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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

Target practice in the Aleutians, 1943

Target practice in the Aleutians, 1943

natgeofound:

A view of a whale’s fluke as it dives after being harpooned in Point Hope, Alaska, September 1942.Photograph by Froelich G. Rainey, National Geographic

natgeofound:

A view of a whale’s fluke as it dives after being harpooned in Point Hope, Alaska, September 1942.
Photograph by Froelich G. Rainey, National Geographic

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

On November 4, 1943, Shorty mentions his love for the novels of Rex Beach, several of which were set in Alaska. 

On November 4, 1943, Shorty mentions his love for the novels of Rex Beach, several of which were set in Alaska. 

November 4, 1943

image

Darling:

With greatest apologies to and profound sympathy with anyone, you or the censor, who may be compelled, by duty or devotion, to read this, I’m going to give you a few technicalities on tonight. If it should be on the insane side, well - after all, can I help the condition I was born in? to say nothing of Alaska being an improving ground along these lines.

To begin with, it is twenty minutes past 12:00, midnight. But that is beside the point and purely irrelevant. The point is - it is a beautiful night. (I sorta hope old James Curwood is buried somewhere around here. He was the bird to fill my foolish young head full of illusions on the “Glory of the Great North.” May his soul rest in peace, damn his hide.) But to get back to the point, which we have not come to yet, the old dump is changed a bit since a few days ago. Seems like someone ought to start singing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” For the earth looks as if it was so scared that it lost all its color and became a deathly white.

I had some hours of my own today and took them as such. I grew so tired of everyday routine that I just went to town and saw a show. What is town? Well, it is just another place like this one, only more so. The show? A sad case. A flop called “Girl Crazy.” I was rather disappointed in it. But so was everyone else; so I wasn’t the only sucker to go to it. I also decided I’d just spend a lot of money and be carefree. I would have too, only I couldn’t find anything to spend it for. I believe I would have got drunk too, but I thought of you. Besides, I could not have found anything to drink. This place is practically world famous for its absence of wines and liquors. It breaks my heart, too, for, frankly I don’t use the stuff. But I am straying from the subject.

To get back, (back to where, I am sure I don’t know) this is one of those nights you read of in the story books. The snow floats lazily down to a carpeted earth, as if it had no place to go and no set time to get there. Of course, I left out a few details. For there is the villainous wind that makes up the snow flake’s mind on where to go and how fast to get there. And this wind is always in a hurry. But on the way to work tonight, the wind had stopped to rest and the stars shone through holes in the clouds. And for awhile, the glory of the Great North, as depicted by Rex Beach and James O. Curwood, was very evident. Great white nothing was stretched out before you. All the fictional objects were in view, star light, barrens, loneliness, cold, etc, except the wolf that always howls on such a night. But, then, most of the fellows were in bed or there might even have been a few “wolves” out prowling. Yes, when Rex Beach was along here, it must have been a clear night. Else, he would have had a far different trend in his scenic views in his (I gotta admit it) great novels.

For awhile I stopped and turned off my flashlight, to stand in silent praise of the beauty of it. And I hate to admit any beauty about this hole. And usually, can’t if I wished. But tonight I caught the old place off guard and saw the glory of it, before it was aware of it.

Honey, I received your letter with the picture and card with the imprint of the most adorable pair of lips I’ve ever kissed. I shall keep that card among my souvenirs. For I am sorry to say, I can’t fill your request for finished the card out and returning it. For we have a censor regulation that forbids sending clippings, comic cards, picture cards, etc. I am sorry to say this card will come under that law. The idea is that messages could be carried out that way. I am sure I don’t know what there is here to be kept secret, but I ‘spect we’ll keep it secret anyway. Ha. However, I’m glad, personally, for now I have not only a memory of, but the actual imprint of, the lips I have never been able to forget. To say nothing of twenty nine pictures of the “Girl that could not be forgot.”

Well, My Darling, the night grows old. The news grows short; so I must close. I hope you’ve heard from your brother by now and have learned he is safe. Dee is O.K. after a fit of excitement. I’ve heard from him twice since it occurred and he only laughs about it. Neil is back at Greenville and thinks he may stay there awhile. Tell Fran hello for me. The fellows think she is cute. Of course she is, too.

My love forever,

Shorty

Jimmy Kohout

Jimmy Kohout

Darling:

As my heart runs rampant with loving thoughts of you, I am all by my lonesome and it’s very cold and dark out there, and a miserable screeching wind is screaming murder. But I’ve hardly paid any attention to it. Why should I? I have your letter and it is such a sweet one. I rather expected you to tell me a thing or three after that dreadful letter I wrote. Instead you’ve written one of the nicest letters I’ve had in ages. You are a very special type of Darling. I will always love you for that letter. Now here I sit with the “moon in my eyes” so to speak, and you in my heart, and more anxious than ever to come back to you. I have lived over again every day since we met.

Just this once, we’ll forget that Grace was to be left out of our lives. You asked if she were the cause of the gossip. I must come to her aid. It was not. She has left me out of her life as much as I’ve left her out of mine. I have not heard anything of her since she and I were finished. So please don’t think Grace to be that cheap. She is not. I don’t mean that in a sentimental way, for we neither have any thoughts of sentimentality toward each other. She played square and never broke any of our rules and regulations. I hope you can truly believe that I am not saying this because I am still holding any feelings about her. I only want to give her credit for being a good woman. You see, I can sit here and discuss her as I would any person I’ve ever known and have no pangs. That is because my heart belongs to you. My mind and my all is yours without reserve.

Honey, I promised you a picture; so I am sending it now. It is only an enlargement of a smaller one I’ve already sent. The other one did not come out so well.

This next month will be the month of your birth. I have strained my thinking powers on what I can do about it. I can’t dream up anything. My Sweet, if you will forgive me, I will admit that I don’t know the exact date. Is it the sixteenth? Maybe by then, I’ll be able to send a gift of some sort. If not, I’ll be thinking anyway.

I saw a movie the other night wherein the heroine reminded me so much of you that I felt like getting out. So many memories of you came rushing in that I could hardly bear it. It was hard to distinguish between pain and ecstasy. Well, My Pet, I’ve gotta close. Duty Calls.

Your ever loving,

Shorty

October 16, 1943

Darling:

I received your letter of the 11th yesterday. Imagine, only four days from Texas to Alaska! My Love, I was so happy. Though I felt like a heel after writing such a letter as I did just previously. I hope you will forgive me.

I guess I have been making too many excuses for myself, lately. I was, at the time, feeling as if everyone had forsaken me, and there was no excuse for it. Then I got your letter about your brother going across and realized what must have caused you to suffer. For it cause me some unhappiness when Dee sailed; and you women take things much harder than we do. So, Dear, please forgive me again, and I’ll try not to be that way again. I love my little girls so that I guess I get a bit finicky where you are concerned. 

You asked me if I knew where Neil and Dee are. Yes, I know Neil is at Greenville, but I can’t give Dee’s location. His place was bombed the other day and I have been waiting with anxiety for his next letter. I’ve had no word from him since the action. Please don’t mention it to Mama or Roielee yet, in the event you see either of them. For I don’t believe it to be serious and they would worry too much.

Sweetheart, you asked me if I had no possibilities of getting a furlough. I didn’t intend to mention this yet. Anything can happen here, and usually does. I have lost all faith in promises that are made us; for more often than not, they never pan out. But there is at [about a third of a page cut out by censors] the plan collapses. But even if it goes on, at the present rate, I will be at least six more months here. If I dared to hope, however, I would hope the plan may be changed. In that event I may be home by Spring. But if you knew Alaska as I know it, you would not put too much trust in that. When I am headed South and, at least, halfway back to Seattle, I will have hope of returning. I am not sceptical; I am just keeping off the limbs. I don’t want one sawed off while I’m out there. also, you tell me fellows are coming home on furlough from Alaska. I am well aware of that. I have friends in or near several Alaskan towns. From those places they have had furloughs. Yes, I can understand why the ancient kind said, “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse.” If his kingdom was like this one, it wasn’t worth a horse. I’d trade my kingdom for a cigarette.

Oh, yes, the picture I promised did not turn out so well, but I have some that are supposed to be completed by tomorrow and shall send you one before the end of the week (Providing they are worth it).

Well, My Dear, ‘tis almost chow time and consequently my relief. So I better close. How did you make out as supervisor? Still at it?

Good luck and all my love,

Shorty

Shorty’s buddy Joe Frank Shelby, from Duck River, Tennessee. Taken outside Chris Michaelson’s trapper shack. 

Shorty’s buddy Joe Frank Shelby, from Duck River, Tennessee. Taken outside Chris Michaelson’s trapper shack.