Today is the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day. As I have written on this blog, I am reading the hundreds of letters my father wrote to my mother between the end of 1942— when he entered the Army Air Corps officer training program in meteorology rather than be drafted—and 1946. In honor of the day, I am posting a letter.
I thought about digging up the VE Day letter from the bottom of the box (for sure there is one), but I am still reading the spring 1943 letters and I don’t want to get ahead, so I decided on May 8, 1943.
My parents were not yet married; that happened in November 1943, when my father was sure he would sit out the rest of the war—which “surely would be over soon”—in Dallas. He was in school at New York University—hating the Bronx and the Army—and she had just moved from Tennessee to Spokane, Washington to work as a secretary in a plant that made bomber parts. She wanted to “do something to help end the war,” and so she registered with the Civil Service and took off across the country alone, apparently not consulting any one (for sure not my father) about the decision. Meanwhile, they tried to carry on a long-distance courtship, of which my father was certain and my mother cautious.
He mentions my mother having the mumps, a story she has told me many times. She was so sick, and the woman whose house she rented a room in was a Christian Scientist and wouldn’t let in the nurse my mother’s employer (the U.S. government) sent to check on her. She had been in town only a few weeks, and was so alone.
Stellajoe darling —
Stellajoe, I’m awfully sorry that I didn’t get many letters to you while you were sick. I got two from you yesterday and one today. I believe that’s at least five this week. You probably won’t get my letters until you are well, and won’t appreciate them so much then. And they were such nice letters that I got from you. Maybe the mumps didn’t make you very sick. They certainly didn’t impair your letter writing ability. And of course there were three little words in one of them that set my heart singing.
For the past two days, we’ve been practicing for the big parade that we’re going to put on at the upper class’s graduation exercise next Monday. Tomorrow in practice we’re going to have to wear our white gloves. Boy, we’ll be a sharp looking outfit. There’s going to be a General here they tell us. And in the army, when your superior officer shows up, you go to a lot of trouble to make your outfit “look like what it ain’t.” Which is one of the things — the many things — I don’t like about the army.
The fellows in the graduating class all know where they’re going. And it’s to the four winds. I guess most of them will be in country for a while. But they were assured that none of them would by August 1! Some are going overseas directly. Russia, Greenland, Iceland, Alaska, Canada are places I’ve heard.
Everyone in our class is wishing that he could be graduating. I don’t know for sure what I wish. They are still in the army, officer or no. They are going to start contributing something tangible to the winning of this war, but I still don’t have the burning patriotism that makes me anxious to get in the thick of things.
I’ve gotten into the groove of going to school. It’s just like college again. I have a fair idea of the minimum studying I can do and still do well. If I want to do better, it would take twice as much studying; and I don’t think it’s worth it. I didn’t in college, either. In college I was in the upper 10%. Here I’m in just about the upper fourth. I’m not higher mostly because I don’t have the proper prerequisites of physics and math, but also because —— this is the army.
I think maybe if I had a certain sweet girl here where I could see her often, and could get away from the city with her, I could counteract a portion of the dislike for the army and do a little better. I’m satisfied where I am in the standing, however. Do you think I should try to do better? Do you want me to try to do better? Unless a fellow is in the top 10%, there is no reward for it. A few fellows get a chance for more advanced training, some get a chance to teach. But by far the greater number get their assignments by having their name pulled out of a hat.
A few of your remarks lead me to believe that you don’t have a very pleasant place to live. Gee, I’m sorry about that. I hope that now you’re over the mumps you don’t have to spend your time off tomorrow and Sunday looking for a place to live. I was hoping that you could get out in the mountains so you could write me all about it.
No, the rules still don’t require us to be here weekends, though if one is not careful he will be. One of the fellows in the apartment got about ten demerits this week. He will have to stay in, and also “walk a tour of duty” for a couple hours Sunday morning. But ever since he’s been here, he’s violated every rule in the book, so I’m not sorry for him.
Well, I don’t think there’s any more news to write. All that’s left is stuff that isn’t news. Mainly, I love you. I miss you. I wish for you a nice place to live, to work, to eat, and everything else that a swell person like you deserves. Gee, darling, if you only knew how much I’d like to be able to give you all those things you deserve. And if this war were over and you’d marry me, I’d surely do my best to see that you got them. I loved you before I left Norris. I loved you before the week off in March. And I love you now — but more. And there doesn’t seem to be a thing I can do about it!