letters from my father – letter 6 & 7

January 15, 2012

The next batch of letters, maybe 25 or 30, are largely undated. But based on the content it appears that Dad wrote this batch from boot camp and artillery training, definitely before he left the states for the Pacific. However, I don’t know the exact order in which these were written and I’m guessing at their sequence.

Letter 6

Jan. 23, 1944

Dear Grandmother, Grampee, & Aunt J.

Today is Sunday. We were up 5:30 and made are sacks (beds) up. Which was very hard at first but I have caught on to it now. The bugle blows over a loud speaker which practically blasts you out of your bed. You then have 4-5 min. to go to the “head” (the potty) make up your sack, sweep and mop your hut & be ready to fall out. Discipline is plenty tough. You are not allowed out of your district except to go to the head. You call everybody from graduated privates & P.F.C.’s to generals sir. You have to say “Pvt. Moyer requests permission to speak to the instructor, standing at attention all the time. I cannot go to the P.X. except when accompanied by the instructor & whole platoon. There are 68 in our platoon. The food is etibale but thats all, after eating you take your trays and cups to huge troths and wash them. Are sergent, a big 6 ft. ex-boxer looking guy, said he wasn’t going to have discipline like the army, he was going to have real discipline. We were going to Church but at the last minite we had to clean out the receiving barracks. We have been sworn at & rushed by our superiors ever since we got here. I felt terrible the whole day after my shots. But things are better and I’m beggining to like it here. Our shots were the worst. They had needles the size of tire pumps & no mercy at all. We get on schedule tomorrow. Our lights go out at 10:00 no sooner no later. We were classified yesterday. I am in the infantry. When I get thru here I go to a line camp. Elliot or Pendleton Cal. & stay there from 3 to 6 months. This is the first time I’ve had any time. When you have your sea bag & are in your under cloths. They yell “Fall Out” & you drop everything & run like hell. Then they cuss you out for having your cloths on & your sea bag unpacked. It’s cold in the mornings & evenings & hot in the day. There is inspection at 9A.M. & 5P.M. & your sacks & sea bags better be in order or else. I have to get my blankets stenciled now remember my address and Print It.

Love Truman


P.S. We get a 10 day furlough when thru.

Letter 7


I got your letter and certainly was glad to here from you. Please keep the letters coming you can’t understand how much they mean. This has been our first week on schedule and its been terrible. I and everybody else here have gotten hell from our D.I.’s (drill instructors) every time we turned around. I’ve never seen one of them even smile. We have our own rifles and bayonettes and they’re hard to clean. The Marine Corps has the strictest discipline and toughest training of any of the services. We get up at 5:30 run for 10 min eat chow have about 2 minutes to go to the John. Then we all march all morning eat lunch run obstacle course and work til 3A.M. then we have to wash cloths and take a shower. We had inspection this morning. In the evening we have to study our Marine Handbook sew up clothes, clean our rifles bayonettes and cartridge belts & shine shoes so I’m kept pretty busy, I’m supposed to be memorizing my general orders now but I wanted to write home worse. Today we had “extended orders” which is learning battle formations. We went to the boon docks and dug fox holes, charged positions, and ran til we were ready to drop. Punishments are pretty hard. Some of them are funny, but not to the party concerned! If your rifle is rusty you get thrown in the brig. if your rifle is rusty you have to exercise with it or 10 minutes. It only weighs 10lbs but after you carry it for an hour it feels like a ton. Everyones sleepy & has bad colds. If your bunk isn’t right you have to clean out the “head” (toilet). If you knock over any stacked rifles you have to clean & sleep with them. You get pretty tired taking stuff off P.F.C’s but you have to control yourself. Although our platoon Sgt. & P.F.C are tough there realy good at heart. Both have seen action. Don’t send me what I wrote as all packages are open & things confiscated. Everyone in our platoon is swell and we have a lot of fun. We won’t be able to get out of this place until 7 weeks. The sgt. said that at the end of 7 weeks 1/2 of us would be P.F.C’s. In the army this doesn’t mean much but in the Marines it’s plenty. A Marine P.F.C. has to know as much as an army sergent. Please write me & take good care of my chickens. Give my love to everybody.

love Truman

As far as I can tell, both of these letters are from boot camp and it’s as overwhelming as one would expect it to be – tons of rules, a tiring schedule, bad ass superiors, new lingo, etc. Dad speaks to that experience directly, explaining that the first week on schedule is terrible and everyone’s getting hell form the D.I.s, and indirectly in the way he wrote the letters, the sentence fragments and run on sentences, omitting periods and commas, misspelled words, writing “are” instead of “our,” repeating himself.  Things like that. He’s obviously just trying to keep his shit together.

What  jumped out at me in  letter 7 was to see Dad showing some vulnerability, which is pretty alien to me when I think of Dad, especially when it came to his family, most of whom he seemed invested in differentiating himself from. But there he is revealing the slightest bit of tenderness, saying how much it means to him to hear from people at home and ending it with sending his love to everybody. Maybe Dad was just scared and tired and just needed to find comfort where ever he could, but I also suspect there was some familial closeness that sadly devolved over years after Dad returned from WW2.

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