Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Letters From Ray: A World War II Army Private's Letters Home - Pt 3

Dec. 25, 1942
Dear Mom and Dad:

I’m sorry that my Christmas greetings must come so late and in such a manner.  I have been thinking of you all and I really wish I could have spent the Holidays with you.

Did you have a swell Christmas?  How big of a tree did you have?  Did Dad have to work?  I spent Christmas Eve and all day today doing nothing but sit around.    I haven’t been paid for the last two months so I couldn’t even buy Christmas cards.  You all will receive a gift on or about the 3rd of January.   I’m getting paid the 29th.

Were pulling onto the 5th for Camp Camppel and I’m taking the Peep down.  It’s only 150 miles south of here.  I can just imagine what kind of day it will be.  I’d lay ten to one it will either rain or be cold as all get out.

You remember all those picture of Daniel Boone standing on a hill in Kentucky with his hands shading his eyes?   I always wondered what he was looking for and now I know.  He was looking for a trail leading out of Kentucky.  No kidding Kentucky is the last state I’d move to.  Fort Knox itself is swell but as for Kentucky and its leading city Louisville-----NUTS.

Hold on to your hat folks.  Your son is going to come home.  The only trouble is I wont be home for the next two or three weeks at least but I will be home.  I’m applying for the furlough as soon as we hit Camppel.  Since Ive had this peep job my suction rating with Capt.  Barr, the Co. Commander has gone up.  I’m also in pretty good with Lt. Jameson and Lt. Bliss.  No kidding this job is alright.  There don’t seem to be much chance for a rating but I am having fun.

We were out to the driving range yesterday and it was really muddy due to a weeks rain.  My job out there is to qualify other men on my vehicle.  All men in the company have to be able to drive every vehicle we have.   I was qualifying a fellow named Gruber when I got the signal to come in.  I told this Gruber to head the peep back.  We had hardly got turned around when this jerk slides the peep into a mud hole.

Now I’m not kidding when I say that mud hole was deep.  We sunk in so deep that the mud cam up over the side of the peep and onto the floor board.  We had a tank pull us out and did I have a nice job cleaning.  That wasn’t the worst of it though.   My brake line snapped and while we were pulling it out and now my peeps in the garage being repaired.  Oh for the life of a peep driver.

We had a little excitement down here last week.  One of the peep drivers went over the hill taking peep and all.  They cought him in Indiana.  His name was Vera so no when any one of the drivers talks about going over the hump we refer to it as “pulling another Vera”.  Cute isn’t it.

Say did you know that I was in Milwaukee two weeks ago?  Yeah I had a three day pass.  I saw all my relative in the Milwaukee and got a look at your new stove and radio.  How come you didn’t take them up to Escanaba with you?  Your going to be up there some time aren’t you?
Most of the folks were glad to see me—I think.  If you want to have fun you ought to try and see everyone you know in three days.  It really was swell to see Milwaukee again after all these months.  Do you realize Ill be in the Army 7 months the 13th of next month.  I really like the army.  My only wish is that they would ship me across.  I want to get into this thing and see some real action.

Did La Verne receive her card?  I’m sorry I couldn’t send her a gift but I borrowed the money for the card from another fellow.  I also borrowed the R.R. fare to Milwaukee.  Iv’e stopped gambling after I lost all the money I have previously won on my lone nickel.  I am no a reformed Character.  No more drinking, gambling, or late hours.   Well at least not some much drinking and not to late of hours.

I am going to close now with a plea to please answer this letter right away. I  haven’t heard from you for sometime.

                                    Bye now
                                    Love Ray.

P.S.  I don’t know whether or not I thanked you for your gift but it was really swell.  Thanks a million.  Tell La Verne I will write shortly.  HOWS Donna.  Gramma Berg says she is looking swell.  How about sending me a picture of the whole family.  I haven’t any you know.   I intend to buy that Camera I was talking about this payday and I’ll send some shots of myself and buddies as son as I can.
                                                            By again.

 [SM1]Page 6. So sad to think that he was in Milwaukee to visit.  Was it a surprise?  Why wouldn’t his parents come down from Escanaba, Michigan to visit? Did they know?

Another good question is what were they doing in Escanaba? I believe Raymond’s father had seasonal work up there. 

Either way, so sad to think they could have seen him once more before his death.

(end of letter)

Observations by Opa Fritz

1) Ray mentions he hadn't been paid in two months! You know, even with a more robust budget things like that still go on. Today we blame it on computers, back the it could have been a clerical error - OR there was a wartime money shortage for payroll?

2) He states being ready to go to 'Camp Camppel' (sic). Construction for Camp Campell  began in January 1942 and so would have been pretty brand new at the time Ray went there. It sits on either side of the Kentucky-Tennessee border and was renamed Fort Campbell in 1950.

3) For a while he was a Peep driver. Apparently armoured division troops referred to their Jeeps as Peeps as a source of pride and to distinguish themselves from their infantry brothers. His description of his 'suction value' is hilarious. Today we'd say he was a 'kiss-ass' hahahaha but hey, there's just some things and some points of reference that are totally familiar to the military.

3) The story of one of the troops going AWOL in a Peep (pulling another "Vera") is funny. 

4) In Matt's notes at the end of the letter he wonders if Ray's dad had work up in Escanaba, MI? The answer to that is yes. Dad related on many occassions the time he worked up there. What I'm not sure about is if he did this on a seasonal basis but my memories are that he had been there at least a couple of times. Again, the wartime years must have been rough and dad found work whenever, wherever he could.

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