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Gerald R. Rees Papers: Transcripts - MS 1007

Gerald Rees Correspondence - June 1943

June 2, 1943

Pvt. G.M. Rees
Co.A., 1584 S.U.
Camp Perry, Ohio
U.S. Army

Mrs. C.B. Rees
2453 Putnam Street
Toledo, Ohio

June 2, 1943

Dear Folks,

I'm heading for the vicinity of Dallas with several limited service men-not a troop train. Everything O.I.; don't know what branch I'm in yet. Our last train stop will be View, Tex. if you can find where that is. I don't know.

Love,
Ger

June 2, 1943

June 2, 1943

Dear Folks,

I am writing this en route because there is lots of time and nothing to do. It is beastly hot in our coach-4:15 P.M. Wednesday, in Bellefontaine, Ohio. It is so sultry that clothes stick to us. There are 17 of us E.R.C. limited service boys together. The reason we happened to find out we are headed for Texas is that there is no officer over us, and one of the fellows has charge of the R.R. tickets. We are to change to a Pullman car with beds waiting for us at St. Louis tonight. Friday afternoon we hit View, Texas. I have no idea what camp it is.

We ate lunch today at the Union Station in Toledo, but I couldn't phone you because it's strictly unlawful to communicate with anyone en route. If this is mailed before I get to Texas you'll know I'm cheating.

Hope you can read this; it's hard writing on my knee. Our coach is waiting here at Bellefontaine to be taken west towards Indianapolis and on to St. Louis. I don't know what other towns we'll got thru.

This is a good bunch I'm with. The fellow here in the next seat is a friend gained at C.P. and is the spittin' image of David Lodge. There are all soldiers in this coach, some draftees headed for Ft. Ben Harrison, some from Camp Perry.

The evacuation of 1500 soldiers from C.P. reception center this morning was something to see. You can complain all you want about army red tape, but I have nothing but admiration for their organization. I guess most of the boys went by troop train, but some, including our group, were parcelled out onto regular passenger trains. It's a lucky break for us; we will eat on the diner and have much better accommodations.

I see by the paper that Toledo had a real storm yesterday. I'll bet the place was a shambles with all those trees down. Practically all the land visible from the train around Port Clinton and Oak Harbor was under water. I never saw the country so flooded.

The little zipper bag I confiscated is seeing good service. When I get a chance, if ever, I'll buy a furlough bag, a little larger than that, and return yours. In the meantime, I hope you don't need this one too badly.

It would be quite a coincidence if I would end up somewhere near Jim McGee or Uncle Lou, wouldn't it? I'll have to get a map and study up on the situation.

There is an Erwin Hoffman in our bunch, and I jump every time his name is called.

Well, the train is moving again, so I'll stop writing. this trip will be plenty tiresome while it lasts, but I'm seeing a lot of country, which I've always wanted to do, so it's good experience.

More news when I get it.

Love,
Ger

June 3, 1943

Pvt. G.M. Rees
Co.A., 1584 S.U.
Camp Perry, Ohio
U.S. Army

Mrs. C.B. Rees
2453 Putnam Street
Toledo, Ohio

5:00 A.M. Thurs [Postmark St. Louis, MO, June 3, 1943]

Dear Folks,

Changing trains with 3-hour wait here. Not much to see at this time of day. In Texas tomorrow P.M. Trip is interesting, but hotter than all-get-out. The U.S.O. places along the way have been swell to us. Everything's fine.

Ger

June 3, 1943

Thursday P.M.
[6/3/43]

Dear Folks,

I hope I'm not over-burdening you with correspondence, but because of a delay in Bellefontaine we are missing connections all along the way, and consequently are spending the whole day in St. Louis, as free as the air. I am now in a very splendiferous U.S.O. center near the R.R. terminal. They have everything imaginable here for servicemen-all free. There is a library, ping-pong & pool tables, all kinds of games, phonographs and records, pianos, and the writing lounge, where I am now. I am about to go out to the ball park and see a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Phillies-also free. This morning-we got here at 4:00 A.M.-we were feeling pretty tired and dirty, so after a swell breakfast at the terminal we went over to the Y.M.C.A. where all facilities are free to servicemen. We took a shower, towel & soap provided, and relaxed there for a while; I walked down and gazed at the ole Mississippi for a while, and then had lunch. Then we came over here. You can see that this has been a pretty swell trip so far. Tonight we hope to get Pullman for the rest of the way-incidentally, we go to Camp Barkley, near Cisco, and 80 miles from Fort worth, arriving there late tomorrow night. The think that beats me is that the army would turn loose a bunch of us rookies with no supervision, and tell us to go to Texas. It's just as if a bunch of fellows decided to take a trip, completely on their own, but with all accommodations taken care of by Uncle Sam. Hard to believe, isn't it? We have meal tickets, and can eat on the diner, or wherever we choose.

Last night we stopped at Muncie, Ind., and some women handed us sandwiches and cookies through the train windows. Boy, they hit the spot, because we were getting pretty tired and hungry by that time. I can't get over how swell everyone is to the fellows in uniform.

Don't forget that you aren't supposed to know what our destination is. I just told you because I thought you'd be anxious to hear.

Well, got to get to the ball game now. I'll let you know when we get to Texas.

Love,
Ger

June 4, 1943

Friday P.M.
[6/4/43]

Dear Folks,

What a life! Hotter than hades. We might have known that things were going too well. Our Pullman didn't materialize, and we sat up all last night, spending 24 hours on a coach and getting into Ft. Worth at 5:00 P.M. Now we can't get a train until 11:00, which means 5 hours in Ft. Worth. At least I'm getting to see a lot more en route than most do.

So far, I can't say I like Texas too much. all we have seen is slightly rolling farmland, only differing from southern Ohio in the color of the soil-orange-red. We crossed the Red River this morning and it is really red. We travelled along the Mississippi part of the way, and it was beautiful. Arkansas is terrible.

We are to report to the Medical Replacement Training Center, so I may be in medical administration. They say that Camp Barkeley is very hot and dry.

Well, it's a swell trip, anyway.

Love,
Ger

June 6, 1943

Service Club
Camp Barkeley, Texas

Sunday P.M.
[6/6/43]

Dear Folks,

This is too good to be true. I'm sitting in a beautiful service within a short distance from our barracks, beside a brand new R.C.A. super-super radio-phonographs, with a large stock of records, listening to my favorite pieces, and in another hour I'll be hearing the symphony program. A couple other music fans in my barracks and I happened to discover it, and even though I'm a long way from home I'll be able to spend a perfect Sunday afternoon.

I don't know just where to begin, there are so many things I'd like to tell about. We finally caught our Pullman at Ft. Worth, leaving there at 11:00 P.M. and getting into camp at 9:00 the next morning. It was a slow train, but even so, you can see how far we are from civilization. It's just overwhelming to see how big this state is. So far my reaction to it is very favorable. The country is beautiful-the soil is a red-brown sandy stuff, with very colorful weeds and shrubs growing sparsely around the rocks and gullies. Every little ways a hill will pop into view, covered with low bushy trees, grass, and all sorts of flowering weeds. I saw my first pecan trees, and wild sunflowers growing along the R.R. tracks. Altogether, I like it a lot. It is about 90Âș or hotter, but it's so dry that sweat evaporates and doesn't bother. I don't mind the heat at all, and the fellows are all acquiring a swell suntan. The nights are very cool.

Camp Barkeley is huge-practically all the branches of the army are here. There are several full divisions, a large Medical Replacement Training Center (M.R.T.C.) which I am in, and all sorts of infantry and artillery units. The camp is so large that they have an intra-camp bus, a newspaper, about 8 P.X.'s, 4 theaters, etc. It's like nothing I ever saw, and I like it a lat. We live in small plywood huts (they call them hutments) with five in a hut. The army does strange things to people socially. I am in with a fellow who wouldn't even have looked at me when he was at B.G.-captain of the football team and very popular. Now we chum around together. There is a boy from Kansas U., one from U. of Texas, and one from Western Reserve. Fine boys all of them. We are very close to a mess-hall, P.X., post office, theater, chapel, and everything else you could ask for.

The non-coms are more easy-going than at Camp Perry, with an easy drawl to their commands. Everyone is very pleasant. Does this sound to ideal for an army camp? Of course, there are unpleasant things, but none important enough to dwell on. I'm very happy about the whole thing.

As I understand my status, it's this way. The fact that I'm in an M.R.T.C. doesn't mean that I'll be a litter-bearer or push hypodermics for the duration. I'm just here for my 12 weeks basic training, and since I'm non-combatant anyhow, they sent me to a unit which doesn't spend a lot of time on rifle drills and military tactics, but on things like first-aid, sanitation, and stuff. I'll probably never handle a rifle, which is all right, since I wouldn't have to use one. I saw my records yesterday when we were checking them for errors, and mine was marked "Qualified for A.S.T.P" which is the army college program. I'm pretty optimistic now; something's bound to come up to spoil it, but right now things look good. Lots dumber fellows than I have made O.C.S. and A.S.T.P., so I'm hoping.

The basic is going to be no snap. At the end of it we'll be marching 24 miles in 8 hours with a 60-pound pack. The training is very good here.

I'm sending this airmail to see if it saves much time-let me know what day it arrives. Also send me a road-map of Texas if you can get one. Also Uncle Lou's address and Jim McGee's. Forward Jim's letter and any other that may have come. Boy, it sure will be good to get mail again. I'm counting on that fountain pen, if at all possible. We didn't get foot-lockers, because they aren't being issued any more, but I think I can hang onto my valuables all right.

The nearest town to camp is Abilene, about 9 miles, 16,000 population, but on weekends it increases to 20 or 25 thousand. I don't get any Sunday passes for a long time, but if I did, there wouldn't be any place to spend it. this is really the middle of nowhere. It'll be all right for 3 months, though. I'll be counting the days till that first 15-day furlough.

If you think of anything you want to know that I haven't said, let me know.

Texas is dry in more than one way. There is no beer or other drinks sold in the state, which should make for a little more peaceful barracks.

Symphony is starting now so I'll stop. Write very soon. The address is as on the envelope (53rd Medical Training Battalion).

Love,
Ger

P.S. I suppose this is too late, but Happy Birthday, Mom.

June 8, 1943

Service Club
Camp Barkeley, Texas

June 8, 1943

Dear Mom,

The other letter was to the family, but this one is for you. it won't arrive on your birthday, but that's when it was written and you get the idea. Another year has gone by, and let's hope that the next one will be a little more pleasant for you than some of the others have been.

You know, as I think over the things you have always stood for in bringing up your kids, it occurs to me that not one of us is engaged in a job that goes contrary to that teaching, in spite of the fact that we are all growing up in a war-torn world and three of us actually in the fighting service.

My training here is almost entirely with the saving of lives and preserving of health rather than destruction; Lee is concerned with entertainment and morale-building; Vernon has quite a bit more schooling a little likelihood of seeing action; Eleanor is a nurse's aid; Johnny is a doctor. We don't know what Reyn's job is, but it's reasonably sure that it's not destructive. Do you think that there is a trace of Divine guidance in this situation? I do. Naturally, I get the same thrill any kid would out of soldiering, but I am really glad to be in the kind of unit I am.

I wish I could describe the trip and the country I am in so that you could visualize it, but I'm not that good at words. You would like the country here; maybe you'll see it some day. The most striking thing is the bright red-brown earth. It is more noticeable because the vegetation is more sparse. The camp is very flat, but all around it, steep green hills jut out of the plain. The effect is beautiful. Even the weeds are unusually pretty. One common weed in the camp is just like a maiden-hair fern-I think that's what you call it. Other very common weeds have small blue flowers like violets or yellow ones like brown-eyed susans. The trees are low and bushy, and very green and pleasant looking. Although it is sandy and dry, Texas isn't anything like the desert I had pictured in my mind.

Please don't worry about my welfare or associations in the army, because I think I know how to handle myself all right.

Lots of love,
Ger

June 9, 1943

Service Club
Camp Barkeley, Texas

Sunday nite
[6/9/43]

Dear Mom,

I received your letter and birthday greetings yesterday noon, and it sure made me happy. You know, it had been so darn long since I had heard from home, and I was imagining all sorts of things-that I had gotten my address wrong, or the letter was lost or something. so when the first word from you came, I was pretty glad. Not to mention the fact that I was broke!

I hope that my letter of last Tuesday got there. Some of the things I asked for, such as hangers and underwear, are really badly needed.

That birthday celebration must have been a real feast. I'd like to have been there. We'll have to celebrate double next year. I hope Uncle Charley had a good visit. by the way, be sure and send Uncle Lou's address. He may not be so far from here.

This training is really something. Besides the regular soldier's basic training, we have to learn all about the medical corps' work in battle, and lots of first aid and handling of wounded men. Next week we're going on a hike from 6:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M., carrying all our equipment and day's rations on our back. It's great sport. In spite of all the drawbacks people seem to think Camp Barkeley has, I still like it. We are getting better organized and have more spare time than we did, which makes things easier.

I'm watching for that letter you said you were writing, and will answer forthwith.

Love,
Ger

June 16, 1943

Camp Barkeley, Texas

Wednesday evening
[6/16/43]

Dear Mom,

Your letter just came, and restored a slightly sagging morale. I even had to stall off the barber when I got my GI haircut. And in this climate a fellow would have to be a stoic not to want a coke or some ice cream in the evening. Not to mention the welcome news from home; the little incidents about Jack, the house, the town-those are the things a fellow likes to hear about.

I'm really sorry to cause a lot of bother about my pen and stuff but I feel lost without a pen, and I am practically in a wilderness as far as shopping goes; the P.X.'s only sell confections and stationery.

Things are lightening up a little. We still have evening work, but not quite so long. The good thing is that although I've only been here a week and a half we are in the third week of training, which means I'll be out of here a week earlier. The latest bulleting from the War dept. is that we may get a furlough at the end of our basic.

(The corporal just came in to tell us we would have to shut up promptly at 9:30 because we go on bivouac tomorrow from 5:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M. and will need sleep.)

If you have the address of Lee's apt. in Ft. Lauderdale I'd like to write to Anita just for the heck of it. Their marriage was no surprise-it looks like a pretty good setup for them.

Jim Moon's address is 459 N. 5th St., Upper Sandusky, Ohio. Burt is at Chanute Field in weather observers school.

Packages coming to other fellows here have been pretty mashed up-I'm anxious to see mine.

Got to hurry and get ready for tomorrow. Glad to hear from people-promise to answer all letters promptly. Will write more when I get time. Thanks a lot for the loan.

Love,
Ger

June 20, 1943

Camp Barkeley, Texas

Saturday night
[6/20/43]

Dear Mom,

The big news today is the safe arrival of my package, and the contents were really a swell surprise. The cake was a little flatter than when it was baked, but wasn't smashed at all and tastes delicious. Was I glad we stay in small huts with only four room-mates! They are all good kids, and we had a fine party. The sox and sewing kit are very welcome, too. I'm certainly anxious to see the pen. It'll probably be here tomorrow.

This past week has been a busy one. A few of the things we did: Tuesday evening we got typhoid, tetanus, and smallpox shots, and when they were just getting into their prime, Wednesday, we went over the obstacle course-walls to scale, streams to swing across on ropes, rope ladders, etc. Boy, what a work-out. Then Thursday we got up at 5:00 A.M. and marched eight miles to a camp site, where we pitched our tents and scouted around the hills. I got a kick out of that. So much of this is like boy scouting that it surprises me. In the evening we marched back in two hours, averaging four miles per hour, which is really travelling. An ambulance followed behind us to pick up the ones who collapsed. Some of the boys took it pretty hard. We were all dog-tired but it was fun anyhow. The country is really beautiful and it was a good chance to explore it. Friday I was called over to the eye clinic and given more eye tests, with the result that I am no longer classified limited service. This pleased me very much.

Actually, it won't affect my future much in the army, because I'll probably stay in the medics anyhow. But it's nice to know that the army doesn't consider me just half a man, or a cripple or sumpin.

Last night we went on a night hike into the hills for work in finding our way around by compass. There was a full moon, and the nights are really wonderful here. We returned around midnight and the cook had fixed some cake and cocoa for us, so a fine time was had by all.

You seemed surprised that I'm having a strenuous training course. Remember that neither Lee or Vernon had a regular full-time basic training course, but I'm getting the whole works. Eleanor can probably tell you that the enlisted men in the medical corps have just as much responsibility in the front line fighting as the infantry does.

Tomorrow I'm getting a pass and going to see the town of Abilene. From all reports it's nothing to see, but I'm curious to see the place anyhow. It's the only town of any size within 120 miles, and passes are only good from 1:00 P.M. to 11:00 P.M. so I doubt if I'll ever have any use for a pass after I've once seen this town. It's crowded with soldiers and not very exciting. Future Sundays will probably be spent at the service club playing records.

Today we saw some excellent films on the German conquest of Europe. A lot of our training is by movies, with the best of the films that are produced, including a lot of shots of actual fighting and captured enemy film that civilians never see.

The army uses the most modern ways of educating their rookies. Everything is by visual education, demonstration, and repetition. One interesting and slightly scary thing we did yesterday was to be subjected to several of the most likely-to-be-used poison gases so we would be able to recognize them and treat cases. We went through tear gas, mustard gas, chloropicrin, etc.-all in weak enough doses so that no one was hurt. Poison gas isn't the terrifying thing it was in the last war, because we have an excellent gas mask and are all trained to use it.

This is the first chance to write letters I have had for a week and I have a lot to write, so I'll stop this before I get a cramp or something.

Love,
Ger

June 22, 1943

Camp Barkeley, Texas

June 22, 1943

Dear Folks,

The package came today and I was certainly glad to get it. The pen is swell-better than I ever would have expected. Also it's a relief to hang my clothes out on hangers instead of wadding them in a barracks bag. My buddy in the next bunk is an orphan, and he said "what would you do if you didn't have anyone to send things to you?" and he's right; I'm pretty lucky to have someone to write home to.

We are listening to Fibber & Molly now; it's sure nice to have a radio in the hut. This is the first evening we have had any time to ourselves since we've been here. All we had to do after supper was go to mail call, get a typhoid shot, be issued some more clothes, get our laundry, and then we were free. Yeah, sure, we have a lot of spare time.

Today we went over an obstacle course carrying a littler, and part of the time I was really scared. The thing is pretty heavy with a patient in it, and there were some tricky obstacles. For instance, we carried the litter over a stretch of water balancing on a three-inch beam. We climbed up and down steep stairs keeping the litter level, and other similar things.

We went to the dentist last night and they couldn't find anything wrong with me. It's a good thing, because the army dentists are pretty rough.

The envelope from the Adjutant General's office contained a booklet about the army college specialized training program-A.S.T.P. It sure sounds good to me. We are scheduled to be interviewed about it soon. In any event, I'll be here another seven weeks at least.

Lights out in a few minutes, so I must stop. The old typhoid shot is beginning to take hold, anyhow.

Love,
Ger

June 25, 1943

Camp Barkeley, Texas

June 25, 1943

Dear Mom,

Something else has come up that I need a little assistance in. I really think this will be the last. It is the organization of a band in our battalion, and there are a great possibilities for a really good band. Several fellows have already had their instruments sent, and say that they came through all right. So I wonder if you could call the express company and have them send my horn collect. All that you would have to do is wad a few newspapers in the case so the horn doesn't rattle, and the express company will do the rest. They include fifty collars insurance in the charges, which will cover it O.K. This won't involve any expense on your part-simply tell the expressman to send it collect. One important thing to remember: give them my regular mailing address VIA ABILENE, TEX. If this isn't on the address, it will be sent to View, Texas, where I would have to get it, and of course I can't do that. If marked VIA Abilene, it will come straight to my hut. Don't ask me why!

Hope this doesn't cause too much inconvenience, and that it comes soon.

I had K.P. today for the first time at Barkeley. There are enough fellows here that we only have to do it about once a month. I scrubbed floors, peeled potatoes, etc. It wasn't bad.

Hope that rat hunt comes out all right. They are no fun to have around. Also trust that Rita's arm is O.K.

This was a long day and I'm sleepy, so I'll stop now. Sunday I'll try and write a little better letter.

Love,
Ger

June 28, 1943

Camp Barkeley, Texas

Sunday afternoon [6/28/43]

Dear Mom,

Things are getting more and more settled around here-I won't say home-like because that's not possible-but we're getting our quarters fixed around the way we want them, and are learning what we can or can't do. You'd be surprised what the addition of a couple of books and magazines, a radio, a picture or two, can do to make a hut liveable. I'm especially glad to have the books you sent-also the other things. I'll try not to bother you so much after this. I'm sure anxious for my horn to come.

Nine of the seventeen fellows I came down with are here in my platoon; the others were sent out to another battalion. The nine of us are together much of the time, and get along fine. Four of them are very talented musically-one a graduate of the Oberlin conservatory-and they form a perfect quartet which has sung at the service club, and plan to appear on another musical program which we are planning. Two of the nine are in my hut-one a graduate of Western Reserve in business administration, the other, Quizzy, the football player who graduated from B.G. this spring. If I do say so, our hut is the cleanest, in both senses of the word, of any in the platoon. The other two fellows in the hut are very effeminate and spoiled, but the army will take that out of them. As for the rest of the platoon, with a few exceptions, they are ignorant draftees from the Carolinas, Georgia, Missouri, and Arkansas. They would much rather be back on the farm, and are determined to let everyone know it, and not to do anything that they aren't actually forced to. Some of them talk and act just like Abner of Lum and Abner-that dumb and that kind of accent, but not as entertaining. I never saw anyone so eager to fight the war over again as these No'th Carolina boys. On the whole, I like the personalities of the Northerners much better than the Southerners.

If I repeat myself too much, I'm sorry, but I am writing to several different people, and forget what I have said to any one of them.

The corporals in our platoon-the ones who have the most to say about what we do-are not old army men, but were rookies like us not so long ago, so I suppose we have it easier than a lot of rookies do. I believe the whole army is more easy-going than it was a year ago, because most of the officers and noncoms are young. This doesn't mean that they are any less efficient, because these officers just out of O.C.S. really known their stuff. They get as good results as the old straight-laced army did, but they are considerably more human about it.

I am enclosing a weekly schedule so you can see the sort of things we do. In the column under "place", obs.c. means obstacle course; ltr.obs.c. means litter obstacle course, where we carry a victim in a stretcher over and under all sorts of contrivances. In the last column, under "text reference", LN stands for lesson number, in the various manuals that we are supposed to study. Under time, you'll notice that we go by a 24-hour system, 1:00 P.M. being 1300. The time between 6:00 and 7:30 A.M. is taken by the reveille ceremony, breakfast, and scrubbing our barracks. They told us that none of the details of our basic training were military secrets, so don't think I'm giving away anything I shouldn't.

This week I had reason to appreciate the new sulfa drugs. I had a growth under my toe-nail which became infected and was very painful. They cut the growth out, applied a sulfathiazole dressing on, and the infection is all gone. All soldiers have this dressing to carry with them in combat, and it's a wonderful thing.

A fellow just came in and tried to change the radio to a jazz band and I had to restrain him by force. Any other time but Sundays are usually very pleasant here; most of the guys head for Abilene and leave us in peace.

I'm about to take my bed outside and get a little sun. I should have a good tan by fall.

Thanks again for sending my things. By all means accept my "Key" when it comes. Pay day is Wednesday and I'll straighten my finances out.

Love,
Ger

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