Monday, June 15, 2009

Letter 71- February 13, 1944

February 13, 1944
(Camp Abbot, Oregon)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I just got back from calling you about an hour ago. It was certainly wonderful to hear your voices even if I couldn’t tell what you were saying about ¾ or the time. I don’t know why I can’t tell what you’re saying, or hear rather. Part of it is the noise outside of the booth, I know; but even so you sound faint and indistinct. I asked the operator about it but she said that if you could hear me all right I should be able to hear you. I don’t know but it is too bad.

Well, I guess you’d like to hear about the bivouac. Wot a life that’s been. I’d give almost anything if it were all over. In the first place, they rolled us out about 5:00 last Monday morning, gave us a hurry up meal in our mess-kits and then marched us at double quick time about 5 miles out to a frozen swamp where we were supposed to dig in and set up our camp. As soon as that was done we rushed over to the river and started to construct some foot bridges. The river was frozen over so we had to break holes in the ice in order to put our bents and supports down into the water. Well, you can guess the rest. Four of us were carrying a heavy bent across the ice when a big hunk broke loose and “kerplop!?” in we go. The big hearted bird in charge then told us to go over by the dinky little fire and get dried out. The temperature that day was about 15°. When we finally did get to the area and got dry clothes on we were pretty miserable. To top it off that night it snowed and all the bedrolls got soak(ed) and wet. I was ready to call the whole thing off. The next day we had to tear down a bridge. This was a heavy wood bridge of about 15 tons capacity. It was still snowing and we were still pretty badly off. However, the bird that let us freeze out fell in the river himself under suspicious circumstances which made us all feel a little better.

That night it stopped snowing but I stayed up until 12:30 A.M. drying my bedroll. Then they made us all get up (at 12:30 mind you) and march 14 miles through a foot of snow in the God damned S.O.B dark. I fell down so often I felt like a tenpin. Of course, we were the leading company and as usual we marched at the “C” co. running pace. It wasn’t so tough on us but the other companies who don’t generally go that had a hell of a time. They were passing out all over the road. The meat wagon was packed and they filled up a couple more trucks. I don’t care but I don’t think they should beat men that way. I don’t have any trouble on marches but I know how it feels to be half dead when I’ve come off the obstacle course. We got to the new bivouac about 6 o’clock in the morning and camp was set up by noon. Then I caught up on my sleep. I slept all afternoon and all night. The next day we broke camp and moved 7 miles more. That night I had 4 hours guard duty; the next day we did mine laying all day; and that night I was on road block guard duty all night. God! what a grind! By the time we came in the next morning I was so damned tired.

About 2:00 Sat. afternoon they called out about 40 of the men in the co. for Specialist Training Interview. They called off our names and then put us in groups. One group was under consideration for Ordinance school. The second group was for Engineering school, and the 3rd. group (my bunch) was for signal school. Then they called 3 names of my group for radio repair, 5 for radio operators including me and the rest for electrical school. I was one of 5 for an entire battalion who is being given a chance for radio operator. That would give me 17 more weeks more schooling and probably (sketch of tech sergeant’s stripes here). Well, here’s hoping—I hope, I hope, I hope. (sketch of 4 leaf clover and horseshoe here) I’m going to go after it tooth and nail. It sure beats this God damned pick and shovel work we’ve been doing around here. If I never see another pick, shovel, saw, and so forth again, it’ll be too damn soon.

I’ve got a “hellova” cold now and it’s settled in my jaw. I couldn’t even close my mouth all day. I’m getting awful hungry. It’s getting better tonight but this morning they thought I had the mumps. Heaven forbid!!

I’ll call you again next weekend if they don’t confine us to company area like they did last Sunday.

Best Love


  1. Bill must be one tough customer by now to endure that grueling pace. Stephen Ambrose comments that although nothing in U.S. Army training prepared men for the reality of combat, they were universally in excellent physical condition.

    Radio operator school! Bill would be good at that. He obviously has a grasp of language and is smart as a whip, just the kind of guy they would like. And running the radio generally involves duty under canvas at least.

  2. I am impressed with the Camp Abbot regimen. The climate and the fact that the bivouac is in the dead of winter makes the training ideal for what Bill and many of the other men would face in Europe in the winter of 1944-45.

    There will be much more to come regarding radio school and I think we will be surprised about the outcome.


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