Camp White, Oregon
2 December 1942
Dear Aunty Clara:
How be you, Aunty Clara? I am alright except for being a little tired. I think that at last I have the opportunity to write a fairly decent letter to you. As my last letters indicated, I have been kept pretty much on the go; but I have finished what work I can this evening and have about two hours left to myself,
I don't exactly know where to begin with my narration of the past two days, I might as well start with Tuesday morning. I got up for Reveille as usual, made my bed, went to breakfast etc. Then we had to put on our fatigues and leggings for drill work. We went thru some mass movements with the entire company of new men (145) taking part.
The lowest division of men is a single soldier. After the single soldier comes the squad with about 15 or 16 men. There are usually three squads to a platoon and three platoons to a Company. In case it might interest you to know, I am a member of the first squad in the second platoon. Anyhoo, we learned some preparatory steps in group exercise. In other words, we learned what positions to assume when given certain specific commands. For example, here is how the system works. The Company Leader says, "Hands on Hips" --- we do nothing at this signal. That is known in the army as a preparatory command. It tells us what we are to do. Then, at the word, "Place" we do just that --- we place our hands on our hips. The word place is the command of execution. At first I thought it was just army vernacular to deliberately mispronounce and blur some commands. That is not the idea I have since discovered. All commands are divided up into two distinct parts: the preparatory command and the command of execution. The first command must be clear and distinct for by it the detail knows what is to be done. When the movement is known, it is necessary to put it into effect by a sharp utterance. It doesn't matter if the second command is intelligible or not so long as a loud noise is made and heard by the entire personnel. If the platoon sergeant would say, "Forward -----------March", we would all march off with the word march. But in order for us all to have the same step, the word march must not be drawn out; but it must be loud and short so that we all pick up the beat at the same time. If the word were drawn out, we would have some beginning the step on the first part of the word and others waiting until the completion of the word before taking that step. As a result, the command sounds something like this is spelled, "Forward --------ARCH". In a similar manner they do not say "Atten -------tion"; "Atten ----- UN". So you see that the language the army uses in giving its commands has a definite reason in back of it and is not just colloquial usage. Likewise in counting cadence to the marching steps the words one, two, three, four are not used but the short snappy hep, hup, hip, ha are used.
Nevertheless, after some period of exercise we were marched off to one of the long, low unpainted buildings about 3/4 miles distant from our area where we saw the movie I told you about yesterday. It was a movie about the Articles of War which we had seen at a previous time. At the end of the film our company was marched off into the muck about two miles away. Upon arriving there our Sergeant told me to take off. To take off means to go to wherever you have to go. In my case it was to take off to the office. I double timed it all the way back to the barracks and changed into my O.D.s.
When I got to the office, Lt. Warner had a job waiting for me, Wally and the other fellow. We had to look the men's service records up for each company and make a list for war bond purchases. This job took until noon and then was not finished and it was still unfinished at 2:00 when we had to high tail it back to the barracks, change into fatigues and rejoin the company. I didn't locate my company immediately but ran, walked and hiked away out into the 351st Engineers proving grounds where they were erecting barbed wire fences, building improvised fortifications, practicing with automatic rifle stands and trench mortar emplacements. By the time I saw all this I realized I had come a mile or so out of my way. When I did find my company, in a theater two miles in the opposite direction, it was 3:00 and the chemical warfare program with instructions on the operation and manipulation of a gas mask was over.
After supper, returned to the office once more. This time was to do some work for Sgt. Nyalka. I had to type up the recommendations for promotions of various 2nd Lieutenants to the rank of 1st Lieutenant. Among those being promoted was Lt. Hanton, Company Commander of Company A. This job had to be strictly accurate and the slightest error would throw out the whole page. Needless to say it took me all night to type up two recommendations. I am going to come out of all this government work a pretty accurate typist. That is on copy work. Letters like this are extemporaneous and I sometimes change my trend of thought in the middle of a sentence and therefore make an error. As I was saying I worked all night. I think it was close to 11:30 or 12:00 by the time I got in. That makes two consecutive days I have not been there for bedcheck.
About 9:30 or 10:00 Sgt. Nyalka went out to buy some eats for us fellows. We paid for them --- it wasn't a treat. I bought a milk shake.
Today was somewhat similar. Fatigues and leggings in the morning until approximately 9:00 and then to the office. Today I remained at the office for the rest of the day.
Last night when I was doing that other work, we had another fellow in from our company and he was to type up a company roster of every man in the company. I showed him how to do it but at the end of three hours he had nothing to show for his work. That meant extra work for me. I had to type up the roster and put it in alphabetical order at the same time. I did that as soon as I came in this morning. Then I had to finish the War Bond job. After those two things were out of the way, the next job was the payroll once again. This time I made a list of all the errors either Corporal Censky or I had made in typing up the payroll. We must have everyone of them initialed by Lt. Warner. That proves the errors or change was made before payment and was an authorized error and not a bit of finigilling. From 3:00 to 5:00 and from 7:00 to 8:00, I was completing the payroll itself.
There were two other things that happened today. One is that they had a Regimental Review and the other is Cpl. Censky and I became acquainted. The entire regiment with the office help excepted was out on the reviewing grounds dressed in the O.D. pants, summer shirts, blouses and cartridge belts. They marched in military style passed the colonel's stand. At the command, "Eyes ------RIGHT" they all jerked their necks and heads to the right and stared the colonel in the face. I could only see it from a distance but it looked good.
Censky and I had a swell time this afternoon. For the first time since I have been in the army, I lost all sense of seriousness and became completely and insanely silly. The way Dolores and I used to get down at RH&R. It all started when I hunted for our errors and came down with about 30 of them on 15 pages. Some of them he remembered and had thought they would escape detection and as I brought them to his attention, one by one, the humor of the situation seized us both. We laughingly decided to forget the whole business. You see, if an error is made and detected on any soldiers payline he is "redlined" that means he doesn't get his dough that month and it isn't paid until next time when the payroll is made out correctly. So we ended up by saying these guys are only in the army 15 days anyway and shouldn't be paid so soon. I don't know if you can see what we were laughing about but we were. Then we typed up a sheet of names without first arranging them in alphabetic order. We got another silly laugh over this. The sheet was typed perfectly but still we had to do the whole thing over.
After we went "home", that's what the fellows call their barracks, we went upstairs to his bunk and he showed me his footlocker which is the most horrible example of how not to keep your things than I think I shall ever see. He never has to pass inspection and his locker looks it. I don't blame him --- a fellow likes it better junked up. Anyhow, he was showing me all the pictures he took in Arkansas, Wisconsin, etc. Did I tell you he is from Milwaukee? He came here from Camp Robinson, Ark. where most of the other cadre came from. (Cadre means of officers).
I showed him my pictures yesterday and he showed me his picture holder that he carries around with him. It is ideal and ten times better than the one I bought at Liggett's.
Company A's desk s right next to the mail room and every time the mail comes in I begin watching every package and letter I see them sort thinking one will be for me. I wish some of my return mail would start flowing my way. I didn't get any mail today. Of course, I guess I am acting like I always have. I don't give my own mail a chance to get there before I begin expecting an answer. If it takes 5 days for ordinary mail to get around, the people have just received my letters yesterday, today and they will not all have them until maybe Friday. Then first after another few days will I be able to expect the answers. Uncle Jack hasn't written to me yet. I don't know if I sent him my permanent address or not. I will have to drop him a line.
Our company has been restricted once more to the Company Area. I also have my haircut ticket and will be trimmed by the time you get this letter. I don't think I will ever have another picture taken from now on without wearing a hat.
By the way, when I was typing up the promotions for the officers, I took a look to see how old they were and how they got to be officers. Lt. Warner is 23 years old. He has only been out of school for about a year. He enlisted in the army as a private, worked his way up to be a Corporal, then went to Officers Candidate School for 90 days and then came here. Now he will be a 1st Lieutenant. Lt. Hanton, our Company Commander, the tough guy had his toughness explained to me. He has been in the army for several years. He is twenty-five years old. And he worked himself up from Private to, and this is important, SERGEANT. As you know, sergeants are mean guys so going to officers school for 90 days didn't change him from being a sergeant at heart.
I am enclosing a little note for Aunty Florence. I haven't got two envelopes so I am mailing them together.