April 29, 1943. A short letter to Dad from his buddy Joe Damusis. Joe is currently stationed at McClellan Field “located near Sacramento, California, not too far from San Francisco.” Joe notes that “This field is a replacement center just like Salt Lake City is. Boy do we loaf in this place. We are known as a ‘Casual 2′ outfit – which means we’re misfits at this field. We expect to be shipped real soon. In the next few days perhaps.”
Joe is going through an experience much like Dad’s at Salt Lake City. “We were classified the other day and we found out that we are definitely going to be Supply Clerks. There’s rumors going around that we’re going to Santa Monica… Too bad we can’t be shipped east.”
Joe has already explored the town outside the base and calls Sacramento “a place to see”. He notes “We had Easter Mass at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament which is only one block away from the Capitol Building.”
It seems that there are some sports celebrities at McClellan as well. “Max and Buddy Baer are both at this camp. They’re stationed here and they’re only buck privates. They give boxing lessons to the soldiers who are getting their basic training here. They are also physical instructors. What a racket! They’re out on the ball field most of the time or in the Gym.”
Joe wraps up with a promise to “write another letter real soon, and I’ll give you a description of our trip from Illinois to Californy.”
OK so I had to Google them too. Max Baer was a famous boxer in the 30s who earned the title of Heavyweight Champion of the World after delivering a TKO to Primo Carnera on June 14, 1934. Earlier in his career Max delivered a TKO to Frankie Campbell on August 25, 1930, raining blows upon Campbell until the referee stopped the fight. By noon the next day, Campbell was dead and Max Baer’s reputation was sealed. Max Baer also gained notoriety by defeating German boxer Max Schmeling at Yankee Stadium in June of 1933. This fight was noteworthy because Baer (whose father was Jewish) had a Star of David embroidered on his trunks for the fight against the boxer who was supposed to represent the best of Hitler’s Germany. Max’s younger brother Buddy was also a boxer of note. Although never a champion, Buddy did step into the ring against Joe Louis in May of 1941 and lasted six rounds against the then-Champion. If the name Max Baer seems familiar to the baby boomers reading this it is because his son, Max Jr., played the role of Jethro Bodine on The Beverly Hillbillies.