In a battered blue trunk with rusted hinges and broken locks lies the truest of treasures: hundreds of letters from Grandaddy Bill and his brother Hugh, written to their mother from far away lands during the Second World War.
Aug. 12, 1943 (Nine days till I break boot camp!)
Dear Mom and Hugh –
Just received nice letter from both of you and am losing no time in replying as I expect my good right arm to be paralyzed by bedtime. I’ve just had another series of shots – tetanus and typhoid – and it’s putting things mild to say I’m feelin’ queer.
This had been a lovely, lovely day – in fact, I never expect to have another so nice while I’m in the Navy. This was my duty day which meant I was supposed to dig ditches and do constructive things. But don’t think I did ‘cause I didn’t. My entire morning was spent in company with a dozen of my companions in crime – riding around the camp in a truck, looking for draining ditches which weren’t draining. I am happy to report that we didn’t find a single one. The camp is huge and located in a most scenic area so I enjoyed the ride immensely. Our work made us all very hot and thirsty – and we had to stop for ice cream and cokes every time we passed a ship’s store. All in all, it was a very successful morning. I had to work a little in the afternoon but, even so, I had fun! We were refilling holes on the parade ground, and our orders were to fill them and level off the ground. The hole on which I was working was quite a large one, with lots of soft mud and water in the bottom. Well we filled it and leveled it off – and it looked fine – but when I’d touch it with the point of my shovel it would quiver like a bowl of the six delicious flavors. I realized at once that we had constructed a diabolical trap and we retired to some nearby bushes to see what kind of game it would catch – in the space of 45 minutes, we bagged a lieutenant, J.G., a warrant officer, 2 C.P.O’s, and a whole platoon of enlisted men. It was so funny to see them marching serenely along and suddenly discover themselves thigh deep in the mud. They all made some extremely interesting remarks about the situation. As I say, it’s been a most successful day. I won’t be at all surprised if there’s fried chicken and hot biscuits for supper tonight.
Hugh – I gather the memorandum you enclosed with your letter was your subtle way of telling me you’re a Lead Man. Congratulations – this should prove to you that you can’t keep a good man down. I’m very glad and proud – I hope this step up will make it easier for you to wait until the Marine Corps comes to realization of the obvious fact that it’s just marking time until H.L. Akin is called into service.
Be good and write to me often, both of you – Much Love,