Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Dad's War Letters: Part One of Nine

Ft. Riley, Kansas—“Boot Camp.”
Summer 1943 – excerpts from several letters. 
Dad was 20 years old at the time.

I’m still at it, and we’re starting to work hard.  Today I:
Taught gun drill 4 hrs.
Drilled on Foot 1 hour
Played cageball 1 hour
Had 1 hour calisthenics
Ran 5 miles over high hills and rocks (4 miles of it thru woods) in 45 minutes
Had 1 hr. marksmanship training
Had parade.
It is now 9:45 p.m. and I think I earned my $2 today.

I wish I could bring a Garand [rifle] home for you -- You could set it on top of the barn and shoot the neighbors’ cattle up in Frank’s cornfield.  They are sardines to keep clean...  We come home, clean ALL the oil off them, and then we go back and pour oil on them again.  We do that every day...  The captain has the cleanest hands, and oil shows up on them.  Wish they’d use clubs instead of rifles in this war.  I’m wearing it out taking it apart and putting it together.

I qualified as a sharpshooter.  I would have liked to have made expert...  It takes 180 out of 210 points for expert, and I got only 174...  At least I learned to shoot right- handed.  (Dad was a lefty.)

I came within an iota of having to do extra KP next Sunday.  I don’t think corporals should have to absorb so much sass from sgts...  The mess sgt. got to griping at me and another fellow about the way we were doing things...   Anyhow he kept on about 5 minutes, and said something about college graduates not knowing anything, and I broke -- I said, “We didn’t learn this stuff in college.  The profs. told us we could hire any dummy for $20 a week to cook and wash dishes.”  That got him...  It was worth the 4 extra hours of KP just to say that one thing anyhow.

We had horse meat for dinner again today, which is nothing new.  But tonight they ground it up and we had horse-burgers.  Fort Riley has to eat 30,000 lbs. of it per day.  It’s not bad, kind of tough and dark and coarse.

They don’t think we are snappy enough, so this week we get up at 4:45 as punishment.  I don’t get the logic.  I get about 5 hours sleep.  Pitching hay bales would be a vacation.

Heat and humidity, and 12 unconscious at the side of the road Monday.  Nobody died, however...  We have been shooting the Garand.  There was never such a weapon in history.  I put 4 straight shots into a target 18 inches in diameter and 500 yards away.

I’ll be glad to get out of here.  I’ve not wanted to worry you, so I’ve never told the truth about this place.


  1. These letters (I've read six of the posts so far) are wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing them! I've included this post in my Noteworthy Reads for this week (and told my readers to read the whole series): http://jahcmft.blogspot.com/2015/11/noteworthy-reads-24.html.