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America Sure is a Big Place

Posted by on June 21, 2014

May 2, 1943. A letter from Dad’s friend Joe Damusis. True to his promise in his previous letter of April 29, Joe details his trip from Savanna, Illinois to Sacramento, California. “I’m still at McClellan Field, but not for long. They’re changing this camp from a replacement center to a basic training center. So it looks like we’re going to be shipped out or reassigned! We’re most likely going to end up at Santa Maria, California.”

He goes on to give an account of the trip from Illinois to California. “We left Savanna about 10:30 P.M. Friday. Saturday morning we arrived at Omaha Nebraska where we switched lines.” He notes that the Missouri River was overflowing its banks at the time and “was blotting out the railroad tracks and …washed over the Omaha Airport which was just recently built.” From there it was on to Cheyenne, Wyoming “where we walked around town for about half an hour.  There’s a large Army camp located near Cheyenne – the town was packed with soldiers.”

Then it was back on the train, arriving in Ogden, Utah on Sunday morning where they had an hour in town and “got to see quite a bit of the place.” He notes, “It’s a very modern looking town and quite large – at least it has more than one main street – not like Savanna.”

The train left Ogden via a route that took them over the salt flats and over part of the Salt Lake. He writes, “We never knew that lake was so wide and those flats stretch for miles and miles.” Eventually the route took them across “The Great American Desert”.  Joe comments that “All we saw was land and more land, but no people. This America sure is a big place. No wonder we can live at peace here – no one’s in each other’s way. During the night we passed Reno, Nevada. And about 10 AM Monday morning – we arrived in Sacramento.”

He reflects that “the sights we saw were sights for sore eyes – snow-capped mountains, sage-brush-covered hills, deserts, plains, plateaus, lakes, rivers, streams, etc.. We had a Pullman…and we ate in diners all the way. The trip was very interesting – what a difference between this trip and the one from Camp Upton to Miami Beach.”

Photo of WWII troops being transported in a special military rail Pullman car. Image Credit:

Photo of WWII troops being transported in a special military rail Pullman car.Image Credit:

He notes that he is writing his letter on the first Sunday after Easter and that the Post Chapel at McClellan is “kept much better than the chapel at Savanna”. He notes that there are twelve men in his hut (a building smaller than a barrack). He gives the rundown on the guys in his hut as “Six of us are Catholic, one is a “cold Catholic”, there are two Jews, one atheist, and two unidentified believers. This is the first time I met an atheist.” Of the twelve men in his hut seven are “Aviation Supply Clerks who hail from Chicago.”

He signs off urging Dad to write him back.

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