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THE LAVIGNE LETTERS
FORT BLISS, BOOT CAMP 1943
Through the dim light of early morning, I watched him sitting on the sofa in our family room drinking a cup of coffee, my dog Callie's head in his lap sharing a donut with him. It felt so good be with my Dad again after all these years. My Dad's brown hair was now silver and thinning, but he still looked younger than his 82 years of age. His face had
very few wrinkles, although his eyebrows sported gray hairs. And even at that early hour of the morning, he was neatly dressed in a clean shirt and blue work pants. As he sipped on his coffee, I joined him and the two of us talked in those quiet, early morning hours about the memories we shared so long ago, my childhood, family members, my mother, the "Golden Boy", and of course, the war............
My dad was 20 years old when he was drafted into the United States Army during World War II. He entered into active duty service at Camp Devens in Massachusetts on December 29 of 1942. At that time Camp Devens was designated as a reception center at the onset of WWII for all men living in New England. After a two day stop at Camp Devens, my Dad was on his way to boot camp at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. It was the first time he had ever been out of the state of Maine.
A LITTLE HISTORY: During December of 1942 and January of 1943 men from more than 40 states arrived at Fort Bliss in large groups, my father was one of them. History tells us that they were there to form a new unit in the rapidly wartime Army. The unit my Dad was in was originally called the "2nd Battalion of the 509th Coast Artillery (AA) Regiment" when it was activated on November 20, 1942, but actually it was the "197th Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion", the commanding officer was Lt. Col. C. T. McEniry.
(This letter was undated but I am guessing that this is one of Dad's first letters home)
We left Camp Devens Thursday afternoon at 5 o'clock. We are now at Fort Bliss, Texas. I shall never forget the two days we were at Devens. When we arrived it was cold and misty and we had to stay out all night. The next day it rained all day and we had to walk in the slush all day again.
On the way here we passed through many states including New York, Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio and Indiana. We passed right over the Missouri River and in Ohio we saw the Cleveland Indians baseball park, boy, it's a big place, I bet it's five times as big as Cabot field. We all had to do KP on the train, we slept on the train 3 nights. We saw big mountains and valleys just like you see in the movies. You should have seen the corn fields in Kansas, you just can't see the end of them.
We had a little drilling down here, it's tough. My uniform fits me well only my long underwear keeps drooping all the time. There's a lot of fellas I know down here. We learned how to handle a gun today, we have to learn the name of each part.
I hope you had a good dinner on New Years Day, how I wish I was back there with you. Claudia, I'm too far away to get furloughs so I might not be home for a long while. Pray that we all can be together again. Please write me very soon. Valmore
Pvt. Valmore Joseph Lavigne Batt. H 509 CAAA Fort Bliss, Texas
One thing I loved about my Dad was that he liked to laugh and liked telling funny stories and jokes. A few years before my Dad passed away, I encouraged him to write about his war experiences in a notebook. One of his favorite stories was about the Sargent who couldn't pronounce his last name at roll call on the first day of boot camp.
My father wrote:
"I remember my first day at boot camp and my first role call that morning. The Sargent could not pronounce my last name and tried different pronunciations of "Lavigne" before he became frustrated and finally said "Valmore L" to which I finally answered "here". He replied "why didn't you answer when I called your name?" And I said "Why don't you call my name right!" It was the wrong thing to say. The Sargent said, " So we have a wise guy here, he is going to wash some pots and pans!" And that is what I did. He came back to see me later that day and said "welcome to the Army son, your going to be okay! Any Sargent that comes along and tells you to do something, say I can't do that because I belong in Sargent White's crew." He was a great guy."
(Another undated letter, I guessing written sometime after Jan. 5, 1943)
I hope you have received my letter, it's hard for me to write often because I haven't much time. I am in the Anti Aircraft battery. We have to learn to take a anti aircraft gun apart and put it together again. My gosh, it's as big as a army truck. That's not the worst of it, we have to know every piece by name and what names they have. We have to do the same with our army Garand rifle too.
On January 5th we had our first jumping drill. We started off by jumping a three feet fence and then jump over a high wall, leap over trenches, go on through wire fences and leap over ditches. The boys are getting awfully tired of hearing left, right, left, down here.
There are big mountains surrounding us, you can hardly see the peaks.
I forgot also to tell you that we have to know every make of planes and how they are made too. It's a tough branch.
Please write me often because it's mighty lonesome down here. But what cities we went went through on our way up here. I wish I could remember every one of them.
Gee, you eat down here! Ever since I been here I've had two helpings at every meal and at least five slices of bread a meal. At dinner, the second day we got here, I got three helpings, you just serve yourself down here just like home.
We are going on maneuvers in the desert in two weeks. We are down here for three months. After that they said we will be shifted either to New York or California after our training.
It's warm down here, there's no snow. I've been playing football and baseball for about an hour with the other soldiers every day after dinner. There are 80,000 soldiers at this fort, it's also an air base. There are planes overhead all the time.If you want to you can send me a little money, if you haven't got enough don't send any. Please tell Gene to write, I haven't time to write him, give him my address and tell him I miss him very much. Tell Julian and Rose and Yolande and Woodrow to write to me right now. I've been to the canteen three times so far. Ice cream is 15 cents a pint, I ate a quart one night. It seems that I gained four pounds already. I bought a paper in Topeka, Kansas, it had four pages and no funnies. I sure got gipped. Please tell papa that I'll do all my best to be a good soldier. I will obey all orders, work hard, study hard and tell him to write to me too. Tell him not to work hard, to rest a lot and to pray for me so that I can do everything right in the Army. I must leave you now, so goodbye and good luck.
January 23, 1943
Hello Claudia and Daddy,
I have received your money order, gee, I wasn't expecting ten dollars, but please don't send money orders any more, because I have to go to too much trouble. You see, right now I am in the desert, it sure is dusty tonight and all we got for light is a candle. The coyotes kept howling all last night. I couldn't sleep a wink, and boy was it cold in the morning.
Claudia, I forgot to tell you something in my last letter. Two weeks ago we had on exhibition the Japanese submarine which the Americans captured at Pearl Harbor. I even touched it and looked inside! You've seen it in the papers. I never thought I'd ever see that, it weighed 17.5 tons, it sure is some sight.
Gosh the fellers are sure swell to me. They won't let me buy anything, they all want to pay for me. A week ago at the fort, I wanted to stay in and write a little because my money was getting low, one feller got up and said, "hey you, I want you to go to the movies tonight, it's swell, here's some money for the show and some for candy, and if you don't want to go, I'll carry you over myself. So I went and it was good too, and so was the candy. Then next day another feller got a big box of cupcakes from his love, and did he fill me up, wow, we also had apples too.
Well I'm glad you finally got your watch. I'm sure glad of that.
I taught a man how to take a guard rifle apart and put it together again. I taught him about an hour. I take it apart in thirty seconds. I taught him the name of every part too.
Pardon the writing, because I can hardly see.
Gee I'm sorry Dad, I can only send you a picture around March. I look swell in uniform and the little hat too. Boy those anti aircraft guns make a lot of noise, it almost knocks you down fifty yards from it, but we are right near it. I was on ammunition detail one day and also lateral gun pointer and (AA) lookout the next day. If a Jap comes around we'll knock him to bits.
Write me a long letter Dad, I sure miss the walk's we took last summer.
Oh yes, where we eat in the mess hall, over in the far end of this place in the desert, we're pack like sardines, when we are all through eating, we got beans on our shirts, potatoes on our pants and broth all over our faces. (boy we have to laugh then).
Well, goodbye Dad, and tell Ralph to write to me too. Valmore
Pvt. Valmore Lavigne BTRY D 197th SEP BN CA (AA) Fort Bliss, Texas
JANUARY 25, 1943
I am glad you are all getting along fine. We have a swell bunch of fellas here. No I do not need my money belt because the fellas that are caught stealing know what they are going to get. Here's what they do to them; they line up all the rest of the battery into two files, and they make them run right through both lines and each fella slings the metal end of his belt at his head or body, nobody wants that kind of treatment.
Yes. I have been going to mass, don't worry I won't miss it. I am going to confession on Saturday.
When I received your letter I cried almost all night. The four other fellers in my hut cried too when their letters came in. We all had our turn at K.P. we won't have it for a month now.
I now weight 150 lbs, I weighed 137 when I left home, I've gained 13 pounds already!
I am sorry Dad broke his glasses. Please tell him not to work so hard, I want him to take at least a week off.
We went on a five mile hike, the other day, 10 miles in all, coming and going. We went in the desert, it sure was hot. We had our helmets, packs and leggings, we sure looked like soldiers then.
How are you getting along with sugar at home, can you get any with my coupon book? I go to the movies often and to the USO recreational center. It's nice and quiet there, a swell place to rest after a hard day's walk.
Claudia, I still remember how I made Mama cry when I did not want to go to school and made Papa worry a lot, but I just couldn't wait to work in the store. I will avoid the bad places and try to learn all I can. I will repay all I have done to mother and dad, I know mother is watching me. I will repay by being a good soldier. Don't you work too hard either.
How we hate to get up in the morning, we go to bed at eleven o'clock. I had my first Army haircut, boy it is short!
There's talk that Red Ruffing the New York Yankee pitcher is in this camp.
Good bye and good luck, and write me soon. Keep praying that peace will come soon. Valmore
My address has been changed, it is now:
Pvt Valmore Joseph Lavigne. BTRY D 197th SEP BN CA (AA), Fort Bliss
January 31, 1943
I jumped for joy when I received your letter, I cried a little bit, but of course you just can't help it being so far away to home, all the other fellas are the same too. Don't worry I'm all right. I'm obeying all orders issued to me, and I'll keep obeying them too. Everything I do here I do it for you and mother, and I know she is watching.
I sure miss the walks we took last summer and the lobsters too! We sure ate plenty of them last summer didn't we?
At first the Army was confusing to me. I seem to like it more and more every day now. We just got back from the desert yesterday, we stayed there ten days. We sure got the works. I fired the 30 calibre machine gun and the Garand rifle. I fired the machine gun for 75 rounds, I sure hit the target plenty of times too. We all had seven rounds of the Garand rifle, out of seven I hit the target twice, missed it by an inch once and for a guy that never shot a gun, in this life, I think it's pretty good, don't you?
Those darn coyotes keep howling every night, we could hardly sleep, we sure were dirty when we got back. I took a good shower and shaved and jumped into clean clothing. Boy I felt good after that. I went to bed at eight o'clock and boy did I sleep!
Today is Sunday, our day off you know. I went to the 9:15 mass this morning, we had a swell preacher too. We heard mass in the desert last Sunday, open air mass you know, the altar was in the back of a Army truck, we knelt in the sand.
Please dad, don't work too hard, why don't you stay home for a couple of weeks, you sure need a good rest. Tell me, how is Ralph getting along, tell him not to drink too much now.
I see that you will have to buy some more wood, that's too bad, I hope you won't have to wait long for it. Your room must be very cold at home, you must be having a tough winter in Brunswick.
I'm glad you enjoyed yourself at the movies, I see you went with Claudia.
Are you really having horse meat up there? I don't blame you for not eating any, I wouldn't eat any myself.
I know you are praying for me, I am praying for you too. Pray that I may return home some day. dad don't worry about me, the fellers are sure swell to me, they give me lots of things to eat, I guess I'll never starve here. Nobody has a better Father in the world than I have. I guess you gave me too much, I realize it now. I will be a good soldier, I will write to you often and I know you
will do the same.
Good bye Dad, and may God bless you. Your Son, Valmore
January 31, 1943
I received another of your letters today and it was swell. The mail has been coming in steady now. Yesterday I got six letters and a postcard from Gene. I received a very nice letter from dad, I think he wrote it in Lewiston, a long one too. I answered it today. They all say I'm a good baseball player, as for me, I don't think so.
I'm happy to learn that you and Yolande have sent me a box of stuff. I ought to get it pretty soon. Youlande told me you put a readers digest and some funny books in it. I'm glad Mrs. Sylvester received my card. I'm glad she'll write to me. Yes. I sent a postcard to Robert Melhorn and I already received his letter. My watch is keeping good time. Claudia, how is your's? I'm going to send you something soon. I already bought it but I can't send it now.
Don't worry about me a bit. I'm getting along fine. Although I miss everyone I left behind. Yes, I received Calvin's letter and I wrote to him and three days after, I got and answer from him.
I went to mass this morning, we had a nice preacher. We have a conscientious objector in this camp and everyone hates him. He's a Jehovah Witness. Idon't like him myself, he's an Italian.
Today is sunday it's our day off. I'm going out in a few minutes and eat two or three hamburgers and drink a quart of milk. I do that almost every day.
Gene sure writes to me often, how I miss that little feller. I miss him just like I miss all of you at home. I really do. I'll bet he'll be a little bigger when I come back home.
How is the war going on, Claudia? I haven't seen a newspaper since we got here. I hope Berlin and Hitler are getting it right on the nose.
We got back from the desert yesterday, boy was I tired.
Please ask Ralph to tell me how the Boston Bruins are making out and tell him to write himself. Some fellers get drunk on 3 and 2 beers over here, I'll bet he'd drink 200 bottles and still walk straight. Gee Leonard is lucky to go home often like that, I'm glad he can go.
Well, Claudia, that's about all for today. Oh yes, please send me my Indian moccasins and a little pair of scissors. Good bye and good luck, Valmore
In case you don't know what CA (AA) means, it means Coast Artillery, (Anti- Aircraft)
February 14, 1943
I have just received a another letter from you and it made me feel swell. I see they have rationed shoes boy that's tough, I suppose there's nothing you can do about it. Yes I really enjoyed your box of stuff. Please send me another one soon, huh?
The boys have seen your pictures, and said, "Golly, you sure have a nice looking sister", and they kept asking me "how old is she?" Of course they didn't believe me when I told 'em. One of 'em said I'd like to have a date with her! All the girls around here are mostly Mexicans.
Claudia, I went on guard for the first time on the 11th of February. Boy it was cold from 12 to 2 o'clock in the morning. And the coyotes kept howling all the time.
I now know plenty about ju-jitsu, I can toss a man that weighs 200 pounds over my hear easily and that's the truth too. They are all deadly tricks.
Well, Claudia, I have an idea that this war will be over pretty soon. I'm not afraid to go over because I want to do my share. The only thing I want if I should go across is to have a furlough and to see you all again before I go.
I 'm not going to any bad places and I say my prayers every day. Well, Claudia, that's all I can think of now.
Goodbye and good luck. Valmore
February 28, 1943
I received your very nice letter the other day and I hope you are in the very best of health. I also hope your not working too hard.
I've been on guard duty plenty of times now. Boy, your've got to have nerve while your on guard, it sure is spooky, and it sort of gives you a funny feeling, your shoulder sure gets sore lugging that rifle around.
We have a parade every saturday from 2 to 3 o'clock in the afternoon and we sure look swell. We also have inspection in the morning and boy is it strict. I clean my place usually two days in advance.
Well, we're quarantine here, somebody has got the mumps and we can't leave the area for 7 days.
I'm getting along fine with the cooks especially, they call me in the kitchen every so often and boy do they fill me up!
Ralph sent me a swell box of chocolates, boy, me and my buddies sure dove in it, it didn't last very long.
We are sure getting a lot of training right now and I don't find much time to write.
Our General's name is General Crawford. I am just a little feller compared to the boys here, they are all big, and come mostly from farms in Missouri.
I pray for you every night and hoping some day we may be together again. I'm being a good soldier and obeying all orders. Well that is all I can think of for now, until I hear from you. Good bye and the best of luck.
Your son. Valmore
March 2, 1943
Well here I am again. I received two nice letters from you. I'm in good health and hope you are too. Gosh, it doesn't seem possible that I've been gone two months.
About the radio Claudia, it would be bothersome to carry it around. I can hear some music now. I go in my buddy's hut every night and listen to his radio. But tell Ginger I thank him very much just the same.
Was I surprised when I read about all those break in stores, did they find who it was yet? Tell me when they do .Well, spring will soon be here and I'll bet you"ll be glad when it comes.
We're quarantined here, somebody's got the mumps.
Well, Claudia, I got marksmanship in shooting, boy was I happy. We're going back in the desert soon for seven days. Everybody hates to go there because it is so cold and dusty. I weigh 155 pounds now and getting a little bit tough.
Thanks for sending me the comic books. Yolande has just sent me three of her pictures. I see you want to know how come they saw your picture. Well, I keep it on my shelf so I can see it all the time. I also put Yolande's and Muriel's there. Yes, I know Nellie had trouble again. Boy, if the army ever gets him, they will fix him up.
You know we can't go any place till the quarantine is over. So the Battery Commander got a movie show in our class room and he made on purpose to get an old love picture, it was filmed in 1931 and the stars were Conrad Nagel, William Farnum and the girl was Alma Thalmidge, we got a great kick out of it.
We're going on a twenty five mile hike in two days from now. That's going to be touch.
Gee I feel good now with my Indian Mocs. I thank you for sending them.
We had a severe cold wave for a while, we had to wear our overcoats most of the time. You still haven't told me how your getting along with my sugar ration book. Never mind the size of the package, anything will do.
Our address now is
Pvt. Valmore Joseph Lavigne BTRY D 197 AAA (AW) BN Fort Bliss, Texas
Don't forget to tell everybody about this.
That's all I can think of for now, goodbye and good luck, Valmore
I received your registered letter and also the money, thanks a lot, Claudia. I hope all of you are in good health.
Yes my feet are as hard as a rock, them shoes are heavy. We went on a 25 mile hike on the 4th of March, boy I made it but I was sure tired. In eight days we are going on a 30 mile hike.
We had another sandstorm, boy are they awful. We are going back to the desert today, we all dread the place.
I am taking good care of myself, Claudia, I'm avoiding all the bad places and I am not forgetting my prayers.
Gee Ralph, I miss you a lot. Please write to me often, even if it is on a postcard. About the books, I would like especially cross-word puzzles and a few about airplanes because I have to study aircraft a lot.
How is everything going at Hardings? I'll bet its cold there. I hope you and Woodrow don't have to go in the Army. Don't worry about me, Ralph, I'm being a good boy, but I am sure lonesome. I think about home all the time and so does everyone here. I miss the Sunday dinners I used to have.
Well Ralph, so long for now and hope to hear from you soon. Don't drink too much now. I wish you, Dad and Claudia the best of luck and may God bless you. Valmore
March 14, 1943
I received your swell letter and I am happy to learn that you took a vacation,, you needed so much rest. Yes, Dad, I am getting along fine. Gee, how I miss you, I hope to see you soon. I think we're shipping out soon. There is rumors going around that we might go to Kentucky. I hope we go nearer the East so we could have a furlough.
Today is Sunday and I just came back from church. We just got back from the desert again, we really worked hard, but we're used to hard labor now.
We did a lot of shooting this past week. Dad I made Marksmanship with the rifle, boy am I glad I did that.
Yes it does look bad for baseball this year, Joe Dimaggio of the New York Yankees is in the Army.
Yes, Dad, I know you never did liked to loaf, you always worked hard and to repay all that hard work you have done, I'm doing my very best to learn everything I am taught, and offering every sacrifice to you. I'm investing $3.75 of my pay each month for war bonds.
I think I'll go to El Paso this afternoon and enjoy myself for a bit. I think I'll see the movie about the life of Lou Gehrig, the name of the movie is "The Pride Of The Yankees".
I'm hoping and praying that Ralph and Woodrow won't have to go in the Army.
Well, Dad, that's all I can think of for today. May God bless you and protect you in your work, goodbye and good luck. Your Son, Valmore
March 21, 1943
Well, how are you, I hope your ok. I see that Mr. Hall had a tooth pulled out and you say thaat dentist Eaton did an awful job. He did an auful job on one of mine too.
We went out in the desert again and this time I was ready for that jack rabbit. They call me jack rabbit now, we had maneuvers in the desert and we captured two tanks.
Boy, I sure would like to see you with your glasses. I would kid you myself.
I sure miss my cat. Gosh, it's too bad you couldn't use my ration book. Oh, I'm used to those heavy shoes now, so don't worry about my feet. Your letters are sure nice to read too, they sure make me happy. Yes, the popcorn was swell. Gosh, I didn't know you were rationed on candy, we get all we want. Don't worry about the shaving brush, I'll try to get one in El Paso.
I wrote to Nellie. How come she didn't get my letters, Claudia? I think Calvin has gone overseas, I'm sorry for him. Yes, the Ormsby boy is still with me.
We're going to move pretty soon but I can't tell you where.
Well, Claudia, two weeks ago I went in El Paso, and I said to myself I guess I'll take a stroll in the park and go watch the alligators. And who do you think was there? Simonne's brother, Conrad. We shook hands for about fifteen minutes, we were sure glad to see each other.
I hope they don't ration your clothes either. Yes, when I write to Nellie now, I'll address them home, I hope my clothes fit me when I come back, but I doubt if they will.
The priest told us we can eat meat any day, please offer a few of your masses for me and ask God that I may come back home some day.
Good bye and good luck. Valmore
March 28, 1943
I received another of your swell letters. I didn't mind the twenty five mile hike at all. I came out in one piece.
I see that Nellie had another brawl, I only hope that if he's ever drafted, thay they send him down here, boy would we fix him up.
I wish I could clean your bicycle for you, I guess mine ought to be good for scrap now. Don't you think it was swell of me to get Marksmanship in shooting? I'm really proud of myself now. Yes I'll try to write to Florida often.
The hot weather is sure getting terrific, you can hardly stand it. My eyes were a little sore because of that dust, so I bought me a bottle of Murine eye wash. their ok now.
I received another post card from Leonard and one from Ray. Oh why doesn't Ginger write to me. I haven't heard from him ever since I left home, please tell him to write to me soon, I sent him a post caard awhile back, ask him if he got it, huh? Gosh how I miss you folks and little Gene too. I wish I had time to write to him often. We are going to change to Suntan clothes soon, boy will I be glad. Yes I saw the Pride Of The Yankees with Gary Cooper, it was really swell. I saw it in
El Paso. I'll try and write to Mrs. Riley often, I wish I was there to help them this summer. I
ll bet my clothes won't fit me when I come back home. I sent my package, Claudia, and I hope it reaches home safely. Well, that's all for now, goodbye and good luck. Valmore
April 5, 1943
Well here I am again to say hello and how are you, I'm in the best of health.
Gee I'm happy that you like the pillow case and the folder too. About the colors of the pictures in the folder, its there natural colors, it's really a sight to see all those plants. I'm glad Esther and Mrs. Gauld received my cards. Mrs. Gauld certainly sent me a swell book. I also received Dad's letter the other day. Well, today we went over the obstacle course three times, and boy that was tough.
We had to jump walls, leap into trenches and go through barb wire, etc. Boy is it getting hot down here. I bought myself a pair of sun glasses to wear, that sun is too strong for me.
Well, another month has gone by, I have been in the Army three big months, it seems like two weeks to me. You know Claudia, when I left home, I thought that I wouldn't like the Army, now I wouldn't think of leaving these fellers here behind for anything, they really treat me swell.
Well, it looks like I'll be here all summer because we have to go back to our seventh week of training so you can keep on sending me stuff.
Oh, why doesn't Lionel write to me, I haven't heard from him yet? I hope he isn't mad at me. Well, we're going to learn how to swim in a couple days. I know I'll enjoy that.
You don't have to worry about the funny papers, I see them every Sunday.
These cool nights we're having makes me think of home. Good bye and Good luck. Valmore
April 18, 1943
(Note; little did my Dad know that while he was writing this letter on April 18, 1943, eight years later his first son, Michael Scott, " the Golden Boy", would be born on April 18, 1951.)
Here I am again to say "hello" and how are you, I 'm feeling swell.
Well, they have given me my position, I'm going to be a machine gunner on a tank destroyer.
Well, Claudia, my birthday will be here soon, I'll be twenty one years old, please say a few prayers for me on that day.
Well, they say we won't move for quite a while now, we are waiting for more equipment, so I guess we will be here all summer. We went mountain climbing today, boy was it hot. The toughest part of it was that we had to walk on those narrow mountain passes, did that make me feel funny, at times I thought my heart was at the tip of my toes! This afternoon we are going to have physical training exercises, but what we will like best is when we go in the office and sign the payroll.
Well, that's all for now, good bye and good luck. Valmore
May 9, 1943
I received your nice birthday card, thanks a lot. Well, I'm now a Private First Class, and boy am I proud of myself too! For the last three days all I've done is shoot, shoot, and shoot, I shot so much that I thought my ears would split apart.
On our last hike, we stop near the Rio Grande River, oh gee, how it made me think of home, it's sure a grand sight alright.
By the way, I'm getting to be quite a mechanic, you know how I loved to take things apart, when I had it together again I usually had a couple of pieces left, that hasn't happened here yet.
Oh, you would have laughed the other day, while we were on a hike we had a ten minute break and one of the fellas decided to lay down for awhile and a big lizard climbed into his pants, he jumped up and started to take his clothes off right in the middle of the road! All he had on was his shorts when they finally grabbed him from there!
I see you still are having a lot of blackouts in town, you ought to be here when we move out at night, it sure makes you feel funny.
Well, I am getting sleepy, so I think I'll hop into bed. Good bye and good luck.
Your brother, Valmore
June 6, 1943
(Note: When my Dad was writing this letter, exactly a year later on this very day, my Dad would be on the Omaha Beach in Normandy, France on D Day. )
I haven't written to you for quite awhile. I just couldn't, we were out in the desert for two weeks, we got back yesterday. I guess I stood in the shower for hours, boy was I dirty and I sure needed a shave.
Boy, I have good news for you Claudia and Dad too. On Memorial Day we had a speech by the General, and six in our battery were promoted, I was one of them! I was promoted to Corporal. It seemed like a dream to me, the boys kept patting me on the back all day long, Gee, Dad will be so proud of me now. That also means 16 more dollars a month for me and no more K.P. ! I was so happy that I cried all night long, I never dreamed that I'd ever be Corporal.
Well, now I can say that I've been out of the United States, three weeks ago I went to Juarez, Mexico, it's a very nice place.
Claudia now that I'm Corporal I am responsible for lots of things. Please, pray for me so that I can make good in my work. Well, that is all I can think of for now. Goodbye and good luck. Valmore
June 11, 1943
Just com back from the desert again, gosh it was hot out there. Well, I played a little football today, I hadn't played for a long time, it sure felt good to grab the old pigskin again.
Has Woodrow come back from his vacation yet? I"ll bet he had a swell time.
Gosh it is swell of Yolande to send me all those baseball scores, I wish I could listen to the games like I used to.
What's the matter with Dad and Ralph? They haven't written to me for quite a while.
I see you went bicycle riding again, I sure miss my bike, the riding I do down here is mostly on jeeps, trucks, or half tracks. I really get a good shaking.
I sure got a good tan, we all look like negros now.
Those Corporal stripes on my arm really look nice. About furloughs, we're all going to get one, but I guess mine will come around late.
Have you bought any new records lately, if you have, what are the titles of them?
In your last letter you asked me if I had seen any movies lately, well, to tell the truth, I haven't seen many because we're been out there, I guess you know what I mean by that. I've seen only two shows, one was "Dark Command", its a story about the Civil War. I don't remember the name of the other one, but I think Gildersleeve was in it.
The snapshots are still being developed, I don't know when I'll get them, I hope it's soon.
I was leader of the second squad in the gun section, I have been promoted to first squad leader.
Wow was I surprised when I read all about Renie Dayon, so he swears and smokes, eh? I wonder if he drinks, how does he look, he sure put on a good show back home didn't he? A good soldier doesn't have to drink or smoke, look at me, I'm Corporal now and boy am I proud of myself!
You say in your letter that you felt a cold coming on, I bet its your hay fever that's starting to bother you again. It sure makes me feel at home when I read the Brunswick Record.
Muriel sent me a postcard the other day asking me why I didn't write, please do me a favor and tell her its almost impossible for me to write to everybody, but I'll do the best to send her a postcard. We're so gosh darn busy here that I haven't time to have a good shit (ha ha!).
You know the book you sent me about airplanes? It sure helped me a lot, try to get me another one will ya huh?!
Well, I have got to leave you now, so long and good luck. Valmore
June 21, 1943
Coming home on furlough in three or four weeks, it will cost me at least sixty five dollars, but I doubt if I can raise that much. Please tell Ralph to send some of my money so that I may be able to come home.
Well, we were on the alert last Saturday because the Negros celebrated their anniversary of freedom from slavery, that was the day when Abraham Lincoln freed them, they sure celebrated all right, they raised cain in El Paso, every one of us was armed with a pickaxe handle ready for them because they were attacking white soldiers. The soldiers and sailors have been having a hard time with the Zoot suiters down here.
Gee, I will be glad to see Dad again. You know what I am going to do? The first thing I'm going to ask him will be to take a long walk with me like we did last summer, only this time I doubt if their will be any lobsters. The next thing I will do is take a good ride on your bike.
Until next time, goodbye and good luck. Valmore
I received your very nice letter, gee I was glad to hear from you. Well, I guess by now you know that I am coming home on furlough pretty soon, I sent home for some money, it will cost me at least sixty five dollars to go home.
Boy I am really proud of myself, you know I was second squad leader, I sure have plenty of workon my hand's now. We were issued our steel helmets, boy their heavy, seem to weigh a ton. Well today I was on guard, I don't mind it, two hours on and four hours off.
Well, Dad, I guess that's all for now, don't worry, everything is all right, I'm not drinking or smoking and obeying all orders. Good bye and good luck, will see you soon. Valmore
My dad's June 26 letter finds him at the half way point of his basic training. He has been in the US Army for almost 6 months and is starting to feel like a real soldier, but he is also homesick. A furlough is coming up for him soon and once he returns back to camp, his days at Fort Bliss are coming to an end. In August the 197th will be transferred to Camp Pickett, Virginia, so at this point I will bring Chapter 2 to a close.