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Gerald R. Rees Papers: Transcripts - MS 1007

Gerald Rees Correspondence - August 1943

August 1, 1943

United States Army

Sunday A.M.
[8/1/43]

Dear Mom,

I just got back from church, and since it starts at 8:45 I still have quite a while to write before lunch. Sunday is a fine day around here. they let us sleep till 7:00, which is a real luxury; then all we have to do for the rest of the day is loaf and catch up on odd jobs that were neglected during the week.

One thing that surprised me here at camp was the large number of chapels there are. Most of the barracks and other buildings are low, plain, one-story buildings, but the chapels all have a nice big steeple on them, so when you look across the camp, there are these spires extending way above the rest of the buildings, and scattered in every direction. The effect is kind of peaceful, or something. You know how, sometimes, you will look ahead on the road out in the country, and see a little town in the distance, with a big church steeple above all the rest of the buildings, as if it was sort of watching over the town? Well, that's the way it looks here, multiplied by twenty or thirty times. I like it. Each chapel has a Hammond organ, and is very nicely finished and decorated inside-in contrast to the rest of the buildings, which are mostly unpainted, barn-like structures.

Thursday we had a regimental parade, which really gave me a big thrill, in spite of all the parades I've marched in. There are about 3,000 men in a regiment, and of course, the marching was just like clockwork. There was a general there, besides some colonels and stuff, and several very attractive WAC officers in classy dress uniforms. When the old major yelled "Pass in review!" and we marched past the reviewing stand, with the band playing a Sousa march, and the colors flying and everything, I'll tell you it was an impressive thing.

The time has been going very fast the last few weeks. We only have five more weeks to go-till Sept 5th. It will be gone before we know it. Next week's schedule is posted, and it doesn't look so bad. For gosh sakes, don't go around worrying about the heat doing me any harm. You should know from your Red Cross training that sunstroke is caused only by direct exposure to the sun's rays, and we always wear light plastic helmets on the march which give us ample protection from the sun. The only casualties here are from heat exhaustion due to lack of salt, and the only ones who get it are the ones who are too "smart" to take enough salt pills. The only guys who get hurt in the army, you will find, are the ones who don't observe the simple protective measures they are taught; so far I don't think I am in that category.

If you haven't sent my clothes yet, look either in that dresser drawer or in the wooden box in the north closet for a black college algebra and send it. I want to study some of it that we didn't cover, and also a fellow in the barracks is very anxious to study algebra, which he didn't take in school, and I think I can teach him a little.

A.S.T.P. = Army Specialized Training Program-the army college plan.

Love,
Ger


August 4, 1943

Company A 52nd Medical Training Battalion
Camp Barkeley, Texas

Wednesday
[8/4/43]

Dear Folks,

New heat record here yesterday-while we were out hiking it reached 111º, according to the paper. We must be getting used to it, because it didn't seem any worse than the other days when it was only 105º or so.

Monday was bank nite for sure. I received letters from both Eleanor and Johnnie. It was a pleasant surprise. Johnnie was in his usual good form, although he sounds slightly bored. And I was surprised to learn that Bob Kniffen was here at Barkeley. I haven't been able to find out where his outfit is in camp, so I'll look him up in Abilene next Saturday. it will seem funny, though; I'll have to salute him and say "yes, sir" and "no, sir."

Did I tell you that Jim Moon was in San Diego in a navy band? He's playing 1st clarinet, and I'll bet he is on his way to the top in music. He is really good.

One advantage of changing battalions is that I don't draw guard duty or K.P. any more. Apparantly they forgot to enter my name on the duty roster, so I just get left out. K.P. is no fun, either.

My swimming has improved considerably in the last few days. It certainly is an ideal way to spend the evening, and is doing me some good besides.

I hope you will consider the following matter seriously: there comes a time when the heavy G.I. shoes are not quite suitable to wear, and a pair of light civilian shoes are very good to have. However, my only pair of brown shoes is worn out, uppers & lowers. See what I'm leading up to? Uncle Sam won't give us a shoe stamp, so if we want to buy shoes, we have to beg one from someone. So if there comes a time when anyone can spare a shoe stamp-to repay the one I gave to someone this spring-please send it. You can see that it's no matter of life or death, but at least don't let any stamps go to waste.

Love,
Ger

August 8, 1943

Company A 52nd Medical Training Battalion
Camp Barkeley, Texas

Sunday
[8/8/43]

Dear Mom,

Another good chapel service this morning-the place was filled, and they served communion. The chaplain is the sort of man I like to listen to. He's rather elderly, very calm and undramatic, and hits straight from the shoulder. The Army-Navy hymnal which we use has all of the good hymns in it, and we always sing four or five of them, so altogether it's a fine service.

Today starts our eighth week of training out of eleven, so we're really coming in on the home stretch. One of the weeks will be spent on bivouac, where we'll live in pup tents and operate a medical unit under battle conditions. It ought to be pretty interesting.

Just received a letter from the Chickadroffs saying that they had mixed up a fresh batch of chocolates and were sending me some. Um-m-m.

Not only do they issue our clothing and food, now they are giving us printed stationery. Pretty nice, isn't it?

Yesterday they finally realized I was here and put me on K.P. It wasn't at all bad; all day we drank quantities of ice water, iced tea, and chocolate milk, and ate fruit jello. I was on the dish-washing job. Nothing is done by machine-all 260 plates, cups, etc. were done by hand. You can imagine we didn't waste any time doing a fancy job!

This afternoon I'm going to swim and loaf on the "beach" and then go into town and try to locate Bob and Mary Kniffen. Doubt if they'll be home, though.

Thanks for sending my insurance notice. I get paid the 10th and I'll send them the money. I'm worth $11,000 dead, now. That's a lot more than I'm worth alive!

Getting tired of this thing of Burt coming and eating up all of my cookies and milk. The lucky bum.

Thought I had explained that cameras are not allowed in camp so snapshots are out of the questions. I'll get some made as soon as I can. But not because Mrs. Haslam wants them!

Love,
Ger

August 12, 1943

United States Army

Thursday P.M.
[8/12/43]

Dear Mom,

Well, the long-awaited interview came today, and A.S.T.P seems pretty well assured. After basic is over, about Sept. 5th, I'll be sent to Texas A.& M. or Oklahoma A.& M. for further interviews and tests, and after being there from ten to thirty days, will go to any one of 300 colleges. The best sounding thing they said was that they tried to send us as near home as they could-which would be possibly Michigan or Ohio State. The reason they do this is that we only get only seven days furlough between each 3-month term, and they try to put us where we can get home and back in that time. Of course, this is only theoretical, but it's something to hope for. It would be about my luck to end up at Texas U. or Stamford or some place a couple of thousand miles away. ,p>If I go to some school within a reasonable distance from home, and if I have calculated right, I should be home sometime around Christmas or New Year's. That's pretty long-range planning, isn't it?

Don't you remember Izzy Odesky, the Blade circulation director, who used to call you up about my route, and who said that the kid I sold my route to "didn't have all his marbles"? He's the one I wrote to, although I never would have thought he'd want to print the thing. He and I always got along fine, and I just thought it would be nice to write to him.

I received the insurance notice all right, and sent the money out today. I have a furlough or emergency fund of thirty dollars set aside, and next month I can start sending money home in earnest. By staying out of the eternal poker game in the barracks, and not smoking, it is possible to live very cheaply and still have a good time.

Tonight while standing in line for a haircut for an hour, I had an interesting talk with an ex-economics expert from the W.P.B. in Washington-they draft them too. He had taught economics at Mississippi State four years and then went to Washington. He says that most of the confusion there exists in the news correspondent' minds, and that things are really run pretty well. This was reassuring after all the stories you hear about the mess the gov't. bureaus make of things. Along the same line, I might say that the army does things a heck of a lot better than most people give them credit for.

The rumors that fly around in an army barracks are something to hear. Some of the fellows are coal miners from Utah, and they have been told that they may get a discharge to go home and work in the mines. Now the farmers from Washington and Montana think they are going home to harvest the crops. One day the rumor will be that our basic will be extended four weeks, and then the next day it is shortened four weeks. It's really kind of funny, but it's too bad the way people build up false hopes and then have them spoiled.

For gosh sakes, don't delay in finding out what's causing your eye trouble. Money should be no consideration at all in a case like that. Time is the important thing in a lot of cases, and you have probably delayed long enough as it is. Please don't neglect going to the right kind of a doctor just because of the cost. Eyes just aren't measured in dollars and cents. You've got me worried, because I know you have always been reluctant about going to doctors.

Tell Eleanor I hunted for Bob Kniffen and was told that he is at Fitzsimmons General Hospital at Denver. He sure gets around.

That's all I think of now. Love to the whole family and a lot of it to you from
Ger

August 15, 1953

Company A 52nd Medical Training Battalion
Camp Barkeley, Texas

Sunday A.M.
[8/15/43]

Dear Mom,

I'm very glad you located the algebra book, not only because I wanted to have it here, but also because I was sure that all of my books were either in the dresser drawer or in that box. I'm really sorry that I caused you the trouble of hunting for it and mailing it, and appreciate it a lot.

In the A.S.T.P. interview which I had, the biggest emphasis was on mathematics, so I want to be all studied up on it. Don't be surprised if I end up an engineer or something.

The first pkg. that you sent hasn't come yet; parcel post seems to be fairly slow. Your letter of Thursday A.M. left Toledo that afternoon and got to me last night, which is good time. You can be sure that even if the cookies are crumbs I'll lick them out of the bottom of the box. They'll be very welcome.

Save the enclosed clipping. It indicates the kind of heat we have here. I'd like to keep a few interesting items while I'm in the army for the future just to prove that I was in it.

I went to town last night and spent that precious No. 18 stamp. I got a pair of those military shoes that buckle instead of lace. They are very soft leather and very comfortable. I paid enough that they will last a good long time. Tell Pop thanks a lot for the stamp. I really didn't have much right to ask for it when Uncle Sam gives me two pair of shoes, but there will be lots of times I'll be very glad to have them. I mailed the ration book as soon as I got out of the shoe store, and I hope it got there all right.

We have a busy time next week; a lot of hikes and tests. We are drawing towards the end of our basic, finally. The tests are a joke, though. Most of our class work is designed for guys with a mental age of about eight, and at that they overestimated a lot of them.

So, I made Chub DeWolfe's column, huh? Hope you clipped it out.

Give Aunt Sadie my regards when you see her. Has she thought any more about flying to Washington?

Love,
Ger

August 17, 1943

Company A 52nd Medical Training Battalion
Camp Barkeley, Texas

Tuesday night
[8/17/43]

Dear Mom,

The packages both came today in fine shape; the cookies tasted as good to me as they used to right out of the oven. Thanks much. The book from the church will be used as intended, and I think the shoe shine cloth works very good-I'll know better after it has been used a while.

This morning while we were marching along the road, as is often the case, a tune was running through my mind, and it happened to be the soprano solo from the "Messiah" using the words "Come unto Me, all ye you labour and are heavy laden"-perhaps the pack was beginning to feel heavy. Anyhow, when I got back, your package was waiting for me, and by coincidence I looked in the devotions book at Aug. 17, and sure enough, there was the text "Come unto Me-" which had been in my mind.

Speaking of coincidences-the boy across from me has four brothers, all in separate parts of the army, and all four of them met in New Guinea!

You can guess where this fellow wants to go.

Tomorrow we go out from 6:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M. on a field problem, having as our entire day's "vitals" three of those D-ration bars such as Johnnie sent you. I'm curious to see if they satisfy us for the whole day.

Another letter from Jim Moon and he sounds very contented. Jack seems to be liking the navy a little better, too. Burt was to "graduate" Aug. 18, and I'm anxious to hear where they send him.

Tonight I swam 500 yards without stopping, and felt equal to another 500. These last few weeks' practice are bearing fruit.

Gosh, this handwriting looks like a six-year old's. I was in a hurry to finish before lights out.

Love,
Ger

August 22, 1943

Sunday A.M.
[8/22/43]

Dear Mom,

Something that happened last night kind of tickled me-I don't know what will come of it. After our last class before supper we had a little time, so I hauled out my horn and played a couple of marches. Our sergeant came upstairs with his eyes big as saucers, wondering what was going on. I guess he had never seen a baritone up close before. Anyhow, he sat down on the bed and made me play all of his favorite pieces. Then this morning after church he came up and made me play them again. He said I should take the horn instead of my pack on the marches. What would be good would be if I could take it along when we go on bivouac on the 31st. Then we could get the fellows singing in the evenings and really have some fun.

After bivouac-five days-we will be about ready to ship out of here. This next week will be fun-no class work, all field work; night problems, etc.

We are learning how the medics work taking care of wounded during battle, evacuating them to the various mobile hospitals, etc. It's a lot of fun. We set up portable first aid stations and tent hospitals, load ambulances, and give medical aid to "victims" out in the field. We've been crammed full of basic training in hot classrooms; now we are getting a chance to apply it.

Yesterday we saw Technicolor movies of the war in Africa. The photography was wonderful, and it showed all the details of the landings, some of the battles, etc. Seeing movies of the war in an air-conditioned theatre is a far cry from the way they used to train soldiers.

The weather is noticeably cooler here now, and is getting pleasanter all the time.

Sorry I plumb forgot your wedding anniversary last week. I usually remember them. Congrats., anyhow.

Hope you have the ration book by now. I see that "A" book holders were cut down on gasoline lately; how do you get along?

Planning to spend a strenuous afternoon on the "beach" sunbathing. Dinner now, (fried chicken).

Love,
Ger

August 24, 1943

Camp Barkeley, Texas
Tuesday noon
[8/24/43]

Dear Folks,

Had quite an experience yesterday-we went under live machine-gun fire, crawling 120 yards with bullets whizzing two or three feet above us. At least they told us they were-I didn't look up to see how close they were. We had been training for it for several weeks, learning how to crawl flat on the ground without sticking up our heads or uh-posteriors. Strangely enough, the bullets didn't bother me hardly at all-it was the dust. Down on the ground it was so hot that we were sweating from every pore, and the sweat combined with the fine dust to form mud. I was never so filthy in my life. Anyhow, now I can tell my grandchildren that I was gassed and machine-gunned in the "Great War"-I won't have to tell them how.

The rest of the week will be pretty easy, I guess. Tonight after dark we'll be going out and traveling across country by compass-which is pretty interesting. We start out with written directions saying to go so many yards in a certain direction, and so many in another, and then see how near we can come to our destination. The compasses have radium dials and are pretty good. The nights in Texas are really beautiful, especially by moonlight.

I haven't gotten any answers to my letters to Lee and Vernon-are they still O.K.?

It looks like Bernice is having as much of a time chasing Lloyd around as Eleanor did Johnnie. Where is Grandma now? And how is Uncle Fred?

You can write to this address untill at least Sept. 10th, I think. The army seems to have as much trouble getting trains to ship soldiers as civilians do, so there is always delay in our shipping orders.

Love,
Ger

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