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Pretty Rough in France

Posted by on March 20, 2016

June 3, 11, 15 and 17, 1944: Two V-Mails and two longer letters to Dad from his brother Stanley who is stationed at Deenethorpe, England with the 401st Bomb Group. Even though it is June the English weather is “kind of chilly” as Stanley writes that his “is building a small fire in the stove. Hope it burns.” He also writes that “It doesn’t start getting dark in the evenings now till eleven thirty. It feels so funny going to sleep when it is still daylight outside.”

Stanley addresses some of the goings-on at Deenethorpe. He mentions that they are getting a soda fountain at the PX, and that it looks “pretty nice at the PX”.  He also writes about getting his “PX rations” which includes “a can of grapefruit juice, a big box of lemon drops, cookies and gum.”

GI's at the PX at Deenethorpe. Photo courtesy of the 401st Bomb Group Association

GI’s at the PX at Deenethorpe. Photo courtesy of the 401st Bomb Group Association

Stanley also answers Dad about “church facilities” writing, “We have a small chapel and it gets pretty crowded on Sundays. One part is the chapel and another part the gym room. So we have enough room. We have mass on Sunday at nine thirty and eleven in the morning and at six in the evening…[we] also have mass during the week.”

The chapel at RAF Deenethorpe. Photo courtesy of Andy Swinnen.

The chapel at RAF Deenethorpe. Photo courtesy of Andy Swinnen.

On the 11th, Stanley sends Dad advance birthday wishes, even though Dad’s birthday won’t be until June 28th. It seems that Stanley is accounting for the time it will take the V-mail to get processed and shipped from England to Kansas.  He also mentions they had a U.S.O. show that “…was really good. They had a ventriloquist, a tap dancer, singer and several others.”

Being that this is the first V-Mail since the June 6th Allied D-Day invasion of France, it is interesting to see that the only mention of the invasion in the letter is Stanley’s comment that “According to the Stars and Stripes, the fighting is pretty rough in France.” It seems to be an interesting understatement given that the Bomb Group that Stanley was attached to participated in missions to hit strategic Nazi targets in France and Germany both in advance and well after D-Day.

In other war news, Stanley also makes a comment that he “Heard over the radio where Japan itself was raided by bombers. She’s getting back some of what she has been giving.”

A good bit of the letters is taken up with Stanley also sharing some jokes that he has read or heard around base. The following is a sampling:

  • “A company censor called in a GI and asked, ‘Why do you always insist on double spacing your letters and making them overweight?’ Replied the GI naively, ‘That, Sir, is to allow for reading between the lines.’”
  • And another joke from the Stars & Stripes concerning “…the doctor whose small patient swallowed a half-dollar. ‘How’s the boy?’ asked the doc. ‘No change yet’, replied the nurse.”
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