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If It Ain’t One Thing It’s Another

Posted by on July 28, 2015

October 9-13 1943. Several letters from Dad to home in quick succession.  In the first letter of the batch, Dad gives an indication that he has time to write home when he specifies “There isn’t much going around except that the guys who were considered overages left for over-the-pond training…” He even has time to take in a movie “Watch on the Rhine with Bette Davis and some guy with a foreign accent named Lukas. It was a good picture.”

Poster Art for Watch on the Rhine starring Bette Davis. Image credit:

Poster Art for Watch on the Rhine starring Bette Davis. Image credit:

Things around base are kind of mundane “I can’t tell whether or not the leaves are falling off trees as we hardly have a tree here. …Most of the mornings now are spent on gas lectures. It’s something to kill time around here and I don’t know what will come of it.”  In a later letter he tells that they “had a written test on the gas lectures…”  He continues, If it ain’t one thing it’s another. …Papa used to tell us to get a Federal job doing office work for the government, but he probably never thought we would wind up like this, but as you see we got gov’t office jobs. They never gave me or Stanley a shorthand or typing test. In place of short-hand they gave us short-arm, and in place of typing they gave us blood-typing.”

He continues his riff on Army life on Topeka Army Air Base “Some guys believe we will be stuck here for a long time and some don’t like the place and always talk about how after the War is over, we will get medals for fighting the Battle of Topeka.” On the tenth a group of guys including Dad went on a ten mile hike that only took them two and a half hours, and on the coming Friday Dad will “get a chance to get ‘for free’ a shot with a needle…in case they get any ideas to send us where we are needed.” As far as the “yellow fever shot…everybody in the office is supposed to get them”, so he suggests his sister “tell mama not to get funny ideas about me.”

He also writes in response to Anna’s news about the $18 price of playpens for the baby. “I remember a while back when the baby pens cost only $6.50 or so. …Do you suppose Eddie could make one during his spare time? Shucks, if Stanley and I were home, the three of us would spend most of our time in the cellar building one of them… By the time we would be all through, Terry would probably be old enough to come down and hammer in the nails for us and ask what we were building.”

Dad also writes about Eddie’s planned hunting trip. “I hope Eddie makes out fine on his hunting expedition. I wouldn’t mind going deer hunting with a Cal. .30 carbine M1. You get 15 shots to 5 of Eddie’s. Use a Cal. .45 Thompson sub-mach and get 35 shots in place of 5. “

Photo of a WWII era M1 Carbine. "You get 15 shots to 5 of Eddie's". Image credit:

Photo of a WWII era M1 Carbine. “You get 15 shots to 5 of Eddie’s”. Image credit:

By the time that the 12th rolls around, Dad mentions that he has received his brother’s change of address card. “You probably have received Stanley’s APO address as I have received same today. He probably is on his way and yet you can’t tell until you actually hear from him.” Although Dad makes that supposition, we know from a history of Stanley’s squadron that they did not start their trip overseas until much later in the month, departing the mainland US on October 27th.

The change of address card Dad received notifying him that his Brother Stanley was being shipped overseas.

The change of address card Dad received notifying him that his brother Stanley was being shipped overseas.

Before wrapping up his letter of the 12th, Dad comments on the latest war news and the mixed rumors. “There have been rumors that this war will last a long time and some say Germany will be out of the War by Christmas. Presently there is an unusual lull in the fighting, ‘The Calm Before the Storm’. Russia is about 90 miles from Poland and Lithuania in the North. Anyway, U.S. and allies are much nearer to winning the War than a year ago this time.” At this point in the War in Europe, D-Day is still eight months out so the Christmas prediction won’t hold. The Allies’ only foothold on the continent is that they are halfway up the “boot” of Italy, Mussolini having been deposed on July 25, 1943 and Italy having been invaded the month before. At the time that Dad is writing this letter a new government was in place in Italy, but Germany is still occupying Rome. The day after Dad writes these comments Italy will declare war on Germany.

New York Times Front Page dated October 13, 1943.

New York Times Front Page dated October 13, 1943.

He closes with the P.S. “I get to bed around 9:30 PM now and I’m beginning to be more healthy.”

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