Saturday, January 17, 2009

Letter 4- October 19, 1943 (Camp Abbot, Oregon)

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.

Write soon.



  1. GIs were desperate for news, particularly news of the war. The barracks were full of speculation fueled by rumor and real news of the day. By this time, Bill would have heard of the Allies taking Naples and of Italy switching sides and declaring war on Germany. On the other side of the world the Allies continue the conquest of New Guinea by taking Lae-Salamaua. The GIs could not help but wonder where they would be sent. They tried to divine the answers from the training they completed. Although the Army officially and actively discouraged spreading rumors, it was not above planting rumors to trick enemy agents. Most of the time the rumors were as outlandish as they were false. One training film featured the cartoon character The Sad Sack. Sack hears something in a latrine and passes it on. By the time he hears the story again, Brooklyn has been devastated by a massive German bombing raid. With nothing to do in the hospital Bill must have heard some humdingers. Wartime censorship probably prevented Bill from passing along rumors in mail home. No sense in upsetting the civilians.

  2. Bill comes from a long line of "news hawks" and kept a very close ear and eye on war developments and world news in general. As is evident in his first few letters he is very opinionated. He also is well informed. As the letters progress he will discuss the news in detail and is not shy about adding his ".02c worth". As a part of army training and rumor control they sometimes conduct an exercise where a group of men sit in a circle and the first person relates a brief story to the person next to him. The story is passed on and by the time it gets back to the first man it is totally distorted and usually blown way out of proportion. When I was a special education teacher I did this a few times with the students and the result were hilarious.

  3. When I was in the Army in the early 80s I went thru "rumors and propaganda" training as well. This is an ages old tactic to educate GIs about intended and unintended misinformation or disinformation. We learned to be careful what we say and interpret what we hear. As always in the military one "hurries up and waits". This provides great fodder for rumors to start

  4. As the old saying goes, "Idle time is the devil's playground". That's why they say in the service, "if it's not moving, paint it" and they are continually cleaning latrines and swabbing decks.
    (do they still do those things in the modern army and navy as they did in WWII?)

  5. In the World War II army they didn't have the thousands of contractors to cook food, wash dishes, shovel snow, and maintain the bases. The long-standing army practice was to train in the morning, eat chow, then spend the afternoon on "fatigue" details. This is when soldiers hauled garbage, painted, mowed, and often did things ad nauseum. I will be interested to see how things were the same and different at the ERTC. The demands of wartime may have required more time spent learning to build bridges and roads. I'm sure that Bill will tell us as we move along.

  6. Bill will have plenty to say about the training regimen, both good and bad, but generally he is happier when busy with productive activities, of which there are many in the Camp Abbot ERTC training program.


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