19 July, 2011

19 July, 1944

438th AAA AW BN

APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
19 July, 1944        0945
My dearest sweetheart –

It’s a quiet Wednesday morning and although there isn’t much in the line of news to write about, dear. I thought I’d ramble on for a bit anyway. We didn’t get any mail yesterday – but we’ve been averaging mail on about 4-5 days out of seven and that’s not much different from England. We get the Continental edition of the Stars and Stripes almost daily and every 2-3 weeks we get a batch of fairly recent magazines, including Life, Look, Esquire, and a bunch of Detective Stories, Mechanics etc. – which I never get around to reading. Oh yes – Coronet and Reader’s Digest are always included. The fact is dear – I don’t even get a chance to read my Medical Journals – but I do read Time.

Yesterday was an easy day at the hospital – they were cleaning out their cases. I got through about 1500 and instead of returning to battalion – I decided to take a trip down to the beach. It was only 10 miles away from where I was and it was a nice day. It was very pretty. The water was greenish-blue – but no one was in swimming. I hated to leave the area – but it was getting on towards supper hour and traffic on the roads is heavy – so we headed back.

For supper we had steak again – the “captured” cow is now fast disappearing. And then we had a real surprise. Our Special Service officer had dug up a film, rigged up some tentage and we had a movie at 2030. The amazing thing is that it was a new one – I believe – “See Here, Private Hargrove”. It was light and amusing and the boys got a kick out of it. And then to bed.

This morning I plan to take it easy and not go out to visit the batteries, but I’ll trip up to the hospital this p.m. and see if any new cases have been admitted. I believe I mentioned that we had laundry facilities at the hospital. We got ours back yesterday and you can’t imagine what a thrill it is, darling, to put some dirty clothes into a bag and get it back in a few days – nice and clean – although unpressed.

That just about brings me up to date with things, sweetheart. I try to tell you what’s going on and I hope you have some picture of it in your mind. Since I’ve been at the hospital – I haven’t had much time or opportunity to develop my conversational French – but I’ve picked up on my German – in conversing with some of the German prisoners working at the hospital. They were aid men in the German Army.

I suppose you must wonder how I get a chance to think of you at all, sweetheart, with all the running around I’ve been doing. Darling – in everything I do – you are with me – anyway – so I can’t forget you. When I climb out of my tent in the morning – I see “Wilma” in bright white letters on my jeep – which is parked right beside me (I’d rather have the original!) On the inside of my windshield – made out of copper wire is the name “Wilma” and it is so arranged – that as I sit in the jeep – it stares right at me. Do I need such constant reminders, dear, to make me think of you? Hardly – but I like to see your name around – and now when one of my drivers turns over the jeep to another – he invariably says “Take good care of Wilma."

If this could but all end soon and I could call you ‘Wilma’ – in person – I’d be very happy, darling. I dream of that often and I know it will materialize – with you as my own – my wife – my companion – my love. Dearest – I’ll have to close now. Give my love to the folks – and for now –

All my deepest love –


about "See Here, Private Hargrove" (1944)

The "real" Marion Hargrove began his writing career as a reporter for the Charlotte News in North Carolina and was unanimously voted Fort Bragg's "worst all-round selectee." According to contemporary sources, playwright Maxwell Anderson helped Hargrove find a publisher for his autobiography, which became a best-seller. And from his book came the movie. The Variety review noted that "the book...was a find and the cost of the film rights reasonable because the purchase was made long before the Hargrove piece hit the bookstalls and the best-seller class." Hargrove went on to a successful career as a screenwriter, authoring such films as The Music Man (1962) and Boys Night Out (1962).

Here is the original movie review, written by Bosley Crowther, as it appeared in The New York Times on 22 March 1944:
The personal (and private's) experiences of a young man named Marion Hargrove as one of the initially favored selectees in the present Army of the United States — experiences which are famously recounted in the book, "See Here, Private Hargrove" — are the basis for a rough-and-tumble comedy about a soldier's merry life, tagged with the same familiar title, which opened at the Astor last night. It may be that this joyous manifestation of fun and frolic at a basic training camp is a little bit wishful in its blinking of some of the harsher realities of war; it may be that its emphasis is slightly heavy upon the first person very singular. But Private (now Sergeant) Hargrove made the best of a solemn thing when he hit the ranks. And it may be said that Metro has done the same — or much the same — by his book.

For this is a strictly happy picture about a chuckle-headed kid and a couple of his classic companions in the transition phase from citizens to troops. It tells a story with a loose continuity of a boy's adventures in a world where regulations are amusingly broken and punishment is monotonously the same. The agreeable hero is persistently and forever getting himself in dutch by muddling his orders, fouling equipment and knocking over men of higher rank. And he is forever doing penance by polishing garbage cans. At the same time, he is serving none too willingly as a literary investment for one of his sharper pals, who finances a modest romance for him and generally directs his career in medias res. The fact that the boys are in the Army is an inconvenience which finally cramps their enterprise.

Gentlemen with Army experience will probably observe with some surprise the comparative cordiality of the sergeants and other disciplinarians in this film. They may also be somewhat dubious of the concentration upon one clumsy kid. Private Hargrove becomes a famous character a bit prematurely, one might say. But with Robert Walker playing him with a delightfully insouciant air and a smile which will mellow the ladies, it is easy to take him as such on the screen. Keenan Wynn also gives a winning performance as his plain-and-fancy swindler pal, and Donna Reed is poetically licensed as the girl whom he conveniently comes to love. George Offerman Jr. and William Phillips also make two genial G. I.'s—and Robert Benchley and Chill Wills do nicely, though conventionally, in minor roles.

As a chronicle of life in the Army, we would say that "See Here, Private Hargrove" is not the definitive article. But it makes a gay and entertaining film.

The proceeds from the premiére last evening went to the benefit of the American Red Cross.

The screen play for "See Here, Private Hargrove" was written by Harry Kurnitz, based on the Book by Marion Hargrove. It was directed by Wesley Ruggles and produced by George Haight for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The movie starred Robert Walker as Private Hargrove, Donna Reed as Carol Holliday, Keenyn Wynn as Private Mulvehill, Robert Benchley as Mr. Holliday, Ray Collins as Brodie S. Griffith, Chill Wills as First Sergeant Cramp, Bob Crosby as Bob, Martin Linden as Mrs. Holliday, Grant Mitchell as Uncle George, George Offerman Jr. as Private Esty, Edward Fielding as General Dillon, Donald Curtis as Sergeant Heldon, Wm. Bill Phillips as Private Burk, and Douglas Fowley as Captain Manville.

Here is the movie trailer followed by a short clip from the movie:

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