Wednesday, September 22, 2021

September 26 (part 2 & 3), 1944: Almost Feminist


Letters from Opa to Grandmother, September 26, 1944.


Sept. 26, 1944


I just am back from calling you and am using a typewriter which I can have here for rent; ten cents for half an hour. That period of time ought to be sufficient even for you. It was so nice to hear you again, and I do hope that we get to see each other Sunday. I shall try to remember including your mother's letter in this; keep it, as well as other letters which I may send you every once in a while. It is very difficult to keep stuff like that here, especially where our bags have to be packed at all times on account of the fact that we are now on shipping orders.

I haven't been doing much since this morning except shrubbing, digging deep into toilet bowls to clean them out, polishing brass, etc. It isn't half as bad as it sounds, though; I finished my job before noon, but knew enough not to let the sergeant know about it, for he would have given me some other job. SO, in the afternoon, I rearranged all my stuff, packed my bag, and reread your letters several times; also, I took quite a while to answer your folks' letter.

So Hubert showed you the letters I wrote to him. I don't remember what I told him about your folks; was it complimentary?

I guess I shall address your letters to Mrs. Thomas W. Doeppner. In principle, I don't like this custom so well; it implies a sense of ownership on the man's part which is in contradiction to modern marriage, but in little details like that, it means no harm to follow the crowd.

Have you heard from Marjorie (Kiefer) yet? Her silence really is strange.

Fortunately, Mac, Fred and I got into the same barrack again. This was sheer accident, for most of the group was split up, and all three of us are on completely different duties.

Can you imagine me having trouble finishing my supper? Tonight, some of our gang had K.P. and were serving in the mess hall, so they really filled up our plates. Double serving and more of everything: hash, tomatoes, spaghetti, tomatoes, beans, salad, spinach, cottage cheese, and pineapple. How's that for a wartime menu?

Honey, if you have a chance to get some sort of a bag for toilet articles, etc, please get it, for I have absolutely no place to put things like that. Get it small enough to fit into our bags, but large enough so there is some room for letters, stationary, etc.

Well, I guess I had better close; it's time to get back to work.



Sept. 26, 1944.


This is the third letter I am writing you today; one this morning, one three hours ago, and this one now. I have some time, though, and want to see you so badly that I resort to the closest facsimile possible: the mail.

Just got out of a show in the War Dept. Theater, called "Till We Meet Again." It was a fairly good show, picturing the escape of an American flier from France. Better than usually in this type of pictures, it gave some of the man's background. He talked about his wife Peggy, and in my mind, to the tune of his thoughts which he expressed to a young nun in France, he was talking about a girl called Margie. The little things he mentioned were like taken out of my heart. Things he remembered and missed: her hair and the way it flung in the wind; picnics; a swim; and, in the morning, to have her awaken next to him, curled up to him; the times she cried in his shoulder and the hours of crisis when she believed in him even though he had given up all belief in himself. He was away, far away; probably much farther and for a longer period of time than our separation will ever be. Honey, it made me realize how lucky we are, in spite of everything, that we know it won't be more than a few months that we can have at least some time together. How lucky I am to have you, like he had his Peggy, to give me strength and something to come back to; something which makes life worthwhile and beautiful, no matter what the odds may be.

Fred, Mac and I went to that show, and afterward I suggested to go up to the Service Club to write to "our wives." After this inspiration, the pen seems to flow freely and there was not much talk between us.

We will be going back to our barracks soon, taps will be sounded, and I shall be lying in my bunk. thinking and dreaming about the best girl in the world: my wife and my friend. Good night, darling; let's have faith. It won't be long, even though many months may go by. There will be a day and a time when we shall look back on these months as a period in which we learned to appreciate our happiness, and in which we were made to deserve it.

Ever yours,


Opa pours out his heart to Grandmother. An Army film reminds him of how lucky he is to have someone he loves so dearly. My favorite part is how he addresses her: "my wife and my friend." This is the foundation of their marriage. He has no idea what they will see and do together, but in this moment, in a Service Club in Kansas, he knows that their relationship gives him meaning and purpose. 

I have to admit I heard a little refrain from Disney's animated  movie, Mulan, in the back of my head while reading that part. Do you know it? "A Girl Worth Fighting For!" The scene juxtaposes the overt masculinity in war-time propaganda and morale boosts, which of course become hilarious when a woman, Mulan, has to pretend she has some girlfriend at home that she's swooning over. It's less hilarious when you think about the fact that she's in danger of death, and protecting her father who would surely have died if he had reported for obligatory military service, being the only male in the family. The movie has within its theme an attempt to push against the assumed patriarchal power and assumptions. But, I would say it doesn't 100% succeed for a number of reasons, even though I still love the movie and have lots of nostalgia for it.

That's a bit like Opa's almost feminism. He sees clearly that addressing Grandmother by his name with a Mrs. in front of it is not quite right, or indicative of their equality in the relationship. However, he consents to tradition and nostalgia, saying that there isn't much harm in following the crowd. I disagree, wholeheartedly. But I guess better to be almost feminist than completely enmeshed in toxic masculinity? 

To this day I will hand my husband Jason any letter that is addressed in this traditional way ("Mrs. Jason Snow") and say- "Hey this letter is for you and the Mrs. You." I refuse to open it, it is not addressed to me. I hate this tradition and there is literally zero reason for it to continue. It has no grammatical, logistical, or theoretical benefit. It is simply a function and result of patriarchy. 

I'm intrigued by this letter from Grandmother's mother. Opa had to spend lots of time responding to it. Was this their "Hey- I guess you married my daughter, so here are our expectations now" letter? I don't know- we don't have it. I laughed when Opa asked if Hubert's letters from him were complimentary to her parents. Oops. Hope so.

I'm still very impressed by Opa's little secret "toilet duty isn't so bad" knowledge. He scrubs the latrine and has time to write three letters in one day. Wise guy.

Monday, September 20, 2021

September 26, 1944: With and Without Girls

Letter from Opa to Grandmother, September 26, 1944.


Sept. 25, 1944


Yesterday, we were moved to a different company and are on shipping orders now. This may mean that we get shipped out tomorrow, we also may stay here another week or two.

We also were interviewed and classified yesterday. My interview took three hours, and I don't think there is a thing left the Army doesn't know about me. I found out, though, that I had passed all tests with highest score; since I am the only college boy in the gang, this was to be expected.

After interviewing me, they gave me a special technical test in radio; asking me a bunch of technical and math questions. Then, they classified me as radio research man, Signal Corps. This classification, however, is tentative and only their suggestion; I may still end up in the infantry.

We were shown two movies. One on military courtesy, which showed the correct way of saluting, when to salute, when not to, etc. It was fairly well done, a little drawn-out though. The other picture was called "Pickup" and dealt with venereal diseases. The show left nothing to the imagination and showed many of the results of syphilis and gonorrhea in all its cruel details. The show was very well done. A nice talk by the chaplain followed this.

Afterwards, we were given typhoid shots and some others. They make your arm feel a little funny, but aren't half as bad as people claim.

As you see from the enclosures, I took the $10,000 life insurance as well as a monthly $10 war bond. Keep these papers, they are the only receipt we got. 

We were moved to Company B, from which we are to be shipped out. If shipment should come suddenly, I will call you. Our sergeant is a humdinger. Reminds me, both in looks and in his way of talking, of Mr. Zimmerman. Swears, chews, spits, but is otherwise as particular as he can be. When there is only one extra fold in our bed, he just tears it down and has us make it over. He gave me a nice job: latrine orderly. Every morning, I have to clean, scrub. and polish everything in the latrine, from the shower faucets down to the toilet bowls and urinals. Anyhow, it gets me out of K.P. (I think) and doesn't take too much time. So far, I have had all my evenings free, which is more than I ever expected.

Last night, Mac and I went to the Service Club, played pingpong (part of the time with girls) and then went to the show (without girls.) We saw "Kismet," a nice technicolor show.

We are not going to get weekend passes, so try to come up on Sunday if I am still here. Chances are, however, that we will be shipped out by the end of the week.

There ought to be a letter from you in the mail Today. Note the change of my address. Army life isn't bad, if I could only be with you. I miss you something terrible.

Love and kisses,


The pace is picking up, with Opa now in an assigned company, on shipping orders, and with a potential classification. Opa wrote about this in more detail in his autobiography:

At Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, I was given a choice between Military Intelligence (probably because I spoke German and passable French,) and the Army Signal Corps. I figured that if I worked in Military Intelligence, I might have to spend the rest of the war translating German field manuals, while in the Signal Corps I would learn something related to my field. "No guarantees," they said... 
(pg 30-31, From Nazi Germany to a Career in Freedom.)

I wonder if Opa told Grandmother about that choice or if he assumed her support (which she likely would have given). It makes sense that Opa would choose the classification that more closely matched his education and aptitude.

I hadn't realized Opa was the only college kid in the group. That's kind of amazing, and also likely why he was getting so much attention and praise from the officers. I guess it was late enough in the war that he didn't raise any suspicions of allegiance; to enlist in the Army at the lowest rank towards the end of the war would be a poor spy technique.

I had the "pleasure" of watching the old Army video on venereal diseases, and let me tell you, Opa is not kidding about them leaving nothing to the imagination. SO many pictures of diseased genitals in that video. They approach it from the assumption that all Army men are perfect sweethearts who are potential targets for harlots and seemingly sweet yet disease-infested women. As far as a teaching technique, it's not bad. Even more convincing were those photos. Woah. 

I cannot imagine what the chaplain had to say that didn't feel weird after that.

Opa's experience with his new sergeant is a great indicator of how age and maturity are his best friends. He has seen this type before, and he knows how to live with it. His perspective on latrine duty is another indicator of his hard-earned wisdom (and cleverness), he knows that no one would volunteer for this service, but it takes less time and is somehow less terrible than K.P. (Kitchen Patrol), perhaps because of the time it takes? I hate cleaning bathrooms. Opa happily accepts his "low" assignment, because he knows it's all about perspective. He does a good job and doesn't complain, the grumpy sergeant is pleased, and Opa has his evenings free to write his wife.

I couldn't help but laugh when I read Opa's obligatory confession and follow up assertion of when he had fraternized with and without girls. He's transparent, showing Grandmother he can be trusted. 

Opa misses Grandmother. The Army life is picking up, but his married life feels a little bit like it's on hold.

Friday, September 17, 2021

September 24, 1944: Defending Conscientious Objectors

Letter from Opa to Grandmother, September 24, 1944.


Sept. 24, 1944


I have found a pretty fair library out here, even some books on electrical engineering were to be had. Since this is a Sunday afternoon, there is plenty of time for reading and such like pleasures.

Right now, you are probably on your way to Lawrence, and I wished I were with you. Poor Skunkie is howling in the luggage car, wishing he were back on the farm, exposed to the cruelty of cats, chickens, and Margies.

Last night I dreamed so distinctly of you that it seemed as though you must have been present in some mystical way which we don't understand. There are many ways in which we are together right now, but that makes the separation none the easier. My only hope for the near future is that we shall not be shipped out before next weekend, for I shall be able to see you then.

Last night, Fred and I took passes and went to the show: "A Wave, a Wac, and a Marine." It was a rather silly show, but the only entertainment available except for some Follies which we didn't particularly care to see. Afterwards, we went to the Service Club and had cake, ice cream, and coffee.

This morning we got to sleep an hour longer than usually, which means we were called "only" at 5:30. I went to church(!); a very poor sermon by a chaplain who fell back on what he calls religious experiences in Europe. He gave a try insulting, uncalled for accusation to conscientious objectors. However, he has a very interesting way of talking and getting your attention, which almost made up for his intolerance. The chapel, even though barrack style, is intensely beautiful and has just the right atmosphere for worship.

What do you think of this dinner menu: Beef, green beans, turnips, mashed potatoes, gravy, lettuce-and-tomato salad, chocolate cake, ice cream and coffee. If you will feed me after the war the way the army does now, I'll be satisfied.

The funniest thing happened last night: the field jacket which I had been issued looks quite a lot like an officer's jacket; so, a staff sergeant, on passing me, took me for an officer and started a snappy salute. He recognized his mistake in time, though, and was very embarrassed.

I wrote to Herb and Eileen today; am planning to write to Ray before the day is over.


Opa wrote to Grandmother, mentioning her trip from her home farm back to Lawrence, where she was working at the University and in grad school. I thought about the strange way we revert to our childhood roles and even mannerisms when we are home with our parents. It's not always a bad thing, but it's not always a good thing, either. It must have felt strange for Grandmother, straddling home and adulthood. Were her parents still disapproving of Opa? Did they talk to her about it? I doubt it since she was now married and they wouldn't have wanted her to have a failed marriage. It must have been a bit of a whiplash for her. I wish we had her letters to get insight into how she was feeling during this time.

I love how Opa mentioned the mystical-like connection between himself and Grandmother. His dream of her felt so real.... he wonders if in some other realm it may have been real. I don't know what to call it other than mystical, but I have had similar experiences; when I feel connected to someone or present to them in a way that is more than just a feeling or hope. It feels real and present. These experiences are gifts. I have felt this way about Ella, while reading her letters, feeling like I was somehow present with her in a realm unconfined by time. It feels so real that I have to remember we never met. Then I wonder if maybe somehow we have. (See: mystical.)

The fact that Opa went to church voluntarily proves on some level that although he did not accept religion as a whole, he was always curious and open to learning something new. This chaplain sounds unfortunately very typical. I would have been a terrible military chaplain (if they allowed deaf chaplains to serve). I think it would be very difficult for me to counsel and serve a group of people who were in the process of being trained and indoctrinated in American patriotism and warfare. Those are not strong pulls for me. I love that Opa is still defending conscientious objectors. He hasn't forgotten his roots or his friends. Everyone has their reasons for where they go in life and what they choose, and that chaplain didn't need to judge others in order to support the troops in front of him. That's tacky.

Opa still finds time to write his friends, keeping up with them in a way he cannot keep up with friends and family from Germany. He told Grandmother he would write Ray, I'm assuming her older brother Ray.

Opa is certainly enjoying Army food, and I can't help but notice that his listed menus are mirrored in many menus at retirement and nursing homes across the US today. From the green beans all the way to chocolate cake. I hope it gives some of the residents the same joy it gave Opa in his early Army days.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

September 23, 1944: Morbid Raincoat


Letter from Opa to Grandmother, September 23, 1944.


Sept 23, 1944


I was glad I had a good excuse to call you last night, for I was just a little lonesome. No mail makes things sort of strange, for I didn't have the slightest idea of how you have been faring since that cruel bus took me away from you.

Today, we received our uniforms. I am very pleased with mine; it fits comparatively well, especially the O.D. jacket which we will wear in winter. The only thing I don't like is my raincoat, which is dirty, worn, and even broken at places. Otherwise, I have now more clothes than I ever owned before.

There are three of us who have formed a little trio: Maxwell Bailey, called Mac, who is a 244-pounder, married, 3 kids, 25-yrs old, a pleasant chap; not too intelligent, but lots of fun and always ready to help. Fred Bartlett is 21, has been married since he was sixteen. Extremely handsome, very clever.

We took three tests today: Mechanical Aptitude Test, General Classification Test, and Radio Operators Test. All three of them were extremely simple; such questions as: "If there are 2100 men in your group, 10% of them in the army, of those 59% in the Signal Corps, 20 men in the Engineers and the rest in K.P., how many are in K.P." Nevertheless, there were plenty guys who had trouble.

I assume you got that picture. It isn't very good, cost only a quarter. I'll have a better one made in my winter uniform.

Monday, we'll finish processing, and from then on we'll wait to be shipped out. I'll be "available" for visitors every afternoon from 1 to 5p.m. This is supposed to be a hint.

Write soon, honey, and much.



Have I mentioned that my family (on the Doeppner side) is a bit intellectually snobby? Yeah. They are. It's a hard inheritance to shed. I don't know what to say about it other than it is helpful to see it so blatantly every now and then- as a reminder that this is part of my foundation and I need to work on it not being a thing.

When I read the part about Opa's raincoat, I couldn't help but wonder where this dirty, worn, broken coat had been. Where is the previous wearer? I admit, my mind got morbid and I just assumed that coat has seen battle and the wearer didn't make it. Or maybe it's way less intense than that, but that does seem odd that Opa would receive such a noticeably hand-me-down piece of military clothing. It's such a contrast from the rest of the scene with ample food and well-fitted uniforms.

Opa has already formed a small group of friends, the older married men in the group found each other. Both men sound interesting and like people I'd like to meet! I wonder if this friendship lasted any longer than their brief time here at Ft. Leavenworth.

Every time Opa says "shipped out," I imagine this dramatic scene at the sea shore when the huge ship of military men bravely wave goodbye before they embark on their journey to the war front. What it really means is being sent to his first assignment. Which at this juncture is likely boot camp. Does Opa know about boot camp? I imagine he does since Winton went into the service and stayed in touch.

I'm guessing things will shift a bit when he gets to boot camp.

Monday, September 13, 2021

September 22, 1944: No longer a Civilian


Letter from Opa to Grandmother, September 22, 1944.


Sept. 22, 1944


Preposterous as it may seem, I am no longer a civilian, but any ignoramus who has more stripes or bars than I do, can tell me what to do.

This morning, we found out that we passed our physical with flying colors, so we were inducted. Naturally, it was the Army for me. The officers were especially nice to me, and I gathered many undeserved laurels for having taken this step voluntarily. 

If they only knew that I am not yet quite off that fence... Now, however, I'll have to stick to it, for I was sworn in this afternoon. It was a very nice and almost genuine ceremony, conducted by the colonel.

Tomorrow sometime, we are to receive our uniforms and the rest of the G.I. equipment. I'll send my civilian clothes to you and let you take care of them. Let's hope the day is not too far away that I can wear them again. Our captain told us today that we shall be in the army for at least two years, even if the war should end tomorrow.

Honey, I need a copy of our marriage certificate before you can get your allowance, and I need it as soon as possible. Have somebody sign as witness and have a photostatic copy made right away and send it to me. My address is going to change soon, but all mail will be forwarded. You will receive your first allowance within a few weeks if I get the marriage certificate in time, otherwise it will be postponed for another month or so.

There are many things I would like to tell you, but it is hard to write about them. If I should stay here another week, I may get a weekend pass to K.C. next Sunday; if not, you may visit me here on Sunday (or any day) from 1 to 6pm.


Opa announces his induction into the US Army with a bit of a shoulder shrug in this letter. He admires the ceremony, and I understood what he meant about it being "nice and almost genuine." There's a lot of ritual and pomp and circumstance with the military  Many times you can't help but be moved, and yet in the back of my head I know that part of the theatrics of it all is a for the morale and keeping folks in line with the mission. It's an interesting line to straddle. I love ritual, but I have a healthy skepticism for the motives behind emotionally manipulative rituals.

It's helpful for me to see that Opa really wasn't all-in at this point, with his pacifist background still a recent feeling. He is happy for the opportunity and stability that the Army will offer him, but he hasn't been won over... yet. 

When Opa wrote his autobiography, and when he spoke with us, we were under the impression that the Army was a natural procession in his plan. We never knew that he avoided it until it was his only option. I've wondered throughout this project when his opinion shifted. He's not quite off the fence yet, as he points out.

So now, Opa's officially in the Army for at least two years, a commitment he is willing to uphold (though he seems to be eager to skip to the end). He gives Grandmother some instructions in order to get the most out of his service: the dependent allowance. This was a war-time benefit for the families of military individuals and Opa was eager to begin providing for Grandmother. I thought it was funny that their marriage certificate didn't have a witness signature yet. 

Opa misses Grandmother, and he has things he wants to tell her and share with her. Now that he's in the Army, his time is not his own and even his thoughts are not particularly welcomed. He is anxious to have some alone time with her. I wonder what he's thinking about. There is a lot to process.

Friday, September 10, 2021

September 21, 1944: Clunky Machine

Letter from Opa to Grandmother, September 21, 1944.


Sept. 21, 1944


I'll start this now, since there seems to be some free time before we get started. It is about quarter of seven a.m. now. We got here last night shortly after nine. With traditional army efficiency, they had to look into half a dozen barracks until they finally found one which seemed to provide sufficient space for the whole bunch. We went to bed right away, and inspite of the fact that the noise made by those 18-year olds continued for an indefinite period, I didn't find it hard to fall asleep. Next morning, the boys told me that about every hour a new bunch came in, made noise and had to be reminded that they were in the army now, but I slept through all that and didn't wake up till reveille at 5:00am. It was the best sleep I have had for a long time. The barrack beds were soft and much wider than I had expected them to be. In the morning, we had about 30 minutes to get dressed, shave, and make our beds (we made them twice; first, individual style; then after a little demonstration by a cute little corporal, we unmade them and remade them in army style.) Breakfast at 5:40. And what a breakfast! Ham and eggs, choice of breakfast food, toast, butter, milk, coffee, and an orange. Didn't even have to do the dishes. Then back to our barracks for a wait which is still going on. So far, everybody has been friendly, from corporals up to captains. They seem to pity us for some mysterious reason.

Last night, the gang seemed to be gay and exuberant; today, they are a little more quiet and reserved. It seems as though they begin to become aware of the fact that they are no longer with mother. I feel sorry for some of them who have never been away from home before.

It's ten o'clock now, and I am through with my physical. I don't know yet whether or not I passed, because the X-ray reports aren't in yet. One thing I know: if I pass, it will be the Army, since the Navy doesn't take aliens. The Physical wasn't bad; just routine stuff. For 50 minutes, we were dressed in Adam's costume. Right now, we are waiting out in the sun. Just waiting; nobody knows what for. A sergeant just came and gave us footballs, softballs and bats, so we will probably have a long wait. Anyhow, it's nice of them to care for our entertainment, isn't it? All the time so far, I have been surprised at the courtesy and relative decency with which we are treated. Just doesn't seem like Army life yet. (That's going to be different though, I suppose.) 

It's three o'clock now since dinner time (good dinner and more than enough; I didn't even go back for a second helping) we have been waiting around. Now, finally, we are assigned temporarily to some barracks. Nothing else to do all day; tomorrow morning we'll find out about the outcome of our Physical and will probably be classified. So far, I haven't seen any familiar faces yet; the boys are mostly *awfully young and scared.

It feels strange to be married, doesn't it? However, I think it's a wonderful feeling. I am so glad we went through with it; our brief honeymoon has been so wonderful, darling. it gave a tempting preview into married life, and I am terribly anxious to get back to you. Sleeping alone isn't too much fun, especially now where I know what it means to wake up with my Margie in my arms.

If I should stay here a while, I might get a weekend pass next Saturday, but if the possibility for immediate shipping out exists, I'll stay in. Naturally, I have no address yet, so save your letter (but write them anyhow!)

Keep the homefires burning!


Opa is in the registration process, with a lot of "hurry up and wait" mixed with ample samplings of food and comfortable beds. So far everything has been pretty decent, different from what Opa expected. He mentions the younger recruits with empathy- knowing that many of them haven't been away from home (and likely most of them are there from the draft, not as volunteers). 

Age and experience are helpful for Opa in this case. He's been away from home for over a decade, he's had less than ample servings of food, and he's slept in far more uncomfortable beds. This introduction to the Army exceeds Opa's expectations and experiences. Opa's perspective shifts his whole experience. 

If I were to show up at this way-station before boot camp, I would not be as enthusiastic. I'm not a morning person by any means, and I would be so annoyed with the idea that they got up, showered and ate, only to sit around the rest of the day. There are many reasons why I would not be a good military recruit. Luckily they don't want me: deaf people are not eligible. For once I don't mind being excluded, although I know others have fought to change this rule.

Grandmother must be in a weird place emotionally. She just got married, her parents didn't show up, and now after a whirlwind honeymoon, she's back at her grad school and job. She has no idea when she'll see her husband next, where he is (or where he's going), or if this whole crazy thing was a stupid idea. They don't know for sure if he'll make it all the way into the Army or if he'll get citizenship, or if he'll ship out in a week. Technically they know even less about their future now.

Opa's report on this time is fascinating, it shows what a huge process the army had going. Imagine what it was like at the height of the draft and war?! It's a huge clunky machine.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

September 20, 1944: Mysterious Oath


Letter from Opa to Grandmother, September 20, 1944.


September 20, 1944

My darling wife,

It seems strange to address the letter like this and to write from this town; it hasn't been long, has it, that we swore some mysterious oath here at the courthouse.

So far, Uncle Sam has been nice to us; meals up to a dollar. If he keeps feeding us like that, I'll love that man.

We left Salina at 12:45, got here shortly after five, and leave here at seven. It's a little tiresome to ride all day, but the gang seems to be nice. Haven't been any poker games yet.

I am wondering how and when you got home; did you see Marjorie on the way? How did you spend the rest of the McPherson time? You didn't cry any, did you? How is Skunkie?

I'll write again as soon as I know what's going to happen. We won't arrive in Leavenworth till late tonight, so will not be examined till tomorrow. 

Be good and write when you get my address. Say hello to your (my) folks.


P.S. I'm the only married guy in the bunch.

Opa clearly jotted this down quickly to mail before hopping on the next train to Ft. Leavenworth, and the beginning of the next phase of his life. 

He's getting used to calling Grandmother wife, as most married couples giggle and marvel over in the beginning of their marriages. 

I remember feeling so weird and old when I would mention or introduce Jason as my husband. It felt like we were playing grown-up. Perhaps because that was how we played grown up as children, mimicking our parents and the families around us. I don't think getting married is the pathway to adulthood, but it is one of many rituals of growing up. 

Opa is on his way to the Army, with a new boss: "Uncle Sam." He's facing his own realities of growing up. He's in the army, a fate he had never imagined for himself. He's in the US with an engineering degree, and most happily and surprisingly of all, he is married. 

Opa is still marveling at this "mysterious oath" that makes him joyfully bound to Grandmother. Soon he will make another oath that will bind him to his new country, the USA. 

Monday, September 6, 2021

September 16-17, 1944: The Wedding


Marriage Certificate for Grandmother and Opa, September 16, 1944.


Certificate of Marriage
This Certifies That
Thomas Walter Doeppner
Marjorie Ann Sloan
United in Marriage
at Manhattan, Kansas
according to the Ordinance of God 
and the laws of the State of Kansas
on the 16th day of September 1944
Phylis J. Sloan 
Gayle Buckholz
B.A. Rogers  Minister

Wedding Announcement in Mercury Chronicle Newspaper, September 17, 1944.


K.S.C. Graduates Married in Temple

At 4 o'clock Saturday afternoon, September 16 in the Methodist Memorial Temple, Mss Marjorie Ann Sloan, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W.J. Sloan of Selden, and Thomas Walter Doeppner, son of Mr. and Mrs. August Doeppner of Amsterdam, Holland, exchanged vows of marriage. The Rev. B.A. Rogers read the double ring service which was preceded by Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" played by Miss Elna Hanson. While candles at the altar were lighted by the bride's niece, Miss Betty Sloan of Topeka in a pink dress, Miss Hanson payed "To the Evening Star" from Tannhauser. Mrs. Irene Wagar, soloist sang "Ah Sweet Mystery of Life" and "Because." Miss Hanson during the ceremony played Schubert's Serenade and the traditional wedding marches.

The attractive bride wore a street length dress of marine blue wool jersey, featuring a side draped skirt. Her accessories were brown. She wore a necklace of pearls and her corsage was of gardenias and pink roses.

As maid of honor, another niece of the bride, Miss Phyllis Sloan, wore a yellow dress.

The altar was banked with palms and a large basket with a fall bouquet of varicolored aster occupied each side. A Kappa Phi mystic candle burned on the mantle.

Following the ceremony Mr and Mrs. Doeppner received the guests in the Temple parlor where they cut the two tier wedding cake on which were a miniature bride and groom. Mrs. Nora Meister, Miss Eilleen Roberts and Miss Doris Paustian served cake and punch.

Following a brief honeymoon, Mr. Doeppner will report Wednesday to Fort Leavenworth for induction into the armed services. Both the bride and groom received their degrees from Kansas State last spring. The bride who has a degree in home economics and child welfare has a graduate assistantship in Child welfare at Kansas University. She will return to her work there. Mr. and Mrs. W.G. Shelly and Hubert of McPherson were out of town guests at the wedding.
-Manhattan Mercury- Chronicle 
Sunday, September 17, 1944.

They got married!!!

This wedding was anything but typical. If you look at the guest list (we have a copy) and the mention of the out of town guests in the article, who is missing? Grandmother's parents. 

My Grandmother was private and keen on not stirring up drama, but she told us that her parents were not at the wedding because they did not approve of Opa. She would always follow that up with "but they sure loved him later!" I got the impression that it didn't take him long to win them over but we'll see if that shows up in the letters.

Grandmother's folks didn't show up to their daughter's wedding  That's pretty severe! I fact, only two of Grandmothers relatives showed up from what we can tell: the two nieces mentioned in the article. That probably took a lot of courage from Grandmother to go through with it.

It was a quick wedding, and not traditional in dress either. Grandmother wore a blue skirt suit with pearls. And a corsage with gardenias and roses. No white dress or veil. We have a picture... (look how cute and young they are!)
Grandmother and Opa Wedding Picture, September 16th, 1944.

Some close friends were there, and some missing (even Winton couldn't come). The reception was simple, and the honeymoon in Kansas City was simple and short, but I have a feeling that Grandmother and Opa were pretty happy. They were married. Opa had a future. Grandmother could continue to do her work in the college. Everything was working out!

It was a good day. 

I wonder how many people bet against them. Losing bets, all of them.

Friday, September 3, 2021

September 13, 1944: Opa Joins the Army!

Letter from Opa to Grandmother, September 13, 1944.


Kansas City
September 13, 1944


I really ought to beat the life out of you. Here I am telling you, broken-hearted, that I have to leave home(?), wife(?), and child(?) in order to go on the war path, to meet the foe and to die a hero's death on the honor field of battle, and you even laugh and be happy about it. So you want to get rid of me, heh?

No kidding, when I got that letter today, I just about shouted for joy. I told the clerk with a gleam in my eye that I am going to the army and he couldn't understand why I'm so happy about it. Next Wednesday, I am to go to McPherson for my physical; they will probably send me to Leavenworth the same day.

Oh yes; today an officer of the Immigration and Naturalization Service visited and told me that, since I have not filed an application for the extension of my student visa, I am subject to deportation as soon as that would be possible, i.e. after the war with Germany. I explained the situation to him, and calmed him down; he really was more concerned and excited about the deal than I was. Anyhow, I had to file application for my student permit, even though I am no longer a student. That red tape of Washington democrats is enough to furnish harnesses and leashes for an entire army of skunkies. Naturally, I was a little worried about the deal, for I feared the possibility that the several odds against me might catch up with one another, accumulate, and then really start something. On returning home, however I found the letter from my draft board and decided that, unless they do something before September 20, the entire combination of Immigration Service, F.B.I., Alien Registration Division, Department of State and Justice department can all bite me in the rear. It must be a wonderful feeling.

I wrote a long letter to the Immigration Service, explaining in detail (for the third consecutive time) why I had not filed an application for extension of my stay, send in the application which I now filled out after all, and, at the end of the letter, told them I am going to be in the army. I was in the best mood I have been in for quite a while, and wrote a letter in the real typical Washington style, with lots of "above mentioned" and "of said act" and similar stuff. They ought to recognize their brain child. (By the way, I suggest you either hide or destroy this letter; on reading it, someone might say my attitude is none to his liking, and I am not at all cooperative.)

Last night, I went to that lecture I wrote you about. Mr. J.F. Lincoln was a pretty good speaker, even though he did think so himself and acted as though he was Mr. Abraham Lincoln, but what he said was a little amateurish and dillettant. According to him, all the government does in the industrial world is to get in the way. Specific examples which may have been true for his particular industry and for the present particular administration, he generalized into the assumption that government should have no control whatsoever over business and industry. Not a word did he mention about the danger of trusts, about imperfect competition, about monopolies, etc. which would exist had it not been for government control; about the miserable position in which the worker would be. Since his audience was mainly Republican, however, he harvested a considerable degree of applause. He did make some good statements though; namely, that he stands for the abolition of any kind of protective tariff. So I guess he is a pretty good egg after all.

Well, we can't set a date tonight, but when I call you tomorrow, I'll probably have one in mind, I hope. Remember, it isn't me who will set that date; it's our common uncle.

What would you think of me having Skunkie as my best man? I really may have to call on Ray, though. Don't say anything to him yet, for I might get Herb.

Here's hoping that I'll have some time before getting in khaki. Better get those kids of yours used to the idea that they'll have to call you Mrs. Doeppner. Also, think of some not-too-distant place for a possibly very brief honeymoon. I don't think our financial resources permit anything like Colorado anyhow. Kansas City itself won't be too bad, would it? Swope Park is here to furnish the mountains, the Missouri to furnish the sea, 12th Street to furnish Society, and you and I to furnish the happiness. What else can we ask for?


Letter from Opa to IRS rep Mr. Avery, September 13, 1944.


Kansas City, Mo.
September 13, 1944

Mr. T. Avery
Acting Chief, Status Section
U.S. Immigration and
Naturalization Service
70 Columbus Ave.
New York 23, N.Y.

Dear Mr. Avery: 

Today, an officer of your Service in Kansas City visited me and informed that I have been delinquent in filling out the enclosed form. As I mentioned in my letter to you of August 20, 1944, the reason for my failure has been that I am no longer a student and, therefore, could not claim to be continued under the student status.

According to the suggestion of the above mentioned officer, I am filling out the application for extension of my student visa anyhow. As you will notice, I referred in this application to this letter a number of times. The following will explain these references:

1.) I was admitted as a non-immigrant under section 3(2) of the Immigration Act of 1924, on November 15, 1939. On May 28, 1942, my status was changed to that of a student under section 4(e) of the said Act, effective to October 1, 1942. On October 23, 1942, I received an extension to June 30, 1944. Prior to that time, I have corresponded with your office, and later with the State Department and the American Consul at Winnipeg, Canada, concerning preexamination procedure.

2.) If an extension of my stay can be granted under my status of 4(e) in spite of the fact that I am no longer a student, this extension should cover the time from now till my preexamination case has been acted upon. 

Will the following information have any bearing on my status? I have volunteered for immediate induction into the land or naval forces of the United States with my local draft board, and am to report for the preinduction physical examination on September 20, 1944.

Very truly yours,

Thomas W. Doeppner

Opa joins the Army! He finally found the solution to most of his problems, and since he tried pretty much all of the other ones, this was his Hail Mary toss. He signed up for the draft in order to solidify a path to citizenship that wasn't fraught with detours and red tape and false accusations. 

In his autobiography, they way he remembered (or told it) was this: 

I really wanted to get into the Army "to fight the Nazis." As an "enemy alien," however, I was not eligible to enlist. Someone suggested I could volunteer for the draft (probably thinking, if you are stupid enough). Also, Marjorie and I were engaged to be married.

I called the draft board, and, sure enough, I was allowed to volunteer, which I did right then. The military must have been desperate, because they ordered me to active duty at Fort Leavenworth, KS, within 10 days. (pg 30)

So... that's not exactly how it went, now is it? But I will give Opa the benefit of the doubt. First, he wrote his autobiography in 1996, about fifty years later. Second, he had just been diagnosed with dementia and had Grandmother helping him remember details. Third, I can understand why Grandmother and Opa both would be tempted to leave these peeping tom details out, even if they both remembered (which I think they did).

The Army has its own adventure in store for Opa, but at least he can be sure that he has a future in the US, he has a paycheck, and he and Grandmother can now get married (now that they know what the next 6 months of life look like). 

The draft board notice came just in time as Opa was on the edge of the bureaucratic cliff with the INS. I love how Opa gleefully wrote them for the third time with all his Washington language, and then stuck the landing with "oh by the way- I joined the army suckers!" 

At the time joining military service provided an expedited process to citizenship (not forced, but accessible). Opa signed up for that. 

So now it's time to plan a wedding. Grandmother and Opa had agreed that they would get married if Opa were called up, so in a way Grandmother was like a war bride, but it's a little different in this context. I don't think either of them expected Opa would see combat, as the war appeared to be winding down at least in terms of sending mass transports of troops overseas. Already the rumors of a slow down in draft had been going around. 

Opa finds out on September 13 that he is to join the Army and report for his physical on September 20. That's one week away! 

I alluded earlier when Opa had his peeping Tom incident that it would change the trajectory of his entire life. 

Now it's played out: he got falsely accused of a crime, lost his reputation and job as result, found a new job but held a tenuous position as a visitor in the US, signed up for the draft as a last ditch effort to secure citizenship and give a solid foundation for his relationship with Grandmother. Grandmother had been pushing off the wedding for some time, though their relationship seemed to improve and become more solid after Opa gave her an out and she stuck around. 

Now he's been drafted and within the week, my Grandparents will be married. 

All because of that one random lady and the landlord who didn't like the looks of Opa.