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.
Aug. 29th (1943)
This is Sunday, and having a whole 21 hours liberty, I’m spending it in Richmond. I haven’t done anything constructive with the day as yet but I have hopes for it. To be specific, I’m trying to telephone you and Hugh. However, nothing may come of it. Washington is so near that the lines are loaded with government calls – not much chance for a sailor who has no business more urgent than saying ‘hello’ to the folks back home. I tried for five hours to get a call through to you last Wednesday night when I was in Williamsburg but as you know, nothing came of it.
I’ve had a pleasant, if uneventful, day, so far. Got to Richmond about noon, had a good lunch, window shopped and went to a movie – “This Is The Army.” Thence to the U.S.O. Club, where I am now. I’ve danced with an eager fortish woman[G1] who gushes about “you dear boys in the service” – also a couple of kids about 18 – nice but, oh so dumb.[G2] Wel, hee’s a typerite vacant – I thought it might be better than the U.S.O, pen but already I bgin to havemy doubts. Gad, what a typewriter – gimme that pen again[G3] .
Well[G4] someone grabbed the pen while my back was turned so we’ll carry on with a pencil. I shan’t be much surprised if I find myself using oil packets to complete this note.
Nothing[G5] new or startling has developed during the week past. I’ve just dug a few more miles of ditch. If I ever find myself a rich man, I think my philanthropy will take the form of buying and destroying all the shovels in the world.
Today was rather cool and I wore my dress blues The troubles of this ensemble have 13 buttons, as illustrated on the next page.[G7] All those spots are buttons and every last dam one of them has to be undone when any visit to the Men’s Room is necessary. Incidentally this is a front view of the pants. I have no information as to the fiend who designed the rig but I’m betting it was either a very impractical old maid or some fellow who had a bitter grudge against men in general and sailors in particular.
Looks as though I (?) get to begin school tomorrow, as I had hoped. If I don’t I’m going to volunteer for work on source of the nearby farms. I’m tired of goldbraiding on those W.P.A. ditch digging projects.
I went to a really good U.S.O show at the camp last night. Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe Review. Lots of beautiful girls scantily attired – great musical. I enjoyed the evening immensely.
This has been a dreary week with no letters from home. But I imagine there’ll be some mail for me when I go back to camp tonight. I received the New Yorker – it was forwarded to me – Thanks a lot.
I’ll be out of stir again next Thursday. Virginia is coming down to camp and take me back to Newport for the evening. We had planned to do that last week, but she made a trip somewhere with Jack.
Guess I’ll have to close now, Mom. There are other boys waiting to get at this desk.
Much Love, Bill
[G1]I believe the marriage with Jean (his first wife, not my grandmother) has fallen apart at this time. Dad told me it was right before he left for overseas and he hasn’t mentioned her at all for a while. So of course he’s all about carousing right now!
[G2]Here the ink has gotten quite runny, in a downward direction. He ditches the pen…
[G3]Typewritten. All the typos are accurate to the letter.
[G4]This section is so faded I can barely read it.
[G5]Back to the pin, probably a calligraphy pen.
[G7]correct wording… I think he’s drunk.