Friday, May 1, 2009

Letter 58- January 9, 1944

January 9, 1944
(Camp Abbot, Oregon)

Dear Mother and Dad,

You’re probably wondering right now why I’ve been so lax in my writing of late. I’ve had plenty of time so there’s no excuse I can give except that I’ve been having such a good time lately that I haven’t given it as much thought as I should. I’m not kidding. I’m really beginning to enjoy army life. Much of it is as disgusting as ever but since my cold has gone away and the work let down it’s been pretty good. As you said in your latest letter, Dad, I’m getting Esprit de Corps. In spite of my dislike for the “old army life” I can’t help but be proud of this Corps. No matter what anyone says the Combat Engineers is a slick outfit. We have to fight better than the infantry and have to build and destroy better than the Construction Engineers. We don’t think very highly of ourselves do we? Oh well, who will if we don’t?

This afternoon we had a broadcast from Camp Abbot. Right now I’m holding my nose. The only thing that saved the show was the Camp Abbot band which is damned good for a military band. They can make symphony music sound as if it isn’t being played by a band.

Last Friday we fired special weapons. That was really fun. I shot that new .30 carbine, the Thompson .45 cal. submachine gun, the .50 cal. light machine gun. Light they call it—128 lbs. The damn thing is really a small automatic cannon. That carbine and Thompson sub are really honeys, however.

Contrary to all belief none of those guns kick--not the least bit. They jump up but not back.

Lately as I as I said before I’ve been splurging and having a great time—going to shows—eating at the Service Club—and generally enjoying myself. Oh boy! This letter really differs from some of the old ones, huh?

One of the fellows that bunks near me is teaching all about stonecutting and gems. It’s really interesting. Also I’m having a swell time with those language books. At last I’m learning something of value in this army.

Bestus Love,

(sketches of Bill shooting various weapons described here)


  1. Basic training is having its intended impact on Bill. He is transforming from civilian to soldier as he identifies more and more with his unit and his new occupation. He is even finding some joy in the new skills with exotic weapons and the disctinction of being a combat engineer. How many movies did Bill see where the gangsters fired away with Tommy guns? Now he has done it.

  2. It is interesting to watch the maturation and attitude adjustment Bill is undergoing while at the same time retaining his heathy skepticism.

    To me another interesting aspect of these letters is the almost daily frequency with which they are written. It creates an ongoing narrative, almost like a serial in which one looks forward to the forthcoming episode to see what will be revealed next.


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