Wednesday, April 29, 2009

About Letter 57

Bill is kept busy going on 2 "night problems" and guard duty. With only 4 more weeks of training the men are beginning to talk about going on furlough. Bill says the food is getting worse and he is tortured by the craving for a hamburger. The War news is good with the Russian Army moving toward Poland.

Letter 57- January 6, 1944

January 6, 1944
(Camp Abbot, Oregon)

Dear Mother and Dad,
You’re probably wondering right now where the hell I’ve been. Honest! This has been the damnedest week. In the first place, I was moved out of my old barracks into a new one. That, of course, entailed a whole lot of horsing around. On top of that we’ve had 2 night problems and a night of guard duty. I can’t say I’ve haven’t had any time to write because now that our Inf. basic is over we get quite a bit of free time as I’ve told you before, but one can never tell when you’re going to get it or for how long.

We haven’t been doing too much that is new or different but the work is easy and not too boring, and next week we start working on bridges which should be pretty interesting.

We had a beautiful storm over yesterday and the day before and now there’s about a foot and a half of snow on the ground—anyone who wants my 50,000 acres of Oregon land can have it for 30¢ in 12 easy payments—nothing down.

The mail situation here is in a muddle again. The last time I got mail was last Monday. That’s the day I got the books which by the way I’m getting quite a kick out of. They’re really a lot of fun. But getting back to the mail, I sure am itching for some letters. I’ll probably get about six within the next few days.

Well, we’ve only got about 4 more weeks of training now and then that lousy bivouac. We’re already beginning to talk about what we’re going to do on our furlough. We’re slightly premature—huh? At least it’s pleasant to think about.

God! I’m hungry for a hamburger. Oh! If I could only sink my teeth into a home cooked meal with fried potatoes. Oh! What torture. Of late the food here in camp has taken a turn for the worst. After our 6 weeks were up it improved considerably but now its taken a dive. They had the nerve to serve cold cuts and potato salad two nights in a row when the temperature was zero. Twice I left the table so hungry that I had to go down to the service club and get a meal. I’m “regusted”.

I haven’t heard any news for the last 3 or 4 days but it sure looked good with the Russians driving into Poland and all that.¹ It looks as if the war in Europe may blow up in Hitler’s puss at any time now. I sure hope so. The sooner Adolf folds up the sooner we can finish Japan and the sooner I can get out of this goddam army—Amen.

Best Love,

1. Bill refers to the Dnieper-Carpathian Offensive launched by the Soviets on Christmas Eve 1943. This action drove the Germans out of the Ukraine and Moldovia territories and into Romania and Poland. By April 1944 the Red Army completely destroyed 18 Wehrmacht and Romanian divisions and reduced another 68 to below half their original strength

About Letter 56

The men spend 2 days learning how to use jack hammers to build roads only to be given picks and shovels for tools. As Bill says, "ya got to be 'filosofical' about the army--they never do anything right". In spite of this, he boastfully exclaims, "the Combat Engineers is an outfit to be proud of."

Letter 56- January 6, 1944

January 3, 1944
Camp Abbot, Oregon)

Dear Mother and Dad,
Wot a day! The highest the temperature has been all day is 20° and all morning it hung down around 0° while we built roads. That’s another pain in the neck. They spend 2 days teaching us how to use jack hammers and other pneumatic equipment and then on the day we start on roads guess what we get for tools—picks and shovels. Oh well! ya got to be “filosofical” about the army. They never do anything right.

But getting back to the weather I never saw anything like it. Our lieutenant froze his ears so badly that he had to go to the hospital for a couple of hours and have them treated—nice place we got here.

I had a long talk with the lieutenant this afternoon about the Engineers and found out a number of things I never knew before. One of them is the number of branches to the Eng. The Air Corp Eng., the Armored Force Eng., the Artillery Eng., the Amphibian Eng., the Airborne Eng., and many branches within the Combat Engineers themselves. I might become a specialist in roads, heavy pontoon bridges, demolition, sapping, and a thousand and one other things.

Here at “Basic” we become “jacks of all trades” but “masters of none” to use an old cliché (did I spell that right?) but when we get out of here we get some sort of specialist work almost for sure. Maybe there’s something special to this outfit after all. All kidding aside and is spite of my dislike of Camp Abbot the Combat Engineers is an outfit to be proud of.

As I told you over the phone I got payed last week. I’m sending home $45.00 in a couple of days by money order. I would like you to take part of it & get me one of those swell bracelets that Daddy described so well in one of his recent letters. I would like one with a heavy chain. I know they’re somewhat expensive but I’ve wanted one for some time and I might as well get a good one while I’m at it. I’d like my name, serial number and “Corp of Engineers” (am I butchering this letter or am I butchering this letter) if possible.

I better close while you can still read this.

Best Love,

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

About Letter 55

It's New Year’s Day 1944. Bill is catching up on his sleep after an overnight bivouac. The men hike 10 miles and then spend the night in slit trenches with no fire. Supper consists of “half frozen K-rations.” The next morning, after a breakfast of more K-rations, Bill stays behind to help fill the trenches while the rest of the company crosses the Deschutes River in assault boats and takes a hill with overhead machine gun fire. Bill closes his letter with a sketch of him sound asleep in his bunk entitled, “Me-welcoming in the New Year.”

Letter 55- January 1, 1944

January 1, 1944
(Camp Abbot, Oregon)

Happy New Year Mudder & Dad,

I hope you’ll forgive me for not writing the last 3 days. Except for Wednesday night I have no excuses except my expert but excruciating laziness. (How’d ya like all dem ex’s) But anyhoo I’ve got a lot to write. As you know, last Wednesday we had our overnight bivouac. Boy! Was that the craps. To start out we had a 10 mile hike, and when they say 10 miles they mean about 13 miles. As usual they started off at a pace of about 4 miles an hour and of course I had a “hellova” time keeping up. As time went on the birds who started that stiff pace began to straggle and finally I ended up at the head of the column. We had good bedrolls made up of 3 wool blankets a comforter and a shelter half, but still we damn near froze because we had to put the rolls down in slit trenches. We couldn’t have any fires and had nothing for supper except half frozen K-rations—Phhhttt!!! During the night I had to get up and go to the latrine, and when I came back I couldn’t find my foxhole. I must have faked around out there for about 20 minutes before I found it.

The next morning I had another cold K-ration for breakfast and then had to fill up about 10 officer’s slit trenches. After that I came back to camp since my company moved out while I was filling the holes. However I was lucky there. I had only about a 4 mile hike back to camp whereas the rest of the company had to cross the river in assault boats and take a hill with overhead machine gun fire. I got the afternoon off. I was so tired I slept every minute of it.

I received the camera and German Dictionary. I also received Ann and Reiny’s box of candy. It’s really swell. You mentioned my not saying anything about the $50.00 you put in my account. Of course, I think it’s wonderful and the only reason I haven’t mentioned it that I thought I’d already thanked you for it. Please forgive me.

I’ve been getting mail pretty regularly now so maybe the situation here is getting better—I mean for good. I received that card with the drawings on it—hot stuff!

I went down to the studio last night and asked about having those pictures made. They said yes but when they tried to find the negative they found it was gone. I’ll try again.

Best Love,

P.S. Let’s hope that when New Year’s 1945 rolls around we’ll all celebrate together.

(sketch here of Bill sleeping in his bunk)- Me welcoming in the New Year.

Monday, April 20, 2009

About the Abbot Engineer

The Abbot Engineer was the official Camp Abbot weekly newspaper. It began publishing on May 21, 1943 before the arrival of the first soldier. At first the paper was four pages but eventually expanded to eight. It was distributed free to camp personnel and available at various subscription rates up to $1.50 for one year. Most of the written contributions, artwork, and photographs were provided by Camp Abbot personnel. Additional material was provided by the Camp Newspaper Service of the War Department.

Besides general camp news and the dissemination of official U.S. Army information, the paper featured regular “Notes” from the various battalions describing current activities of their units. These were informal articles that gave a more intimate picture of the weekly activities in camp. “Abbot ‘n Around” listed entertainment on and off the post for the coming week. This included USO activities in Bend such as dances, open houses, breakfasts, and game nights. The entertainment listings also showed scheduled Service Club activities and the weekly theater schedule.

Not surprisingly, “cheesecake” was a prominent feature of the paper. The comic strip “Male Call” by Milton Caniff, “The Wolf” by Sansone, and a variety of glamorous photos of scantily attired young women populated the pages.

Sports also provided diversion for the men and were featured on the last page of each issue. Team records and statistics were given, including league standings, box scores and bowling team scores. The format was much like that one would see in a regular city sports section.

It is interesting to follow the chronology of Bill’s letters with that of the Camp Abbot Engineer. The depiction and description of camp events in the “official” newspaper are very often at odds with Bill’s “G.I.” version as outlined in his letters. The rosy, public relations viewpoint of the camp publication is tempered by Bill’s skeptical cynicism.

Abbot Engineer Jan. 1, 1944

Abbot Engineer Jan. 1, 1944- pg.2

Abbot Engineer Jan. 1, 1944- pg.3

Abbot Engineer Jan. 1, 1944- pg.4

Sunday, April 19, 2009

About Letter 54

Today the men of the 54th. had an exercise in combat principals that involved taking a hill occupied by an enemy platoon. Bill says, “we had to crawl 300 yds. through the snow to take the position.” Tomorrow the men go on an all night bivouac. Turning to politics, an opinionated Bill says, “I had the misfortune of hearing Roosy’s [Roosevelt’s] speech the other night.” He also hears that experts give Germany only a 50-50 chance of going through the winter.

Letter 54- December 28, 1943

December 28, 1943
(Camp Abbot, Oregon)

Hiya Mudder & Dad,

Tomorrow we go on our all night bivouac. That’s a phrase that strikes terror into the heart of the poor unfortunate rookie. Woe is me and all stuff like that there. Personally I’m looking forward to the damn thing with great enthusiasm. I’ll probably be cured of that quick enough, however. I believe that we march some 23 miles all together. I won’t like that but I’m afraid my likes and dislikes won’t amount to an awful lot as far as the big shots are concerned. In the afternoon we have to charge up a lousy hill with bayonets and gas masks on. I won’t like that either. Come to think of it, there’s very little about this man’s army I do like. Oh well ya can’t have everything. The only trouble with that is that we don’t get anything.

Today we had a nice little problem in combat principles. One thing—that is, problem—required us to take a hill on which an enemy platoon was stationed. They were armed with firecrackers which they were supposed to shoot off when they spot us. We had to crawl 300 yds. through the snow to take the position—I was soaked from head to foot.

I received your swell letter, Mudder, the one you wrote Christmas Day. I guess your Christmas must have been as corny as mine. Well, we did get to talk to one another anyway. That was sumpin’. I plan on calling every so often from now on since they’ve built a telephone building on the post. All one has to do is make out a slip and let them put through the call. It’s really okay.

I finished up the fruit cake today and finagled me another one from some guy who got too many Christmas presents. It’s not as good as yours, but who am I to get snooty about it.

Now I’m stuck—I can’t think of anything to write but I’m too Scotch to waste this entire sheet of paper. Now let’s see—hummmmm.

I’ll talk about the news. I had the misfortune of hearing Roosy’s speech the other night.¹ One thing I noticed, however, was the attitude of the men in the barracks toward the old bag. “That great man” is a thing of the past which has been replaced by “That son of a bitch”. It does my heart good. I see where Eisenhower says the war in Europe will be over by the end of this coming year and the experts give Germany only a 50—50 chance of going through the winter. Here’s hoping.

This is the 2nd day of the 51st. 3 week bivouac. I wonder how they’re doing. They should be okay since the weather here is pretty good right now.

Good night & Best Love,

1. The speech to which Bill refers is probably Roosevelt’s Fireside Chat of December 24, 1943 in which he reports on his recently concluded conferences in Cairo and Teheran with Churchill, Stalin and Chiang Kai-shek. In this broadcast Roosevelt hints at the coming invasion of Europe and announces Dwight D. Eisenhower as the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.

About Letter 53

Bill has 15 hours of K.P yet says "I feel like a million dollars." He spends most of the time "shooting the bull" with the mess sarge. The unit draws "K" rations for their upcoming overnight bivouac.

Letter 53- December 27, 1943

December 27, 1943
(Camp Abbot, Oregon)

Hello Mother and Dad,

You’ll probably receive this and my last letter to you in the same delivery. I wrote the other one yesterday afternoon and then forgot to send it.

Well, today I was on K.P. 15 hours straight and yet tonight I feel like a million dollars. How do I do it? Well it’s quite a story. The last time I was on K.P. I worked like a dog all morning in order to get some time off to go to the post office. I made such an impression on the Mess Sarge that he let me take it easy all afternoon. Today he gave me all the jobs that look tough but are actually easy. Most of the time he spent shooting the bull with me. I don’t have to goldbrick. I’m literally forced into it.

Tonight we drew “K” rations for our overnight bivouac. A whole day on that crap. Of course, I’m not complaining about that. The fellows overseas live on “K” rations but they don’t like ‘em either.

I sure hope the candy and camera get here soon. I don’t know about the condition of that little one. The way I treated it when I was little was a crime. Here’s hoping anyway. I don’t have a hell of a lot more to write so good night.

Best Love,

Thursday, April 16, 2009

About Letter 52

The officers and noncoms are hungover from their Christmas celebration. As a result, the men have an easy schedule for the day. Bill uses the extra time to write a letter. He says the food is improving now that "we are off field rations and on garrison rations." The 54th. is scheduled for 2 "night problems" next week and Bill says, "phooey". He closes with a sketch of a hungover officer.

Letter 52- December 26, 1943

December 26, 1943
(Camp Abbot, Oregon)

Hiya Folks,

It’s sure some laugh. They told us that we’d have to work today Sunday, because we got yesterday off, but when this morning rolled around the officers and noncoms had such hangovers that it was a real laugh. We fooled around all morning and got the afternoon off, so I’ve got enough time for a letter.

This next week is really going to be the nuts. We’ve got 2 night problems and one of them is an all night affair—sleeping out in the snow with sleeping bags. Phooey! In spite of this, however, the work is getting relatively easy now—no more rat races and we get a lot more time to do just such things as this. The toughest part of army life with the exception of combat is over.

Well, we had a white Christmas and today the roads and walls around camp are as slippery as hell. Blair Hamilton and I have fallen on our fannies at least 10 times apiece in the last 2 days. Wot a life.
Boy! am I enjoying the candy that you sent me for Christmas and that cake---wow! As Awful Fresh MacFarlane would say “It’s gooder than anything.” Talking about Awful Fresh MacFarlane—he is a friend of Blair Hamilton’s father and so we had some swell candy for Christmas.

I’m glad that you’re sending a camera up. I can take some swell shots around here, and I know you’ll be glad to see them. The scenery is beautiful around here, and I know you’ll get a kick out of pictures of us in uniform.

I’m on K.P. again tomorrow so I probably won’t get a chance to write. Tonight I’m going to the show. I haven’t received any mail from you for quite some time now but I expect some tonight. The way the mail is run around here anything can happen.

The food here is steadily improving now that we’re off field rations and are on garrison rations. This afternoon we had steak—imagine! It sure is great to get steak after you get to the point where you can’t look a hunk of goat in the face.

Tomorrow the 51st. goes out on the 3 week problem. They’re well equipped and the weather’s not too bad but we’re all praying they can’t make it. The poor guys have got a hex on them. Everybody hopes they fold up so the rest of us can get out of here. (That is, get out of the last 3 weeks).

I’d better close before this gets too boring.

Bestus Love,
(sketch here)

Friday, April 10, 2009

About Letter 51

It’s Christmas 1943. Bill makes a call home from the new Telephone Building. It looks as if they are staying at Camp Abbot for the winter as cold weather uniforms are being shipped in. Bill’s pal is trying to get his father to get them a transfer to “Shore and Harbor Patrol.” It is a long shot, but Bill says, “I can’t lose anything.” He closes the letter with a sketch of him wearing the new winter uniform.

Letter 51- December 25, 1943

December 25, 1943
(Camp Abbot, Oregon)

Hello Mother and Dad,

Well, I just got through speaking to you on the phone about a hour ago. Since then I’ve had a fair Christmas dinner and have had my picture taken by one of the fellows in the barracks. I sure wish I could have heard you a little better on the phone but there was so much noise in the Telephone Building and I couldn’t hear you so well anyway that it was a little tough. (Daddy’ll say that last sentence is awkward –won’t you?) It was swell to hear your voices anyway. I haven’t received any mail for 3 days and although I know you’ve written it takes the pep out of a body anyway.

If you don’t mind the cost I’d like to call you again when there isn’t such a rush.

As I was telling you over the phone it doesn’t look anymore as if we’re going to get out of here- right away at any rate. They’re shipping in winter uniforms right now and they’re some stuff. Fur lined coats, pants, shoes, heavy wool lined field jackets. Tough coats that are reversible with O. D. (olive-drab) on one side and white on the other. These have hoods too. In short we’re getting all set for a hard winter. I guess it can’t be helped.

I still haven’t been able to find out anymore on A.S.T.P. Transfers are becoming very hard to get for engineers but here’s the lowdown on that transfer I was telling you about. My pal, Blair Hamilton’s father is Naval Construction engineer down at San Francisco, and he has connections with a lot of big Army and Navy officers in charge of the port. Blair wanted to go in the Navy but couldn’t make it because his eyesight is rotten. He then thought he’d be turned down by the Army- but wasn’t. Now for about the last week his father has been trying to arrange a transfer to a small branch known as Shore and Harbor Patrol. It’s more or less an M.P. job—you’re sure to be located near a big city—maybe L.A.—and you’d probably be permanently stationed. Blair said his father might be able to arrange it for two and I told him to go ahead and try. I imagine my chances are pretty slim but I can’t lose anything.

I’m enclosing a note to Mr. Van Vorst. With my usual dumbness I misplaced his address and got myself all messed up.

I hope my coughing over the phone didn’t scare you too much. Everyone up here is hacking the same damned way. I really don’t feel half bad now and as I told you I’ve gained back all my weight.

Best Love, Bill

(sketch here) ---Me in winter uniform

Camp Abbot Christmas Card- 1943

About Letter 50

Camp Abbot is getting ready for Christmas. Carols and dance music can be heard over the Service Club PA system "as plain as day" all the way to the training areas. The holiday schedule is light and Bill looks forward to "having it easy for the next 3 days". He spends the previous night as a fire guard.

Letter 50- December 23, 1943

December 23, 1943

(Camp Abbot, Oregon)

Dear Mudder & Dad,

Well, the Christmas rush is on at Camp. Everything is being prepared for a really nice time. Christmas trees are being decorated, and they’ve set up a powerful loud-speaker over the Service Club. You can hear dance music and Christmas carols all over the area. This morning we were out on the rigging sites about a mile and a half out of camp and yet we could hear the music as plain as day.

The weather’s been quite nice for the last few days but tonight there’s a strong south wind and that looks like a storm. I hope that the weather stays a little warm for the next week or so because next week- Wednesday to be exact- we have an overnight problem. We go 5 miles out- sleep out- and 5 miles back the next day- FOOEY!

Despite our ironbound schedule we’re going to have it a little easy for the next 3 days. Tomorrow we can sleep late and we get to do the same Sunday morning.

I didn’t get any mail this evening but after 3 letters I really didn’t expect any today. They always seem to come in bunches.

How do (you) like this stationary- quite artistic, huh?

I have a lot of other things to write but last night I was a fire guard, a sort of night watchman; and I only got about an hours sleep all night long. So you can see that I’m damned tired.

Bestus Love,

P.S. Suddenly it’s snowing like hell. I ain’t never going to like this lousy state.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

About the .30 Caliber Machine Gun

M1919A4 .30 Caliber Air Cooled Machine Gun. The air-cooled 'A4 was much lighter and more portable than its M1917A1 water-cooled counterpart.

Fully automatic, recoil operated, air-cooled
.30 (7.62 mm)
Ball M1; 174 gr bullet, 50 gr charge (.30-06)
Muzzle velocity
853.4 mps (2800 fps)
250-round belt
18.5 kg (41 lbs) with tripod
Overall length
104.1 cm (41 in)
Rate of fire
400 to 550 rounds per minute
Effective range
1000m (1100 yds)

Before the end of World War I, the U.S. Ordnance Department recognized that water-cooled machine guns took up too much space inside a tank. Consequently, the water-cooled M1917 was converted to an air-cooled model by surrounding the barrel with a perforated metal jacket. As World War II approached, the Ordnance Department was committed to developing an air-cooled machine gun for infantry use. The result was the M1919A4.

At 41 lbs for gun and tripod, the M1919A4 was much lighter than the water-cooled M1917A1 (93 lbs for gun and tripod). On the other hand, the air-cooled weapon was unable to maintain the same level of sustained fire as the water-cooled M1917A1, and did not have the steadiness of accuracy as the heavier weapon. But its light weight and ease of set-up made it much more useful as an offensive weapon than the water-cooled guns. In fixed defensive positions, however, the water-cooled M1917A1 saw much use in Korea. With anti-freeze in the water jacket, the heavy MG was more reliable in intense Chosin cold, as was particularly observed in the savage Reservoir battles. In any weather, the heavy was also more stable and, under intense attack, its greater sustained volume of fire was much appreciated. Moreover, the A4 was crticized for slowness of set-up and vulnerability of crew. To meet these weaknesses, the M1919A6 was developed, and saw use in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

About Letter 49

Christmas is approaching and Bill is hoping he won’t get KP. The Portland paper has stories about the bombing campaign over Germany (“four thousand tons in 24 hours”) and a “big [tank] battle in Russia.” The men hear a War Dept. lecture about the progress of the war which Bill characterizes as “designed for the stupid GI Sad Sack, yet informative”. According to the lecturer Germany is taking a “hellova” beating and he gives Bill the impression that “we’d never see any action in Europe for sure.” He tells them the engineers are building a "new Burma Road". Bill closes describing how he “cut down a tree” while firing the .30 cal. machine gun.

Letter 49- December 22, 1943

December 22, 1943
(Camp Abbot, Oregon)

Dear Mudder & Dad,

I’m writing this letter just after lunch. I’m barracks orderly again and therefore have the time to write a good letter. I probably won’t get this off until tonight, however, since I won’t have any airmail Special Delivery stamps until then.

Things are pretty much the same around here. The heavy snows are still holding off and the weather has been at least bearable. Work has been getting progressively easier, and in general things are pretty good.

As far as moving out of here is concerned, I guess I’ll be finishing my basic right here. Some of the newer outfits may move out but nearly everything we do from now on can, if necessary, be done indoors. That’s why I’d like to have those language books. Up until about a week ago it looked as if we might move out at any time, but they’ll keep putting it off until the winter is over. I wouldn’t doubt it a bit, however, that we have our 3 week problem somewhere else, but that’s a long way away.

Well, it’s almost Christmas and I can hardly wait to get my hooks into those Christmas packages. Oh boy! I think that every building in the Camp must have its own Christmas tree. There’s a huge one growing on Group Ave., the main street, and it’s beautifully lit up at night. It really makes me homesick. I guess you’ll have the lights out this year, huh? Nobody here is going to get passes on Christmas. It makes no difference to me but some of the fellows are sure broken up about it. As far as I can see there’s more fun to be had right here in camp than anywhere else except home. I don’t think, however, that any shows or such will get up here. The camp’s too small. I’ve only one fear and that’s that I might get K.P. over Christmas. It’s getting pretty close to my turn.

I received 3 letters from you yesterday which was pretty good. When I get mail like that I feel as if it were my birthday, er sumpin’!

Someone brought in a Portland paper this morning and I see by it that we’re pounding the hell out of Germany again. Four thousand tons in 24 hours. That’s really der stuff, ain’t it. I really don’t see how Germany can keep it up much longer. If they do the Germans must be even dumber than I thought. I guess the big battle in Russia that is going on right now will be over by the time you get this letter. Tank battles hardly ever last very long.

We had a lecture given under War Dept. auspices yesterday on the progress of the war. Of course most of it was designed for the stupid GI “Sad Sack” and was almost insulting to the average person with any intelligence but, nevertheless, some of it was very informative. For one thing it was very optimistic as far as the European situation is concerned. That’s unusual for anything put out by the war dept. Most of their movies and such are as gloomy as hell- predicting a long war and all that, but this was different. According to the lecturer Germany has suffered 3,000,000 casualties in Russia since last July and that 700,000 more are menaced at the present time. It seems that Russia’s grand strategy is to cut the German front in two driving part of the German armies back into the Balkans where supposedly they would collapse. According to intelligence reports Germany is having a “hellova” time of it. In fact, he talked as if we’d never see any action in Europe for sure. “Germany may make a go of it with a few last desperate haymakers but they won’t do her any good.”

Another thing he touched on was the “new Burma Road”. It’s that bloomin’ “highway” the engineers are building up through Northern Burma and Tibet. He said “This road is especially important to you engineers.” I don’t like the way he said that. Maybe I’m just imagining things ---I hope.

Yesterday I fired the .30 cal. machine gun. Wow! When you get behind one of those babies you feel like you control the world. While firing at the target I cut down a tree in the background.

Best Love
Merry Christmas

P.S. The Merry Christmas is just in case the mail’s fast.

Letter 48- December 20, 1943

December 20, 1943
(Camp Abbot, Oregon)

Dear Mudder & Dad,

As you can plainly see I’ve run out of stamps. I’m going to get some more as soon as possible but I don’t know when that’ll be. Until then all my mail will be by the old unreliable “free” system. If I can, I’ll have the stamps by Wednesday. You’ll notice how uncertain I am about the whole thing. That’s the army for you.

Your mail has been coming in spurts, but I know it’s no fault of yours. The way they run things here it’s a wonder that I get any at all. However, those airmail letters are coming through “on the double”. Your letter of Dec. 18, Mother reached me today-not bad.

Christmas is sure a comin’ fast. Only 15 days-swish! With the exception of the last 10 weeks, this year has sure rolled by. A little while age I was trying to recall what I was doing at this time last year and was surprised at how well I could remember the things I did at school, around home and so forth. I can’t remember what happened the day before yesterday but I can remember that.

Today we worked on machine guns and tomorrow we fire them all day. I enjoy this more than anything we’ve had so far.

I’m being cut short by the “Sarge” who’s demanding that we all clean our gas masks. I could put it off but I’d better do it. I think this must be about the 3rd. letter that bird has ruined.

Bestus Love &
Merry Christmas,

Saturday, April 4, 2009

About Letter 47

On Friday Bill gets the afternoon off and visits Bend for some Christmas shopping. He buys a 15¢ malt and 3 doughnuts for a dime. Grandma and Jessie send him $10. On Sunday he “loafs” and says that he has a “feeling big things are about to break in the war." Bill recites a poem entitled “After the Engineers”.

Letter 47- December 18, 1943

December 18, 1943

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Well, it’s Saturday night and another enjoyable week at beautiful Camp Abbot has faded into memory, praise the Lord! This really has been a tough week. We’ve been working like dogs and I feel lousy-not sick, mind you but just all pooped out. Boy, this Camp sure gets a man down.

Yesterday afternoon, however, we got off to go to Bend for Christmas shopping. It was the first time I’d been in during the day & it sure was a lot better. I walked around all over town trying to find something to buy but had little success. I saw a fur-lined coat costing $75.00 that I’d damn near give my right arm for up here. I bet it would keep a man warm at the South Pole. Seventy-five bucks. My tastes would have to run in that bracket. Oh well, it was a civilian coat anyway.

In Bend I found a swell malt shop. For 15¢ a person can get a malt that would put Curries to shame. Also they make doughnuts in the window. I got 3 for a dime while they were still hot. They were the best I’ve ever had---Ummmm.

I got some of those little golden outhouses, but they’re nowhere near as nice as the ones I had in mind.

There’s still evidence that we’re going to move out, but if so it won’t be until sometime in January. Over at the hospital they’ve received a lot of new equipment but they’re not going to unpack it until they know what the score is.
I’m beginning to wonder if anyone knows what’s really coming off.

The 51st. went off on a 27 mile hike today and had to be brought back on trucks. They get their 3 weeks problem starting next week and they’re scared to death. If they can’t make (it) the rest of us are supposed to go to Needles for our 3 week problem, as I believe I’ve told you already.

I received $10 from Jessie and Grandma today. Pretty good for a poor rookie, huh? I’ll have to write and thank them very soon.

That package they sent me before didn’t have any peanut butter in is as far as I know but it did have some peanut butter cookies in it. Maybe that’s what she meant.

I’m awfully sleepy right now so I think I’ll finish this letter tomorrow.
good night

good morning

I just picked up a cute poem I think you’ll like. Here it is:

“After the Engineers”

Oh, the infantry is the first to land-
after the engineers

Marines get things so well in hand-
after the engineers

And when they sound the mess call
you can bet a round of beers-

The Cavalry’s the first to eat-
after the engineers

The tanks are always out in front-
after the engineers

The paratroopers bear the brunt-
after the engineers

And when the war’s all over but the shouting and the cheers-

The boys will all go running-
Before the engineers.

I like that.

Well, it’s Sunday morning and everybody’s taking it easy. We’ve got another radio and it’s playing Christmas carols. That’s about all that’s gone on all morning- just lazy loafing and boy do we need it. The longer I stay in this camp the more pooped out I get. When I get my furlough I’m going to lie down and sleep for a week.

I don’t know but I have a feeling big things are about to break so far as this war is concerned. I have little access to the news as compared to you, but I just have a feeling. Maybe my hunch is just wishful thinking but I’ve still got a feeling that the war’s nearer over than most think.

That’s enough prognostication for today. You asked me about my laundry, mother; so here it is. We can send it out once a week and as much as we want for $1.50 a month. They do a very good job on wool socks.

I’d better close now.

Best Love,


The shades of night were falling fast,
As through an Alpine village passed
A youth, who bore, 'mid snow and ice,
A banner with the strange device,

His brow was sad; his eye beneath,
Flashed like a falchion from its sheath,
And like a silver clarion rung
The accents of that unknown tongue,

In happy homes he saw the light
Of household fires gleam warm and bright;
Above, the spectral glaciers shone,
And from his lips escaped a groan,

"Try not the Pass!" the old man said:
"Dark lowers the tempest overhead,
The roaring torrent is deep and wide!
And loud that clarion voice replied,

"Oh stay," the maiden said, "and rest
Thy weary head upon this breast!"
A tear stood in his bright blue eye,
But still he answered, with a sigh,

"Beware the pine-tree's withered branch!
Beware the awful avalanche!"
This was the peasant's last Good-night,
A voice replied, far up the height,

At break of day, as heavenward
The pious monks of Saint Bernard
Uttered the oft-repeated prayer,
A voice cried through the startled air,

A traveller, by the faithful hound,
Half-buried in the snow was found,
Still grasping in his hand of ice
That banner with the strange device,

There in the twilight cold and gray,
Lifeless, but beautiful, he lay,
And from the sky, serene and far,
A voice fell, like a falling star,

Thursday, April 2, 2009

About Letter 46

Bill is on duty as latrine orderly and it is to his liking. He sends some pictures to home. He continues to be frustrated about the ASTP “deal”. With Christmas approaching Bill is more homesick than ever and particularly misses his dog “Johanna”. He closes with a sketch depicting him honing his goldbricking skills.

Letter 46- December 16, 1943

December 16, 1943
(Camp Abbot, Oregon)

Dear Mudder & Dad,

Today I’m on duty as latrine orderly or as the GI’s less delicately put it, “turd sergeant”. In spite of that, it’s a plenty soft job. In the morning a squad comes in and cleans up so all I have to do for the rest of the day is stoke a small furnace and a couple of space heaters. Pretty good, huh? Another good feature about it is the fact that it lets me out of guard duty tonight. So I get all day to sit around and write letters and all night to sleep. This is how army life should always be.

Tomorrow we get the entire day off and all afternoon and evening to go to Bend for Christmas shopping. I think that they’re beginning to realize that men can be driven so far in this weather before they break. The number of AWOL’s and desertions around here is pretty high for engineers.

Last night I sent the pictures home. It was late but the best I could do. I insured the packages. I definitely don’t think the pictures are so hot. I especially don’t like the oils. On one of them my nose looks as if it were wrapped around my face and the other was made up sloppily. I rather like the little picture, however. I’m s’posed to have a fellow take some snapshots of me sometime over the weekend. If so I’ll send some to you. How would you like me dressed with full field equipment? As I said in last night’s letter, “you should live so long.”

About this A.S.T.P deal---I’ve just about decided that the best thing to do would be to continue on with my basic and then see what’s up. I might just might be able to get to be cadre. They’re going to move all the old cadre to line outfits after this period. That means they may get some of the new from the present bunch. Of course, this is just speculation but I’ve got my eyes open in all directions. Somewhere in this army there must be a decent opening for me.

Of course the war may not last so much longer. In spite of some recent allied setbacks, I don’t see how Germany will get thru the winter. In that case my chances of advancing in any direction will be slim.

Only 9 more days until Christmas, gee. This year has sure gone by fast. I do hope you do some kind of celebrating over the holidays. I’m going to try and have as nice a Christmas as possible under the circumstances and I’d like to think you were doing the same. I’ve got it all figured out how I can have a tree. It’ll be about a foot high and will stand on my shelf.

Since that last paragraph was written about 2 hours have passed. I ate lunch and generally “futzed” around during all that time. I’m getting to be an expert goldbrick. What little work I had to do on the stoves this morning I don’t have to do this afternoon because I was told to let them go out for some reason or another. So here I sit----Ahhh.

That little note from the paper about Shirley Temple and Hotchkiss, the sap, sure gave me a laugh. The more I see and hear about people the more I like and admire dogs. That may be corny but it is oh so true. Speaking of dogs, always when I’m down in the dumps I get cheered up (by) one of the company mutts. He’s a fat, spoiled (by the mess sarge) little cocker spaniel named Pup that reminds me so much of Johanna that it hurts. He sure is cute and so fat he can hardly waddle. By the way, how is Johanna—just as big a pest as ever I suppose.

As Christmas gets closer I’m sure getting homesick. At night I’ll lay in my bunk and think about it. God, this war’s a pain in the neck.

I was wondering if you could pick up a camera somewhere and send it. I can get films and I sure could get a lot of pictures.

Well, I’d better close. I’m beginning to bore even myself.

Best Love,

(Sketch Here)

PS. Thanks for the $15.00

About Letter 45

Bill receives a bonanza from home-6 letters and 3 packages. The weather is too cold as usual, 5-6 below zero with fog and wind. Bill got an airmail letter from home that took “only 2 days”. There are no new rumors about the camp closing.

Letter 45- December 15, 1943

December 15, 1943
(Camp Abbot, Oregon)

Dear Mother & Dad,

Boy! do I feel good. Last night I got 3 packages and 3 letters and tonight I got 3 more letters. Boy! that’s all I can say. I put the 3 packages in my footlocker. There they will stay until Christmas Day –I swear it. That’s 10 days of fighting back curiosity. It’ll be quite a battle. I’ll win though.
Say! What’s that about all the weather you’ve been having down in L.A.? Maybe a little of Camp Abbot has moved down there. You’d better take care of those colds or I’ll come down there and put ya to bed. You don’t want to end up with “Camp Abbot Consumption” like me. Speaking about weather, you ought to be here: 5 & 6 below zero every day. Today’s high was 28° F. with the sun shining all day. Tonight a biting cold fog and wind has blown up. Wot a future we got here.

Well, it sure looks as if that A.S.T.P. has gone to hell. Well, that’s the way it goes. If there’d been no A.S.T.P. I would not have been called up until January huh!

Gee! I don’t know where to start in answering your letters. Six is a little overwhelming. To begin with don’t worry. I’ll go easy on the victuals. They’re going to last awhile.

Hey! The stink about this war is sure getting heavy. As long as a lot of gravy is being thrown around I wish I could get a desk job in Washington and get some. I should live so long.

Mrs. Hamilton must be pretty bad off. What’s the matter? Too much booze or sumpin’. Ain’t I awful?

Since you like these Special Delivery Airmail letters I’ll keep ‘em flying. For awhile, however you’ll have to get along on the old kind. I’m suffering a little pecuniary embarrassment and have only 2 stamps left. However, we’re going to be paid early this month and then I’ll buy some. That last Airmail letter you sent me, Mother, got here in only 2 days. Maybe it’d be a good idea to start them again. I liked that poem, “Excelsior”.¹

Haven’t heard anymore about the Camp closing. Will write a lot more tomorrow.

G’nite—Love, Bill xxxxx

1. An allegorical poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow about holding true while striving for a higher purpose.