Thursday, January 29, 2009
October 27, 1943
(Camp Abbot, Oregon
I have only a few minutes free time to write this note tonight. I have to make up a pack, clean my rifle, take a bath and about 40 other things, but I did want to get at last a short note off.
I received daddy’s letters yesterday as I told you on the phone. Don’t worry about asking questions. I only wish you were around asking me some now.
At the end of the week we get out of quarantine and then I get the red and white ----- ( I can’t think of the word) trimming for my cap.
I’ll write a real letter as soon as possible.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Our hero is finally released from the hospital and joins Co. “B”. In his first day of training he draws his equipment and at 5:30 am. the next morning Bill gets to work. First day activities include: close order drill, extended order drill, a lecture, propaganda movies, a 45¢ haircut (“I was in the chair for exactly 85 seconds”) and the cleaning of his M1 Garand rifle. Bill gets his first letter from home. He closes the letter with a humorous sketch entitled “me in the cold.”
(Camp Abbot, Oregon)
I still haven’t received any mail from you. I know it can’t be helped because of that mistake about what Company I belong to, but still I sure get lonely for a letter from home. I want to hear about everything that goes on at home no matter how unimportant it may seem-what the neighbors are doing-and so on. The more you write the higher my morale will go.
Well, today was my second day of real training. I got out of the hospital early yesterday, or rather the day before yesterday. It was then I found out that I was in Co. “B” instead of “C”. It seems funny though. I should have received the mail anyway.
I didn’t do much the day I got out except draw my equipment an so, but at 5:30 the next morning I was off. I’m still at a disadvantage around here since I missed a week’s training, but since I’ve had a lot of what we(re) getting it sort of evens things up.
The toughest thing of all is the fact that we never get a minute’s rest. From the moment I get up till sundown I’m on the go. Close order, extended order, etc. When you aren’t doing something violently physical, they take you to the movies for lecture, and propaganda pictures. All this in about 6 inches of slushy snow and water. We did that all yesterday. In the evening I got a G.I. haircut. It cost me 45 cents. I was in the chair for exactly 85 seconds. You can imagine how I look.
The most never ending job in the Army-cleaning one’s rifle-usually takes up most of the evening. Today is supposed to be our day off, ha ha! We got up at the usual time and went out to the rifle range. It was the first time I ever fired my M1 Girand. It hardly kicks at all.
Things are pretty tough now; even the non-coms are pooped, and we’re on field rations which although are better than they sound are not terrific. After the first 5 weeks we’ll be put on garrison rations and that’ll be a lot better.
We get plenty of good warm clothing, but if you would like to send something make it a khaki wool scarf.
Hooray! I just now got your letter, Mother. I wasn’t going to mention it but until 5 minutes ago I was the most homesick guy in the whole 4th. Engineers. Now I feel a whole lot better.
About the goddam camp. Yes, it is new. It was founded last May, and it’s still pretty rough. There are about 20,000 men here and a number of other camps nearby.
I was surprised to hear about the cold weather in L.A. It’s really quite a drop from what it was that Sunday I was home. The temperature here has been about 20 deg. above but now it’s a little warmer. In fact, for about an hour today we even got a look at the sun.
All in all, this is a pretty good outfit. It’s made up of mostly young fellows, and platoon, company, and battalion rivalry is pretty high. On top of it all the Engineers is a pretty high falutin’ outfit.
I’m sending you my insurance slip which is good in place of the policy until you receive the real one.
Some of the fellows here have cameras and maybe I’ll be able to send you some snapshots.
(Co. “B” 53 ET bn)
ME IN THE COLD------- (SKETCH HERE)
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Friday, January 23, 2009
A rumor is going around that Camp Abbot will close during the winter. It is snowing outside and Bill expects that they will soon have him “shoveling snow off the roof of the hospital.” Bill is given a clean bill of health by the doctor but does not expect to get out for weeks” due to the red tape.” Midway through the letter he abruptly stops writing to exclaim, “Hold it. I’ve got to go and scrub the walls.”
(Camp Abbot, Oregon)
I’m still in the hospital, but yesterday the doctor gave me a full medical examination and said that I was O.K. Even so it’ll probably take weeks for me to get out due to the red tape.
It’s snowing here and it seems as if we’re going to have a tough winter. There’s a rumor going around that Camp Abbot will close up during the winter and the 4th. Engineers will go down to California. It’s still just a rumor, but it’s pretty logical since there will be so much snow and cold that training will be limited. Already there are a lot of fellows in the hospital with arthritis and cracked skin on their feet. (Hold it. I’ve got to go and scrub the walls) So it seems that if we move out we might go somewhere near home.
As soon as I can manage it I’m going to get some engineer insignia of some sort and send it home. Some of it is not exactly G.I. and so it can be worn by civilians. They have some little Engineer turrets that make swell jewelry for women’s dresses.
Just now it’s beginning to snow really hard outside. I can see myself already shoveling snow off the roof of the hospital.
So far I haven’t received any mail. Write soon. I’ll write again tomorrow if I have the time. Oh, another thing, they say that during the first 2 weeks a guy doesn’t have time to crap much less write, so don’t be surprised if for a while the letters are few and far between. Write soon.
P.S. I think I’m still in A.S.T.P.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Bill is still languishing in the hospital. He is convinced that they are keeping him there because he is "the only one in the ward that is strong enough and willing enough to do any work". He gives a classic definition of "goldbrick".
October 20, 1943
Dear Mudder and Pappy,
I was so sure that this would be my last day in the hospital that I went to the supply room this morning and got clean bedclothes (this is necessary before one can leave). The shock was terrific when the nurse said, “Too bad but you ain’t on da list.” I couldn’t figure it out until I read the work list, but then it was perfectly clear. I was given the great honor of mopping the floor, again. I’m positive that they’re keeping me here because I’m the only one in the ward that is strong enough and willing enough to do any work. (war is hell)
I’m perfectly convinced a this time that the Army is the most inefficient organization in the whole wide world. If a person works hard and gets a job quickly it gets him “nottin’”. As soon as he finishes one job they hunt another for him. Here’s where the great art of “goldbricking” comes in the Army. One is shirking your duty so the other fellow has to do your work. That is bad. The other is merely stretching a job out until it takes all day. That’s good. Well, although at home I was a first class goldbrick of the latter type, here I’m a rank amateur. It’s too cold to loaf on the job. Therefore, they’ve got me spotted as a good worker. That’s bad.
Well that’s about all. Outside it’s raining, hailing, sleeting, and snowing all at once.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Among his many talents, Bill is an excellent sketch artist. His letters include dozens of humorous sketches depicting everyday scenes of his army life. Whether he's sitting in a hospital wheelchair, mopping the floor or frozen solid to his M-1 while qualifying at the rifle range, Bill seems to capture the moment perfectly in his sketches.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Bill is still in the hospital but he finds it tolerable due to a radio brought in by "one of the jerks here". The best radio reception is from a station in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada. Moose Jaw is an 825 mile AM radio transmission from Camp Abbot. The station Bill listened to was probably CHAB 1220 kHz AM. CHAB was affiliated with the Canadian Broadcasting System and began broadcasting in Moose Jaw in 1933.
October 19, 1943
(Camp Abbot, Oregon)
Dear Folks & Ity.
I am writing to tell you that at long last I’m going to get out of the hospital, I think. It was a hard fight against great odds buy now I’m getting an upper hand.
The other day one of the jerks here brought in a radio and now I’m getting a little caught up on the news. It’s a pretty good set and we can even get Los Angeles sometimes. The station that comes in best of all, however, is one at Moosejaw, Canada.
This morning the weather is a little warmer than it’s been before but it’s pretty cloudy so we might get some real snow. We’ve had quite a bit of hail lately & an occasional flurry of snow.
The food here is very good, but not as good as it was at MacArthur. I think that we don’t get enough vegetables & milk.
Well, that’s about all. You can’t write much when all you do is sit around in the hospital.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Bill has been in the Camp Abbot hospital for 5 days with "G.I.Stomach" and his frustration is beginning to show. He gripes about the medics in the hospital, the lousy country at Abbot, the lousy weather, and the volcanic dust . For the first time he is homesick.
Camp Abbot, Oregon
I really have nothing to write about because I’m still in the goddamn hospital waiting for the goddamn medics to make up their goddamn minds that there’s nothing wrong with me. Every day I’ve got to scrub the floor or clean out the latrine, and if I’m well enough to work like that I’m well enough to go back to my company. I feel swell and am eating like a horse. This is my main reason for writing. I don’t want you to worry. Besides my disgust with the medics there’s this lousy country and weather. Every day a little hail, sleet, and snowfalls-only enough, however, to stir up the six inches of volcanic dust that covers the ground. I think they built this camp here with the expressed purpose of making everybody miserable and homesick. As yet I’m not miserable, but I’m sure homesick.
Pardon this poor writing. I have no table.
Lots of Love,
Monday, January 12, 2009
Camp Abbot was located in sparsely populated east-central Oregon. It lay on the extreme northwest edge of a huge, high, relatively level bowl filled with extinct volcanoes, warm springs, and crater lakes. The site followed the course of the Deschutes River, at an elevation of 4,000 feet, just a few miles east of the highest peaks of the Cascade Mountains.
The location of Camp Abbot had advantages. Its western location reduced the time required to transport personnel from that part of the country and cut travel time for furloughs. The semi-arid climate on the high plateau east of the Cascades was cool and dry without the sweltering summer heat of Fort Belvoir and Fort Leonard Wood, the other ERTC’s. The meandering Deschutes River provided the perfect site to practice the bridge building that would be needed for the Invasion of Europe.
On the other hand, many of its drawbacks became apparent from the very beginning. It was isolated-over 150 miles from any east-west railroad track. The few large cities of Oregon were over a hundred miles away. Bend, the nearest town had a population of barely 10,000 and local sources for training supplies were practically nonexistent. Supplies and fuel had to be shipped into the camp from a distance, at high cost. Camp Abbot’s remoteness from other established Engineer installations made a disproportionately large maintenance staff necessary. There were no adequate power lines east of the Cascades to serve the camp. The geology of the site was undesirable. The lava rock which underlay the shallow soil of the camp made the laying of sewer and water pipes costly and slow. As noted by Pvt. Taylor in his first letter from Camp Abbot it was dusty, the dryness of the region making clouds of volcanic dust a constant irritant, summer and winter. Despite these disadvantages, the army completed the camp and it was officially dedicated on May 18, 1943.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.
I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,
The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.
Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.
We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.
You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!
Friday, January 9, 2009
(Camp Abbot, Oregon)
Dear Mother and Dad,
Please excuse me for not writing sooner. I really couldn’t help it though because for the last two days I’ve been in the hospital. Don’t worry though, it’s nothing serious-just a bellyache. Already I feel swell but I think that I’m going to have a hard time getting out. This is because I’m such a good floor mopper, sweeper, etc.
You must have been pretty surprised when you received my telegram saying that I was in the engineers-so was I when I heard the news. It seems that I did best in my mechanical aptitude test and so it was the engineers for me. So far I’ve been unable to find anybody who knows whether I’m still in the A.S.T.P. or not-I might be in the engineer end of the program-I hope.
The engineers-Phyyyttt (the bird)-The Army Medical Corps-Phyyyttt. This is the way I feel at the present time, but you’re the only ones that I’m letting know it. There’s an awful lot of 1st. class gripers around here-as well as goldbricks- and they aren’t very popular.
You probably want to hear my whole story, so here is or are, rather, the gruesome details.
When I got up Monday morning and they read the shipping list, I was on it as was the rest of my gang (with the exception of Alarcon-the fellow we took home-and Clark-the fellow from Van Nuys.) I wanted to call you up but they don’t tell you where you’re going until you leave. We got our gear together and by means of truck and P.E. we arrived at the Union Station downtown. From there I could have called you up, and you could have come down and seen me off, but I was afraid that I couldn’t take another goodbye and that’s the truth. One fellow’s mother came down to see him and it only made both of them feel worse.
We left the station about 8:00 (0r should I say 20:00) and started North. We slept double in lower berths and nobody got any sleep all night long-It took us 8 hours to go between L.A. and Bakersfield. The goddam Pullman was not ventilated so we had all the windows open when we went through that long tunnel up along the Ridge Route. Needless to say, I damn near choked to death. After a boring day of riding and eating 15c Southern Pacific Railroad meals which happen to cost the Army $1.00 apiece, we arrived in Klamath Falls, Ore. At 12:00 P.M. We spent the rest of the night on the floor of the station (pleasant huh?)
The next morning we got a pretty good breakfast at a nearby café (which reminds me-some people sure treat you lousily just because you’re a soldier. It reminds me of that poem by Kipling-“Tommy"-remember? They seem to think that just because you wear a uniform, you’re a bum. Well, after breakfast we got on a bus and rode 145 miles to Camp Abbot. The camp is east of the part of Oregon that we know-just at the edge of a desert. The altitude is about 4, ooo ft. ; it’s too damn cold; and it’s about the dustiest place in the world. A lot of small pine trees grow here but the soil is so light that they blow over before they get very big, and as a result, the ground is littered with myriads of rotten trees. What a hole!
About an hour after I arrived at the camp, I got sick and had to ride in an ambulance because it was too far to walk to the joint. So far I’ve been living the life of Reilly here-except that I’ve got to work pretty hard. Nearly everybody here in my ward had “G. I. stomach”-ulcers to civilians and they’re a pretty sorry sight.
I sure miss you and everything else at home, but they keep me busy enough that it doesn’t get too bad. I’ll have to close here because I can see some work coming.
Because I was in camp so short a time before I got sick I’m not sure what company or battalion I’m in, but I think that if you send mail to the address on the envelope it will get to me. My next letter will have the right address on it for sure.
All the Love in the World,