31 March, 2011

31 March, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 578 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
31 March, 1944           1000
Good Morning, darling –

It’s been a long time it seems since I’ve been able to write you this early in the day. Every new station has a different set-up and therefore a different routine. I haven’t been able to figure this one out as yet, but this morning I’m plunked down on a medical chest in the Dispensary – and for a change – it’s reasonably quiet.

Yesterday afternoon Charlie and I started out towards where our own men are billeted to give them a couple of classes in first aid. We passed a shop with some men's ties in the window – nice English plaids – so we went in. I thought I’d like to buy a couple for your Dad and mine – but you need coupons of course. After a little dickering with the salesgirl – she told us that the best thing would be to go the ration board. We did and they referred us to the Civilians Enquiry Dept and there we met a very charming Englishwoman. We told her we wanted to buy something for Mother’s Day and she said she’d try to help us. Meanwhile it developed she traveled through the States last summer with her son (16 yrs.) He had been there for a year – at The Rivers School in Brookline and lived with Dr. Tracy Mallory – the pathologist at the M.G.H. She had visited Salem, Maine etc. and we had a nice chat. When we left her – she was going to write to the Board of Trade and we’re to see her in a week. We killed over an hour, dear, and lost all desire to teach, so we walked along up the one main street of this town – looking at windows. We went into an old antique shop but didn’t see anything worth sending home. We passed a sporting goods store and went in to look at some squash rackets. I got to talking with the owner and before we were through he was going to arrange to have me meet and play one of the men connected with the school in this town. I’m going back to see him this p.m.

30 March, 2011

30 March, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 578 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
30 March, 1944          1100

Dearest Sweetheart –

It’s a cold gray day today – the first in over 10 days – a good day to stay in and read. I’ve been out most of the morning and have just returned to the Dispensary. Having signed my name to several more papers, I’m now ready to write you, darling.

Yesterday, again, was just another day, with routine duties, dinner – or supper at 1800, practice on the clarinet after supper – read Time magazine and listen to the radio program until bedtime. A nice quiet routine, sweetheart, but perfectly all right as far as I’m concerned.

After receiving mail the day before yesterday, the battalion was again short changed and there was no mail at all yesterday. I haven’t heard from my folks in some time now – although I don’t doubt there’s some on the way. There’s so many things I crave to know about what’s going on – and all I can do is wonder. I don’t know yet how your folks reacted to my letter – or letters, and I don’t know what my father has accomplished in getting a ring. You see I told him to get one – even before I heard from your folks – because as far as I’m concerned, dearest, the ring is for you, sooner or later, anyway. So I’m still waiting.

29 March, 2011

29 March, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 578 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
29 March, 1944        1100

Wilma, my darling –

At last we got some mail yesterday, and mine included four letters from you between March 5th and 7th. There must be quite a few more on the way. Gosh it was a wonderful feeling to hear from you. When I don’t hear, you seem so far away; when I do – you’re just sort of out of my sight temporarily. Your letters dealt with interesting subjects, sweetheart and I’ll try to discuss some of them with you.

The “Stan” incident, first of all, is closed as far as I’m concerned, dear. I suspected what was going on and honestly I think you handled it very discreetly. I never did write Stan what I felt like writing because it was hard for me to believe what he was trying to do. Why he’s so desperate is beyond me, dear, but I know that from my talks with him this past summer – his one goal is to tie himself onto some girl who can eventually make things comfortable for him – and it doesn’t make any difference who the girl is – to wit – Shirley, for whom I’m sure he didn’t have any love at all. Of course, darling, I don’t mean that as disparagingly as regards to you. I know he felt I had by far the better of the two girls when we went out together – but I never dreamed that he would operate like that. We’ll be friends, no doubt, but my estimation of him as a man will forever be low. That he would go so far as to try to weaken you by telling you that from what he knows of me I’m running around – was certainly hitting below the belt – especially when I wasn’t around. Sweetheart – you have only to read my letters to find out how much of that I’ve been doing. He apparently doesn’t understand that I’m in love with you for what you yourself are and that’s all that matters to me. He doesn’t understand that I was self-supporting before – and expect to be that – and more when I’m married to you. His own view of marriage – is parasitic, believe me, and he interprets everything from his own point of view. I’ll say this much for Shirley – she’s a very smart girl, because I believe she saw through him. He was an attractive man to be taking her out – and the temptation to have it continue – must have been great.

28 March, 2011

28 March, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 578 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
28 March, 1944 1420

My dearest darling –

I am now at the Dispensary with some more spare time so I thought I’d at least get started. This morning was a fairly busy one. I had to go to the Hospital on some official business and I visited a couple of batteries to check sleep conditions etc. Later this p.m. I have an appointment with the Enquirer of the Water Department of this town – to discuss the water supply and check its drinking quality etc. These are some of the routine duties of the battalion surgeon when an outfit reaches a new spot.

Last night, dear, was quiet. After supper I played the clarinet for awhile, alone, and then I was joined by the violinist and between the two of us we managed to kill about an hour and one-half playing some old songs. Practicing on the clarinet has become a daily occurrence and I certainly am glad I got one when I did because it has helped me pass away some pleasant hours – that would ordinarily have been dull.

27 March, 2011

27 March, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 578 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
27 March, 1944        1500

Dearest sweetheart –

The weather is almost intolerable in its fairness – as paradoxical as that may seem, dear. As usual – wherever this outfit has been – we’ve always struck “unusual weather” or so the natives tell us. I thought this was the usual thing for England right now, but we’re assured it’s not. At any rate – it has been lovely down here, darling, and if I never had Spring Fever before, I sure have it now. I suppose it’s a good thing I don’t have much to do these days, because I’m sure I’d never get it done. Balmy – is the best way to describe the days we’ve been having, just like those we get in early May at home. The cherry blossoms, daffodils and early Spring flowers are all out – and all in all dear I miss you terribly. We’re always going to enjoy the Spring together, I know. It would be so wonderful to walk hand in hand with you through this lovely town and its suburbs, only I wonder how long we’d be just hand in hand. Well Salem has it suburbs, too, and we’ll be able to walk there.

Sweetheart I’ve missed you so these past couple of weeks. I just can’t explain it to you. It isn’t merely a feeling of wanting to be with you, being married, being together, and so on. All that goes almost without saying. It’s more a feeling as if I had already spent part of my life with you and had to be separated from you because of the war. In other words, darling, I miss you more acutely because in my mind – we’ve been together for a long time and now we are not. I don’t know how clear I’m making myself, but the plain fact is, dear, that I love you so deeply and truly that being away from you all these months is punishment. I would so love to be with you getting started on life – but then, you know how I feel, dear.

26 March, 2011

26 March, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 578 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
26 March, 1944 1100
Sunday Morning

Dearest Girl –

Most of the fellows have gone down town to church. I was alone up in my room at about 1000 and so I took out my clarinet and played it until a short time ago. I was joined by a fellow – one of the officers – who bought a violin some time ago and between the two of us – Walter Raleigh must have had a tough time in his grave. Likewise for whoever occupied our room in the past. The name over our door by the way is “The Chintz Dressing Room”. I’m not sure what Chintz is – but I don’t think I find any in the room. All the rooms, by the way, are named.
This oil painting of Sir William Strickland and his Family
by Charles Phillips once hung in the Chintz Dressing Room

When we have a piano available – Charlie Wright plays – and one of the boys plays the guitar and you should hear that ensemble! It stinks! But the boys sing loud and cheer us on – so everything ends up well, dear. After the war – when we end up having our own house (as soon as I can earn enough money to get one) we’ll have a piano in it, darling, and whether you like it or not – we’ll play together. Do you think that child psychology would frown on the effect upon growing children, dear?

25 March, 2011

25 March, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 578 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
25 March, 1944      1900
My dearest darling –

This is a real Saturday evening if ever I saw one. The boys have all gotten dressed and walked down town to go pubbing. I didn’t get around to dressing and besides I hadn’t the opportunity to write you earlier today. So I’m in my room where it’s nice and quiet and I feel close to you again.

Gee I had a swell dream about you last night darling; no plot, no story – all I was doing was kissing you and boy! was I kissing you! I’m sure it lasted several hours because I was even tired in my dream. Oh well – it won’t always be thus, Sweetheart. It’s bound to be real, one of these days.

There was no mail again today and the boys are kind of put out about it. There’s a good reason, no doubt – and soon we’ll get a bunch of it. There would be one of those periodic delays – just when I’m most anxious to receive my mail promptly. Maybe tomorrow.

24 March, 2011

24 March, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 578 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
24 March, 1944          1715

Dearest sweetheart – 

Another beautiful Spring day, darling, and what I wouldn’t give to be with you these days! It’s so beautiful and mild here, dear, that it’s very hard to concentrate on anything except you and me and the future. I walk to and from the Dispensary – a distance of perhaps 3/4 miles – merely to get the exercise and see the view. As you leave the Castle – there’s a large driveway to the right which skirts the pond. 

This photo shows the "new" castle and its driveway skirting the
pond in the foreground, the "old" castle remains across the pond,
and the town of Sherborne beyond.

23 March, 2011

23 March, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 578 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
23 March, 1944        1725
My dearest sweetheart –

Gosh I love you, darling, and my being away from you seems like terrible punishment. I desire so much to be with you, close to you – all the time – that I know I will never be satisfied, content or relaxed, mentally or physically, until that day when our wishes are really fulfilled. In that connection, dearest, I guess I don’t tell you often enough just how much you mean to me. By that I mean I want you to know how much you really hold me. I want you to be sure you understand that no one ever can possibly mean anything to me except you. You must always tell yourself that, darling, and if it makes you more happy – then I’m glad. It’s just that I’ve come to feel that you are mine alone, waiting for me and wanting me only; you must feel that way about me and get the same satisfaction I get. Do you, darling?

Well – we’re getting settled here – and things are really comfortable. Today I did a lot of inspecting, running around – etc. In the p.m. I bought some heavy celluloid and spent a few hours making a permanent type mapboard. I really don’t know why – because up to now I’ve always merely asked where I was supposed to go – and managed to get there – while others with elaborate maps and colored pencils, got lost. Nonetheless – it looks nice if you have one – and it’s something to fool around with anyway.

I’ve just returned to the Castle and am waiting for supper. We eat at 1800 now and it gives me a little time more. I found some mail for me – but none from you, darling. I got one from my father, Part I from Stan (I had received Part II of a V-mail a few days ago), also a second V-mail from Stan, a letter from Bea, one from Barbara Tucker and one from a Major M.C. friend of mine – stationed in Hawaii. He practiced in Peabody and when he went into the Army, I took over his practice part time (or did I tell you already?)

22 March, 2011

22 March, 1944 (2nd letter)

438th AAA AW BN
APO 578 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
22 March, 1944     1930
Dearest darling –

First and foremost – I received your letter this p.m. of March 9 in which you accept my proposal, sweetheart, and although I knew you would – it made me very happy to read it. I’m surprised your folks hadn’t heard from me by that date – but they certainly must have by this time and I hope to hear from them soon. So they’re going up to 20% tax on jewels, are they? Well, darling – I don’t care as long as I can manage to get a ring you like on the correct finger. I don’t know what’s been happening back in Newton these past few weeks, dear, because the mail has been spotty – but I know I’m going around as if I were already engaged and I just hope everything is going along towards that goal.

I wrote you a V mail earlier today, sweetheart, in which I told you our official APO number is 578 and not 230, although anything you wrote with 230 will get to me – as will the 527’s of course. As I wrote you – it should be obvious that we’ve moved. You’ve probably gathered as much already. Whenever we move – we don’t know what the next set-up will be. In all the moves we’ve made – including those in the States – we have never been more amazed on arrival than we were when we got here. We are occupying a 17,000 acre estate that goes with a Castle. The officers are living in the Castle. Charlie Wright and I are sharing a room together – although the Lord knows there are enough rooms for everybody. There are actually 90 rooms in this Castle and believe it or not – in recent years it was fixed for central heating, although most of the rooms have enormous fireplaces. But let me start at the beginning – and this is all authentic, darling. This castle is one of the finest in this part of England. It is 400 years old – and believe it or not – was built or at least lived in by Sir Walter Raleigh when he was in Queen Elizabeths’ favor. She is supposed to have visited him here. When he was beheaded – the Earl of Bristol took over the Castle. He was the Lord Digby and the present Lord Digby owns the estate. It has been rented to the British gov’t for the duration and how we happened to get here – is beyond me.

22 March, 1944

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 578 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
22 March, 1944      830
Darling –

By now you must know we’ve moved. This is a busy day but I wanted to let you know that our number is 578 (five, seven, eight) and not 230. If you used the latter already – it will reach us though.

Wilma, dear – I’ll write you a letter later in the day and tell you as much as I can about our new set-up. I just wanted to get this off so that you can get my new APO as soon as possible.

Everything is fine, darling, and if I thought I had a good set-up before – listen to this – we are now occupying a tremendous Castle – as living quarters for the officers! It defies the imagination – actually – but I’ll write in more detail tonite.

For now –
All my love
Greg
Regards!

21 March, 2011

21 March, 1944

No letter today. Just this:

* TIDBIT *

about the 1944 Eruption of Mount Vesuvius

Everything here and more can be seen at the Mount Vesuvius Eruption of 1944 web site.

Mount Vesuvius last erupted between March 18-23, 1944. At the time of the eruption, the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) 340th Bombardment Group was based at Pompeii Airfield near Terzigno, Italy, just a few kilometers from the eastern base of the mountain. The tephra and hot ash damaged the fabric control surfaces, the engines, the Plexiglass windshields and the gun turrets of the 340th's B-25 Mitchell medium bombers. Estimates ranged from 78 to 88 aircraft destroyed.

Dr. Leander K. Powers served in Italy during World War II and his diary provides an interesting chronology of the March 1944 eruption:
Saturday, March 17, 1944

"While we were just finishing supper, someone called to say there were huge red streams of lava flowing down the sides of Mount Vesuvius. It was a sight to behold. Never had we seen such at night — usually a faint red glow at the most. As we watched the streams, like giant fingers flowing down the sides, we could see a glow in the sky. All during the night and Sunday there were quakes of the earth with tremendous roars - similar to thunder - from Vesuvius. The windows rattled, and the entire building vibrated."

Sunday, March 18, 1944

"On Sunday night, the roars became more frequent and grumbled like a lion’s roar. Streams of fire were shooting thousands of feet into the air, and the countryside was lit up for miles around. Oft times the entire top of the mountain looked as if it were a blazing inferno. It’s really uncanny, yet amazing to look at this phenomenon. The vibrations of the building were truly uncomfortable."

20 March, 2011

20 March, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
20 March, 1944        1830
Dearest sweetheart –

Today has been a helluva long busy day – as was anticipated – with a busier one due tomorrow. As a matter of fact, darling, I won’t be able to write tomorrow but I will the day after, and I’ll be able to write a letter less mysteriously – not that there is anything particularly different – but I realize I’ve been sounding a little bit obscure. If so, dear, it’s because I’m trying to stay within the censorship rules.

Anyway – this morning we went up to battalion for another one of those meetings. We got back at noon and have been tearing around ever since. Our lights are out of order and it’s fast getting dark – so I’m writing more swiftly than usual, dear. Gosh darling, I love you so much and miss you so these days! I’m awaiting eagerly hearing from you and your folks in reply to my letters of over a week or so ago. The damn delay in time is so aggravating – and yet there isn’t a thing we can do about it – but wait. I haven’t heard from you now for 5 days, the longest stretch in some time. I should be getting a fairly recent letter soon. The last letter I got was written March 4th, but there are several before that that are still missing.

19 March, 2011

19 March, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
19 March, 1944        1100

Dearest darling Wilma –

If you’ve already noticed the new A.P.O. – don’t be alarmed. It’s just another change, with no particular significance, dear. The Army is always changing things around probably to confuse the enemy. I guess they end up confusing the home folk. Anyway, darling, at the present time we’re still in the exact position as we’ve been right along and until you hear otherwise – that’s where we’ll be. Anyway – at the present – 230 is the APO for us. As before dear, your previous letters addressed 527 will reach me without delay.

You remember, Sweetheart, I wrote you yesterday that is was going to be a busy day. It was – and so is today – even though it is a beautiful Sunday morning. Gosh this is getting to be a more and more beautiful country with each passing day, sweetheart. I was always more or less susceptible to Spring – but I’ve never been in love, darling, and gee – it’s a hard combination to take – with you so far away. We’ve had a remarkable run of clean, fresh air. And the countryside is as picturesque as anything I’ve seen in the States. The whole trouble is that you can’t be here with me to complete the empty feeling I get when I look out to the horizon – when I’m standing by myself. It’s then that I feel like walking side by side with you, talking with you, planning with you and embracing you – and the fact that you are not here is compensated only by the thought that you must be thinking the same things, feeling the way I do and wishing you were with me too. I knew that Spring would be hard to take – even before I realized how swiftly our love was developing. But we’ll have other Springs, darling, when we’ll walk along together and think back to these days – and I know it will make us appreciate each other all the more.

18 March, 2011

18 March, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 527 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
18 March, 1944         1235
My darling –

I’ve just had lunch and I thought this would be a good opportunity to write – since we’re pretty busy today. As a matter of fact, sweetheart, we’ll be quite busy for the next two or three days – but I believe I’ll be able to write you – except possibly on one day. You’ll know what I’m talking about in one of my next few letters – but it’s nothing important, darling, so don’t start worrying. As a matter of record – let’s get this straight now, dear. When I tell you not to worry – you won’t. If I think you should worry, I’ll imply it. Now that’s simple, isn’t it? All you have to do is to trust me – and I know you do.

Last night – having successfully withstood the General’s inspection, George Morgan – one of the battery commanders, and myself decided to go into town and relax. We thought we’d have a few drinks and sit around, but when we arrived – we decided to go to the movies instead – and we did. I was surprised to see that one of the theaters was showing “The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek” – so we went to see that. The co-feature was an old Bob Hope picture – “The Cat and the Canary” – and that was billed as the feature; they like Bob Hope here in England although most of the English say he’s too fast for them and they find it hard to keep up with his jokes.

I enjoyed “The Miracle” immensely, dear. It certainly was different – and for a starter – Betty Hutton did a fine job, I thought. It certainly had a mixture of pathos – or pseudo pathos, farce, slapstick and just plain comedy and was a welcome relief from some of the pictures we’ve been seeing.

17 March, 2011

17 March, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 527 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
17 March, 1944      0930
My dearest darling Wilma –

Last night I missed you terribly. The evening was long and my thoughts of you were vivid, dear. I felt like writing you but had I – I think my letter would have sounded too lonesome – so I waited until this morning. Oh yes – sweetheart – I miss you in the daytime, too – in every move I make, in every thought I think – but as you certainly know yourself, the evenings are worse.

I’m at the Dispensary now, darling, and everything is “spit and polish” in readiness for the inspecting general who should be here in about one hour – I believe. Then we can go on with our routine. I suppose it’s blasphemy or some such word to say this – but I actually think that the progress of the war is being held up by such things as frequent inspections – in which every normal process comes to a standstill and everyone prepares for an inspection which is usually very cursory and of necessity – superficial. What is more aggravating is the fact that from all reports we get from Italy – the same goes on right up to the front lines. To me – our Army is still just a paper Army, stickling in our details, reports, channels, and the next “higher authority”. I suppose all Armies are like that – but I’m speaking from my own observation.

Now how did I get on that subject again, Sweetheart? I didn’t mean to start on another discourse about inspections – but I see and feel red every time one comes up – and not because they affect us so much – but because of what the line batteries have to go through.

16 March, 2011

16 March, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 527 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
16 March, 1944       1100
Dearest darling –

Thursday morning and everyone’s bucking for the big inspection tomorrow – i.e. – every one except the medical detachment. A short while ago we had a little session (Goodman would shudder at my free use of the word) – with my clarinet and one of the men on the guitar. It’s not a bad combination. Now that that’s over, my best surgical technician is working on a case for my clarinet that will save me 35 shillings – and besides we’re having fun designing it. The only trouble is we haven’t got the wherewithal – like hinges, tacks and fine tools.

Last night we saw “Pittsburgh” – with J. Wayne, R. Scott et al. I only saw the last part because we got back from battalion quite late. The meeting was a lot of hooey – except for one rather important point – which I can’t discuss right now, darling.

And just as I expected, dear, I got two letters from you – one of them written March 4th, with a March 5th post-mark. Boy it’s wonderful to get a letter that’s only about 10 days old, darling, and to realize that you wrote it a comparatively short time ago. Sweetheart – I love your letters very much – everything you say and the way you say it. I wouldn’t love them otherwise. If you feel sometimes that your expressions of love seem inadequate – I know how you feel – because I experience the same frustration. It always seems as if I could have expressed myself just a little bit better. But I know what you’re telling me – and you must know, too. As you implied in one of your letters – recently, the “love language” is very primitive – and its vocabulary extremely limited. One thing that isn’t limited though is the emotion of love. That has a tremendous range – hasn’t it, dear? So it seems that the difficult part is just expressing the feeling. It’s too bad, dearest, we can’t be close together – because I think we could show each other how much we care.

15 March, 2011

15 March, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 527 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
15 March, 1944       1125
Dearest sweetheart –

The Ides of March and still no action – I suppose they know what they’re doing but I do wish something would happen soon. No letter this morning but maybe I’ll get something this evening, dear.

Last night was quiet – early evening – and active around midnight. I did some more writing, a letter to Mary and one to a friend of mine who is in the ETO. I heard from him just the other day. You know, darling, it will be fun meeting each other’s friends. I was thinking about it – when you mentioned some of your girl friends you’ve been meeting up with recently. I hope they’ll like your choice and as far as I’m concerned, if they’re your friends, they’ll be friends of mine, I’m sure. I used to have a good many friends when I was at college and med. School – but everyone drifts off and I drifted to Salem. It was difficult keeping up with them – but after the war we’ll have to pick up the loose threads.

I got a letter yesterday from both Mrs. Kerrs – elder and younger. Both were very friendly and reminded me to take care of myself. I also heard from Dr. Finnegan who is apparently well and kicking. There’s nothing much new out of Salem except that all the doctors are busy. Oh well – they’ll have to move over and make room for another guy – that’s all.

14 March, 2011

14 March, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 527 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
14 March, 1944        1545
My dearest sweetheart –

No letter today – but I really didn’t expect one in view of the three rather recent ones yesterday. Anyway – there was enough material in them to give me pleasant thoughts for some time, darling. The more I think of us and our engagement-to-be, the happier I feel about it. It’s going to be a wonderful feeling to know that you are really destined to be mine alone – and I hope the same thought – from your side of the fence – gives you the same satisfying reaction that I get, dear.

Last night – after seeing “Stage Door Canteen” here – and for the second time – I came back to my quarters and wrote a couple of more letters to catch up with my correspondence. I wrote one to a Dr. Curtis in Salem – one of the older doctors who was very helpful to me; then I wrote to a friend of mine who is a warrant officer with an AA unit in Italy. I had just heard from him. They really had it quite tough – but one thing the Army does is to move an outfit back after it has hard going for a month or two. His outfit was being moved back for a rest – and he was really looking forward to it. I also wrote Stan a V-mail asking him why I hadn’t heard from him. I rather think, dear, it’s because of the Shirley affair – which he must be finding difficult to tell me about. His previous letter had told me how well they were getting along. At any rate to make it somewhat easier for him, I told him you had intimated that things weren’t going so well and I wrote him that if he stopped seeing her, he certainly must know what he’s doing.

13 March, 2011

13 March, 1944 (to her parents)

438th AAA AW BN
APO 527 c/o Postmaster N.Y.
England
13 March, 1944
Dear Mrs. and Mr. B –

Having already written you how I felt about Wilma, it seems to me I can just go along from there. I’ll admit it’s all so different from the conventional – but hang it – what can a fellow do these days when he’s a long way from home and the girl he loves is still not ‘attached’ to him?

I hear from my folks and they were very happy to hear how I felt about Wilma. They told me how much they loved her and what a wonderful girl she is. I didn’t need that information – as I already know – but it’s nice to know that your folks are all for it. It will be a while, no doubt before I hear from you – and I hope I hear what I want.

It struck me when I thought over what I had written you – that I didn’t actually present myself in the way a possible future son-in-law should. By that I mean – you perhaps don’t actually know too much about me and shall I say – my qualifications. I realize that to a girl’s parents – that is very important. I don’t intend to give you a list of my accomplishments – that’s in the past. But, I would like to say that I’m very confident that I can get started in practice again back in Salem and pick up where I left off. I’m aware of the fact that being successful while single doesn’t guarantee the same for being married – but then – background does help a great deal. The fact is I did start a practice and I know what to expect; it’s not all new to me. It will undoubtedly be slow at first – but I feel that with what I have and intend to buy – we’ll be able to get going without any difficulty; and I do have some good-will in Salem – which is after all – immeasurable.

13 March, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 527 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
13 March, 1944            1300
My dearest darling –

I’m so thrilled at the letters I’ve just received that I hardly know what to say. I’m so in love with you and so thrilled at the thought of our being engaged – that I hardly know how to act. I received your letters of Feb 28, 29, and March 1 and you wrote just what I wanted to hear – that things were progressing in the right direction for us, that the chances of actually becoming engaged looked better and better – and that my folks were all for it. The latter fact I was sure of anyway – but my feeling was strengthened by a letter from my father which I also received today. It was not his response to a letter I had sent and which the folks haven’t received as yet, but he intimated he knew what was going on, was very happy, as was my mother – and he wanted to know how he could help. You can see, sweetheart, why I feel so happy.

As regards your folks, darling, as I told you yesterday, I’ve written them and told them how I felt about you and what I wanted to do. I’m afraid I didn’t go into enough detail about various matters – like being able to provide for you, for example. Somehow, dear, I don’t have any doubt about being able to do that – although I admit it’s a much different proposition taking care of a wife than just yourself. But one thing I’ve never lacked is confidence – and in medicine, that’s very important. I think, darling, that I’ll be able to take care of you properly. How tough it will be – building a practice all over again – I can’t say – but if you’re not afraid, I assure you I’m not. I’ve got enough money to get us started and carry us along until my income increases. That’s one thing about medicine – you don’t start off with a fixed salary; you start from zero. But the other side of it is that there’s no ceiling on your salary later.

12 March, 2011

12 March, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 527 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
12 March, 1944       1245
Dearest sweetheart –

We eat early on Sundays – i.e. earlier than I used to at home. As a result, I’m now back at my quarters and ready to write you. Today is raw and rainy – the first in about 2 weeks. The fire feels good – it’s nice and quiet and everything is fine.

Last night at 0030 I received 3 letters from you, one from Mary, one from Barbara Tucker and Mrs. Tucker and one from Eleanor. Every now and then mail will come in at a very strange hour – but typical of the Army – it is sorted out then and there and delivered. The lights were all out, I was in bed – so I read by flashlight. We use a flashlight a great deal in the country, dear. You have to or you’ll get lost. Blackout in England is of course severe. Before dark, we put up wooden covers over our windows. It’s now quite routine and will seem peculiar after the war – not to have to bother with such things.

Anyway, Sweetheart – I read your letters and enjoyed them immediately. Naturally I dozed off to sleep peacefully.

In the day before mail, I got a swell letter from your mother – and it made me very happy. She told me about having been over to my house and that she enjoyed herself. She also mentioned that my father was doing considerable hugging and kissing of you – which is ‘like son like father’ – as I see it. But best of all she asked me how I thought she was shaping up as a mother (not ‘in-law’). That was wonderful of her – to put it that way, dear. I wrote her and your dad a kind of long letter – and I guess I made myself quite clear – almost to the point of being matter-of-fact. They’ll no doubt tell you what I wrote, darling, but the sum and substance was that I told them I loved you, wanted to marry you – with their permission and wanted to be engaged – likewise with their permission. So there you are – Sweetheart. If all goes well – and I hear that there are no sincere objections – we’ll be engaged! The details – I really don’t know but probably it will involve my father’s presenting you with a ring, kissing you for me, and announcing it. That’s the way I see it from here, dear, although I admit the perspective from here is a little too far away to be satisfying.

I suppose there’s a letter in the mail now in answer to an earlier one of mine asking whether or not I should write your folks. Without waiting for a reply I wrote them and I hope they accept it. I’m just trying to save time.

Darling it seems almost too good to be true to realize that I may after all become engaged to you – and when it does materialize, I know it will be some time before I can make myself actually believe it. But I know I shall be very proud and content.

In one of your letters, dear, you say you’ll be waiting at the pier with a Rabbi. That suits me fine, although I imagine it will probably be more than just that – but not much more than that. As for getting my clothes, darling, maybe we won’t wait that long. No one knows much about demobilization – but I imagine it will take some time in the States. In that case – we get married anyway, even though I’ll still be in uniform. Oh – darling – I hope this doesn’t sound like a pipe dream. The war’s end is still beyond the horizon – and yet – end it must one fine day. May it only end sooner than we expect!

Well, Sweetheart, that’s all for now. I’ve got to write my folks. They know how I feel and what I want to do – and although I haven’t as yet had an answer to some of my more recent letters – I know what they’ll say.

This p.m. I’m going to read a copy of ‘Time’ which came yesterday (Feb. 28 issue) and then practice my clarinet. I’ve had it 3 days darling and so help me I’ve had my money’s worth. I still squeal horribly – but I’m having fun. This morning I played it awhile and dug out “You’ll Never Know – How Much I Love You” – on it – and I hope to tell you someday, darling, just how much that is. For now, solong – fondest regards to the family and to you, dear

My sincerest love
Greg

* TIDBIT *

about "You'll Never Know"



"You'll Never Know", based on a poem written by a young Oklahoma war bride named Dorothy Fern Norris, won composer Harry Warren and lyricist Mack Gordon the Oscar for best song in 1943.  It was introduced by Alice Faye in the 1943 movie "Hello, Frisco" and performed again by Faye in the 1944 film "Four Jills in a Jeep," as heard here. Although the song is often credited as Faye's signature song, she never made a recording of the ballad. In later years, frequent covers of the song diminished her association with it. In 1955 it was the first song that Barbra Streisand ever recorded. Others who covered the song were Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Vera Lynn, Trini Lopez, and Bette Midler.  Here are the lyrics:
        YOU'LL NEVER KNOW
You'll never know just how much I miss you,
You'll never know just how much I care...
And if I tried, I still couldn't hide my love for you,
You ought to know, for haven't I told you so,
A million or more times?

You went away and my heart went with you,
I speak your name in my every prayer.
If there is some other way to prove that I love you
I swear I don't know how...
You'll never know if you don't know now.

11 March, 2011

11 March, 1944 (to her Mother)

438th AAA AW BN
APO 527 c/o Postmaster N.Y.
England
11 March, 1944
Dear Mrs. B. –

I got your very sweet letter of February 28th yesterday. The earlier one was waiting for me when I got back from my leave – and I can’t understand why it took so long in getting here.

I’ve been waiting to write both you and Mr. B. for some time now – about various things concerning Wilma and myself – but if it’s hard to discuss certain matters in person, believe me – it is much more difficult to do it by mail.

You know of course how happy I’ve been since meeting Wilma; you must know by now that I’ve grown to love her very deeply and sincerely. What you probably don’t know is – how much. I appreciate the understanding and broadmindedness which both you and Mr. B. have shown concerning the two of us. When I first met Wilma and went out with her, I was just another fellow. But when I continued to see more and more of her, I couldn’t help wondering what you were thinking. It would have been the most natural thing in the world to have advised her that I was – after all – a soldier, ready for overseas duty, etc., etc. – That you didn’t resent my attention to your daughter, was admirable on your part – and I shall always be grateful to both of you for it.

11 March, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 527 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
11 March, 1944           1115
My dearest darling –

I’m so happy about things that I feel like shouting out loud most of the time. As a result – the house that I’m living in is in a constant state of noise, cheering, turmoil and general confusion. The other fellows think I’m crazy – but they help at it just the same.

I’m happy because I’m in love and because I know you love me. I keep telling myself how lucky I am – in these times – to be able to develop that love – even at a great distance; your cooperation and initiative have been beyond my expectations and how I can ever make up to you for it – I don’t know sweetheart. All I know is that I’ve never felt as content in my life, at a time when most soldiers are discontent. When I wrote in yesterday’s letter that it was so difficult waiting – I didn’t mean to leave the impression I was complaining. What I meant was that with someone like you waiting for me, dearest, it was difficult for me to contain myself here.

The fact that our folks have met and apparently get along makes me very happy – and to have arranged it was a wonderful thing on your part. You’ve got courage, spirit and confidence – and I admire those qualities in a woman. I can well imagine that you were nervous; I’d have been too. It’s a natural reaction. But with me away in addition – you must be a natural diplomat to have done so well – and you no doubt will make an excellent doctor’s wife. Let me tell you too, darling, that that is very important – because I know of cases where a doctor’s practice has suffered due to his wife’s ability to bungle things up in general. I need not fear on that account – anyway.

10 March, 2011

10 March, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 527 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
10 March, 1944       1400

Dearest sweetheart –

My lips are sorer right now than they’ve been for several months. Now! Now! Don’t you go jumping at conclusions, darling. It is not due to kissing! This morning I went into the neighboring towns and of all things – I bought a clarinet; price – second hand, good wood, fair condition – 10 pounds or $40.35. I hope you don’t think I’m crazy, dear. I’ve had so much time to myself and I get so lonesome at times – I got to thinking about it and decided it might help while away some hours. I have just spent the past one and one-half hours blowing, pushing, squeaking and swearing – and I’m ready to leave the thing alone for the rest of the day. But it did feel good to run up and down the scales and squeak through a few tunes. The fingering is a little bit different on this clarinet – so I’m having a little fun finding the notes; no neighbors around to interfere – so what do I care?

Sweetheart – in one of your letters you mentioned hearing a good many things about me from my mother. I don’t doubt you’ll learn lots about me from her that you wouldn’t from me – but remember, darling, she’s prejudiced and I’m not the angel she must make me out to be. She does love me, though, like no mother I know likes her son; certainly more so than any of my friend’s mothers like their sons – as far as I’ve been able to see. And I shall always appreciate it, I know, because I realize how much she means to me – although – as is usually the case, I don’t believe I’ve ever told her in so many words.

09 March, 2011

09 March, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 527 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
9 March, 1944        1400

My dearest darling Wilma –

I spent so enjoyable an evening last night – just reading your letters and dreaming, that I couldn’t help wondering why I ever went to London, when I could be happier reading your letters as they arrived from day to day.

They were as sweet a group of letters as I’ve received at one time – and my happiness, darling, is something I just never experienced before. One thing I must make clear, though, and that is that I’m the lucky one in this combine, more so than you – because in you as my wife-to-be I have as sweet and lovable a girl as any fellow ever wished for.

Your ability, desire, and energy, Sweetheart, in arranging for my folks to meet yours was admirable and I’m fortunate to have a darling who cares enough for me to want to see things develop – even though times are difficult. And it would be so easy – with false modesty – not to want to do what you’ve done. That’s why I admire and love you, dear – because you’re so sincere and honest, and I know you’ll always be so.

08 March, 2011

08 March, 1944

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 527 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
8 March, 1944

Dearest Sweetheart,

Well back at last and safely and glad to be back too, dear. I didn’t expect to write today because I thought I’d be back too late – but here I am. I’ve already noticed that I have about seven letters, darling, dating from about February 14th to the 25th – so I’m looking forward to some pleasant reading material soon. I just wanted to get this off in time for the outgoing mail.

I’ll soon change into my field clothes again and get comfortable. I’ve had enough of a big city for awhile and shall be content to stay around camp.

Yesterday I merely went to the movies (D. Durbin in ‘His Brother’s Sister’) and finally saw the Wax Exhibition – and it was all they said it would be – amazingly true to life.

All for now, sweetheart – will write tomorrow. Regards to everyone and

All my love for now
Greg

* TIDBIT *

about Tussaud's Wax Museum

07 March, 2011

07 March, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 527 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
7 March, 1944       1100
Dearest darling Wilma –

Today is four months since I last saw you, talked with you, kissed you. Actually a third of a year has slipped by, sweetheart, and yet I’m not impressed with the time interval, probably because I feel I’ve gotten to know you so much better during these past few months. In other words – what has happened, dear, is what I wanted to happen – not a big lapse by my leaving, but a normal development of our affection. I hope darling, that you feel the same way. How many more months it will take before I can fulfill my affection – the Lord alone knows, but as they say in the Army, dear – I can sweat it out and I’m counting on you.

Well – here it is the last day but one of my leave. Tomorrow, dear, I’ll be heading back and so I probably won’t get a chance to write. With this letter, darling, I will have written you five times out of my seven days, which isn’t bad considering traveling. The fact is – I just don’t feel right unless I do write you a few lines.

06 March, 2011

06 March, 1944

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 527 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
6 March, 1944

Dear Sweetheart,

There’s nothing much to write you about my leave, dear. It’s fast disappearing, but I don’t mind too much. You know – there’s something nice about Camp – 3 meals a day, warm quarters, field clothes, etc. I wonder if I’ll mind being dressed up all the time after the war.

Yesterday, darling, after lunch I went down to the place where the London Symphony plays its Sunday concerts – and damned if I didn’t get in. I was really surprised. The concert was excellent – but the inevitable tea was served during the intermission. These English are really whacky when it comes to tea.

05 March, 2011

05 March, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 527 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
5 March, 1944        1045
Sunday morning
Wilma – darling –

Good morning! And how are you dear? The medium of even letter communication is wonderful – for not having read a letter from you for some time now makes me realize how much they help to keep us in close contact.

My leave is now more than half gone and I haven’t really done a thing – except to get hungry, I guess. You just can’t get anything to eat in a restaurant – no matter how good or bad. They call their food by fancy names, but it doesn’t help the quality or quantity. Incidentally – practically every menu is in French and before long I may get to know something about them. Another thing about English restaurants and hotels – the waiters are always dressed full-dress, no matter how small or unpretentious the place. It’s almost ridiculous to walk into a small, sometimes shabby eating place and have the waiter appear with white-tie and tails.

Yesterday, Sweetheart, I didn’t do very much except wander around some more. One thing struck me as I window-shopped and walked through the department stores – and that was the price of women’s clothes. Hats range from three guineas upwards. (A guinea is $4.25) What looks like a simple little frock made out of some kind of wool crepe, I presume, sells for 20 guineas; but sweaters that go with a skirt sell for 2 and 3 guineas. I don’t know how women can buy any clothes at such prices and I can understand now why so many of them are dressed so shabbily.

04 March, 2011

04 March, 1944

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 578 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
4 March, 1944
Hello darling! –

Excuse the V-mail dear, but I really haven’t taken advantage of it very often, have I? It’s Saturday noon here – my leave is about half over and I haven’t done a darn thing except wander around from restaurant to restaurant – it seems. This p.m. I’m going down to the theater where the Lunts are playing “There Shall Be No Night” – just on the chance I might be able to pick up a ticket. If not – I’ll go down to Mme. Toussard’s Wax Museum – because as yet I haven’t done that.

Gosh, darling – I’m so lonesome for you and it makes me mad to think that when I was home – the longest I ever had to spend with you was a week-end, and here I’m just killing time. It doesn’t make sense – that’s all.

I’ll stop now, Sweetheart and run along because if you don’t get to an eating place just about at noon – you find yourself at the end of the queue and when you finally get in – they’re out of food. Give me the U.S.A. – darling – and you. So long for now
dear, – my thoughts are with you always and you have

All my love –
Greg
Regards.

03 March, 2011

03 March, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 527 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
03 March, 1944        1500

Dearest Sweetheart,

It seems like ages since I wrote you last and yet I’ve only missed the past two days. I tried to write yesterday – but I guess I spent most of the day traveling. I am now sitting in my hotel room – using the same old G.I. stationery which I brought along. Hotels in England don’t supply you with writing paper.

Well, darling – I’m on my leave. How much of it I can tell you about while I’m on it – I really don’t know. There’s so many damn angles to censorship – that I think the censors themselves don’t know. At any rate, dear, I left camp Wednesday a.m. and traveled most of the day to get to my destination. I was disappointed when I arrived. In the first place it was very cold and a steady wind blew in from the Atlantic. The place was nothing more than Revere Beach, Mass. might be at this time of year – minus all the amusements. Desolate and bleak – is the only way to describe it and how I got roped into making that trip is beyond me. However – there was no way of getting back that night – so I stayed over, in a small private hotel – cold and dreary. About the only thing I can say for that day is that I passed through most of England and hit a few spots I hadn’t been to before – e.g. Stratford-on-Avon, Rugby and a couple of other spots.

02 March, 2011

02 March, 1944

No letter today. Just this:

* TIDBIT *

about the Organization of a Medical Detachment

Greg was a Battalion Surgeon. Despite the name, most Battalion Surgeons were primary care physicians who practiced emergency medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, or internal medicine rather than performing invasive surgical operations. The term "surgeon" was a holdover from the U.S. Military's British colonial past. The British military used the term "surgeon" to mean a physician attached to a "front line" unit.

The Battalion Surgeon was a special staff officer who advised the Battalion Commander on matters pertaining to the health of the battalion. Chief duties included the responsibilities of managing a Battalion Aid Station, medically supervising other battalion physicians, performing sick call for members of the battalion, and supervising the medical planning for deployment. Battalion Aid Stations, Forward Support Medical Battalions and Forward Surgical Teams were usually the first point of contact for the medical care of wounded soldiers. 


Battalion Aid Station in Italy, 1943

01 March, 2011

01 March, 1944

No letter on 1 March 1944... Just this from 29 February:
[Note from FOURTHCHILD: 1944 was a Leap Year, unlike 2011.]

438th AAA AW BN
APO 527 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
29 February, 1944        1400

Dearest Sweetheart,

Today is payday so I had to run around a bit this morning. As a result the boys are happy again. It’s funny to see them after they’ve been paid. They start to settle up their accounts with each other; one pays up ₤2, six shillings and collects 18 shillings from someone else and that’s the way it goes. More money changes hands than is passed across the counter of Barclay’s Ltd in a week.

Some of the boys have already taken off for their furlough trips. The enlisted men are getting 7 days also – and the great majority are heading for the western part of England or Scotland – since most everyone has already been to London – and London, some of these nights, isn’t too healthy a spot to be in, anyway. My own leave starts tomorrow, dear, and I’m kind of blue about it. If only I could be with you instead of tramping around the countryside. Well, I always wanted to see England – and I’m getting the chance to. I’ve missed you particularly the past few days, sweetheart – no special reason – just a spell – as you no doubt have had too. Maybe it’s the thought of our being engaged – and my impatience at the time involved. I’m so anxious to hear a reply to my letters of several days ago.