1 Chapter 1 – Early Days – Spring/Summer 1943, Letters 1-40
#1. DPM to JDM (ALS, 1p.)
May 12, 1943
Everyone’s out for a little while, and Penny’s asleep, so I’m going to take a shot at getting a letter to you before you get out of the country. Let me know as soon as you receive any mail thru this A.P.O- it would be so nice if we could keep in touch with each other as long as you’re on dry land.
And that reminds me, I just talked to Rita and she said Jack Davis departed for the Pacific area a while ago, and his Mother received mail from him both from the West coast and from shipboard, (via air mail) on his way. I don’t know what part of the Army he is in, but hope you can write to us before you reach your destination. If you can’t, keep a letter started, to mail when you can, and write a little on it every few days. Your impressions and surroundings will change so rapidly you’ll forget them if you don’t.
It’s awful that we were reduced to such a stupor from fatigue and misery when we had to say goodbye, that it was hard to say anything. I don’t seem to be consciously inhibiting my sorrow at having you go, but it has been short in so far as to make me feel as if I were inhabiting ten tons of solid rock.
After saying goodbye to you, I drove for two hours and was so sick I had to fold up after reaching the city where we look for the parkway. The car seemed to be looping along like that hobby-horse Penny had, and I with it, and every time I seemed to sway forward somebody hit me over the back of the neck with a tennis shoe! It was the first time I was ever car sick driving. Self-preservation may have kept me from preoccupation with my emotions, but next time I choose to weep.
I drove from ten-thirty to five yesterday, stopping in the Pine Hills area for lunch, at your favorite gas station, and to pick up your proofs at Fay’s. The pictures from your camera are marvelous. I am anxious to get a couple of them to you if possible.
I’ve wondered and wondered what’s happened to you – everything will be so different for you now, but at least you have one fairly promising companion. I think of you all the time, Darling, wonder what you’re doing and how you’re feeling, and hope we’ll hear from you soon, and that you’ll keep safe and happy. I think I know how you’re feeling, and feel with you.
Didn’t we have a good time in New York? It’s a shame to have to live on memories when you’re so young, but the memories of the six years with you are the best in all my life, and they’ll do ‘til you can come home.
I love you, Dordo
#2. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2pp.)
May 13, 1943
Come evening, and we don’t leave the house alone a minute for hoping you might call. In fact, last night your Mother kept the receiver off the hook while I was tearing off to the mailbox and back. And Dorrie’s hoping to hear from Bill because he’s sick, and so when the ‘phone does ring at night there’s a great vibrant pause until we find out who’s calling. Maybe you can’t phone, but it seems as if you shouldn’t be completely shut off from the world quite so soon.
I rather expected to go to Poland tomorrow morning, but have to see some men about a car top. The estimate seems to be stuck at $45 – you can imagine how I feel about that. All I hope to do is to nail one down somewhere, and have it put on later, because the tonsils are more important. But a least I can get one, and a black one too, I think.
All of a sudden I think I know how a soldier feels. He feels alone, and about to take on a battle, and nothing to look forward to ‘til the fight’s over. You don’t realize how much like just one little person he feels, do you, ‘til now. Sometimes he feels calm and brave, and sometimes a bit naked, but he never feels so much as if he were pursuing a solitary course thru the universe as he does when War really moves in on him. – I wonder what we’ll all be like, when it’s over. – Well, my friend, we’re not “green troops” any more, anyway, after the last few years. But I’d like a chance to soften up a little again, sometime.
Your mother had her broach on when I got back – she’s worn it on every dress and coat she’s had on since Sunday. It’s funny to have a little thing like that mean so much, but there must be something in a talisman – they seem to have filled some need ever since history began, from the Egyptians thru the Crusaders. I hope you don’t think I was unreasonably absorbed in trying to find a little memento of our weekend and our parting, when we were leaving. It’s just that a silly little thing to cling to has a kind of reassuring nature, – but there didn’t seem to be time to find anything “right.”
Hope you get hold of something to read. The news itself is pretty exciting right now – too bad you people didn’t have a chance to pick up that radio. It looks as if you’re heading for a very busy area of the world. Oh boy, oh boy, just let it be over soon.
Gosh, it’s lonesome. Didn’t we have fun last weekend?
We love you, Johnsie – Dordo
#3. JDM to DPM (ALS, 2pp.)
Camp Shanks, NY
Editor’s Note: Camp Shanks, a United States Army installation in and around Orangeburg, NY.
May 15, 1943
This is being written on this paper because it is all I happen to have. I am still in the same place & expect to be here another 10 days or so.
The camp itself is tremendous – will accommodate 90,000 at peak capacity, but alternates between being a quagmire and a dust storm. I have walked so far each day that I am taking off some weight around the tummy. Up to now there has been a tremendous lot to do – but that isn’t what kept me from writing. I didn’t write before because I couldn’t mail it – I am smuggling this into New York to mail to you.
I have been issued all my stuff now. When I go out of here it will be on foot – 1 1/2 miles to the train, wearing GI shoes & leggings – blouse, helmet, pack, canteen, gas mask, ammunition, and carrying my suitcase. I feel as self-conscious in that stuff as I did when I first put the outfit on. I go around covertly watching the task force officers to find out the professional way of hitching all that crap on. I have had to get the enormous army shoes for the mud hereabouts – 2 1/2 lbs. apiece.
The camp is very informal. There doesn’t seem to be much Central Control. There is just enough, however, so that they put the bite on me. They have made me Commanding Officer for a unit of 502 men and 10 officers – really a battalion of 3 companies. So I won’t be marching down the road alone. The men haven’t arrived yet, but when they do, since they haven’t previously been together in companies, I will have to establish all company records, arrange for an inspection to determine what they lack, get all their clothing & equipment, arrange for their mess & pay – all in 72 hours. It seems impossible at the moment. Then I have to take care of their exercise and training, load them on the boat – be in charge on the way over & turn them over to the c/o at destination.
It certainly will be an experience. I have had 2 shots – typhus & tetanus – neither of which bothered me. The doctor, a Captain Weiner, was the coolest, snottiest character I’ve met in a long time.
I share a room with Albiani. Two cots – rough wood, board floor, pot-bellied stove in the ante-room. One light bulb hangs down in the middle of the room. Two closets made of plaster board jut out into the room. The latrine, which isn’t bad at all – mixing faucets, showers, etc. is right out in back. The mess hall is about 75 feet away. Very informal – self-service, long picnic tables. The food tastes good & there is enough of it, but the trouble is that everything is boiled.
The other day, from noon to midnight, units marched past our barracks. After dark they sang as they marched -”Roll Out the Barrel,” “Mademoiselle,” etc. It was thrilling, somehow. They were all under full pack on their way out.
Nobody knows anything here about where they are going or when. It certainly is confusing. Some units hang around 2 weeks. Others are gone in three days.
We have to report 3 times a day, between processing, to Major Halpern about 1/2 miles away in a converted barracks. He is in charge of the TFRP – (Task Force Replacement Pool) to which I am assigned. A little utter confusion would quiet his office down from what it now is.
It is a good thing I came back in when I did – I was out of order being out after 12 without a pass. But no trouble.
I am going to call you from NYC – if I can get the pass.
#4. JDM to DPM (ALS, 1p.)
Camp Shanks, NYC
May 22, 1943
This is certainly turning out to be one hell of a place – the work I mean. It is now quarter of one Ay EM – and I have been up since six thirty this morning – with about five more hours of work to go. I thought I would knock off for a while and rest myself by writing this. It was certainly nice to hear your voice over the phone. I am sorry to have disappointed you previously. Got another letter from Tom (Dorothy notes here: “our ‘code’ name for Col B.”) – not the one I was expecting, but through Albiani. He now wants two cases of spaghetti and another case of liquor.
I am healthy, and I don’t want you to worry about me. I am confident that everything will be all right. The only grief in store is that of being apart – but that gets worse by the day I’ve noticed. I am getting to be an honest to god officer. I have a first sergeant, three barracks, 111 men, company clerks, inspections, roll calls, leaves, and all the rest of the military bushwah. It certainly adds to one’s self confidence to talk the language and, I hope, act the part. I haven’t yet had time to break in my GI shoes, however.
I miss the pencil around. Kick him a few times for me, will you?
I love you and miss you very much.
#5. JDM to DPM (ALS, 2pp.)
Camp Shanks, NYC
May 22, 1943
I expect that by the time you get this I will have talked to you over the phone. Thus I will stick in this the stuff that I won’t tell you over the phone.
I have now had plague typhus yellow fever and cholera. None of them have given me anything except a sore arm. Let me tell you though, that you don’t pay much attention to your own shots when you are responsible for seeing that 111 men all get the same series and get them properly noted on the service records, etc. Our men, a motley crew, mostly OCS rejectees,* and therefore, with a higher intelligence quotient than the average, arrived on Monday. They stood out in the rain and Fred and I took over. Then with show down inspections and service records and training and drawing equipment and setting up a non-com organization, it has really been hell. The weather hasn’t helped a bit in that it has been hot and sultry. I have stood in more warehouses and signed more forms and traveled further in my big truck that I thought was possible. On Monday night we got to bed at about quarter to four and had to be up again at six thirty. Tuesday night we hit bed around midnight and up again at seven, and on Wednesday, we slept until 8, having gotten to bed at five. Thursday and Friday we have done better, and we have now gotten medical clearance and equipment clearance for the men and I am issuing them passes. The worst is over, as far as this staging is concerned. We now have a small bit of liberty, but soon we will be alerted, a perimeter guard must be selected by me and thrown around the barracks. We are then incommunicado and soon afterward rushed down to the boat. In order to go down there, Fred and I are each going to have to hike a mile and quarter under full pack carrying one piece of hand luggage.
I don’t dare send anything to the laundry, everything is so indefinite.
Everything I have is gradually getting filthy. I will have to get a bar of laundry soap and visit the latrine and string a line in my room.
Great construction is going on at this camp all of the time. Road machines and clouds of dust etc. Just since I have been here the grass has come up amazingly. It is actually beginning to look nice around here.
Tell pencil that I liked his picture. Give my love to everybody, and save a chunk for yourself.
*OCS – Officer Candidate School
#6. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2pp.)
May 23, 1943
Writing the first two letters to that temporary A.P.O. felt like putting a note in a bottle and setting it out to float, but the bottle was picked up sooner than I expected, and it’s nice to know there’ll be more letters for each of us, before the great Silence until you get where you’re going.
I now have quite a complete diary of the two weeks in Utica, and our last weekend, and a daily one from the morning after I left you, so it’s possible to recapitulate a little where you missed getting any letters. I’m keeping a list of the numbers of the letters and the date of each, because later it will be like check numbers, and might get confusing – you could keep a record in your little writing case.
Having you go is like a major operation. A profound sickness beforehand, then you come out of the ether with an unspecific ache all over, and a sense of loss and shock and weakness as if part of you is gone.
People here are very polite – they don’t ask a lot of unnecessary questions the way they did in Utica. Of course they don’t know you as well, but they seem to realize that it’s a matter of your personal safety for us to keep quiet.
But I get a gaunt feeling in the evening here, and it doesn’t seem like home (I’m not letting it partly.) The harpies here are a poor bunch to be shut in with – OK to meet while hoeing or weeding, but not the type for a winter’s evening. And of course there’s not any real privacy, it’s like a dormitory. I don’t mind feeling temporary until I can feel that you’re settled, too, then I can dig our roots into a little place in Utica, and try to make it seem more like ours. There’s nothing like you, and Penny, and me, Darling. We’re wonderful, and we’re safe and warm and friends.
It sounds cliché to say it, but hearing from you when I thought you’d gone, was just like having the sun come out when you’re so cold and stiff and cramped you’d forgotten what it’s like. It’s just so darned nice to know you’re still in this part of the world and safe.
Penny has been swell here. He hasn’t bothered me one minute, thru all the settling and confusion. He’s got dozens of friends around the town, just from going to the store and the post office, and he is so interested in the farm set-up next door at Forrest’s, and the garden and yard. He’s entertained himself all the time, digging in the yard, riding his car around, and walking around under his red umbrella! He’s good about not going out of the yard, and find so much to do he’s as important as a politician! He has worn your “soldier hat” you gave him day and night, ever since you gave it to him, all over town, and keeps it on his bed when I take it off.
It’s hard not having anyone to talk to you about you. It seems to disturb your Mother, and Rita just doesn’t seem like a sympathetic audience, so there’s just Dorrie in Utica, and Penny, here. Both limited, so I talk to myself about you!
Are you sure you have money enough, Darling? I can get along fine, car top and all, but what about you? I could send you a little, or borrow some more from your family, and would be glad to do either. I want to feel that you have all you need, too – you’ve been so really generous with us.
Gosh! We keep busy, and don’t mourn, but it’s so different. I always appreciated having you around, lots more than most wives seem to, and didn’t want you to go, but it’s still queerer than I thought it would be to be alone. There’s nothing like the three of us – nothing.
All my love,
It will be so nice to have letters from you to look for, and to read.
I can send you $20 to $25 with no trouble at all, and still hold out comfortably ‘til June 1st. Please say so, if you want it, and if I can wire, check, or money order to you, or if you have a blank check.
#7. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2 pp.)
May 24, 1943
All the inmates are in bed, and the sidewalks seem to be completely in, as it’s after eleven, but we just returned from Utica, and I want to take this to the post office tonight, as I don’t know when the mail goes out in the morning.
We passed 30,000 miles on the speedometer just a mile from “our house” on the Walker Road, and the little car still has half a tankful of gas which I guess is destined to remain in it for a while, as I won’t dare do any more driving until the ban is off. They plan to be very tough this time, and it would a shame to lose our A book. Incidentally, Peany, (the man who takes care of the car now,) discovered a crack in the left rear tire just after I got back from New York, so I had that vulcanized last week, but the man said he thought the tire would last quite a while. Tops are still fairly plentiful, so I can arrange that by mail, and have it put on later.
Penny and I had dinner at the club with your family. We stopped and got pepper plants on the way to justify the trip, and Rita rode over and went to see “The Moon is Down,” while we were at dinner. Dorrie was cheery and looked sweet, Nana was full of items, your Mother is still quiet and upset about you, and Popop was tired and pleasant. Dorrie had ordered the dinner which was very nice – steak, and we talked for a little while in the lounge. Popop was wondering if I had enough money, which gave me an opportunity to say I wasn’t sure you have, so it’s quite all right if you need some from them, and I’ll enclose a blank check which you can use in a pinch in case you need twenty dollars from our account. Just let me know if you use it. (The family will wire it if you need it.)
I haven’t heard a word from Rochester about the furniture, will jog them up this week. When it comes to Utica, I’ll have the refrigerator sent right to Elmira, as your namesake is on formula now, (Evvie had a light attack of intestinal grippe) so they’ll need something besides that tiny box.)
This afternoon, when Penny was taking his nap, his breathing sounded funny, and I discovered he’d gone to sleep with your pipe in his mouth, and was breathing thru it!
When I was taking a rest I was thinking how it’s been with you only gone two weeks, (two weeks ago now we hadn’t said goodbye) and I just couldn’t see how it could be possible that there’d be more weeks, and months, and months, to go right on the same way. It’s fantastic. Never leave me after the War, Darling.
It’s hard to say we miss you in any other words, but all day and all night in a thousand different ways, we do.
And love you,
#8. JDM to DPM (ALS, 1p.)
Camp Shanks, NYC
May 24, 1943
A long, hot and dusty day, with thousands of men hiking up and down the road in front of the orderly room. For the most part they look very little like soldiers. The whole camp is sloppy, and discipline is not what it should be. The litter of papers around the place is sufficient evidence of that.
A Chinese officer has given Freddy and me a list of the dishes to order and a restaurant on Mott Street to order them in, so we are going to try and get away tomorrow and have an honest to god Chinese meal. Then we also have what Fred terms the best Italian Restaurant in NY to go to, it is called Luiginis. The food here has improved some, but not very much – maybe I have just been getting hungrier.
My transportation awaits, so I must be off.
Love to you and Penny,
No $ needed. Thanks a lot.
#9. DPM to JDM (ALS, 1p.)
May 25, 1943
Your two letters came this morning, and the first little one stuck to the envelope so it wasn’t discovered until little Pee Wee found it – he’s the great discoverer around here. But it was so nice to get them, and know you’re well, if busy, and that you miss us, too.
I told Penny that after the War perhaps you’d bring him your steel helmet, and that picture you drew was all he needed. All day he’s been talking about “when Daddy brings me his helmet,” and what a hell of a fella he’ll be then. I’d love to see you in action these days, it must be a great change from the R.O.D. and the rest of the boys still there.*
Today it looked like rain every minute, so we planted like fury, so the seeds would have the benefit of the shower. I spaded a big hunk of land for Rita’s flowers, and expect to feel like a rusty hinge tomorrow. Penny worked furiously along with us, and sometimes helps quite a lot. Besides the peas we planted Sunday, we now have radishes, lettuce, parsley, carrots, beets, string beans, and broccoli, not to mention tomato and pepper plants set out. There are only one or two things more to plant when it gets warmer. It’s been wonderful for Penny already.
Beginning tomorrow we’ll be eating at our own house, which will be nice, and better for Penny. The kitchen is a cute, clean little place now. I wish you could see all of it, you’d never believe it could look as well as it does.
Letter from Sam today. All is well in Elmira, they speak of the baby as John with great ease now.
Darling, I wish you could have clean clothes! You’re so used to all you need, and doing them yourself isn’t very satisfactory, but I can imagine why you hesitate to send them out, even on the project.
I’ll be anxiously awaiting every letter from you (they’re very nice ones to date), and thinking about you and even saying a little prayer, all the time.
Salutations to Fred, All my love, Dordo
*R.O.D. – Rochester Ordnance District
#10. JDM to DPM (ALS, 1p)
Camp Shanks, NYC
May 27, 1943
My mail, outgoing, is now going through the base censor, even though as you will notice, I am also censoring it myself.
Yesterday, I did my accumulated laundry. Dish pan hands. It is strung out all over my quarters. Very white, too.
Completed the last of my shots this morning. Strangely enough none of them bothered me. I have just had a series of lumps in my arms with varying degrees of soreness.
We are in the midst of the training program for the men. Hikes, calisthenics, infantry drill, training films etc. One of the other officers who has a small group plus a Chinese officer assistant has had eight years experience in the Army as an enlisted man so he is a considerable amount of help. It is nice to have someone like that around.
Not all of the officers have shown up here from my own shipment. It will probably be deferred for another short length of time.
Right now I have one AWOL and three men in the hospital. There will probably be many chances to either get them back or get replacements before shoving off.
The items which were bothering us – how to take them – are now in an official box labeled organizational equipment. And will go along in the hold. The letter said to take it or else. (Col. Bowlin – 1 case liquor & 2 cases spaghetti, 1 radio.)
You have no idea the amount of paper work involved in this thing. For example, I have to personally sign fifty passes each day – and that is only a fiftieth of the things to do.
Tonight I am going to see Crash Dive in one of the movies on the post. You also have no idea how attractive going to the movies can become. Since I have been here I have read only my serial in the post and that is all. No Russian or anything else – and no reading at night. But I feel very healthy.
I certainly hope that everything is going well. Address mail to me at APO 4016-x and I will get it within three days.
None of the men know where we are going – and they are certainly doing a lot of guessing. The wildest guess I have heard yet is Peru.
Well take care of things. I must rush off – so Adios and love for now.
#11. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2pp.)
May 31, 1943
The post office was open for a couple of hours late this afternoon, and I went over with only the vaguest hope that there might a letter from you, since it is a week since I last heard from you, and we all felt pretty sure you’d gone. Imagine my surprise on getting letter number 5. It left me completely perplexed, and writing you now is just a shot in the dark. If you receive this, I’ll be sorry I stopped writing to you before the weekend, thinking you had left. Tho your letter had no date on it or reference by which I could tell when it was written, I assume it was Monday or Tuesday (May 24 or 25) a week ago, and can’t imagine what held it up so long, or where letter no.4 is. May I suggest a few things that will help us to keep a more chronological idea of your letters and your goings-on.
Please date your letters, if it’s not against the rule. I think there’s a calendar in your writing kit – anyway, you should know the date if you sign passes all day.
Be sure you keep a list of the number and date of each letter you send me, then when there’s a gap I won’t chew my fingernails to the bone when there’s a lost letter because you got mixed up. My last entry of that sort is – “No. 7-Thurs. May 27.”
I know it’s hard to write at all when you’re living out of a suitcase, and subject to sudden moves, but Darling, you’ve become so much more intangible, that all those little things have become much more important to keep you tied into our lives.
Not that you’re not part of all the little routine things, as well as the occasions. Witness today: I finally got some towel racks, shelves, etc. up in the bathroom (Honey, I’ll never learn to drive a nail! All that I do with my hands is no help – you ought to see the way I put the fixtures up. They’re fantastic!) And Penny insisted I hang up a towel for you – so we did. Today was one of the days he talked about you a lot. He gets so homesick for the way you play with him; he really sat on your Father’s head an hour at the Club and just mussed him up, and he’s worn Uncle Bussis out entirely, I guess. He follows Mr. Forrest every time he sees him, and I feel so sorry for him – no man in his life these days.
He has a beautiful tan, and I even have one good burn (with a halter on,) to my credit. I have lost some pounds, too, in places that needed it. And Penny will never be any fatter – he just runs it off, but since he looks healthier now, I expect to call Dr. Gruppe about his tonsillectomy tomorrow.
Our garden appears to be flourishing. The peas are up, and tiny radishes and specks of green lettuce are showing. It’s a good feeling.
All my love, Dordo
#12. JDM to DPM (ALS, 1p.)
Camp Shanks, NYC
May 31, 1943
Well, here we sit….We are practically becoming station complement. One can maintain an attitude of excited expectancy for only so long – then it becomes dull. I guess it will still be a shock when we do move.
Had a very unexpected pass on Sat. P.M. Went to N.Y. Tried to phone, but the circuits were busy – tried at 6:30, 7:15, 8:30 and 10:15 & decided the fates were agin me. Remember my telling you about the Lt with all the service – His name is Lichenstein. His wife & sister & brother-in-law were in town & we met them & went to the Latin Quarter. I sure wish you could have seen it – a TWO HOUR floor show – what a spectacle! Caught the early show & an early bus back.
I am afraid that I am not writing very good letters. This terrifically long waiting period is dulling everyone in our group. Get hold of last week’s Time & read the article on staging areas. – Damn good.
Love to all,
#13. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2pp.)
June 1, 1943
Are my letters to you censored? It seems queer that they removed that single number and left in your reference to getting passes for New York, and your criticism of the camp.
Anyway, Johnsie, I’m awfully glad to hear from you, and so glad you get to the city once in a while. A change of scenery must be about necessary to keep your minds balanced – life in an Army camp is far from normal, even for an officer. Your family is quite upset to think that as long as you’re here so long I can’t see you again, but I understand how impossible it must be to make any plans in advance. If you’re there thirty days do you get a leave like Bill Robinson did? For heaven’s sake if you could only get as far as Albany for a few hours, please don’t pass up any chance to come up this way.
Too bad all your faithful women relatives can’t help you with your laundry problem – Heaven knows I took it on for life for the pleasure of your company, and it never was a burden!
I hope the picture of you comes. The snapshots we have are so wonderful I’m going to have some enlarged. Everyone from Elmira to Utica has at least one copy now.
I wrote the bodyworks in Utica and sent them a deposit so they’d hold enough canvas for a top for me, to be put on after gas shortage, etc. etc. Tonsils are on the bill for this month, and that furniture may come from Rochester collect – at this point both Mr. Watters and the storage company have decided to relax because you’re gone, I guess. I’m glad you have enough money and hope you locate a finance officer for your June 1st share, or won’t you get it until the end of the trip? If I don’t receive a check tomorrow Mama will deposit enough to pay my rent, etc. so don’t worry. If it’s delayed over a week I’ll wire Newcombe or better the R.O.D. to do something about it.
My letters sound like a domestic diary, but that’s what our life is, and there’s no use trying to compete with “Time” or other literary lights – it wouldn’t be our story if I did.
If you were going to be in this country long, the set up here would be unbearable, but under the circumstances, tho I look forward to the privacy I hope to have in Utica, I can stand this for the good it’s doing us to be outdoors this Summer. Rita has taken possession of me, more or less, for the present, but it is not annoying as I am completely shut in with what matters, and passive to all other things in the environment that might ordinarily annoy. Your letters, my diary, and my little bundle of financial information are carefully guarded – as for the rest it’s like being in a dormitory.
Penny shouldn’t be expected to rise to situations beyond his comprehension, like an adult, and I’m sorry that I was so impatient with him that he froze stiff. I always feel guilty when I’m unreasonable with him for responding as a four-year old will respond, but don’t worry that I’ll spoil him – he gets more punishment now that I’m responsible for all of it. He hasn’t needed much lately because he’s been so busy, but I feel awful when he fails just when it matters most, because it’s my fault, really.
I hope they don’t take the daddies. Little kids need their fathers. He misses you terribly in his own funny little way, tho I don’t suppose he always is conscious of what he’s missing as much as of a sense of imbalance. But he calls me Dordo, and tries to be the Daddy and puts your things around (and I love to see them, too) and asks what you’ll say about this and that, and tells the kids you’re “at War” and says “when John comes home.” He knows.
The other day I was fighting a screw about two inches long into a plastic wall, and I’d worn the groove out of the top and it wouldn’t turn another turn, and he watched for a long time, then said, “Why don’t you hit it with the hammer?” Ah me, it was all it needed! (There are some places where you’re just a woman, and little or big, there’s no use trying to be a man. Nothing but a man will do at times. Aren’t you glad?)
Time for Fibber and Molly – he’s teaching Molly to bowl tonight. I’m glad we can still read the same things, anyway, now that you’re getting “Time.”
Take care of yourself, my Friend, we want you back just like we sent you.
This is a hodge-podge of a letter, but you may rest assured that I am contented tonight, if a bit disintegrated.
Love to you, Darling-
#14. DPM to JDM (ALS, 1p.)
June 4, 1943
My brain says you couldn’t have leave, even tho you will have been there a month Monday (Imagine!), but my silly heart says keep quiet and watch, and be where he can find you if he does. They must be cleaning out the Mediterranean or the convoy route or something for you birds, and I know how dull it must be waiting, Darling, but I can’t help but be glad while you are on this side, because the way things are going, every delay should make it safer. This week’s “Time” is very reassuring about improved submarine conditions.
We are going to see Dr. Karl Gruppe in Utica Monday at 2:45, for a preliminary examination of the pencil’s tonsils and adenoids, and he will arrange for the operation then. I hoped we could dispense with this trip on the word of the other doctors, but he seems to feel that this is necessary. I just wanted to save the gas two trips will require. He will stay at 9 Beverly a day or two after he has them removed. He looks healthier now, and there’s no use waiting for him to gain weight, he runs too much. It will be a relief to have it over with. We’ll come back Monday – early evening before Pencil’s bedtime.
You ought to have one book just to keep your eyes on when you don’t want your mind to go around, on this long trip. A book of poems sometimes seems to wear best at a time like that. Why don’t you get one book if you get to New York again -”Leaves of Grass,” or something, for diversion.
It’s a lovely hot day again, and we’d be thinking of Piseco soon if we could get there. But anyway, I have a feeling I’ll be lonesome up there this year. I don’t think I’ll go up ‘til I hear you’ve “arrived” somewhere.
Honey, I know what a vacuum you’re in, with all this waiting. Live a day at a time, like we do, – there’ll be so much excitement when you get going – enough to tell your grandchildren for years.
Love from us,
#15. DPM to JDM (ALS, 1p.)
June 7, 1943
Just back from our trip to the great beyond, and what a workout it was!
Your mother phoned this morning that my check had come, and we (Rita, of course, Penny and I) met her and Dorrie at Morris’ for lunch. We had a good visit, then went our various ways, and Penny and I discovered there’s a lot more to a tonsillectomy than tonsils these days.
Dr. Gruppe looks like his brother in Fayetteville, except that he has no hair! He was a major in the Army until they discovered him harboring stomach ulcers. He made us an appointment for a week from today for the operation, but we had to go to Dr. Washeim and have a chest examination, (because of the danger of ether with recent respiratory infections,) and after stripping him there, and having a general rib-punching, and even feet looked at (built up shoes again), we had to go to Dr. Hall for chest and thymus gland X-ray! Ether has been found to be dangerous if the thymus isn’t normal. These precautions were felt to be essential by both Dr. Gruppe and Dr. Washeim.
Then we went to Faxton for a blood clotting test, but by then the lab had closed, so that will be done the morning before the operation. We will be at Faxton at 7:30 a.m., next Monday, so we hope by Tuesday he’ll be starting a new page, physically. Dr. Gruppe prefers to work at Faxton. I‘m going to try to get a private room so I can be with him all night.
Darling, I don’t want to remind you of things you ought to do, but for Heaven’s sake please write to your family immediately. They’re beginning to get very touchy about it, and now that I think of it, it is awful. They did so much for us and for you before you left, and I could see sparks of resentment beginning to smolder today, and no wonder. They have seen most of your letters, but haven’t any of their own, and of course they want to know you think of them, too. Don’t forget to thank Pop for our weekend as well as the equipping and lay it on, because it’s at a point where you’ve got to overcome some hurt feelings. You may say that you knew I was passing your letters on to them, and were so busy that had to do for a while, but make it a letter worth waiting for when you do write. (I wish I’d realized before!)
Say hello to Fred Albiani. Best of luck Sweetheart –
Write to Pop and Margie.
#16. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2 pp.)
June 13, 1943
We’ve run the gamut of weather today – from sunny and mild to pouring rain, muggy sticky heat, and now a sharp cool wind. It’s hard to keep up with it, and the effort accounts for the sleepy way I feel, I guess.
Or the let-down. Here we are, house cleaned, bag mostly packed, hospital waiting, and still in Poland! The little boy’s cold was worse yesterday, and definitely not gone today, so Dr. Gruppe says we’d better wait until it’s been all gone several days. It’s such a mild cold compared to most of the ones he has that I keep hoping it would go away. It’s a disappointment not to get it over now that it has been so long delayed, but probably we can still have it done in a week or so. Nothing goes on schedule, does it?
I must confess I was looking forward to getting out of here a few days, too – we are more confined by the gas problems than I expected to be, and after Pencil began to feel better from his operation he and I would have enjoyed Utica for a change. Well, there’s still time.
No one has heard from you, so I wonder if you’re off. When I think you’re gone, a cold, dark numb feeling creeps over me, and then hearing from you is as good as three-day spree. It can’t go on forever, it would wear you out, and probably the sooner you all get into action over there, the sooner you can come home. It’s just that it’s impossible not to be happier knowing where you are.
Your letters while waiting have been swell to have, yet the strain you have been under have made them less loquacious, probably, than you’ll be when you’re in the midst of all the things you’ve been anticipating for so long. Of course, you’ll be busy then, but all we’ll know is what you’ll tell us, so write all you can, especially about you.
This little information on your Reader’s Digest subscription is interesting – you can receive that first-hand. And the Herald-Tribune had an article on mailing regulations today. We can send you 1st class, 8 oz. packages without request, so let us know the little things that would make you happier or more comfortable. Then we can send “parcels of uniforms and military accessories, [ordered by officers themselves], up to 70 lb. and 100 inches in length and girth, without approved request, or any 5 lb. parcel (15”maximum length, 36“ combined length and girth) for which we can show your written request accompanied by the envelope with A.P.O. postmark from you. This doesn’t have to be approved by your c.o., either.
I hope you get this week’s “Time.” It’s the best I’ve seen for quite a while. I read it all last night. Training my editorial eye to see what would interest you most, clipped out and mailed. Today while waiting for Dr. Gruppe to call me back I picked up “And So Victoria,” which Rita had brought from the library, and now can’t get out of it. It’s a novel of English royal history, brutal, and God knows there are many other things I’d rather read, but I’m in for it unless my curiosity gives out, I guess. A movie and a book which is more escapist have a different value now; one doesn’t realize that perhaps he is exercising more self-control than is necessary, – to get into another world for a while saves a lot of wear and tear on nerves, not to mention will-power. There’s no use being a stoic if something less demanding (and more developing) is right there to fill in. I don’t want to forget about you, but there are parts of this life that it’s a hell of a lot healthier to forget.
We went to church today – it was Children’s Day, and Pencil played with Gretta and Harvey all afternoon. It was so hot I felt like a white dress after church, so I dug out that very simple white one with some green stitching and buttons, that Rita made for the summer we were married, and it fits better than last year, so I’m not getting fat. We’ll be subsisting on fresh green things soon, storing up vitamins and keeping our weight down. I hope your diet is pleasant, and will continue to be. Bob Forrest wrote that the Army “beans” of this war is Spam – that ought to make you happy – especially if I send you back covers of “Time” to keep your interest in it aroused.
Goodnight, my darling,
and Love, Dordo
#17. JDM to DPM (ALS, 2pp.)
Camp Shanks, NYC
June 15, 1943
There is a lot that I would like to tell you about the current arrangements, but I am getting more and more respect every day for the sanctity of Military Information. It is strange how, when it is your own neck, you get so that you analyze every statement, spoken or written before you permit yourself to give out.
There are some WAACs in the camp here. It is really a thrill to see the kids march by. They use a slow cadence march, about 95 steps a minute, and about a three quarter step. They also march all the time at attention. It isn’t really necessary, but their formations are so close that it makes it easier that they then are not walking on each others heels, as would be the case in route step. A WAAC officer told me that the gals could step out at 120 a minute should the occasion require it. Anyway they have much more spirit and group cohesiveness than the male units in camp. They stick together and all try to make the group look good. I might say, though, that this is only the case when the WAACs are task force outfits. I can’t be as complimentary about the ones that are station complement. The task force units go right through the whole works, with the enlisted men wrestling the heavy barracks bags around, the enlisted men and officers going over the obstacle course, night marches, drill calisthenics, policing the area and all the rest. Anybody who says they are fake soldiers and lead an easy life doesn’t know what the hell they are talking about.
The longer we stay here, the more little things keep cropping up which take time and attention to straighten out. Most of them are personal problems of the men, and could be handled by the non-commissioned officers, if I had a good group of those. I don’t. So I am elected. I don’t know whether I told you about this or not, but I found a man in the unit with the Pulitzer Prize for producing American Jubilee at the NY. World’s Fair. Also produced about 50 shows on Broadway, and still fairly young, about 34 I imagine. A buck private, and going over as a draftsman. Named Albert Johnston. Salary about 400 a week prior to his army career. After doing a lot of talking to a lot of people I finally have got him out of this unit, where he is wasted and assigned to the Special Services. He wants to go overseas, but in his own field. He has a lot of ideas concerning front line productions which sound good. Even in this IBM key punch tabulating machine army it is very possible for round pegs to land in unround holes, usually due to the incompetence and laziness of officers charged with the responsibility of assigning men to specific tasks and specific units.
Yesterday a man brought a letter to me which was personally signed by General Ulio and addressed to the man’s mother. It told of the death in action of a brother in North Africa, well after Mr. Rommel’s departure. It must be tough to breathe a sigh of relief when the fighting is over, and still get such a letter. Nothing much I could do about it.
We found a man in the outfit named Batattio with 20 years experience as a barber. Needless to say, he is now hard at work at a trade he likes. We were fortunately able to give him a pass to go home and get his tools. He will have an overseas goldmine.
One thing about this embarkation business that will interest you is the fact that while on boat it is impossible to get a bath until one arrives at destination. I assure you that we will be a very strong group of men.
The most discouraging thing about all this is the fact that army procedure is set up in such a way that it becomes possible to send overseas as casual officers and filler replacement enlisted men large numbers of undesirables and incompetents. It would seem to me that overseas service should be a privilege and an honor given to those who have performed satisfactory service. But this is the way it works – a certain theatre of operations needs, say, fifty quartermaster enlisted men in various ratings. The request goes through channels and finally gets down to a CO of a camp somewhere in this country. It just asks for fifty guys. Human nature dictates that he will give the fifty men in the outfit with the poorest records and the ones most likely to make trouble. It is unfortunate but it exists – and it certainly makes my job, that of training and controlling a group of these misfits no pleasure at all.
I am now beginning to feel like station complement. I am getting to know the guys who are around here permanently – and, would they ever like to get out!
#18. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2pp.)
June 17, 1943
What a surprise! Two cards and a letter from you today. This time I was sure you’d gone. From now on I’m going to give up thinking about it. I hadn’t had a letter from you since June 3rd, and it was a week yesterday that you phoned and said you would write that day, if you could get something to write on.
Dorrie had a card, and one letter from you to your family, but not the second one you said you wrote them. They of course had your wire for money, so then I knew you were still here. Did you have to go to Brooklyn to get the money? Is your being there a military secret – you were highly uncommunicative about it for an uncensored letter. Were you there overnight – my card and letter seem to have been mailed on different days? (card Sunday, letter Wednesday) Could you date them – it would help our surmises considerably.
Bill has made Dorrie promise to stay in Utica ‘til he’s back, so I’ll have her for company, anyway.
Penny’s cold is about gone except for that adenoidal effect he gets. Some nice guys gave us a beautiful box for a sandbox, so he and his friends will have a place of their own to dig. He will probably have his tonsils out sometime this month. The flies are getting pretty thick.
I’m glad you find the WAAC’s admirable. There has been so much horrid comment about them in the papers, and people here get so much rabid criticism of them from the boys who are in camp. Even Billy is bitter about them, and three boys in one family here wrote from three different camps that they’re just a bunch of prostitutes. It didn’t seem as if the officers could possibly be, and probably the privates are just about like the privates in any Army – a mixture of the naive and the “wise.”
Your description of Army routine, in the case of assignment of personnel, etc., was terribly interesting. It doesn’t look very bright for Sammy, tho – he’s not the type to utter a sound if they give him the most obnoxious, unsuitable job in the Army. It looks as if he’s going to get it by Fall – if he does, I may be teaming up with Evvie, for the sake of their survival. I’m glad you’re showing so much respect for the personalities you’re responsible for, anyway. Doesn’t it make you feel good to be able to use your brains and your training to help them? As an individual you might not feel as if you could do much about winning this man’s war, but if you can set one right guy off the wrong track, you’ve justified those brains and that training. I’m proud when I know you’ve done those things. – People – individuals, are what matter most of all, really, only people in authority seldom recognize it.
Don’t worry about the phone bill – especially when you haven’t written, it’s worth quite a lot to know you’re around, and there’ll be a long time when the sound of your voice would be worth a couple of symphony tickets. Maybe you could even afford a call yourself sometime, if you think we’re too saddled with debt – it didn’t cost so much to call your family that night I was with you. (If there weren’t this hospital bill hanging over my head, I’d have sent you money right away, but it does seem right to get it done this month if possible. I do hope that the check won’t wait until the 7th of every month!) We might go to the early movie tomorrow night, but aside from that, there’s usually someone near the phone evenings and weekends, and much of the daytime, weekdays, and if the phone bill is large a month or two, it is still our greatest thrill to hear from you directly; worth a sacrifice if it comes to that.
Goodnight, my friend John.
#19. JDM to DPM (ALS, 1p.)
Camp Shanks, NYC
June 18, 1943
Another hot sticky day. I have gotten tired of wearing khakis and then having to discard them after only one day, so I am now going around permanently in fatigue clothes, a grey green coverall – which can remain unpressed.
Had rather an unfortunate little incident yesterday when I was called by a fighting quartermaster major for not saluting when I left his office. He certainly was an arrogant overbearing fat rascal. As soon as I rank him, which I hope won’t be over a year, I am going to come back and present him with the business.
The kids are shaping up alright now – good shape, not so many sore feet, and the delinquents are pretty well defined, so we can keep them on labor details. I have had the kids dress up the area by pulling weeds, realigning sidewalks and all the rest of it. The best possible thing for them to do right now would be to go get on a boat. The longer we stay here the more correspondence there is from anxious mothers trying to get their children out from under a foreign duty assignment. The weirdest case to date was a letter where one said that her boy was not fit for overseas duty in that he could not shut one eye independently of another and thus could not fire a gun. The ridiculous part of that is that all of the best marksmen keep both eyes open.
Saw a company of WAACs yesterday doing infantry drill in gas masks and fatigue clothes. They certainly look much more queer in them than men do – but, on the other hand they keep better formation in masks than the men do. This will have to be all for the moment.
Love, and I miss you. John
#20. JDM to DPM (ALS, 1pp.)
June 20, 1943
Dear Dordo –
Do I detect a note of complaint? If so, I assure you it is entirely justified. I will try to be better about letters – but please don’t think that I feel so much apart from you guys. You are with me in my thoughts many times a day. There is no acceptable substitute in this life for the life we have had and will have together. I feel that this is another case where you need a little reassurance – Well, baby, you got it. I love you – but I probably avoid saying it in letters because it looks so darn unsatisfactory & insufficient on paper.
Also, re letter writing, we have had a bit of instruction to avoid regularity in correspondence in as much as that is a tip-off to departure when the letters stop.
I wasn’t in N.Y.C. overnight. The cards were mailed from there & the letter from here. All our mail though goes through the postmaster N.Y.C.
I don’t think I will take any action to track down or eliminate the rumors re my whereabouts.
You see, no matter what I do, I still have to let the men off on passes for 12 hrs. to N.Y. It would be so absurdly simple for any curious agent to find out all he needs to know – that trying to track down one rumor would be like trying to find out which straw it was that broke the camel’s back.
If I had my way I would issue no passes for anyone to leave a place of this type. It doesn’t make sense. As it is now there is no way to assure the secrecy of military information – so don’t worry about it too much. Just keep your fingers crossed.
I hope you got my wire okay, & I hope it didn’t overdraw you.
Goodbye for now –
#21. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2pp.)
June 21, 1943
I am reminded by the date that this is your family’s wedding anniversary, so time out to write a belated card of congratulation. (Be sure and thank them for ck.) I’m beginning to wonder if you’re going to be here for ours – just on this side of the drink would be comforting.
Your June 17th letter came today, thanks for the date. It helps me locate you in time and space. It was censored, but not cut anywhere. Again, are my letters to you censored? Sometime write me from your barracks, so you can answer a question or two – and speaking of barracks, where are the other two pages of that “four page letter [you] had written?” Sometime your life may be so dull you’ll want to remember the little things of this “great experience,” and you’ll be glad you had me to write to, and save your letters. Then, too, someday Penny will be a young man, and might enjoy reading about the things that are happening to you. Not to mention me, now.
Do you, necessarily, have to read of terrific action, and great events, to enjoy reading? I don’t think you do, if it’s about a person, just things about the way he lives makes good reading, if it’s not too repetitious. At least I hope that’s as true of you as of me and I think it is, because we’re both interested in people. God help me, if you need blood and thunder in your letters, – our lives aren’t up to their usual lurid standard right now!
We’ve had several hot days, and of course I hung around the phone quite a lot over the weekend, but today Penny and I really made the rounds. We went looking for strawberries around the Pinnacle, and worked our way down the front, thru all the trees we planted. Not many berries, but fun. After lunch, we walked down the railroad tracks to Western’s Spring, and got wet feet, a drink, a lot of watercress, and a beautiful wild bouquet. There was still time after that, so we went to the Bush Pasture, which is a big hilly place, with a brook, right in back of Forrest’s fields. We haven’t had any hot water here, for baths in this sticky weather, which has made keeping clean a tedious and dabbling process. But I discovered a good big swimming hole within ten minutes of the house (Penny time), so life took on new light today. I can’t face a cold tub, but with a cake of soap, a little privacy, and a brook, we should be able to face a lot of hot weather ungummily! Besides it is a perfect picnic place.
You might make another phone call some time. Or if not, use the stamps. You can write us all about you – we’re your friends, and since we know you so well, a few of the details wouldn’t be amiss. I don’t seem to adapt myself well to separation, when it’s so uncommunicative. I’m not nagging – just suggesting a few points for those times when your mind goes blank. I know what a sheet of empty paper and a call to write a letter does to you, Pal, – but just think about the other end of it. (All we know is not what we read in the papers; I don’t read ‘em) – Come to think of it, (if you do) you know me, too.
And you know I love you,
#22. DPM to JDM (ALS, 1p.)
June 23, 1943
It was nice to hear from you today, – the letter you wrote last Friday. I’m glad you got some fatigue clothes, they must be more comfortable, as well as less strain on your cleaning problem. I hope the heat isn’t too hard to bear. We are having our first, real period of hot, sunny weather, and I haven’t groaned a groan. It’s just delightful to me, it seems as if I’d been cold forever, and have to store up all the heat I can before another winter of God knows what curbs on warmth.
A letter from Dr. Gruppe today sets the new tonsillectomy date as Monday morning, the 28th. I hope we make it this time! We will go to Utica Sunday night, and probably spend most of next week there. It sure dragged out until the last of the month, which is never the best time for us, but I still have $25, which will undoubtedly cover immediate expenses. I wonder if the check will continue to come on the 7th of the month? Boy! I’ll be paying the next to the last car payment – and we’ll soon have a completely paid for car, bless its heart.
Today they announced the opening of a new supply route to China, via the Himalayas, – sounds like fun for you, Cheri. You must be anxious to get going on the job. It’s so exciting to think about.
The farmer boy had quite a time yesterday. Mr. Forrest cut a lot of deep grass around here, and he was busy haying (Pencil) with a weeding fork and wheel barrow. He had on a sunsuit, and was lifting armfuls of the stuff, hugging it to his little bare chest, with his arms and shoulders covered with it too. It seems that there were nettles in the hay, or some week that lasted until bedtime, and the sting was agonizing. When I found out there was poison ivy near where he’d been, I was scared silly, but he is back to normal today, and at least I’ll know enough to keep him away from the other horrible weed.
I am thinner, or harder, at least, and tanner, and my hair looks better than it has since I left Poland. I hate to think it’s the Poland climate, but something has made it like it used to be when it was an asset instead of a liability.
I would like a picture of you, the way you look now. By the way, your pictures at Fay’s aren’t done yet!
After all the personnel work you’re doing with the men, you should be able to iron out my mistakes with Pen when you get back!
#23. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2 pp.)
June 25, 1943
Most nights when I write you darkness has come, and the whole town has quieted down, except for an occasional car passing or heels going by on the sidewalk, but on Friday and Saturday nights I have lots of company, and this part of the world is full of people. Just because the movies are across the street!
Yesterday was a rather disorganized day, so I didn’t write, tho I got such a nice letter from you. It was good to carry around with me, tho, thru the day (mentally). There were kids around, and Rita has been quite a bit “with” me the last two days – probably because we’re going away Sunday.
Oh God – what a problem she is! No sympathetic person could be around her and be indifferent to her, yet there’s nothing you can really do. Remove one problem and you get another, and nothing is enough. It’s going to be a job to get away in the Fall, tho I mention it practically every day to soften the blow. That’s one thing I can’t seem to make a day by day proposition; if you did, it would suddenly be all out of control – you have to keep gauging the present by what it will mean in the future.
It will be nice to get to Utica for a little while, tho I hate to have Penny uncomfortable so we can! Of course he won’t be uncomfortable long, and I do hope it gives him some better winters ahead. He’s been John all day today, or Captain MacDonald. He does miss you terribly, and in ways that he doesn’t understand, but ways that give my heart a twist.
I hate to think there’s so little real security connected with your position. When it’s their own lives, you’d think discretion would come easier to people, but none of us is born and bred for the kind of world we’re in just now, and it’s hard to realize its dangers. Wars more than anything else seem to make men on the scale of ants, to me!
Gosh, sometimes I feel frustrated, letters are such paper and ink things. I’d rather feel your fuzzy head, or look at your reclining frame from across the room, or just lay my face against yours for a minute. Sometimes when there’s a lot to say, writing is like talking and gets a load off your chest, but there are times when you wouldn’t talk. Companionship isn’t more than 30% verbal, anyway. And on paper-!
The numbness which settled over me way back in April when we knew you had to go, is wearing off. I find I am no longer in a comparatively unemotional state, I can get mad at Rita when there’s a situation about Penny, (I hadn’t, up to now) and I feel concern about you when I think you’re gone, in a different way, and I guess it all started when I got mad because you weren’t writing. No doubt you were in the midst of some reactionary state, too, and that’s why you didn’t phone or write for so long. And there’s no way to get our moods synchronized! “They” might say this is a new test of love – personally I’d be willing to give up testing and wallow in – if it were possible to.
This is an awful letter! I love you, Johnsie, I’m Sleepy. Dordo
#24. DPM to JDM (ALS, 3pp.)
June 29, 1943
What a relief! Out of that hot, noisy, and indifferent hospital back to your Mother’s cool, sweet-smelling, quiet house! Dr. Gruppe came in at 7:30 this morning and said Penny could go home today, and we were out of there in less than an hour.
Pencil was a wonderful boy, and is now rolling around on “your” bed, with a little fever, considerably weak with a tinny, flat, little voice from an empty, swollen nasal pharynx, and a little smile. We got to the hospital at 8 a.m. yesterday, and had his finger pricked, a rectal temperature, a capsule inserted rectally, and a hypodermic before the operation, which made the ride to the operating room just a relief. He said goodbye to us cheerfully, and the nurse said he didn’t cry at all while he was gone. It seemed a short time until he was back, still under ether, laid over a pillow, spitting blood into a basin. He was very dreamy most all day yesterday, and of course their throats hurt terribly with that big raw cut in them, so he was pretty well doped, I imagine. But he wasn’t nauseated which most people are after ether, and he didn’t bleed much, so it must have been a nice clean operation. Dr. Gruppe said his tonsils were large and badly scarred, and he had the prize adenoids of the season – the largest he meant, – bigger than the ends of this two thumbs (the doctor’s) together, (which must be big, as he takes out dozens a week)
He had a private room, and your Mother and I stayed with him all day – otherwise we might as well have been alone, as far as the hospital was concerned. Of course they are short of help, now, but that floor was particularly badly run, and last night and this morning we had about as little service as humanly possible, and the noise was amazing all night and all day. I stayed all night with him: it was so hot, and at 2 a.m. there was a very noisy blackout, so they closed the windows, pulled down the shades, and left us to swelter until morning. His fever was high in the night, so he must have felt tired when he woke up, but the noise was what got me. He’s starved, now, and waiting for some jello, which ought to slide over his throat as easily as anything. I can’t help but feel that with all that extra space in his nose and throat, he’ll get much more air when he breathes, and have a much easier time eating.
He’ll be in bed a couple of days, and then up gradually. We are very pleased with Dr. Gruppe and very annoyed with Faxton hospital. You know I’ll take a lot of inconvenience if I think it’s unavoidable, but they’re just lax and undisciplined – of which you know plenty, too, now.
Another contribution to this occurred yesterday afternoon. The car was parked outside the hospital with the top down, and when I heard a thunder shower coming, I went down to put the top up, and drive over here for some overnight things. It turned over once, then clicked out, and I knew the wiring was off, somewhere. I called one place and explained the details -that I couldn’t leave the hospital for long, and had to get the top up before the rain. They promised to send a man right away, but waited until it was after five, then called back and said the man had to go home, and couldn’t do it. Of course it started raining, and I started madly calling people, and when I finally got one that had a man available, they refused to send him because he’d get wet!
I said, ”What kind of men are left in this country,” and burst into tears! No one I know would refuse to help out in a situation like that, yet I couldn’t get anyone, and when I was willing to sit in the rain and steer, it seemed as if half a man could drive, covered up, and push me. So the leather seats got soaked, and the man who came on at 6:30 came and got me, and the car is now getting repaired, I hope. Popop came and got us this morning. Nice time for the car to quit.
Seems like the guys who are fighting might as well know that they’re fighting for themselves, and the handful of people they love, and have no illusions about the general mass they leave behind, from the start. I believe that’s the way it’s always been, anyway, and probably they fight better and more cheerfully for their own selves and their families. The rest of the riff-raff that stays behind and gums things up just rides along over the finish line – until the post-war reactions start.
This War is nothing, compared to the job that will come after, if it’s to do any good. Only they can’t draft people for that job. (There’s always one kind of people that makes it better, like the nurse’s aides – they’re really doing a job, I observed, and are received with appreciation and gratitude. They look nice too! And work hard.) If only the War doesn’t last so long that people lose their initiative.
All sort of abstract and not very cheery. Just to make you realize that the incompetence and stupidity you see has its parallels. Intelligence is a lovely thing, if used.
Penny’s describing the operating room to Dorrie. I told him just what to expect so he wouldn’t be frightened, and told him to look around and see all he could. He said “there were two with masks on, and one put a thing over my nose,” and Dr. Gruppe was there “and had a light on his hat.” So he did look around. Dorrie says he acts a trifle tipsy now, which is accurate – just pleasingly drunk. Probably from the drugs.
The car is back, and runs. Total cost for “towing” (he pushed me), new battery cable and labor, $4.60. Nice work. Total hospital cost for overnight, $16.10. Now for the doctors’ bills.
Your pictures are here, and really look nice. Your Mother has two poses in a beautiful frame, that she gave Popop for Father’s Day. I will enjoy mine a lot (Where’s the beer hall picture of you?)
Dorrie and I were laughing about the surprise Jane Fay had when she was visiting Barbie Nelson, and Barbie walked into the bathroom and got into the tub with Jane, who was taking a bath. She said she and her new husband always did that. But what really struck us funny was to try to imagine what you’d do if I walked in and got into your bath. You’d probably slide down the drain!
Well Honey, the tonsils are gone at last, and those awful adenoids. He can’t help being better, and more comfortable.
Good luck and better times to you, Darling.
With love from every one of us. Dordo
#25. JDM to DPM (ALS, 1 pp.)
June 29, 1943
I was probably within 4 miles of you on Monday night. Took the Iroquois out of N.Y. at 11:30 p.m. No stop at Utica.
You can guess the rest. Way beyond Utica – and probably a little north of Aunt Ann.
I am not mentioning this to a soul but you – & no more letters to anyone but you until I arrive at destination. I don’t want everybody & his brother to know about this.
At present time I am a few miles beyond Toledo.
I’ll write again – after I mail this at Chicago.
All my love
#26. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2 pp.)
June 30, 1943
Being here, and being more idle, makes me think of you more, or at least in a different way. I think of you as much in Poland – and sometimes with more desperation, but there are so many new – old reminders of you here, of the different times you’ve been here too, from the first few times I came with you, and the Summer we stayed here before you were in the Army, to all the short holidays we slipped into the last few busier years. Now, with leaves on the trees, and the front porch furnished for the Summer, and the eternal children’s voices from the street, and the smell of green vegetables cooking, reminds me of the Spring and Summer visits we’ve made, and I wish you were here, too.
Not that it’s Summery now! The temperature dropped from 100 degrees to 45 degrees during the course of yesterday. Probably you’re cooler, and more comfortable, and I’m glad. Fifty-five degrees is too much, and now it’s just impossible to get warm, out of bed. It’s a little dangerous for Pee Wee, and we’re being awfully careful. Your mother had the furnace disconnected, and you know how it always get colder inside than out in this weather, so we haven’t even given him a bath after the hours of fever and being drenched with perspiration. This noon Dorrie came in, telling about how she stood and shivered, waiting for the bus, (with a coat on). Pencil said, “Don’t be a panty waist. – Why didn’t you get under a tree?”
Every time he talks he surprises me with his new voice. He doesn’t talk much because it hurts, but he has such a quiet, high, slightly nasal voice. Probably after a week or so it will be gone, but it’s queer now. And another thing that’s “bothered” me is that I can’t hear him breathe when he’s asleep anymore. I used to be able to lie in bed here, and tell whether he was asleep or awake, and tell how he ticked by the way he breathed, and now I can’t hear him unless I bend right down over him.
The headlines tonight look good – about Churchill saying the submarine menace is licked, which means it must at least be much better.
We’ve wondered why there is so little Pine Camp Army traffic through Poland this summer. Your Mother just said they’re using it for German prisoners now. A lot of Army trucks went through one Sunday, with girl civilians driving them, going North.
Penny’s face is pinched enough so his ears look big and his tan shows so. His mouth is like yours, and he’s sweet the way you are (neither of you hold it against me when I get bitchy!)
Margie is more like herself now, which is nice, but it has taken a toll from her youthfulness. The frame of her face shows more – not because the skin is tighter, but because her face is thinner and the skin looser, so that from the side a person who knows her well can see that Johnsie’s going away has been a sock under the belt to her.
Incidentally, I have lost eight pounds, and not on Army routine. Just from walking to the post office, I guess. So you see, Darling we really do miss you – that’s why it matters so to know all we can about you.
Love from all of us,
#27. JDM to DPM (ALS, 1 pp.)
June 30, 1943
At this moment rolling over the Nebraska flats. Set my watch back from 3:07 PM to 2:07 PM at Platte. The good housewives of Platte have a canteen in the station with everything free. Coffee, cigarettes etc.-very nice.
Our reservations in Chicago were no good so, after much fumbling around we sat up all night on a day coach to Omaha, and this morning transferred to the Pullman sect. There are 11 of us and we had a fair time – I mean a good time. I wouldn’t have missed it – even though we felt kind of green about it at the time because we thought we might have to ride all the way into L.A. (ghastly thought).
The scenery isn’t as flat as it was; there are sort of rolling sand hills – but as far as prairie is concerned – it just looks like a bunch of oversize scraggly fields to me.
A little while ago I guess we must have made a picturesque & typical group. We were playing cards in one end of the Pullman – a lot of smoke in the air – and in the other end some soldiers around a guitar – & in the men’s room some sailors with trumpets practicing their calls – blowing the corny notes right out into the faintly dismal scenery of Nebraska – Our next pause is Cheyenne – which I am anxious to see.
Adios for now – and I am enjoying this – believe me!
#28. JDM to DPM (ALS, 1 p.)
Troop train, Ogden Utah
July 1, 1943
Just pulled out of Ogden, Utah – spent the morning dusting through a bunch of brown and red rocks – some of them wind eroded to look like toadstools & water jugs & temples & sometimes nothing at all – but I don’t have to tell you – you’ve seen it all – & the train people tell me this isn’t a very pretty route.
Had to share a lower with Lt. Wagner last night – he is 1” taller & weighs 20 lb. more than I do. I guess you can imagine how that was. I was up at 6 to look at the scenery.
Service men on these western trains are limited to 2 meals per day – & shunted off into the poorest Pullmans & coaches. I don’t like it at all.
Cigarettes are 24 cents a pack in Utah. Food is terrific.
We are beginning to slow down for Salt Lake City & I want to mail this – so goodbye & love.
#29. DPM to JDM (ALS, 1p.)
Troop train, near Los Angeles
July 2, 1943
Just headed thru Pomona & about 30 mi from L.A. It is my considered opinion that 75% of the U.S. is waste land. Can now see Palms & orange groves from the train window.
Of course we didn’t come the best way possible.
When you write me, leave the X off of the A.P.O. No. from now on. I may get a new one. I don’t expect to get any letters from you for some time – as they will have to all be rerouted.
I don’t know what to expect at destination. Maybe an hour, maybe a week – but I think it will click a lot quicker than the previous place did. Had a berth to myself last night & finally got a night’s sleep. (The train is about to stop – notice the improvement in legibility.)
Now I am beginning to wonder whether I want to come back this way, or the other way – I would sort of like to make it a complete job.
I will close this off now – so that I can get a look at the outside world.
This whole thing is making me as excited as a little kid – (and, baby, am I glad to skip that trip in the other direction – for reasons I can’t tell you in any letter – but which you can probably guess.)
Love to you and Penny – John
#30. JDM to DPM (ALS, 1p.)
Los Angeles, California
July 2, 1943
Dear Dordo –
Just to let you know we have arrived and are staying the night in the nasty little shack pictured above. They have some jerk playing here named Martin in a joint called the Coconut Grove & the place is filthy with flowers and palms and patios & swimming pools. Our room is much too large and airy. The food is too rich, there is too much liquor and everybody is too damn friendly.
#31. JDM to DPM (ALS, 1p.)
Somewhere in California
July 6, 1943
I can’t tell you where I am, or how I got here, but I will be able to write you a letter later that will give details.
I tried to call you on the 3rd. I wanted to talk to you very badly, not only because of the day – but because of the distance away. I tried innumerable times, but when they did finally get a line through it was impossible to make the Herkimer operator even understand the number.
The weather is absolutely wonderful here – hot days and cold nights – with never a cloud in the skies. A mist -liquid sunshine – that lifts around 9:30 a.m. Last night walking back to the barracks from the Post Theatre I saw more stars than I have ever seen before. I am beginning to wonder how I found it possible to live anywhere else but out here.
The Ambassador was wonderful for one night. That place has everything – swimming pool, gardens, tennis courts, golf course – innumerable stores & places to eat & even a theatre in the hotel.
All of my luggage is intact, but there is now too much of it.
Much love, darling, and I am sorry again that I was unable to get hold of you.
You can say so little in these letters that they sound silly – I am now under a hush-hush routine more stringent than the last place.
Adios for now –
Tell Penny he looks good without tonsils.
#32. DPM to JDM (ALS, 3pp.)
Thursday, July 8, 1943
You were really wonderful about writing from the train, and with all the excitement, it must have been hard to light anywhere long enough to write letters. Not to mention the one from the Ambassador – I really did feel so happy that you paused right it the midst of your first day there to tell me about it. You don’t know how much something like that means now. I realized, being away from here a little while, that I’m too much with old people, and the week in Utica made me feel even stronger about getting away in the Fall; – your letter brought me closer to going places and having fun, and having seen the things you were seeing for the first time, it was as much like being with you as anything 3000 miles away can be.
I was glad to have you say that you preferred to leave from the West Coast, too. Your Dad and I feel that it must be safer, but it’s reassuring to find that you do. Isn’t California wonderful? I hope you got a decent look at it. Of course it must be browner in Summer, but the lovely Pacific and the mountains give it color, not to mention the people, and do I hear you saying you’d like to see more after the War?
It was a week ago today that your letter came telling that you were on the move. We were in Utica, and Rita phoned that she had forwarded one postmarked Chicago, which you can imagine set 9 Beverly in a turmoil of conjecture. Of course they gathered around with bated breath every time one came, and I shared them all with them. They will keep your whereabouts as carefully concealed as I, they haven’t told a soul that anyone has heard from you since May 10th, and in answer to the daily queries, they always say “No we haven’t heard a word, don’t expect to for a while.” They are your family and this whole thing has affected them more than you will ever guess. I was glad to be with them, and it made you seem closer to all of us to be together during the excitement of your trip. And don’t doubt that it was exciting, vicariously as well as in fact. It was so nice to know you were out of that camp, after all the suspense and discomfort, and having a chance to go somewhere, safely, and to see California.
I’m sure I was awake that night you were so near us. It was a horribly hot, noisy night in the hospital, and Penny only slept because he was so drugged. I didn’t even try. There was a blackout at 2:15, and they closed the windows tight, increasing the heat, and making the night seem even weirder. I’m sure I heard every train that whistled thru Utica that night.
Then the day the letter from the Ambassador reached Poland (Monday), Rita called again, and I phoned the hotel immediately. They got Los Angeles as easily as they usually get Rochester, but you had gone. It would have been fun to say hello to you once more.
John, I can’t tell you how proud your enclosure*** made me – made all of us. It was unexpected, and is a wonderful justification of the faith in your ability that is responsible for your being headed for where you are. I hope a copy goes to Rochester, but not until you are where it won’t matter for them to know your movements. It is a wonderful thing for us to have, and Pop had Dorrie make several copies of it, tho of course he can’t show them to anyone now. I feel like framing it, and Darling, it’s just the nicest Anniversary present I could have – it arrived on July 3rd. How fortunate the C.O. had such a command of the language – he couldn’t have brought out more desirable qualities for the situation that the ones he found you showed. It was thrilling to receive, and will be cherished always, because it says what I have always known. Sometimes I may have seemed to expect a great deal of you. You are apt to find that I always will, because you have and are so much, that it’s natural to look for more from you than from even your contemporaries. And I know what you are, and can be, and love you for it.
Pencil is getting back on his pins, but has lost quite a bit of weight. I can’t get over not being able to hear him breathe at night. He was wobbly longer than I remembered he should be, but his color is better now, and I’m sure he will eat and sleep better, as well as have more resistance. The whole episode cost about $67, of which I still owe thirty, not bad. Especially considering the phone bill was $13.75 this month; two N.Y. calls are still not in. None of which was wasted resources. But having checking accounts go up to about ten cents per check for us is a blow.
All my love, wherever you are,
***Enclosure from John that Dorothy refers to in her letter:
28 June, 1943
- Capt. John D. MacDonald, 0-397110, Ordnance Dept., attached to this headquarters from 10 May, 1943 to date, during which time he served in the capacity of Company Commander of a casual unit. This unit consisted of enlisted men who arrived from a station controlling mainly replacements. Capt. MacDonald took charge of these men and organized them into a cohesive unit in the most expeditious fashion. Processing these troops in a minimum of time allotted, he maintained excellent discipline among his men during the period indicated, and thereafter conducted an outstanding training program.
- Capt. MacDonald exhibited the utmost in intelligence, cooperation, initiative, painstaking effort and common sense. These qualities, among others, were prominently displayed in an excellent manner, and a distinct loss is felt in that his services can no longer be made available hereafter.
Edward J Halprin
Major, T.C. Commanding
Camp Shanks, N.Y.
#33. JDM to DPM (ALS, 1pp.)
July 9, 1943
I certainly miss getting mail. I keep wondering is everything okay. I made an abortive attempt to phone you today – but gave up after an hour of excuses from the phone girl. You had better just skip the thought of my phoning.
It looks as though this would become another Camp S. I certainly hope not.
I am becoming as restless as hell. There is enough to do in the line of work if I wanted to look for it – but it certainly lacks stimulation.
I am sorry that this is such a short note – but I fail to find anything of sufficient interest to write about.
As I wrote the above I remembered your exhortation about the little things.
Well, at the moment I am sitting at a table on the porch of the Officer’s Club. All I can see is a long line of yellowish brown barracks stretching across sandy dust. It is 6:30 here and the sun is still fairly high – but when it goes down night will come with a whoosh. I can see into the rather barren looking cafeteria – where I will soon be going to eat with Freddy & Smith. The porch opens off a mammoth room used as a dance hall. It has tables & chairs & couches & overstuffed chairs all along the wall -plus a juke box and a few pin ball machines. The juke box is in pretty constant use. The bar is on the opposite side from the porch. You can buy 3.2 beer, coke, or set- ups. In order to use set-ups you have to ask for it out of your own bottle which you buy & bring in and they label. In back of me is the damn phone.
Love to you and to Penny,
#34. DPM to JDM (ALS, 1p.)
July 14, 1943
Probably Friday, we will drive to Rochester. I will try to see someone in the transportation dept. at ROD, and get some final word on the state of our possessions, and whether they will be moved to Utica. Then I will go to the moving company and see whether I can get the refrigerator put in the back seat to take it to Elmira, or whether it could be shipped as cheaply. I will collect possessions from the Davidsons and Lutwacks, and try to see Mrs. Bowlin. I wasn’t going to get in touch with her this time, as I didn’t want anyone in Rochester to know you were still here, and where, but if Freddy has written her, it’s probably all over Rochester, anyway. As far as telling anyone there what I know, you can rest assured that I have nothing but contempt for the way anyone there would handle what still involves your safety. Even Tom’s wife.
I can imagine what buzzing around Rochester with Rita and Penny, on all these errands will be! Your absence does not simplify life, my friend, it fills it with petty obligations and divided loyalties, and unsatisfying demands. But I shouldn’t say that to you, it won’t help you any. But you know what I mean, and I can’t beef to anyone who understands so well.
If you get stuck for a while where you are, I hope it’s near some cities, where you can have a chance to get away once in a while. Incidentally, little fragments about Delhi in stories of China’s fliers, and political accounts in “Time,” sound as if it were a sort of refuge from all the Asian disadvantages, to homesick Americans.
Three War bonds from your pay have arrived lately. They’re up to February, now. My next financial problem will be the car top, but your job is holding up remarkably well.
Pencil wears your soldier hat, and smokes your pipe, and asks if you’re taking good care of the soldier boys, and I go to sleep wishing for the reassuring curve of your back beside me.
#35. JDM to DPM (ALS, 1p.)
July 17, 1943
I am incommunicado again, and this time it looks as though it would stick. They have alerted me and are holding my outgoing mail for delivery after embarkation – so, by the time you get this I will probably be afloat. It certainly will be a relief after all these long months. It has certainly seemed silly to yank me away from you on May 10th and keep me hanging around until now.
Enclosed is $50 which was surplus to me. I sat in a small game & was fortunate. Don’t get conscience qualms & send it to 9 Beverly. I want you to have and use as best you can for you & the Pencil. I read about mounting living costs in the papers & wonder whether the $200 allotment is going to be enough. If you should start getting odd checks in odd amounts from the government, don’t wonder about it. On overseas station they have a new arrangement whereby I can walk into any finance office -lay down any multiple of $10 & say “Send this to Mrs. JD etc.” & and in a daily cable to the office of dependency benefit the name and amount will be indicated & they will send the check to you – Good, hey?
This place is very interesting now that we are shoving off – it is getting as colorful as Camp S was when I first arrived.
Love to you, my darling.
P.S. No mail since Shanks.
#36. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2pp.)
August 17, 1943
Piseco – wonderful, beautiful, peaceful, lovely Piseco. I know I love it all year ‘round, but when I finally get here, then it is impossible to see how anyone who loves it so much could bear to stay away from it so long.
I can’t tell you, John, how much I wish you were here. For one thing, you’re the one who wanted to come so badly last year, and looked forward to a vacation this year, so much; for another, with all the changes and disruption and confusion in all the world, and in our personal lives, it’s somehow very wonderful to find this most precious place so unchanged, and so stable in its simplicity and its eternal living beauty. And now that so much has happened to us, if you could slip just one week of being here into all the weeks of Spring and Summer, it would give you a satisfaction and contentment that nothing else could give.
The moon is full, and is laying a sparkling path right across the lake, – the only real change in the set-up here is that electricity and a good radio make it possible to get music from WQXR to add to a Piseco evening. Not to mention good light to read or write by, – and of course a fire in the stove is keeping the real cold evening at bay, and the dampness from prolonged rains!
Our coming wasn’t really auspicious. As soon as Sammy arrived in Poland bad weather set in, and Bard’s chronic sore throat, and Penny’s cold (as well as Evvie’s unusually tolerant frame of mind) all becomes worse. They were packed to come up yesterday, however, in spite of Bard’s being in bed Sunday, and I was applying pressure for them to bring all the supplies and baggage up alone on Monday, and come back to Poland for the kids, Rita, and I today, in order to have some slight chance to make recognition of their tenth anniversary, the day after ours. But Sunday night Bard’s cold became alarmingly worse, and yesterday Dr. Wallace called it “incipient pneumonia.”
We just had to get out, it was too crowded, with a sick child for them, and not good for Penny whose own germs were bad enough. So I was the one to drive in, with Rita and Penny, and unload the stuff, in a teeming rain, at seven p.m., while they stayed in Poland and Sammy sneezed his head off in the cold and damp, and Evvie had a million things to do so that didn’t contribute a bit to pleasure in their anniversary!
By tomorrow night Bardie will have had a lot of sulphathiazole, and I’m going out to phone them at noon, – if he’s well enough to move, they will bring him in tomorrow afternoon to finish convalescing. It is warmer, less crowded, and more pleasant for everyone here, and since Sam has so little time (only the rest of this week) for his vacation, it’s the only way they can do what they’ve looked forward to for so long.
It drizzled on and off all day, and I made many trips up the hill to unload the car (each step of the way under Rita’s endless supervision!) But the camp looks so clean and so peaceful, and the power I have acquired of at least semi-detachment stood me in good enough stead, that it has still been possible to feel quite lyrical about being here.
You’ll remember that Penny hasn’t much reason to be impressed about coming, it was so long ago that he was here, so his delight with the camp and our sodden surroundings was based not at all on anticipation – but how he has loved it from the minute he reached here! Sniffing around like a little puppy, and expanding, and exploring, and exuding little boy pleasure in every movement! Tomorrow it may get more crowded, but I’m always foolish enough to hope I’ll be even more inconspicuous in the confusion. If that happens, I’ll spend every minute that is my own thinking about you, and wishing we can be together before too long!
You might like to know a little more about our anniversary, – or this end of it. Evvie was adamant about my getting away from the hubbub, bless her, so Sunday afternoon I found myself in the car, pointed out the driveway, alone, and wondering where to go, since my only idea for observing the occasion was to get a little privacy to write to you. Somehow the Walker Road, and inevitably, the little house overlooking Utica, seemed the answer. It was sunny and windy, and I parked the car across the road on the curve toward Poland, facing the house, on that little driving-off place. I walked up to the house through high wet grass, (the wind made it a little too lonely) and took a whole roll of pictures of the house, and of the different stretches of field and city and hills seen from it. It was hazy, but some should be good enough to send you.
In the group of trees right around the house I found a tall young maple in front, lilacs on either side of the door, a willow drooping over the back, a sparkle-tree near it, apple trees by the shed, and a cluster of thick fuzzy pines at the rear! Just waiting for a little brick or stone house to be set in their midst.
Then I went back to the car, finished copying your poems – that project was the anniversary idea I had been working on, and somehow, writing a letter didn’t seem to be the thing. If you can still think of those poems in their relationship to you and me – with all the promise and all the love they bear, if you can understand that they are so much a part of me as you are, and will always be, you can understand all that has been between us, and all that can be – and know that that is all I want.
So, I just wrote the little title page, sealed them at our house, and mailed them off to you from Utica – and I hope Uncle Sam left the postmark “August 15th” on them.
Soon we should be hearing how and where you are –
Love, my Darling Husband
Hope you are still having such an exciting time that you won’t feel that all this enthusiasm about Piseco is to arouse envy. You understand what it means to get out of the world to here, don’t you?
#37. DPM to JDM (ALS, 1p.)
August 20, 1943
A long time to go before I can possibly hear from you and is seems as tho I can’t wait much longer.
That’s a useless thing to say – what does one do when one can’t wait any longer?
Well, writing helps a little, and one of these letters written sometime about now will be the latest news from home when you get it, because if you keep going you should be fairly near your destination around the first of September, and the letter on top of the pile may be written now. I hate to think of you wading through a lot of stale letters, but sometimes it seems necessary to tell you that life goes on and we think of you and speak of you – and miss you so very much. Your picture is on the radio (in front of the two windows by the porch door) in the dining room here at the camp, and every time we go by or in or out, or look out the window, there you are. Sam says it bothers him, but pleasantly, you know.
The electricity really makes life so much more pleasant. We can enjoy reading more; it’s cleaner, and much more convenient for cooking, – and the little bedrooms are the only thing that look artificially bright without candlelight.
It’s amazing how many of the camps are empty, and how much the foliage all the way up has increased and thickened, so that it all looks a little unfamiliar. I can’t help wondering when it will ever seem to be a bright little stretch of shoreline, with the color of familiar care-free people, and boats humming around, and a vacation-aspect. One wouldn’t expect to miss that, but the people whom we have often considered rather a nuisance really have a pleasant part in associations here (You too, Dear!).
Sam has brought some books on India, but they’re not the war-correspondent type, and I look to you for a more colorful picture of it. It’s nice to know to what an attractive place you’re going, and I hope it’s as clean and cheerful as it looks. Dirt can be very depressing.
This is a place to which I come for short stays after long stretches of different kinds of living (from the viewpoint of a lifetime), yet it’s a place where those kinds of living are either suspended or intensified sufficiently to give one a much greater view of what has taken place. This time it makes me wonder very much What’s next? It’s like New Year’s!
#38. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2pp.)
September 5, 1943
Ah-h-h! Alone at last.
That really means something this time. It’s been seven weeks since I’ve been alone, just a little longer than you’ve been traveling. You probably haven’t had much privacy either, on the ship, tho there’s no lack of privacy similar to that which certain family relationships create.
A week ago today we drove out of Piseco at noon and went to Elmira – it was hard to leave, Piseco did a lot for me.
It was nice to see the kids, and break up the monotony of the Summer, but it was pretty crowded here, considering the wet and cold weather, for such a long visit. Evvie’s nerves aren’t as calm as they were when she was pregnant, and although it was a diversion from thinking about you, it was a little tense at times, and I am glad to be alone with our own things – if only Rita will not get too chummy, now.
We’ve been forced to eat with her since we came back because our gas all leaked out, but they’re making an adjustment to that situation Tuesday.
Well – of all the surprises! Rita just called me to the phone, and it was Margie, to say that you had arrived. It would have been nicer, hearing it from you, but we are all glad to know that awful sea trip is ended, and now you’ll be busy and happy in glamorous New Delhi, and we can stop wondering.
She heard in such a round-about way – perhaps there will be an explanation later for not hearing from you – it is a little disappointing. Bill from Bossart Co., or his wife, had just talked with Mrs. Bowlin, and she had had a letter from the Colonel that you arrived before they expected you, and were with him. It must have taken a letter some time to get here, too. She called Mrs. Albiani, and she had already heard from Fred, so we feel a bit queer, but there must be some reason (There’d better be!)
I was just going to mention before the call came, how happy I was to hear from you, yesterday – for the first time since July. It cleared up a small mystery from the day before, when two cards arrived from San Francisco, signed by you, authorizing the change to A.P.O. 4003 – to which, of course, I haven’t written for weeks. I couldn’t believe you were still around, but it was a relief to hear from you enroute. (Also another queer thing happened last week – another Capt. John MacDonald from Utica wired for $15.00 from Alexandria Bay, and the bank took it out of our account; until we straightened that out, we were a little slap-happy.
Monday. Labor Day
On the subject of reading matter, Christmas, etc. As soon as you possibly can, let us know what reading material, and in what form, you want most. Tell me whether subscriptions sent directly, (especially the new “pony edition” of Time, sent first-class) or copies bought from newsstands of the different digests, would be better. Of course, I will clip articles and stories, too, but you will know what would be best.
And books. Of course, we will only send you the best, and that will mean that you won’t want to part with them when you return. Can you have them shipped back? Shall I send you book reviews and let you make requests?
We started back from Elmira last Monday. We spent three days in Utica apartment-hunting, but the situation is not good. I have more here than I realized – lacking mainly privacy, and city distractions. What I need badly is space, and city 3-room apartments don’t even have as much as there is here. The new Veteran’s Hospital has added more population for apartments, and Rome airport is a huge thing now, spilling people all over the countryside. I am making every effort to find a place, but will not move until I find one that will really be an improvement.
We came home to Poland’s prettiest time of year, and found hot water – after a Summer without it.
#39. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2pp.)
September 12, 1943
A whole week has passed since Margie heard that the Colonel had written Mr. Bowlin of your arrival, and stlll we haven’t heard from you. Of course, it’s probably held up somewhere, but it seems so queer that Mrs. Albiani and Mrs. Bowlin have both heard so long ago, and all my trips to the post office have yielded nothing.
The event of this week concerns Penny. It was about 6:00 Wednesday night when they brought him in. I was out in the yard removing the last vestiges of finish from the coffee table, when I heard such screams that I thought the kids were having a screeching contest and paid no attention to it. But Warren Palmiter came around the house carrying Penny and saying, “I’m sorry, Mrs. MacDonald, but he cut his foot on the bike.”
I’ll say he did – he caught it in the wheel or sprocket – he was riding behind Warren on a very heavy bike, and it took his shoe off and sliced the back of his heel right down to the bone. It scraped the cords, but didn’t cut them, thank Heaven.
I carried him to Dr. Wallace as fast as I could, with a line of mothers and kids forming at the rear, brought out by the yelling. The doctor didn’t sew it because he (Pen) was too scared, and upset, and there were too many people there, but he sprinkled it with a sulphathiazide powder and drew it together with strips of adhesive. He planned to clip it the next day, but decided later that drawing it together more each time it was dressed, and using more sulpha, would make a better scar.
It has really come along wonderfully, probably due to the sulpha, – and of course he heals quickly, anyway. Of course, he had a couple of fairly sleepless nights, but it doesn’t hurt so much now, even when he moves it quite freely. He’s been in bed, or on the davenport, or deck chairs ever since, and has been very good. He won’t walk for a while, tho the doctor wants him to use it even at the risk of having it open some, to prevent the cords tightening. Poor boy – he was just getting in such wonderful condition after his operation – recovered and tall and brown. But it’s so much better than it might have been, and seems to be free from infection so far, which is the main thing. He doesn’t think that being a “pet wounded soldier-boy” is so interesting, now. The first night he had to have your three pictures around the bed, and told you about it.
Warren – Harvey and Gretta’s 12 year old brother, felt terrible. They were bringing Pen home from playing with Harvey, and the two little ones wanted a ride. Warren’s the nicest little boy I ever knew – a red-head with brown eyes and a straight back, who tries to father their whole family, and he is so nice to the little kids. Their mother wants to pay the doctor bill, but of course I shan’t let her even consider it.
In fact, I am taking Harvey two days a week for her so she can keep on with her work (making veneer for airplane parts) as she couldn’t find a regular place for him. Her sister will have him the other days. Of course it is only going to last if and when and until I move.
We have had the most phenomenally cold weather for September, and her apartment has been about 54 to 60 degrees day and night. I’ll have to tell you that I was over at her place one evening, early, and she had warmed it fairly well with her oven. When I went over the following morning, after our coldest night, I found both the front and back doors wide open – obviously so there would be no question about her having to come here!
It amused me, and warmed me. She would have been sick if she’d had to sit around in the cold, but she was not taking chances on missing the opportunity to be here. Our fireplace kept us very comfortable, and she stayed all night last night, – there was a “frost,” but today they started the oil burners in mid-afternoon, and she went home to sleep.
Love from Pencil and Dordo
#40. DPM to JDM (ALS, 1p.)
September 15, 1943
Such a fuss!
For two days I have thought you were with the Colonel in New Delhi, and since that information was supposed to have come from him, by letter, we figured you must have been there almost a month by now, and couldn’t see why some letter from you hadn’t gotten thru, even if a cable couldn’t have, since both Mrs. Brolin and Mrs. Albiani were supposed to have heard it directly from India.
After several unsuccessful attempts I finally got hold of Mrs. Brolin by phone tonight and found that the information that Mrs. Bill Miller had phoned your mother was completely garbled!
You can imagine how relieved I am to get it straightened up. It shouldn’t be a relief to find out you weren’t there, but the whole thing seemed so phony, with all our rationalizing, that the facts are most welcome.
So I have haunted the post office, and all the time you were still at sea.
But Mrs. Brolin had better news, as a letter from the Colonel, written last week (Sept. 8) said they were flying to Bombay to meet you on Sept. 14th, which was yesterday. So we should hear soon – and from you.
Mrs. Brolin thinks we should hear in about 72 hours. You can’t imagine what that means to us. I had had a long phone conversation with Margie early this evening, and called them back, and told them (Pop and Margie on the two extensions) all this, and they were glad to get it straight, too.
Pencil is much better and rides his bike furiously, but won’t walk although he should.The doctor thinks his heel will be healed in a few days, tho it looks a little soupy now. Boy! That was a lucky miss – you will see the scar some day, and see how lucky.
It will be wonderful day when I hear from you – that you’re at Hotel Imperial.
All my love,