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 the Pacific during the Second World War.
July 30, 1943
Dear Mom and Hugh –
Well, I’ve been here a week now, and although I’m not saying I’ve enjoyed it I must admit it has been entertaining. I’m still alive and since I’ve survived this first week, am convinced I can live through anything.
I know old Hugh would get quite a kick out of seeing every hour of my life rigidly disciplined and regulated according to military codes and laws. I believe I’m making the grade in good shape because today – for the first day – I didn’t even consider telling any of my superior officers to kiss one of the less attractive sections of my anatomy.
I don’t think I told you when I wrote previously that I have a G. I. haircut. There is now just about as much fur on the soles of my feet as on my head. “G.I.” is supposed to mean General Issue but – as applied to a Navy haircut – it means “goddamn imposition” in this sailor’s books.
I am increasingly grateful to you, Mom, for having taught me to make the best of an unpleasant situation which couldn’t be corrected. Without such a philosophy this life would be intolerable for me. I’m working hard and doing my very best to make the Navy a good hand. I believe I’m succeeding in that effort – and that’s a source of considerable satisfaction. I’ve been made a squad leader and it’s my biased opinion that my platoon makes the best appearance on the parade ground of any in boot camp. You should hear me hollering “Forward,” “Stand Fast,” etc. to my little group. There are moments when I actually enjoy myself.
Last night the Camp Store had ice cream for sale – and that is really a (treat?) in these parts for cold food or drinks of any description are rare here. I bought myself a quart and a half of ice cream and ate it all by myself. Please don’t dismiss this as a mere act of gluttony comparable to (illegible name)’s lust for turnips. It was one of the most satisfying emotional experiences of my life. I’m eating three big meals a day, and, surprisingly enough they are fairly well balanced – especially when one takes two helpings of salad and passes up the macaroni and beans.
Every day is wash day in the Navy, and I’m getting so I can put out a fair washing. Most of the boys in the barracks have announced their intention of taking a Native mistress as soon as they land on a foreign shores. I’m going to get me a woman, too – a wash woman.
Most of the men in my platoon are Yankees – I’m beginning to realize why the south fought the north. I’ve already had to call down a New Yorker who said critical things about Texas. However, I get along fine with all of them – we’re friendly if not friends.
It’s only a half hour till “lights out,” and I’ve many things to do in the interim so this all for now –
Much love to you both,