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February 1943, Camp Hale, Colorado

February 5, 1943

Dear sweetheart,

It’s a good thing you wrote when you did because I am going nuts. We have been the victims of a hoax. In my last letter I told you all about my sick leave etc. Well I was on pins & needles until day before yesterday & then I asked the doc if my leave came thru. Well it seemed he never sent one in for me. Needless to say I was rather surprised. Well I seem to have been able to have some affect on him because he went right out & got the forms & filled them in. Soooo now I am waiting till the 10th or so to know for sure. The trouble is the place is getting on my nerves. My ear is almost all well tho.

This will be a very funny situation if I really do get a leave. Mainly because I will arrive before it does & in it I am warning you. Since my last letter tells you under the circumstances, that I did not get a leave you are not expecting me. Therefore, I am going to surprise you in the most spectacular way I can think of, depending on where you are when I arrive. I shall come straight to Morgan House so you could have spies out except I’ll probably be reading this with you. If not you’ll see what a rat I am anyway. I hope you’re in foods. I will just plain bust in & help taste foods. After kissing you to death in front of every body. In fact Western Lit would be even a better setting for that. I might even wait around awhile for that privilege. Wow! if I’m really there I hope you have forgiven me by this time. Better not have any dates for a while. Boy would that be fun. If this wasn’t the day before the div dance that would be a swell opportunity.

I’m sorry you haven’t seen more of the Jones’s since she offered us that room. Of course we can afford to stay at the Greywood or someplace o.k. I have $120 cash on me at present. $18 is for Dad some equal is for Morgan H and the rest is for the leave. Any surplus we’ll divide. Still it would be cheaper to stay at the Jones’s. Maybe you don’t want to stay with any body. Oh. Oh well such dissertations are what make letters.

By the way, as I explained, any delay in letters is due because you don’t write as I answer yours the day I get them. However, due to our own peculiar postal service and the fact that a few of your letters came in the last mail Sat. so my answers couldn’t go out till Mon. P.M. Believe me darling, even my thots are barren now & I couldn’t write you a letter without one to answer. Things will no doubt pick up when I get out.

So Pete is in a bad way is he? Well I hope he comes out o.k. I sure would like to talk to him & see what he thinks of my plans to include him and wife in our tour. I don’t mean to ask him along, (all things change in time) but to see what he thinks of the idea of such a trip. I designed a book plate in my “odd moments.” When I finished & put my initials down GAC [inverted triangle, GA over C] from habit I discovered it meant Gerry and Ann Cunningham if you spelled me with a G which is a long sought desire anyway. I have started the campaign with my relatives anyway so it should spread. Anyway it’s always spelled Gerry when anyone knows my initials first. Please observe in the future.

As I started to say, about book plates, I would like to cut it in linoleum while I’m there if I have time & have some printed. It has a mt. in back ground with a rucksack with coil of rope around it in fore ground. 2 skis stuck in at right & an ice ax at left. [A linoleum block of this bookplate is currently in my possession.] Sunlight is also the main theme. That is the only thing about N.Z. that bothers me. Their storms are terrific and it’s no secret that fording the rivers is the most dangerous undertaking. I’m afraid we’ll see little sunlight there. It is beautiful tho just as Washington is and the Selkirks too. They are all too wet to think of living in but they are beautiful enough so we won’t be wasting any 3 mos. by looking them over rather thoroughly. My greatest desire–“To roam God’s country with you.”

I’ll finish tomorrow but it seems a shame to waste a 5 page letter on you when I’ll be reading it over your shoulder I hope.

Well, here it is Sat. waiting for inspiration. Only 3 or 4 more days to wait in suspense now. It seems just too good to be true that I could get a leave when I have so many reasons for needing & wanting it….

While you are studying cereals maybe you’ll discover one better than rice for a staple. It has to be easy to pack & cook & good to eat and as nutritious as rice. Anyway that information you gain should be very useful anyway unless you are studying Puffed Rice & Wheaties & Post Toasties etc. Look into that bread baking too. It will do us no end of good if we can learn to exist comfortably on mostly rice & oatmeal for as long periods as 2 or 3 weeks or months like the Chinese do. It makes everything so simple & by eliminating extra containers & all cooking stuff but a pot it reduces weight by quite a bit. Before we are thru we will be experts on traveling light. You will be learning with me when it comes to packing for the trail but you have an awful lot to unlearn about packing for a train journey. Boy I can’t wait till we start out for good. Then I can stand by with machete in hand & watch you discard junk. I have become absolutely calloused now to throwing or giving stuff away. I no longer remember that I once paid money for the thing or that it is still good or that it might be useful. I simply ask, am I going to need it & then usually throw it away. [This is a habit that did not last throughout his life, especially since he could think of ten possible uses for almost anything.] Which all reminds me, that is the reason you’ll see me in my overseas hat. My garrison hat I threw away. I sold the trimmings first.

Well it seems like this is a 4 pg. letter after all. Only as soon as I start I will find that I can’t fill the 4th page.

I read, or looked at, that book of Pete’s too. Too bad we can’t do better in German.

Incidentally, about that remark or suggestion of my returning to college to study. I thot maybe you were becoming a bit worried as to how I did plan to support you. I know when nothing but a vague plan exists it is liable to lose itself after a time & the situation looks just as unsecure to us as to outsiders. Having plenty of time to think I had only to drag out that vague plan and elaborate it according to our present expectant plans for the future and all seemed safe and sound again. At the end of my day dream I set down a list of the occupations possible that still allow us absolutely freedom and also time to till a garden & milk 2 goats. A bit of hunting too. Anyway, fear not me beauty as I always say it’s not the initial cost it’s the upkeep so if we steer clear of a few things that are liable to financial upkeep we will live like kings or something. By things that require upkeep I mean all electrical things, and an automobile. We may have to have a tractor if we can’t rent a pack train or something but that is as far as we go. That doesn’t mean you have to suffer the housekeeping pains that the pioneer women had. You won’t have a mix master or a toast master or vacuum but you won’t do your laundry over a tub and I’m looking forward to making our house keeping as simple as everything else. Our home will be a model of efficiency anyway so there won’t always be jobs waiting to be done. Another thing I’ve got to figure out is our vic. [Victrola] It can’t run on batteries because they have to be replaced. We’ll probably use storage batteries & a water or wind charger but that is the one thorn. If something goes wrong there we have to pay cash. [They actually had electricity from early on in their Colorado home, but returned to the dream of living off the grid many years later in their Patagonia domes.]

Well sweetheart, all I can say is I hope I’m reading this with you. I love you so much & that will last out this damned war but I want you with me. I hope I’ll be seeing you.

Love

Gerry

[The furlough must have come through. The next letter was apparently written on his way back to Camp Hale after saying goodbye to Ann.]

Tues. AM. Feb 24 [1943]

Dear sweetheart,

I don’t know what to write but I do know I won’t have time to write right away when I get back to camp.

At exactly 5:30 yesterday I got back in the groove. Up till then I had all I could do to keep back the tears. Gosh honey, but life looked dismal. I even thought desertion might just be one of those things that only looked impossible. However after looking it over I decided it was a very impractical solution. Anyway, at 5:30 I suddenly remembered I had a job to do for our own future use. I must pursue every course to gather information on our future trips. Immediately everything came back to me as it should. All my fine ideas on the worthwhileness of fighting the war came back and I could again see the light.

If only I could make you see how much I love you. Once I had turned my back on you for 7 or 8 months, nothing seemed fair about it. All I knew was I was going away from the one thing I love most in all the world. It was terrible. I can’t express myself very well when it comes to love but I hope you know what I mean. It just fills me up to the exclusion of all else.

I got into St. Louis just 10 minutes before the Wabash pulled out. I was sure I had missed it because my watch was an hour fast by their time. In Kansas I had 2 hrs & ate supper but when I got back I couldn’t get a note book as I planned so I went down to the train gate 1 hr early & to my surprise there was a veritable mob waiting for it to open. I got up to the head by the time it did open but when I reached the train everyone was coming out of the deluxe coach because it was filled. Unfortunately, the 3 remaining coaches were rather old. Just old enough to have an oil lamp at each end. The electric lights were just dangling down from 2 wires tire taped to the ceiling. The seats were filthy with soot & no one wanted to sit down. It wasn’t at all like an ordinary coach. I think it had wooden sides.

It was in the nick of time that I saved myself from the fate of the crowd. They all kept going forward for better seats but the other cars were worse. As soon as tickets were taken I wondered if the deluxe coach was really full. As a result I found one seat. You should have heard the rumpus when I vacated the antique. That’s what they get for not investigating personally. Oh yes, the backs of the seats wouldn’t stay up either. One fat lady kept falling back in a Lts. lap. My seat would only stay up in one position. Don’t ask me what reclining chairs were doing in that ancient car, I don’t know. It was a tremendous relief to get this nice seat anyway. Such are the hazards of wartime travel.

I’ll write more from Denver after I have been to the recruiting office.

Well darling I don’t see how the human mind can go to such extremes. I have died a thousand deaths since I wrote last. My mind just runs away from me. My heart has been torn out, I know that. It will always be with you, for ever. I am insanely in love with you and despite the fact that the war must be won and quickly I can’t help jump at a chance to be with you. I am torn between the desire to be in action and hurry the war up and the desire to do my part in the security of this country and be with you.

The reason I mention this is because I have just learned that there has been no lowering of requirements for the air force. I have however obtained a sheet on meteorology & it offers a pretty good deal. 14 months of college courses. That’s not hay. The first one is for 6 & the advanced is for 8. I feel that I’m making a bad job of the army with all this changing around but I hate the damned army & am just trying to get the most out of it. If I did get in Meteorology it would probably mean the army of occupation since it takes so long to finish. The solution to that would be to be together while I was studying. It’s a hell of a messy business & I miss my usual plan of action but such a thing is impossible in this man’s army. I will wait a week or so & contact Don Maxwell & see how he is making out. The only drawback to the course is Calculus but I’ll get it if I have to bust a gut trying. I would even go thru the damned course just to be in a college atmosphere once more to say nothing of being with you. My love for you is greater than all the world and it is the only factor in my rationalizing which I want to do. Either I fight so the war seems shorter or I get situated so I can have you while some one else fights. Neither one is right. To fight means I am actually earning the right to live in a free country but to do a job & have you too seems to out weigh it. The whole business is dirty & wrong. The thought of being away from you for 2 or three years is terrifying. When I get in a bad mood I can’t bear the thought that I can’t sleep with you tonite. Thank goodness the moods don’t last all the time. They will get fewer as time goes on and I get back in routine but I am always half with you. I wish I could pay you as great a tribute as George M Cohan paid his wife when he wrote “Mary” for her. I just saw “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and it was a fine picture. If only I could do my part the way he did. There is no sacrifice so great as being torn away from your love, not even death. I will never be sorry no matter when we die if it is together. I’m not contemplating suicide or being careless, but if we died together today I would be content. I mean I love you more than life.

The fight is not over yet sweet heart. We’ll come out on top when it’s all over but until then we are being sadly abused. Our love will rise above all else.

Good nite my darling

love

Gerry

February 26, [1943]

Hello sweetheart,

It’s against my principals to write you so often but I can’t help it. For one thing I got your letter just now. It was so nice to hear from your [big ink blot] again & have you say you love me again. For another thing all I am waiting for is that transcript of my college credit. I have just had the application made out today. I won’t go for a long time but if I am accepted right away I won’t go overseas with the outfit when they go even if I haven’t started the course. Boy I hope I get accepted. If I can stand the academic end of it, it is a swell set up. I guess I would be safe enough as a meteorologist. Also I would see you for 14 months, you can bet on that o.k. Anyway there is no catch in getting out of here. All you have to do is qualify for something else. If I don’t make this I’ll try air force ground crew.

I see by your letter you are on a regular reforming program. I think you were pretty swell the way you were. I hope the changes are for the best. They sound very good. Have you lost 2 lb this month? I like the idea of you repairing archery equipment. You can do it ok but keep it simple. Just stick to the arrows & leave them buy strings or get some one else to do them. They take so much time they aren’t worth it if you are all alone at it. You won’t have much time either I guess. Just get their book by Gordon like we have & practice. Don’t use a fletching tool & use stripped feathers. The only tools you need if they have pre nocked shafts are scissors, feather templates, glue, a flat file, a knife, plenty of fine sandpaper. Paints and shellac & a brush for each color. Use dope & you can just wipe the brushes off like I used to do & resoften them in their own color. If you have to nock the shafts too you’ll need a vise, 2 half thread spools, a copying saw & a flat file the width of the nocks. Get the shafts pre nocked by all means. Good luck sweetheart, let me know your progress.

If I get paid this Tues which I doubt, I’ll get a bond with the money too. If you ever need cash tho you had better tell me. I’ll keep $20 every pay day but by the end of the month I may be low.

Don’t send me anything but eats because I hate to throw anything of yours away & I am down to bare necessities now like I should be.

I can’t help missing you honey. Morning is still my worst time. I have had the most wonderful dreams about you & me and then I wake up & it’s all so horribly far away. Believe me love, you are the only star in my sky. My only prayers are for the end of the war and me in the air force some where.

All I did today was get equipment and sit around the personnel office. I met another old friend there who was first interested in meteorology, we gave each other mutual assistance & things look pretty good. We will both go together when we go. He has a wife too but unlike the other married men here he loves her like I love you. They are college folk too & have kindred thots to ours.

Here comes a subject that has been in my mind all winter. I should have told you while I was there but I forgot. It is about a cycle. Mine of course is doing no one any good. Now that it is spring you need one. Of course you can’t have it till summer quarter since things may change by then but here is the situation. If you want to learn how to ride it & care for it I will write you a book on the subject. There isn’t anything to it except getting used to the position & you will see its advantages when you go right up the hills in the glen and the others have to stand up and strain a gut or two. That is one possibility. The other is that you find a buyer for it and get yourself an old job like I sold to knock about in. The selling price is $40 & not a penny less. That’s only $5 profit. the buying price for your bicycle is $15 & not a penny more. That is a $5 loss. Once you learned to ride it you wouldn’t get much work done on nice weekends I can tell you that. It only takes 1/2 hr to Springfield on the thing. The mechanical end of it is kind of tricky but I think you wouldn’t ruin it beyond repair. The rear brake is hardest to adjust but that is all unless you want more speed in that flat country & then you have to change rear sprockets. It is in perfect working order now. All it needs is to be well taken care off & not abused. I just as soon you had it to experiment with. We can always sell it easier there than back home. You have plenty of time to think it over. I just didn’t want you to think I was hoarding the thing. I’d say take it now but there is no telling where we might be in a month or two so summer will be safer.

I hope I’ll be going on hikes with the boys next week. I’ll let you know all about it darling.

You know I love you more & more each day. It seems terrible now but think how wonderful it will be when Gerry comes marching home again.

Love to you & loads of it

Gerry

I love you Ann.

 

One response to “February 1943, Camp Hale, Colorado

  1. tommy campione

    January 2, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    very interesting. these letters give me some insight as to what life was like at camp hale during wwii. My dad was there at this exact same time. he was in the 1st cav 99th fa during this time and ship out in march to go to fort bliss. the funny part is we are from upstate ny as well little falls ny 1/2 hour away from utica i believe i haVE A FEW OLD PICS that were done by cunningham studios.

     

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