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The Pleasant Experience of Army Life

Posted by on November 3, 2015

February 5, 6 & 9, 1944: Three relatively short letters home from Dad while he is stationed with the HQ Squadron of the 21st Bomb Wing at Topeka Army Air Base. He is working out the final details of his upcoming furlough and describes some of the routine daily things that happen on base.

As his furlough plans currently stand, he will be home on February 19. He details, “At present they are allowing 15 days furlough time and one day in addition to that for each 600 miles which would give me 19 to 20 days.” He advises the family that they should “start herding enough food for my hibernating period with you.”

As is often the case, there is a radio on in the background when Dad is writing his letters home. He notes, “On the radio…a cowboy is singing ‘There’s a Star-Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere’. I was first introduced to that song during a Miami Beach evening as I was passing by a shop in which a soldier was making a recording of the same and playing a guitar accompaniment.”

He goes on to reflect, “So far while being in the Army I’ve had the pleasant experience of Army life rather than the other side of it. It’s…an experience which was worthwhile. You get to know why this country is waging war because the situation simply would be ‘SNAFU’ if the Japs or Germans took over our country.” Even after expressing sincere gratitude, Dad’s sense of sarcasm come through as he goes on, “The radio announcer is talking about Grave’s B Vitamin tablets and their merits. He should be in the Army.”

The 6th is a Sunday and Dad assures his mother that he is “still living life like a catholic should and [I] go to Mass on Sundays.” It must he the feast day of St. Blaise as Dad writes, “While at Mass today, we also got our throats blessed, and I think mama will be pleased to hear it.”

Another thing that will please his mother is his note in reply to Anna’s February 1st letter. “As far as going over, you needn’t worry so much because sometimes it seems that I’ll never get to see the other side. Some fellows deliberately get transferred so they can get a chance over there.”

He writes that there is a new mascot in the office. “…a small puppy dog – a shepherd dog- and as he roams about the office, somebody has to follow him with a mop. The dog hasn’t learned as yet what trees are for”.

To continue on the theme about his experiencing some of the benefits of Army life, Dad comments, “When you get a chance to travel around like Stanley and I did, you start seeing cities and towns of other states, and you would at times prefer to live in some of them instead of returning to Albany. I guess it’s the American History we used to have in school and Geography which makes a sort of amateur pioneer out of you. Perhaps when I do return to Albany after the war, if I don’t die of measles or chicken pox, I may be too lazy to travel around a couple of blocks to get to work, but that’s life.”

As far as diversions on base, they had a U.S.O. show, about which he comments, “With the exception of the violinist it didn’t appeal very much to me. The artists are good, but they aren’t unusual.” In addition to the U.S.O. shows there are movies showing on base and Dad manages to see his share.

  • “…I saw the movie Lifeboat and it was OK considering the fact that the whole picture took place on a lifeboat, plus a few gusts of wind, several rain drops, some clouds, and a ship toward the end of the picture, but even that ship gets sunk just like the one at the beginning of the picture. The picture was all wet but dry in parts.”
  • He also mentions plans to see the movie Desert Song with Dennis Morgan and Irene Manning. “It is in technicolor and I hope I enjoy the picture.”

Dad wraps up that he will head into the office to “type out the request for furlough, even if I do have today off and don’t have to work. Lt. Jordan said he’d sign it and it shouldn’t take long before I get this ‘passport for home’.”

I leave you with Elton Britt’s 1942 rendition of There’s a Star-Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere.

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