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Not Even a Consolation Prize

Posted by on August 31, 2015

December 2, 5, and 8, 1943. Dad writes several letters home to Albany from Topeka Army Air Base. Most of them are fairly short one page letters just to keep in touch. One of them runs a full four pages.  All are handwritten. We get another little glimpse into his work, we learn how he ranked at the rifle range when they were keeping score, and get a rundown on a few other things happening on base. He also takes care of a few things for the upcoming Christmas holiday.

As far as his duties are concerned, Dad writes, “My work lately consisted of inspecting automobile records at the various Headquarters here. You get to meet a lot of people and it helps you to be more known.”

He also tells that marksmanship medals were awarded. Dad’s score fell under the level required for the Marksman level (the lowest for which a medal is awarded). He notes, “For the kind of score I had, 110, they weren’t giving away anything, not even a consolation prize. We were all in formation when the fellas were getting decorated and according to tradition, the fellows who got nothing were supposed to be jealous, so remarked one guy as we stood there in line.”

The field was visited by Max and Buddy Baer, two well-known boxers of the day. Dad writes that they “…gave us fellows a talk on physical fitness. Buddy Baer is a towering hunk of a specimen of a man while Max Baer is slightly smaller than his brother Buddy. However, Max has the better build and I’ve never seen a pair of better shoulders than his. He sure has big ones and tapers down very well at his waist. It is no wonder that at one time he was Heavyweight Campion of the World. They both did some clowning and while Max Bear was talking, Buddy Baer was trying to give Maxie a ‘hot foot’. They are both Sgts. and travel around camps with a 1st Lt. on orders of Gen. Arnold.”  If this sounds familiar, it is because in a letter to Dad from his friend Joe Damusis date April 29, 1943, Joe had written that Max and Buddy Baer were stationed at McClellan Field as buck privates at that time.

Boxers Max (l) and Buddy (r) Baer

Boxers Max (l) and Buddy (r) Baer

Dad notes that after the exhibition by the Baer brothers “There was a basketball game and to top the evening off, I saw a live owl which Cmdg. Officer Major Maye caught. It was late at night, by now, so it was decided to release the owl. I thought it was a pretty bird with those big eyes. It had quite a wing spread.”

With Christmas coming up, Dad mentions that he has received the Christmas card and the Oplatek that the family sent him. He will “…keep that card until after Christmas season is over so’s from time to time I can look at it and know that you folks are thinking of me. I’ll take care of the Oplatek on Christmas Eve alright.”  In keeping with the holiday, Dad is also sending home a money order for $10 with instructions to his sister that the proceeds be split with $2 to buy a gift for the baby, and “…$2 for mama, $2 for daddy, $2 for Eddie and $2 for you… You can either buy liquor or offer a Mass…or some sort of present. I send you the best of luck with the same.”

In other news:

  • Dad writes that he saw the movie Casablanca. His only comment about it is that Ingrid Berman “is a very good actress”.
  • He will have a day off on the 8th, which will be the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a Holy Day of Obligation on which he is planning to go to Mass.
  • He is currently reading the book News is my Job by Edna Lee Booker which is about the life in China while it was occupied by Japan during the war.
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