Thursday, March 12, 2009

Letter 32- November 28, 1943

November 28, 1943
(Camp Abbot, Oregon)

Dear Folks,

Well, you must be about ready to murder me for not writing sooner, but I’ll be damned if I had the time. Today, however, is Sunday –ah! This morning out of force of habit I jumped out of bed at 5:30, but when I remembered what it was, I jumped right back in. I finally did get up about 8:30.

I hadn’t heard any news about the bombing of Berlin until I received your letter. Even then I didn’t think much about it, but this morning when I bought the Portland paper I really got a pleasant jolt: “1/3 of Berlin in ruins”, “500,000 Berliners homeless”, “13,000 Berliners killed”. Hot dogs! By the time you receive this letter Berlin will be just a “use to was”. ¹

We sure had some Thanksgiving here this year. We worked like dogs. I don’t think I ever did so damn much marching in my whole life. We ended up the day with a 7 mile hike with full field equipment. Daddy, you know what that consists of- steel helmet, rifle, cartridge belt with canteen, gas mask, and full field pack with bayonet- all in all about 70 pounds. It wasn’t bad until we had to march a mile or so with our gas masks on. I couldn’t get enough air and I thought I was going to pass out. We did get a good dinner, however. We had turkey with dressing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, salad, cottage cheese, celery with cheese, olives, pumpkin pie, ice cream, cake, candy, apples, and oranges. We also had music with the meal, pretty good, huh? You should get a load of the crap we’ve had ever since to make up for it. Turkey hash, goat stew, horse croquettes-ptui!

Well, I guess what you really want to talk about is what happened on Friday. That was record day for rifle marksmanship. it sure was a heartbreaker. Out of 180 points to qualify as Experts Rifleman I made 176. I missed by only 4 points. That hurts. I made sharpshooter with 11 points to spare. When we got out on the range about 8:00 in the morning it was so cold that I couldn’t shoot worth a tinkers damn. In my first 2 positions I didn’t even qualify at all. That didn’t my nerves or my score any good. A bit later, however it warmed up and I went to town. On the 300 yard rapid fire shoot I made 8 bulls eyes and 1 four out of 9 shots; 44 points out of 45. if that one shot had been ½ inch to the left I would have had a “possible”. That would have meant $5.00 and a 3 day pass.

Here’s what we fired- from the 200 yd. line 4 shots kneeling and 4 shots standing- also 9 shots sitting rapid fire: from the 300 yd. line 4 shots prone and 4 shots sitting- also 9 shots prone rapid fire; from the 500 yd. line 8 shots prone. It took all day because of the number of men firing.

(sketch of medal here)
Here’s a crude representation of what my medal will look like. A marksman’s medal is the same without the bullseye. An expert’s medal is the same except the cross is a bit smaller and is surrounded by a wreath. I don’t know when I’ll get the damned medal; some fellows have had to wait as long as a month.

Well, (I start off with too many wells) today I had my picture taken. I borrowed a garrison cap and went over to the portrait studio. The way they’ve got it fixed over there it costs almost as much to get 4 pictures as it does for 14. It sounds terrible doesn’t it? To get two large oils would cost me $10.00 plus 2 small pictures would total $13.00, but 2 large oils and 12 small ones cost $14.00. I told the bird it was too much, but I was informed that I could take it or leave it; I took it. I guess you’ll be able to give a picture of me to everyone in the family. They’ll be in 2 poses and for that price they’ll either be good or Camp Abbot will be minus a photographer. Fourteen pictures-god, I always did think I was nuts. You can give one to Mrs. Feber and maybe she’ll send me something.

I talked to my lieutenant last night about A-12 or A.S.T.P. it doesn’t look so good. From the Engineers one can go into only 2 branches of A.S.T.P. - engineering or languages. I haven’t had enough math for engineering and a new ruling says that for languages one must be able to speak one foreign language fluently. I really don’t know what to do now, but I’m going to keep on trying. I’ll see the Co. Commander and if necessary I’ll go down to “personnel” and find out what the score really, really is. In some ways I’m getting awfully tired of this army.

That house of Jesse’s sure is a pain in the neck, isn’t it? Boy! I wish I’d never heard of the whole gang.

I sure hope something comes up so you can get those gas coupons. Last night I went to Bend and found out it’s bigger than everyone around here has let on. It’s no metropolis but it’s not quite a Podunk. Also if you could get to Klamath Falls I believe I could get down there over a weekend.

Bestus Love,


1. This refers to the opening phase of the Battle of Berlin, a series of RAF nighttime bombing raids over Berlin from November 1943-March 1944. Bill’s statistics are somewhat overstated and the allied military objective of winning the war by bombing Berlin into submission failed to be achieved. Still, the raids caused immense devastation and loss of life in Berlin. It is estimated that 4,000 were killed, 10,000 injured and 450,000 made homeless by the attacks.


  1. I feel for Bill. I would have fired expert if I hadn't put five bullseyes on the next guy's target. Thanks to me he qualified.

    Welcome to the Army, Bill. He is now reciting the refrain of so many soldiers, "But my recruiter told me ..."

    I have one of the portraits retouched with oil done by my dad as a second lieutenant. It's interesting to know that a package cost $14. If I recall correctly Bill made $21 a month. That's a big bite from a soldier's pay. But what else did he have to spend it on. Ice cream.

    Greg, any idea who Jesse was? Friend? Relative?

  2. Too bad for you and Bill, David. Qualifying "Expert" is an honor that you both would have carried throughout your military careers.

    I'm not sure about Jesse, but I believe that he is relative in Scranton, Pennsylvania. My mother might know. I'll ask her.

  3. Funny story about the rifle qualification. I was a "sharpshooter" and missed "expert" by an equal margin. I may have been helped inadvertently by neighbors on the firing line as well. At 300 yards, it wasn't always easy to figure out which target to aim at. I have no idea whatever happened to my medals and ribbons. I must have thrown them away...


If you receive an error message when posting a comment or preview please hit "Post Comment" or "Preview" a second time and it should go through.--Greg