April 22, 25 and 29, 1944 : Three letters home from Topeka Army Air Base. Other than writing about the weather and such, Dad shares the news that a longtime serviceman that he has come to know on the base has passed away. He also writes about the usual on base diversions, including the USO shows, and shares his thoughts about some of the news from home.
Things continue to be fairly routine. Dad mentions that he feels “pretty good after having been to the gym yesterday evening on my own time and building up my so-called physique.” He also writes about the weather and how “although the sun would shine from one corner of the horizon, the other side of the world would be engulfed in an electrical storm. It looked beautiful.”
As far as other news on base, Dad writes about the loss of one of the men that he has come to know. “Jake Brown…only had about two years to go to reach his 30 years of service… Recently he was transferred into a different organization on this field and received a furlough. Yesterday they received a request from his place for an extension on the furlough time and in the latter part of the day they received a telegram…that he had passed away. I knew him quite well and he was well liked by everybody.”
Dad writes about a recent conversation that he had with Jake. “I sat with him in the Service Club and he must have had a shot or two. He was very pessimistic about the world and how it was going to be after the war. As far as he was concerned, it wouldn’t affect him much but it would affect us young guys. I guess he looked forward to the time he was going to collect on his thirty years, but those words he spoke about him not being affected certainly turned out to be unimpeachably true, more true than what he himself probably expected.”
A little more about Jake, “He was an officer during the last War and he was offered a commission during this War but he turned it down because he figures he just wouldn’t be able to adjust himself to the present Army organization. He must have been fed up with the Army and just was waiting to serve out his 30 years…”
As far as filling out his down time, “there was a U.S.O. show out here yesterday and there will be another one tonight. At one of our USO shows we had a Chinaman singing ‘When Irish Eyes are Smiling’. He also sang what he called the American National Anthem in Chinese; he started out softly and patriotically the first few notes and then burst out singing ‘Pistol Packing Mama’.” Dad has also been filling in his time “reading some of Erskine Caldwell’s books and reviewing my radio literature which I keep in my footlocker.”
Dad writes that he is glad to hear that his brother-in-law Eddie has received another deferment. However, having said that, he ponders “if after this war they will make it compulsory for young fellows of 21…to spend a year in the Army. …I don’t see why after the war they couldn’t take the fellows who haven’t had a year of military service and train them for about 2 months and have them spend the other 10 months as a police force in Germany. That way the old fellows could be discharged from the Army. Everybody would get a chance to see the world and put in some foreign service and see the different countries. That’s just an idea of mine…”
Dad also reacts to Anna’s news of Eddie Falkowski completing his training and awaiting his commission in the Pacific. “…It’s fine to hear of Eddie Falkowski finishing his training but there is a lot more to be done yet. If he can keep his head and remember that he is flying a plane and not a motorboat on Kinderhook Lake, he shouldn’t have much problem in the open lanes of the sky. However, may he have the best of luck.” At this point, Dad can’t help but observe that he, naturally, feels that the Army Air Forces is the place to be. “It’s too bad he couldn’t be with the Army Air Forces but had to wind up with the Navy. However I guess the Navy is in the Service too, but still I think the Army Air Forces is better. All the Navy fliers can do is tickle the Japs, but it’s going to take the Army Air Forces land based planes to knock the dickens out of the Japs and make them give up. It was Doolittle and his men of the Army Air Forces who took off from the carriers and bombed Tokyo. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to belittle the Navy even though I am in the Army.”
Dad signs off, “That’s all from here. God bless you all!”
I leave you with the original 1943 version of Pistol Packing Mama by Al Dexter.