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I Have Tasted the Mud of Kansas

Posted by on February 2, 2016

Next up is a pair of letters from Joe Damusis, a fellow that Dad met while at Savanna Ordnance School in early 1943, and a letter from Prof. Stanislaus Kosinski, the director of the choir back home. Joe updates Dad on what he has been up to, including the locations of his most recent assignments.  For his part, Kosinski extends his Easter greetings, updates Dad on the latest news from the St. Cecilia’s Choir, and passes along news about a local boy who was wounded in action in the Pacific.

The two letters from Damusis are dated March 31, 1944 and April 18, 1944. On the 31st Joe tells Dad that he has been stationed at Tinker Field since Feb 8. He writes, “There’s plenty to be done when a Service Group moves from one Air Service Command Area to another ASC area. We arrived here at Tinker Field about Feb. 8th. It’s quite a field – variety of airplanes – WACs – gym – two theaters – day rooms – PX’s – etc.”

Like many letters, the topic of the weather often surfaces. This one is no exception. “In your letter you mention ‘spring just being around the corner’ but here on the field we have ice and snow on the ground. I heard on the radio that Kansas had a blizzard also.”

Joe eventually turns back to business and gives Dad an idea of the reporting structure. “You probably heard a little about the Air Service Command – Headquarters are at Patterson Field, Ohio. It has the United States divided into nine Air Service Command Areas and when I was at Pendleton we were under the jurisdiction of the Spokane Air Service Command. Now I’m, or should I say, ‘we’re’ under the jurisdiction of the Oklahoma City Air Service Command.”

He closes the letter with the news that “The next letter you get from me will probably have some more changes in address.”

Sure enough, by the time Joe writes on April 18, he is in Great Bend, Kansas – less than 200 miles from Topeka. He sends his wishes hoping that Dad “had an enjoyable Easter.”  He goes on to write, “We’re at Great Bend right now but from the rumors I’ve heard, we’ll be leaving for Salina in the very near future unless something else comes up. Maybe I’ll get to see Sheehan again or perhaps you’ll be shipped there again. I guess you have a pretty good idea by now of what kind of planes operate from Great Bend and from the whole of Kansas, in fact. I have tasted the mud of Kansas. No need of your giving me a description of what the weather is like in Kansas – I know now!”

An aerial view of Great Bend Army Air Field c 1943

An aerial view of Great Bend Army Air Field c 1943

Of course, Joe’s reference to “…what kind of planes…operate from the whole of Kansas.” is a reference to the B-29 Superfortress, which also operated out of Topeka Army Air Field where Dad was stationed. It is no surprise that Joe makes this comment considering that of the naerly 4,000 B-29s produced by Boeing during the war, 1644 of them were manufactured in the Wichita plant. As far as Great Bend, it was devoted almost entirely to B-29 training. So narrow was the focus, that by March of 1946 (less than a year after V.J. Day) operations at Great Bend all but ceased.  Ironically, it was as a result of B-29s dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that the war ended.

Back to the letter. Before wrapping up, Joe goes on to describe the trip to Great Bend. “We traveled from Tinker Field to Army Field Great Bend by truck convoy. We left Tinker Field at 5 AM, last Tuesday, and we arrived at Great Bend at about 5:30 PM the same day.” If you are curious about the distance, that is about a 275 mile trip. With that, there is not much more news from Joe Damusis

Kosinski’s letter of April 7, 1944 is “Just a short note at Easter time.” In it Kosinski writes that it was good that Dad was able to spend some time with the choir when he was home on his last furlough. He also notes that his own son Ted will be home for a short visit as well. Kosinski writes that the choir was very busy with “Christmas, Americanization Program, Lent, Confirmation, Palm Sunday and Easter.”

Kosinski has some news about the son of one of the choir members who is in the service. “Mr. Wojtal received a notice form the War Department that his son Francis has been injured during the invasion of Eniwetok Island. Where he is at the present time the family does not know, but presumably in Hawaii. Since that time Mr. Wojtal had a letter from Francis, who says that he was not wounded as badly as some other boys. For more accurate information we have to wait until he comes home.”

Prof. Kosinki once again wishes Dad a happy Easter then signs off.


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