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Chemical Warfare Training

Posted by on July 27, 2014

May 26 & 29, 1943. Dad writes two letters home. He reiterates that he now reports to the 21st Air Wing for duty. He says “I am getting along as usual in this Army which isn’t so hot but it ain’t too bad. Today we had a fast physical checkup and of records as well so I should be getting out of here.”

In the past few days he’s seen two movies. The first is The Human Comedy with Andy Rooney which he describes as “quite a propaganda movie in respect to preparing people to receive telegrams from the War Dept. telling of the unfortunate end of some soldiers.” The other movie was They Came to Blow up America which was about “8 saboteurs which landed in the U.S.”

Print ad for the 1943 movie The Human Comedy starring Mickey Rooney. Image credit:

Print ad for the 1943 movie The Human Comedy starring Mickey Rooney. Image credit:

Dad reports that his dog tags have been updated with the designation “T-43 which means I had my shots in 1943.” He also recalls that “Way back at Camp Upton when I took the Army General Classification Test I scored 123 which is above the 115 required for O.C.S. or Army Specialist Training Program. In the Mechanical Aptitude Test I had 116. I haven’t done anything about O.C.S. or the specialist training.”

He also asks about his father who works at the train station, commenting “I bet pop sees a lot of soldiers at the depot but that doesn’t help any as I am sure he would prefer to see us. When we finally do get back he may look forward to our making up for the lost time.” In his letter of the 29th he notes that he has received Anna’s letter of the 25th. He writes, “I know how you felt when Stanley left, but as you said, Theresa-Marie does lift your morale plenty.”  His thoughts turn to his father. “When I was a little kid and Pa took me and Stanley to Rennselaer we thought that was the biggest treat.  At the time we were pretty poor, but papa would give us a little money to make us happy and we would certainly eat away at the candy and ice cream.  …I always think of him.”

The last two days they had four hours of chemical warfare training each morning. He tells that as part of the training “we were given gasses to smell out on the field and also went through the gas chamber. The reason is to identify the types of gasses such as mustard, lewisite, adamsite, etc. Tear gas was the only gas in the chamber. First time we went through with our masks on. The second time we went in and then put the mask on after entering. It is training that everyone must undergo and the officers will have to as well.  They are getting strict about it.” He then reassures his family “This does not mean I am going overseas.” It looks like Dad did a good job hanging onto a lot of things. The memo with the schedule for his chemical weapons defense training was included with his letters. I’ve uploaded it and you can view it by clicking here.

Dad notes a few other things:

  • “Salina isn’t exactly as nice as the pictures describe it, but it is O.K. It isn’t as crowded as New York City or Chicago.”
  • Apparently with his parents being immigrants, Dad feels that the family is looked down upon. He notes “I think that Mama and our whole family do need to be respected more as two of us are in the Army and everyone at home is doing their best…but the Murawskis…aren’t the type to brag.”

Speaking of respect, Dad speaks highly of the pilots on base. “The kind of Lts. (Lieutenants) that the Pvts. and soldiers like are the ones who fly the planes. They really are swell fellows and aren’t the guys who want everyone to salute them on the way.  I doubt whether they care for it except that they are officers and Army Regulations require that certain distinctions be held as to rank. They have plenty to back up their ‘officer’s’ rating and they do their job in flying.”

He wraps his letter with a P.S. “enclosed is a poem about the S.O.S. (Services of Supplies) and Ordnance is one of them. You will note on bottom of page the insignias of the other S.O.S.”  Yes, Dad kept that too and you can view it here.

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