31 August, 2010

30-31 August, 1943

438th AAA AW BN
Camp Edwards, Mass
Mon. Aug. 30, 1943 0745
Hello dear !
I don’t know how far I’ll get with this but I think I’ll be able to get it into the mail before we leave. We’ve been out on reconnaissance and now we wait for a warning or March Order. When that comes we’re supposed to be able to move out in 10 minutes.
Arrived here at 11:55 p.m. – no rider. Slept well – as long as I could. Oh, dear – here it comes, everyone is moving around a little bit more quickly. Yup – March Order. Well I only wanted to tell you that I again had a very lovely week-end and that I’m glad your health improved so quickly. Dear – I’ll have to stop. So long for now. I’ll write first chance I get.

    Greg - 

                   438th AAA AW BN
                   Somewhere on the Cape
                  August 31, 1943 0830
Wilma dear,

Yesterday was a full day and I was really tired when I went to my tent at 9:15 p.m. Of course by that time I had been wandering around in the dark for over an hour.

We were all over the Cape yesterday shooting down planes that were launched from several German carriers about 150 miles off Nantucket. It was a helluva battle, but when I awakened this morning, damned if our flag wasn’t ‘still there’, so I guess we beat them off.

Today or tonight we expect an attack on the Hyannis Airport, and to its defense, our trustworthy outfit has been assigned. We will not move into position until after dark, and we’ll have to dig in once we get there. As a side attraction we’re running a little scientific experiment on fatigue. Each officer & man will be given 30 mgs of Benzedrine Sulfate – otherwise known as Amphetine. Pulse, respirations & other signs will be recorded. The effect is supposed to be that the soldiers can keep going all nite, and without food, too, and yet be fresh in the morning. I’ll take my share, too, tonite, but remember dear – if I’m tired on the week-end, I’ll blame it on Tuesday nite.

Meanwhile I have to go on further reconnaissance for tonight’s move. We’re in full field attire, and the actual list of accouterments making up what we wear and carry would even put to shame a Knight of Sir Arthur’s Table, – but not in gallantry, I’m afraid. “Oh Elwain! Oh Elwain! Wouldst take fair Guinevere’s hand in marriage ritual, but wouldst thou wage battle for the honour?” (The ‘u’ in honour is Old English of course.) He answers ‘yes’ – and then follows a bloody battle, in which 3 knights are slain, Guinevere faints, and the Maids in waiting sigh deeply – as was the custom in those days. Do you think any one ever wrote anything like that? I don’t.

Where was I? Here I am back in the woods of the Cape again. It’s really pretty out here this morning. I think it will probably get quite warm before the day is over.

I told Charlie the difficulty I had in getting a place for him next Saturday. (Actually I tried 2 places, as you know.) At any rate he was thankful and looked forward to getting into town. He’s never been to Boston. And he wants to spend the evening with us.

I suppose, dear, you’re getting ready to go back to school – as you intimated in your last letter. I envy you. Some of the best days I ever spent were at school, particularly in the Fall. 

That reminds me of the ditty:

          There was a young man named Hall
          Who in the Spring had a fall
          Had he died in the Spring
          T’would have been a fine thing 
          But he didn’t, he died in the Fall. 

Now if you can make any point out of that, you’re welcome, dear.

Anyway – our own state of affairs, i.e. the battalion’s & not yours & mine – is fast coming to a head, from what I was able to gather from the Adjutant yesterday morning. It appears that our readiness date of October first may really be adhered to. If so – I’m going to feel badly about leaving this vicinity, believe me. I felt differently a couple of months ago, but right now, I’d be content to just hang around for a long time. How soldierly of me! The truth is, and I believe most boys feel the same way, that we feel the sooner we get over, the quicker we get back; if that is so – I can’t wait!

I better make some attempt at ending this letter, dear, or I’ll be counted among the missing. I guess I’ve told you most of the news. I don’t know when this letter will get off to you, but I’ll do my best – and if there’s any opportunity, I’ll write again. So long for now – and


24 August, 2010

24-25 August, 1943

438th AAA AW BN
Wellfleet, Mass
August 24, 1943 8:15 p.m.
Well dear -

I got back here to find that all the firing has been completed and that we leave for Camp Edwards at 0900 in the morning.

It was very nice talking with you, Wilma. I was anxious to contact you and felt (apparently with good reason) that I might miss you. Your letter wasn’t given to me until about 5 p.m. I was really glad to get it and would have been disappointed had it not come. Strange, isn’t it, when you consider that a month or so ago I wouldn’t have cared at all?

The inside of our Medical tent is illuminated by an army gasoline lantern. The trouble is that it’s brilliance waxes and wanes so that after a short while you find yourself blinking. I’ll continue writing until that happens and then finish up tomorrow.

I found your account of tan-getting amusing, particularly the wearing of a ring to check the degree. If you can only wait until the week-end, dear, I’ll let you compare your tan with mine, even if it means showing my torso. My! My!

I’m beginning to blink, dear, and besides – about 8 of the men are hanging around discussing everything from Stalin in Moscow to women in shorts. It’s getting difficult to concentrate. Bill Shea just dropped in and wants to go to Orleans. I had told him earlier that I wanted to go in and make a call, but as you now know I made it from Wellfleet. I don’t think I’ll go; I’m going to crawl into my tent and listen to the radio for awhile. Knowing the highways better than you, I’m going to think myself all the way back to Newton Center. So until tomorrow, dear, good-night.

Wednesday 9:20 a.m.
Still Wellfleet
Good Morning!
I’ve just had a swell swim and I feel fine. We’re packed and ready to go (10:10). The water was cold but the surf enticing. It was nice and cool sleeping here last night. I kept wondering whether or not the Boston storm had materialized, and if so, whether you got wet. At any rate it didn’t rain here. We aren’t scheduled to get into Camp until about 1 p.m. so that with the obstacle course, shower etc, it won’t be long before I ought to be having a steak at the Coonamessett Club. (Wish you could be along, dear.) In order not to get into trouble, I think I’ll call Frank Morse’s wife at Cotuit and take her out to dinner. He doesn’t get home very often now that he’s at Fort Andrews.

By the way, the enclosed picture turned up in the paper the other day. Of course we get in often, but I thought you might like to see it. Hereafter when I tell you we’re well known, notorious and newsworthy, I’ll expect the proper response. Surprise me.

I guess I’ll stop rambling now, and seal this up before we start moving. I hope you get to see the newly married couple, and if you get a chance, kiss the bride for me, will you? No – I’ll kiss her myself; no, no – I’ll kiss you instead. Yes – that’s what I mean.

I hope to leave for Boston as soon as possible on Saturday p.m. and I’ll call you from town when I arrive. Until that pleasant-to-look-forward-to moment, so long for now, dear.


From: The Boston Daily Record, 23 August, 1943, showing men of the 438th AAA training at Camp Edwards:

23 August, 2010

23 August, 1943

438th AAA AW BN
Wellfleet, Mass
August 23, 1943 1 p.m.
Dear Girl,

Are my lips a bit sore? Yes, a little, but ah – so pleasantly! I trust you are well yourself, dear. Following your Dad’s careful directions, I managed to get on the right road home, arriving at camp just at midnight. I didn’t pick anyone up. I felt like riding along alone with my own thoughts, without interruptions, and really it seemed like no time at all before the ride was over. Of course, I didn’t have to stop thinking when I climbed into my cot. You know, it’s awfully nice thinking in bed, that is, if you’re thinking nice things – and I was thinking nice things.

Five forty-five a.m. came early in the morning for some strange reason. The motor convoys lined up on schedule (no, there were no photographers around) and the medical section pulled out at 7:14 or 0714. It was after ten when we got here, and before you knew it we were eating again. That just about brings me up to date.

But how about the past? Well, needless to say I had a very pleasant and happy week-end. Sunday was perfect, dear; it’s been a long time since my mind has been so completely free from problems of one sort or another, and the more I think of it the more amazed I am at the clean, refreshing stimulation you have given it. My own reactions to you should be more apparent and less enigmatic, and if you should wonder at some of the things I say or the way I say them, read into them the things you might like to read, perhaps, and you’ll be on the right track I assure you –

Today is clear & bright out here and we’ll certainly get some firing in this p.m. and evening. According to the ammunition officer whom I made a point of contacting as soon as we got here, if there are no rains, fogs, air-plane trouble etc – we have about 2-3 days firing, including the nights. That would bring us back to camp about Thursday, which would suit me to a T. One hitch has already developed, namely, my dental officer is sick in the hospital, having developed an intestinal disorder this week-end. He’s supposed to be out in time. However, dear, I’m not letting that worry me particularly. If we get back to Edwards, I’ll try to get someone to cover me, and I’ll tell the Colonel nothing. The big thing is to get out of Wellfleet by Saturday, so let’s have some good weather, please.

I’m using my Sergeant’s desk and he’s anxious to get started on some typing, dear, so I’m going to stop now. I’m already looking forward keenly to next week-end and it makes little difference to me what we do or with whom – as long as you’re with me. So until later on, dear – so long for now.


18 August, 2010

18 August, 1943

No letter today.
Here are pages 14 and 15 from The Route of the Question Mark, describing some of the months preceding Greg's meeting Wilma.  You can see scanned pages at the tab above of the same name.

pp. 14 and 15

"The cold, the mud, the pine-trees, and the hogs... The unbelievable fires that Waters used to build, and the fires that every section in the Battery used to huddle around... All the shaved heads, and Capt Rovzar holding formations to make sure that our hair had been cut short enough... Ticks... Capt Silvis becoming Battery Commander, our first proof that War is Hell... Chaplain Carlson, "Where's the latrine? What time is chow? Throw me my bedding roll!"... The Reds... The Blues... Anacoca... Lena... Boyce... The night of the paratroop attack, and the confusion that resulted when we left our hill-top to go down into the swamp to capture them... Lt Friberg singing Bell Bottomed Trousers... Joe Zecker, the Battery Commander's orderly... Crossing the Mississippi River at Memphis, on the way to Tennessee... Jolly Jack... The month in the mud in Shelbyville... The juke joints in that town... The week-ends in Nashville... The bivouac area by the stream, where we could go swimming, and we'd be there yet if they hadn't made us get out... The week in May on that Tennessee hill-top... Gallatin, Tennessee, which smelled just like honeysuckle... Callahan's triumphant return from California... Easter Sunday, when we attended an out-door service (compulsory) dressed in sun-tans for the first time that year... The two puppies which Sgt Cook adopted and which became Battery pets until they grew up and got spoiled... The week in South Carolina when we lived near the airport and were inspected from morning till night...

The long trip back to Camp Edwards, when our approved costume for train-riding was fatigues and bare feet... Tent city... Non-coms classes... Buzzards Bay... The Blue Moon... The King Midas... The Oyster Bar... Onset... The impressive inspections... "Start worrying"... "

16 August, 2010

16 August, 1943

438th AAA AW BN
Camp Edwards, Mass
August 16, 1943
Wilma, Dear –

No depression exists today. For awhile this morning I wasn’t sure that I existed, and then it all came back to me, - a girl, a moon and alcohol. Ah! There’s the rub! I understand there’s a strong movement again for something like the old Prohibition Act. I’m inclined to think it would be a good idea, but I want to think it over a little more, ie. – think and drink. And then if I can’t make up my mind say after 30-40 years, I’m going to vote for a Moratorium.

14 August, 2010

14 August, 1943

No letter today.  The next letter will be on 16 August.

Here are pages 12 and 13, transcribed from The Route of the Question Mark, giving some of the memorable events in Greg's Army days in the year prior to meeting Wilma.  Click on the tab above of the same name, to see the scanned originals.

pp. 12-13

"Here Are The Things We Remember:
     Inspections at Camp Edwards, with Lt Col Aldrich, wearing his white raincoat, dissatisfied with everything... Firing practice at Scorton's Neck, the searchlights on the target, and all the tents shining in the moonlight... The case of poison ivy... The 25 mile hike when we lost our way and ended up by marching 30 miles... The cadre rushing back to Paterson every weekend... Betty, who used to tend the soda fountain at the PX... Our succession of Battery Commanders: Bolick, Whiting, Power, Hall, etc. etc... The train-ride to Fort Jackson... The taxi-cabs that used to call at the barracks door to take us to Columbia and bring us back... The memorable formal dances at the Service Club with Grand Marches and everything... Our first problems... The day we marched out into the country to see an exhibition of dive bombing, along with the entire 77th Infantry Division... the Christmas Dinner and the impressive tree that we had, Bill Person's pride and joy... Callahan and Cook, entertainers extraordinary... The miraculous cold beer at the PX, and the way everyone used to gather around 1st Sgt Waters to sing the Woodpecker Song... The furloughs home, and the crowded trains to New York and all points north... Our New Year's celebration, when we had a snake-charmer to entertain us, and all the beer in the world to drink, and which ended up in the mess hall at five in the morning... The arrival of Lt Col Pereria to take over as CO... The Farewell Dinner for Lt Power, and the speech he made: Never be afraid of anyone!"... The first appearance of The Battalion Reporter, and its spectacular issue which was delivered on the train as we took off for Louisiana and the maneuvers there... The icy morning when we stepped off the train in Maney, Louisiana and wished that we were dead..."

13 August, 2010

13 August, 1943

No letter today.  The next letter will be on 16 August.

Here's a time line for the 438th , from 6 June through 7 November, 1943, quoting from The Route of the Question Mark.  (Click on "The Route of the Question Mark" tab above for more information.)  The photographs from 1942 to sometime in 1943 are on the preceding "no letter" days.

12 August, 2010

12 August 1943

No letter today.  The next letter will be 16 August.

These photographs were taken while traveling through Alabama en route to "Maneuvers" in January of 1943. I wonder if this was taken from the last car, or if more boxcars of future soldiers followed behind. 

Taken from a train window somewhere in Alabama, 01/43
"Zoot Suit" Boys, Baton Rouge, LA railroad station, 24 Jan 43

Street Scene in the "Colored Section"of Baton Rouge, LA 01/43

11 August, 2010

11 August, 1943

No letter today.  The next letter was written on 16 August.

Meanwhile, here are some photographs taken between September of 1942 and early 1943, including some from the train ride to Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

10 August, 2010

10 August, 1943

No letter today.  The next letter was written on 16 August.

Here's how gas was rationed in 1943.  Naturally, this booklet had no remaining coupons!

Gas Ration Booklet Cover
Front cover of Booklet
(Edited because it identified "Greg")
Back Cover of Booklet
Left Inside Cover of Booklet
Right Inside Cover of Booklet

09 August, 2010

9 August, 1943

438th AAA AW BN
Camp Edwards, Mass
August 9, 1943 4:45 P.M.
Dear Wilma –

This is not my stationery, so don’t draw any conclusions too rapidly. As usual I used what was available, and this screeching eagle was the result. One of my boys named Abbott offered some of his privately initialed stock. I could have used the initial, but the eagle really got me. You must wonder, no doubt, why I never get around to using some of my own. Well, I keep getting it, using a sheet or two, and then I tire of it. This system is less monotonous.

I’ll only get started today, writing this, and will probably finish tomorrow. In about 15 minutes I must join the Colonel’s staff in review of our battalion parade. We have them every other week or so, and it’s just more of the Army’s pomp and circumstance which Army men love so much. But there’ll be a band, banners etc. and that will compensate somewhat.

Following that comes the evening meal, officer’s school and you guessed it – bed-rest! Incidentally, Col. Pereira remembered your Dad immediately upon mention of his name and recounted a few episodes relative to the “old school days”.

I got over to Jamaica Plain about 10:15 and we took off at 10:25, arriving here at mid-night – not without incident, however. Wilma – I hate to tell you this, but we’ll have to knock the price down to – say $575! About 5 miles from Camp, the windshield suddenly got covered with a watery substance which my keen diagnostic powers quickly told me was radiator water. We got back here all right, but this a.m. a leak in the radiator was very evident. So – I took care of it immediately and it’s now thoroughly all right. I’ll have to stop now. The Colonel’s car awaits without –
Still Monday – 7:40 p.m.

Hello – the parade is over and I started working on next week-end. Well I couldn’t start any earlier, could I? Our program calls for a short field problem this week – early Thursday a.m. to Friday evening, & then the infiltration course on Saturday. I hinted about how late we might be on Saturday and the Colonel obligingly informed me that if he had anything to do with it, we wouldn’t get off too late. So everything looks fine so far. I hope you’re pleased.

You know, if I keep writing, I’ll soon have enough material for a letter – But not before a little retrospect over this past week-end which remains so vividly clear in my mind’s eye. I don’t have to conjure up the Goddess of Memory at all. Really, though, Wilma, it’s been very pleasant – these past week-ends with you, pleasant to the point of exhilaration – whatever in the world that is. I believe it’s good, though. I hope, only, that some measure of the good company you have afforded me was returned through me. The fact that I look forward immediately after a week-end in your company to the next one means a great deal to me when I analyze the feeling. I hope you know what I mean –

This week I shall be a good boy, I believe, and get some sleep. I’ve got to store my energies for Saturday & Sunday. Get some studying done, if you can, and here’s to seeing you soon –

                                                   Love and Kisses

03 August, 2010

3 August, 1943

438th AAA AW BN
Camp Edwards, Mass
Antitank Range
August 3, 1943 9:40 am
Dear Wilma,

Among other things, my ambulance has a front compartment which contains a box filled with sundry articles, including writing paper. This allows me to communicate with people wherever I happen to be. Today it is the firing range again, about 7 miles from camp. I’m still acting in the role of one waiting for a tragedy to happen. I sometimes wonder what the boys think when they see me preying upon them.

It’s really dull out here this morning, and already the past week-end seems to have slipped into the hazy past. My return trip Sunday was uneventful. Although I did manage to pick up three soldiers, they were little help in keeping me alert, for they fell asleep themselves.

Monday was a long day because after regular hours I had to sit on a Court Martial Board, of which I am a member. By the time we had finished doling out our brand of mountain justice, it was time for bed.

In the line of news, it looks as if we don’t go on this field problem after all, at least not this week. I plan to call you this evening and tell you most of this anyway. Right now, despite the fact that you no doubt are looking forward to a week-end or longer in the Adirondacks, I am hoping that you don’t go.

Further in the line of news is the fact that our readiness date (a term used in the Army to indicate when an outfit may ship out) has been postponed. This is not exactly a military secret, but my continual references to overseas was due to the knowledge that our previous readiness date was actually September first. Yesterday we were informed by Army Ground Forces in Washington that this has been changed to a later date. I think I’m pleased.

So much then for the chronicle. I’ll call you tonite, Wilma, and I look forward to seeing you again this week-end if you’re going to be in Boston.

Solong for now.