March 1943, Camp Hale, Colorado
Sat, April 3, 1943
I hope nothing has happened to you since I haven’t had a letter for so long. Maybe it is because Nancy is with you. Do give me all the dope on the home front & Nan’s education et cetera.
I am reposing now in the civic park (next to the prison where all sorts of bells are ringing now and then) of Canon (pronounced canyon) City. I have a money order for $20 which I hope I’ll remember to enclose. Coming to Canon City instead of Denver is much cheaper in spite of the fact I spend 2 nites in a hotel. I get here 1:00 AM Fri nite & leave 1:30 or so Sun noon. It’s cheap enough so I’ll be able to do it twice a month.
I have just been besieged by 2 high school girls who seem to be bent on giving the soldiers a good time. Since I came here for peace & quiet after Thurs I was rather annoyed but they gave up after a while. I’m afraid a soldier could get anything he wants here but outside of that it is a swell little town (about 10,000 pop.). It reminds me of Port Angeles & if you ever come out here this is where you’ll stay. The people are very friendly (excluding these high school chippies) and it is really spring here. Best of all there are very few soldiers and no MP’s. It’s a very nice place to spend the weekend. As soon as I find out I’ll be here for a time after the 87th goes over I’ll be spending my weekends here with you.
The wind is playing havoc with me here but I must tell you what a hard (physical) day in the army is like. Thurs at 6:00 AM I start K.P. (4 times in 4 weeks). Just before noon a Lt. comes in to tell us that the 35 men out on the range won’t be in until 2:00. That is bad because it holds us up for 2 hrs & we know we are having a big beer bust after supper & we’ll never get that cleaned up. Well, we struggle thru the afternoon including getting a piano & 480 bottles of beer & only 48 of “coke”. (they always get too little coke). We were wondering how we were ever going to get thru the day because they weren’t going to chase them home till 8:30 & the beer started flowing right after supper. If I had ever known what was to follow I would have died then. The party was a great success. We had a bull fiddle player & a drummer & a hot piano that were really the best in the whole program. It’s surprising what talent there is in a Co of only 185 men. Anyway by 8:30 some of the boys are quite under the weather & everyone turns in except the poor K.P.’s. We had the mess cleaned up by 9:30 & I hit the wonderful hay at 9:35. But it was not to be. At 10:00——“Roll out with full field packs.” We thought it was some one’s poor sense of humor & you can imagine the guys with hangovers. Well we really got out in a hurry (first Co out) only to find they weren’t kidding but that this was an air raid & we were going to evacuate. Our Bn. had to march about 1 1/2 miles & climb about 800 ft. The absolute pay off came when the major said Co I was the Bn security which means we post out guards around the whole Bn for protection. It worked out that every man had to stand 2 hrs guard yet. That left us just 3 1/2 hrs to sleep that nite. Thank goodness I was on first with another guy to act as roving patrol. We just wandered around the 3 posts of our platoon to make sure they were awake. We were on from 12:00 TILL 2:00 A.M. I was enjoying it very much but I knew I would pay for it all about Fri. afternoon. The duty officer passed us once & said we might try to go beyond our last post & contact the first post of the next platoon. We tried once & had to come back for our snow shoes. The next time we went about 1/2 mile which is much too far between out posts. We had just stopped when we heard some one walking beyond farther so we took off. We couldn’t see very much so we were banking on the out post challenging us when we drew near. I remarked that if they were asleep we would walk right thru them & never know it. Well we didn’t find any body so we stopped & talked it over. After about 3 minutes the stump next to me said “Howdy boys.” It didn’t quite scare me because I realized that a whole army could be lying in those little black spots of bare ground & we’d never know it. It was the duty officer again who was doing the same thing we were. We found out we were really bad security that nite. It is very hard to know where you’re at like that especially at nite. Here is how I think we were. [diagram showing three platoons, three outposts each, unevenly distributed around the 3rd Bn] You see we would almost have encircled the Bn if the 3rd Pl had been a little closer & the 2nd a little farther away. All this was done with about 1,000 men in the woods in the dark. By the time summer comes we will be pretty well prepared to fight—if they don’t kill us here first with any more 20 hr days like that. We have been having good squad problems too with real opposition & blank ammunition for everybody. That is the only way to train. Our whole squad was wiped out in one problem by a sniper in a tree that we didn’t see. Of course if the men had dropped dead when the Lt told them they were shot we wouldn’t all have rushed up there. I crept & crawled to the protection of a rock ridge that I knew the enemy was behind & then I stood up & walked over to my corporal who was just leaning on his gun. When I got there he said he was dead & so was I. I couldn’t see how we could be shot thru the rock ridge so I started looking & behind us was the sniper. We just sat there & watched the rest of the squad come up to us & get shot. Next time we determined to play real dead so the rest wouldn’t rush in to an obvious death trap.
I went up to try & find out where my Cadet application was but had no success except that it was on its way. I wish it would hurry up & fail or succeed. My next trial will be to take the exam for college training. The only catch is that from these tests they decided just what to train you in. You have no choice but mine would be mechanics or engineering. At any rate it would get me out of the 87th. In spite of the fact that we are getting a little better training now it is the toughest, screwed up outfit in the army. I don’t know personally but the boys that have been in other outfits say that they never saw a place where they made it so tough on the men and still did so many dumb things. It is very plain that our officers from the Lts on up don’t know what the score is at all. I’d probably be happier & safer on some technical job. If I get out of the 87th it means a commission but as long as I have to fight with them I want to be myself.
I love you & miss you more every day darling. Starting this summer you’ve got to become a camp follower.
All my love to you,