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Believe it or Not!

Posted by on April 22, 2016

July 20, 23 & 24, 1944: Dad writes a few letters home from Topeka. In his keeping up with current events it is clear looking back that he was certainly living in historic times. Late July, 1944 is no exception. He has been listening to the Democratic convention from Chicago where Roosevelt was nominated for an unprecedented fourth term. He’s also heard the news about an attempt on Hitler’s life and Tojo’s resignation. He reacts, “It’s too bad Hitler didn’t get his dose fully in the assassination attempt; and also, Tojo and his cabinet will be able to rest up while someone else takes over. Those lousy Germans are just hanging on hoping for a miracle or hoping to get good peace terms. I guess they just can’t swallow ‘unconditional surrender’ terms very easily.”

Stars and Stripes headline reporting on the  war news of the day.

Stars and Stripes headline reporting on the war news of the day.

As far as diversions from his duties, he still gets to the movies. He saw White Cliffs of Dover starring Irene Dunne “…and it was pretty good.” He also went golfing on his day off and remarks, “We’ve had marvelous weather these past two weeks. …July is marvelous here but we still have August left and may have quite a bit of warm weather before the summer is over.” There is also a dance at the N.C.O. Club on the 20th and a picnic at Lake Shawnee on Sunday.

The N.C.O. party at the lake was not without incident. On the somewhat lighter side, Dad tells about a Master Sergeant “who left us last year for overseas, returned from England and stopped here for several days.” He was at the party and “…got under the weather and later on I conveyed him back to the base via the Jayhawk Bus. We didn’t run into any M.P.s and even if we did we would have gotten away with it. The M/Sgt. sobered up by the time we got to the base and all was well. Believe it or not! At the time I thought he was really drunk, he ups and pays the fare for both of us to the Base.”

Another, more serious incident happened at the party too. “While we were at the N.C.O. party rumor drifted…that a soldier drowned in Lake Shawnee just across the road from where the…picnic was going on.” When Dad got wind of the news, he and a group of other men went to see what was going on. “Some soldiers and civilian men in three rowboats were dragging the lake around the spot where the soldier was presumed to have gone down. There were some G.I. trucks and wreckers with lights that were turned on the lake later in the evening. We stayed there from around 8 to 9:30 PM..”

He goes on to relay more about the incident. “A story went on that the soldier was trying to swim across the lake and couldn’t make it because of cramps. He yelled for help and a fellow soldier swimming with him attempted to save him but failed. This happened around 2 PM yesterday. This morning they still didn’t find him and were making arrangements to get a diver from St. Louis, Missouri.”

Apparently the soldier was a private and he was swimming in a part of the lake that is about 35 feet deep, full of tree trunks and off limits to swimmers. Dad does mention that the lake has a beach where there are lifeguards stationed at that there hasn’t been a drowning there in the last six years.   

On the 25th he follows up on the incident. “One fellow told us he started with 300 feet of grappling line and ended up with 100 feet after cutting it off to get free of the junk in the lake. …I…found out the…body was recovered Monday evening.”

On a happier note, Dad writes his sister that he enjoys hearing the news from home, especially about his niece Terry (“Terenia” in Polish). “I like to read a lot about Terenia no matter how much you write. I can hardly wait for the war to end to come back to Terenia and her ‘babcia’. Believe it or not! The best good times I ever had while on furlough were those which I spent with Terenia.”

Before closing he writes, “I guess I’ve about talked your ears off so take good care of yourselves as I am taking the best care of myself.  I weigh about 169-170 lbs. so I’m not getting any thinner.”

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