November 1st and 5th, 1943. Dad writes two letters home from Topeka Army Air Base. He has received the last few letters from home and has really enjoyed reading about the exploits of his now one year old niece There is a new guy in the office and after a few minutes of talking with him Dad is able to figure our where he is from. A “well known orchestra conductor” and his group appeared on base and played a concert, and dad reflects on the importance of the nurses in the Army. He also writes a little bit about his job and he has a few things to say about how Hitler has been conducting the war.
Dad starts off by thanking his sister for keeping up the correspondence and writes “It’s fine to hear a diaper by diaper description of our small big meaning addition to our family, namely Terry. I used to hear blow by blow descriptions of Joe Louis fights on the radio, but this diaper by diaper description is a new angle… It’s fine to hear about Terry being able to get closer to being a regular independent lady. When she gets to be 15 you’ll have quite a bit [of] work keeping her home and away from wolves.”
As for the new guy in the office, “We have a new fellow working here and after a 3 minute conversation I was able to ask him what part of New York City he came from and he answered “Queens”. I got him when he was telling me how much ‘woik’ he had.”
When I was growing up, Dad didn’t talk much about what kind of “woik” he did in the Army. He normally blew off the question. However, he drops some information into this letter. “I’m getting along pretty well as ‘Chief Clerk’ of Automotive Section. I’m sure learning plenty about securing parts and helping out the guys under us to get the stuff. Lt. Jordan who is the Motor Maint. Officer here went to Salt Lake City to get married and is taking a half month leave. That leaves me in a position where I had to learn things fast.” He mentions that one of the reasons they put him in the job is that in civilian life he “worked for a warehousing concern and Ordnance is a lot along the lines and more so.”
To help pass the time when he is not working he reads, goes to the movies on base and gets to the concerts that interest him. Of course, the radio always seems to be on. He is currently reading Berlin Diary by William L. Shirer, who was a war correspondent stationed in Berlin from 1938 to 1940 until “it got too hot for Hitler. He tells in his book, in day to day form, what he wasn’t allowed to broadcast from Berlin”. Actually, Shirer’s departure form Berlin had more too do with the Nazi’s censoring his dispatches and an espionage case that they were building against him. Dad mentions that the base library has “quite an assortment of books” and that he is “catching up on modern readings.” Dad also writes that “Bohumir Kryl, a known orchestra conductor, appeared with his group of 40 women and 5 boys. They played concert pieces and played very well.”
Dad writes that as he and a friend were walking to the base theater to see a movie, “we came across two young (Lieutenant) nurses and they said hello to us. Repeat, they said Hello. No saluting, either between us. As I mentioned in a letter quite some time ago, the nurses play the greatest part a woman can play in this war. They expose themselves to danger on actual battlefields and they deserve more credit than has ever been given them. It takes plenty of guts to just be a nurse as well as plenty of nerve…If a woman wants to really enter Uncle Sam’s Force, it should be as a nurse. That’s the greatest shortage there is. They deserve a Lt. rating and a salute.”
Dad makes an observation that “It is quite cold at times out here but the barracks are nice and warm. We have hot air conditioning and I think it’s fine. If you know more about the type of furnace and actual facts about this system, I am sure that you’d prefer it over the radiators (hot water heating).” SPOILER ALERT! The reason I include this paragraph is that after his stint in the Army, Dad went on to study Mechanical Engineering on the GI Bill and had a long career designing HVAC and air filtration systems. This point may be the beginning of his interest in the field.
Before wrapping up the letter he shares a few thoughts on Hitler and Germany which may have been stirred by his reading of Berlin Diary. “I am sure the German people have had enough of this war but what can they do about the Nazis and propaganda they are fed but believe it as long as they won. It’s the only news they get, so they believe it. Hitler thought he could get everything without actual fighting as was the case of Austria, Czechoslovakia, but the more he wanted the bigger a jam he got into and he wasn’t gonna back out as long as France and England were so obliging like they were back at that time. And then something terrible happened when England did swing against him…”
He signs off, “God Bless You! Your son, brother, uncle,”
If you are interested in the music of Bohumir Kryl, you can follow this link to a website that has digitized copies of Edison wax cylinders of his coronet performances.