Plenty of Prunes

Mon., February 8, 1943

12:30 noon


Dear folks

I don’t know how long this letter will be as I may not have time tonight to write. Last night after I mailed your letter I shaved, cleaned my teeth, took a shower, polished my shoes and then read until 10:00. I was up at 6:15, dressed, made up my bunk and we had roll call. Breakfast was at 6:35. We had scrambled eggs on toast, prunes, and mush. The scrambled eggs here are pretty good. They give us plenty of prunes too and I like them and they also serve another purpose. From then until 8 we had the time to eat, wash our mess equipment and straighten up the barracks. I and the boy from Port Huron got oil for the burners instead of sweeping. At about 8:15 we fell out and drilled in marching for awhile. Boy the outfit was pretty stale although I did pretty well. Last night it rained hard all night again but it cleared away and the sun shone while we were drilling. But then a black storm came up from the northwest off the Pacific Ocean and it began to rain and hail so we were dismissed. We just nicely got into the barracks when we had to fall out again and march to an empty hall across the road. There they gave us a chest inspection. No measles today (13 more days). Then our lieutenant (Lt. Dunsten) read us the Articles of War and explained them and answered questions. That took up the time till dinner at 12:00. We had mashed potatoes, gravy, spinach, salad, biscuits and BUTTER. Now I am waiting for whatever we have to do this afternoon. I imagine we will do some drilling because they had us change to our fatigues. I’ll be back later and give the rest of the day’s activities.

Back later in the afternoon. After dinner we went out and drilled some till the rain drove us inside, then we had a lecture on military courtesy. While I was listening I noticed my glasses didn’t set right on my nose and when I moved them the piece across the nose bent real easily from where it was fastened to the right lens. When it quit raining we went back out for more drill. While I was marching I noticed my glasses drooping more and more and finally they came apart. The sgt. told me to drop out because I couldn’t march and hold them in my hand. The lieut. came over and looked at them and asked if I could see without them. I told him I could see pretty well with one eye. Then it started to rain and we went in the barracks for a few minutes and then back to learn how to salute and stand at attention. I don’t know when I can get my glasses fixed. The sgt. told me to tell the doctor next time he comes thru. Don Ewing from Lansing has a pair broken too and he’s wearing another fellow’s extra pair. As soon as I get stationed, I can get a pair on my own prescription free. They will be much sturdier and harder to break. Now we are in the barracks again.

If you remember those glasses have been bent a lot. 3 or 4 times Wetzel straightened them out. Once there at the store I really bent them. It has just gradually weakened them until finally they snapped. You know what happens to a wire if you bend it back and forth enough.

Back at 5:00 after supper. Pretty slim – beans, beets, bread and 2 fig bars. Now I don’t know what we will do next. Ordinarily we would be free, but the lieutenant mentioned something about movies tonight so we may have to go out. They will be training films and nothing entertaining. They practically start at the bottom all over again here but they go deeper. This is just for you folks. We are going to be stationed eventually at a place 35 miles from San Francisco. We will be in the 501st C.A. Regiment Anti-Aircraft. I can’t remember the name of the camp. The regulars who are there are going over probably as soon as we can get enough training to be any good. The plan is to man all the shore batteries on the coast with L.S. men and release the 1-A men for foreign service. In other words I’m probably stuck out here for the duration. It will be our job to protect an arsenal at Vallejo, one of the largest in the country. We will be on the guns, after preparatory training naturally, for 2 hours a day but we must always be within 5 minutes distance. We will have 24 hours off a week. Our chances for non-com ratings are good and we might even get commissions but it is doubtful. We are liable to be commanded by overage officers. To be an officer we should know plenty of math. I’ve had all he mentioned except calculus & spherical trig. My chances are pretty good I suppose. I am lucky because there are a lot of old guys who don’t look too smart to me and neither do some of the younger ones. I’m going to do my best and let the rest take care of itself. Our lieutenant has worked up from a private over a period of years and he made the same remark that Brisben made. He’d rather be a buck private in the rear rank. Someone mentioned furloughs and he told them if they didn’t think about them for a year or so then they’d feel better. I hope to be home in the summer maybe. Our job out here will be pretty static unless the Japs start something on this side. I always said if they came over I wanted to be able to shoot back so I guess I’ll be able to.

I still haven’t got my stamps and stationery but I may get them tonight. I am going to try to buy a stamp or two off the sergeant otherwise this will be a free letter.

I miss my glasses plenty but I am more fortunate than some fellows. Without their glasses they are out with both eyes. With my watch and glasses broken I wonder what’s next. I’m still saving that candy bar. The sgt. brought some out last night but I didn’t know about it so I lost out on that.

One thing here we don’t have time during the day to lay around like we did at McCoy. We have been busy all day. They look at individuals here too. At McCoy the corporal didn’t know most of our names unless they had gambled with him. Here our names are on our beds and the sgt. is learning our names. Some of these guys ought to be back home. One fellow has a stiff leg, another has habitual headaches and can’t drill and there are others with bad legs and arms. Some are just clumsy, one is 43, another 42 and some are just plain dumb. I am thankful I am not in the shape some of these are. If I like whatever they put me to doing I’ll probably get ahead. I’ve got to be at least a corporal to keep up with the Rickets family. After all I can’t let them beat me even if I am L.S.

We are having that California weather Hope & Benny joke about. Sun shine one minute and rain the next. It seems to rain all night. The lieut. said that it is foggy all day and the sun doesn’t shine much during the winter where we are going. The food is good though he says. I sure hope so and there better be P.X.’s and shows too.

Nobody has said anything about mail so I guess we haven’t got any yet. I got my last letter from you last Mon. The others are probably being forwarded. Maybe they have been sent where we were to go. I’ll get it eventually. I don’t expect to hear from you directly to here till next week sometime and by then I’ll be just about ready to leave, I hope. If I’ve got do this kind of stuff I might as well get started and hope this war is over before Xmas.

Its 6:00 now and we go on to the movies at 7:00. I don’t know if I’ll have time to write or not afterwards but if I don’t I’ve covered the days work pretty well I guess.

I wonder to myself sometimes how you will feel about me being so far away. It really got me for awhile Sunday but I guess I’ll get along O.K. Looking out the window Mich. might be only 50 miles away but when I stop to think how far it really is that’s something else. I guess we’ll just have to make the best of it, you and I, until we can get together once more. We can take pictures but there can’t be any trees or buildings or anything that would identify the place. I won’t even bother. It isn’t worth the trouble that might be raised. They are much more strict than at McCoy. It looks like it will rain again tonight by the clouds.

I’ve got some washing I should do but we haven’t the conveniences here. I still have some super suds although lost some on the trip. I had it in a sack but some got out anyway- I guess the small boxes are better although they cost more. Back again at 9:15. I took a shower and then we went over for movies. They were on articles of war and health and sanitation and we had seen most of them at McCoy.

Well this will have to be all for today. Lights go out in 45 minutes. Our orders didn’t come tonight so I haven’t any stamps to mail this airmail. You’ll probably get tomorrow’s letter before you do this one.

Well I hope you are all up to snuff and kicking around O.K. Write as soon and as often as you can. I suppose a lot of people are wondering why I haven’t written but I can’t write without paper.

Well I’ve got to quit so good night and lots of love and good luck to all.




  1. Al
    May 4, 2014

    I wonder how long it will be for new glasses? I can’t imagine him without his glasses.

  2. Leo
    May 5, 2014

    It sure seems like there was a lot of waiting and not really knowing what to expect. I have been wondering about the glasses too!

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