Army Life – Dear Turkey Eaters (1) – A Letter From Dan – Nov., 1944

Trumbull, Conn.,    Nov. 26, 1944

Dear Turkey Eaters:

“I see by the papers” that you boys, who are temporarily in Uncle Sam’s employ, all enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving with all the fixin’s, and by the way, was going us one better at home as we were unable to get either turkey or cranberry sauce, which is quite satisfactory if our lack means that you all really did “get the bird”. I have not yet heard the details of Ced’s holiday repast but if his last letter is any criterion, he too, gets things in Alaska we cannot get in Connecticut. For instance, he writes of a punch made from lemons. Now you may recall that in my last I plagiarized Lewis Carroll a bit in that memorable passage where the Walrus said it was time to talk of ships and shoes and sealing wax and cabbages and Kings. Well, there is just as strange an assortment of items that are unobtainable here. There is the aforementioned lemons, which have been entirely unobtainable here for several months. Some attribute it to the black market, some to the fact that most of our former supply has come from California and the shipment from that point in refrigerator cars ties up so many of these limited supply  specialized railway equipment needed for men of the service that they simply have not been shipped. Then two, the recent hurricane destroyed the Florida crop, although Friday I was able to get a few Texas lemons that had just arrived. There is also a shortage of such diverse items as clothes pins, safety matches, linen sheets (cotton), canned salmon, cigarettes, canned corned beef, camera films, refrigerators and candy. There are of course many others, supplies of which appear on sale for a day or two, are bought up rapidly and again disappear for long periods. It gets so now that when you see anything on sale that you have formerly needed or may need in the future, unless you immediately buy it, you’re out of luck, when during the next day or so, you return again to make the purchase. Right now there is a shortage of anti-freeze. I should have bought a few, weeks ago, when I had the chance. All I have in the car now is what was left over from last year and it needs to be strengthened for very cold weather. Oh well, time will cure all these things.

Dan-uniform (2)

It was a real Thanksgiving week for us here in the main as far as letters from you boys were concerned. Lad was the only one we did not hear from and that wasn’t his fault. From “somewhere in France” the following very welcome message arrived: “Roughing it again! (In a manner of speaking, that is) a good excuse to write a letter! I am sitting on an army cot in an abandoned Nazi barracks, somewhere in France. The pale light of a kerosene lamp acts as a monitor to my flailing pencil. In the corner, a wood stove adds its pungency to the heavy odor of kerosene fumes, while a group of boys are playing cribbage on an improvised table in the center of the room. On the door Jerry has left “Conchita”, a hard looking Spanish beauty, smoking a cigarette and staring impersonally toward the doorknob. Standing beside the stove is a burlap sack, plump with coke which we found near an abandoned gunsight. It will keep the chill from our slumber about 2 o’clock in the morning. After I have finished writing this letter I shall pay a visit to the café half a kilometer down the road. We shall sit in the kitchen talking to the proprietor whose husband is a prisoner of the Germans. We shall sip a glass of rather innocuous beer and lament the departure of more exciting spirits which accompanied Jerry back to Germany. We shall hear of the interminable air raids which, until recently, have been the daily lot of these French villagers for months before D-Day – – air raids launched by the British by night and the Americans by day – – bombings which brought both hope and despair with each explosion. In this café kitchen, our ilumization will be the bright jet of a carbide lamp, with a useless electric bulb hibernating in its socket waiting the day when current will again course through it’s filaments. At about 10 o’clock we shall bid good night to our hosts and return to our barracks – – return to our bunks where we shall slumber until the cook awakens us in time for breakfast. I have finally received one of the packages you sent last August. It was the one containing a French grammar, some hard water soap, chocolate, tobacco and Kodachrome film. I am continually amazed by the uncanny knack you have of sending me precisely the things I most appreciate. Each item mentioned above is priceless in this part of France were even our army rations are monotonous and sketchy. We dream of visions of such rarities as fresh milk, ice cream, fresh eggs, bananas, lettuce salad and a hundred and one other things that used to be commonplace and taken for granted – – a bathroom with hot and cold water and plenty of light for shaving, a bed with a mattress and two sheets, and a radio beside it, plenty of clean clothes and a place to keep them, an automobile to drive and freedom to go where you wish and stay as long as you want – – no checking out on “pass” and returning for bed check! Oh well, as the Frenchmen say, “Ca viendre!” which means in literal Yankeenese, “It won’t be long now.”

Tomorrow, I’ll continue this letter with sections addressed to Dan and Dave, on Friday, the last segment, addressed to Ced and other local news.

On Saturday and Sunday, more Special Pictures.

On Monday, I’ll begin a week of letters written in 1940 when Lad was still in Venezuela and Dan and Ced were in Alaska.

Judy Guion

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