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The Best Friend I Met

Posted by on October 28, 2014

June 25, 1943. A letter home from Dad. He is still waiting to hear from Base HQ about his application for ASTP. He hopes to hear back soon. He assures his family that “trying out for ASTP is not a scheme to try to deprive you of my furlough or to prolong my stay on this side. It is an education I am after. Shucks, by getting into this school…I might go over there sooner if my squadron, or rather wing, don’t get transferred and wind up on the other side ahead of me.” 

In the meantime he is catching up on his correspondence. He has received several letters from his brother Stanley. In one of them was enclosed a letter from his cousin Edward Morawski who was wounded at Guadalcanal. His cousin reports to be “resting up a bit but undergoing special training at the same time.”

He also keeps up his correspondence with Joe Damusis and has this to say about the fellow he befriended while at Savanna Ordnance School, “Outside of my family, he was the best friend I met and a mighty fine Lithuanian boy. After the war I would like to have you people meet him. His girlfriend is in the convent as a nun and he used to say that maybe she will return, but, however there is another girl who stays around with his parents at home and helps out…and she has high hopes on him. He has a marvelous personality.”

He mentions that he received Anna’s letter of the 22nd in which she tells of some family friends who were contacted by the War Department as part of a reference check on him. Here we get a glimpse of the importance of what he was doing, although in later years Dad did not talk about his war service much. “So Chimelewski and Olszewsi had to give recommendations for me. Dr. Derkowski probably had to give the same as I gave in their three names. It is not because I am trying to go to a school, but it has to do with my present job and what goes through my hands. They can’t take chances on anyone being a spy and I don’t blame them. The Ordnance work is something quite ticklish, especially in my case. Someday you’ll know too.”

Reflecting on some of that news from home he comments about the following:

  • He is happy to hear the news that the baby is now using a regular glass to drink.
  • He is pleased to know that the Parish has a new priest in Fr. Harzynski.
  • He was also glad to hear that his father was not neglected on Father’s Day and he wishes “that the rest of us were home to make it a real fine Father’s Day.”

One thing that he does not reference in his letter home is anything related to a memo that was in with his papers. There is a memo dated 12 June 1943 that announces “Effective Tuesday, 15 June 1943, all personnel of this headquarters will observe ‘Gas Alert Day’”. The memo, which is here, goes on to detail that on the 15th and the subsequent first Tuesday of  the month, all personnel will be required to  carry their gas masks with them and at certain times during the day will be required to perform their regular duties while wearing their gas masks. Also included with the memo is a Chemical Warfare Pocket Reference Card which details the odors of various chemical agents as well as the symptoms of exposure. An image of the card can be found below. Again the omission of this in his letter to family back home was most likely on purpose with the intention of not causing his family any concern. That said, it is likely that he mentioned it in his letters to his brother. We’ll just have to see if there is any mention back from Stanley about it.

Chemical Pocket Reference Guide detailing the characteristics of various chemical agents. Click on Image for a larger size image.

Chemical Pocket Reference Guide detailing the characteristics of various chemical agents. Click on image for a larger size image.


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