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The Lavigne Letters
CHAPTER 3 Camp Picket And Invasion Training
Chapter 3 begins with letters my dad wrote after he had returned to Fort Bliss after a well deserved furlough.
August 2, 1943
Well, here I am, back at Fort Bliss. I arrived last Wednesday morning at eleven thirty.
I had to change trains in Portland, there I met a little China man. He was going to Boston, he was a swell guy, he slipped through the crowd, hop on the train and saved a seat for me, all the way he talked about the Japanese, it was very interesting, he said his wife is a prisoner of the Japs. He looked pretty old, I'd say about thirty five.
Boy it was a tiresome ride from Fort Worth to El Paso. I had to stand up and its a good 800 miles too. I didn't have time to rest, I had to go to work right away. The first thing we had was a field problem, boy were we mad, it lasted around five days, that's why I couldn't write sooner.
Right now I am in the kitchen paying a visit to my pal, the cook, he's a swell guy. I've been eating peaches, also dried plums and right beside me I have a good quart of milk. Once in a while I take a good gulp.
On the way down I pass through many states, next to Maine, I think I'd take Ohio, it's beautiful, especially Cleveland with it's swell ball park.
How was the band concert, any good?
Well, twenty more rookies have come in, it means more work now.
I bought you and Yolande something nice. I won't tell you what it is, but yours, I want you to promise me you will wear it when you go bicycle riding. I'm going to try and get something for Dad and Ralph too.
Boy, it was tough to leave home, maybe I didn't show any signs of it, I held myself as much as I could, I didn't want to worry Daddy, I cried a little bit on the way, but when I met the rest of the gang in St. Louis, I really was happy. We really had a good time from there on.
Don't worry, everything is ok and I'm back at my old job again. You know the books you sent me before I came home on furlough, well, they were in the office and also the Wellington girl's picture of Dad and Ralph.
The cook brought a swell electric phonograph from home, right now I'm playing it.
You don't have to crank those.
Good bye and good luck, Valmore
August 7, 1943
Here I am to say hello and how are you? I'm feeling fine.
Well, today's Sunday, I've just got up, it's seven o'clock, pretty soon the whistle will blow for breakfast.
I was figuring of going to the ten-thirty mass, but I just found out I have to go to the dental clinic to have a few teeth filled.
We're going to have a new battery commander, I hope he's not too strict.
Boy have we been busy down here, twenty more rookies have come in. I had a swell trip coming down, I guess Claudia must have told you all about it by this time.
I enjoyed my furlough very much, it was pretty tough to leave home.
Boy, Ginger sure gave me competition, he had me lick from the start.
The war is going along good, it will be all over soon.
After I come back from the dental clinic, I think I'll go down to El Paso. Hey have a nice U.S.O. club down there, I go quite often.
Well, pretty soon the baseball season will be over and the World Series will be on. I guess it will be the same teams again. I hope the Yankees win it this time.
Boy would I like to go home for Christmas, but I doubt I will.
I'm sure going to miss my football games, but maybe I'll have a chance to listen to one once in awhile.
Well, I guess that's all for now, goodby and good luck. Valmore
August 15, 1943
Well, here I am again, gee I am glad you liked the bandana, how did you like the apron I sent Yolande, pretty keen, eh?
Please don't send any more packages, I believe we will be out of this camp in three or four weeks.
Well, they filled three of my teeth, they did a swell job, they filled them with silver. I got another swell break, they sent me to a radio school for a week, it was pretty complicated at first, but I got the hang of it and I passed the test, it will go down on my service record, another good mark, eh?
Well, on August the eighth, I went in Juarez, Mexico. I went to mass in this church, gee, it is pretty in there, you see the tower on the left, well I went up there. We climbed a stairway made of big logs, we went to see the big bell, it's over 200 years old, it sure was a thrill for me. After mass I went to see the big fruit market, I guess it must be bigger than the high school back home, I never saw so many kinds of fruits in all my life and I ate plenty too! After that I went to a bull fight, I didn't enjoy that so much, they make sure the poor animals suffer.
Well, I received a swell letter from the girl I met on the train, she also sent me a nice postcard before that too! She's going to send me her picture.
I played a little baseball today, my hand was sure sore, I hadn't played for a long while.
Yes, I'm going to send something to Nellie too.
Rookies are coming in every day, (darn it), we have to teach the same thing over and over and over again.
One thing I liked about going to the dental clinic, there's a lot of pretty nurses!
I see that Ralph was sick again. Just what could be the matter anyways?
Well, I guess thats all for tonight, Claudia, goodbye and good luck. Valmore
August 18, 1943
I received a letter from you today and it contained the pictures we took at home. Gosh, I think they came out terrible, don't you? Boy, I sure did like the ones the women took in Lewiston for me. I think they look swell, don't you think so? I think the lights were too strong for us.
Well, I didn't do much today, I went and operated the radio, all day long, I really like that.
I sure had surprising news today, Myrtle told me in her letter that Leonard got married to a Boston girl, it must have been quite a blow for Betty. I sent Betty a folder from El Paso, hope she gets it.
You should see the letter little Marilyn wrote me, it is really cute, I'm going too carry it in my pocket book all the time. She says in her letter that I looked nice in my uniform, she says, hurry up, come back home! She also says; " it's raining here, I can't go out and play so I'm playing with my dolls." Myrtle tells me that she keeps asking when is Uncle Valmore coming back home. I only wish I could answer that, but it will be over pretty soon.
Tell Dad to write me often, huh? Gee, how I miss him, he sure did some walking while I was home.
How is Yolande getting along at the store, I hope she likes it.
Boy, I would like to see a good football game. Texas Mines College is in El Paso, but I won't be here to see them play.
Boy, won't I be glad when this is all over so I can come back home to stay and see all my friends again, all the boys on our team are in the army. I guess I remember when we went up to play, we got best every time, I'd give anything to them fellers again. Especially Calvin, gee, I wish he was in this camp. Well, II guess that's all for tonight, good bye and good luck. Valmore
August 23, 1943
We just came back from another field problem, it lasted about 4 days.
I had quite and exciting experience on that problem too. I was resting near the half track, then all of a sudden a big rattle snake went right by me not more than ten feet away, it was almost four feet long and as big as my arm. Boy did I jump! One of the lieutenants cut its head with a shovel. One feller kept the rattle as a souvenir. By the time night came around, I slept in the truck, I wasn't going to sleep on the ground, no sir, not me.
That girl I met on the train keeps writing me steady.
There's a lot of talk around that when we move, we may land some place in Virginia. I think we'll be going into maneuvers.
Boy it is sure hot down here today, as I am writing this letter, I am soaking wet.
I didn't get much sleep on the problem, I had to operate the radio almost twenty four hours. Those darn steel helmets sure give me a stiff neck. I had pretty good marks at the radio school, that will go down on my service record, in the first test I had a 87 1/2 and in the second I had a 90, not bad, huh?
Well, I guess that is all for now, goodbye and good luck. Valmore
Sometime after the August 23 letter, the 197th AAA moved to Camp Pickett, Va.
Lt. Col. C.T. McEniry writes:
"On August 23, 1943, the 197th battalion was informed of its future permanent change of station. Not long after, two troop trains carrying all personnel, departed from Fort Bliss, Texas to their new station at Camp Pickett in Virginia for amphibious training with the 31st Infantry Division. "
My dad's battalion soon became accustom to the new post, although the frequent rainfall in Virginia was a big change from El Paso's dry climate.
September 2, 1943
Well, here I am in Camp Pickett, Virginia. It was quite a trip, it took us five days to get here, the riding wasn't so bad this time, we were on the Pullman. I sure did get some sleep too.
I' m not more than twenty hours ride from home, from here to New York City, it's only a seven hours ride. The nearest town to this camp is Blackstone and the nearest city is Richmond, that's the Capital of Virginia. I'm going to try to see the White House in Washington, DC, we are only 5 hours from there. Boy, that's going to be a thrill.
We passed many states on the way up here, they were Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama and Arkansas. I best I think Tennessee, its sure pretty there.
I never saw so many Negros in all my life, we passed by big cotton plantations, also watermelons, tobacco and big stockyards too. The only people working at those places were Negros.
We saw many nice cities and towns. We sure got a good laugh in Tennessee, all the towns we passed were hill billy, there were girls in their twenties and good looking too, they were all barefooted, running around, it sure was funny and that also included older women too.
Boy those watermelons really looked good.
The camp isn't too bad, but I'd rather have Fort Bliss anytime. Instead of huts we have barracks, I don't like them, too many, I think there is fifty in my barrack.
Please give my new address to everybody right away. And tell them to put my serial number down, here it is; A.S.N. 31217967 and that means you too.
In Mississippi we passed over the Mississippi River, boy it sure is wide.
Please tell Dad to write to me often, how I miss him. I hope he's feeling fine.
Ralph sure has a job on his hands, I hope he gets good weather to work in.
This camp used to be a C.C.C. outfit, its right smack into the woods and its hot out here too.
Boy you should have seen the fellers when we got out of Texas, they started shouting, "we're back in civilization now!" One said they are not satisfied with Mexicans, now they give us Negros, boy did he swear and this camp is full of Negros too.
Well I guess that's all for tonight, good bye and good luck. Valmore
September 4, 1943
When my father was writing the letter dated September 4, 1943, he could have never known that on September 4, 1952, he would welcome his third child into the world, a son, David. Also, 29 years in the future, on September 4, 1972 his oldest daughter, (me), would be getting married.
Well, this is our first day in Camp Pickett, Virginia and it is raining, what a greeting. The boys sure celebrated last night, most of them got drunk, they better watch themselves cause if they raise cain too much, across from us there is a Battalion of M.P.'s !
It isn't too bad to sleep in the barracks after all. Say we don't have to get up till a quarter to seven, roll call is at seven and chow is at seven thirty and we start working only at eight-thirty, isn't that nifty?
Well, for chow today we had a good chicken dinner, it sure tasted good.
The weather makes me think of home, its foggy out now and we're surrounded by pine trees. Could you send me some money, I sure could use it.
As soon as I can I'll send you a folder about Virginia.
The neighbors sure left quick, whose going to move in now? Is Dayon trying to fix the place up a bit?
My watch is in good running condition, it's always on the dot. How is Ralph getting along with the wood, I won't have to wait long to receive mail now. How are you making out at the store and how is Yolande, did she like the pillow case?
I hope I don't have to see anymore Mexicans, but I have to be satisfied looking at Negros now.
Boy, it's raining llike the devil now. I guess tomorrow I'll attend the ten o'clock mass. Well, I guess that's all for today, goodbye and good luck. Valmore
September 8, 1943
I received your swell letter, gee was I glad to hear from you..
Yes, the picture did turn out pretty rotten but I did like the ones we took in Lewiston, you said in your letter you were going to have pictures enlarged, I wish you would enlarge all three pictures we took in the city, I showed them to the boys and they said they look real good.
The other day we had the afternoon off and I went swimming in the lake, boy its really nice there and that's where the WAACS go bathing, some of em are sure good looking and how!
Its been raining ever since we've been here.
I believe we eat even more than we did in Texas, some days I think I'm going to bust!
I hope to see a few football games this fall and I sure wish that Notre Dame goes undefeated.
How was Labor Day back home, did they have a parade?
We sure had fun coming down here, it took us five days, you know how slow those troop trains travel.
The other night after supper I played football from six o"clock up to eight thirty, boy was I tired.
We need all our blankets here at night, it sure is cold, in Texas it was so darn hot that we slept on top of the covers.
Well, I guess that's all for tonight, Dad, goodbye and good luck. Valmore
September 11, 1943
As my Dad was writing this letter on 9/11/1943, never would he have imagine that 58 years to the day on September 11, 2001, the worst tragedy in United States history happen when terrorist sent 2 planes crashing into the New York twin towers, a 3rd plane crashing into the Pentagon, and a 4th plane that is believed to have been targeted for Washington DC but went down in a field in Pennsylvania, thousands of innocent lives were lost.
Well today's Sunday, I guess I'll go to the ten thirty mass.
Boy, is it cold down here today, what a difference between Texas and this place. And there is no heat at all in the barracks and the boys are frantically trying to find to the switch to put it on.
I forgot to tell you Claudia that before we left Bliss, they gave us all another GI haircut, you would laugh cause lot's of fellers had theirs all clipped off.
I know the days are long at the store, I guess you know why I didn't like it, those 3/4 and 1/3 lbs. really got my goat.
Gee, I hope Lionel doesn't pass, I don't know what Myrtle would do.
I'm still trying to find something for Nellie, I'll get it don't worry.
Received a letter from Dad the other day, boy, was I glad to hear from him.
Gee, I wish you would tell Woodrow to write me more often, I haven't heard from him for a long while.
They are sure getting strict on us now, and I'm getting lots more responsibilities every day. I've passed every inspection so far, if we don't pass we get restricted you know.
Well, I guess this afternoon, I'll go to town. I hope I have a good time.
Well how was the wedding? Did she make you laugh. Gee I got a card from Calvin yesterday, and he has been promoted to Private First Class, boy am I glad. How is everything going with Julien, ok I hope, has Leonard's wife been down there yet? Well I guess that is all for now, good bye and God Bless, Valmore
September 19, 1943
Well another week of hard training has gone by, today is Sunday and a day of rest. I've just come back from church with two of my buddies, believe me, I'm not going very far today, my legs are as stiff as a board.
It's kinda cool out today, we're going to start wearing our winter clothing on October 1st.
I got a letter from Nellie the other day, she kept talking all about the guy she's been going out with and about the divorce she would try to get. If Mama was only alive things would be a lot different, she doesn't appreciate what you folks have done for her. I'm still going to send her something, but I'm going to take my darn time about it.
They are sure having many plane crashes back home. Well, this is quite a short letter, I don't seem to find anything more to say, so until I hear from you. Good bye. Valmore
P.S. Oh yes, here's a post card I received from the girl I met on the train I got it it two days after I got back from my furlough.
October 1, 1943
I received two packages from you today. Gee, thank you for the prayer book, it's real pretty, I'll have it blessed after mass Sunday. A feller can't have a nicer gift than that, thank Ralph for me too.
You know what I would like to eat right now, well, I'd like to have a whole lot of oatmeal cookies you used to make, I can just taste them now. I'm glad you enjoyed the jokes, I'll try and get some more later. The popcorn was really good, that is what I could manage to get, those chow hounds really dove in it, but they didn't get the oranges though, no siree.
We've been training pretty hard, we're always on the sea, boy you should see the waves, you go way down, then all of a sudden up in the air we go, believe me, it's a thrill. I thought I'd get sea sick, but no, instead I really loved it. I'm always anxious to go on the water, you should have seen some of the fellers throw up! Ha. Ha. We've been practicing invasion tactics and that's really rugged and how.
Well, I bought myself a pipe, a little smoke once in a while helps to chase the blues away, don't worry, I'm not drinking and never will, that stuff stinks, it ain't for me.
Well, got to leave you now, it's getting late, so I guess I'll turn in. Good bye and good luck, Valmore
October 2, 1943
I received your nice letter, I 'm sure glad to hear from you, I see that your are taking a vacation, good for you.
Well, I guess by now all the wood is in the cellar. I hope you don't get a cold winter. We were at Camp Bradford for about ten days with the United States Atlantic Fleet, all I saw around there was sailors and they're all swell guys too. We practice loading on boats and also invasion. We were on the sea all the time, boy did I enjoy that, it was real fun.
How do you like the picture of the girl I met on the train, pretty keen, eh! She still keeps writing to me, she says she is going to send me another picture. Well, today is Saturday, and we've got the afternoon off, so I'm catching up on my letters. Boy I'd go for a big dish of fried clams right now.
How is Julien making out with his beer joint, now you stay out of there now, that aint no place for you.
I bought myself a little pipe for a little smoke once in awhile, helps chase the blues away. Did you see the paper book that Ralph and Claudia sent me? That was sure a swell gift. How is Ginger getting along with the draft board? I hope they don't take him and also Woodrow. Did you have one of my pictures enlarged? I hope it's one we took in Lewiston.
It sure is a lonesome camp, there's hardly any place to go, I hpe we don't stay here very long. Boy you should see the meals the Navy served us, boy, I never ate so much in my life. Well, I guess that will be all for today. Don't worry, everything's fine, good bye and good luck. Valmore.
October 4, 1943
Today I received a couple of letters from you and also a Brunswick Record and some Sunday funnies, thanks a lot. Gee it's swell to get a lot of packages like I've been getting lately!
I had my prayer book blessed after mass Sunday. The priest said it was very pretty.
I've got another head cold coming on again, I'll have to start chewing cough drops again.
Here's a few things I wish you would send me, a good supply of lava soap to take away all the oil and grease after a days work and also some Williams shaving soap and some double edge blades, think you could do that?
It's been a nice day today, but awfully cool. I see your are wearing the bandana quite often, I am glad of that.
I got a letter from Myrtle today containing a couple pictures of Marilyn, she sure looks cute.
I went to Richmond Sunday and saw the houses which Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee lived and also the big statue of Stonewall Jackson. I went to see the Civil War cannons, they sure look funny , it must of taken hours to load it.
I went to the movies over there, it was Bob Hope in "Lets Face It", it was swell. Have you seen it?
Please try to send me "The Popular Mechanic" and any kind of books like that.
I finally got a letter from Woodrow, boy, I'm glad to hear from him.
Say, the Enfants De Marie wrote to me a few weeks ago and I answered them and I haven't received and answer, I wonder if they got it?
Well I guess that is all for today, Good bye and good luck, Valmore
October 9, 1943
Well today's saturday, another week has passed away, but not without some more hard work. We stood two inspections today and they were rough and how! I came through ok, but lots of fellers got giged. Lots of guys think that we're having rougher inspections here than we did at Fort Bliss, me, I don't believe so cause at Bliss we were all gig, and I believe that's the only time I've been gig. Anyway, we had to stand at attention for one hour and plenty of men fainted and believe me, sweat was rolling down my face that day too. Well one of my Sergeants has been busted to a buck private, I'm sure going to miss him.
Today I received a letter from the Wellington girl and also one from the girl I met on the train. Oh yes, I got the Brunswick Record and the funnies too, thanks.
In few minutes I'm going to hear a football game between Notre Damn and Michigan. That's the only game that I have a chance to listen to. I guess I'll try to go to Washington this Sunday, there's another football game there, it's between Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles, its a professional game.
I guess tomorrow morning I will be going to the eight o clock mass for a change.
A big carnival arrived in the camp a couple of days ago, I think I will see it next week.
I went down to Blackstone a few of days ago, I went to the USO down there and played ping pong and checkers with some of the fellers. Most of them like bowling and I don't, they have those big balls here and my fingers get stuck in them. It seems that I'll throw my arm with it.
The picture Claudia is down here, I guess I'll see it. Incidentally, there is a cafe in town called Claudia's Caffe, no kidding!
Gosh I don't know what to write, it seems that I'm always writing the same thing on every letter, as you know, there is not much excitement around here.
Well, I guess that is all for today, good bye and good luck. Valmore
Oct. 11, 1943
I received another nice letter from you today, thanks for sending Calvin's address, I'm returning the card. Went to Richmond last Sunday instead of Washington as I had originally planned. I didn't feel like traveling that far.
I wish they would give us five day passes, I'd be able to go home then, a five day pass would give me at least three days home, boy would I like to be there right now. We're getting real old New England weather now and my heart is longing for the football games.
Yes, please do send the football results, in my last letter to Ralph I asked him to send them. I guess he forgot all about it and also send anything you want, they don't mind.
Today I am Corporal of the Guard in about an hour I have to post my guards, I don't mind it at all, and just a couple days ago, I was C.O. that means Charge of the Office. That aint very easy believe me, it's all bookwork and I aint very bright. I've had that job many times since I was made Corporal and I've made OK every time.
I'm waiting for the swell packages you are sending me, that lava soap is sure going to be handy.
Yes, I am sending a lot of post cards, I want you to know all the places I've seen, you must have quite a collection now.
I've gained ten more pounds, I now weigh 170 pounds! I bet those cookies will surely taste good. I can just taste them now. About the candy that Dad sent me, one piece is all I could get, golly, those guys stick around packages like flies! Gosh, they know I have another package coming, so they are waiting too!
Well, that's all for today and I'm sending you another card. Goodbye, Valmore
Oct. 14, 1943
Well, we've just come back from a field problem, boy, was it cold, it was our first problem over here. I had a package and letter waiting for me , gee that was a swell package, thanks for the nice note book and boy oh boy, the cookies were swell, nice and crispy, they melted in your mouth. Send some more soon, by golly, I liked them. Ha Ha.
I could stand some more handkerchiefs, my nose is always dripping. How's the weather back home? It's very nice here, but a little bit on the cold side. I wrote to Henry a couple of weeks ago. I haven't received an answer yet. I'm sorry I can't write to everybody, especially Yolande, I'll do my very best to write her often, I sure miss little Gene, this time of the year every sunday we'd go back of the A.T.O house and play football, remember? Boy, how I wish I was there right now.
Well, I just got through signing the payroll. Went to the movies last night, it was Sweet Rosie O'Grady with Betty Grable and Robert Young. I hate him, I don't like his acting at all.
Thanks for all the scores and sports pictures you sent me, I sure would enjoy sports books too.
How is Julien making out with his beer parlor? Julien hasn't written me since I've got back from my furlough, I guess it's my fault, I should of wrote them. Is Muriel working and where?
It's pretty hard to write every body, cause we have so much work to do, every night we have to clean our rifle, and they inspect them any time throughout the next day.
Well, I guess that's all for today, goodbye and good luck. Valmore
Oct. 15, 1943
Well, today is Sunday, I attended the eight o'clock mass, the priest made a nice sermon. I expect to go to confession next week.
I hope we're in camp around Christmas time cause I may have a chance to go home. Boy that would be grand wouldn't it!
I just dropped the barracks window on my hand, I sure let out a yelp, there sure is a big lump coming out up on it now, boy, it really hurts.
I received another letter from you and it was jig saw puzzle style, I get quite a kick out of those letters and the fellers here get some good laughs to watch me try to put it together, how do your manage to write them, do you cut them out yourself?
The fellers all say that I'm getting fat, and I am too.
Boy, I pulled a boner during rifle inspection the other day and the lieutenant never did notice it. Boy was I lucky. It was this way, he inspected my rifle and it passed, he handed it back to me and I never thought to close the bolt or pulled the trigger and I could never do a thing about it cause I was standing at attention. Whew, was I sweating, I guess he would had twisted my neck if he would have noticed it, ha ha!
Woodrow seems to be getting along good with the draft board. I hope he gets another department.
Well, I finally saw my first football game, it was between Fort George Meade and the Camp Pickett Warriors, two Negro teams, the camp won 19 to 0. Hooray!
I'm sending you a bit of poetry about Texas which one of the fellers just handed to me, hope you enjoy it. Well, be a good girl and wishing you lots of luck. Good bye. Valmore
Lt. Col. C.T. McEniry writes:
After preliminary small boat and basic amphibious training, the outfit left Pickett for advanced amphibious training at Camp Bradford, near Norfolk. From 22 September for a week, there followed intensive instruction and training in the use of all types of small landing craft; loading and unloading men and vehicles from everything from LCVP's to LST's; assault tactics on beachheads, and practicing debarkation from the old Italian "YAG", when a number of troops got their initial touch of seasickness.
On 1 October, Batteries B. C and D returned to Camp Pickett, while Headquarters and A Batteries embarked on a practice voyage and beach assaults on Upper Chesapeake Bay with Special Troops of the 31st Division. The voyage was made in LST's and troop transports and three practice landings were made before the return trip to Pickett on 11 October. In the meantime, and up to 10 November; B, C and D batteries each made a practice voyage and assault landings on the Upper Chesapeake with the three regimental combat teams of the division.
The battalion training back at Pickett during the ensuing weeks covered all types of small arms firing and a review of basic and advanced subjects. Two inspections were given the battalion by the Inspector General's Department during November, the final one eliciting the remark from Colonel Lawrey, senior member or the teem, that the 197th was one of the two best of 40 battalions he had seen.
November was also a month of leaves end furloughs. But on 29 November the battalion was alerted for movement to a port of embarkation staging area on 15 December. The next two weeks were spent in final preparation for overseas shipment, and turning in all weapons and vehicles. Then, on 15 December, the unit proceeded by train to Camp Kilmer. It had ceased to have a name or station. For now it was officially known as "Shipment No. 9169-C", with "APO No. 9115".
November 4, 1943
Well, I worked pretty hard today, did office work all day long, we were checking tools and equipment, I think I'll go to bed early tonight.
I saw two swell shows last night, the first one was Chester Mans in one of his Boston Blackie pictures, the next was "Here Comes Elmer" with Al Pearce and his radio gang.
We had quite a time at dinner today. Everybody was eating quite peacefully when all of a sudden a German in full battle uniform rushed in and started hollering, "Heil Hitler, Heil Hitler!" Everybody got up and started to rush at him, at first we thought it was a Nazi. But it turned out to be a feller from another battery dressed up in that uniform! It was quite a thrill.
Well, that's all for today, goodbye and good luck. Valmore
In his notebook my Dad Writes:
I stayed out late one night, the M.P.S took me to the base in the morning, I had a pint of whiskey in my back pocket, my captain demoted me to private. I was a corporal, but he gave me back my rank after two weeks.
November 15, 1943
Well, we just come back from Camp Bradford, we spent 10 days with the Navy. We practiced landings on Solomons Island in Maryland, that's another state that I've seen, it's pretty there.
I spent seven days on the sea, I was on the transport S.S. Custer, I think life aboard ship is pretty dull, I didn't get sea sick though.
On the way back from Maryland, we had to travel by convoy and mostly at night, boy was it cold, in all we had to travel 225 miles to reach Pickett, I had my overcoat on and had my two blankets and comforter wrapped around me and still I felt the cold. I'll always remember that ride, we went over the Potomac River and the George Washington bridge.
Well, Claudia, I guess in short while I'll be a buck private, don't let it worry you, everything is okay, I'll still have my regular job. Tell Dad not to worry, I'm not letting him down.
There is one vaccination that I'm going to dread, that is the yellow fever shot, which we get at the port of embarkation, it goes right in the spine, boy I can almost feel it now.
I see that Leonard is the father of a baby boy! He has quite a family now, huh!
Well, I guess that's all for today, goodbye and good luck. Valmore
November 17, 1943
Well today's Wednesday, it's nice out today, the sun is shinning bright. I see you had snow back home a few days ago, how much did it snow? I hope it doesn't start snowing here, cause it's cold enough now.
I see Bill Charron received the Purple Heart for being wounded, gosh, they ought to send him back home, he has seen action for almost a year now.
Last night I went to the movies, it was "Thousand Cheers". It was plum full with famous Hollywood Stars, they included Red Skelton, Kay Kyser and his Orchestra, Lucille Ball, Ann Sothern, Mickey Rooney, Frank Morgan and boy, he was really hot, Ben Blue and boy is he whacky, John Boles and he played a swell part in the show, it was that of a Colonel in the Army. I'd advise you to see it cause if you don't, your missing one of the best shows there ever was.
No, Ralph hasn't said anything about my being busted to a private, if he had, I would had ignored it anyway. I see that he's still going at his famous club. Ha. Ha.
I haven't heard from Dad for a long while, please tell him to write, huh?
I'm still trying to get a three day pass, but I don't seem to be making any progress but I'm going to keep at it just the same. Some guys get three day passes almost every weekend, especially the Sergeants, gosh, I almost wish they'd give us a break, I bet home really looks swell now.
Ralph told me they're not drafting so many in town now, no wonder, there ain't any more! Ha. Ha.
Oh yes, Max Baer, the former boxing champion was at Camp Pickett a few days ago, but I didn't get to see him cause I was on my way from Camp Bradford. Gosh, I hate that camp, it's awful lonely, all you see is woods and more woods and it's always raining. But the sailors seem to like the place, they can have it.
Well, I guess that's all for today, goodbye and good luck, pray that I may get a three day pass.
So long, Valmore
November 24, 1943
Well, here I am back in Camp Pickett, got here at 5:30 Tuesday morning. I sure was lucky to get that pass cause there won't be any more.
I just made the train in Brunswick, I guess Dad told you about that.
The darn train came in late at Washington, we miss the 11 0'clock bus, so wee had to grab a taxi in order to get camp and what a price we had to pay, eight smackers! Lucky I had the money. And I had to come in while they were having an inspection, darn it ! I'm glad it's all over.
Boy, that day went bye fast, but it was worth the trip to see you folks again. Lucky I got that pass, huh?
We're having a nice turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, lots of boys are bringing their sweethearts and wives.
The Grande Central Station is sure pretty, went all around the place, had free coffee and doughnuts there.
Well, I guess we're moving pretty soon, keep your fingers crossed.
I guess that is all for today, hope to see your soon, good luck. Valmore
November 26, 1943
Received a letter from you today, as you know it is Thanksgiving, what a dinner we had, we had eighteen big turkeys on hand, we had so many things to eat that I couldn't taste all of em. We didn't get the whole day off though cause in the morning we check tools on the half-track. After dinner I played a little football, had lots of fun.
Yes I know how you felt monday morning, I felt the same way, I kept thing of you all the way back, it was swell to see you again, you look fine, don't look so bad with your glasses either. Ha. Ha. Hope I can see you soon.
I've seen two movies since I got here, they were Gangway For Tomorrow and Riding High with Dorothy Lamour and Dick Powell. They were two good shows.
Coming down on the train I bought myself a steak supper and believe me, I had to chase the darn thing all over the floor, it was just like rubber. I finally caught up with it, it sure took a long time to chew it! Ha. Ha.
No I wasn't cold on the train at all, but I was sure glad to get in camp so I could get some sleep.
I guess I got the pass at the right time, huh? I had a nice day at home.
Well, pretty soon I'll be celebrating my first year in the Army, that will be the 28th of December. Hope you celebrate that day for me.
Well, got to leave now, goodby and lots of luck, Valmore.
December 2, 1943
Imagine my amazement this morning when I found out they had promoted me to private first class. The fellers kept kidding me about it, I felt awful for awhile. Well, there's nothing I can do about it. Ha. Ha. I wasn't a Buck private long, I guess they can't make up their minds.
We're not doing much these days, just loafing around, been playing football a lot and that's right down my alley.
When I'm overseas don't send oranges or anything of that sort cause it will rot.
We had a battery dance last night, had a few WAACS there, were they homely looking, they looked to be in their fifties. Ha. Ha.
Hope you put up a tree at Christmas, I'll sure be missing you. I read in the papers Sunday that Farmington had thirty-three inches of snow, that's quite a lot. We had our first taste of snow Tuesday.
I've seen a couple good shows lately, they were "Whistling In Brooklyn" with Red Skelton and "Old Acquaintance" with Betty Davis. Oh yes, I also saw "Hands Across The Border" with Roy Roger.
We've got a long trip ahead, it will be sometime in December or the early part of January. Keep your fingers cross, wish me lots of luck cause I won't be seeing you for a long, long time. But I'll come back, yes sir, I've got to come back.
Well, got to leave you now, goodbye and good luck. Valmore
December 4, 1943
Well, received a letter from you today. A lot of things have happened in Brunswick for some time. If I am not mistaken, it's the second time a British airman has been killed, something musta been wrong the minute the plane took to the air, it's sabotage all right.
Well, today is Saturday, we stood inspection this morning, the Colonel did the inspecting, I passed. Sure was happy and I do my darndest to pass every time too.
It's around seven o'clock now, I guess your waiting on customers, quite busy I bet. I remember when you used to come in around ten o'clock, I was listening to the radio most of the time. I guess you took me as a lazy guy who wouldn't try to find work. I was just scared I guess to go out and mingle with other people. The Army has changed that a lot, I ain't scared of myself anymore. There's a lot of things I hate to do here, but every time I have to do it, I say to myself, I'll do this job for Claudia. No matter how tough things turn out, I'll stick it out just for her. No kidding. It really makes me feel good.
Writing letters will be a pretty complicated task soon, I won't be able to say much cause mail will be censored. In that case, a guy won't write home very often.
The weather has been pretty nice lately, the snow has vanished already.
I bet those Christmas Carols are sure coming in on the radio now, gee, would I love to hear a few now, especially Silent Night, that's my favorite, I could hear it over and over again.
I guess tomorrow morning I'll go to the 8 o'clock mass for a change, I've been attending the ten o'clock mass for the last month.
Tomorrow there's a football game between the Camp Pickett Warriors and the Virginia State College, it ought to be a good game.
Well, I guess thats all for today. Goodbye and good luck. Valmore
December 19, 1943
Well, today's Friday or in other words, fish day back home, pardon my inquiry, but what kind did you eat today?
I see you didn't like the "Heats On" with Mae West and Victor Moore, I didn't like it either. There's a good show coming soon, it's "Government Girl" with Olivia De Haviland, they say it's a pretty good comedy.
I'll bet you've been quite busy selling shoes. The streets must be crowded with people doing their Christmas shopping.
I sure hope you have enough wood for the winter cause I remember one winter when we had to order wood around March and it took a heck of a time to get it and when we finally got it, it was snowing to beat the band! I well remember cause I'm the one who threw it in the cellar.
Dad musta got a great kick when you told him I was P.F.C. again, it means 4 more bucks anyways.
Well, had my hair clipped short again, you should see me, I'm all ears. Ha. Ha.
I'm still in the United States somewhere on the East Coast. Well, got to leave you now, goodby and good luck. Valmore
Lt. Col. C.T. McEniry writes:
Life at Camp Kilmer moved at a quickened pace. For three days the battalion was given a thorough processing and inspection of clothing and equipment. Final clearance by the post commander sent the unit, on 21 December, by train to Jersey City and by ferry up the Hudson River to Pier 90, North River Terminal, N.Y., where it boarded the passenger liner Ile de France. The battalion was designated as advance unit for some 10,000 troops to follow in 24 hours, and Battery A was assigned the mission of manning the ship's AA guns.
But it was a dry run. Engineers determined that the ship's machinery was in need of further repairs before undertaking the voyage, so -- after four days -- the personnel disembarked, and the 197th went back to Camp Kilmer on Christmas eve. It was not the best Christmas one could hope for that year. But during the following week 12-hour passes to New York City and other nearby places were plentiful.
December 22, 1943
Well, how are you this fine day?
I received a Christmas card from the girl I met on the train, it's a beauty too. I bet you received plenty of cards too, you usually get about a bushel every year.
Do not worry about me, I am all right and in fine health. I went to the service club Sunday, played a few games of ping pong, then went in the library to read awhile. Oh yes, I listened to part of the football game between the Washington Redskins and the Giants.
I saw the movie, "Government Girl" with Olivia De Haviland, boy was it funny!
Here's one thing I wish you would send me, that's aircraft books and crossword puzzles.
I still haven't received the Christmas gift you said Ester sent me, hope I get it soon.
Of all the nice cities I've seen since I've been in the service, none can beat the little old town of Brunswick, no siree!! Well, got to leave you now, so long and good luck, keep your fingers crossed. Valmore
December 27, 1943
Here I am again, how's everybody at home? I'm in fine health.
There's a good headline in this morning's newspaper, the British have sunk the pocket battleship Sharnhorts, that was Germany's pride, well it ain't now. If I'm not mistaken, Germany has only two battleships left.
I'm still in the States, we started to go somewhere but never did reach our destination.
I see that you atttended midnight masss. On account of certain difficulties, I could not go, but I went to the ten o'clock mass and received Holy Communion, I been to communion three times in the last couple of weeks.
I do hope you had one of the merriest Christmas ever, cause after all, just sitting down and crying, that won't bring me back any sooner.
But gee, how I missed you, I've always been home for the holidays. I felt blue for awhile, so I finally made up my mind to go out and celebrate with the rest of the gang. Believe it or not, I had two beers, and a big cigar, the cigar must have been made out of an old rope, it sure did smell like one.
We took a trip to New York City, I was going to call home, but I knew that I'd bust out on the phone. I was so close to home, yet unable to go. We visited many places in New York.
Here's the whole trip in a nutshell, first we visited the Empire State Building, the tallest building in the world, it has 102 floors and boy was it windy up there, the wind velocity was 105 miles an hour, we could feel the darn thing shake!
Our next stop was Jack Dempsey's famous bar, I went in cause I figured that I might get a glimpse at Jack, but he wasn't there. I didn't want to disappoint the boys, so I drank a glass of beer with them, mind you, only one.
Next was Stage Door Canteen on 44th Street, we had free eats there, we saw Irene Wicker, the radio star, I've heard her sing often on the radio, it sure was a thrill. Then we went to see Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra.
I also wanted to see Madison Square Garden, but by that time it was time to go back
The gloves you sent me are perfect, they're swell, thanks a million.
I received a postcard from Woodrow, it contained three dollars and also one from Rose and Julien, theirs contained two bucks. Please thank both of them for me.
Please send a good supply of soap, either lava or ivory, makes no difference and if possible a few packs of Gillette thin blades.
I haven't received the package that Mrs. Gould sent me, I don't know what the hold up is, lucky I've got patience. Well, Sis, I guess that's all, thinking of you all the time, a feller can never get a better sister then you. Good bye and good luck. Valmore
The December 27 letter is the last letter my dad wrote in 1943. It was sad for me to read how much my dad longed to go home that he was happy just to get one day with his family. It was also sad to learn that he missed being home for Christmas that year especially knowing that he will miss the next two Christmas before this is all over with. Christmas was one of my dad's favorite holidays. So I will end chapter 3 on this note; my dad has been in the US Army for 1 complete year. The New Year, 1944, is right around the cornor and my dad and his buddies from the 197th are about to leave the USA ............ sadly some will never return.