Letters Home

December 29, 1943

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My Darling:

Received your letter just a few hours ago and again received that life giving inspiration. You are such a constant bunch of mystery and surprises, My Love.

I had just waded through some deep snow covered tundra, facing a cold wind. (This time I won’t call it “a little cold”) But when I read your letter, I was all warm again.

Honey, you say, and I agree, that Nature is God’s creation. But the closer to it, the more you love it. Well, that depends on the nature. Ha. And that remark about was I getting wild or was the fox tamed. Ha. The answer is I don’t know. Is it any sign that I am wild if I grow long ears and a tail and howl like a wolf when the moon comes up? Anyway, I don’t think I’m a gentleman, since I heard what one is. They tell me a gentleman is a worn out wolf. 

I have not seen the picture “Report from the Aleutians” yet. I want to see it if it ever comes here, so I can see if they filled it full of propaganda. The shrill wind sounds very familiar. If they’ve filled it with propaganda and false information we should sue them. Ha.

In the letter before this one, you sent some clippings and a joke or two. Said if I wanted more you would send them. Well, next to getting your letters, my greatest pastime is jokes. And the poems were swell. I like to read poetry, but it is scarce as frog hair around here. You also asked me if I got the catalogue. I did and thanks a lot. I guess I forgot to mention it. I also thank you for the gum in the last letter. Though I felt like a pig chewing it. They tell me you can hardly get gum down there and we can buy it by the box here, if we like. Now, I believe that old propaganda about “No sacrifice too great for the boys over there.” For if a woman will sacrifice her gum, they would sacrifice their life. Ha. It also has got me to worrying You see, it’s like this: it reminded me of a poem I read someplace, and I can’t remember what the poem was or where I read it. It was something like this:

"The rose you gave to me

That you took from your hair

Smelled, not of the rose, but thee.”

Can you help me out? Ha. 

As for my hair, it isn’t any darker. It’s getting almost a strawberry blond. It must have been a trick of the camera. Now if you had asked if I were getting grey, I would have said I wasn’t surprised. Ha. But I deny any frown. That was taken when I first got here and I was full of (as the fellows here express it) hell and vinegar. So the mischievous look was a possibility, but the frown could only have been caused by the sun’s glare.

You said you could see the beauty of this forgotten land reflected in my letters. I am sure I don’t know how you do it. Ha. Really, though, if I were to see this place on a sunny day or moonlight night; and know that I could leave it when I wish, I could see beauty here. I’ve often stood in the cold to see the mountains bathed in white array of moonlight or to see the setting sun (seldom seen) painting the clouds and mountains golden. But most of the time grey skies are predominant.

Well, My Love, I’m out of paper. I close. Please pardon the slow letter, my stamps are about 1/2 mile from here. 

Yours forever,

Shorty

December 18, 1943

My Dearest:

Received your letter tonight before coming to work. It was swell to hear from you - and at just the time I needed your letter so.

Honey, you wrote as if you were very tired. I know just how you felt. Ten hours a day is too many hours, My Love. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Maybe you ought to take awhile off. Go places, do something different. It breaks monotony. Then you can go back to work with a new zest. Why, a few nights ago, I rode a truck in a blizzard, staying up all night - just to break routine. It’s nerve wrecking. There is such a thing as staying too close to home. The next thing you know, you’ll be saying “what’s the use?” And that, my Pet, is just what I don’t want to happen.

You said you didn’t get the idea of something I said about a hopeless feeling. Well, whatever I said, must have been said in a period of dejection. I am sure I do not feel hopeless now. 

Often, we may become so bored that we think we have lost faith in everything. But usually after I reach bottom, I rise up and begin to fight back. True - there are times when I would not believe even a promise of the U.S. Gov’t. But even then I know that I have supreme faith in it. You said you couldn’t understand. I do not expect you to - no one could. Remember, I have often said you couldn’t understand this life unless you had been here? This place does things to you. You may catch yourself telling your best buddy to go to ___. But, then, at night, sometimes, a moon will rise above a snow capped mountain, casting its glow on the water, and the place becomes a place of beauty. Or the sun (seldom ever seen) may set behind the far off hills and the ever present clouds will be painted gold. Then, as you see God’s own art, you realize that He is even here, in the world’s most forsaken land. And you can’t feel hopeless.

You said your brother had moved. What was his last A.P.O.? Of course, he can’t tell you much, but if he had gone to Sicily, I am sure he could tell you that. For I got mail from there, telling me of the people, scenery, name of place, etc. That may be changed by now, as censor rules are set to fit the circumstances. I hope him the best of luck, wherever he is.

Some of the guys from Alaska have already gone back to the States on this rotation deal. It may work out, yet. I am keeping my fingers crossed. Gee, but I’d love to see civilization again. More so when I read such lines as in your last letter “—and we can be together forever.”

Yes, Dear, I’ve had quite a bit of experience at going to work at midnight. I have grown so used to it. It has been 20 months, now, that I have been on a shift duty. But after the war, no one is going to put a night duty job off on me. Ha. Here it is all the same, and you get to where you don’t pay any attention to it. I can sleep as easily by day or by night.

One more week and Christmas will be here again. My third one in the Army.  It will sure look funny with all the G.I. socks hanging up. “‘Twas night before Xmas. All the G.I. socks hanging in neat military row. Midnight! A form looms up in the door! Is it Santa entering? - No. It’s a dog face going out for fresh air.”

Three years ago, this was a gala week. Long gone relatives returning, laughter, fun. But this year, as so many others are doing, military and civilian alike, I get my Bible out and read Luke Chapter 2:11-15, alone. Yes, I can still feel some of the Xmas spirit. “Peace on Earth, good will toward men.” Though you go to bed with a gas mask in handy reach and a rifle by your bedside, you say a prayer for those you love, and say “Lord, thy will be done —-“; you also know that someday the children will laugh again. There will be no anxious tears, heartbreak, and loneliness. And Shortys will have their Alices. Smile, fair maid, for ‘tis Xmas time! “May God watch between thee and me while we are absent from one another.” 

Yours,

Shorty

December 12, 1943

Alice, Darling:

Received your wonderful letter and Christmas Greeting. But that was not all. My love, that picture is just too lovely for the eyes of a sinner! Such bewitching costume, too. ‘Tis far lovelier than the one you wore on that fateful night in July - over two years ago. When I look at that picture, the old mystery returns to ask why such a lovely woman could care for such a guy as I am.

You said you had neglected to write again. My Dear, you are forgiven, for: (1) you made up for it with this last letter, and even over mad up for it. (2) I realize I am not the letter writingest guy in the Army, myself. (3) The mail didn’t come in as regularly as usual and I only missed your letters at one mail call. 

Darling, you are a wizard at remembering dates. I well remember the night you were with Frances’ boy friend, and we left him to ride the Ferris wheel. But to save me, I could not have told you it was the 29th of July. Woe is me, if I should ever forget your birthday or our wedding anniversary!! Ha. I even remember the guy. To use his words “Why shouldn’t I?” Why, when I wanted to take him apart and see how he was put together? And, yet I couldn’t blame him. He had the Queen-of-the-Carnival for that night, and after all, I was tied to a job that permitted me but little freedom. It is funny how it all turned out, though, was it not? He got Frances, eventually I got you; and so everyone was happy. Like a fairy story. The lucky guy! He got back, eh? I am sure we are going to be great friends one of these days, despite the bad start we got. Give him and Frances my best regards and congratulations. I hope them both the best of luck till they meet again.

You said you were proud of the gift. I am glad you could use it. But that is not what I had hoped so much to give you. But, alas, the curse of war, it has kept us apart another Xmas. So your main gift will again have to wait. I do remember how you used to keep your finger nails, though. You used to tell me they were your protection. I remember how you used to wear that ring to match them, whatever shade they were painted. Funny, but I still remember so many of the little things of you, the way you wore your finger nails, your hair, your dress, the way you would be silent when you were asked a serious question, as if you were wondering whether you should answer or not. That smile - that only you could give - even when you knew what you were saying was breaking my heart. You gave it the day in front of Perry’s when you said you had rather go to the library with those girls than to be with me. That smile somehow made it easier to bear. I was to see that same smile later, only in a far different way. Came war, came Alaska, came a letter. In this letter was a pressed rose. I tried to see the sender of that rose, but it was you that smiled at me, “you will never forget me. She could send you a thousand roses, but it’s me you will think of every time she does”

I hope you can keep forgiving me for not writing so often. I started to write night before last and I came to a blank wall. The night before that, I was up all night riding a truck through a blowing blizzard that turned into a steady rain. The night following was fair, according to what we call fair. The next night I was in the big middle of another cold blizzard and it has held on ever since. The wind is a demon and cold isn’t a name for it. In four more hours, I will leave my fireside to face it again, for a midnight hike back to camp. That is anything but a pleasant thought.

There is a guy here who was brought up in the Los Angeles city limits. He stands in deathly fear that some night he will walk into a bear. Since one was just outside the door here once, he fears there will be another here sometime. He said he couldn’t understand why I made these midnight treks without a gun. I told him the other day that with a face like mine, I didn’t need a gun, for what bear could face a mug like mine and not scream for help?

Yes, I saw “True to Life.” “Hello, Frisco, Hello” was here but I missed it. I’ve seen quite a few older shows. Major and the Minor, Doctor Gillespie’s New Assistant, Follow the Band, etc. They were pretty good. I could see the newer shows if I chose to brave the ride and the weather for about twelve miles, but often I’d rather stay in and listen to the radio. But when Frank Sinatra sings, it makes me wish I’d gone someplace else. How does that guy get his popularity? He was singing Pistol Packing Mama the other night in such disgusting manner that it’s a wonder the networks didn’t refuse to function.

Well, Dear, I must close and write to Mama.

Forever yours,

Shorty

December 7, 1943

My Darling:

Tonight is a beautiful night. I went out for a walk. It is one of those nights seldom seen in these Aleutians. There isn’t even any high winds.

As I was walking alone in the quiet of the night, I recalled another night - two years ago. It was a different place and different weather, but, as tonight, you were on my mind - two years ago. I stood, that night, in the rain, on a craggy California shore and thought. As now, there was no fear for my life. I laughed that cold rainy night; because fate played me a seemingly good trick. War! War! You heard it, you saw grave faces. But to me, it sounded as casual as some one saying “chow is ready.” For, even then, the thought was going on and on - “She mustn’t know what I feel. She must be happy.” And then, as fate had played a hand, came the thought “How easy! Just tell her a white lie, just say you’ll be happier without her. Then she will have no regrets, she will not, for duty’s sake, wait through a war that may make that waiting vain.” Yes, it was you, not a war that filled my thoughts. What mattered the war. You were gone. You must forget that you knew me and find happiness. I meant it that night I wrote that letter and said I hoped you happiness. That from a heart that knew no happiness, only looking toward a future of pain and misery. 

But tonight there were different thoughts. You refused to be forgotten. I came to Alaska, but you came too! Those brave resolves, that war would replace you in my memory, were gone. For at the most unwelcomed times, your face would appear and my heart would cringe. But tonight, I could look at the moon without crowding back memories. I could let them flow sweetly and have hope of again holding you close, instead of saying “She’s gone.” I could dream of looking again into a pair of eyes that made stars jealous. Two years ago and today, you are the same - the one for me. I love you so and hope and pray that someday soon I’ll again press you to my heart and thrill to your smile, as we hear again, that song so many centuries old. For, now, I don’t look into a future of dread, but to a horizon lighted with the rising sun of a new world, a time when we can say the world of war and misunderstanding is a closed chapter and start our journey into the sunset.

Well, Dear, duty calls, so I shall close. I am well and doing OK, a little cold maybe, but I’ve grown to expect it. Ha.

May God keep my beloved.

Your,

Shorty

December 8, 1942

*I thought this letter was postmarked 1943, but inside it is dated 1942 and that is the year Strip Polka was released, so I believe 1942 is the correct date. It also makes more sense for the tone of the letter. -JG

Dear Alice:

Though you have been on the job for quite a few minutes, I am at this time still in the dead of the night. I had the radio tuned to Dallas and was just listening in on the Stamps-Baxter Quartet. Sorta made me homesick. I get Dallas every fourth night, because that is the time I am on from midnight til four. There is a certain time between then we can get Dalls and even then it is full of static. Any other time, it is impossible to get Texas at all, on our radios.

I was just listening to our favorite tune, the “Strip Polka.” I hear you had quite a bit of noise over its release. Well, you know my love of the polkas, of which Beer Barrel is my favorite, so you probably aren’t surprised to know I’m also crazy over Strip Polka. Ha.

I am anxiously awaiting the day we can dance the Polka again. But even more so, the day I can just see you again. I am still under the influence of shock over your writing me again, you see.

Well, Dear, there is, as you know, nothing I can write. Though I’d write every day if it was not for that fact and for the censor’s sake. My best wishes for your happiness.

As Always,

Shorty

December 2, 1943

Alice, My Darling:

Last night I received another letter from you. You are wonderful - the way you write so faithfully. I can always expect your letters when mail comes in; and the time or two they didn’t I was so disappointed I felt like my last friend had died. I disagree with you - in that you don’t write as often as you should. For you are wonderful. If I don’t write as often as I should, it’s only my fault. I do try to write really often, but time goes by before you are aware of it here. Every few days I change shifts (from day to night, from the swing shift to the graveyard, etc) and often have to ask what day of the week it is. It confuses your days to work that way - or- have you already found that out? ha.

Now if I were a gifted writer or a poet, I could write you every day; for you are always on my mind. (I must be in love with you, for they say that’s the way you are when you’re in love. ha.) But, alas, I am not a poet nor a gifted writer. All I can say is that I love you more than you’ll ever know. Sometimes you seem so near that I can almost imagine you are by my very side. I can still hear your voice, so different, so charming. And all our times together I can recall in most minute detail. Even your every smile, every little act, is always vividly before me. I have lived them all over and over again.

I am sure you never believed me or even believed I was serious when I used to tell you I had always known you. But long time ago, when I was just a little shaver, living in the old house by the lake, long before there was a lake there, I knew what you looked like, and tried to imagine your name. That night as you came down those stairs, I was taken by surprise, for it was that childhood dream in real life. And so amazed was I that when Miss Collins wanted to introduce me, all I could think of to say was, “No, I must go to work at midnight.” But, really, I was suddenly and inexplicably afraid. Yes, that night I was afraid to meet you and yet, I knew I’d eventually do i, even if I had to come back there every day until I did. The rest of that night, I sling orders across the counter with a song in my heart. Every time I rang a sale on the cash register, it made music instead of having a dead clang to it. Yes, from that minute I saw you on the stairs, I can remember everything you did and said as long as we were together.

You should see this place tonight. All the magical splendor is gone. It is so dark you could cut it with a knife. But it is a nice night. I started out early and took time to linger awhile alone in the solitude. It seems so restful sometimes to be out in the night alone. One of the newer guys here said he couldn’t get over it - that I never carried a gun on these midnight treks. I told him the night was my friend. He thinks I’m crazy or something.

A bear came up to this place one night and ever since then, he feels sure he will run into one just as soon as he goes outside. I told him I didn’t have sense enough to be afraid, much less afraid of a little thing like a bear. Ha.

Had a letter from Dee. He hasn’t learned to hate the Aleutians so badly yet. We can write uncensored letters to each other, since we are both in the Aleutians; so it isn’t so hard to write to him. I hope your brother in N. Africa is doing O.K. I’ll bet he would like to trade some heat for some of our ice, eh? Ha.

Well, My Dear, I must close for now. I love you dearly -

Yours,

Shorty 

November 26, 1943

My Dear Alice:

I have some time to while away and how better could I use it? I never have anything to write, but I can bore you with saying the same thing again.

Yes, I’m sure had you slipped up behind me when that picture was made (the last enlargement) I would, as you said, have mistaken you for a bear. For we were in the heart of the “bear country.” That is a name it has taken on, because in that area is where the bears usually stay in the summer when they come down from the hills. To add to that, we were in a gulch where a very nice salmon berry patch was. We had just been eating the berries, and I am sure Bruin, had he been there, would have disputed our right to do so. Right behind us was a clump of growth, good concealment for a bear. Had there been a rustling of sudden movement there, I fear we would not have asked if it were “friend or foe.” Ha.

Oh, but ‘twould be a different scene in the little gully now. The bears are gone, or leaving, except a few that may hibernate around here. The little gully is no longer green with ferns, the berries are gone, and even the salmon go no more up the streams. No more hikes over in there, for, lo, the beastly winter has come. Unwelcomed old man, with his blowing fury and challenge to man or beast to withstand his fury. With snows, blizzards, rain, melting snow and ice, mud, and general misery.

And now, he is here with his changing weathers, all of them disagreeable, and men becoming frustrated. Today, maybe rain, tomorrow, blowing snow or frozen earth. Or maybe you don your sheep skin lined knee length coat (parka) and go to a movie, but when you come out the gale has stopped and you stand there looking silly with a heavy coat on. Ah, but you dare not predict tomorrow’s weather. Sometimes last winter, the storms lasted four or five days. Sometimes, it was only a matter of hours. This winter? Can tell you next summer. 

Oh well, life is no bed of roses. So I shall try to bear patiently, with the lingering hope that I may not be in the never-never land another winter. 

For the hope is still lingering that after our two years, we go. I can already vision green fields, sunshine, and civilization. How often I have rehearsed our reunion. Think, My Darling, over two and a half years since we have quarreled. Yes, two and a half years away from the sweetest woman I ever knew. Maybe the day I land in Dallas, you will be at the station with your rolling pin. But what a thrill it will be, to be hit over the head by you. But we will make up for the interlude of our separation. Yes, between the quarrels, we will be happy.

My Darling, since I am out of news, I will close; and go back to my memories of you. With a heart full of love, I remain

Yours,

Shorty

November 20, 1943

Alice, Darling:

You have been on my mind a lot lately. And today, or maybe I should say yesterday, for it is almost one A.M., it became sweetly painful even to think of you. I’m hopelessly lost, I guess, just a prisoner of love. But being a prisoner isn’t half bad as long as you are the jailer. All the evening it’s seemed you were with me. Your picture seemed to be alive and smiling at me. 

Elizabeth asked about you and I told her, I’m afraid, more than she asked. I “came to” and found I had used a lot of space talking about you. But then you cover a lot of space in my heart. You know Elizabeth, I guess, or know of her. She is an old friend I told you about. She writes to us soldiers. The latest letter was twenty-two pages long. She writes very interesting letters. None of that impersonal and idle gossip so many people write. She tells me news of personal friends that I knew pre-Army days, as well as all news of interest in East Texas. Don’t be worried. For she is 43 years old. She calls me “one of her sons” and insists you are to be her daughter.

Honey, I had hope to send you a birthday gift. But, alas, the time was passed before I could do anything about it. Please forgive me this time and by next November fifth, maybe I’ll be in different surroundings. I have placed an order for you Xmas gift. It isn’t the type of gift I’d like to have made for you, but it was all I could do under present conditions.

Honey, there seems to be some hope that I will get away from here within the next five or six months. That may seem a long time to you, but to me it is just like tomorrow. It is the first real hope we have had. And I am still a little afraid to accept it as true. Just think, only six months before I will see you! It must be a dream. I’ve tried not to believe it too strongly, but every time I tell myself I don’t, the echo comes back. “Are you kidding?” So I’ve admitted even to myself that I do believe. And I hope this time they won’t let us down.

Well, it’s chow time, so I will close and mail this.

With all my love,

Shorty

November 13, 1943

Darling:

Tonight and other such nights I should not write letters. But I’ll try to keep my thoughts off the Army in general and write anyway. Gee. but I need your presence and wonderful smile! This is one of those days when everything seems to go wrong, and I came off duty feeling like I’d been through a sausage grinder. 

But now, here in my hut, and believe it or not, silence except the radio, I feel some better. I dragged your picture up before me and began day dreaming of the day I’ll see you again. And forgot the feeling that all is lost. 

I just heard Roy Rogers singing “When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold.” Such a precious thought! I was talking to a guy that knew Roy Rogers, and we decided to go see a show he was in. I said something about wanting to see him, you liked him. He told me to tell you he was married and advised me not to tell you how. Ha. But it seems, a gal heard him sing and told him if he would come see her, she would bake him a lemon pie. He did, she did, and he married the maker. My what a lemon pie can do! Ha!

Honey, you said my letter was censored where I mentioned coming home. Well, I’m quite sure it was because I expressed my belief a bit too strongly that I would not be coming home. Ha. Just at that time I think maybe I was a little too skeptical of anything I heard. So I shall attempt to tell you what the set up is. Of course, you realize that nothing is definite until it happens. And if the Army has taught me anything, it’s this: Don’t look backwards; have no regrets for spilled milk; hope in the future, but don’t trust in it. Believe nothing you hear and only half of what you see. If you follow these simple rules, you won’t get terribly disappointed. Only on these grounds do I tell the following tale. There is nothing definite. But ——

The present plan is that after one has spent two years in Alaska or the Aleutian area, that is where I am, he will be given an opportunity to return to the States. Of course we fellows in these Aleutians will have to be persuaded. Ha. We can return to the States and accept reassignment at Uncle Sam’s convenience, any place in the world or America, according to luck. The other plan is to take a thirty day furlough from Seattle and accept reassignment in Alaska. The catch there, is that you’ll take an equal chance of ending up on Alaskan mainland and finding yourself right back in the un-American Aleutians. I would love Alaska; it is beautiful, but these Aleutians are anything but. 

Therefore, should the plan go thru, I would be faced with that decision. My idea is, if I am given the chance, I’ll return to America and take my chance with all the other fellows. I’ll probably never have to make the decision, however.

I am glad you heard from your Bud. Many of my friends have been sent to N. Africa; and I’ve had quite a few bits of news from there. But, for some reason, the letters have stopped. One of the fellows wrote from Sicily and then even his letters stopped. I am hoping what I believe isn’t true. But also hope they’ve left a trail less hazardous for your brother than they traveled.

Well, my lovely, I must be off to further adventures (in dream land).

I’ll be thinking, lovingly, of you until—

"When the drum’s sad roll has beat the soldier’s last tattoo…"

Your Shorty

November 9, 1943

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Alice, Darling:

I’ve begun several times to write and then have torn the unfinished letter up. Seems something is bound to happen just when I start to write. Last night I started a letter and got all of one half page finished before I got a call that put a stop to all my writing for the night.

I was so tired and sleepy when I started to work tonight that I felt sure I couldn’t write. But on my way to work, I forgot about being sleepy. For it is one of those nights when man feels very close to God. I wish I could draw you at least a mental picture of it, but anything I could say would not be justice to such a night as this. The moon is bright. The snow and ice glisten like diamonds, and the stars are like your eyes when you are in the moonlight. Of course, you probably never saw your eyes in the moonlight. Ha. 

But I can assure you that I have never forgotten them. The first time I ever noticed that light was one night we sat in front of Big House, under a full moon, in the car. The sight has haunted me ever since. (Here I’ve gotten into a fit of memories, memories that shall always stay with me, even when I have nothing else.).

Well, I started out to tell you what the night was like. Texas has no such nights as these. When the moon ever shines, it transforms this gray and desolate place into a land of enchantment. One can forget that such nights are rare indeed here. Can forget that day must come, or that an hour from now, the clouds may obscure the moon, and the wind may rise, bringing no one dares to guess what kind of weather. the mountains, by day a cold and desolate looking sight, tonight are beautiful.

I just had “time out” for a snack. One of my buddies prepared a lunch to bring to work with me. And when I opened it, he had enough fruit cake in there for half a dozen people. So I have had a little feast on cake and milk. But the milk is my own concoction and certainly would be no compliment to a cow. I mix water and condensed milk, add a touch of sugar and vanilla, and the outcome gives a reasonable facsimile of milk. 

Christmas packages came in again today and food is plentiful. That is why Bob fixed me a lunch tonight. 

Well, Dear, I had to get off the subject of the beauty of the night. I called back memories too hard to bear. So I decided I had better write when it was raining; then I would sound more like myself. Ha. Because when I write on a night like this, all I can think of is you. The night fades into insignificance and I’m filled with memories, heart rending memories. so I will close for now; and write more later.

 With all my love

Shorty