Dear Aunty Clara:
Do you realize I haven't written a letter to you since January 2? That is a long, long time. Sunday was spent in writing 9 letters and 1 post card and I put off writing to you until the last and the last never came because I finished the day with three letters to answer. But I just shrugged my shoulders and said to myself that finally on Monday evening I would answer those three letters, write to you and begin writing some fresh letters. Aha, that is only what I said to myself. In fact, now, while writing this letter, I am trying to think back to Monday night and it is only with difficulty that I am going to remember just what happened that night and the nights thereafter.
I do know this that while I was typing letters Sunday evening, Sgt Driscoll walked into Headquarters and handed me a slip of paper with 13 names on it. They were promotions: 9 PFCs, 1 Sgt, 1 T/4, and 2 Cpls. Well, the PFCs were a simple matter to take care of because they are written up on COs which means "Company Orders". I typed it up with Monday's date and took it down to the orderly room where Lt. Hanton signed it and the men were thereby promoted from Pvt to Pvt 1 cl. The higher ratings are a different story. They are first written up on a promotion form giving the reason for promotion, then that the vacancy exists and finally the recommendation and qualification for the position. They must be signed by the Company Commander and then by the Battalion Commander and then by order of the Colonel. They must then go thru Regimental Headquarters and be stenciled and run off. Not until then are the promotions official.
But I am straying from the subject. That took me quite some time to prepare all the orders and I did not even have time to mail the letters out until the following morning. Then, when I got down Monday morning, the work began socking me in the face. One thing after another in rapid fire succession. I was afraid that my promotion would go thru that day and I would not have time to appear in public with my stripes right away. (As it turned out, I was busy at the time I was promoted and it took me quite a while to get them on.) Monday afternoon I was going to write but, OUCH, I was selected on a committee as a representative of the Headquarters Platoon (to which I was transferred today) to plan a Company Party for this Saturday night. This committee business and then changing sheets on my bed canceled my Monday noon hour. Comes Monday quitting time and I get handed a letter to type up for the Colonel. Now that letter had to be perfect. (Not like the last sentence I just typed). So I typed it without one error except for the fact that in one line they wished to add "gave his date of birth as" instead of what I had typed "gave his birth as". For that I had to type the entire letter again. This second time, I reached the second from the last line when I typed 1936 instead of 1926. Once more the entire letter was torn out of the machine and a new one inserted. This time I reached the last line before I forgot to put a t in the. The fourth and final time I achieved my purpose of an errorless piece of work. But can you imagine that four times and only two typographical errors!! No wonder when I write to you with the tension off I make one error after another.
The point I am trying to make is that I worked overtime to get that letter out. But in the meantime, before finishing the letter, I was called to the Company Orderly room where we had to dope out the situation in regard to the party. This took until 9:30. Then I went back to the letter.
Tuesday during the working hours the avalanche of material continued to swell and overcome the clerk of Company A. His noon hour was again broken up by more work. Tuesday was also the day on which Special Order Four was issued from Regimental Headquarters. It was also the 53rd day of this soldier's service in the United States Army. Can you imagine that they made him wait 52 entire days as a mere buck private before making him a CORPORAL? Anyhow I tried to get hold of some stripes right away and sew them on and I sent out the telegram to you and I had to roll a full field pack that night. You can see what happened to that evening. I bought Coca Colas for the whole office Tuesday and treated myself to two milk shakes and two pieces of pie that evening. I rolled the full field pack in preparation for the overnight bivouac of the entire regiment and I sewed on my stripes on my field jacket.
Wednesday morning was jammed with work and at noon we began to prepare to leave. We walked with packs on our backs for about ten miles until we had walked out of the Agate Desert, around Lower Table Rock Mountain and into Sam's Valley in back of Upper Table Rock Mountain into the United States Army Military Reservation. We then pitched our tents. We did this in pairs. Each fellow carries half of a tent and they button together. We also carry portable and collapsible tentpoles and pegs. In no time at all we had the tent set up. Then we placed our raincoats on the ground inside the tent. On top of the raincoats we place a blanket, then a comforter and then another blanket. For covers we had two more blankets and another comforter. Our pillows were our mackinaws (I had to borrow one because I haven't any) and we slept with our clothes on.
We ate dinner in our mess kits and it was swell. Then we walked over the fields and thru the woods for about a half mile and gathered with the rest of the regiment around a huge bonfire where we sang songs. And we sounded off too. Company A made the most racket and had the most fun. The Colonel and all the officers were with us. After finding our way back to our encampment we were served cocoa and sandwiches. We then hit the hay. I talked with my partner, Morris E. Mersing (another recruit to Headquarters Platoon --- he works in the Orderly Room and is 24 years old), until 11:30 and then went to sleep. I would have slept swell but for one thing. We made certain our feet would not be sticking out in the cold by double tucking of the foot of the bed but that way we did not allow ourselves much blanket room around the shoulders. So everytime we turned during the night we would get a lot of cold air up there and it woke me up at 12:20, 2:35, and 5:05. At 6:00 I cuddled way down in the blanket and was just finding a nice warm position when Porfirio S. Zamora, our bugler, blew Reveille. Getting out of bed and putting on our shoes was the worst part of it. We shivered then. Then in the pitch black of morning we knocked apart the tent and rolled our packs. We went to eat and had swell chow. They served the coffee with sugar and milk already in it so for the first time in a long time I have drunk it that way. We had ham and eggs and bread and then went back for milk.
I had some extra fun out of it because I had to take back the Morning Report and in order to get them had to set out for the other companies which had scattered themselves all over the area. I went thru the dark from one pinpoint of light to another but never did find the company I was looking for. It was fun because I had quite a few chances to lose myself but I didn't. I didn't walk back. I rode back in a jeep. They are swell. We went 30 miles per hour over the fields and up and down hills for a mile without feeling a bump. They have special gears to carry them thru that mud and rough ground. Then we sped along the highway back to camp in short order. We were clipping along at a neat pace. Incidentally, jeeps have no side doors. They are entirely open. Gee, I never knew camping out could be that much fun. It was fun because we had the equipment and the right kind.
Most of the fellows felt sorry for me to begin with and even the Lieutenants said they thought I would drop out but I surprised them by being able to walk the distance for my very first hike and still have a lot of life left in me. Many of the fellows are still aching and paining. I am glad my knee became well just in time otherwise I couldn't have gone a half mile with them.
All day today we were busier than any thing getting discharge papers drawn up for misfits and that was a job and a half.
Either Monday or Tuesday I got a box with a book in it. A Carl Sandburg book about the Civil War. It was from Ray and Dotty and a letter accompanied it. It seems no matter where I go, even in the Army, I will be collecting a library. That makes four books I now have with me. One is War and Peace, another is my Soldiers Manual, the third is my Administration Book and now this one. I haven't been able to get off a thank you note yet.
Sunday I received the films and the Tangos. We took a roll of stills in the office Sunday evening but I haven't gotten around to mailing them out because I am so busy. I received two of your airmails on the same day. One written on the 30th and the other on the 2nd. I can't answer what was in them because I read them so hurriedly and I don't know where they are. That is an example of the rush we are in. I also have another stack of unanswered mail, Ray and Dotty, Aunty Florence, Bob Boyer, Infiestas are new ones plus the old ones.
I have moved upstairs to the second floor in our barracks among a lot of hillbillies (Kentuckians, Indianians, Ohians etc). I would rather be downstairs.
I didn't tell you before because I never thought of it while writing and didn't think it was going to last. Censky started calling me "Junior" in a joking way and now they call me "Corporal Junior". Incidentally, Censky is out on the line now and has moved from our barracks. He is not a very talkative fellow and I got just as much out of the visit in Milwaukee as you told me. it sure must have been brief. He got a kick out of the double handshaking business. The trouble was that I haven't been able to talk to him absolutely alone so he hasn't had the chance to go into detail about the visit.
When all the PFCs blossomed out in Company A Monday, the fellows were getting worried lest I fall behind. They kept asking me why I didn't get a rating but I just kept mum and shrugged it off as one of those things. They certainly did make a big to do about it when they saw my stripes. It is strange being called, "Hey, Corporal" and "Corporal Klick". I sewed on the stripes on my shirt after coming in from bivouac this morning. The rest I will take into town to be stitched on. I also sit at the non-coms table now. They have a new system whereby all non-coms eat separately. I sure do like the looks of those stripes and glance down at them every once in a while to see how they look.
The line corporals look at me and say, "My oh my, I never saw that done before, six weeks in the Army and a Corporal". Others say, "How did you get those stripes? Weren't you a PFC first?". They just can't get over it. Even Sgt Wagaman who is now in C Company congratulated me. By the way, Colonel Trower congratulated me on making Corporal as he walked through the office Tuesday night.
I also spoke to 1st Sgt Warner whom Elvira spoke about. He is a good friend of a fellow who used to sleep across the aisle from me. He is the 1st Sgt of H&S Company. I don't know if I referred to him before but I never did see a worse looking 1st Sgt. He is around the PX bar all night long and is continually picking Wilbur (the fellow across from me) up to go on the rounds in town.
I am enclosing a copy of the Special Order on which I was promoted. We can save this for posterity.
What time did you get my telegram? Did you understand it? I believe I wrote you before just what it would mean. Didn't I? And I'll bet even you didn't think I would make it that fast either, did you? According to all calculations the war will now be over within a year. Almost every time I get a new job I have been promoted within the sixth week. At RH&R from shipping to planning within six weeks and from biller to straw boss in six weeks and now from student to clerk and Private to Corporal in six weeks. It always took me a year before my next promotion and then just after I would get it something would happen. So I will be a Corporal for about a year and just when I get a T/4 or Sgt the war will be over.
Another thing is that I don't bother going to bedcheck anymore. I just forget about it and stroll in anytime from 11:30 to 12:30. I haven't been called on it yet so I will continue to do that. This is like old times going to bed when I am good and ready to do so.
Remember how I always used to complain about having so much time to do things but never doing anything? Well, I wouldn't have thought I would within a short time have so much to do and continually be doing it and still not get it done. I only hope that if I get out of the war alive this ambition or working habit stays with me because I will certainly be able to get somewhere then.
We passed over the Rouge River on the hike and believe you me it is swift. If a fellow fell in there with his full field pack he would drown in short order. That goes for a fellow who can swim fairly well just as well.
I said before I couldn't answer your other letters well I just pulled the one I received today out of my back pocket. I notice you have already ceased to number them. This one is dated Sunday Jan 3. O, about that watch. I have tried wearing it again and the first time I wore it it stopped within an hour but since then (0800 Tuesday morning) and right thru the bivouac and up till now it has run like a charm. It was swell to be able to tell the time in the pitch dark of the tent.
Did Harold have any stripes? This Sgt Warner has already sent word to his sister that I made Corporal already so don't be surprised if Emma calls you up and wants to know about it. I have been letting Harvey sit around writing letters these last few days because to teach him what to do and then to check his work takes too long so I have been doing it all myself. When the work is slower and not so important I will be able to teach him the ropes a little better. This Mersing fellow never put down that he knew how to type and he had a mental test of 128 or 134 which is O.K. I told him I had wanted him but didn't see a record that he knew typing. He is a whiz and would have been ideal up here in Hq.
I lost a pair of brown socks on the bivouac during the night and the laundry kept one brown sock so I only have two pair left. I also left my gas mask in my hurry to find the Battalion Commander's jeep so I could store my pack. They picked it up for me, however, and I got it back.
The other day the fellow that looks like George drove me down to the hospital to get the supplemental Payroll signed by one of the fellows in there. That let me see a little more of the camp.
I just found your letters, #2 and an unmarked one dated the 1st. They were hidden in that little drawer that I used to keep the watch in. Those clippings about the Touhy gang being killed and surrendering were mighty interesting. That was like the last chapter of a serial story. They all get it in the end when the FBI gets on their trail, don't they?
No, the waitresses in these ice cream parlors of Medford and the Shack have no rating or comparison to the Cicero and Berwyn girls.
That fellow Thompson was one of the fellows promoted to PFC but the other fellows don't like him so much now because he has seemed to have gotten a swell head over it. I don't know since I don't see much of him.
No. I did not receive any Xmas cards from Aunty Stella or Virginia.
Censky was surprised to see me without the stripes and more surprised when I told him I was being made Corporal that day. He was 15 minutes AWOL. He got in 15 after midnight on Monday.
Yes, I know Louis Cava. Just a half hour before I received your letter, he came up and asked me where my Dad worked. He had received a note telling him the same story the night before. We have known each other for over a month now. He is a student clerk for Company C. We have talked over Morton, Berwyn and Lenke's Ice Cream Parlor many times. That is a coincidence, isn't it? Or is it? After all ¾ of the regiment comes from the vicinity of Chicago and it is a small wonder that some of us should have some connections. After all look at the 70 people who work at RH&R and how they had intertwined their mutual friends and relationships.
Yes, civilians can wear the insignia on their sleeves. They can even wear stripes and bars if they want to. Dolores has her uncle's stripes sewed on her sleeves.
I wonder if Jerry the milkman expects an answer to a mimeographed letter?
Blumenfeld has been on sick call at least 10 times since being in Camp White and for various other alibis etc he is getting himself generally disliked by the boys as a gold brick (a gold brick is a shirker or a fellow who gets out of work he doesn't want to do).
Say hello to every one and solong for now. It is exactly 2400.
no longer a buck private