Wednesday, September 30, 2009

About Letter 133

Bill finally gets his pass to London. He rides the "Underground" to Piccadilly Circus and upon getting off is "promptly drowned by the mob." Bill observes the colorful scene at Piccadilly Circus and then visits the American Red Cross to secure sleeping accommodations for the night.

Letter 133- October 17, 1944

October 17, 1944

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I sure am sorry that I haven’t written to you for so long but everything’s been going so fast that I’ve just let everything go.

I’ve been to London, finally. I thought that I was never going to get that pass but I finally did. I am sure glad that I got to go. It’s the only place in England that’s really worthwhile seeing. I left here about 3:00 PM in the afternoon and arrived at Waterloo Station about dinner time. God I never saw such a mob in my entire life. I never saw so different uniforms in my life either. The station itself is no Grand Central but I can assure you there’s just as many people if not more. I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible so I grabbed the “Underground”. Now that is something. It’s the most efficient, fastest, easiest thing in England. Everything is done by machine. You get your change, buy your ticket, ride the escalator, get on your train & zip you’re there. Actually it’s rather paradoxical that the English, who as a rule are so damn slow and who love to do everything the hard way, should have such an efficient transportation system.

Anyway, I got off at Piccadilly Circus to find the main American Red Cross Headquarters and was promptly drowned in the mob. Piccadilly Circus is the Times Square of London, you know. The whole place was packed with soldiers, sailors, M.P.’s, newsboys, peddlers, ordinary civilians, and prostitutes, I might add. Every time I took a step I could hear, “Hello soldier”, or “Got a match, soldier?” Londoners call them “Piccadilly Commandos” and the name is quite apropos. After I fought my way into the Red Cross I found out about getting a bed. They gave me a ticket and directions to one of the multitudes of A.R.C. clubs in London. My place was the Hans Cresent Club, just south of Knightsbridge in the main part of the City. There I got a fair meal and a good bed with sheets and a pillow. I didn’t go very far that evening but went to bed early. I’ll write more tomorrow.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

About Letter 132

The rain is coming down in torrents and Bill's shoes are "filled with water to the ankles." He receives some letters that "must have come over by rowboat" taking over a month to get from Los Angeles to Bill in England.

Letter 132- October 11, 1944

October 11, 1944

Dear Mudder and Dad,

God, what a day this has been. From early this morning to late this evening the wind blew like a damned hurricane and the rain comes down in torrents. Five minutes after we fell out this morning I was sopped and that’s the way I remained all day long. Cold as an iceberg and wet as could be I felt like a “pore mizzable” drowned rat all day long. My shoes actually filled up with water to the ankles and my pants were soaked all the way to my –er-hips. If I didn’t have a damned good constitution I’d be dead. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of fellows won’t be sick tomorrow as it is. And you used to bawl me out for going out without a hat on. It’s really funny.

I’m beginning to get some of my back mail now. Some of it must have come over by rowboat. You sent me some of the letters over a month ago.

To top off a perfectly horrible day we’re having a perfectly beautiful evening. There’s not a cloud in the sky and the stars are shining like a million and one jewels. It’s brisk and breezy but not too much so. I just got back from a stroll and its right to make one sleepy. In fact I’m having a hard time keeping my eyes open right now. That’s as good a cue as any for me to sign off. Bet you think this is a helluva letter. It is.

Best love,

About Letter 131

Bill inquires about the estate of his recently departed grandfather, Herbert Leroy Taylor. He is hoping to be the recipient of some historical family documents. He misses not getting news about the Presidential election campaign. Bill plans to put in for a pass to London.

Letter 131- October 8, 1944

October 8, 1944

Dear Mudder and Dad,
I finally received 2 letters from you. It was really a relief. Just to show you what the delay had been, these last letters were both marked #12. Before them the last letter I received was marked # 6. In other words somewhere there are 5 letters floating around. I know my change of address would have something to do with this but just think, all that time for a few letters to travel around in this little country.

I sure wish I was home to follow the campaign. I’ll bet it’s sure interesting. That clipping sure took a rap at the “great man.”

As I say in just about all my letters, there isn’t much to write. This evening I went to the show again. That’s about all a body can do. Soon I’m going to put in for my London pass. Can’t say just when though.

Have you heard any more about the estate Gramps left? I got to thinking about the family records that he always used to talk to me about when we were east. I wonder if they still exist and whether or not I could have them if they do. I’m the only one to whom they could mean much so I wish you’d write and see about them.

I “shure” hope those packages get through okay. Most of the fellows here seem to be getting them all right but just a little slower than regular mail. By the way, yesterday’s letters were postmarked the 28th. That wasn’t so bad.

Hope to get another letter tomorrow night.

Best love,

Thursday, September 24, 2009

About Censorship

Once Bill was deployed to England his letters became subjected to military censorship. As we have seen, Bill was very aware that his letters were being censored. In several instances he makes small asides to the censor in his letters such as “cut here if you must”. The net result of the censorship of his letters is that they are less informative and specific about his movements and activities. Unfortunately this makes them less interesting to read. Bill tries hard, but he just doesn’t have as much to say.

The enlisted soldier was censored by an officer in his unit. It was considered an unimportant job and often someone like the chaplain or the dentist would get saddled with the job. If the enlisted man did not want his officer to read his mail -- if he had been giving him a hard time, let's say -- the soldier could use what was called a 'blue envelope.' The writer would certify that there is nothing in here that shouldn't be and the letter would go up to the next level where it might be looked at a little more kindly.

If the section they wanted out was very big, they would confiscate the letter. If it was small, they cut out the words or obliterate it with ink. If they had to use special chemicals to check for invisible writing -- something they did when they suspected a spy -- they would confiscate the letter because they didn't want people to know they were doing it.

The censors returned very few soldiers' letters. They confiscated them; they didn't send them back. They didn't necessarily give the word back to the soldier that his or her letter was withheld. It depended where it was stopped and how fast the troops were moving.
From the soldier's perspective, they often didn't know if it was going to get through. The soldiers were all given guidance on what they could say, so one would think they would know how to avoid getting their mail intercepted, but not all did.

An overly informative writer might be talked to, because it's important. We don’t know of any soldiers who were severely punished for what they wrote in a letter. It wasn't considered an overt act of sabotage; it was considered carelessness. Bill seems to be careful to follow the rules of censorship in his letters. It is unknown if any of his letters home were altered or confiscated.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

About Letter 130

The training "just seems to drag along in an easy but boresome manner." At the close of the letter Bill hears a ruckus downstairs that "sounds as if a murder were being committed" so he goes to investigate.

Letter 130- October 6, 1944

October 6, 1944

Dear Folks,

What’sa matter anyway. The last letter I got from you was mailed September 6, a whole month ago. Some folks here are getting letters postmarked as late as the 28th—but for me, “nuttin”. I don’t know what’s wrong but whatever it is I don’t like it—not even a little bit, but I guess it won’t do me any good. You say some of my mail comes as quickly as 7 days. That’s pretty good. I wonder why I can’t do as well.

Really there’s not a “helluva” lot to write about these days. Our training just seems to drag along in an easy but boresome manner and outside of that I don’t do much of anything. In evening I generally go to the Red Cross for a “Coke” or maybe take in one of these old shows. In general I live a typical E.T.O. army life “Confidentially”. You know how the saying goes.

By now school must be pretty well underway. Write and tell me how things are; even tell me what you’re having for dinner if you must.

I’ll close now. I haven’t said much but that’s about all there is. Anyway, it sounds as if a murder were being committed down stairs. I’d better investigate. Hope you’re not having colds like me.

Best love,

About Letter 129

Bill notes that "just one year ago today I came into the bloomin' army." He fires for the record and despite a driving rain makes "Expert", the highest level of markmanship.

Letter 129- October 4, 1944

October 4, 1944

Dear Mudder and Dad,

“Why ain’t I gittin’ any o’ thet thar mail”? Don’t answer, I know—it’s the postal service. I’d like to strangle somebody. Grin! I feel meaner than the devil.

You’ll please note the date. Just one year ago today I came into the blooming army. What a lousy, stinking year it’s been. In some ways it seems longer than a year and others shorter. Anyhoo, I can wear a good conduct ribbon now. Oh thrill! Phfft!

I fired for record today. You know a soldier has to fire for record once a year. This time I made Expert although I thought for a while that I wouldn’t. Just as I moved up on the firing line it started to rain like the very devil. All the while I fired bucketsful of rain were being hurled into my puss. And I’ll be damned if just as I stepped off the line it didn’t stop raining. The gods must be in a league against me. I shouldn’t complain though. I made 176 points and only 172 were required to make Expert.

That’s about it for tonight.

Best love,


Friday, September 18, 2009

About Letter 128

It's "another lazy Sunday" and Bill plans to go over to the Red Cross. The morning papers indicate that "Ike is massing some 3,000,000 men on the German frontier." Bill reports that he has fireman duty and must report to the Messhall at 3:30 A.M.

Letter 128- October 1, 1944

October 1, 1944

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Here it s another lazy Sunday. It’s a pretty nice day outside but still wet from yesterday’s rain. I should be doing some washing but I can’t seem to get very enthusiastic about the thing. I guess I’ll get cleaned up in a little while and go over to the Red Cross. The mail you’re sending me comes so damn slow that it’s pitiful. You say my letters come in 7 days. Well it takes yours over 3 weeks. After not getting and mail from you for about a week I received one letter yesterday that was dated the sixth of Sept.

Well, they’ve finally got around to letting us be a little more specific about where we are. Now I can say I’m in Southern England. That clears up things a “helluva” lot doesn’t it—to be sure.

I see by this morning’s paper that Ike is massing some 3,000,000 men on the German frontier and that the Jerries are as jittery as the devil. I can’t say I blame them. From what the papers say they’re going to go through Das Reich like a dose of salts. I hope so. You’ll probably know all about it by the time you get this letter. I understand, however, from the infinitesimal amount of Eastern news that the British papers print that China is getting awfully wobbly.

That’s really about all there is, folks. Tomorrow I’ve got to go to the Messhall about 3:30 A.M. and be a fireman, a dirty job. Phooey! The more I think about it the less I like it. Oh hell! “Cest la guerre” and all stuff like that thar.

Best Love,

About Letter 127

For the first time Bill acknowledges that "I guess I'll see some action yet." He reveals that he is in Southern England and closes with a typically opinionated slogan on the upcoming U.S. Presidential election.

Letter 127- September 28, 1944

September 28, 1944

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I always start out by writing that it’ll be a short note—well, it will be. Very little of interest has been happening around here since I last wrote and on top of that I haven’t received any mail from you for several miles (several miles. Isn’t that awful? Here I am trying to write with a couple of “yahoos” blabbin’ about how far it is to some burg.) Anyhow, that’s not miles but rather days.

It seems now that all our rosy ideas about the war being over by the 1st. of October was just so much baloney. Now they talk about it lasting at least another 2 years. I guess I’ll see some action yet. Probably by the time I get home I’ll be eligible for on old age pension. Brrrr! Ghastly thought. The main trouble with us Americans I think is the way which we go to extremes. Everything must either be rosy red or black. One day they’re predicting the hour the war’ll end and next they’re groaning about it dragging on ‘till “nineteen-leventy-leven”.

Slogans for Servicemen

“Home alive in ‘45

“Pearly gate by ‘48

This is making the rounds over here.

P.S. I am in Southern England. I can say no more.

Best Love,

Thursday, September 10, 2009

About Letter 126

Bill dares the censor to cut his letter. He describes a visit to Chester, in Chester County. Sights described include the ruins of St. John's Abby, a "magnificant cathedral dating from about 1250" and "a number of inns and alehouses built in Shakespeare's time."

Letter 126- September 24, 1944

September 24, 1944

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I received two letters from you today and they were well in order. It was sure swell to get them. They were both postmarked the 4th however, and even with a war I think that 20 days is a “hellova” long time for a letter to be on its way. Oh hell! I got them and that’s what counts. I notice that the newspapers at home have been building up the ideal that the war would be over by the time we’d be able to say Jack Robinson. Of course it’s the same over here with British public opinion, but it’s still dragging on and Army people are not so enthusiastic. From what I saw of the Krauts back in the states this feeling is pretty well founded. Jerry is a tough baby and won’t give up until he’s had the living daylights knocked out of him. It could be over by the time this reaches you but I’ll bet it isn’t. (didn’t I butcher that last line though?)

Things are running pretty much according to plan with me these days—same old routine. It makes it rather difficult to write a decent letter as you can plainly see.

I don’t think the following will be censored now. I didn’t see anything against it. “Anyhoo” write me if what comes next ain’t here.

(Dear Censor, if you must—cut here
One of the cities I visited while at my last station was Chester, in Cheshire County. The town is about 20 miles from Liverpool and has quite a historical background. The name Chester itself comes from the Roman “castra” or fort and at one time a Roman garrison was stationed there. I saw some of the Roman works but they were rather meager.

Around the center of town is a wall that dates back to the 13th century. To me it’s difficult to believe that these things are so old. They don’t seem very well kept yet they’re in good condition considering their age. There is one tower on the wall that I climbed and stood in the spot where King Charles I watched Cromwell defeat his army on Rowland Moor in 1647 (me and King Charles). I saw some Abby Ruins (St. John’s I believe) which dated from 600 to around 1100. Also there is a magnificent cathedral dating from about 1250. In the town are a number of inns and alehouses built in Shakespeare’s time. All in all it was quite interesting.

I think I’d better close now. Hope all is well.

Best Love,


About Letter 125

After almost a year in the army Bill is "right back where I started.......a private in the rear rank". He is sick and tired of being "an eternal replacement" and says that he is "even tempted to join the paratroopers."

Letter 125- September 22, 1944

September 22, 1944

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I feel tonight like the last rose of peaches. My physical condition is not bad with the slight exception of a “beastly code in na head” but mentally-----phiffft! If you know what I mean. I don’t know whether it’s the army in general that’s all “Snafu”. I’ve been in now for almost an entire year but as far as I can see I’m right back where I started. At times it makes me feel down right ashamed. Six years of military school and here I am—a private in the rear rank. I know I’m a good soldier and more qualified for combat as an infantryman or engineer that 99% of these birds around here but still this job of being an eternal replacement is making me feel like a third rate bum. If I only was in an outfit. I was even tempted to join paratroopers. I thought better of it, howev—of course—naturally. I don’t mind risking my life for my country, but intentionally committing suicide, no! but definitely.

But enough of this silly griping. Let’s get down to brass tacks. There’s very little of anything special to write about. That is, there’s very little they will let me write about ( I know, too many prepositions at the end of sentences).

When I was home last I noted that you were quite concerned about whether or not I wanted to go on with college after this mess is over. I reiterate the answer is yes. I’ve seen so much ignorance in this army that it seems more important than ever.

Best Love,


Monday, September 7, 2009

About Letter 124

Bill takes a shower and exclaims, "what an ordeal....right now I can't tell whether I've been fried or frozen." He is bored and sarcastically quotes Shakespeare,"This other Eden--this England".

Letter 124- September 21, 1944

September 21, 1944

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Only time for a short note tonight. I gotta do a little work on the old “shootin’ iron”.

I just came back from taking a shower----what an ordeal. The showers here run intermittently scalding hot and ice cold. Right now I can’t tell whether I’ve been fried or frozen.

Boy! Am I bored. Stuff I’ve done a thousand times all day and nothing to do in the nighttime. “This other Eden—this England” I repeat myself, I know; but I can’t help but think of it every time I lose myself in the fog.

I’ll try and write a real letter tomorrow. I suppose that this is pretty disappointing as far as information goes but you said you wanted to hear from me even if it was just a word.

Best Love,

About Letter 123

In this short note Bill recounts a conversation with his bunkmate from Modesto, California. They talk about travelling up the Redwood Highway and the Columbia River. By comparison Bill states, "Oh Boy! Does England look sick. Phooey."

Letter 123- September 20, 1944

September 20, 1944

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Just time for a short note tonight. I’ve had a real tough day of sitting on my posterior doing dry runs on rifle practice. If this soft life continues much longer I’ll be even a more confused bum than I am now, if such a thing is possible. It’s funny but the less I do the sooner I want to go to bed at night. Now it’s only 8:20 P.M. and I’m as sleepy as the devil.

The fellow who sleeps under me is from Modesto and this evening we got talking about travelling up the Redwood Highway and up the Columbia River. Oh boy! Does England look sick. Phooey. So far I’ve been to several of the large towns around here. If a plague and a blackout were to descend on Studio City it’d still be 3 times as lively as the largest of these dumps. Oh well, maybe I’m too exacting.

That’s about all I’ve got time now.

Bestus Love,

Thursday, September 3, 2009

About Letter 122

Bill is in the dumps but his mood takes a 180 degree turn when he receives mail from home. He chronicles this event with a humorous sketch. Bill reads the newspaper headlines to a fellow soldier who cannot read or write and states," there was something about that that made me feel so damn lucky."

Letter 122- September 19, 1944

September 19, 1944
(England-That other Eden: Shakespeare)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I was planning to sit down tonight and write you a long tale of woe about my being in the army a year almost with no promotions, no outfit, no nothing when some ‘gazebo” slaps me on the shoulder and says, “You Taylor? Ya got some mail.” Suddenly my world brightened and thoughts of how lucky I am began to race through my mind. After all, tonight I’m sitting in a comfortable warm barracks. I could be in a bloomin’ foxhole. I’ve got a lot of advantages when it comes right down to it. I’m safe and could be “daid”. That may sound silly but it could have been—very easily. I was talking to a fellow a few moments ago and he casually mentioned that he couldn’t read or write. I was somewhat taken back but it was not until I’d talked to him that I really understood what a handicap it was. Although he was extremely interested in the war news he knew nothing of what was going on other than the unreliable word of mouth information that he picked up in conversation. He asked me to read him the headlines. I don’t know, but there was something about that that made me feel so damn lucky. Well-----------.

I got a letter from Richard and from what he says the Navy routine must be getting him down.

Sketch here: “This is ‘Sad Sack’ Taylor contemplating a good day”- 5:00 P.M.
Sketch here: “Top ‘o the Heap Taylor. Master of all he surveys”- 5:10 P.M.

Dear Censor- Don’t you think this deserves a section 8?

Dear Folks- A section 8 is a discharge from the army for those who prove mentally unbalanced.

He thinks that I’m quite lucky to be stationed in England. Probably so but just because this is better than 49,000,000 other dumps hardly makes me feel like cheering.

Your letters sure were swell even if you did have to mention that delicious ice-cream. That Air Mail stationary is pretty nice.

That about does it.

Best Love, Bill