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.