March 1943, Camp Hale, Colorado
[The trouble with furloughs is that once you have been together again for such a brief time it can be even harder to leave each other again. The following letter has been edited to give just a taste of the struggle Dad experienced in returning to Camp Hale.]
March 1, 1943
My darling wife,
It’s funny, but before my furlough I didn’t know how to say I love you. I could tell you I did but it didn’t seem to swell in me as it does now. The only possible relief I can get is to put you from out of my mind. Can you take the reflection from a mirror? If you do there is no more mirror. I can no more take the thoughts of you from my mind. The most important part of my life is you and hence dreams. I can not devote my mind to anything else so long as it strives to fill your empty place in me. I’m afraid until you can actively take your place beside me I will not accomplish anything worth while except as it pertains to you. You are the only star in my universe. I am living only to be able to live with you when peace comes. Don’t read these inadequate words my darling, just read what I’m thinking when I write them. Feel the lump in your throat too & the tears in your eyes.
If you only hurry and send me my transcript of college credit new horizons would open for us. A glimpse into the possible future–14 months together at least week ends & probably nites, the army of occupation & since the war will be over it will be perfectly safe for a man and his wife to live together. They are only ideas but who knows what will come of them. The least we can hope for is week ends for 14 months starting before summer.
Speaking of hurrying things along, for heaven sake send for my books from any place so long as I get them. The quicker the better.
You poor overworked student. I too had trouble with electricity in Physics. When I get in Meteorology tho I will devote myself to Calculus and Physics. I will pass them some how. I won’t be flying when I’m thru but it will be an air corps job.
I saw Random Harvest tonite & will see The Moon is Down Wed nite. Most of the evenings I spend in the service club which is getting rich because I eat so much.
I had my first afternoon GI skiing this afternoon. It isn’t real skiing but I can think of worse things to do. It was quite enough for one day. I can ski with the best of them & thank goodness we ski with packs on. We rode the rope tow by camp here. It is fun to be out with the boys again but it is all so hopeless. We may be gone by summer but if I’m accepted in Meteorology I won’t go with them so here is hoping.
Love & lots of it
March 6, 1943
I am a bit late in answering one of your letters but that can not be helped. Last Wed. we went out for 11½ hrs with a 40 lb pack & climbed up & down 2500 ft. on skis. I was very much surprised and pleased at the skiing the boys did. It was the most difficult bushwhacking thru the woods down a genuine mountain. It was very nice moving thru the woods in single file with other companies on either side so you could just see them thru the trees. The day was perfect. We had some wonderful open slopes too with about 7 in. of powder over a hard base. I really am at my best skiing like that, woods & pack & all. I didn’t fall once & I’m sure there weren’t more than a half dozen from the whole battalion with that record. There were 3 broken legs to mar the day but it was really surprising, the quality of the men & skiing. The next day we went out on problems in squads. The first time I went with a squad, when we were fired upon I dropped so fast my rifle went over my shoulder & into the snow muzzle first so I couldn’t fire it until I got the snow melted out which was too late but I went up with the next squad & fired 8 rounds. I tied a handkerchief around it that time. That nite we just ate supper & had to pack tents & sleeping bags up the nearest mountain on snow shoes. We were attacked once during the nite & had to break camp 5:00 in the morning in a snow storm. I’m afraid I wasn’t quite up to so much action so soon because I have a beautiful cold now.
Next week will really be hell. We leave here Mon. AM & don’t come back till 8:00 AM Wed when we leave immediately on another hike like last Wed. Then we may stay in camp Wed nite or we may go right out again. At any rate we’ll see camp again Fri nite. I hope I can last the week. They are really getting down to serious training & the boys are tough.
If we stay in camp Wed nite I’ll try & write you then although I didn’t feel much like it last Wed. If not I’m afraid you won’t get another letter for a whole week.
This camping out is fun only when you don’t have to do it. I like to be able to stop when I like. I’ve made it so far but twice now I have given them 5 min. by my watch before I dropped out. Luckily they called a break before the 5 min. was up.
I’m glad you got to work on my transcript right away. As my wire signified I am in a hurry for it. In the first place I would like to quit the 87th under my own steam & not be thrown out. I can take it I guess but it’s damned uncomfortable. I would never run 6 miles for blankets for the army; only for you would I do that. I should have a little more information on meteorology by my next letter. I sure hope so.
I guess I told you air mail doesn’t pay, or maybe that was the folks I told. Anyway save your air mail stamps till I get in a civilized post again.
I now have the name of that book for Bob P. it is “High Conquest” by Ullman. [Bob Pieh was the physical education instructor at Antioch College and later founded the Minnesota Outward Bound School. ] Tell him to get it first since it is very comprehensive & covers mountaineering very broadly. Also add it to the list I left with you. My memory for mountaineering history needs a bracer once in a while.
I can’t understand how my letters took so long to reach you. I wrote the first one in Denver & mailed it air mail Tues nite & I guess you didn’t get it till Sat. If only I had stopped in the recruiting office while we were in Springfield I could have known about that transcript & had it all ready. Don Maxwell sent his application in 3 wks ago & hasn’t heard from them yet.
That picture of the main building is very very good. I guess you will be the official Cunningham photographer. Just do as well with the Koda’s [Kodachromes]. There is only one thing I couldn’t figure out. What is the dark streak down the right hand side? How did you like the pics dad took. I thot they were pretty nice except 2 or 3 of me but the rest were swell especially the one of us by the tank with you laughing. Boy! I’m proud of my wife. When we get into a bull session on camping equipment I am always bringing you in somewhere & boy those guys really envy me. No matter how much fun they have had I have had more because it has been us & not just me.
I just learned tonite that a tiny 7 oz. carbide lamp burns 4 hrs on 2 oz of fuel. We will substitute that for a flash light when we use the teepee. It only costs 35¢ for 2 lb of carbide too and gives off light like one of those gasoline lamps. They are very tiny too, only about 4 in high.
I got a small note book in Denver and have a good start on trips & equipment etc. The next step is to get hold of travel books and gather data on routes, weather conditions and sources of supply. There is really a lot of research to be done & it is a nice way to occupy my time because I dream such wonderful dreams of you & me.
Don’t worry about your desires to earn. If I get in the meteorology course quick like you will have plenty of time to earn because as long as I know I’ll be in civilization for 14 months you are going to be with me. It would be heaven to be able to come to your apartment every week end & just relax. I hope all the boys in service don’t love their wives as much as I love you because they must be going thru hell if they do. I wish we were in one of those occupied countries so we could be gurilles (?) & at least fight side by side & look after ourselves. Anything is possible with you near me. That isn’t quite true because I wouldn’t want you out here where you could easily be. When I see you I want you for keeps & not just a tease. The boys that have their wives here can only get out of camp every other week end with them & yet they see them every day at the service club & with everybody around. In summer it will be different. They can live in a tent but now I don’t see how they stand it. I do love you completely & that is the way it will always be.
Maybe I’ll write you again tomorrow sweetheart.
All my love,
P.S. Incidentally I am a Pfc & not Pvt and it should be “3rd Bn Co I” with the Bn. before Co. I didn’t get paid Tues. so you don’t get any money till next month unless you ask for it.
March 7, 1943 (Sunday) [This letter reveals an early stage in Gerry’s commitment to lightweight backpacking, which was the cornerstone of his later efforts to make wilderness accessible to ordinary families, not just the super-fit and strong. He has already identified some of the problems that his later designs solved such as condensation canceling out the purpose of a waterproof tent. One of the maxims by which he later lived was, “An ounce of technique is worth a pound of equipment.]
I got 2 letters from you today including my transcript. I’m glad it’s here but with these maneuvers next week I probably won’t be able to use it till next Sat. I hate to delay it so long since it is our only hope of being together but good things take time.
I just finished packing my pack. It is as light as necessary for so short a time. It’s funny I don’t even care to be fussy about packing in the army. For instance I could put the Ralston in a bag instead of a box & also the vegetables. I could leave home the Readers Digest, camphor ice and cough syrup and goggles & air mattress that won’t hold air. The rest is essential–sleeping bag, white cover alls, climbers, extra pr socks & mitts, mess kit & for 2 of us food, stove & fuel (my partner carries the tent for 2 of us)
The reason I didn’t do all this is simply because I wanted to write this letter but I will take out the junk in the morning if I have time. It takes a lot of time to carefully evaluate your needs. I guess I’ll leave the air mattress tho———-5 minutes thot on the matter. Since we’ll be back Wed morning I guess I’ll leave the mattress out. I’ll never know unless I try it. I sleep with most my clothes on & sleep on the whole inner bag & 1/2 the outer bag with only 1/2 the outer bag over me. If I didn’t have a partner I would take the mattress & no tent. That damned tent is a monstrosity. It is about 25 lb & has 4 poles & 6 stakes for only 2 men. It is water & air proof with the result your body moisture condenses in it & freezes so it gains weight rapidly. That is the only thing I don’t like about Abercrombie’s tent too. It also is impervious. However it only weighs 3-3/4 lb to begin with.
Now then!! A meteorologist is a weather man. All he does is forecast the weather but I understand that is quite some job. Here is what I will study. Calculus, Physics, geography, cartography, history, Dynamic & Synaptic meteorology, climatology, geography and other topics. (?) We will certainly have to come to some understanding about studying if we are together even if it means seeing each other only on week ends.
Your last decision to wait & see where I end up before you take a defense job is perfect with me. If I don’t have some definite information for you by the time you have to make a decision, why take the job you want for the next quarter or stay in school if you can afford it. When I do get situated or if we go across, why then you just take a defense job. It will be a perfect set up if I get to go to school & you have a good job. What I would like to do if we have any excess money is to order a mountaineering tent, another rucksack and a carbide lamp from D.T.A. so we’ll be sure & have them after the war. If we have 2 rucksacks & a tent we will be able to take them anywhere with us too. No matter where we are we can hike. Just keep praying I’ll get into this meteorology deal soon. (Before I kill myself out here. My cold is almost gone today tho.)
I’m sorry my letter made you cry darling but that’s how it is. It seems I love you so much more every time I leave you. How right you are about it being so comfortable together. That’s just the word for it. When we are so close we may not see our love so clearly until we get drawn apart just a bit but it is so wonderfully warm to be with you. It’s like a rubber band; we have no strong desires to be together until some little thing starts to tear us apart. Then the fight starts. That isn’t quite true tho is it? I can remember crying because I had to leave in 8 days & I just got there. No, I’m afraid it only takes a small thot to graphically show how much I love you. I guess the only difference is that when we are actually together I stoop so low as to bawl you out because I know you will be right there for me to make up to which is half the fun. If I ever thot you were mad at me while I was away I would go noisily nuts.
Yes, my darling I’m afraid my patriotic ambitions are subordinated to you. After all you are what I am fighting for. Without “us” the world is no place for me. Everything I see or do is bound up in you. I don’t make an action without figuring how it helps or hinders our reunion. With you by my side, any kind of life is ours together & therefore endurable.
Incidentally, Dad’s birthday is June 21 & Mother’s is August 5 I think. Ask me again about mother’s because it may be the 15th. Those plastic nocks are ok as long as the PE Dept pays the bill. Scotty told me they split tho.
You just keep up the good school work if you don’t want a transcript like mine. Personally I think mine is very good because when I thot I was studying for something worth while I got good marks. Let’s see you make some one find out just what kinds of food you can buy in India & Tibet and what to expect in the line of replacement equipment in some jerk town like Lata. If he isn’t interested I’m afraid he won’t get very far. You could also try methods of combating leeches & where to expect them. I know how to go about such work simply because the desire to know about such things makes me remember every little item that I run into. I spent yesterday & today getting down in detail the trip into Nanda Devi including each day’s march & what to expect in the way of supplies & transportation & routes. The next time I take physics & calculus it will be with the basic desire to keep us together. Then watch my steam.
I hope you get my books soon. I want the other Nanda Devi book to check on this one & maybe pick up a few more details. The Nanga Parbat books will have to be gone over the same way & then some on Afghanistan etc. I won’t worry about Europe. That is too civilized to present any supply problems & our whims will control the route. Incidentally I discovered there was yet another expedition to Nanga Parbat that I must get. I had it marked as such in my original note book but I didn’t copy it. It is Himalayan Quest by Bauer. Oh well maybe next pay day I’ll get it.
All my love sweetheart, you are
the most wonderful inspiration
in the world
Fri. nite, March 12(?)
My darling wife,
I hope I don’t have to go a whole week without writing you again. There are so many little things I want to tell you that have to wait. The only one I remember now is that Wed we were back in camp for a minute & I saw Don Maxwell. I got word that the “a” course in meteorology was filled to capacity & he is now waiting to hear about the “b” course which is the one I am waiting for. I too have written & am waiting an answer before sending in my stuff because that stuff is good for other things if I find meteorology is out.
Well I’ll try & give you a day by day description of the past week. I forget just when I got your letters but the three of them were so wonderful to receive amid all the absence of you.
Anyway Mon we hiked up to our bivouac area with nice heavy packs (50 to 60). I remember I enjoyed this very much because it was short (a mile) and the lieutenant had so much trouble using his climbers that we took it very slowly. There were quite a few others who didn’t know how to use climbers. We had all AM to set up our tents & eat & in the PM we went skiing on the camp slope. We were camping within sight of the camp & some fellows even went to the service club Mon nite. We were forbidden to leave our area but I tried to get down Tues nite to write you a letter. It was so long to be away from you so completely. I just wanted to write & say hello.
All the things I took out of my pack were o.k. I could never have made it with a heavier pack. Tues AM we took all morn. doing squad problems out to the ski slope & then skied all PM. It snowed a very very wet blizzard in the AM & we were all soaked but we dried out during the P.M. We always have just chocolate for lunch since nobody carries a stove. It was Tues I reconsidered being an instructor since they don’t have to go on bivouac with us & can go to the service club & write letters & see a show. I hope by next week I’ll be teaching GI skiing because we are scheduled for a 4 day 50 mile hike & I don’t want any part of it.
Wed we moved camp early in the AM. One thing we did get plenty of except Wed morning & that was sleep. Usually from 7:30 PM to 7:30 AM. Anyway after hastily packing up camp we left on our usual Wed. hike. It was just like last Wed only worse. At times like that I hate the guts of every being that keeps me away from you. I didn’t fall out but it got me terribly. I was bawling at things in general & for you mostly by the time we reached our noon lunch spot. After that I was ok tho. Very steep but slow it was after that. The sun was bright & the view beautiful. Oh! if you were only there & not those other goofs. I was dead Wed nite.
Thurs we had problems on the way over to ski again. However when we were just ready to turn in at nite (7:15) we got word to put on our “whites” & skis. For 5 hours we hunted the enemy & only succeeded in getting shot for our efforts. The enemy won & we got in 12:00 midnight. That was however the most fun of the week & we slept till 9:00 this AM & then moved on home.
The catch today was a rifle inspection in which I got gigged for rust in my trigger groupe which I didn’t have time to clean. The result is I probably will spend the weekend here instead of Denver as I had planned. I’ll know in 1/2 hr.
You should see my face now. Only you could love it. It was sunburned & chapped & had 5 day beard on it. It is soaking up olive oil now. Our equipment is pretty fair. The bag was warm & comfortable even if it isn’t down. The tent I have cussed out. The little abominable snow shoes are ok by me. You & I will never use them but they are light enough to be useful to some high climbing expeditions when fresh snow holds them back. The primus stoves are heavy but very good. They don’t require preheating like all other stoves. In all I picked up 3 useful hints for us. One was to put leather thongs on all zippers so you can grab them with mittens on. The other was the snow shoes & the third was to boil sugar Ralston & Klim together instead of mixing separately. Simple but I never thot of it.
Our food wasn’t too good mostly because of difficulty in preparing it. We had 4 different menus, each kind is packed in boxes of 4 day rations (14 lb).
[There is no signature, indicating a missing 3rd page]
Sunday March 14(?)
I’m on my way back now going thru the mts. This is really nice country around here. I just made my train by about a minute but I got a nice seat & the view is superb. We’ll have to do a bit of roaming in the Rockies. Have you still got that post card of Snow Lake I sent you from Snoqualmie Pass, Washington. If you have, hang on to it, or send it home & mom will put it in my file.
I have an order for some leather work or just some leather for you. If you haven’t time, just send the leather. One piece I want for a note book cover 9 1/2″ x 7″, natural color saddle leather, not too heavy.
Two pieces I want for a map case each 8″ x 11″, natural color saddle & same weight. Please order some at your earliest convenience.
If you lack employment in your spare time you can prepare them as follows. The cover just needs the corners rounded 1/2″ radius & a line tooled around it for a border thus. The map case needs only to be laced together so the inside dimensions are 7 1/2″ x 10 1/2″. Top corners rounded on 1″ radius. [see drawing]
Don’t do any of the work unless you want to because I have enough time etc. Now to answer your letters that you wrote beginning the 5th. Don’t worry about Nancy’s [Ann’s sister] education. Find out how much she expects and we’ll put away bonds for it. Don’t make it too much tho. If you get a defense job it should be fairly easy but I won’t be helping very much. I hope she comes down for div change so you can talk.
There is a bunch of poor suckers from Camp Upton going to Hale. One is from Utica but I don’t know him.
Whatever I do we must get together soon. I miss you more & more & more. Thanks for straightening me out of first & technical sergeants but I knew the difference as soon as dad & I finished arguing. That is what I went back to our room for, to look it up. I knew I was wrong but I don’t always bother to admit those things at the time. I never forget the difference when I find out the right thing like that tho. Don’t be discouraged if I don’t admit you have won an argument sometime. The chances are if you are right you have convinced me even if I don’t admit it, like the potato peeler. Had I known the facts when I bought it I would have gotten the good kind.
I bought another nice picture folder for 11 pics in saddle leather also 2 U.S. buttons for my lapels. I spent $14 this weekend but I really had a good time. I found out a lot about Afghanistan & it is a very beautiful country but the other countries looked kind of dry. There is a motor expedition that took our exact proposed route & gives a lot of valuable information.
Maybe you aren’t so far wrong on your helicopter idea.
I don’t know what kind of glue it is you bot in stick form. I’ve never heard of it I don’t think.
Well here I am back in camp & I don’t think I’ll be going out again for quite a while. I forgot to look at the week end detail list & I had guard. I don’t know what the penalty for skipping is but the boys say the “top” is plenty mad. Oh! well. All my love to you dearest. I want you more than all the world.
March 15, 1943
I got your latest letter, the one written after you finally received mine. Please don’t be mad when I don’t write sweetheart. It’s the only pleasure I have and I indulge in it as often as is humanly possible. I’ve written you almost every nite I have been in camp. I’m sorry you didn’t get any letters for so long after the telegram but I thot I explained why the delay. Honestly I write every nite I can. I may start teaching this week & then I’ll be in camp almost every nite. Tomorrow however we go on a tremendous hike. It will be worse than any previous ones so I will be ready for bed when we get in. Of course I may get another detail. So far the Tops Sergeant hasn’t said anything about me skipping guard etc but I got a detail today, posting targets up on the rifle range. I hope I get another one tomorrow instead of the hike.
I got a letter from meteorology today & it is all filled up in all classes. Tonite I start proceedings to just get in the air force, anywhere. That is what I saved all my papers for & didn’t go ahead with the meteorology. Dick DeWitt has been writing me about the air force & at least you get a square deal. I’ll probably go into Photography. I hope Pete gets out here soon so I can see him. Tell him to look me up right away since he has my address.
I don’t have to fill out an income tax or even file one I hope. I didn’t earn enough.
I’m so glad you finally got the allotment checks. I may send you or dad a $50 bond next pay day. It all depends on how I feel.
Don’t worry about our dam breaking for a while we are just beginning to get the snow here. It has been blizzarding all day. I just hope it stops for tomorrow.
Do you know yet where you are spending the next quarter? I don’t quite follow you. First you want a defense job & then you aim to finish school right now. I am still in hopes I can get in a position to have you near. If I can by gosh school is going to take a back seat. The only chance I have of going back is if you still have some to finish before the war. Besides 3 quarters of work & 3 of school is 1 1/2 yrs & by that time I may be across so you can’t waste any of that precious time if a situation presents itself.
I still hope Nan has come down to see you so you can come to an understanding. I also hope she intends to go to Antioch. I wouldn’t attach any strings to our help but I would rather see her in Antioch than elsewhere. We would be getting more for our money.
Well I must go up to the personnel office now & see what is what. I’ll leave this open in case of developments.
No developments. I can’t do anything until Wed. or tomorrow. If I don’t go on that hike. Anyway there seems to be no doubt that I’ll be in aerial Photography. At least it’s the air force.
Love & loads of it
March 16, 1943
My darling wife,
We had a startling bit of talk throwed at us tonite. I think the “top” was just shooting off but we do have to mark both our barracks bags with name number & a code number. He said we were sailing soon. Well, soon has to mean at least 2 months and that means about 4. He also said (and I’ll believe it when I meet it) that there would be no transfers out of this outfit. I’m still going ahead until I’m stopped but you never can tell. You never know where you stand in the Army.
Please don’t be afraid of me going over, Ann. It’s what I’m in here for and there is no use fighting it. It won’t be as bad for me as it is right here. Above all don’t think about it till I’m gone. You can still never tell what may happen. I am just not even thinking about it except as it affects my transfer.
I skipped out on that hike today & went back posting targets on the range. I’m getting to be a regular bad boy but so far nothing has come of anything. I hope it’s no great disappointment to you if I finish the war as a private. This outfit has taken away all incentive to do anything but look after myself. I’ll be able to do that o.k. don’t you fear but I don’t want any more responsibility here. In the air force it is different some how. The best I can do to explain it is that it is mostly technical ability that counts there. Here, that is completely ignored.
I don’t mean to scare you by this letter, I just want to sort of prepare you for what might happen this summer. However, being forced to think about it I can’t help feeling relieved at the prospect of some excitement.
I ordered a pair of those lamb skin slippers from L L Bean today. I hope they don’t come before pay day since they are COD and I’m broke. The next things we get if you get a job is an Abercrombie tent, rucksack and if we can find them, another boy scout mess kit and a carbide lamp. Those are the things we’ll want immediately the war is over and we won’t be able to get them then. It only amounts to $50.
I’m anxious to hear what you are doing this next quarter & whether it will be a job or school. I kind of pull for the job not only for the reasons you gave but because unless you go back to Antioch after the war I probably never will be an Antiochian again. Besides, if we are going over soon I may want to see you once more. Of course I probably won’t but I might get that thot.
I’m so glad I have you to think about, honey. It may bring tears to my eyes more often than not but I always plug along with you on my mind. I’m always talking about you, refreshing my own memory by telling others what we have done and what we are going to do. It is all I live for and this hell we are going thru now will only make us happier when it is over. My only prayer is that we will be together soon forever and if I die my only hope will be that I won’t have to wait long for you. We believe death is more wonderful than life so I’m sure, to my mind you’ll be there when I get there. It won’t be heaven without you.
The only thing I can’t imagine is a whole lifetime with you. I have most of it down in my little note book but I can’t put down the feeling of peace & contentment there is when we are together.
Honest darling that is all I live & fight for; us being together. As long as we are really together living, eating & sleeping together, everything else will be o.k. I don’t care under what conditions or where, if it is us it will be heaven. I can not pity any person, however much oppressed, if he is living with the one he loves. We still have to fight for that privilege, but once won it will never be abandoned.
All my love
March 18, 1943
I got two letters from you today, both post marked the 15th, only of entirely different character. In one you were feeling very badly & the other you were happy. The war news looks pretty good now anyway. I hope my letter didn’t scare you too much about leaving for overseas. The chances are now 2 to 1 that I won’t go, even when the 87th goes. The two chances are that I’ll be in the air force or I’ll be an instructor stationed here.
We took our ski qualification test today. I naturally passed ok but I doubt if I got into class 1. It was a pretty stiff course covering everything but being new to GI skiing I probably wasn’t technically perfect.
At last this is the stationary you gave me for my birthday but not the envelopes. I’m sorry I had to screw up my writing paper so but I had so many different kinds to use up. The envelopes for this are in my kit but I don’t use that paper when I carry my box of miscellaneous paper. That’s for traveling.
Next Mon Tues & Wed we are going out as a Co. in a proficiency test on winter warfare so I won’t be writing you then. I’ll write Wed nite when we get back if I’m not too tired. This will be the toughest yet.
I haven’t been a bad boy lately. I didn’t gold brick at all today but yesterday I took the afternoon off. Mostly it was to get my aviation cadet papers started. They are now on their way but will take at least 2 wks to get out of camp here. In a week I’ll probably have an interview with the major to see whether or not he lets me go. Then it goes to Denver & I go down for an examination (physical & mental). If I pass I get the appointment as soon as an opening appears. I just found out an astonishing fact. Whatever I get into I will reap a Commission if I pass the course. What I meant to apply for was just an enlisted man transfer but it seems I got something better. Besides, I heard that transfers were being let out of the Regt now but only as Air Cadets. All others have really been canceled. So have all furloughs much to the disappointment of 2 of my buddies.
I’m sorry about your irritability but knowing its cause I can only sympathize and offer no advice. If only I was there to comfort you, but then you wouldn’t need comforting. We’ll work it out some how, if I don’t go across, so we’ll see each other more often. I take it from your letter you are going to school for another quarter. I don’t see where the money is coming from but I’ll send you $30 next pay day to do what you want with.
Your idea on why a generator works is perfectly o.k. To simplify it further it is only a coil of wire cutting or even passing thru a magnetic field. All you need is some engine to keep the coil of wire moving. The two ends of the coil are the two wires of any electric line. A modern generator simply has a whole mess of magnetic fields and a whole mess of coils consisting of thousands of turns of wire. Worrying about AC or DC only complicates the mechanism.
Now I know what glue you mean. The stuff you melt is Ferrule Cement. You can get it at Rico’s in Springfield I imagine. When it says to heat those plastic nocks don’t hold it in a flame, try boiling water or something metal between the nock & the flame.
I hope you are permanently collecting all this stuff on drying foods & raising them etc. Incidentally by the time we are ready to raise our own food it will be for 4 & not 2 of us. We’ll have to modify that, cows to goats tho, & drop the hens & pigs. Of course if worse comes to worse we can take care of everything. It sounds like a lot of ground to cultivate tho.
What the hell do you mean you haven’t heard from me since I got back except 2 letters. I think if you will count them you’ll find at least 2 a week as average. I explained before hand why I couldn’t write each time I knew I’d be out and I’ve written almost every nite I have been in. I can remember 4 letters since last Sat & it’s only Thurs now. Last nite I couldn’t write because we went on a nite hike from 7:00 till 10:00. I will write you at least twice more before maneuvers next Mon to Wed. I can’t see why you keep thinking I went over seas when you didn’t get a letter for a week. I told you before I went out last week that I couldn’t write for a whole week. Oh well, I’m just a poor suffering husband & you a nagging wife. If mail service was only better I would be in for less of a chastising. Your air mail letters get here in 3 days but my mail seems to get stuck in Denver all the time.
I love you darling, even when I don’t write or can’t write, I am always longing for you. Some day we’ll be in heaven together. We’ll have to stick to it honey. It will all have to come out ok in the end.
I love you darling,
Fri. March 19, 1943
Here is your devoted husband again & it makes me mad every time I think of you saying I don’t write. I counted your letters last week nite & I find you have written 15 in three weeks which is certainly a record but I have really written as much as I can. I know because all I ever want to do is to write to you.
Besides the 3 days next week when I won’t be able to write, the following week we will be out all week again so I’ll warn you now & I’ll warn you again. You won’t have any letters for a whole week. I’m sorry but that’s the way it will be. I have a suggestion that we put the day & the date on our letters so we’ll have some idea when we write. You do neither up to date so please start. I see it takes about one week for a round trip of letters. If you can sit tight till summer we will have some idea as to whether or not we’ll be seeing each other. I’m working on everything possible and praying we’ll get some sort of temporary relief from our enforced hell. I love you so much my darling that we must survive this war no matter how long it lasts.
Denver only had about as many mountaineering books a Dayton & only one that I was interested in enough to look. Of course I didn’t go for the books especially but I had some extra time so I got one on a French expedition. Did I tell you I discovered another book on Nanga Parbat. It costs $6 & I’ll probably send for it as soon as I have read all these coming.
The A course in Meteorology demanded 2 yrs of college with math up to Integral Calc. & tech Physics. The B course, only 1 yr college & math up to Trig.
Maybe you don’t like Ralston & sugar & milk made up together but you’ll soon learn to like it after having to make it some morning over a sputtering primus at 0o F in frozen ski clothes. The simplicity of the operation adds to its taste. The way we made it is superior when under the conditions we had & I hope conditions don’t very often get to the point I have been experiencing. I would love it if only you were here & we could lay in our bag until the sun touched the tent (common mountaineering practice except in the 87th).
Don’t forget to give me all the details on Nancy’s visit, the home front and your future plans. You haven’t told me a thing about what you are going to do except to hint that you are hanging on to Antioch for one more quarter. Before that is up I hope I have some definite news about us for you.
All my love,
March 21, Sun.
This will be my last letter until at least Wed nite. I’m not happy about it either, in fact I’m just not happy. I saw “Air Force” today and gee it made me wish I was part of it. If only I had a job to do here or anywhere. I hope these maneuvers are plenty exciting for a change.
I must be depressed tonite. I can’t think of anything except how unfair it is for us to be apart. If I can’t be with you I wish we would get shipped out to action so I’d have something else to think about.
I haven’t any news to write about. As soon as the library opens I’m going to see if they have any books on the air force or photography. I have an idea any exams I may eventually take will be pretty stiff. It took one fellow 3 months just for his Cadet application to get to the board in Denver. I hope to see the major next week.
Life is very dismal at times. Without you, nothing seems worth while. It all depends on how far ahead my subconscious mind is. If it’s ahead to after the war, everything in the present is just something to be lived thru to gain heaven. If it is only thinking of the next few weeks I get awfully depressed on how hopeless the situation is. I will be so thankful when all this is over with. The best I can do is try & get interested in what I’m doing at present & the fact we may be moving this summer makes our daily training rather vital. As I said before it’s just a case of fooling myself. I don’t dare think how really much better everything would be if we were together regardless of other conditions. The minute we are apart things just aren’t right.
Well the lib. is open now & I’ll probably get a letter from you tonite to answer.
Well, no letter from you tonite. I haven’t any news yet so I’ll have to close again.
By the way, my watch now runs perfectly. It has gained 15 seconds in 6 days. I can rely on it implicitly. Has your watch come yet?
I’m sorry I have no more to write darling but I haven’t. Why must I be away from you? We must get together either soon or permanently. I love you sweetheart more than all the world.
Your ever lonesome husband,
Wednesday, March 24, 1943
It wasn’t enough that we just came in from a 3 day march but they had to reorganize the Co & we had to move tonite. Moving from one barracks to another is the most hectic process in the army. Everybody is getting in your way and taking it for granted you’re moving out when you’re moving in. It is all over now & I’m in the quiet of the library.
This was absolutely the best hike I have ever been on. We had wonderful spring weather and swell places to camp each nite. My tent mate did all the cooking and I took care of the tent etc. We were really on the ball. Now that the Co is organized I probably won’t be with him any more and I’ll miss his merry chatter. He is one of the original 23 that I started with. We are all separated now.
Yesterday A.M. we were assigned to go back & guide a Co of snow shoers up to our camp & to follow our trail. We didn’t have to get back to the Co till about noon when they would wait for us. We didn’t have any packs while we went back & it was really nice skiing. Just the 2 of us and powder snow & plenty of sun.
I found the perfect valley for you & me too. It has about 3 acres of meadow, is about 300 ft. below timberline, has a brook & is in some swell mountains with a wonderful snow bowl at the head of the valley 3/4 mile up. If only Camp Hale was a town about the size of Colorado Springs it would be just right because it is only 6 miles up a winding valley. There must be plenty more like it. All we have to do is find them. Just wait till we start exploring this old country of ours. I only learned two new things on this trip. One is that we can leave home 5 lb. of stakes & poles for the tent if we camp below timber. The other is an idea for a new pack rack that puts the load front & rear. It would set straight down on your shoulders instead of pulling you back. Carrying our canoe like that is much easier than a regular pack of equal weight.
We had all kinds of skiing this time. Above timber there was some wonderful powder and some terrible crust. We sure are getting experience. Last nite we had an alert and a nite problem where we went thru the woods on skis in the dark. We formed a line about 15 men long all moving abreast of each other so we swept a wide path thru the woods. I was surprised that we could keep contact that way but no one got lost.
We got in early this PM so we had plenty of time to get cleaned up & check our equipment. I lost a hat last nite going thru the brush. The pace was very easy and since we didn’t take rifles our packs were comfortable for a change. It seems we aren’t going out next week either. They called it off so we could go out on the range & shoot for record.
No news from my air corps thing yet but I’ll let you know immediately. I hope it goes thru so much but this outfit is showing its stuff more and more. It’s panning out now so I know I could take care of myself here and be good and solid but I would still like to get into the air corps for various reasons, the most important being that I would get to see you for a while. I’m afraid it will be summer before we are sure what is coming off. I know you don’t want me over seas darling and I don’t want to go unless I have to but when I do it will be with the one purpose of winning the war & getting home to you. There are worse things than going over seas but don’t you worry sweetheart our minds are thinking alike on the subject. If I can avoid it I will providing it is in the air force or as an instructor. At least it looks as if the war is going good for us. I’m sure it will be over in another year.
I hope you told Pete to look me up when he gets here. Boy I’ll be glad to see him. He & Don & I will have to have some week ends together. I have no desire to go out skiing etc. on week ends now but if Pete is here I may take a few week end hikes. It would be different with him. I don’t know anything about the outfit Don is supposed to be in. The last I heard he was just in Co K but maybe he is in their best squad or something. The new squad I moved into tonite promises to be pretty crack too. It contains our smallest man. He is shorter than you & is quite a guy. I’d like him for a tent mate if it’s ok with him.
I was surprised to get only one letter from you while I was gone but I suppose I’ll have another to answer tomorrow. Good nite my darling, It will all be over some day and we’ll be in heaven together.
All my love
Sat. March 27
I haven’t been writing much lately have I? Well, Wed I wrote & forgot to mail it till Thurs. Thurs I couldn’t write because we went to an enforced movie. It was the end of 7 that give the history of this war. They are made up of captured enemy films too & are very good for their purpose. They really show why we are fighting. Fri. I had to get a haircut which required waiting all nite so no writing. Incidentally that hair cut I got in Denver has lasted 7 weeks. That is almost 4 times as long as most haircuts.
Mother & dad sent me a set of our honeymoon & the Antioch pictures & I now have a nice little leather case full of 11 black & whites & I’m going to get 4 more minicolors for the other folder. It will make a nice collection to help me remember our happy days together. If only something would break so I’d know where I am at. Even the definiteness of an ocean between us would be worth something. By the time this quarter is over we’ll know what our chances of being together are.
Sweetheart, don’t ever worry about the kind of letters you write me. I’ll match you mood for mood no matter how low or high you are. We wouldn’t be in love if we were always happy. The only way I could approach happiness is to forget you entirely but of what use would living be if I did that. I admit my loss is clearer cut than yours but it isn’t life or death, it is to come back to you or not. Death doesn’t hold any fears for me except that it is the only thing that will keep me from eventually returning to love you. I know what you mean. I would be most uncomfortable if I thot you would die before me. If you did life itself would lose all attraction but I’m afraid the enemy would suffer for my loss until I too came to my inevitable end. Or, in lieu of a war, some mighty mountains would fall before a careless climber who eventually was found or unfound as the case may be. I hope my morbid thots don’t disturb you but that’s what would happen. There are lots of worthy causes to serve if you can disregard the danger to your life. The Duke of Abruzzi spent his life like that after he lost his love (not by death). [The Duke of Abruzzi was a mountaineer in the early 20th century who fell in love with the daughter of an American senator but who was denied permission to continue the relationship by his royal relatives.] I don’t think he actually disregarded danger (at least for his men) but he chose a rather dangerous way of spending his time. I’m afraid I’m the lone eagle type tho.
Anyway sweetheart, regardless of how long we have to wait we’ll be together again some day. I may get wounded if I get in action but I can take too good care of myself to actually get bumped off. You don’t hear of very many planes, of any ships or of any forces that are wiped out completely. I’ll be one of those survivors. I will do nothing but devote myself to getting home to you. That is why I don’t want to have to look after anyone but me. Being an officer even a non com is ok while you are at a base of some sort but out in battle all the privileges disappear and only the added responsibility remains. From a major down your purpose is to lead your men. If you see a safe route of retreat, you have to direct your men to it first. A Pfc can bolt for it & leave the rest to follow. That’s why the mortality rate is highest on 2nd Looies.
These maneuvers are giving me enough experience to know what is best. A Pfc only needs a stump to hide behind. A Lieutenant needs a whole woods to hide his platoon in.
It’s true here in camp etc. we get all the dirty deals but if I stay on this side I’ll either be a Lt. in the Air force or a corporal in the instructing staff.
Never forget for a second my darling that our happy reunion is what I am in here fighting for. The peace is no good to either of us alone; neither are we any good without a sound peace. I get pretty low at times but there is always hope.
I’ll probably be writing you next week because we are having preliminary rifle instruction now till April 5 when we fire for record.
All my love to my
Gerry [He inserted an arrow and note pointing out the “G” in his name as he tried to make the transition from the more common “J” spelling.]
Mon., March 29, 1943
What! no letter from you again today? Well, I’ll write you anyway just so you’ll get a letter.
We were out on the range today to practice & I did terribly but we were so long out there that by the time we got in to eat we were too late to go on a regimental problem (isn’t that too bad). All we had to do all PM was clean our rifle which is quite a job after shooting. For once tho, I was complimented on my rifle in inspection. Maybe things will be picking up for me. Only yesterday I was put on KP because I was reading in bed Sun. A.M. Boy was I mad but it wasn’t so bad because I would only have loafed all day anyway.
Gosh I haven’t anything to tell you. I don’t even feel out of sorts with the army now. In fact if only I can be sure (?) of staying here for the duration we can have a swell time. If you were in Leadville I could probably get a class A pass & see you every nite.
Oh yes, in view of the fact that I have gotten very dirty deals the last 2 week ends along with all the other boys that stayed in I have decided that the only thing to do is to get out every week end possible. Sooo I am going to send you only $20 pay day instead of $30. It just isn’t safe to stay around. It looks as if we will be getting off Fri noon in time to get the 3:00 train now too. The first good break we have had on passes etc. Do what you want with the $20, spend it or “bond” it.
Speaking of money I hope you get a defense job this summer if you don’t come out here. It would do more good for the war at present & probably make you feel better about it all.
Gee, honey I’m all out of news except that I love you. I can’t think of what life will be like with you again. We’ll survive somehow and then some day I’ll be coming home to you for ever. Oh my darling we have to have enough love to tide us over everything.
All my love to my
sweet little wife
Tues. March 30, 1943
This is just a note to tell you where to send sugar coupon #17 if you still have it. I have been anticipating those nice soft warm lamb skin Booties from Beans ever since I sent for them. Today I got a card (That’s all the mail I got too) from Beans saying to send them coupon 17 post haste or cancel the order. Well please send them coupon 17 post haste & tell them it is from Pfc G A Cunningham, Camp Hale, Colo. If you haven’t got it just say to cancel my order. You don’t have to write a letter, just a note of explanation.
As I mentioned before, no letter from you today. Disgusting!
We went out on a Battalion problem this PM and we moved along a ridge on the southern face of it, 3 Cos. wide and each Co in single file. Co I was right flank with one squad still farther to the right as a flank guard. Well half way thru they gave me 4 men to relieve the flank guard (now I know I wouldn’t want to be a corporal) At the time I wondered why our flank guard was about 100 yds. to the rear. Anyway we started out in front but the snow was rather deep. Without skis or snow shoes we sank in up to our waists & besides it has been so hot that we had on our summer uniform. I did take overshoes for the mud
[The remainder of this letter is missing.]