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.
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 gun sight. 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 illumination 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.”
It is difficult for you to measure the amount of thrill the arrival of a letter from you carries with it. Perhaps this feeling is more highly colored by the fact that of all my soldier boys, you are nearer the danger point than any of the rest and nerves are stretched a bit taught here by the passing of time without a message from you, than in the case of the others who are not quite so close to the firing line. It also affords me considerable satisfaction to know that you have at least received one of the packages even though it took so many months to reach you. Our hearts are so anxious to do so much for our absent sons that the limited packages we finally get together with the feeling of its inadequacy, and sometimes with difficulty due to the shortage of goods here, we feel ought to arrive pronto to bear evidence of our goodwill, and then to have months go by in adding insult to injury. However, your letter is dated October 25th and bears a postmark of the 29th, so it has been almost a month en route, which may mean that by this time you may have received some of the other packages. As to my uncanny knack, my natural modesty compels me to admit (as you did in the case of the metal you were awarded) that the things you received were just those items you yourself expressed a desire to have, only it was so long ago you have probably forgotten it. Anyway, the bouquet must be returned to you for having foreseen so long ago just how welcome these items would be to you on that distant day when you first set foot on French soil. There is just one note missing from your letters and that is an answer to some question or at least some comment on the items in my letters to you so that I may know whether or not you are getting the home news which is regularly dispatched to you each and every week, with occasionally a V-mail letter in between. I hope you are far enough back so that Jerry’s artillery, air bombs or robots, are not too threatening. And the entire absence of any personal reference to your health, etc., leaves the door wide open for bothersome imaginings. With Lad probably overseas and Dave sooner or later to take the same trip, they too ought to take note of an anxious family’s natural desire to know how you all are faring. Dick, thank heavens is far removed from shell craters and Ced has only Jack Frost to contend with, but just the same, a reassuring note now and again will not be unwelcome, as concerns your physical well-being.
Tomorrow, I’ll complete this letter with news from Dave and Ced, and Grandpa’s usual comments.