, so he chose Radio - 5 months training in theory, training for Radio Gunner - but he may still apply for Engineering Cadet, which if he doesn't make Cadet, he would qualify for because of his two years at Niagara University. He's thinking he will refuse Air Crew if he flunks out for pilot, not interested in Navigator or Bombardier, more interested in Engineering course. Best part is, of his top 3, all will require time consuming training. It appears some of the fellows qualified for Air Crew, but were told they had to take their second choice - no pilots announced yet. Back to studying tomorrow..

The War Letters

February 25, 1944

"Well another day in Uncle Sam's Army." Finally Frank was issued another fatigue uniform - a brand new one at that. And finally the original one can be sent to the laundry! The good news is he's also been issued U.S. Air Corp insignia, which will help him feel like less of a "Jeep." The books finally arrived, but he's not planning to study tonight - decided to write letters - studying will start Sunday. The mail was "swell" today. One from Mother, two from Harry, one from Ann, one from Keaty...also more shots today and more "preparedness talk", which amounted to the top Sergeant feeling they deserved some explanation. Same old story - most of them would  not make it. He heard from the Otts and the Mrs. asked him for his opinion of Coach going to N.F.H.S. and he let them know, in no certain terms, that Coach could do a lot at the high school, but he didn't want them to work too for fear it would spoil them. Tuesday is payday - not sure what it will amount to. Since all "hell is breaking loose" in the barracks among the men who were too broke to go to town - the men are getting restless not knowing what is in store for them. Once they get paid, they can go to town and get it off their chests...

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The War Letters

February 24, 1944

"At last here I am over in my little spot in the library." He's relieved to have some peace and quiet while writing. The pre-servicemen got passes to go to town. "Jeeps" like him have to wait another week before they can leave the Post. Through some scouting, he's found a latrine that is only used slightly and he's found a washboard and hot water, so he was able to do a lot of washing. He's finally learning some of the ins and outs of the place.He received a couple letters today - one from Ann - nothing from his "loved ones." He took the Air Cadet Mental today and thinks he did OK. One of his buddies from home flunked out and it looks like he'll be going to gunnery. It seems that many will flunk out because they just don't need them anymore, "especially if you're not A-1 material." He also took tests to be classified in Trade in case he doesn't pass. The weather is of the "summer variety" and he's not envying his family the snow and wind. Once he's eligible for a pass, he's planning to get himself "one of these college women" so he has an in and he should be all set. The fact that it's such a dirty place is still a frustration. He tells his family, "if you see a sloppy or dirty soldier don't condemn him as I have so often done. Just remember that 95% of his fault can be attributed to the unavailability of proper facilities and supplies." Of course, not the officers, just the enlisted men.

Friday, February 23, 2018

The War Letters

February 23, 1944

"Boy did I have a good mail this evening." Nine letters. Took him 40 minutes to read them all. While he's trying to write he is "being constantly interrupted by the fellow's hot sexy stories - their experiences...real competition." Since he's restricted to the barracks he's afraid anything he writes will be "besmirched with the tall tales that are going on about" him. Started some PT - similar to what he received at R.O.T.C. Still having problems getting to pick up the mail. Chow, laundry and mail are all at 6 bells, and each place has a line so he's lucky to hit two out of three at the most. Looks like exams start Thursday. Been working on rifles. "They call them "Pieces." It seems the pre-servicemen keep "screwing off", and as a result everyone gets penalized because the "wise guys are too wise." He mostly hangs with the older, more experienced fellows, but they are all a "fine bunch." They seem to know most of the tricks and are able to help out on many occasions. Sort of hanging back from drumming up an pals at this point. Once exams are over there will be more time for that and he'll know them a bit better.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The War Letters

February 22, 1944

"Couldn't get to library tonight - have to write in barracks so I can't say much for what is to follow." It's pretty loud and hard to stay focused on writing. Exams Start next Friday - for now anyway. He received a letter today and a little package from Coach Ott, but nothing else. More orientation and lectures to date. Signed payroll this evening too. The mail system stinks. There's hardly any tine to go and get it and when there is, the guy in charge isn't there. By busy, it's a different kind of busy. The men are rushed to get in line and then the do nothing but wait for a few hours. The underwear situation is dire. They only issue you 3 pairs. He's saving one for his physical. If he sends the others in the laundry, it's a week before he gets them back. Can't do laundry himself because the hot water is at a premium and there are no wash boards. The frustration is that the men are expected to live up to the Army standards, and they try, but the Army doesn't help you. Restricted to barracks for next 48 hours. Time to close, lights out at 9:30.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The War Letters

February 21, 1944

"Just a hurried note to tell you I received Harry's letter today." Nothing from Dix yet. No package yet either. Keeping busy. Going to his first movie tonight. Looks like tests won't start until next week. There are 4 wings mail altogether and there are at least 20 Thompsons. Didn't realize things were to tight at home and didn't mean to add pressure by asking for things. He will get them in town and try to send some "dough" when he gets paid.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The War Letters

February 19, 1944

"I thought it was about time I addressed one to you - (meaning his brother). He appreciates that Harry handled the valentine situation. As of noon he'd received no mail, not even anything forwarded from Dix. Nothing since last Tuesday. Looks like Sunday (tomorrow) his plans are shot because he found out his whole barracks is assigned KP. So far, no exams yet. Today was a physical, lectures and movies in the afternoon. It seems that the technician giving the exam graded his eyesight 20-30, but when he saw that he was an A.C. candidate, he changed it to 20-20. When the R.C. Chaplain was lecturing, he asked how many were Catholics...it was a "jolt" to find the R.C.'s are in the minority in the South. The camp has mud everywhere and it is forever being tracked into the barracks. When it's wet out, there's mud. When it's dry out, there's dust. If they need to reach him for an emergency, they were all told to start with the Red Cross on the home end, which will save time. Until next time...

The War Letters

February 18, 1944

"Well here we are again." He's been spending a lot of time in the library in preparation for the test, plus it's much easier to write there. Today was spent with lectures on Venereal Diseases, keeping mum on military information, etc. They were told today that most of them will not make the grade. There are just too many who would qualify, but six months to a year ago, they all would have made it. It seems that the limits for qualifications have been lifted and only the "cream" will make it now. The news has had a bad effect on the men. He still hopes he'll make it, but a new Engineering course is opening up, so he may be able to talk his way into that. No mail yet. The food is great, and the cooks just keep piling it on but signs posted around the Mess Hall read "if you accept it - eat it." The weather has improved, sunny and mild. Physicals tomorrow. Though he should be studying, he tells his family that his favorite part of the day is when he writes them - makes him feel like he's talking to them. With that, he closes with a "dirty" joke and bids adieu for today!

The War Letters

February 17, 1944

"Second day at Greensboro." Still not processed, but heard more about the classification tests. Apparently they just don't need pilots anymore, and so the "casualty" rate for cadets is 85-90%. It appears that, due to the excess of men, the tests, which previously were only given to men after Primary flying was completed, now they are given before so many never even get a crack at flying school. While he's taking the tests, time will be limited to write, so don't be too "sore." Yesterday he received his gas mask, which he has to carry with him all day on Wednesday...it's been rainy and everyone is griping...no news, no nothing...

The War Letters

February 16, 1944

"Well here I am at Basic as you wished in your last letter." He is now located in Greensboro, N.C. They shipped out at 5 PM Tuesday and arrived around 6:30 AM Wednesday morning. It was not a good trip. Very crowded. He's been kept busy since arriving, and drew night guard duty from 3:30-6:30 AM, so sleep will continue to evade him. So far, no news about the classification test they will be taking - and it's truly not Basic but P.A.C (Pre Aviation Cadet) training they will be receiving. The camp is more crude than Ft. Dix, "a thousand times worse." Most of his group are transfers from A.S.T.P., so the competition will be steep as they have already studied what all of them will be quizzed on soon, not to mention their experience and "fine physical shape." Most of these men have been treated badly thus far, therefore they're highly motivated. Ann has requested a picture..(no comment made).

The War Letters

February 14, 1944

"This is the second letter from me today." That's because he has finally made the shipping list. He received a few valentines of a sentimental nature that made him kind of "weepy." Several items are being shipped home at this point as they cannot be brought with him to basic training - too bulky. Also a list of several items to prepare for sending to him at basic, awaiting his mailing address.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The War Letters

February 14, 1944

"Well here I am back at Ft. Dix again." Getting back at around 12:20 in the morning. Being Valentine's Day, he was surprised with a bunch of mail. Here is where he fills his family in on the rest of his NYC trip. After mailing the letter, he checked out and went down to Penn Station and checked his bag. From there he walked to Times Square and took the subway back to Fellman's. As mentioned in the previous letter, he'd had dinner with Mrs. Fellman, Elizabeth and Agnes. After dinner, Elizabeth had some sort of engagement, so she suggested Frank and Agnes go over to Radio City. This was fine with him as Agnes was "soft and sweet smellin", so they headed to Radio City to see Jane Eyre with a stage show. On their way he saw both Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick's Cathedral, which impressed him very much. It was an hour wait to get into Radio City, deemed the largest movie house in the world. The show was pretty good, but long and he almost fell asleep, but they knew they had to meet Elizabeth at the Savoy, though they did not have a definite time, so after the show they went to the Savoy. Apparently Elizabeth had been there a while, and blamed "poor Agnes" for the miscommunication. The "tirade was terrific", not what he expected from a sophisticated woman of the world. Since they were too late to get cocktails, they grabbed a bite and then headed to Penn Station. He was invited back the following week, but he doesn't think he'll make it again, though he had a great time and he gained a lot of confidence in knowing he could get himself around the city, unless it's something special he doesn't thing he'll return to NYC as a Private again.

The War Letters

February 13, 1944

"Well here I am in the Big City." Roughly a third of the barracks came to NYC. Frank's one friend, Abraham Aaroni, offered to let him stay with him and his family, but he declined. Abe did take his fatigues for him though, for which he is thankful. He stood on the train the whole way from Trenton to NYC, other than that the trip was uneventful. After trying to get a room at several places, he returned to Penn Station to the U.S.O. Travelers Aid. There he found there were also no single rooms available. While inquiring, he met a Southern sailor, Carey Higdon, who was well acquainted with NYC and since the only room available was a double at the Rex Hotel, they headed there together. After getting washed up, they went to eat at the Service Man's Center run by Pepsi-Cola in Times Square, he was able to get in touch with the Fellman's and got directions to E 78th. Carey got him as far as the subway where some people from Syracuse "took care of the Army", and saw that he was headed in the right direction. Upon arrival, he got to the apartment, rang the buzzer, but no answer. He was told by the clerk that they'd gone out a short time ago, which seemed strange, so he went to a bar, and had a Rupert beer on draught to wait it out. After the third "slow" beer, he called the apartment again - seems the clerk thought he was looking for the Feltmann apartment and they'd been there the entire time, playing bridge, so he headed back. They were all glad to see him..."such kissing, and me not having seen a woman for 17 days". After their visit he returned to the hotel. Church was planned for 8:00 the next morning at Actors Chapel on 49th Street...

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The War Letters

February 11, 1944

"Well it looks like I'm going to get a pass this weekend." Not going to make it home though, not enough time. Planning to head to N.Y.C. on the cheap, look up some friends, the Y.M.C.A is recommended at .50¢ per night. May not even make that if he's on the evening's shipping list. His shoes have begun to cause problems with his hips, so he tried inserting about 5 envelopes in the heel of his shoe, and that did the trick. Going to get some heel lifts next visit into town to "eliminate the expenditure of envelopes." Still waiting to get shipped and it couldn't come too soon.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The War Letters

February 10, 1944

"I am considering going to New York for the weekend - it seems a shame to miss going there when I'm so near but I may decide not to go after all - I hate to spend my capital reserve." He still has about $45 "stibokes" on hand, but is spending some everyday on cigarettes, milk, a few beers. Each shipping list is taking some of the firemen, so it's never certain what shift he will have. Today he got his first haircut - not G.I. and if he'd seen the whole business in a move he'd have "laughed himself silly." In the barbershop today there were six barbers working, three side of a large room is outfitted for the barbers with about 4 on each side. The fourth side of the room has two long rows of benches and seats for "those that would be mangled." men move up a seat each time one of the shearers calls "next." His turn, he was only relieved of a small part of his right ear - they waste no time - about 12-14 minutes per man. Today he got his 4th and final shot.  "The stock joke to all newcomers here is when they march in everyone yells 'Look out for the hook?' This is a reference to the shots, two of them; you get almost as soon as you arrive. We then get them aside and glibly describe that the first shot is called the Torpedo and the second one the Umbrella and that both are administered up the rectum." Off to mail this one in the 3:30 outgoing mail...

Friday, February 9, 2018

The War Letters

February 9, 1944

"Well I guess I'll have to snap off a 'quickie'...oh people I've never felt so dirty. It's a crime to have facilities to wash right here and not be able to utilize them..." The laundry situation is still challenging. It's been two whole weeks since he arrived and in a way, it seems like an eternity to him. Not that he dislikes the Army, but "the inertia around here is beginning to get to me...there is no purpose to what I do here and I'd just as soon get going." Most of the "little boys" who were with him have already shipped or are leaving today. He and the other "older ones" tried to keep them on track. They all had colds and had no idea of how to take care of themselves. They ran a Vicks line - cough drops, nose drops, VapoRub and aspirins - even checked up on their BMs. "They were so young and to feel sick when you're so completely away from the ones who have taken care of you all your life is a pretty lonely experience...it broke your heart to see them split up into different units and ship with older men." Lou Harwick left yesterday, leaving only Abraham Arom...36 years old, a linguist who has taught in New York for some years. He's written a modern text in Hebrew with the hope of it getting accepted for study in Jewish Sems. "He is an individual acquaintance of whom I am proud, fine character...I have no doubt he will be placed in the intelligence corps for he is fluent in Ukrainian and Baltic and Slavic languages. It makes the Army worthwhile for you know that unless you were in this exact position, you should never come in contact with men like Abe." In two weeks, he's learned a lot, "the Army can breed years of tolerance and understanding into you in a very short time." He got to Mass, Communion, and Novena yesterday...most innocent confession in years." It is here that he asks his family to save his letters, "they should make an interesting chronicle for me one day."

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The War Letters

February 8, 1944

This letter is only to Harry, his brother. He's enclosed a donation for a Valentine's Day gift for their mother. It's "a hell of a mess down here...we work alternating sifts for 6 hours a night 6-12 and 12-6" and he tried to arrange his schedule so he'd have some time to get some washing done, some sleep and maybe some letters, but the orderlies weren't on the job and his room is "Gigged" tonight with a G.I. party, scrubbing from 6-9 to get the barracks in shape. He's learning quickly about sneaking out, and plans to sneak to church for Communion & Novena, which means he'll miss chow. It appears that Harry helped out on the home front with correcting Frank's classification by contacting Colonel House, who is "very nice and more than glad to help anyone in trouble." That's all for now!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The War Letters

February 7, 1944

"I must let you know the good tidings...I was boarded (and the sentence was not finished). Later that same day, "O BOY! O BOY! O BOY! Received a package" and 3 letters from home in the morning mail. Today was about the best day he's had in the Army thus far. He was boarded and accepted by Aviation Cadet Examining Board and hopeful he will be leaving by the next shipment. "At least I have some purpose - some goal. I have observed that men become stupid, sullen, and without character when they lose purpose." When a man ships, he's restricted and cannot call or write home so if he's not heard from for a bit, it means he's on his way to Basic. Depending on his fireman's shift, he's planning to make Communion and Novena tomorrow. He's being called for formal retreat - then chow! That's all for today folks.

Monday, February 5, 2018

The War Letters

February 5, 1944

"They have been shipping Air Cadets out of here by the hundreds, but I guess I'll be here some time before I can get my situation in order". While things are in limbo, Frank has received some mail, which helps his temperament. His fireman's shift has been all screwed up having been stuck with the 6-12 midnight shift for three straight nights. The schedule is good for his sleeping, but you can't shower & shave from 5:45 AM until 6 PM...but he's found a way to sneak in shave and is not happy about the inability to shower daily. It appears that the processing of Cadets is proceeding rapidly and he presumes there are a lot o schools ready to take them now. Most have been getting out in 3 days, while he's still hanging around - and getting razzed about it. In a letter he received from another fellow from Niagara Falls, John Dick, just passed his 40 hour check in primary flying, but was scared stiff because the two that went up before him had washed out.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The War Letters

February 4, 1944

"Since we're firemen, although we must be at all formations, we still have an excellent chance of missing all special details." Today was a good mail day with letters from Coach Ott, one of the fellows who was with him when he arrived, he is now in Aberdeen, MD, and a letter from Ann. Frank is still worried about whether or not he will get into the Air Corps and figures that as long as he can survive the shipping lists until maybe Wednesday of next week, he stands a chance. "The life here is a lazy one...I honestly believe I am getting the best rest her I have had in 4-5 years." The meals are starting to go down hill though, with over a thousand men to feed, the 50-80 KPs still cannot seem to do a "Cracker Jack" job, though he's eating more than he ever did at home. Some of the fellows fall out of the chow line and go eat at the service club, where they have to pay. Not Frank, he's been "husbanding" his money. There is an ever shrinking chance he'll get a pass and if he does, it's doubtful it will be enough time to get home as it is only for 36 hours, still he's asked Harry to check out the train schedules and costs. Time to shine shoes, break up and make up the bed, write more letters and soooo...

Saturday, February 3, 2018

The War Letters

February 3, 1944

A short note to let his family know that all's well and that he "felt like a Hot Rock today when [he] got mail in both mail calls", and then hurriedly closed to report for formation.

Friday, February 2, 2018

The War Letters

February 2, 1944

Today he received his first letter from home, eliminating his growing worry because he hadn't heard from home since his arrival. The day before he didn't write because he was up at 4 AM for KP. He had to keep 8 coal stoves going - "one of the dirtiest jobs I have ever done and now my one and only fatigue uniform is filthy". He worked like hell to finish KP by 5:30 so he could report for a Fireman's job, which begins at 4 AM-12 midnight the following night, explaining that he took the job so that he could be "on the alert in the day time if anything should or can be done about getting me back in the Air Corps". The job is known as a "Goldbricking" job, but gets him excused from other details including KP. Each of the 3 or 4 fellows he  pals around with has their own tale of woe and he's surprised "how quickly men cleave to one another and how we all look out for one another." One of his pals has already left, which leaves him with two other Fireman waiting to be shipped out.

The War Letters - On Hiatus

March 8, 2018 Today is my birth father Frank's birthday. I think he's been whispering to me. I've been working on this project...