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Pin Them Stripes on Mama and Daddy

Posted by on October 18, 2015

January 24 and 30, 1944: two letters home from Dad while he is stationed with the 2nd Bomb Wing in Topeka. Dad has a few more things to say about his promotion to Staff Sergeant. He is keeping up with the war news, is planning for an upcoming furlough, and provides some color as to what life is like on base.

Dad thanks his sister for her congratulations on his reaching the rank of Staff Sergeant. He reflects on something an instructor back home told him and comments on the benefits of rank. “I remember how at Albany Business College E. Bradley Cornell would tell us how we could make a grade of Staff Sergeant in the Army and I guess we’ve been lucky enough so far. I get more now than I made at Interstate and in addition to that you get your food, sleeping quarters, clothing and shots in the arm.” As far as the work that Dad is doing, he mentions that he is “Chief Clerk of this Transportation outfit”.

Dad also comments on how he was raised being a contributing factor to his becoming Staff Sergeant. “The thing that I like about Stanley and my making staff is that we didn’t have to roam around streets like other kids did and our parents never used to say that if we roamed streets, we’d get in everyplace and know everything… For the good bringing up we had, Stanley and I should really pin them S/Sgt. stripes on mama and daddy, because they had a great deal to do with us getting them.”

As far as keeping up with the war news, Dad writes in reference to what will eventually be known as the Battle of Anzio, “I’ve heard on the radio about the beachheads the Americans secured around Rome and I sure hope Germany gets licked pretty fast. They are sure absorbing a lot of bombing, especially, Berlin.” I will note here that although the Bomb Group that Uncle Stanley is attached to is bombing targets in Germany and German occupied areas, they have yet, as of the date of this letter, to be sent on any raids over Berlin.

By the time the 30th rolls around, Dad is advising his family that he is having $6.25 taken out of his pay each month and that every three months they will be seeing a War Bond coming to the house in his name.  He also notes that he is due for furlough as of February 15th and he expects to be able to use his to visit home “sooner than Easter”.

As far as general life on base, Dad jokes that “Our dog population around the camp has increased since we put up around 15 trees around our barracks.The dogs even get to walk around barracks and mess halls now.”

He also mentions that he saw the movie Song of Russia, and comments that “Susan Peters would have been an ideal actress to have played Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind because she is really a fine actress, better than Lana Turner and about as good as Vivian Leigh… It seems that I am turning out to be a critic.”

Poster art for Song of Russia

Poster art for Song of Russia

Dad closes his letter “Well, I guess that’s about all. God bless you all and tell mama not to worry in case a letter don’t come from me as frequently as it should. I’ll try to do better always the next time.”  

A brief footnote to those in my generation who grew up listening to “classic rock” in the 1970’s. Aside from its obvious military significance, the Battle of Anzio made its way into rock music as it was during the initial invasion at Anzio that the father of Pink Floyd bassist and songwriter Roger Waters was killed in action. At the time of his father’s death Waters was only five months old. The event is commemorated by the song When the Tigers Broke Free (below) which was featured in the movie The Wall and on the album The Final Cut.

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