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Around Town

Posted by on March 22, 2016

June 13, 17 and 20, 1944: Three letters home from Dad while he is stationed at Topeka Army Air Base with the 270th AAF Base Unit. He apologizes for not writing sooner as he has been “around town and all over the place.”  His last letter was four long days ago.

He writes that “the NCO club had a shindig near Lake Shawnee, just outside of Topeka and there was enough beer to launch a battleship.” He notes the “the wide span of water” making up Lake Shawnee reminded him when they used to go fishing together back in Albany.

He tells about going to a horse show at the Topeka Fairgrounds with his friends Stueve and Hicks. He brags, “I was about 50 to 60 percent right as to what horse would carry away the prize and sure enough the horse experts (and since when have I been one since coming to Kansas) chose them. All horses were the finest specimens around the middle-west and I learned plenty that evening. Awards were given to horses in which their composition would count over 60 or 40 percent and the other percentage as to how well they could walk, trot, run, canter to right or left.”

In some tragic news, Dad writes about a Lieutenant that committed suicide. “…2 ½ miles away down the railroad tracks. I don’t know how he did it but I heard he laid his head on the tracks and a train just kept on rolling. That happened a day ago.” That would have put the unfortunate event on June 12.

On the 17th he writes that he and his friend Stueve went to Gage Park near Topeka. “They have a miniature zoo, swimming pool, and picnicking grounds. We did some rowing in a boat for about an hour. It only cost 25 cents an hour.”

As far as other diversions he mentions going to the movies:

  • After seeing Battle of China he comments that “you sure know why the Japs have to be licked. The people of China sure went through a lot of suffering.” To provide context to these comments, Battle of China was one of a series of “Why We Fight” films produced by acclaimed director Frank Capra for the U.S. Government’s Office of War Information.
  • He also writes about seeing Song of Bernadette about the Lourdes miracles and that “the picture was very good.”

In response to a question from his sister Anna about a photo of Nelson Eddy that she received in the mail, Dad writes, “I don’t know who could have sent you that picture of Nelson Eddy unless it was Nelson Eddy himself. I never sent you that picture.”

Looking to the future, Dad speculates that “If I do leave this place, and it’s quite a possibility I may, I believe I’ll wind up somewhere where they let sacred white cows travel freely along the streets. There’s nothing certain, just rumors.”

He also echoes something that his brother Stanley wrote in a letter dated on June 15, 1944. Stanley wrote “Heard over the radio that Japan itself was raided by bombers. She’s getting back some of what she has been giving.” On the 17th Dad writes, “You probably heard about those big babies and the damage they did to Japan per the newspaper and radio headlines.” Being that Dad was in Kansas and Stanley in England, it’s a sure bet that they were unaware that they were writing about the same news – the U.S. bombing raid on the Steel Works at Yawata. In referring to B-29s that carried out the Yawata raid as “big babies” Dad is doing a bit of bragging as the B-29s that carried out the raids were built in the sprawling Boeing plant in Wichita with the crews being trained at Topeka before being deployed to the Pacific. More about the connection between Kansas and the B-29 can be found here.

A copy of the Leavenworth, Kansas paper from June 16, 1944 with news of the B-29 raid on the Japanese steel plants at Yawata.

A copy of the Leavenworth, Kansas newspaper from June 16, 1944 with news of the B-29 raid on the Japanese steel plants at Yawata.

On the 20th, Dad writes that he went golfing at White Lakes near Topeka and that his score was 107. Other than that he writes that, “The Army is still the same, crap games and all. The fellows told how at Salina they set up a regular gambling den in one of the barracks. They had a dice table and were operating like a gambling house. Somehow, someone found out about the barracks being used as a gambling den right on the post and did away with it.”

Dad reflects, “When I write to Stanley, I try to refrain from writing him about these NCO and squadron parties we have with plenty of everything because he is in the Army as well as I am, but it’s probably a lot tougher on him than it is on me over here in Topeka. However, I may be in his shoes someday so I might as well enjoy the comforts of life on this side while I’m still here.”    

He closes, “That’s about all from here. God bless you all!”

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