January 1943, Camp Hale, Colorado
The first letter shows that like many soldiers, both drafted and volunteer, Gerry didn’t find the Army living up to his expectations. Gerry’s vision of spending the war skiing and climbing were soon dashed.
Jan 12, 1943
I don’t know how I can write you a letter when I have absolutely nothing to tell you except how much I love you. I’ve put this off so long waiting for another letter to answer but oh! this mail. Tom Gawlay [?] wrote me from camp here & it was 4 days before I got the letter. Can you tell me what they do with the things? I’ll be glad when I get to a civilized base. A furlough is still possible if I’m still in Co I when I get out. If not I’ve got to start on a transfer right away. I just discovered it is against regulations to do any climbing whatsoever. This is not the place for me sweetheart. I’ve got to do something constructive. I’d like just one instructor who wouldn’t change his mind (?) every other day. If I can’t see you first I’ll write you a long letter about the 87th so you’ll understand why I don’t want to get stuck with service here. I only hope I can still get out.
Speaking of mail, I finally got your package. It took about 2 wks. and was dropped from a height of 200 ft. & then set on a radiator for 2 days. Result: I salvaged the raisins. The rest was kind of welded together. The raisins are very good tho. I thot of another book I’d like too. Naked Mt. by Elizabeth Knowlton. I want to travel thru the valley of the Kashmir again instead of the leech infested jungles of Sikkim. The Karakorams I think are sadly neglected in literature. Except for Nanga Porbot & K2 no body seems to climb there. I would like to see the eastern Himalays too but those darned leeches are enough to discourage me right away. Besides the villages aren’t quite as romantic or clean as those in the Karakorams. [This was the first of many requests for books. More than sixty years later their bookshelves still contained two books from this era: The Ascent of Nanda Devi by H. W. Tilman, marked with a bookplate indicating it belonged to Dick DeWitt and Nanga Parbat Adventure by Fritz Bechtold.]
Some day we’ll have to find another couple like us & go first to New Zealand & then to the Karakorams.
Next time we go teepeeing I suggest we limit our climbing to what can safely be done with one 75 ft. rope. That eliminates about 10 lb of pitons hammer rope & carabiners. I got to thinking we had as much fun climbing in our haphazard way the last time as we would have if we had spent hours with pitons & stuff. The most fun is pushing rocks down anyway.
Well I’ve put this off now until I did get another letter. This one only took 8 days from Antioch. How can you carry on a correspondence when it takes 16 days for a round trip? …
Your waiting husband, Jerry
Camp Hale, built at 9000 feet above sea level, an altitude to which few were accustomed, in a poorly drained valley that trapped the coal smoke from the camp and the trains that served it, was not a healthy place. Gerry had contracted scarlet fever before Christmas and was still in the hospital three weeks later.
Jan 13, 1943
I actually got a letter from you in 4 days. I wish they would all come like that. Yes, I’m still in the clink & maybe if I stay in long enough I’ll get a sick leave. I don’t care now when I get out. I’m waiting for my ear to heal. It doesn’t hurt most of the time but I can’t hear out of it.
Our dear Gen. Rolfe who is responsible for camp Hale is on the spot but good. You would think a Mt. camp would be healthy but we have 12% of our men in the hospital. If you climb up the valley wall you can see the soft coal smoke but you can hardly see the camp under it. What is more we are built on a lake that flooded 12 ft. every spring & so they used 6 ft of fill. It will be interesting to see what happens to that extra 6 ft of H2O this spring. Frankly I will be glad to leave here, even tho they have opened 2 more PX’s & a theater & a service club. Ft. Lewis is a dream & so is the dear old Olympia USO. At least air fields are usually near cities.
I finished the last of your raisins up yesterday & that is the end of my Xmas food.
I knew you would ask me sometime if I minded you going out with Antiochians. [Newlywed but on her own again, Ann soon returned to Antioch College, where they had both been enrolled the previous year. Gerry’s first co-op job had been at teaching skiing at North Country School in Lake Placid, NY for Walt and Leo Clark.] I have nothing to say on the subject except I wouldn’t have married you if I didn’t think you could take care of yourself while I was in the army. The fact that they are friends of mine doesn’t mean anything. You’re on your own entirely. For heavens sake take it easy on Pete [Hurst] tho. That poor guy thinks you’re as much of a prize as I do & was quite disappointed when he found we were engaged. Of course he is a perfect gentleman but don’t blame me if he gets glassy eyed. Besides I have great plans for Pete. I expect him to get married if he can ever find anyone faintly resembling you & then we will have company for our New Zealand & Korakoram wanderings. I have my heart set on that so if my little wife upsets the apple cart thru her indiscretion I will commence to bop her on the beezer with gusto. Just don’t tempt the guy, he’s only human you know. [Though the world tour never happened, Pete did find a wonderful wife, and he and Lannie were lifelong friends to Ann and Gerry.]
While laying here dreaming as I often do I put together a tentative plan on what to do after the war. first of all a nice long vacation is our teepee to perfect our camping technique and incidentally to make up for about 2 years lost time. Wow!!!——-Then I decided the best way to tour various promising sections of the country was by cycle, with an arrangement so we could hike off a few days on foot when we come to a likely looking spot. Details of equipment all worked out at the expense of a whole day. I’ll have to put them down on paper because some of the ideas are pretty slick. Believe it or not you have to travel lighter on cycle than on foot. Anyway the Sierras by Yosemite, the Colo Rockies by Estes Park & the Wind River range in Wyoming & up around Olympia just for fun, are all the places that need a going over. We’ll have 2 1/2 mo each spring & fall to do this. Heaven only knows where the dough comes from. After that we should kind of decide on a place or places & then we can spend a strech in each permantly in the teepee.
Somewhere in her comes our trip abroad to see the world & then we should be ready to settle down in our chosen spot & commune with nature (do I make myself clear?) Of course there may come times when I have to spend a whole year working at some legitimate job just to fill the coffers but we’ll make those few & far between. You poor kid what a life you’re in for. Oh! yes we’ll have to spend winters in the east till I get an American School shield from Otto. I might secretly hope that some one like Dick DeWitt would throw another biut of adventure our way too before we get settled. Alas what beautiful dreams. There isn’t a hint of security in them either. Boy will we have fun.
Say if you went skiing it must have stopped raining like it was in your first letter. The weather here is to perfect. We had so much sun the snow all evaporated. Your room mates seem to have changed since your last letter too. The food sounds marvelous after what I’m getting here. I was afraid Morgan Coop might take a drop in the food situation.
It seems I can write a long letter without doing anything all day. Anyway keep me informed on Antioch and especially you. I love you darling and I’ll never be entirely happy till we’re together again for good. Some day I’ll have a furlough tho & I’ll really enjoy 2 weeks with my wife.
Good nite sweetheart mine,
P.S. I think you’re wonderful
[Somehow a few letters Gerry wrote to his parents survived among his letters to Ann. His father, Art Cunningham, was a pioneer in photofinishing and owned Cunningham Studios in Utica, New York.]
Jan 13, 1943
Mail service is picking up your last letter only took 8 days. I did get one from Ann tho in 4 days. Wonder how that happened?
Well I’m still an invalid, waiting for my ear to heal. It doesn’t ache only occasionally but I can’t hear out of it. If I have to stay her long enough maybe I can get a sick leave but it’s no go now. I’m afraid I don’t get to see you & Ann for quite a while.
Of course I’d like to be at Antioch too but not studying engineering. There is a chance I may have to take some engineering in order to be an officer in the air corps but the only reason I’d do it is because I’d rather study that than tactics & Co. management etc. One reason I want in the air corps is because the infantry has absolutely nothing to offer of post war value & the air corps has. [One of the few avocations of his youth that didn’t carry over into his adult life was aviation. When he was in high school earning money making enlargements for his father’s photography studio and from selling his outdoor equipment inventions he spent much of it on flying lessons, a fact he hid from his parents until it was time for his first solo flight. Had he succeeded in transferring to the air corps, this activity might not have gone by the wayside. It did, however, get passed down in some form. Besides flying he also made model airplanes. Both his sons took up this hobby, passing it on in turn to their young cousin, Gib Hochstrasser. Gib far surpassed his Uncle Gerry in his love of aviation, and Gerry and Ann gave him his first flying experience on United Airlines.]
I finished off my last box of food yesterday. However I still have my books & will keep them. The army does crazy things & one is to allow me to take out the books & everything else without sterilizing. At present I believe Camp Hale is the most unhealthy camp in the army. We have 12% in the hospital which is scandalous. If you climb a hill you can see why. The soft coal smoke hangs like a blanket over the camp. The place is built on a filled in lake that used to flood 12 ft. in spring & they used 6 ft. of fill. It will be interesting to say the least when spring comes. There is talk of condemning the camp but I think that’s a rumor. General Rolfe is on the spot tho since he is responsible. Frankly I’ll be glad to get out of here. At least air fields are near cities.
Speaking of cities, I’m going to Denver by bus only $14 [?] round trip. Leave 6:30 Fri nite & get back 6:30 Sun nite or 6:30 Mon morning only that bus is always late.
Gee that pic case that Grandma gave me is the nuts. I have it full of minicolors [?] & regular prints & it sure helps me dream. Gosh I hope it doesn’t take more than 2 more years.
I’m glad Tunie [?] is trying for the Waves instead of the Wacs. She’ll be with a much nicer bunch I’ll bet.
If you went skiing you must have more snow than we have now. We did have a bit but the weather here is too perfect & the sun has evaporated it. Because of the weather I’ll bet Colo is where Ann & I end up but not this part. We have a lot of playing to do first anyway. I wish I could travel here like I did up at Ft. Lewis because I know the real Mts are close by. You can see them when you climb out of the valley a ways. Ft. Lewis seems like a dream now with cities so close you could go to the Olympia USO for the evening if you felt like it & it was such a nice USO.
I hear they have a few more PX’s now & a theater & a service club has opened. Sounds like it is almost getting civilized here. I’ll bet I stay here for 3 months yet even if my transfer starts going right away and I’m not at all sure it will be easy to get out of here. I’ll have something to work on anyway. If only they don’t start shipping us out before I get out. They have already sent some of our pack artillery to Australia. How they expect to train a full Div. when they keep sending them away I don’t know. This is a crazy outfit.
Gerry [It was during these years that Jerry changed the spelling of his name so that his initials would match.]
Like current members of the 10th Mountain Division and their wives, finances were often a problem. Technology has greatly improved communication though, with e-mail and Webcams.
Jan 15, 1943
It breaks my heart to say it but this is my last letter to you unless I can get some one to go to the P.X.–no stamps, no paper, no envelopes, no ink. I wasn’t prepared for quite such a long sojourn. The longer it gets the better are my chances for a sick leave. I have already asked for one but was just an ordinary scarlet fever patient so the doc said no. That is the sick leave situation. A sick leave is for 10 days. As for furlougs–Co. I was the only Co. giving them to guys with less than 6 mo. That means I hope I’m still in Co. I. I did hear a rumor that winter training had begun & no more furloughs till spring. In short, I am all mixed up. Sick leave looks like the best bet but a furlough is for 15 days. I haven’t given up but you can see it’s nothing to plan on. I only hope I can send you a telegram some day saying I’ll see you tomorrow nite. It will be as quick as that because I wouldn’t dare wire till I got at least as far as Denver just to make sure.
Well yesterday I got a bunch of 9 letters including one from you that you wrote before the one I had already answered. Today I got another one that only took 4 days. They’re improving. I was also surprised to get a letter or note from Mrs. Clark of Lake Placid on ans. to my Xmas card & note. It was a very good surprise because I hope to get us employed there [North Country School] for a few seasons and I didn’t really expect an answer to my note….
Your financial status sounds kind of shaky only because of that Feb 10 note. You see I didn’t get the certificate till I was in here & I can’t have any visitors so I can’t transact any business. Therefore I am not sure you will get those allotment checks by Feb 10. I’ll send you about $50 if I can when I get out. I wish they hadn’t crossed me up at Camp Upton & you’d be getting those checks. Keep me informed on how you handle the situation.
Your schedule sounds good except for that Lit course. I suppose it’s required but I agree with you. I’d like to read your physics paper if possible. I’m surprised but glad you took Physics. I hope it’s a good course, Physics is mostly common sense & it will help you in a lot of ways.
Well if you have just 2 years at school & the war only lasts 1 1/2 years as I hope than maybe I can be back with you for awhile….
Maybe you think I haven’t thot of Wright Field. That would be heaven for a number of reasons & I think I belong there but I have yet to see a man put where he belongs in the army. That is no joke.
Anyway my dear wife if the 87th was or could be like I pictured it it might be the kind of life I like except I find to my amazement that you & the mts are so tied up together that they leave me cold except when I see them in terms of you & I. Besides the 87th is not what you think it is. It’s the same great army that is fighting for our country but I’m ashamed to admit that the training we have received & are likely to continue to receive is a scandal. Here is an example.
The >A is the angle of elevation of a mortar in order to drop a shell at 700 yds on target B. The shell follows the [dotted line]. that’s ok for level ground but we will rarely be firing level. Now target C is also 700 yd away & it is obvious that since it is up hill the shell will fall way short if the same angle is used. The tables we have say 700 yd such & such an angle & our officers refuse to admit that elevation has anything to do with the angle as long as the target is 700 yds away. If it was 700 yds straight up they’d use the same angle. [One of the unusual aspects of the early years of the 10th Mountain Division was that the enlisted men, having been recruited from college and university ski clubs, were often better educated than their officers. It was a common sight to see the privates playing chess in their free time, while the officers played poker.]
Well I can’t stand ignorance especially in an instructor. A group went out at nite to “find north.” The big dipper was hidden so the officer conveniently picked 2 other stars as pointers & showed them what was supposed to be the north star.
It’s just all these things adding up that makes me want to get into something solid. I don’t necessarily have to go across. Even if I got stuck on training planes some place at least it’s a branch of the service where mistakes mean death so they train you properly. Mistakes here mean death too to the poor guys who have to fight with that misinformation but that is beyond the nose of the army so they can’t see it.
If I can get a transfere, which is possible, all I can do is try & get in & help clean up the place. For one thing no one should be allowed in here without getting basic training someplace where they are qualified to give it.
My but your last letter was a nice fat one. I’m sorry you are so lonesome tho. Boy if I could only get out there just once. I would feel so much more like applying myself to my work or would I? It’s just the darn possibility of a furlough. When I get out if I find definitely that it’s no go I’ll probably feel better about it than I do now. After all it’s only been 3 1/2 months.
the only reason my hand writing looks shaky is because I can’t write in bed very well. I feel fine. My ear hurts a little now & then but it doesn’t seem to get better & when I squawk the nurse just says to let nature take its course so here I lay. I don’t mind tho. I’m used to it & it’s pleasant enough. I don’t know why I’m still in a private room but I’m not complaining. In fact a little soft soap keeps me supplied with a lot of little luxuries. The ward boys give me extra milk & the nurse gives me 2 pillows. If only I can soft soap a leave.
I hope you’re straight on the furlough situation now. What by the way are you using for ski poles? Gee do I ever wish I was with you. Here I am in the Rockies but your skiing sounds so much nicer than what I have done here. I guess this was a good year to have your skis at school. You’ll have lots more snow.
If you’re going skiing so much you might write mother for my book on skiing by Otto. I think it’s in my desk. It’s the kind you take right out with you & read & ski. Those hills on the way to Galloway were my favorites too.
Gee write some more 4 page letters about what you are doing. Everything is interesting.
I know Pete plays beautifully & I wish you did too, partly because It’s something I wish I could do. I could on the violin but a piano is different, it’s universal. Right where you are now is the place to do it. All you have to do is not be afraid to play at every piano you come across. Pete used to play for about 5 min after he ate at Morgan when I was there. You just have to keep at it & get away from only being able to play by music. It isn’t memorization really you just know the piece & play it like you would hum or whistle it. It would make me very happy to buy you a piano some day if you could play like Pete.
I got the minicolor & your mother’s letter & have sent her a letter.
I don’t believe I’ve asked you before but I ask everyone else I write & that is to pray for an early victory. Only victory will bring happiness again & when people write they are praying it makes me feel good. I haven’t been in any fighting yet but I get to thinking of those boys that have been & you & me and I begin to see God is the only definite thing in the army. Good nite my love.
January 18, 1943
The opening of your last letter sure surprised me as I have written quite frequently for a spell. I don’t ever remember not writing for 6 days. I sure hope you got those letters soon after. I am bound & determined to get out of here & into some civilized camp. This camp has been condemned according to rumor but will not be abandoned.
I’m back in the ward now and in talking to newcomers I find that it will be very hard to transfer because almost everyone in camp has applied and for fear of loosing all the men, which is just the point, they are getting tough. I can see their point too, I never wanted out of such a place so much in my life. It is obvious from the outside this looks like paradise, I know because we read about ourselves in N.Y. & Denver papers. Even the Columbus O. paper gave us a write up. After all they have to fill up just 2 more regiments. Well they aren’t going to have me.
I am staying in the hospital now as long as possible. I am sure my ear will never get better by itself like they say so that is good for 7 weeks. And then I begin squawking for medical attention. That should put me beyond the realm of any mere scarlet fever victim & I’ll chisel some sort of time out of them. It may be only 6 or 7 days which means a meeting in Kansas City because I’ve got to see you on something more important than a transfer as a mech. It’s my second choice of Navigator. It’s the same grade & pay as a pilot & the same risks. Sounds bad doesn’t it? That’s why I want to see you. I must be a God damned patriot but it’s just like sitting around watching some one drown. If you can help you don’t sit. Don’t be worried about it because I won’t do it without your consent which obviously needs a personal discussion. One of our Captains made the prediction we would be over seas in months. Boy what a death trap I’m in. The ski troops some of our men just trained in Wisconsin are now in Africa. I’ll get out some how.
I have maliciously made up my mind not to tell you if I get a leave. I wouldn’t wire until I got to Denver anyway cause if I wired from here just as I walked out the gate the MP would say “Oh! Cunningham? Yes, you’re to report back to Co headquarters. Of course if I had time in Denver I’d have to wire, but it would have been a nice surprise. I’ll have to wire Mom & Pop anyway & if I do I’ll have ’em bring my skis.
I couldn’t get sent back to Antioch even if it were chosen as one of the colleges because it stipulates that no choice in college is allowed. Besides we would be so happy & it would be built on the shakiest foundation possible–the will of the US army….
How am I fixed for cash? Welllll—-If I collect my back pay which I presume is awaiting me I have close to $100 & If I am in here 2 more weeks I’ll have $120. If I get a leave, that will be our joint Xmas present to us since I won’t be able to afford what I was going to get you. In any case I’ll send you the surplus.
This seems to be developing into another 4 pager. You fill yours up with sweet “I love you’s” but I can never seem to get so much love in mine. I fill up with what I think, I guess, & I do plenty of it now. Anyway remember dear you are at the root of all my thoughts.
Thanks for the air mail stickers but please rush some air mail stamps. I am using next to the last now & it is impossible to get any more in here. I may have to send some letters regular.
Do you know our life is going to be one of sacrifice. Look at this list:
climbing, skiing, cycling, archery, photography, music. Well we certainly can’t carry on with all those at once & devote ourselves to them but I imagine we will find time for them from time to time. I’d say the top 3 are congruent but the bottom 3 will have to wait their turn. Personally I’m getting on swell now without photography.
Oh well just dreams of an after world. I’ll have no need at all for pictures when I’m with you & we go see the beautiful places in the world. I love you honey & pray we’ll be together soon forever.
Love & kisses
P.S. Tell Pete I got his letter & that I have scarlet fever & not measles. Also tell him a 2nd Lieutenant doesn’t run anything. You might also tell him about the 87th & he’s damned right there is something rotten here. If I ever get there the 3 of us will sit over a soda & I’ll give you both all the dope. I still advise him to stay in school.
January 20, 1943
I have more faith in your correspondence since you seem to be writing entirely on your own although I can’t understand why you haven’t gotten my letters. I wrote 3 or 4 last week & now this week is almost gone.
I’m going all out for a leave now because I’ve got to see you. I have gotten no encouragement but next week I’m going to make another attempt. I don’t know what I’ll do yet if I can’t get out there. I know I’m getting out of the 87th as soon as possible.
I have just 6 sheets of paper left here & I’d like to write them all to you but I can’t think of anything to say. There is only one thing on my mind besides you and I promised not to mention it till we were together. So I’m barren.
Gee I love you Ann. I have another very logical set up for a leave & while it may only net 6 days I’m coming. If only I could see you & love you once more & we could get all straightened out on where I’m going & why. Every nite I dream of dropping in on you for a while & how surprised you’d be & how happy we’d be. I’ve figured out lots of ways of telling you I’d be there. All with a bit of mystery. That comes from reading too many mystery stories.
Last nite I dreamed I had a week with you on my way to the air force & in the station on the way back I saw Pete on his way to Hale.
All day long I spend asking myself if I want to risk my life & just what the odds are & all nite I dream & think about coming to Antioch & being with you & seeing old friends.
If I only get 6 days & we can afford it I’ll fly from Denver to Dayton. Gee if only it pans out.
I hope you won’t be sorry you married such an adventuresome soul. I’m coming to Antioch for 2 reasons. One is to see you & give you all the love I’ve been wanting to for 4 months. The second reason, you may as well know, is for you to let me be a navigator. I guess you’d call it reverting to type. It’s not the most dangerous but it is the most romantic & exciting job I’m qualified for.
I got us married by letters but I doubt if I can make you see how I feel about fighting. I’ve got to give it to you personally.
It’s funny the 87th turned out this way but I can’t conceive of myself liking it even at its best. I’ve got you & the mountains all tied together I guess & I don’t even think of one without the other. It would seem like a sacrilege to see an army marching up the Hudson River. That’s the way it would seem in any beautiful country.
Gosh I don’t see how I can fill 6 sheets at this rate at this rate.
I don’t do anything all day & I told you what I think about. The only discussions we have are on how much we hate the 87th & Camp Hale. It’s quite a situation. It’s an awfully dull existence. I can’t even fill up this page. I’ll have to do exciting things so I’ll be able to write you a decent letter.
I’m sorry darling but this is all there is.
You just keep on loving me & praying I’ll get a leave & maybe I will. I want to see you & hold you & kiss you more than anything. Some day we’ll have those things forever.
All my love
January 23, 1943
Here for a change is a nice letter with ink and good stationery. I got your typewritten letter today and I can’t understand why you have only gotten one of my letters. This one isn’t going air mail & I wish you would check dates & tell me how long this & the others have taken. Don’t check post marks but the inside date. I suspect the hospital is the culprit. I seem to remember periods of lying in bed waiting for a letter from you for days on end so don’t take the delay too hard whatever its cause….
Oh, yes as to my condition. I feel fine except about once a day & I get a mild earache. The trouble is I can’t hear out of my left ear & I’ll never pass an air force physical like that. Next week is my 7th so I’m giving the Doc both barrels. I’ve been waiting for this 7th week. I’m putting everything I’ve got into it & I hope to come out with permission to leave before my ear heals completely or have some thing done to fix it up immediately and at least a 7 day furlough. What I get heaven only knows & if I get the leave it will be God’s doing & not mine.
I learned another bewildering fact about this illustrious camp. Remember I told you of the spring flood situation? Well there is also a nice 20 ft dam farther up the valley with a mile of lake behind it. It’s made of mud & has 2 guards on it all day to tell us when to hold our noses. I read an article in a N.Y. paper about us. No wonder the poor recruits are bewildered when they arrive here. Any resemblance between truth & promise is purely coincidental….
I’m afraid the $18 is a loss. I paid the last 4 wks of Morgan before I left & had a hard time finding someone to take it. I got a receipt but as I remember it was not from the receipt book although you should look & see if there isn’t a copy there. Anyway I cleaned out my bill fold before I came in the army so I haven’t my copy. Pay it if you have to but it’s so much more for you if you can prove I paid it. I’ll send the money as soon as I get out. Here is the receipt for our books. You can get back the ones not sold….
All my love sweetheart,
This won’t leave the hospital till Monday the 25th
January 25, 1943
I’m afraid this won’t be such a long letter since I just wrote you day before yesterday. Incidentally any long wait you have for letters is brought on by you since I answer your letters the day or the day after I get them. I should wait till tomorrow for this. I got 2 letters from you today but tomorrow I shoot the works and if all goes well (it won’t) I’ll be there before this letter. I’m not giving up, but the odds are overwhelmingly against me not according to logic but according to the army. I need the leave for 2 reasons. One, to explain to you & make you understand why a guy will risk his life for his country and two, to get rested & back in condition so I can pass the air force physical & that includes seeing a civilian doc about my ear. All my doc can see tho is that I want a vacation & he is to protect the army from unscrupulous gold bricks like me. It makes me mad. I only hope he proves me wrong.
If I do get out there maybe I’ll have time to shorten your ski poles. They are much too long. Gosh it’s so beautiful out now. I’d love to be skiing with you my love, but not with the army. We can’t ski here yet anyway until we get some more snow.
There is no set up possible to keep me in the 87th or 86th. Some people including Pete’s brother seem to like it. I don’t know any more about Don than you do. I left him weeks ago in ward 32. At that time he was in Co I also but didn’t know when he’d be out. He was on a no fat diet but what fats did to him I don’t know….
Since you can’t send me any stamps I hope these letters make some sort of decent time. Thanks for the razor blade tho. One at a time is faster than I use them up anyway. Don’t worry, if there is any chance of a leave I’ll bring the money in person. I’ll only send the surplus when I know there is no hope.
Listen any newspaper articles about us have no resemblance to actual conditions here. I have seen quite a few & I know. Those boys in the picture are probably the only ones in camp who have skied for the army this year….
Gee I don’t like to hear about you crying but I know what you mean & I’m glad it’s about me. I do my share too. Say! You had better feel married. At least I should say act married & feel in love. If I by chance sometime actually get a 15 day furlough it will almost double the time we have really been married. We’ll never lead a normal life until we win this war.
I am getting bored stiff with hospital life so I’m afraid this letter won’t be as gay as my previous ones. When I get out & doing something again they’ll be longer again. I either have to have thots or actually do something to write about.
I hope you could develop as good a philosophy to put your mind at rest about me being away & fighting a war. I agree with your individual society and am all against people trying to enforce their ideas on others no matter how good they think they are. No one would object to Communism or Facism or anything else even cannibalism if they weren’t carried beyond the boundaries assigned to them. Every man to his own poison would be the word. I’m afraid personally that it will never be like that because that leaves room for some one like Hitler to come along & begin to enforce his ideas on the rest of the world. In order to be permanent it will take an educational program of gigantic scope & for hundreds of years to establish a common language, common customs & ideals and an equal standard of living (not individually but the same world wide average). Then with all the peoples thinking more or less the same it will be possible to elect a world president & governing body. As long as there is more than one country sooner or later there will be friction. A world democracy requires much greater effort to build it but its upkeep would be fairly small. We have only had 1 civil war in over 100 years. The more countries the easier it is to arrange but it is obvious what the price of peace is. I don’t quite know I got to planning the peace from your philosophy but there it is & here I am….
What do you mean if I get there the weekend of the Div Dance you would take 2 fellows. I’m a jealous husband. We have a lot of lost time to make up. I’ve been remembering our early romance lately. Remember the Romeo & Juliet Overture. I heard it a while back & it brought back memories of our first kiss. Then the time you up & ran away. I also remember the first date after you were out with Stuby & I tried to kiss you….
Ohhhh!! sweetheart how I’d love a furlough right now. However there will be other opportunities & all I can do is try them all until I finally get one & then the love will fly.
I love you more than all the world & if I don’t see you I’ll write you the longest most sincere letter that will show you beyond a doubt why I’m going to be a navigator, or more correctly why I have got to fight. The choice of navigator is the easiest part to explain. It means a commission & it’s relatively safe.
All my love darling,
January 27, 1943
Oh, darling, hold your breath, cross your fingers and pray pray pray. The doc has sent in my sick leave & if it’s approved & nothing goes wrong I’ll get 2 weeks & traveling time. I’ll know in a week & then I’ll be winging my way to you. If it falls thru, well, I’ll try again sometime. At any rate my ear is making sounds (gurgle gurgle) for the first time & I’m getting all kinds of attention so this should be my last week I hope I hope.
All I do is dream of coming out and surprising you. It will happen awfully quick because between hospital & train they give you only enough time to get packed. Gosh it will be wonderful if it only happens. I would feel better if more leaves were being granted but the general rule is to refuse them. I just hope mine is an exception.
I got a map of Europe & Asia with a Nat. Geographic and in looking it over I found a delightful route on good roads from India to the eastern end of the Mediterranean. It should be a good cycle route & it goes from Srinagar which is a city close to Nanga Parbat thru the Khyber Pass & [a few misspellings crossed out] Afghanistan (hurro NUTS!!!) then across Iran (Persia) (Boy can I spell) to Baghdad. The last 400 miles are across desert I’m afraid & we end up at Lebanon. It should take about a month. From Lebanon we go to Genoa & cycle to Switzerland where we can indulge in a little more climbing & then cycle down the Rhine valley to Amsterdam & then home (not cycling). That completes a tour of the world which should start & end the first of November. If we leave in Nov. for New Zealand we get there for the summer. Then we leave there for India to get to the Karakorams just before the passes are free of snow. That gives us about 3 months to tramp around & get out before the monsoon starts. If I remember correctly it doesn’t mean so much in that end of the Himalayas but if it doesn’t so much the better because we won’t have to cycle in the rain. Also it might give us a chance to get in to see Nanda Devi, a trip I would like to take if it isn’t besieged by leeches. I must reread the journey in & see if any mention is made of leeches. It is quite a ways west of Bhutan & Sikhim where they are most prevalent. Anyway after that all we have to worry about is to get down the Rhine before it’s too cold. Oh it’s a long ways in the future but it’s nice to dream of traveling like that. We should be expert cyclists by that time & really travel with ease. The first thing we have to do is win the war & the right to travel as we please.
This is terrible. I am all out of thoughts and a page & 1/2 to go.
I got your quick note today. Gosh I hope Bob Pieh doesn’t get called. He should stay home & take care of Vi & Gerry. I hate to think of guys away from their families like that because I know how hard it is. He once intended to join the 87th if he was called. I don’t know if he still harbors such a thot but please warn him. Outside of a sick leave getting out of this outfit is my biggest most important job. I’m going to work on that till I get out. The process is easy enough but it is so easy for somebody to sabotage your efforts. Once you can get the application to Omaha it is out of your officer’s hands but if you go thru regular channels your Capt. has 2 opportunities to put them in file 13 (the waste basket). I have been told a way to get the blanks without his knowledge so I can fill them out & mail them myself. The first he hears about it is an order to give me train fare & meal money to Denver for a physical & if I pass this I’m sent for in about a month. The only trouble is it all takes too long. I would like to start things going before I get my leave (if) but that is impossible. I’ll be lucky if I can get the allotments straightened out before my train leaves….
Gee I love you sweetheart. I’ll spend the next 6 nites praying I get leave & the next six days worrying…. When I’m not working to be with you I’ll be working to end the war quick so I can come home for ever.
Sweet dreams darling,
January 31, 1943
[on Camp Hale stationery. “Hale” is changed to “Hell”]
I should have faith & not write this since I’ll get there first but I have to have something to do. Thanks for the air mail stamps. If the regular letters come as fast tho let me know and I’ll save the stamps for future use.
If Pete gets in the army he will be put in the 87th if he so much as mentions that he is a climber & skier. He had better pick something else and insist on being qualified as that. Once the qualifications are down on the card it follows you always. I hope I can see him next week & explain to you both what’s wrong here.
We have a lot of measles here too & I only hope I don’t catch them. If you get this letter before I show up the chances are I won’t show up at all & the next letter will explain why. I’m going to have some job when I finally get back to my company which ever it is. Heaven only knows where all my stuff has gone to. I left it all supposedly for 2 or 3 days & in a great hurry & then all my surrounding friends were whisked away & it’s been 7 weeks now. The only thing I worry about is my nice little suitcase. Also I’ve missed 2 pay days & if they haven’t been taking out the allotments & my pay is in the office the allotments are lost & then if I transfer you’ll get about 4 allotments for 10 months service. Oh boy I’ll have plenty to do.
I love the 4th paragraph of your letter. I will come back to Antioch for as long as you are there but will you please tell me what in hell I would study, who would pay for it and what you would be doing for 2 years & what good it would do. Since I learned to read a book I wouldn’t think of going back to school, not because I can do as well by myself but it’s more fun. The only reason I even consider it in the army is because I have been drafted for a job I don’t like & that has to be done. If I ever turn to navigating to earn a few extra $ or our passage to N. Z. or India it will not be because I planned it that way. Old man Hitler did it. I don’t doubt it will come in handy. That’s one reason I don’t want to just be a dough boy but except for this war, under no circumstances would I return to any form of formal education. I’ll love to go back to Antioch & I hope we’ll always be able to go back in person instead of joining a dumb Alumni association but I’ll never darken their classrooms again. There is absolutely no chance of me returning to Antioch or any other college after the war to learn any profession except mountaineering and skiing. If we can’t live off of the land like we planned to we have made a big mistake. I hope you won’t ever bring the subject up seriously again.
It sounds like Pete is in love. Would he put so much in a lecture & still walk home with the girl if not? Does she look like the kind of a girl that could climb on ice & snow & cycle across deserts? If not break it up. The real reason I think we need Pete so bad on our world cruise is because he speaks so many languages. At least Eng. Fr. & GR. & some Itl. I can’t quite picture us going thru all those countries alone & not coming out the worse for wear. In fact it would be much more fun with 4. I reread Nanda Devi & found that the leeches weren’t too bad so we should go in & take a peek at that too. Gee there is so much to see & do I wish we could get going now. The war is going pretty good & it is possible it will be over in fairly short order but there still is the army of occupation & we are supposedly in for the duration of the emergency plus 6 months so it can’t end too soon for me. What I need most right now is a sick leave. My ear is almost well now that they started treating it. They could have done the same thing weeks ago but I’m glad they didn’t if I get a leave.
Bob’s Combatants course is going to disillusion the boys when they get in. I haven’t seen or heard of anything that tough in the army yet. It’s a good thing tho. They should train ’em like that for 4 months & then send them across & not have so many just sitting around. By the time they sail they are all stale.
The mountain troops, the toughest in the army, don’t do anything but sit on their cans with a few 15 mile hikes thrown in. I don’t think they have been out over nite yet. Oh well we really are the toughest. We have to be to survive in this camp.
Oh sweetheart I pray I reach you before this letter does. If not I’ll have a lot of explaining to do pretty soon & it would be so much easier in person.