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A Letter Home

Soldiers’ letters home were frequently printed in the local gazette during World War II. The hometown boys (and girls) wrote about training and travel and the Armed Forces’ bywords: hurry up and wait. Occasionally, a letter stuck out among the average descriptions of military life. This missive appeared in the Oakland Independent in December of 1942.

“Dear George: As long as you are thinking of joining the service, I’ll give you a little of my experience.

“When I went to camp some fellow said, ‘Look what the wind is blowing in.’ I said, ‘Wind nothing–the draft is doing it.’

“On the second morning they put some clothes on me. What an outfit! As soon as you are in it you think you could fight anybody. They only have two sizes–too small and too big. The pants were so tight I couldn’t sit down.

“The shoes were so big I turned around three times and they never moved. What a raincoat they gave me! It strained the rain. I passed an officer all dressed up with gold braid and all the trimmings. He called after me, ‘Didn’t you see my uniform?’ I said, ‘Yes. What are you kicking about? Look what they gave me.’

“One morning when it was pretty cold they called us out for an underwear inspection. Talk about scenery–there were red flannels, B.V.D.’s of all kinds. The union suit I had on would fit Tony Galento. The lieutenant lined us up and told me to stand up. ‘I am up, sir, but this underwear makes you think I am sitting down.’ He got so mad he put me to digging ditches.

“Three days later we sailed. Marching down the pier I had the worst luck. I had a sergeant who stuttered, and it took him so long to say halt that 27 of us marched overboard. They pulled us out and lined us up on the pier. The captain yelled. ‘Fall in.’ I said, ‘I’ve been in, sir.’ That didn’t help any.

“I was on the boat 12 days and seasick 12 days. Nothing going down and everything coming up. In the middle of one of my best leans the captain rushed up and asked, ‘What company are you in?’ I said, ‘I’m all by myself.’ He asked if the brigadier was up yet. I said, ‘It’s up if I swallowed it.’

“At last we landed and were immediately sent to the trenches. After three nights there the cannons started to roar and the shells started to pip. I tried to hide behind a tree, but there weren’t enough trees for the officers. The captain came around and said, ‘We go over the top at 5 o’clock.’ I said, ‘I’d like to have a liberty.’ He asked if I had any red blood in me. I told him I did have but didn’t want to see it.

“At five o’clock we went over the top and 10,000 Japanese came at us. The way they looked at me they must have thought I started the war.

“Our captain yelled, ‘Fire at Will.’ I didn’t know anybody by the name of Will. I guess the fellow behind me thought my name was Will.

“If you need my help, let me know and I’ll recommend you. Merry Christmas. As ever, Walter Benjamin Thompson.”

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