A West Point Plebe, Circa 1930 – Part 3

Letter from John L. Schaefer to Dorothy Wilson
Letter from John L. Schaefer to Dorothy Wilson, continued


July 8, 1930

Dearest Dorothy,

I just received your letter this noon and was sure glad to hear from you. I am through here if it can possibly be arranged. I have not received an answer from my aunt as yet but as soon as I do I will take action and will let you know just what I do. I will do something definite this week end. I will either clear out of here for home or go somewhere else to see if I can make my way in the world.

I don’t think you will have to worry about coming down here this summer as I have my mind set on leaving here. I will not stay because I was not made to be a soldier and it would ruin me to stay here. No I can’t being separated from you and I don’t intend to be unless you do not want me after leaving here. I am going to swear off all military as soon as I can clear out of here. The riding I get is not bothering me but I didn’t like all the rest of the work.

About the key, I do not know what to say for certain but I think when we came home from the lake and stayed at your father’s place that I gave him the keys. I would not say for sure but I am positive that I have not got them. I am most positive that your father has them. I hope that you have found the keys by now. I hope I will be home soon to help you finish the cottage. I would like to stay out there a couple of weeks when I get back to be away from the city people.

I hope we can go swimming together soon. Even though I come home I do not intend to give you back “my heart” that I took from you. Yes I say “my heart” because it is mine now. Maybe soon we will be able to canoeing, and have all the other good times to-gether. Maybe my trouble is that I left my heart back with you but I doubt it.

I have thought over the question of leaving from every angle I have even prayed but I seems I am fixed on going home. I am going to write another letter home to-day to let them know I am set on quitting this place.

I love you, honey – you know I do and I will be home to you soon if you will accept me. Please write soon.

Your sweetheart is
Lonesome & blue, and needs
Comforting arms. Will he 
Get them

John L.

P.S. I’ll teach you to paddle soon, Love & kisses John L. 

John was a big fan of canoeing, it seems. Which lake was he talking about? Lake Erie is the most likely, I think. Buffalo is situated right on Lake Erie, which has played a huge role in its modern development. The 1930 edition of the Polk City Directory says of this topic:

  • The first steamboat on the Great Lakes sailed from Buffalo in 1818
  • The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 made Buffalo an important stop on the New York route to the West
  • One-fifth of the grain in the United States comes through Buffalo, which has 29 grain elevators and is the “greatest grain storage center in the world.”
  • Buffalo is a big mill city, even bigger than Minneapolis
  • Buffalo is the second largest inland port in the United States and is one of the 10 largest ports in the world 

Another high point in Buffalo’s history is the invention of the buffalo wing. According to the National Chicken Council, the spicy-hot buffalo wing originated in the city in the 1960s, missing John et al by a few decades.

What’s missing from this letter? I would have expected to hear about the Independence Day celebrations at West Point, for one. As an invaluable military fort, I would have though that there would have been quite a bit of pomp and circumstances on the nation’s birthday. Perhaps there was, but John was too forlorn or worked up to write about it, instead concerned about the fastest way out of West Point–and where Dorothy’s dad’s key went.

A West Point Plebe, Circa 1930 – Part 2


July 6, 1930

Dearest Dorothy,

Well we have had our first bit of freedom to-day. We were allowed to walk along the Thayer road for about a quarter of a mile. It sure was some freedom. Bauer, a friend of his and myself went to-gether. We were gone for about 1 hour and thought it was wonderful to be free for a few minutes.

I am still in doubt as to whether I want to stay or not. It is not as nice as I expected. Think there is 534 days until I get home for my first vacation if I stay and 708 days till my long furlough. That is a terrible long time and I doubt if I will be able to stick it out. I wish you were in Goshen now so you could come over to see me each week-end. Kreuger hasn’t been over to see me yet but I suppose he will be soon. We have been kept pretty busy of late and we will no doubt be busy all the time from now on.

I am going to send you a little book called Bugle Notes but know to us as the Plebe Bible. We have already had to learn everything on pages 134 & 135, abo [sic] the Alma Mater, The Corps, and the Plebe Prayer. Not counting many other things not entered. You will I hope enjoy this book more than I do as it means only work to me. Well maybe I will be home with you soon. If this was not such a bad time to get work I would quite [sic] and go to work somewhere away from home so I could make something of myself before I get home.

I feel terrible to think I am not getting along as I expected to. I hate myself for thinking of leaving but I am afraid that is what I will do before long. Things aren’t as I hoped and I doubt if I can stand up under it all. Yes others have and I could but now that I am here I don’t see any future when I finish and without a future work I can’t have you so there is no need of staying. If my first year was up it wouldn’t be so bad but this way well I can’t.

Please write soon sweetheart. I miss you so and how. I long for a letter from you. I am going for a walk alone now to just walk and dream that you are at my side. I wish you were. You must come down soon. Imagine Doris Wittig will be down soon again. Well since [?] Write soon. Maybe I will be home before long.

Your sweetheart

John L.

Bugle Notes is a compendium of information that any new cadet at West Point would need, so I’m not sure why John is sending Dorothy his copy—or perhaps he’s found himself a spare copy. Here is a listing on the antique website Worthpoint for a 1930 copy of Bugle Notes.

In his letters, John is always pleading for visitors. From Buffalo, West Point is about a 350 mile drive on modern interstate highways. It’s not clear how long the trip would have been before the interstate, but it would have been a tedious journey on various country roads and U.S. highways through the Allegheny Plateau, over the Finger Lakes, and through the Catskills and down into the Hudson River Valley. The development of the nation’s interstate highways is the work of another West Point alumnus from the class of 1915, Dwight D. Eisenhower. During his administration as the 34th president of the United States, President Eisenhower implemented the Interstate Highway System, with construction authorized by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956. 

Instead of driving, it is far more likely that that visitors from Buffalo would have traveled to West Point via train. Buffalo is positioned on Lake Erie, right next to the Canadian border. It had long been a center of industry and shipping, both by water and rail. By 1930, the New York Central Railroad—a cooperative of several different regional railroads—enabled trips from Chicago to Florida. Several trains left Buffalo and arrived in New York City each day on a “water level route” trips, along the water of the Great Lakes and the Hudson River, instead of the interior land routes offered by other rail companies. The trip to West Point would require a transfer in Albany and a trip on the West Shore Rail Road. Timetables can be viewed on this PDF on pages 23 and 24 for the New York Central Railroad from Buffalo to Albany, and page 56 for the West Shore Railroad for the trip from Albany south to West Point. It would have been a long, but scenic, day of travel. Today, Amtrak operates the Empire Service route, which stretches from Buffalo to New York City, right along the same stations that John and Dorothy would have seen in their travels to and fro. 

John seems to be having a hard time at West Point. It’s not clear what is troubling him, except that he misses Dorothy and hates school. Keep in mind he’s only 20 years old. Even though he’s been at a military school before, the structure and discipline of West Point seems to be getting to him.

A West Point Plebe, Circa 1930 – Part 1

The first letter in the series from John L. Schaefer at West Point


West Point, N.Y.
July 2, 1930

Dearest Dorothy:

We just have about two minutes till time for more work. I just want to let you know I love you and always will. The address is changed as follows:

Cadet John L. Schaefer
4th Company
New Cadets
West Point, N.Y.

Please write soon. They are just riding us to death and how I will tell you more about it as soon as I get time. I hope I’ll see you soon but they talk as though I won’t be able to see any one for a month or two. I sure miss you and a year and a half of this will make me or break me. I will see write more later.

Your sweetheart


This letter is part of a collection I picked up at an antique store in April 2019 in Savannah, Georgia. In July, it will be 80 years old.

The handwriting is definitely masculine, and the writing paper is heavy. A bit of research using census records shows that the author of the letter, John L. Schaefer, is 19 years old at the time of its writing. Dorothy is 20 or 21. They are from Buffalo, New York, a city of over 570,000 people, according to the 1930 Polk City Directory. The same directory shows Dorothy living at home with her parents and her occupation as a teacher. John does not live with his parents—he may be living with an aunt and uncle—and his occupation is listed as a student. 

John writes from United States Military Academy, better known as West Point. West Point is the United State’s oldest military academy. When John was a cadet, it was an exclusively male school. Now, West Point admits women. 

Census records show that Dorothy is part of a family of six. She’s the eldest of four children and was born in 1909 in Buffalo. She graduated from Masten Park High School (now known as Fosdick-Masten Park High School) in Buffalo in June 1926. Here’s her senior yearbook photograph and quote:

Yearbook entry of Dorothy Wilson in 1926 high school yearbook

John had a tough childhood. He was born in 1910 to a jeweler father, also called John, and his mother Anna. John and Anna were married in May 1909. By 1925, he and his brother Arthur were orphaned, losing their father in 1923 and mother in 1925. John also had a brother, Frank, who died very young. After their parents’ passing, John and Arthur moved in with their aunt Mary and uncle Adolf nearby.  Here’s a photo of a very young John from the Buffalo Courier, November 2, 1913:

John L Scahefer as a young boy holding an American flag for a parade.

What’s not clear to me is how John and Dorothy know each other. As we’ll find out later, John has been away for a few years at a different school. Were they in school earlier together? Did they attend church together? Grow up in the same neighborhood?

An appointment to West Point is a big deal. It’s extremely competitive, and a candidate must have a nomination from a federal lawmaker, or have specific ties to the Academy. These days, students who are appointed to any of the military academies are often announced in newspapers because it’s quite an accomplishment. Archival newspaper searches turned up no such announcements made, which could be attributed to an incomplete newspaper collection–one would definitely expect to see his name in print when accepted to a prestigious institution like West Point.

At the time that these letters were written, the United States was in dire straits. The stock market crash of October 1929 (Black Tuesday) led to the Great Depression, and nearly 25% of working people were unemployed. Banks closed, and because there was no FDIC insurance on deposits, people’s money just disappeared. President Herbert Hoover was criticized as being too slow to act, relying on states to voluntarily step up and develop assistance programs. An appointment to West Point, where he was guaranteed an education, room, board, and clothing–basically, anything he needed–must have seemed to be the best deal available to young John.

A note to readers: We only see John’s side of the story in this series. Keep that in mind as you read what comes next.

California Poppies and Idaho Potatoes

The California poppy is a charming, delicate orange blossom that is native to the state of California. Its bright petals are visible from a distance, rising like a flame above the chaperral. The contrast of the copa de oro poppy against a clear blue sky and a verdant landscape invites you to gaze at it forever. It is simply gorgeous.

Someone by the name of Emily found the California poppy postcard a pretty souvenir to send back home to a Miss Alberta V. Hills of Sycamore, Illinois, postmarked May 11, 1909.

The girls have both gone back and I am with Mrs. Waters as she quite insisted on my coming. Needless to say I am enjoying every minute of the time. Mrs. W. and I take the Santa Fe Kite-shaped trip tomorrow.

Despite being a native Californian (which likely explains my affinity for California poppies) I was not familiar with the “Santa Fe Kite-shaped trip” before researching it for this posting.

In the late 1860s, when the Southern California land boom was in full swing, the Santa Fe train line organized a figure-eight loop through San Bernadino and Los Angeles counties. It was a scenic trip across fertile citrus groves and picturesque farming villages and city centers, a far cry from the concrete jungle of today. Trains ran regularly and served as not only sight-seeing opportunities for folks from Back East to gawk at Paradise, but also for locals to get around–shop, go to the show, get the the beach.

The San Bernadino History and Railroad Museum has a great photographic collection online.



Idaho has been associated with potatoes for… well, no one is quite sure. The Idaho Potato Commission was established in 1937 to protect the integrity of the Idaho potato.

A pen-pal friend sent me this postcard from 1954 and I couldn’t resist sharing it.

It’s a tater on a tractor!


Hi Honey, I Got Shot and Can’t Write, Don’t Worry About Me…

Letter from U.S. Army Lieutenant, E. Co., 127th Infantry, APO #32, to wife at home in Iowa, U.S.

24 April 1945

My dearest–

I cheated the Grim Reaper so close that I just can’t think about it. But I’m okay and still in one piece. I got wounded on Sunday the 22 April while doing some patrol work. I think that I was hit by a Jap mortar that hit two feet from me.

In a few days darling you will receive one of those war dept. telegrams. I hope that this reaches you first.

I was hit in the right leg and ankle, and in right forearm. I have a cast on the leg–and I probably could be writing this myself–but this is faster. An officer from my company, who is also here at the hospital, is doing the writing.

We have nurses here, and wonderful doctors–so don’t worry about me darling–I’m receiving excellent care.

I’ll give you more of the details in a few days–



In a stack of old letters, this missive stood out to me because it seemed to be written in a different hand. I opened it, read it, and knew why–Dwight was injured in the Philippines by Japanese ordnance. He couldn’t write, as evidenced by his pitiful scrawl closing the letter.

“In a few days darling you will receive one of those war dept. telegrams. I hope that this reaches you first.”

It was extremely unlikely that a mailed letter would reach Dubuque faster than a telegram would. I think Dwight included this bit to ensure that his mind was calmed, that he did what was within his control.

Now, Dwight is injured, unable to write, laid up in bed. At least he’s in good company. Other letters from 1945 talk about how boring, how hot, how insufferable it is. Now, some excitement!

And imagine–to be the recipient of this letter! You already knew of the injury, but not much detail–telegrams are brief, succinct. Dwight’s letters are verbose, with pithy observations of military life in a strange land, and this injury report isn’t out of character for him. At least you know what happened. But you’re still thousands of miles away, you cannot lay eyes on your beloved, you can’t fluff his pillow or bring him tea and toast.

We know Dwight eventually came home to the States. This injury slowed him down, but his letters continued to send the latest news home.

Stream-of-Consciousness, Featuring Bing Crosby’s Home

A Postcard from Sunny California

Hello sweets
how is every little thing O.K. yes
I am sure because you yes indeed.
did I need it yes, and how. are you working sure you are. wish I could see all of you out here soon.
be sweet Margaret

781 E. 53rd St.
Los Angeles, Calf.

To: Mrs. Jessie M. Beard
Hotel, Palace
Corpus Christi

This postcard, postmarked November 2, 1941 in Los Angeles, was sent to a Mrs. Jessie Beard in Corpus Christi, Texas, from someone who I think was called Margaret–I can’t tell. (Can you?)

The house at 781 E. 53rd Street, Los Angeles, is located in between the South Park and Central Alameda neighborhoods, and is right down the street from the Natural History Museum and USC. (South Central, yo.) Looking at Google Maps, the house is obscured by a huge bush, and the houses are all small stucco homes and duplexes, built from the 1900s to the 1930s, on narrow city lots.

The “Hotel, Palace” in Corpus Christi is listed in the 1941 City Directory under “Hotels”. It is now the home of a marketing company and shows a two-story building in a business district. Newspaper ads of the time show a beauty shop occupied 423 Schatzel, so 423 1/2 Schatzel was the upstairs Palace Hotel, just a few blocks away from the Gulf of Mexico.

And now… Bing Crosby’s home, the subject of the postcard. In 1941, Bing was in the middle of his very successful movie and singing career. And he was in very good company–the neighborhood, now called Toluca Lake, was a popular place for the stars to live. His neighbors included Bob Hope, Bette Davis, and other big names.

The San Fernando Valley Blog has an excellent write-up on the history of Bing’s modest home. Spoiler alert: It burned down in 1943, was rebuilt, and was the residence of several other notable stars.

If anyone can decipher what the stream-of-consciousness note on this postcard means, let me know.

Letter from U.S. Marine to Friend Back Home in New York

Letter from U.S. Marine to Friend Back Home in New York

Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Feb. 19, 1952

Dear Mac,

It’s been so long since either of us has written that I decided to break the ice. I guess you know I was home over Christmas and are probably wondering why I didn’t come to see you. Well you see when I first got in Buffalo I was so anxious to get home that I didn’t waste much time getting a bus for Westfield. After I got home I got what you might call a slight nervous breakdown. I couldn’t keep still. I forgot things and couldn’t remember things. In short I was fairly well shaken up. I saw Parks and he & I had double dates a couple of nights. He went with Phil of course and I went with Nancy Wilson. We went to a movie in Mayville one night and I thought I’d never sit through it. The next night we went to a basketball game and I couldn’t sit through it. I kept going to the toilet (head) all the time to get away from it all. Afterwards Bob, Phillis S., Nancy & I went to Strattons house to dance. There I got disgusted and took Nancy home. Then I went home and got a pint of whiskey & got drunk. The next night Bob Parks said I had a date with Nancy. (We were supposed to double date again.) I didn’t even remember it and I was shaking something awful that night so I broke the date. I decided if I couldn’t even remember anything and I got the shakes that I’d better go to see Dr. Herb Laughlin. He gave me some stuff to take to calm down my nerves but it didn’t do any good. So the rest of my leave I just stayed home. I even left home a day  early. When I got to Buffalo I was still feeling lousy so I went to the Recruiting station to see the Navy Doctor. I had another guy with me. (We came home together with 3 other guys. 5 in all) The Doc told that guy to stay with me all the way down here. When I got home I went to see another Doctor and he put me in the hospital for treatments. Now I’m back on duty and am well again. I’m telling you all this cause I didn’t want you to think I snubbed you.

I had a date with Sally and now I know she loves me. The only trouble is I almost fainted when I was with her, I was so bad, but she didn’t know it. I couldn’t go out with Sally too much cause she worked all the time it seems. I saw Bob Badley when I was home. We went out drinking a couple of nights. Everything was so dead when I was home. Really I was disgusted. There wasn’t anything to do and it was colder than hell. I’ll tell you one thing I’m not going home again till I get discharged. Even then if I can find someplace else to go I may not even go home. I hate Westfield so much I never want to hear about the place again.

Well how is school coming? Still in R.O.T.C.? Are you still going with Jenny or is that old meat? Say, by the way, I heard you went out with Sally a couple times last summer. I don’t mind especially but some people could give me the dope on it and not keep me in the dark.

I’ve got a 3 1/2 day pass this weekend and I’m going down to Florida to see Chuck Bohn and Mrs. Shelby Jones. Jones lives in St. Petersburg so I hope to see the Yankees work out. I may even get a few autographs.

Well Mac, I have to take a shower and shave etc. so I’ll close. Keep hoping you can write soon and let me in on the scoop on everything in General.

Your buddy


P.S. When I was home I tried to call you up twice but nobody was home I guess. I’m real sorry I couldn’t see you cause God only knows when I’ll see you again. Say hello to your folks for me.



Mac’s Reply to Bob (Never Finished, Never Posted)

March 28, 1952

Dear Bob,

The Christmas vacation was quite a holiday for misunderstanding. You see I was working at the Ford Stamping Plant during the holidays. I worked the weekend you were in town so I didn’t get a chance to get to Wfd. I came the next weekend & I heard you had left. I was down there over New Year’s weekend. I dated Donna Lawrence the night before New Years but she had to babysit New Year’s Eve. She’s a nice kid. I, of course, was disappointed in not seeing you but when I heard you were sick I understood what happened. I’m sorry to hear you didn’t have a good time in Wfd. but you must realize a couple of years change a place. I’ve noticed it myself. None of the old gang is around anymore. I guess we just have to readjust ourselves to changing times. I saw Parks over the weekend but not to speak to. I heard that Parks is in Japan now. I guess he’ll marry when he gets out.

As far as you feeling that there was nothing to do down in Wfd. I feel the same way when I go down but it’s not that there is nothing to do but I just like to think what I did when I used to live there. Remember the nights we used to sit in Welch Field and just sit & talk. There was nothing to do then–just play ball & talk. I think now I did better talking. Remember when we went over to Jamestown to try out for the Tigers.

I don’t think drinking will help you feel better. It may for a little while but it will wear off and then you’ll feel worse than before. I know I tried but it didn’t do me any good. I actually felt disgusted with myself so I can speak with experience. I think if you just go off by yourself and sit & think it out by yourself.

Find something stable a goal and stick to it. Occupy yourself with something. Just don’t let yourself start to feel sorry for yourself. You know a prayer here & there doesn’t hurt.

Now there is something I’ve been thinking about. I was thinking of coming down to Lejeune during the Easter vacation. I don’t know when I’ll come during the vacation or if I’ll be able to come for sure but I’ll try to make it. I’ll hitchhike down. If you are not going to be in Camp please drop me a line as soon as you can & let me know. I hope it warms up.


This letter, and its unposted reply, were in a lot of letters I purchased from a seller in Maine on eBay. One of the interesting things about the letters in this lot is that they all bear singe marks. Maybe someone meant to light them on fire, but decided at the last minute to save them from the flame.

From what I gather in reading the other letters, John McEvoy was a young man of maybe 20 to 25 years old at the time of the letters. The town of Westfield (“Wfd.” in the letters) is a village on Lake Erie. It looks to be a very small place, the kind of town it’s good to be from instead of live in. The nearest big city is Buffalo, NY, where Mac worked at the Ford Stamping Plant.

Bob’s confession to his friend is honest and raw. I wonder how common it was in that era to discuss one’s “nervous breakdown,” as Bob referred to it in his letter. What did one risk by disclosing this type of information about himself? Even today, most folks would rather not discuss their own mental health.

Any of us who moved from their hometown only to return after some type of meaningful, life-changing event (like enlisting in the Marines, for instance) will have the same kind of reaction Bob did–being “disgusted” by his hometown. Your perspective changes once you see what the rest of the world is like. You are exposed to new ideas and new ways to live. Your tastes in entertainment, music, literature, food, and fellowship change. The negative aspects of life in your hometown become magnified against your new life: you marry someone with whom you went to all 12 grades of school, you work at the same plant or hospital or school or store or bank your dad worked at, you join the same social and civic clubs that your parents belong to. You’re stuck in a world of the same two- or three- or four thousand people. (This would be especially apparent to a Yankee who moves to the South. I like to think Bob tried fried green tomatoes and sweet tea for the first time at Camp Lejeune and decided that the South was heaven on Earth.)

I wonder if Mac ever had an opportunity to speak in person with Bob and give him the heartfelt advice that he wrote in his reply, but never sent.

View the letters here

Postcards from Mrs. Matthews

Two Postcards from Mrs. Matthews in Denver, Colorado, to Mrs. Minnie Cox

Denver 11-8-10

Dear friend:-

Will try and come over and see you this week Friday if nothing happens. I am on a slight vacation. Am not dead yet if you think I am


Mrs Matthews

18 So Broadway

“Am not dead yet if you think I am.” LOL. I text that to my friends at least once a week.

Denver, 11-12-10

Dear friend:-

This will perhaps surprise you but I lost my opal ring when I was over there yesterday I do not know where but it is gone the single opal and I thought I might have dropped it when I started to come home and you might have found it. I am having rather bad luck with my opals I lost my earrings now my ring.

Mrs. Matthews

Poor Mrs. Matthews! She has a bad habit of losing her jewelry. I imagine her ring to look like this, a delicate yet substantial Edwardian piece in yellow gold. Maybe her earrings were similar to these opal and diamond baubles.

The first postcard is addressed to a Mrs. Minnie Cox in Barnum, Colorado. Barnum is a district of Denver that was developed by none other than American circus impresario Phineas T. Barnum. The Denver Public Library has a nice write up about the neighborhood here.

And finally… the postcard art. F A Moss was a stationery publisher in the early 1900s. One of the cards is marked “Dog-Gone-Cat Series,” and they each bear a copyright of 1909. There are so many strange illustrations on postcards of this era. For instance, who in the world made the editorial decision to publish a picture of a dog being assailed by shoes and bricks? I’m hopeful that this is simply an exaggeration to support the “Life is just one damn thing after another” message on the card. By the way, just who made that sentiment first is up for debate. The Quote Investigator website has a good run-down of the candidates, including my front-runner, Mark Twain. Apparently, this was a very popular saying of the time.



NSFW: Pin-ups and Gambling–Just Another Day in the Army

Letter from U.S. Army Lieutenant, E. Co., 127th Infantry, APO #32, to wife at home in Iowa, U.S.

6 April, 1945


Here is a Mother’s Day gift which I stumbled on tonight, via a crap game. I’m going to use it to the best advantage before it dribbles away. Have a good time with it, darling. I’ll try to do this again as soon as possible. [Ed.’s note: Presumably, there was money enclosed.]

It’s about 11 o’clock–we started out this evening playing bridge, but I broke away for this other when I got tired of bridge.

Oh, honey–one of your letters finally came–dated Feb. 26th. Maybe the rest are not far behind. It was the first one in which you gave any definite hints as to when you were starting home. I guess you’re there now, a little over two weeks. I sure hope you came through, with no trouble. Tell me all about the trip–I’ll bet you had a pretty hard time, if you were driving alone.

It has been raining here the last few days-makes the air so close. I sweat a lot.

We’re not doing much–just the training I mentioned before. I’m busy with my I & E bulletin board. Remember that calendar you sent me from Betty’s? I used a couple of those pin-ups on the board–one had as a title, “What’s Cookin” so I put that up and beside it put a sign which read, “Watch this board and find out, honey.” Then beside another which read, “Now watch my jingle, jangle, jingle,” I inscribed–“Keep your eyes on the I & E board, too.” The boys seemed to get quite a kick out of them. Tomorrow I’ve got to paste some little flags on pins and get the maps all decked out. At least I keep up with the world. And right now, everything sounds pretty good.

It’s wonderful to dream and hope and look forward to the day when this will all be finished and we can be together again. Those thoughts sustain me constantly, through all the restless, dark times. I know that one of these days I’ll walk up to the door and everything will be just as if I never went away. They can talk about adjusting to the postwar world all they want to; I don’t think I’ll have much adjustment to do. I can take up where I left off without a bit of trouble.

The bugs are very bothersome at night–the same kind of beetles fly here at night as a home–those brown “June Bugs.” I’ve seen some butterflies I’d like to have gotten–nothing large or spectacular, but different than we have. There is one here just like our Viceroy, only it’s a pale blue instead of orange.

Well, my dearest, I’m going to get off to bed. We have to get up at 0630 in the morning and stand reveille. Til then, darling, all my dreams are of you—–kiss David for me, and tell him how proud his Daddy is of him and his Mommie.

All my love–Yours.


At family gatherings during my childhood, I noticed that a popular pastime for the men was playing cards. All the Navy veterans, in particular, knew how to play cribbage. Apparently, in E Company, the men liked to play bridge for fun, and craps when a wager was involved. Other letters recount how successful Dwight was in poker, as well.

What did he send home as a Mother’s Day gift? We assume cash. But how much? We can’t be sure. Online inflation calculators say that $10 in 1945 is about $136 in today’s dollars. What a boon–$10 could have bought a lot of pin-up calendars.

Pin-up calendars, and pin-ups, were popular among soldiers during WW2, although this type of art was hardly new. These illustrations idealized the American woman back home with her shapely hourglass figure, perfectly coiffed hair, and bright red lipstick–usually, semi-nude. This was a genius way to get the men’s attention to review an otherwise dull bulletin board.

Back home, it’s likely that the American woman did not consistently look like a pin-up model. Rationing was in full effect, not only for food like coffee, sugar, butter, milk, cheese, and even canned food, but also for other household needs like tires, shoes, fuel, and clothing. So much material and labor were required for the war effort. Americans were urged to go without so the military would have enough to fight and win. (This must have been a difficult mental notion to embrace, as the Great Depression was fresh in recent memory.)

This also meant the average American woman may have been under-nourished, and tired or even clinically fatigued. (This was almost definitely the norm in the U.K., where wartime rationing didn’t end until 1954!) A lack of coffee surely didn’t help. Housing was at a premium; many households, such as the Stover family in this series of letters, shared homes with family, squeezing anyone who could fit into the house. Many women went to work during this time, physical labor that burned a lot of calories during 10- and 12-hour days. And at the end of these strenuous day, who was responsible for cooking, cleaning, mending, and child rearing? The American woman.

For a humorous take on rations in the U.K. during World War 2, check out the British television program “The Supersizers Go Wartime,” featuring food critic Giles Coren and writer/comedian Sue Perkins.


News from the Front: Wedding Rings, Filipino Carpenters, and Car Maintenance Advice

Letter from U.S. Army Lieutenant, E. Co., 127th Infantry, APO #32, to wife at home in Iowa, U.S.

27 March, 1945

My dearest,

Not so long ago I wrote and asked you to send a wedding ring for me. Unless you’ve already purchased it, let it go for now, and we’ll pick out one together when I get home. Not because I don’t want one, but because I have one–at least that’s what I regard it as. Here’s the way it happened: the other day, a boy came around showing rings he’d made, and taking orders for them. They make a sell a great number of rings with the red arrow insignia of the division inlaid in them. So, out of curiosity at first, I asked him if he could make a plain round ring, and showed him how wide I wanted it. He said surely, that would be very easy, so I gave him the Australian florin I’d been saving–it’s very good silver, they say–and today be brought the ring back. It’s very nice–shines like your silver bracelet; it’s just a plain band, curved in a semicircle from edge to edge. So I consider it my wedding ring, and feel that much more bound to you.

No mail as yet.

This job of I & E officer (it’s Information + Ed., not Intelligence + Ed.) is going to be important–they’re really pushing it from the top on down. The reason seems to be that the division is due for a rehabilitation period soon, and during that time they want the men to either take one of these Armed Forces Institute Correspondence courses, or get in on a group study course which will be held under regimental supervision. I’m going to take one or more of these corres. courses, depending on the time I have–there are several I’m interested in; Air conditioning, airplane mechanics, automobile mechanics, etc. Each course costs $2.00, and they’re supposed to be pretty good. I imagine I’ll get roped in on these group study courses–I see they’re planning classes in several subjects at high school level, so they’ll probably involve me one of these days. This is a real break for all of us new officers–this rehabilitation period may last several months. Where it will be, we don’t know. As far as I’m concerned, I’m not anxious to get into combat ’till it’s necessary.

Between now + Friday I’ve got to work up an hour’s lecture on current news of the past week. I’m getting a bulletin board put up today, and have maps and various other material to work out for that.

I have the 1st Platoon-a rifle platoon. Got to get acquainted with everybody in the next few days. My plat. sergt. just returned from the hospital.

We have been having shows the past few nights–last night’s was not so god, a Laurel + Hardy thing–however I think tonight they’re showing “Hollywood Canteen.”

Bumped into Joe last night–his [???] bivouaced [sic] not far from here. He’s in “C” company–seems like he always draws that company. He’s as glad as I am about the way things are turning out.

Honey something else you could send me are some wrist watch straps–both cloth and/or leather. They should be this wide on the ends: |————| I guess I forgot to tell you my watch stopped on me again–I’m using one of the regular issue watches now, and it’s better than mine, anyway.

Censored a few letters this morning. These boys are not great hands for writing. Their Christmas packages are straggling in–some of the stuff, especially foodstuffs, is in pretty sad shape.

One fellow has a family in Cedar Rapids–his wife, 2 boys + a girl. All (children) evidently go to school. He wrote to all of them, very touching letters. I certainly hope he gets back to them.

Our Filipino carpenter, Elino, is about to finish our tent furniture. He’s made upright frames of bamboo, with a bamboo platform on top, to go over our beds–your mosquito net can be easily suspended from it, and you have a big shelf to store things on. Right now he’s making a table. He also completed this morning a wash stand helmet holder complete with soap tray + drain pipe–you just take a length of bamboo, split it many times to one joint, bend the split segments out until a helmet fits therein, and lace them together so they stay that way, then plant the whole thing in the ground. I never realized before what a (sp. oh hell) versitile medium this bamboo is.

Which reminds me–I was thinking about drinking out of a joint of bamboo–if you get the chance, send me one of those canvas water bags like we used while on the desert. It would really be useful over here.

Guess I’ll get out today while the sun is up, to swim–day before yesterday I got burned a little, so waited ’til the sun was down last evening. I hope I can get a fair semblance of a tan.

Well, honey-bun, I think I’ll end this installment for now. Don’t forget I love you, more every day–I have a deep abiding faith inside that it will not be too long before we are together again.

Love to everybody–mostly you.


P.S. – When hotter weather comes, better get the transmission + rear end grease changed; might not be a bad idea to have the radiator looked at and flushed again, and put on those new hoses I got which are in the back of the car. Don’t forget to wax the seat covers. I’m figuring we’ll be driving there for some time yet. ‘Bye now!