Dear Aunty Clara:
Well, I went back to my old letter writing tricks last night. I wrote a long letter to you and then an unfinished letter to Dolores. After I reached a certain stage I just stopped writing and tore them up. They were not good enough. As a result I sent no letters out yesterday.
But, you know, that was enough to dishearten the bravest man. Here I had slaved away the night before so that every last one of my letters were answered and the very next day I receive six letters and a package.
I suppose, though, that by next week my mail will cease. Now we have discovered that we are not scheduled to leave as soon as we expected. We may pull out on schedule and receive our letters without interruption down in Frisco; but then again we may dilly-dally around this camp for another week and as a result there will be an accumulation of mail some 300-odd miles away.
The regimental area is practically barren of equipment and we could shove off at moment's notice, which we probably will do. Our field desks have been put in top condition and they too can be locked and sent within a minute. The only thing that I know of which will take some time to get ready is the junk in the foot lockers. Somehow, no matter how often it is cleaned, there is a steady gathering of non-essential odds and ends.
Well it looks as if I have cooked my goose as far as Hanton is concerned and Warner and Nyalka. It turned out to be one of those cases where by trying to please all parties none were satisfied. Hanton insisted that a set of Army Regulations be carried in my field desk. This was against the wishes of Sgt. Nyalka. I protested and put Hanton on edge against me but then after I saw them go in I had Warner and Nyalka down on me. We should have a six months supply of equipment in our field desks and I allowed myself only one months supply in the desks and five months went into Company A shipping boxes. These shipping boxes will he stored down in the hold of the ship and will be unavailable until our destination is reached and maybe later than that. The field desks, however, accompany the troops and are with us wherever we go. The result of the squabble was that I was sent down to extract a six months supply for my desks out of the boxes which were already screwed down and sealed with a wire. This made Hanton a bit sore once again. To calm him down I told him the six months supply was to include only such things as I thought would last me for that length of time. I told him I could get along on very little with the understanding between us that with that ruse we would still leave room in the desks for the ARs. When I came back down to the office with a mere handful of supplies, I was called down by Nyalka on not having all the supplies which were issued to me. I said I had a six months supply. He then wiped his hands of me and said that if I run out or am questioned (that is, run out of supplies or am questioned at the port of embarkation) he will not back me up. The net result is that Hanton thinks I am working against him and for the Personnel Office and Warner and Nyalka think I am just like the rest of the screwy outfit which is Company A.
If this was peacetime, I would have quit a civilian job such as this with divided authority over you. I could still quit this job now but I would be only cutting off my nose to spite my face. Just the same, I do not enjoy working harder than I ever did in my life and receive words of ingratitude in return.
Today, several of the companies had practice dry-runs. That is to say they packed up-lock, stock and barrel prepared to move out. The fellows had their barracks bags all packed, their overcoats on and their packs on their backs (o yes, and their rifles) and stood waiting in the field for further orders. The orders, naturally, were return to the barracks and unpack.
Last night the whole of company A from 1st Sgt on down (they even tried to get the Company Clerk) went on a night problem. They double-timed it over to Table-Rock mountain and played at war. One platoon was supposed to have been in charge of a hill and the other platoons were to attempt to capture it. From what they told me our Headquarters platoon held the enemy off. The fellows got back around 12:30 just as I was coming out of the shower.
A repercussion to their staying out late was that Company A had no Reveille in the morning. They were allowed to sleep until after 8:00. I had a fellow wake me at six so that I could get to work on time but you remember what chance a person has of getting me up. I was the first one of the company to get dressed and to eat my breakfast. I walked into the office about 45 minutes late and that too, did not put me in any better standing with my bosses. I was handed a buck slip by Nyalka which read, "To Co A --- Send down your Morning Report and your Company Clerk". I scratched off the Co Clerk part and took it down. To my amazement, not even the 1st Sgt or the Lts were down in the Orderly Room yet. Company A sure did get the going over at the office for the rest of the morning for that little stunt.
I believe they are planning another such maneuver for this evening.
I was talking with Jack Molyneaux last night, who also came down to write some letters, about the 36th Engineers as compared to the 353rd Engineers. He said that this outfit wasn't capable of being sent to any vital combat area in the entire world. He said that the 36th was a real fighting outfit. When they had maneuvers, they had tanks, planes, machine guns, mines, grenades, cannons and the whole works. In fact he said that in the big maneuvers the army conducted down South a few years ago the 36th Engineers came out with a special commendation as being the best trained and best prepared regiment of engineers in the United States Army. He also said that with a commendation like that there was almost bound to be something big in store for them. There was, since it turned out that they were the boys who landed on the shores of Algeria last November. He said, in addition, that when he was with the 36th during a practice war trying to take a hill there were real tanks hidden in the forest firing blank cartridges from their guns, the machine gun nests were firing blanks and the infantry-engineers were storming the hill firing their rifles and the airplanes were swooping down dropping flour bag bombs with blank machine gun bullets pouring from their guns, he was really scared. With this outfit, on the other hand, he says he can't possibly see how it could ever get in a spot like that.
He refers to the entire 353rd as a misfit outfit.
The boxes of candy are just about gone. The mallow delights disappeared this morning when I ate the last one. The package of dates which Jenny sent is half gone. The box of Hershey bars has been reduced to the total sum of 3 and the Tangos were 7 before this letter began and are now 5.
The watch works like a charm since I have had it again. The only thing which may be wrong with it now is that I think it gains time.
I don't know for sure whether it does or not because I haven't checked it with any clock which is correct yet. I am just going by how Private Harvey's watch runs. Being at the office from morning to night with no place to go and no evening to spend writing letters I haven't been using it as much as the first time I had it when there was some value to time. It is only when things ease up a bit and I begin to allot this time for this and this time for that and then this time to show up here and this time to show up there that I will again appreciate it as I did before.
I started on the payroll today but after getting just so far, Lt. Warner said to us to hold up on the payroll because it wasn't important and that we should get the records of the new men we received and put them in tip top order. It was a good thing that he gave us those instructions because I discovered that I had made a pretty bad omission in one of the enlisted men's records and I would have to do that sheet over again any how. Jack Molyneaux did something just about as bad as that on his payroll and he too had to begin over again. As it stands now, Company A is the only Company that does not have their payroll either completed or at least begun. Companies C, D, E and H&S have their payrolls complete. Company F has their payroll almost done and Molyneaux has about 5 pages or more completed while I must start from scratch once again.
If I get this letter out and a suitable letter to Dolores out tonight and a thank you to the Infiestas and a letter to Bobbie and Bob H and so forth and so on, maybe I will find time to make a little headway in the thing. We are all of the opinion that this payroll will never be used anyhow. Ordinarily the payrolls are signed and delivered by the 14th of the month and now it will be an impossibility to have them ready before Monday evening.
Yesterday we had a big parade of our troops and they marched right past the Regimental Headquarters with the famous 353rd Engineers Band playing for fair. Our band plays all kinds of tunes not just military marches. It sounds very funny to hear, in an army post, the band strike of "Margy" or "White Christmas" or some of these late songs. The whole affair seems more like high school than the army in that respect. Most of the boys get a big kick out of "their" band and all that rot but all I want to do is go home and listen to any band in Cicero. Those are the ones that would sound good.
In my letter of yesterday I ended with the remark that if I would think of anything a little later on I would add it on. I will not make that mistake again and I will seal and mail this one right now. If I do think I would like to add a little comment here or there I will write another letter.
Dear Aunty Clara - I slept until 10:00 this Sunday until Hanton had me awakened to do some work. Fortunately I got here in time for the outgoing mail. Otherwise this wouldn't go until Monday.